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Originally published Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 5:30 AM

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‘Doctor Who’ Christmas special has scary snowmen — of course

BBC America continues the tradition of the beloved sci-fi show “Doctor Who” with a Christmas special on the evening of Dec. 25 preceded by a daylong marathon of past episodes.

McClatchy Newspapers

On TV

‘Doctor Who: The Snowmen’

9 p.m. Tuesday, preceded by a ‘Doctor Who’ marathon starting at 8 a.m., BBC America

Tonight in Prime Time

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WASHINGTON —

What’s the use of a “Doctor Who” Christmas special if you can’t have the children cowering behind couches by the end?

In the case of this year’s special, “The Snowmen,” to be broadcast Christmas Day at 9 p.m. on BBC America, you may never see a familiar holiday icon in the same benign light. The show will be available on iTunes Wednesday.

“Doctor Who,” a British sci-fi children’s show, chronicles the travels of a Time Lord who, with a companion or two, travels in a time machine which camouflages itself as a blue British police box. The series was laid to rest in 1989 and had an unsuccessful TV movie in 1995. It was rebooted to great success in 2005. There have been 11 Doctors over the life of the series, the latest being Matt Smith.

In this year’s Christmas special, the Doctor, heartsick over losing his last companions, lands in the England of 1892, feeling very “bah humbug” about life in general.

“The Doctor is in a Scrooge-like state, being very depressed, like an old grumpy grandpa,” says Jenna-Louise Coleman, 26, who plays Clara, the new companion, “and they meet. Clara takes an interest in him and so begins a new story.”

“I think there’s nothing like a Christmas special that’s set in snowy Victorian England,” says Caroline Skinner, co-executive producer of the series. “It gives it a real sense of landscape ... a slightly larger-than-life feeling, and you’ve got some incredibly scary monsters. There’s something gloriously freaky about taking something that you’re so used to in life ... to take it and give it an evil ‘Doctor Who’ twist.

The villain is Richard E. Grant, better known for roles in “Dracula” and “The Iron Lady.” He plays Doctor Simeon, a man who is out to settle a vendetta.

“Doctor Who’s” appeal has spanned generations. Skinner’s first hazy memories start with the seventh Doctor, played by Sylvester McCoy in the late 1980s and 1990s, but she and her father watched “loads and loads of Tom Baker (the fourth Doctor, 1974-81) episodes back-to-back” later on.

Coleman didn’t grow up with the Doctor, but hopes to watch all the episodes soon going back as far as the original 1963 ones.

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