“The Christmas Invasion” – Review: Redux

Jackie Tyler “I’m going to be killed by a Christmas Tree”

Christmas Invasion

It was not the start to David Tennant’s era that I had imagined after our introduction at the end of “Parting of the Ways”. Firstly, it only lasted about seven minutes. Secondly, it was six weeks early. Thirdly, it shouldn’t have worked this well. Really. We left the story back in June as the ninth Doctor said his oh-so-beautiful goodbye to Rose and quietly “exploded” in a fountain of fire. Doctor #10 found his new teeth weird and started thinking about Barcelona (the planet, not the city). We were all set for the long countdown to as of then, un-named Christmas special. Then like a bolt from the vortex, we heard that a three-and-a-half minute segment was to be shown on Children in Need. [It turned out to be about 7 minutes in the end]. Oh God, not the cast singing Bohemian Rhapsody or appearing in the Queen Vic, we wondered? Thankfully, not. It was going to be a proper slice of Doctor Who (whatever ‘proper’ might mean), set between “The Parting of the Ways” and “The Christmas Invasion”. We remember “The Curse Of Fatal Death”, we remember that travesty set in Albert Square, so we sure as hell did not want this, did we?

Actually, we did. RTD and the production team hadn’t let us down before and they wouldn’t this time either. After a recap of TPOTW, we saw David Tennant’s name in the titles and knew it was going to be okay. We got comedy (“Love the Mole!”), we got drama (“Who are you?”), we got sensitivity (“The first word I said to you”), we got action (“Open those engines!”), and we even got a cliffhanger (“Christmas Eve”). All in a little over six minutes that served to confirm that RTD is a genius and that David Tennant WAS the Doctor. These mini-episodes have become a feature since this Children in Need special, but few could’ve guessed at the impact of this first one, giving us our first extended look at Tennant,setting up the Christmas special perfectly, and not only serving a nice little extra for the DVD boxset but in fact, being an essential linking part of the narrative between the two episodes.

Doctor Who returned as planned with its first Christmas day premiere broadcast for 40 years. It’s wonderful that a Christmas special has become such an established part of the television schedules on 25th December every year since. And for the foreseeable future too. If you needed any reminder that this was a continuation of the series, or that Rose was still at its centre, or that the “domestic” element was alive and well, then you got it with the first scene which duplicated exactly what we had seen at the beginning of “Rose” as the picture zoomed in from space straight in to Jackie’s flat. Micky and Jackie were all present and correct and stumbled around not really knowing what to do as Russell T Davies turned the tinsel up to the max. All the while, the newly regenerated Doctor (see the Children In Need special for details) pretty much slept through the first three quarters of it. However, he finally woke up, stole the show, beat the bad guys, saved the world, and as a deliberate counterpoint to his predecessor, finally joined in on the domestic life of Rose, Mickey and Jackie as well.

In many respects this was a classic Pertwee-like story featuring as it did an invasion of Earth, UNIT stepping in, plenty of action scenes, heroes getting abducted, and everyone home in time for tea. But this was about far more than plot, which pleased 10.8million sherry-addled adults and excitable kids just fine. No, this was about RTD’s brave, new, Whovian world and confirmed that the first two series of his new spin on Doctor Who was very much going to be ‘Rose’s Story’ as much as (if not more than) the Doctor’s. Of course we also had the return of Harriot Jones who, after a landslide election victory, was now PM. Hers was one of the most interesting aspects of “The Christmas Invasion” as her surprise decision to destroy the retreating Sycorax vessel at the end, lost her an important friend and ultimately her job. This was a brave decision from RTD but the right one in what could otherwise have been a little overly saccharine ending. Familiarity abounded throughout, so much so that the distinctive aspects of Who in ’05 almost entirely hid the fact that the Doctor had regenerated. This felt like exactly the same show (and I mean that in the best possible sense).

RTD’s Doctor Who is grounded in the here and now, we have regular characters who don’t (yet) travel with the Doctor, and to whom the audience can easily relate. We view the story from the perspective of a 19 year old girl and once again see the Doctor as a mysterious stranger. Most of all we have a successful drama that we can all care about. And finally, just when you thought it was over we got the trailer with a multitude of clips from the forthcoming Series Two and it was almost too much excitement for a (big) kid at Christmas.

Highlight: “Don’t you think she looks tired?”

Lowlight: The TARDIS coming in to land rather than just materialising

Talking Point: Can you imagine Christmas without the Doctor nowadays?

Demon’s Run Rating: 14 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 25th December 2005

Marathon Status: 14 down, bloody miles to go

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  1. September 8th, 2013

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