Doctor Who Christmas specials linked to lower death rates, according to study

The Time of the Doctor, the Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara (Jenna Coleman). Courtesy Adrian Rogers, BBC
The Time of the Doctor, the Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara (Jenna Coleman). Courtesy Adrian Rogers, BBC /

Doctor Who fans may be intrigued to learn that according to a study found in The BMJ, a peer-reviewed medical journal, fewer deaths occur when an episode airs on Christmas Day. What could be the reason for this type of statistic? I'm not entirely sure.

If I had to take a guess, I imagine that this may just be a coincidence. But then again, there is something about Doctor Who that uplifts the spirit and brings a sense of happiness to one's life. I know that I personally look forward to the Christmas specials every year. There is something about them. However, I would also note that the specials haven't been as good as they were during Matt Smith's era. Those were probably some of the best Christmas specials the series has had, which is what leads me to believe that this study may have found more coincidental results rather than scientifically proven ones. But that is just my two cents!

Doctor Who's Christmas specials could be saving lives

The BMJ study is titled, "Televised festive broadcasts and Association with Rates of Death In Sixty years of Doctor Who." The acronym for the capitalized letters, naturally, is TARDIS, which is the name of the Doctor's police box time machine. I thought that was pretty clever!

Anyway, the study draws parallels between what often happens in Doctor Who Christmas specials and the work of medical doctors. "Many of the Doctor’s most memorable adventures are broadcast over the festive period, and sometimes their heroic actions to save others results in regeneration, whereby severe injuries cause the Doctor’s body to renew and change (hence why multiple actors have played the Doctor)," it reads. "This dedication mirrors that of medical doctors and healthcare professionals, many of whom work over the festive period and miss out on celebrations with family and friends. Such healthcare provision should never be taken for granted. If hospitals were closed from 24 December to 1 January, this could have a detrimental effect on subsequent mortality rates."

"[Doctor Who] provides a natural experiment to investigate the impact that one doctor could have when working over the festive period. The Doctor shares many of the attributes of medical doctors, so a new Doctor Who episode broadcast over Christmas in the UK could potentially serve as a proxy for a single doctor working during the festive period."

Didn't see that coming, did you? So basically, it appears that the study is comparing how Doctor Who is linked to the life of a doctor working during Christmas. I'm not sure this study makes complete sense, so I find myself a bit confused, but that is what I am getting out of it, at least. In reading the study, they are essentially saying that death rates for the following year were lower for doctors who worked during the holidays in England, Wales, and the United Kingdom. Where Doctor Who comes into play is that the strongest association was when the holiday special aired on Christmas Day, resulting in about six fewer deaths per 10,000 people in England and Wales, and about four deaths per 10,000 people in the United Kingdom.

The study eventually concludes that a possible explanation for this is that those watching Doctor Who during the holidays are watching a "Doctor" care for others which then inspires the viewer to seek healthcare for themselves, hence resulting in fewer deaths the following year. Does it make perfect sense? Nope. Could it be a far stretch? Possibly. But I still give kudos to those who did the study because it is an interesting thought.

Whether or not this study has any real merit is unclear, but in any case, this year's Christmas special, "The Church on Ruby Road" will be available to stream on Disney+ on Christmas Day. Be sure to check it out as it officially features Ncuti Gatwa as our next Doctor!

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