|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Calum Corral|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Paul Condon|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by James Main|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Russell Thorpe|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Alan McDonald|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Mark Hain|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Jason Wilson|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by John Masterson|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Leighton Calvert|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Billy Higgins|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Michael Stead|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Anthony Leek|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Peter Davis|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Paul Hayes|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Douglas Edward Lambert|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Ben Jordan|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Steve Manfred|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by James Marcus|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Robert Tymec|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Damian Ward|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Kenneth Baxter|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Martin Walker|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Ed Martin|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Eddy Wolverson|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by David Carlile|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by A.D. Morrison|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Geoff Wessel|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Angus Gulliver|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Corey McMahon|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Jordan Wilson|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Robert F.W. Smith|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Mike Eveleigh|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Paul Clarke|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Joe Ford|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Donna Bratley|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Rob Shade|
|26 Dec 2005||The Christmas Invasion, by Andrew Philips|
|29 Oct 2006||The Christmas Invasion, by Andy Markham|
|29 Oct 2006||The Christmas Invasion, by Will Hadcroft|
|27 Aug 2007||The Christmas Invasion, by Shane Anderson|
|07 Jun 2018||The Christmas Invasion (Audiobook), by Peter Nolan|
Well, I don't know about Tony Blair but I was certainly making sure that my Christmas dinner was well out of the way in time for Dr Who.
It does seem amazing that in the history of the programme, there was only one episode broadcast on Christmas Day and for the BBC to give it such a huge fanfare this time round was incredible ... I never thought I would see the day!
However, when I first heard about killer Santas and Christmas trees, I think you could be forgiven for fearing the worst.
But the series of clips which we had seen beforehand including the spectacular crash landing of the TARDIS and London under attack certainly put my mind at rest (however there were little in the way of spectacular effect surprises - even the xmas tree was on the Jonathan Ross show but that great clip may well have ensured a bigger audience for the show because it was so good) I do appreciate it is always a delicate balancing act between how much you can give away and how much you should keep secret before it goes out on air.
So did The Christmas Invasion impress? Yes. It was a great hour of fun with some superb lines, impressive graphics and a new Doctor. Comparisons are bound to be made with Christopher Eccleston and whether Tennant was up to the task. I think he was very good, likeable and fun to be with. He actually seems very Doctor-ish! That is probably the highest compliment you can pay to him.
The thing I liked about Eccleston was that he actually brought something to the role which I don't think the original show had. But Tennant right from his introduction was on excellent form. The thrilling spinning Christmas tree was fantastic and the fight sequence was well coordinated. He made a terrific arrival actually against these dastardly villains. The Dr has carried out a sword duel before (was it The Kings Demons? The Sea Devils?) so this is in keeping with Who and Hartnell was involved in a few physical battles. The destruction of the spacecraft at the end and the Dr's angry reaction to Harriet Jones was reminiscent of Dr Who having a go at the Brigadier at the end of Dr Who and The Silurians - I am sure that is where Russell T Davies drew the inspiration from. It was a bit like The Belgrano.
I thought the mass signal to all the humans with blood group A+ was very well handled and quite scary. Russell did very well to draw out the emotion as mums were horror-struck, crying at their children to stop. That part of it was very dramatic and I would imagine quite scary for kids watching, especially as it looked that humans were going to walk off roofs to their death.
One minor gripe about the stories is that Cardiff and London seem to be the same place? Am I the only person who notices this? Continuity? Pah!
I have to say I really like Rose's Mum - I think she is a great character and a good foil for the Dr. I am still not sure about Mickey. I just can't really warm to him and while that is the point, he sometimes seems to be more of a hindrance than anything else. His character just doesn't seem to be developing any further but just seems to be going in circles with Rose.
For me though, the highlight of the programme was the good old British cup of tea waking up the Dr in the Tardis. What a brilliant and funny touch by Russell!
The clip montage was terrific at the end and the clips of K9 and the Cybermen were thrilling. I think David Tennant will be a very good Doctor and clearly seems to revel in the character. He was hilarious when replying to the Sycorax with a big deep throaty response! I loved that bit!!! The villains seemed a bit Lord of the Rings inspired.
So The Christmas Invasion - the highest rated Dr Who story probably since The City of Death - pressed all the right buttons, provided a very festive feel, and Dr No.10 made a terrific entrance. The show was sprinkled with some great humour and very wittily written by Russell. All round a great production. Roll on the next series!
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
As a fanboy of far too many years' standing, I honestly think that the seriously OUTSTANDING David Tennant has the potential to be the best ever Doctor. Forget about my childhood memories of Tom Baker. Forget about the New Adventures version of the 7th Doctor. Forget about re-evaluating Hartnell thanks to the recons and audios.
David Tennant is going to be it, boys and girls. Honestly.
The episode itself was one of the finest bits of family-friendly Christmas Day entertainment that's ever been shown in Britain. A few hours ago, I watched the UK Gold retrospective of the 'best TV Christmas moments' and I'm honestly neither lying nor deluding myself when I say that a similar programme retrospective programme shown next year would DEFINITELY feature The Christmas Invasion in its Top 10. And as for any of those old mizzos who might believe that 'The Feast of Steven' could have been better - well, I listened to the audio and watched the recon earlier today too. It's RUBBISH.
So a huge, HUGE round of applause for Jackie's mountain of carrier bags. Massive cheers for Rose's reborn faith in the Doctor. An enormous guffaw of glee for some fanboy retcon nonsense about how the regeneration process actually works. A high-five for Phil Collinson, Julie Gardner and - of course - the mighty Russell for pulling off an outstanding piece of Joe Public-friendly science fiction that would have kept families up and down the country transfixed. A huge, HUGE sigh of pity for any of you who are so fixated on 'serious' (ie, dull, humourless and tediously self-referential) Doctor Who that you failed to find much to enjoy in tonight's episode.
"No second chances."
For we are, without a doubt, experiencing the best EVER Doctor Who right now. And with David Tennant on board, things are only going to get better.
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
That was the most spectacularly executed transition from one doctor to another - RTD in his brilliant understanding of Doctor Who used Rose not only to express the viewpoint and feelings of the audience but to direct it and give it a big shove. Rose's distress at losing 'her doctor', suspicion, feelings of being abandoned and cheated with something less that what she had are familiar to any one who saw 'their' doctor go away and be replaced by some weirdo imposter. Billie Piper's role (and that of all the other returning cast members) was to nudge the audience into accepting the new doctor and to sanction our approval when it came... not that we needed any help!
David Tennant is truly wonderful and clearly has a very good idea of what the Doctor should be like without trotting out an imitation of anything that has gone before (a frequent mistake or anyone after Tom Baker). He also comes across as though he is having a whale of a time which makes everything he does all the more watchable. Personally I am over the moon- my kind of Doctor is back... he's witty, quick, fun, has masses of gravitas and huge piercing eyes (and isn't telling everyone to shut-up nor is he wearing a self-consciously modern or macho leather coat).
So much of the special harked back to those parts of the series that made it wonderful...
...a flawed friend in Harriet Jones making the same mistakes that the Brigadier would made every four weeks. Though with RTD's writing and Penelope Wilton's endearing performance the character is so much more understandable - making her divergence from the Doctor's moral stance even more troubling. And what a brilliant and almost chilling demonstration of the power of rumour in the Doctor's 'don't you think she looks tired' term-ending technique - this is great pen vs sword stuff for kids wilst being anything but patronising to adults.
We had the wonderful wierdness of a skinny bloke in jim-jams crossing broad-swords with a caped fleshy fiend miles above London - but played with the same conviction and professionalism that the series started with -before pantomime and camp took over. Great quirky ideas like bood-control and pilot fish designed to enthuse children about biology and the idea that a monster could even be your own race 'defending' itself against a retreating ship.
Mind-expanding, cheerful, fun but without farting or burping (and hopefully none heading our way) and the cybermen, baroque androids and K9 are coming.
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
A fantastic episode which really set the scene for the oncoming series. The highlights for me included: Discovering Torchwood; Seeing UNIT in action; Harriet Jones, who was one of my favourite characters, destroying herself and being traitorous. This was a FANTASTIC plot twist.
However, I cannot help but feel some things really did not work in the favour of the series. The Father Christmases had very little explanation around them, and could have worked a lot more in favour of the script, especially after the hype. The series seemed to be going a lot more star trek orientated with random teleportations moving the storyline along, which shouldnt be encouraged too often.
By the way, why did Mickey and Harriet understand the english being spoken by the Sycorax? They arent involved with the TARDIS.
Also, the Doctor throwing the satsuma at the button to kill off the Sycorax leader was ridiculous. Again, no more deus ex machine, please.
All in all, despite the downfalls I think that this really helped to push along the next slice of Dr Who. The character development for some characters was really good - not (in my opinion) for the Doctor, whose script was embarrassing due to its attempts to be random. This really just doesnt work as eccentric, which is more how the Doctor needs to come across.
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
Long six months, wasn't it?
It's a testament to RTD and his team that the time which has elapsed since The Parting of the Ways has seemed almost interminable. From the moment we heard 'Barcelona' we've been waiting to see this, hoping desperately that the change of Doctor wouldn't spoil the formula. So, was it worth the wait?
Oh my, yes.
That said, the first fifteen minutes of 'The Christmas Invasion' are a bit of a mixed bag. The regenerated Doctor is suitably exciting, mysterious and loopy. Billie Piper's Rose is, as ever, superb (can you imagine the shambles if she'd left the show?). A couple of things ring a bit naff, though. With the main body of the Sycorax plot being so much fun, you do cringe a little at the (poorly realised) robot Santas and killer Christmas tree. If 'Rose' taught us anything, it was that things which worked in the seventies for the show (the Autons etc) really don't now. It all feels a bit shoehorned in. We couldn't have had a single Sycorax warrior (maybe even disguised as Santa to begin with) as a scout who tries to kidnap the Doctor?
Still, the Doctor's 'pilot fish' explanation works, just, and we are propelled on to far firmer ground as the show does Independence Day, UK-style. It's nice to see Harriet Jones return to face a threat greater than farting aliens (it still guts me watching the box set that the Slitheen two-parter is ruined by that ridiculous 'gas exchange' business). The UNIT bunker is superb, as well. Very CTU.
Then things get really, unexpectedly, dark. Having millions - billions - of innocent people wandering to the tops of buildings, preapred to jump off, was far more affecting than death rays or bomb threats. Real people, watched by their loved ones, about to commit suicide. It's a deeply unsettling thought, and RTD at his best, when all the camp is put aside.
Things go from bad to worse and Rose, quite understandably, decides to run and hide. She's done the honourable thing in the past, but without the Doctor at her side she feels lost and helpless.
It's worth mentioning here that the Rose sub-plot, although it may well be ignored in the final analysis of many, was the strongest aspect of the episode for those of us who watched the last season so avidly. This was the most 'new-Who' aspect of 'The Christmas Invasion'. Rose has seen the man who changed her life forever, who she was willing to die for, change into a stranger, a helpless stranger who can do nothing for her any more. And she's devastated. It's like the worst break-up anyone could experience because it's so inexplicable, so alien. Her tears when she tells Jackie that the Doctor is gone and her little turn and hug when Mickey notes how much she loves the Doctor are up there with anything from 'Dalek', 'Father's Day' or 'Parting' in terms of quality writing and acting.
So, the Doctor is useless or worse, the Sycorax are poised to massacre a third of the population, Harriet and Rose have tried their best but have failed. It's the end.
And then the Sycorax leader startes to speak English.
Once again, RTD's keen eye for spine-tingling moments comes into play as our heroes realise what is happening, the camera pulls in to the TARDIS and ... the Tenth Doctor calmly opens the doors and delivers a line clearly nicked from Buffy. Possibly better-used, though. And who cares when we are all cheering anyway? A beautiful moment, and from here David Tennant OWNS the screen. So many highlights come flying that it takes multiple viewings to really appreciate them - 'Am I ginger?', 'Oh, that was rude', 'No, wait, that's the Lion King'. Five minutes into this sequence and you are in no doubt (and I'm sure this counts for the new generation of kids raised on Chris Ecclestone, too) that this is the Doctor, and he is absolutely 'a whole new man'.
Another shaky moment now, as RTD's ambition maybe outstrips the show's capabilities a little as the fight is taken outside to what is clearly a beach with an AWFUL matte painting in the background ('The Long Game' is no longer the worst offender on this front now). Keeping the fight indoors with a hole in the floor leading out of the ship might have been a better call. Still, Tennant's energy carries us along all the same.
Another little complaint - if, as the commentary and extras on the BBC website suggest - the fight was painstakingly rehearsed for 5 days, WHY does the director insist on filming the whole thing from the chest up, thus missing most of the swipes and parries?! Is it purely to maintain the already shaky illusion that this is taking place on the outside of the ship? Bit of a misstep.
So, the Doctor wins after some nifty hand-growing that would make Luke Skywalker go green with envy and the BEST lines of any new episode - 'Witchcraft!', 'Timelord.' - and the earth is saved in time for a quick rant about the uselessness of satsumas. and just before we get our happy ending, we see a flash of the old, darker Doctor, still very much alive behind Tennant's grin. No second chances, indeed.
And we're still not done, yet. Harriet Jones' decision to fire upon a retreating foe is both shocking and understandable, a lovely moment of moral ambiguity that helps unleash a little more of the Doctor's darkness. Tennant plays this scene as well as CE played any of his key scenes in season 1, again boding well for what is to come.
And, since it's Christmas, we get the family dinner and the fanboy-pleasing 'Doctor dressing' scene. His wardrobe is every bit as extensive as you'd expect!
But by far the most pleasing aspect of this episode comes at the very end, and it comes from Rose. Watch as she and the Doctor gently reestablish their friendship, and gaze at each other with a suggestion of even more. She leans in with an excited, relieved smile and looks happier than ever at the prospect of being with him. Whether this was picked up in the writing, Piper's acting, the directing, or all three, it is a moment of brilliance, because Rose takes the audience with her. This new Doctor is complete, strong and just as much the man we love as before, but with suggestions of something new, less-damaged. It's an exciting new start.
A final word on David Tennant. While casting Chris Ecclestone was impressive and turned out to be a great piece of thinking, it may actually be Tennant's casting which really guarantees Doctor Who's long-term future and audience. He has enough of the new, darker essence introduced by Davies and Ecclestone to stand comfortably in the new format, but long-term fans will be delighted by just how noticeably 'Doctor-y' he is, from mannerisms to costume. Let's just hope the depth that the writers gave Ecclestone's Doctor is maintained.
Can't wait to visit New Earth is spring - it's going to be a long three months.
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
How to begin....
Christopher Eccelston was an excellent doctor. Someone who could express the feelings of deep sorrow and resignation The Doctor would have been going through after the destruction of Gallifrey. He also had the ability to be light hearted and show moments of charm. After such a long break and what had happened within the universe of Doctor Who, it was what the series needed and he was fantastic.
David Tennant on the other hand (as several other reviewers have stated) IS The Doctor. I am American so I really don't know this guy as an actor. I know he is well known in the UK and I know he has theatre in his background but I simply can NOT believe how much I love this Doctor in such a short amount of time. I will admit that part of it is relief that RTD and the boys found someone talented and worthy of the role but it is so much more than that. Several reviewers have said some of the things I am going to say but this is how I feel so I'll sound like a parrot through some of this review.
David Tennant is in this show for about 20 minutes. Some people have said it's not a good thing but I believe the buildup is excellent. In some of my reviews of Season 1 I stated that I kind of got tired of the Earth episodes. I really liked all of Series 1 and I understand budgetary reasons but I would have liked to have a few alien worlds in the mix. Hopefully that will happen this season or the next. At any rate, this episode was perfect even though it was yet another Earth episode. If there were plot holes, I didn't see them or I didn't care. Yes, the Santas got alot of play before TCI aired and they didn't really play a role but they were just the small fish and that's the way it was. Also, it helped tie in to make this a Christmas episode (because there wasn't a whole lot about the show that made it "Christmasy"). Tennant takes a hold of this role and never looks back. Someone said he had an interview where he didn't seem interested in going on for the third season. I really don't believe this after seeing his performance last night. He took a part of just about every Doctor so far and made the role his own. He mimicks our own questions about what type of Doctor he is. Is he an intellectual like Hartnell, a clown like Troughton, a physical and intellectual warrior like Pertwee and so on.... We don't know yet, neither does he and Tennant revels in it. Where Eccelston clearly liked the role (especially in the first couple) and commanded respect because of his tone, this Doctor has a wide range of emotions. In the span of 1 minute he shows he can be humorous, goofy, funny and extremely commanding with amazing believability. He speaks a word of the Sycorax (when he asks the leader if he is a cowardly name) so it appears he knows of them (very Doctor-ish, even if he doesn't know them he acts as he does, with authority and pulls it off perfectly). He has a better opinion of humans (at least until Harriet Jones betrays him) as he talks to the Sycorax leader about their potential instead of just calling them "apes". I could go on and on but Tennant is amazing and I don't at all say this lightly--he really could be the best Doctor ever. Just to put this in perspective I love Doctor Who and every single Doctor has many aspects I love. Tennant seems very capable of encompassing them all and you can feel his love for this show.
As for the episode, I could see where some people might think it was slow at times before the Doctor wakes up but I didn't care. We waited for years before Series 1 and even then the wait until this episode from "The Parting of the Ways" seemed like a lifetime. As a huge Doctor Who fan, I don't see any of these episodes as slow. For god's sake they are only an hour long. Some of the older episodes were up to three or four hours long! Yes, the Doctor could have regenerated and been just fine but that would have been a contradiction. RTD knows and shows how much he cares for Doctor Who by making Tennant's regeneration just that: An unpredictable process that is complicated and can be very unpredictable to say the least. Plus, as I said before, it makes Tennant's entrance that much more powerful.
Harriet Jones didn't mean a whole lot to me, she was a good actress in the role in World War Three and it is neat that she ends up being Prime Minister but her use of weapons to kill the Sycorax didn't bother me as much as the fact that it was Torchwood that did it. I feel that Captain Jack was one of the best companions Who ever had and he grew enormously in the short time he was in the Tardis. The fact that in his first "appearance" he is a party to murder like this is disturbing. Hopefully the fact that Torchwood lost 1/3 of his staff means that he had not joined them yet or that in Torchwood's first episode their side is explained because as it stands I don't like it. The fact that Harriet destroyed them though and that the Doctor says he gave them the wrong warning shows volumes about how they both feel. Harriet grew up quite a bit (though she still feels she needs to flash her badge which was amusing as was the Sycorax leader saying "Yes we know who you are") and though it was hard for her she felt that to protect the Earth this ship had to be destroyed. A far cry from the woman who hid behind a couch when the Slitheen were attacking. The Doctor on the other hand wanted to be more optimistic than his predecessor about the human race and might have been but after the destruction of the Sycorax ship he has no choice but to admit that humans are dangerous to say the least. He also shows just how much he is a master of human nature by planting the seed of her defeat with just six words. A brilliant way of showing how everyone has stayed the same, and yet changed dramatically since Season 1. Rose has grown up as well. Several times she takes charge and several times she explains herself and her positions quite clearly in a very short amount of time. Again, a far cry from the girl working in a department store and unsure of her place in life. All around an excellent episode. Very entertaining, a great idea of what is to come and an absolutely brilliant performance by a very worthy 10th Doctor.
Last of all the shots of what's to come was AWESOME! The Cybermen and K-9 in motion! Sarah Jane Smith, those cat people, Queen Victoria.... I'll have to agree with a few others that have said, this could very well be the best season of Doctor Who ever. I can't wait!!!
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
"The Christmas Invasion" was a home-grown "Independence Day"-esque adventure with more brain to it.
A great way to introduce the tenth doctor, though it waould have been nice to see more of him. Generally I find post regeration trauma something a bit old hat now, and something to be got through as a necessity, so that a new era can properly get going. However, it's all new to the new fans I suppose......
Generally the episode had good pace and built up well. The Christams menace bits worked well though it would have ben nice to have had a bit more of them. They seemed to do their bit and then go too soon. The build up of the alien menace was good, with Penelope Wilton a strong presence- let's hope this character gets used again. It was, I suppose, predictable that the doctor would stagger from his sickbed to save the day but Tennant did it with such quirky style that it was wonderful. He's going to be excellent. Not quite such a domianting presence as Eccleston, but commanding in a different way nevertheless. A new man with a new enthusiasm for life, the time war-scarred brooding doctor laid to rest.
Plenty of good doctorish moments in evidence here- particularly at the end when, having routed the aliens, he breates the PM for an unnecessary (maybe) attack on them. Lovely stuff. And for me the best "scre moment" was the hypnotised people climbing onto the roof. Would they jump? Probably not on Christmas day, but it worked.
This episode was bursting with great ideas like this, and an extra chunk of time would have been nice to let them all swim around a bit more. Nontheless a good shot, dramatic and funny, and gets the "new doctor" out of the way so next series can begin in full swing.
Won't it be good to have a doctor with some longevity again? With two seasons and two specials under his belt Tennant will, in terms of screen time, be the longest doctor since Davison. If he does a third season he'll be the longest since Tom Baker. At last- an era that will be a proper era. Roll on season 28!
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
Like last seasons The End of the World, Russell T. Davis has delved into the Douglas Adams ideas box and reshaped the Vogon destruction of Earth into The Christmas Invasion complete with a new Doctor in the guise of Arthur Dent. So far, so familiar.
Since this episode is being broadcast as the Big Christmas Hit, it is carefully if not cynically - constructed to engage an audience who might not necessarily be watching. The first twenty minutes or so concentrate on Rose Tylers (Billie Piper) hapless family as they battle with their mundane Christmas and a host of festive horrors. The new Doctor sensibly stays in bed. We wouldnt want to alienate the audience too soon. Stick with the folks we can relate to.
The next twenty minutes or so are culled straight from Quatermass and are delivered with thrilling special effects and a dramatic score. After that, its Christmas pantomime time as David Tennant revived by a cup of tea - strides out of the TARDIS (Hes behind you!) to confront the kind of highly camp, over-blown and two-dimensional villan that so typified Doctor Who of old. To write the Doctor as Earths legendary saviour demands a powerful performance. This wasnt it.
Theres a big plastic button that mustnt be pressed, a gallant swordfight that weve seen in many adventure yarns normally scheduled for this time of year, and a big explosion. Oh, and theres lots of London landmarks and union flags just to remind us all that the Doctor is British. Please!
As for the new Doctor, I kept yearning for the gravitas of previous incumbent, Christopher Eccleston. Tennants performance was overly enthusiastic and steeped in comedy (saving the day by throwing a satsuma). I never thought Id see an episode of the current Doctor Who which would remind me of Colin Bakers overblown and clownish debut in The Twin Dilemma right down to the hackneyed scene of Tennant in the TARDIS wardrobe with a scarf around his neck.
Now that Only Fools and Horses has shuffled off to the TV archives, I imagine we can look forward to annual festive adventures of the Tyler family. However, just what the production team will do, when Billie Piper finally departs (as indeed, she must) is anyones guess. Sending Doctor Who away from the council estate and back into space seems highly unlikely.
Filters: Christmas Tenth Doctor Television
First off I have to say, David Tennant is an amazing Doctor Who!!!
The 10th Doctor is an utterly distinctive and instantly legendary characterization. You can say he has bits of Troughton and Tom Baker, but really, he's his own man. Speaking internal monologues out loud constantly, stylish/geeky, boyish one minute then with the authority of God the next, no Doctor has been this sure footed in their first story since William Hartnell.
Tennant's "Robot" was The Children In Need Special, and that wasn't even a story. This is his "Ark In Space". Could he match Tom Baker in the legendary stakes? YES.
Where I was maybe a wee bit unsure if he might be too young to carry the authority the role needs in the CIN special, there's just nothing else on the screen when he gets going in this story, in the end, TCI all comes down to him and his brilliant performance. David Tennant is an acting genius, be in no doubt. Incidentally, he doesn't do much till the last twenty minutes, and I haven't even mentioned the big spaceship yet.
It is irritating that we have to wait so long for the new Doctor to strut his considerable stuff, and I feel this is a cynical decision in the hope the audience will go "We can't switch over now, David Tennant hasn't done anything yet". It's marketing, and I feel a bit cheated in the same way I do when they don't kill Jason at the end of a Friday The 13th film, not for dramatic reasons, but because it suits the producers more than the audience.
But to the actual story. TCI is epicly epic on an epic scale that scales the scales of scaling. It's huuuuuuge!!! You've gotta love the confidence RTD and his merry gang have just now, to push British television to these kind of heights. The story does sag like a souffle in the middle, but is possessed of enough genius moments and dialogue that you won't give a damn about that by the end.
James Hawes proves again his massive ambition when it comes to visuals. What's nice is, unlike the dark streets of The Empty Child, TCI's most memorable scene is in brilliant sunshine. What a contrast for the CV. Expect him to be snapped up by Hollywood anytime soon. We're so lucky to have a director of this world class (and a writer and lead actors too of course).
In the end, this story bodes so well for the future. The Piper/Tennant chemistry is instant, he even gets on with Rose's Mum. You just want to be around these people, even Rose's Mum.
Series 2 will be even better than series 1, and you can chop off my hand if that isn't so.
P.S. David Tennant is an amazing Doctor Who!!
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
My overriding conclusion from an initial viewing of The Christmas Invasion was that Russell T Davies (as ever) got a lot more things right than wrong.
A prime-time Christmas Day slot would come with certain caveats nothing too demanding in terms of plot, plenty of gimmicks, plenty of knockabout dialogue between the main characters and plenty of effects. And I think RTD and his merry men and women polled four from four in that count.
I was a bit concerned that too much of the Christmas angle would descend the show into high farce but, in truth, it was a lot more minimal than I expected and, as the killer Santas and Christmas trees had been trailed beforehand, I actually felt the writer only did what he had to in order to justify the title.
The Santas were genuinely menacing (rather like the Autons in Rose, Id have liked to have seen more of them, but accept theres only so much you can shoe-horn in) and the spinning tree was a bit of harmless flotsam. Cant imagine it would have gone down too well with the purist, but gimmicks such as this do appeal to the mainstream audience, and its their interest which will keep this show floating at the front of the BBC flotilla.
I thought the story was a good romp (the hour flew by). As I said earlier, it had to be simple enough to keep a tiring Christmas audience awake, with a regular sprinkling of wow, look at that if they were starting to nod off. Obviously, there were holes in the plot if you can be bothered digging, but I cant. Even if I could, season of goodwill and all that!
It was actually more Star Trek TNG than Doctor Who in a lot of places for me, but I greatly enjoyed the former, and had no objections to such a spectacle. And it was a spectacle. It looked like a movie and a well-made one at that.
I liked the Sycorax (and was pleased The Doctor finished off their leader gave the promise that the dark side remains intact) and was also pleased Harriet Jones finished off their spaceship. The Margaret Thatcher/Tony Blair analogies (the former in respect of Harriets physical makeover from the previous series and the latter in terms of transition from popular leader to warmongering megalomaniac allegedly) were obvious, but worthy.
And what about the new Doctor?
Watching David Tennant on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross on Friday night (funnily enough) I thought he looked pretty weary, even allowing for having to put up with Ross at his oafish worst.
I didnt get the vibe from any of Tennants soundbites that he relished the prospect of hanging around in the role beyond a third season. Of course, he may have been genuinely concerned at the reaction to his first episode. If the latter was the case, then he should only leaf through this Forum (and Im sure others) for reassurance.
David Tennant IS The Doctor.
A terrific performance. Stole every scene he was in and, while I was a huge fan of Christopher Ecclestons Doctor and felt he was an impossible act to follow, Tennant shows every indication of being capable of achieving the impossible.
He doesnt have the physical presence of his predecessor, but the role will be written to take that into account. And, anyway, you get the impression he can take any line in any script and make it his.
This really was a remarkable start to his tenure. Energetic, funny, charming, chuck in any adjectives you wish. In terms of screen time, he had less than might normally be expected for the lead role, but almost all the lines I scene I recall instantly had Tennant in them. I always thought he was going to be brilliant, now I know for sure.
And the episode-closing little segue of treats to come in the spring has me genuinely thirsting for the start of what I believe will be the finest-ever Doctor Who season.
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It's colours to the mast time . . .
Highly enjoyable to watch. It was good Christmas Day television in the spirit of recent Christmases, fairly Indiana Jonesish at points, with a fun sword-fight.
There were some nice references to similar adventures. The Hitchhiker's Guide Arthur Dent comparison was made explicit, without going beyond the Dr. Who boundaries, because both Pertwee and Baker spent parts of their first stories in pyjamas. There was also the Star Wars moment when the Doctor's hand was cut off. I liked this moment, which presented a typical problem, but solved it in an unusual way, that was not out of keeping with Dr. Who's particular mythology. It has added an element to the regeneration lore, which I feel is likely to reappear in the future. It has also left a situation with the Doctor's severed hand having fallen to earth. I suspect this will be forgotten; but it does raise some questions about what might happen if it falls into the wrong hands - what if 'Torchwood' get hold of it. How much could the hand regenerate itself - along the lines of Eldrad? The 'Torchwood' moment, with the energy weapon being fired was also There was even something self-referential, with the scene where the new costume is being chosen, being very like the one in Castrovalva, with a similar angle on the Doctor looking in the mirror shot.
I particularly liked Tennant's take on the Doctor, primarily because he seemed to so enjoy taking on the role. One of my biggest complaints about Eccles was that he seemed to be deigning to play a role that he felt was beneath him. Tennant threw himself into it with gusto. Personally I enjoyed what he did and felt that he brought something fresh to the role. I enjoyed the whole concept of the Doctor finding out who he was in his reaction to what was going on around him. How he would react to the big red button, etc. And I felt that he carried off potentially naff lines such as 'This new hand's a fighting hand' and 'No second chances, I'm that kind of man' with great panache.
As for the aliens. The evil santas and deadly tree seemed amusing and memorable and quite appropriate for the transmission slot and the 'pilot-fish' 'explanation' seemed just about acceptable. The Sycorax, or Sickbags, or whatever they were called also seemed fine, but I liked their 'helmets' (which seemed typically Whoish) more than the faces underneath (which seemed a little Deep Space 9ish). What was missing was any background as to their motivation, which seems to be a more deep-seated problem of the 45-60 minute format, which doesn't give as much time for character development as the old 4 episodes used to allow. I liked the design of their spaceship, inside and out, and although I desperately dislike the present TARDIS interior, I was pleased to see some variation on it, with the spiral staircase and the wardrobe room.
Penelope Wilton was excellent, and watching the episode through a second time showed how her final decision to do a General Belgrano on the Sickbags was fully consistent with her actions leading up to that point and was quite justified, despite what the Doctor had to say: he isn't always around to save the day and the Earth must be prepared to defend itself. I was quite pleased with the balance that was left, because the Doctor was in danger of doing a Bob Geldof and snuggling up to the Prime Minister; instead he was left as an anti-establishment figure. The whole situation was very 'Silurians', where the Brigadier blows the monsters up at the end, so it was in keeping with the history of the show.
Personally I enjoyed having UNIT brought back into play, but it was a shame that there has been no significant characters developed within UNIT - a problem due again, I suspect, to the much shorter story lengths. The added issue of introducing the Torchwood format left even less time for UNIT, but did intrigue me - why has Torchwood's staff been cut by a third just recently?
Billie seemed to do what she was required to do fairly well, which seemed principally to accept the change between Doctors. The main problem with her is that she is fairly wet as a companion. Faced with a regenerating Doctor and an alien invasion she decides to hide in the TARDIS with her mummy. Perhaps Polly would have done the same, but I can't imagine Jo Grant or Sarah Jane Smith or Leela or Ace, or virtually any of the others doing that. We have had much more positive female role-models in the past.
As for Mummy Tyler and the wet boyfriend, I find them very tedious. I suppose if they were not there we would simply end up with a succession of wet background characters brought in to do not very much, so they are useful in that they soak up these duties. But I am not in the least bit interested in what happens to them.
Overall I felt that it was 60 minutes well-spent in the company of the Doctor. The general tenor was right, with the Tom Baker Wind-in-the-Willows format, where a spilt cup-of-tea helps to save the day (or at least paves the way for courage and humour to save the day). And there were some interesting visual moments, such as the murderous spinning Christmas tree, and the eerie sight of people standing on the edge of high buildings, which had a very 1970s feel to it.
I am looking forward eagerly to seeing Tennant take a proper stab at the role in his first season. After a year of being very much at the fringes, when so many people we happy about the return of the series, I feel that there is now something for me to celebrate too.
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First off, I want to thank Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for getting the rights to broadcast Doctor Who in Canada. Watching episodes of Doctor Who when I was younger on TV Ontario in the early 1990s got me interested when CBC announced the new series. I think if I didn't watch it when I was a child, I would not find Doctor Who as exhilarating as it is.
I must admit, this was a fantastic episode, partly because of the great acting, the production value, and especially because it gave us a taste of what the next Doctor is going to be like. The introduction of David Tennant is incredible, although at the beginning is a little overboard as he seems irrational and spotty. Fortunately, you quickly adapt and his speech in the spaceship is brilliant. Tennant is going to be a wonderful Doctor and looks to be most promising for the series as a whole. As long as the stories and dialogue are well written, Tennant can do anything.
The special effects and costumes are wonderful in Christmas Invasion. The Sycorax look especially menacing. The ship looks massive and the TARDIS showing up on earth was wild. I find the greatest advantage the new series has is it computer graphics. It gives a stronger sense of realism and brings out the best of Doctor Who.
Supporting characters do fine jobs with the script, not making them seem pointless and expendable. I really thought that UNIT soldier on the Sycorax spaceship was going to live. I did find Jackie as a more supporting character in this episode than in the previous ones and she always seems a little out of it making everything fit into place. I do wish they explained the evil Christmas tree and the Santas.
My biggest complaints are the some of the under copies from other movies such as the hand cutting off scene, and some of the dialogue. However, it adds Doctor Who style to it, and actually makes it somewhat better. I know the writers can be original and hopefully will improve in the next season. I find it hard to find many faults in this episode mostly due to the fact there are so many positives.
The action sequences were very well done and although Tennant does not seem like the brute that would swing a sword that well, but remember that Peter Davison was not very tough looking either and he did fine against the Master in The King's Demons. The best part and most defining moment with the Doctor is when he threw the orange at the release switch when the Sycorax leader tried running after him. His quote "No second chances, I'm that sort of a man." sets him apart from the rest of the Doctors. Tennant does a great job balancing the seriousness and humorous parts of the character.
The end sequence with Harriet Jones and the Doctor is most powerful. His comment to her was strong and showed his anger very well. I think the darker side of the Doctor might come out in the second season. Jones' reply "I'm sorry." under her breath was the realization to herself that the Doctor is more powerful than anything she could imagine.
All in all, it was an amazing episode and the preview for 2006 is looking even better. The return of old characters is the main reason everyone including myself should be interested in. Too bad it will be at least three months until the first episode of the new season. At least BBC Kids has the older series on at night.
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Who would have dreamed that we would be getting thirteen (well fourteen) brand new episodes of 'Doctor Who' for one year only? So the next thing that we know is that two more seasons will be made and two Christmas specials! Hurray! And before I start to get in further detail I have to say some thing Â its "fÃ ??Ã ????" as the wonderful ninth Doctor would say.
Russell T. Davies' writing of the episode is up to the standards of Robert Holmes and Terrence Dicks (Robert and Terrence are classic' Doctor Who' writers and are two of my personal favorite writers)! He gives the script the excitement that a good story needs as well as a bit of 'glamour' humor which you can expect from Russell.
Before 'The Christmas Invasion' we only saw the tenth Doctor (played perfectly by David Tennant who is Britton's favorite actor voted by the people, for the people and of the people) in the children in need special. I have recently sent a letter of to David saying that just by the children in need special he is going to be a great Doctor. Many people have said that he is not the right choice for the Doctor. But after I played 'Attack Of The Graske' I ran onto my computer and logged into MSN messenger and a shouted to them 'IN YOU FACE'! And they admitted that they admitted that I was right about the David Tennant being great!
Billie Piper. Hum? What can I say? How about Â Billie, you play Rose Tyler like you are Rose Tyler! She carries the love that she has for the Doctor so good that she pulls you into the story and shows you the adventure from her eyes. After all, Doctor Who only takes the best!
Another aspect of the show is how Mickey and Jackie are played by Noel Clark and Camille Coduri. It is really good that the production cast keep bring Rose home because again it shows you how the Doctor has an effect of the people who he takes Rose away from. And it also has an effect on Rose and the Doctor. You can see how the Doctor falls in love with Rose in the second season. And I shouldn't really say but I cannot wait in any way for the moment were Mickey joins the Doctor and Rose in travels in time and space!
'Six Words. Six words and I can bring your government down'. That is how power full the Doctor is. "Don't you think she's looking tired'? The character Harriet Jones (not from Fly Dale North any more) is a wonderfully and brilliantly character created by Russell. From the moment when she tells Torchwood (ill talk about Torchwood in a little bit) to fire, her character goes down a level. And when I saw the new Doctor walking to awards her my heart started beating because I knew that the Doctor would say murder. And she knows that she shouldn't have done what she had done but she makes a good excuse, which would have worked if the Doctor were not there of saying 'that was defense'. But the all the Doctor really had to say was murder.
However I have seen some things, which don't really let the story down, but for me it showed that the money was starting to rum out. First off all its one sound effect that stands out. When the Doctor presses that great big button that never should be pressed it sounded like a Dalek firing its gun. And then it's the music. You can tell that the same music was used aging because if you watch 'World War Three' in the middle you will her citron bits of music if you get what I mean.
Other wise the episode is great! And my special rating for this story is ten out of ten. It is going with my personal favorite episodes along with; 'The Daleks' Master Plan', 'The Tomb Of The Cybermen', 'The Mind Robber', 'Spearhead From Space', 'The Claws Of Axos', 'Day Of The Daleks', 'The Ark In Space', 'The Caves Of Androzani' and 'Dalek'. But before I go I have to say that my favorite episode of all time is 'The Ark In Space'.
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One of my own personal reservations about the Aliens of London / World War Three two-parter when it aired earlier this year was that, for an alien invasion happening slap-bang in the middle of London even one subsequently denied away as a hoax it didnt feel nearly epic enough. It seemed to want to be an alien invasion version of Daviess excellent ITV return-of-Christ drama The Second Coming but couldnt quite hack it.
This time, however, an epic feel is given to proceedings by the excellent direction of James Hawes, the man who so successfully helped the poll-winning The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances two-parter last year. He brings a cinematic touch to proceedings while at the same time never allowing the visuals to come at the expense of Davies witty and well-structured script, which is also a vast improvement over his previous alien invasion effort, and one of the best stories he has so far turned in for the series he has so successfully masterminded the revival of.
The major success of Daviess scripting of The Christmas Invasion comes in the balance of the dark and the humorous, a balance he strikes just about perfectly here. Its not a completely lightweight romp, but it has more than enough humour and lighter material for both the timeslot and the transmission date slap bang in the middle of Christmas Day prime time but also enough of a dark and sinister side to give it that good old-fashioned menacing Doctor Who feel. The Sycorax really feel like a credible threat, albeit somewhat in the tried and tested old-fashioned Doctor Who mould a race of aliens who all look the same with one evil leader who speaks for them all. Mind you, when the leader is being played with as much relish as Sean Gilder seizes the part with, its pretty difficult to complain about that!
The style of the aliens is not, of course, the only kiss to the pass included here. There are all sorts of loving touches the return of UNIT once more, who look like a credible organisation with a bit of budget behind them, just for a change; the brief appearance of a season eighteen-style Fourth Doctor scarf near the end, and even nods to The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy and one admittedly appreciated fully only via the website, you cant see the logo on screen doubtless for fear of giving poor old Nigel Kneale a heart attack the British Rocket Group.
More importantly for the current incarnation of the series, however, familiar elements from the previous season are on hand to reassure viewers that despite the change of lead actor this is still the same programme. Rose, of course, struggling to accept that this is the same man before finally joyously realising that this really is her friend No argument from me! Mickey and Jackie, who continue to improve and become more familiar and friendly as characters, with Jackie in particular looking as if she gets on far better with the Tenth Doctor than she did with the Ninth. And of course Harriet Jones.
Jones was one of the hits of Aliens of London / World War Three, no doubt almost entirely because of the performance of the actress the part was specifically written for, Penelope Wilton. Wilton is excellent again here, as the audience is taken on a somewhat surprising journey, being made at the end of the programme someone were supposed to dislike. Its actually fairly heartbreaking in a way, Jones having been such a likeable and friendly character Im always reminded of Shaun Lyons memorable line about wanting to go home and eat cake with her when I think of her. Yet here she is destroying a retreating alien vessel and finding herself the target of the new Doctors venom.
Ah yes, the new Doctor. What kind of a man is he? Well, if The Christmas Invasion is anything to go by, a pretty amazing one. Its a surprise looking back to find just how much of the hour he is absent from, as when he does appear on the scene fully-working and raring to go, he absolutely steals the show. Christopher Eccleston is one of my favourite actors and has been for years, but I have to say that even in just the time he had here, David Tennant shows the makings of a far more memorable incarnation of the Doctor. Witty, charismatic and charming, he also has the slightly sinister edge many of the truly great Doctors have had, the desire to do what is right and proper and a firm sense of morality. Tennant is excellent at both sides to the character, when delivering funny lines cant get the staff! or when dressing down Harriet Jones or doing the no second chances bit.
Theres a wonderfully uplifting sense to the character as well the idea of a new beginning, a new man and someone you really want to be with at that. His costume selection in the TARDIS wardrobe another new room at last! accompanied by that happy song is a great bit, as is the somewhat surreal sight of the Doctor sitting down to Christmas dinner, complete with crackers and silly paper hat. The Ninth Doctor very firmly didnt do domestic, but the Tenth seems to be rather more amenable about fitting in with local customs.
And then we even get snow! Undercut in typical Doctor Who fashion with the dark revelation of what the substance falling from the sky actually is. The snow looks fantastic anyway, but that probably doesnt need saying as the entire episode looks absolutely wonderful. So many triumphs from the director, the designers and The Mill the Sycorax ship, the use of the Tower of London as the UNIT headquarters, and destruction of the Gherkin
It all looks superb, suitably epic and brings a real feeling of glossiness and expense to the show.
Murray Golds music is also turned up a notch in quality, or at least given a different feeling and texture by the use of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for a fully-orchestrated incidental score and a new rendition of the closing theme. It sounds wonderful, and fully justifies the expense. You have the feeling as happened so often with the last season that everyone has come together to put in their all and bring to the screen the very best episode of Doctor Who they could possibly make.
And whats even better is that this is just the start of the Tenth Doctors era! Theres so much more to come, and I doubt I was alone in wanting to follow the Doctor and Roses journey to those stars they were pointing up at right away. Instead we have to wait until the spring, but kindly the BBC did at least allow us a sneaky glance at the future adventures in store with the Coming Soon! trailer at the end of the show. And didnt that look absolutely marvellous? The Face of Boe! Sarah Jane Smith! K9! Queen Victoria! Cybermen! Oh my giddy aunt!
I absolutely cannot wait for the second season, but before that weve been given a truly spectacular Christmas gift in The Christmas Invasion. This is a truly wonderful episode, perfectly judged for the festive season and fully deserving of its pride of place in the BBC schedules.
And we even know already were getting another Christmas special next year! Hurrah! Roll on 2006 its going to be amazing.
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After the critical and ratings acclaim of the first series this hour-long festive special certainly had a lot to life up to. Not only did it successfully have to fully introduce the new Doctor but it also had to reassure viewers the show was going to be just as good. The trailers for the episode showed it was certainly going to pull out all the stops to try and make it a memorable episode packed full with special effects and creepy aliens.
You could argue that the special paid tribute or ripped of Star Trek, for the teleportation sequences which coincidentally looked exactly like the Star Trek effects, Independence Day for the huge Space Ship hovering over a city and Star Wars for the fight scenes between the Doctor and the alien leader. There were probably plenty more movies paid tribute to throughout the episode but they were the ones I picked up while watching. So even though it was a mesh, or tribute, to the science fiction genre it still felt like a good Doctor Who episode.
I never really warmed to Christopher Eccelston as the Doctor and felt he wasnt right for the role. Had he stayed for more than one season that might have changed. However, I have instantly warmed to David Tennant and feel hell be a brilliant Doctor and a great addition to the show. He might have spent most of the episode sleeping but once he woke up you knew it. He had nearly everything right and the costume he picked at the end looks brilliant.
Once again Billie Piper proved her worth as Rose. Billie was one of the best things about the first series and she looks set to continue her impressive portrayal of Rose. Noel Clarke and Camille Coduri improved on their performances from the first series and their characters werent as irritating either. Penelope Wilton was brilliant as Harriet Jones and the writing and the acting behind the character was spot on. I loved the way she still introduced herself to everyone, a nice characterisation carried over, and liked the way she was essentially still the same woman.
This leads me to my only real problem with the piece. Its supposed anti-war message. I didnt really detect any real anti-war message in here at all until the end where Harriet Jones ordered the alien weapons to be fired on the retreating ship. This was of course a reference to the Falklands War and Maggie Thatchers bombing of retreating ships. However, in the Falklands War the enemy forces were no threat to us and it was a totally outrageous attack. In this instance however, the Sycorax, were a credible threat. They had already killed two people, right in front of Harriet Jones, and had forced millions of others to the roofs of buildings with the intention of making them jump, if Earth didnt surrender. The firing and destruction of the ship was more of a sign that Earth is defended than the Sycorax simply telling other species of the fact. I didnt like the Doctors reaction to Harriet at this point at all and felt it was slightly hypocritical. Had it been a Dalek ship the Doctor would have had no qualms about destroying it.
Over all this episode was much better than most of the previous season and had an excellent script, brilliant acting from the regulars and guest cast and for the most part impressive special effects. I cant wait for the next series to begin.
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Prior to seeing The Christmas Invasion, I was largely of the opinion that it was going to suck. Yes, such an articulate viewpoint. To be more specific, I thought David Tennant was going to be brilliant, but that the story would suck. Now Ive seen it, I know that I was right and I was wrong. David Tennant is brilliant, and the story was a wonderful piece of entertainment.
We all saw those clips of Santas with machine guns and killer Christmas trees. And we were told it would be a Christmas-themed Doctor Who story. How could that not be nauseatingly bad? Well, simply because it isnt really as much of a Christmas-themed story as we were led to believe. The Saint Nick hitmen feature only briefly in the beginning, and theres only one killer tree and most of us probably saw that scene already prior to the screening. Thats really the extent of it. What we really have is an alien invasion story that merely takes place over the yuletide, and we spend more time with the prime minister trying to deal with it than we do with scenes of cracker-popping and carol singing.
The Doctor spends a good deal of the episode comatose, with only a couple of brief spells of consciousness in the first 40 minutes, no doubt in order to prevent the audience going completely mad waiting to see the acting tour de force that David Tennant is as the new Doctor. So when were not watching Harriet Jones and her staff coming to the quick realisation that no amount of We dont need the Yanks well handle this ourselves-style nationalism will stop the Sycorax from turning humans into cattle, were watching Rose facing the possibility that her Doctor is gone, and no-one will save the Earth.
While I think Russell T Davies the executive producer has done wonders in bringing back the show for the 21st Century, I had not been too chuffed with Russell T Davies the writer during Season 1. This is the man who decided that what Doctor Who needed was farting aliens, Earth-centric stories, and melodramatic soap opera. But I have to concede that even during disposable fluff like Aliens Of London, Davies the writer is never boring, the dialogue is electric, and characters come to life. However, things improved with Bad Wolf / The Parting Of The Ways, and they reach even greater heights in The Christmas Invasion. I just couldnt help but be drawn in, and 60 minutes later, was annoyed because I wouldnt get more of it until about March.
As to the alien invasion plot, its fairly standard. Aliens want the Earth for all the natural goodies it can bring them, for the chance to make use of an inferior race as slaves, and because conquering planets is what they get off on. And unless the mysterious Torchwood get their act into gear, thats exactly what will happen. So here we get our first sniff of what Torchwood will be all about. Theyre kind of like the Foreign Hazard Duty of the comics, or the Section 31 of Star Trek, though at this stage Earthbound. Its not really until the end of the story, when the prime minister orders them to destroy the Sycorax ship that we see just what kind of a force they are. I can just picture the real leaders of the country watching that and thinking, Hmm, you know
I have to say I was really annoyed at Harriet Jones rapid descent into megalomania. Yes, it wouldve been unrealistic to have a virtuous prime minister, you know, one that isnt a completely egocentric fundamentalist who thinks the world works in black and white, but I like Penelope Wilton, and had hoped shed be around a bit longer. The Doctors six words maneuver, which ends her career almost instantly however, is just wonderful. A classic example of what makes the Doctor different from other action heroes a few words can do far more damage than say, a sword fight. Speaking of which
I just had this feeling that David Tennant would be good as soon as I heard he was to take over from the fantastic Christopher Eccleston. I dont know why that is. All Id heard from him at that point were a few Big Finish performances. Then when I saw him at the end of Episode 13, I was convinced. So I was hardly expecting to be even more convinced in The Christmas Invasion, but ever second Tennant is on screen, hes just marvelous. Energetic, quirky, humorous, powerful, confidant, and the very image of someone whos clearly enjoying himself. As soon as hes revived by a cup of tea, he strides out of the TARDIS and takes command of the situation at a pace that is effectively Tom Baker x2. I loved the way he verbally takes time to figure out who he is, while at the same time engaged in a sword fight with the Sycorax leader on the roof of their ship Star Wars-fashion. And it all culminates with that great No second chances line, where we see the undercoating of steel beneath the 10th Doctors cheerful exterior, minutes before we get another taste as he destroys Harriet Jones. But perhaps the greatest example of where he differs from Ecclestons Doctor comes as the end, where, while his former self wasnt into domestics, the new Doctor happily sits down with the family for Christmas dinner. And it really does look like a family. This is a Doctor even Jackie likes. Thank god. If shes not verbally jousting with him, she can only be less annoying.
I dont have much of an opinion of the Sycorax themselves, frankly. Like the Autons, they just arent given enough screen time to be anything more than goofy Klingons. And the translation pieces in the Sycorax great hall are very Star Trek VI. Their menace is well-established though when they nearly make 1/3 of the world walk off buildings, and it was at that point I felt the story was really getting good. But you know, perhaps it doesnt really matter if the Sycorax arent fully developed as fully-fleshed evil villains, since it really transpires that the greater villains are possibly a lot closer to home. And its far easier to feel threatened by villains in the human guise.
The anti-war message is about as subtle as the anti-media message in The Long Game, ie not very, but Wilton and Tennant act it beautifully. I look forward to seeing further clashes between this Doctor and the government in the future. Very reminiscent of what we saw with the 3rd Doctor back in the 70s, but darker. And it all suggests that the Torchwood spin-off will be far more interesting than Id previously thought.
So overall, Id say this is textbook example of why its stupid to pre-judge something before youve even seen it. Unless were talking about David Tennant, whom I just know is going to make Season 2 an unforgettable experience. We even got the bridge back in the theme music. Please tell me that's a permanent change.
And of course, there was the Season 2 trailer. A brief snifter of things to come, in which we see among other things, tantalizing clips of Sarah Jane Smiths return, a truly battered K9, and a nanoseconds glimpse of the new Cybermen. I cant wait. Looks like next January and February are going to be every bit as painful as last time.
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"The Christmas Invasion" seems to encapsulate Russell T. Davies' vision for "Doctor Who" better than any of the other episodes done thus far. It is by turns silly, scary, dramatic, epic, witty, and tragic, and then all of those things again in another order, and then again, and so on. Most of the time this works really well and that's what's made "The Christmas Invasion" such a great show to watch, and the one or two times that it doesn't quite come off aren't enough to totally derail it (but I'll mention those bits all the same).
The story owes much to one of RTD's favorite stories, "Spearhead from Space." It's got UNIT fending off a new alien invasion, Auton-like everyChristmasDay-looking robots, and a regeneration to contend with. He wisely chooses to mimic "Spearhead"'s structure by holding off on the full reveal of the new Doctor for a very long time indeed, and as a result all of the other characters (and by this time the audience) are in such a "we need the Doctor!" state by then that his grand entrance becomes all the more grand and we have a ball following him as he easily romps through the Sycorax plan and puts paid to it.
It's just as well then that the best thing in the episode is David Tennant's debut performance itself, or else all that build-up would've been a bit anticlimactic. But he really is tremendous, isn't he? He seems to get by on his one-liners alone for a good long while, like "You just can't get the staff" or roaring "I DON'T KNOW" back at the Sycorax leader, or his ramble about the "great big threatening... Button!" Or best of all, "Sorry, that's The Lion King." He seems to be going to be one of those Doctors that loves the humor-as-a-distraction tactic, where the tactic part is foremost in his mind. Although, come to think of it, he is just having a great old time some of the time too, such as when he regenerates his hand and exclaims "It's a fightin' hand!" in an American accent.
He has also got a very hard streak in him which should be fascinating to watch. This comes up twice... first when he sends the Sycorax leader falling to his death and saying "No second chances, I'm that sort of a man," and second and more fascinatingly when he tears down Harriet Jones after she uses the secret Torchwood weapon to destroy the retreating Sycorax ship. One need only look at the level of debate that's sprung up over this decision of his to see how fascinating this was, as everyone takes a side as to whether he was right or whether Harriet was. My take on it is that there's no question that each of them acted completely in character; Harriet made the human decision and the Doctor made the Doctor decision. Which one is the truly right thing to do though? Personally, I'm with the Doctor on all counts, as I usually am. His decision gets even more fascinating when you consider that his taking down of Harriet's premiership is a change to the history he's already told us about back in "World War Three," where he indicated she'd be PM for three terms. _That's_ how angry he was with her on this one... angry enough to break what would've been the First Law of Time if the Time Lords were still around, and that says to me that the Tenth Doctor will place his morals above everything and everyone else. This holds a lot of potential for great stories in the next two seasons (at least).
Going back to Harriet Jones for a moment, I was very heartened to see a level of political sophistication in the writing here that you don't often get in today's polarized media environment. I was among many who cheered her dig at the US President early on when she sent the message to him that "he's not my boss, and he's certainly not turning this into a war." The easy way to write this would've been to just leave that there to go on saying "our politicians should be better than America's," but then we get to the end of the story and Harriet herself makes that decision to destroy the retreating ship in the name of national/planetary security, the sort of decision we'd expect to see from the US administration, and here the script seems to be saying "most world leaders put in this position would also make the wrong choice." And I cheer at this piece of writing as well. This doesn't mean I'll be voting Republican anytime soon, or in fact ever, but I do appreciate the perspective RTD brings us here. There's a lot of anti-Americanism in the world today, and while that directed against our foreign policies is completely justified in my view, I bristle at the how knee-jerk and prejudicial so much of it is, as I suspect that whatever nation was in the no. 1 spot today would be making many of the same mistakes. RTD seems to get this too, and I thank him for writing that into this story.
Changing tack entirely, we have the story of Rose, Mickey, Jackie, and Christmas at home. This material was all a lot of fun even if some of the plot starts to creak here if you stare at it really hard. There was another balancing act to be done here of putting Rose back into the standard companion's role from where she was at the end of "The Parting of the Ways" while at the same time not making her seem like a weakling, and the story seems to have done that effortlessly. Or is it Billie Piper's acting that does it so effortlessly? Probably equally both, really. Piper's got this character down inside-out by this point, and at the same time the writing has her not just being a "companion" but showing more experience as any second-season companion should. She's long past the stage of making bad decisions and though she doesn't quite know what to do some of the time (because she's not got the Doctor's knowledge), she doesn't make any mistakes and keeps things together nevertheless, i.e. realizing immediately that there's something up with the sinister Santas and why they'd be after her and Mickey, or thinking to check both the Doctor's hearts, or realizing how dangerous his blood could be to history, or putting the sonic screwdriver into his hand during the tree attack, or taking everyone into the TARDIS for safety when all other options are bad. I also loved the bit where she has to play at being the Doctor herself and basically just quotes every alien name she can think of from last season at the Sycorax leader.
And what about those Sycorax and the eponymous Christmas Invasion? This was exactly the right mix of a great big epic Independence Day-style alien invasion and "Doctor Who" alien cheesy fun. It starts with that hysterical moment when the news footage is tuning in the space probe's transmission and the whole world sees "Raarrgh!" and just builds from there. They are by turns post-modernly funny ("Sycorax rock!") and really scary what with the whole genius idea of them getting every A+ blooded person up onto a roof or height to jump from if they don't get what they want (and didn't those crowd shots just look _amazing_?). This whole mix is wonderfully encapsulated in the moment when the leader starts to take his helmet off and Mr. Llewellyn says "they might be like us!" only to reveal a nasty-looking alien face beneath. And they've got this fabulously big-looking menacing "ship" that looks like they've just hollowed out a big asteroid and put some engines in it while at the same time they've got a pseudo-Klingon culture of trial by combat and champions and tactics that aren't really as nasty as they at first appeared (the blood control). I loved them, and I wouldn't mind seeing more of them again in another setting, perhaps their home planet or vs. some other creatures. Their bark was worse than their bite, and there's always more potential with a set of characters like this.
The direction was as top-notch as James Hawes' earlier effort... I particularly like his sense of scale when it came to the big outdoor shots, from the Sycorax ship hovering over London to the crowds of people first walking and then standing on the edges of buildings, to the fight scenes set against what looks like nothing but sky. The music by Murray Gold was some of his best as well. With just one rather glaring exception, I thought he nailed every scene right on the head this time (and more especially in the "Children in Need" prelude... I really loved what he did there).
As I've heaped so much praise already that the episode's about to go into a diabetic coma, I'll turn now to my list of mostly small quibbles with the episode. I'll start with that glaring music exception. Why does Murray Gold go for brass and trumpets in the scene where Rose breaks down and cries over the loss of her old Doctor? Trumpets don't say "sadness" in my musical vocabulary. Also, the swordfight choreography between the Doctor and the Sycorax leader didn't come off looking at all well. I liked the movement around the cave and then outside onto the edge of the ship, but the actual blows looked very clumsy by today's action standards, or even by those of the Pertwee era (although it still manages to beat that anemic-looking swordfight in "The King's Demons"). I didn't care for the teleport special effect either, as it looks far too much like that used in the "Power Rangers" shows. The CGI and effects were otherwise very, very impressive.. oh, except for the Guinevere One probe, which looked too computer-generated for my taste.
I've mentioned how the story so rapidly turns from funny to tragic to something else and so on, and most of the time that really worked, but the one time that it really didn't work is the only blight on the episode big enough for me to take a point off my rating of it, and that's the too-violent tonal wrench we're whiplashed through when at the end we go from Harriet's genocide and the Doctor's "just six words" bit to suddenly happy music as he finds his new clothes in the TARDIS wardrobe and then Christmas dinner at the Tyler's flat, and then back again to the awful aftermath of the genocide as "Schindler's List"-like ash falls on the area like snow and then back to fun again as the Doctor and Rose peer upwards at where they'll go next. I can't be having much fun at a mass funeral, I have to say, and I'm a little shocked that they let this go through as it is. This really jars.
And, one other note about this ending, with the alien ship's death throes being seen by the Doctor and company at Christmas... didn't we get this exact same thing in Big Finish's "Winter for the Adept"? Except that there it was written much more sensitively... or at least it was after Peter Davison objected to the original text and got them to change it. I'll give one point to Andrew Cartmel over Russell T. Davies on this occasion. :)
And I should also say a great big "hooray!" for the restoration of the middle-8 to the closing title music, even if we couldn't hear the music properly owing to the continuity announcer talking over it. I have already said that I don't care for how orchestral the closing music now gets though as I think it's now drowning out the Derbyshire radiophonic swoops sounds, but I now wonder if that's a transition that's in fact more gradual through the piece and we just can't hear the swoops earlier on because again the announcer was talking over them. The opening music has been redone as well, and there the balance is perfect.
Overall then, 9 out of 10 for "The Christmas Invasion," with only that strangely set-against-itself ending being a blight on the story to my mind. And welcome to the TARDIS Mr. David Tennant. I agree with your character, that it is gonna be fantastic.
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
The Christmas Invasion has an important question to answer: we all know David Tennant's the new Doctor, but is he the new Doctor? He's already auditioned for Russel T Davies, and this episode sees him audition before the post-Eccleston Who-watching public.
The episode is cleverly structured to answer this question, with several characters' reactions to the regeneration mimicking our own and echoing the cries of eight-year-olds across the country: "But he's not my Doctor." Tennant has big shoes to fill, but for most of the episode he's laid up in bed exhaling orange smoke - not the best way to make a good first impression. With the Doctor out of action it's left to the other players to keep things moving: Billie Piper plays Rose's loss of faith in her hero convincingly, Mickey runs around looking gormless and aliens try to take over the Earth, again.
Thank god for Harriet Jones (Prime Minister) - the only good thing to come out of the dreadful farting aliens debacle in series one - who makes a welcome return here. I adored Harriet in her first appearance, and it's wonderful to see they've preserved her subtle character touches here. Such a likeable and inspiring politician could only exist in science fiction (or an episode of The West Wing). Harriet is never arrogant enough to presume people will know who she is, even though she's now Prime Minister (she constantly flashes her ID card when introducing herself), and even in a crisis she's considerate to the people around her, offering to make them coffee and always ensuring she knows the names of who she's working with. As an intelligent, enthusiastic and principled leader she's almost the Doctor's human stand-in for the duration of his illness in this episode.
The aliens I'm ambivalent about. The Santassassins (sorry) and the killer Christmas tree are nothing more than silly devices to make the episode vaguely Christmas-themed; fortunately both are dispensed with early on. The Sycorax themselves are a fairly predictable bunch seeking Earth conquest, while the means by which they attempt it - putting Harriet Jones in the position of choosing between slavery and the deaths of one third of the population - makes for some enjoyable tension. But like the Sycorax's plan itself this is all just a ploy, an attempt to distract us long enough until the Doctor gets out of bed and shows us he can save the day just as well as his big-eared predecessor.
Tennant carries off the new Doctor's first major scene with engaging panache: I love how the script echoes our own questions about what kind of man he is now, while his verbal disarming of the Sycorax and calling their bluff on the blood-hypnotism is a classic Doctor moment. Unfortunately I found the swordfight something of a let down after the battle of wits which preceded it. The Satsuma was a nice touch - funny without being too ridiculous - but from that point on the episode quickly deteriorates.
If anything spoiled this episode for me, it's the ending. I have no problem with Harriet Jones getting tough on the Sycorax and blasting them to smithereens: it's a nice illustration of how her character has had to toughen up since becoming Prime Minister. I also like the idea of this causing some friction between her and the Doctor about the use of force, especially since Torchwood means the human race doesn't have to be the victim of other species' whims anymore. What I find incredibly frustrating, however, is the Doctor's completely irrational reaction to Harriet's decision. She visibly struggles with her conscience before taking the decision to fire, and the evidence is stacked in her favour: the Sycorax attacked us, they wanted to enslave humanity and threatened to kill 1/3 of its populace. The Doctor himself said that the human race is becoming noticed more and more - do we want to be known as helpless victims, or as a race capable of standing up for itself? Furthermore, despite whatever rules of combat the Doctor may have entered into, the Sycorax already showed they were capable of ignoring any code of honour when the defeated leader tried to attack the Doctor after he spared his life. If the Doctor doesn't give second chances, why should Harriet?
What makes this a galling plot development (instead of just irritating hypocrisy on the Doctor's part) is the idea that somehow Harriet should or could be kicked out of office for this. Harriet has ushered in a new era of success in Britain, which even know-nothings like Jackie are happy about; not only that, but she's just shown strength in the face of a powerful enemy. She didn't hesitate to put herself forward into danger when the Sycorax asked who would represent the planet, and stood up to them when beamed aboard their ship. And when they killed two prisoners of war in front of her eyes and then tried to leave (having previously mentioned the possibility of coming back with reinforcements), she had the courage to make a tough decision and strike back at them. All of this would make her a hero with the general public, not to mention her own party; how could she be facing a no confidence vote after that? She's not Margaret Thatcher, she's Churchill with better domestic policy. The idea that the Doctor could bring her down after this - especially using the lowest tactics possible: the dirty politics of mud-slinging and rumour-mongering about the state of her health - is reprehensible as well as stupid, and it doesn't say much about the kind of man this new Doctor is. Trying to claim the moral high ground with these kinds of manoevures is hypocrisy of the worst kind.
The Christmas Invasion was a by and large entertaining episode that successfully bridged the gap between Doctors, establishing Tennant as the TARDIS's rightful occupant. Unfortunately, a clever script (I loved the joke about the Royal family) and a brilliant performance by David Tennant are undermined by a terrible ending in which the most interesting parts of the plot are crammed into a minute or so and unsatisfactorily resolved. For me this one ended on a sour note, and I'll be looking to the new series to sweeten things again.
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
After a great season finale, the wait is finally over. And, thankfully, us "Canucks" didn't have to wait as long as we normally do. This time, we got to see the Canadian transmission only a day after "the Brits" did instead of the usual two weeks we had to wait back when the Eccleston stories were being shown.
But, anyway you slice it, the conclusion of "The Parting of the Ways" has made this an eagerly-anticipated story. In much the same way as I found myself waiting for the different episodes of Star Wars to come out over these last few years, so were my feelings with "Christmas Invasion". But, as Lucas discovered, sometimes that anticipation can work against you. Sometimes, what the fans are expecting and what you can deliver is just too big a difference. And their own over-anticipation makes them impossible to satisfy.
And that was probably the biggest question hanging over the production teams' heads as they made "The Christmas Invasion" - would the audience feel it was worth the wait? And I'll even admit that my own sense of anticipation made me watch this tale with a far more critical eye than normal. "Rose", of course, had that same effect on me a few months previously!
So, was it worth the wait? Hmm.....
I will admit, it was a bit dodgy, at first. There were some very deliberate attempts to entertain us with wild eye candy rather than plot. Some of them, (ie: the TARDIS smashing into buildings as it lands and the killer Christmas tree) worked better than others (ie: mass evacuation of hypnotised people moving to the ledges of tall buildings - the effect went on far longer than it needed too, in my opinion). I understood why this was being done since it was a Christmas Special and needed to have a mass appeal to it - but I felt that "Rose" achieved similiar effects but in much more stylish and clever manners. This bordered a bit more on just "throwing the effects in our faces" as cheesy Hollywood summer blockbusters tend to do - and it just seems wierd to see Doctor Who doing that! Back in the old days, we endured the rubber outfits and monstruoulsy awful C.S.O. because we could justify it with the sheer inventiveness of the storytelling. But now we're being treated to some gorgeous effects and a somewhat cliched "alien invasion" plotline taken right out of Independence Day. This, as far as I concerned, was not what I signed up for when I became a Doctor Who fan. And I had to admit, by about halfway through the story I was starting to feel that unless I got some "real" elements of Who coming up soon, I was going to walk away a dissatisfied geek.
Fortunately, there were some nice nods toward something more "Whoesque" on its way as we referred, now and again, to the status of our new Doctor. His brief moment of consciousness as Rose begs him to wake was very effective and showed us that there was more of this to come. That the Doctor needed a bit of a rest first since he was weak from the regeneration. But that, when he was recovered, he would come out with sonic screwdriver blazing!
I, for one, was also glad that they maintained the tradition of making the Doctor a bit "shaky on his feet" for the first little while after his regeneration. It's a reflection of how the fans feel after a regneration, really. A bit unsettled. And I think it's a very effective way of allowing us to adjust to the new interpretation that the role is getting. Let the new Doctor stumble around for a bit - let us feel sorry for him in his weakness - then we can accept the new personality we have to adjust to.
I do think, however, that Russell made us wait just a tad too long for the Doctor to finally emerge and join the story. There was just a bit too much of a sag in the plot. And, although he offered us a neat subplot of Rose trying to stand on her own two feet without him, it just wasn't quite enough of a distraction. I found myself saying: "Just get on with it - wake the damned Doctor up!" about five to ten minutes before he finally rises. If memory serves, this story runs a bit longer than the normal episodes did during the Eccleston era. Perhaps this was a mistake.
Now, before you start thinking I was genuinely dissatisfied with this tale. Let me get to the good stuff. And there is plenty of it there.
Most of the really awesome moments occur once the Doctor does finally emerge from the TARDIS (clever build up with the alien language finally starting to make sense). To be quite honest, there isn't a moment in the episode after Tennant finally takes control of the situation where I'm not in pure fanboy ecstacy. Which more than makes up for the "sag" I felt the whole story was starting to have. Tennant isn't just brilliant as the new Doctor, but the crafting of this new Doctor through the writing and directing is magnificient too. Had the story kept moving in the sort of "Hollywoodesque" direction that it had been going, we would have been treated to some very over-the-top sentimentalism as Tennant emerges from those blue double-doors. Instead, we got that wild quirkiness we so love from earlier incarnations of the Doctor. The way he gets up in the Sycorax's face then tells him to wait a minute so he can have an extended chat with Rose, Mickey and Harriet about who he's supposed to be won me over instantly. I am reminded of that wonderful moment in the 96 telemovie where McGann rejoices because his shoes finally seem to be fitting properly. This is one of the wonderful things about the Doctor: he has a very unique sense of priority that, in the end, makes sense. But doesn't seem to right away. Only as the story finally concludes do we see that he was probably saner than everyone else around him. But because he is so much more in tune with the universe than us mere mortals, much of his ways seem eccentric.
And that's what Tennant and the creative team, in general, has brought back quite beautifully in those last twenty minutes or so of "Christmas Invasion". The truly eccentric or even erratic nature of the Doctor. And that's what more than saves this story. As the Doctor wakes, he is not just triumphant in the way he saves the day - he's triumphant in the way he has transformed into this new incarnation. Doctor Ten is awesome - in every sense of the word.
And as much as I thought Eccleston's Doctor was great - he wasn't allowed to be quite so quirky as Tennant was in this story. And that made sense from a marketting standpoint. I don't think audiences could've handled a "fully quirky" Doctor right from the initial get-go. But now that we've gotten used to the series' formulae again - Tennant can give us a bit more of what the Doctor used to be like. I can't help but notice that even his new outfit is much more reflective of the old Doctor's suits as opposed to the very "stripped down" look Doctor Number Nine sported. I'm beginning to really see just how much of a masterplan RTD has had going on with the show. That he saw the flaws of the McGann story and realised he had to make the series a bit more approachable first before really restoring it to what it was like "back when" - whereas the McGann story came across as a lot more dated because it tried to bring back "traditional Who" too quickly. I suspect that, even as Season Two rolls along, there will be some moments were Tennant reigns himself in now and again and doesnt' go too far with the "eccentric proffessor" portrayal. Perhaps, by Doctor Eleven we might get a full helping of that - with a nice Victorian or Edwardian outfit hopefully thrown into the mix with it! But this story definitely shows us yet more clues as to just how smart RTD is being with the program. And I feel he must be applauded for that. Particularly since so many fanboys are looking to just sling mud at him for the most unfounded of reasons, sometimes!
So, what's my final verdict? Just a bit shaky before the Doctor truly joins the story - but once he's in there, he more than makes us forget about that shakiness. This story stands up quite well and marshals in a whole new era of the show quite masterfully. I, for one, can't wait to see what Season Two has to offer.
Damn! More of that eager anticipation to contend with! Looks like I'll be watching the first story of the season with some more of that overcritical eye of mine!
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
I'm sure I'm not the only one that's already watched The Christmas Invasion more than once. Just to make sure. Just to be absolutely certain that there was no mistake. It really is as amazing as it seemed first time round!
First off and most importantly, there's the new Doctor. Having enjoyed David Tennant's performances both in TV dramas like Secret Smile and in the Big Finish audios ( looking back, Dalek Empire III almost seems an audition piece) I was always fairly confident he would raise to the challenge but I was amazed at just how good his debut was. The Tenth Doctor is a quirky, fascinating and above all unpredictable character. One minute he's funny, quoting The Lion King or puzzling over fruit found in his dressing down. Then he's scary, turning on Harriet with righteous fury or calmly dispatching the Sycorax leader. And finally we have him doing what Eccleston's joyless creation seemed incapable of - delighting in the small things of life. That, more than anything, made me believe absolutely that David Tennant is the Doctor. Watching him enjoy a Christmas meal with Rose and co. it seemed like a deliberate link was being to drawn to the great Doctor moments of the past; Paul McGann's happiness at his new shoes, Sylvester McCoy's quiet musings in a cafe or Peter Davison's much quoted but timeless defence of the small and beautiful things in life.
Billie Piper was her usual excellent self. It's not an original sentiment, but she really is a Sarah Jane for the 21st Century, a companion who will become a 'blueprint' for those that follow. And just as Sarah only really came into her own once she was paired with Tom Baker, I feel that the best is yet to come from Rose now she has a new Doctor to knock around the Universe with. Her long suffering boyfriend Mickey has finally stopped being an irritant. Partially it's because he no longer has to be the butt of the Ninth Doctor's endless need to prove how much tougher he is than anyone else. But more importantly, his situation has made him sympathetic. He's in love with a girl who can never stay, Pip to an intergalactic Estella. At the end when he's forced to accept that she's going to go off again, it's hard not to feel sorry for him, because unrequited love is universal.
The character of Harriet, ably played by the wonderful Penelope Wilton, is one of the real successes of the new series. In Aliens of London she was stuck with playing against the staggeringly dumb looking Slitheen. In The Christmas Invasion she finally has proper, scary monsters to confront and we begin to see the real steel that underlies her compassion. Her decision to commit to destroy the Sycorax ship whilst morally wrong is also understandable and her plaintive 'sorry' to the retreating Doctor is oddly moving. This also serves to highlight another way in which the Tenth Doctor scores over the Ninth; motivation. When Christopher Eccleston's Doctor kicked Adam out of the TARDIS and condemned him to life of misery it was the pitiful act of a character who simply enjoyed the chance for power over a young man that Rose had taken a shine to. By contrast, David Tennant's Doctor punishes Harriet not for personal reasons, but because she has committed mass murder. This bodes well for the future development of the Tenth Doctor, but I hope that we haven't seen the last of Harriet. After all, the Brigadier murdered the Silurians and was back straight away in Ambassadors of Death.
Which leads me nicely to the Sycorax. Or, as they could be called, Star Trek monsters done properly. They had all the fury of the Klingons and the hunting instincts of Voyager's Hirogen, but scored over both of them in design (shades of Faction Paradox?) and sheer, arrogant nastiness. The stone spaceship was a nice piece of design, with just the right touch of Giger and Quatermass. With any luck, we'll be seeing more of this new race. Hopefully if they do come back, we won't be subjected to the attempts to make aliens behave more like humans which bedeviled the back end of Star Trek Voyager. The Sycorax are basically bastards and all the better for it. Roll on the action figure!!
All in all then, The Christmas Invasion was a triumph. A terrific new Doctor who could well become the best, a great companion getting better and a new and horrible race of aliens. The trailer at the end whetted the appetite nicely for what is to come, especially the return of K9 and the intriguing looking cat people. Though what I really want at the moment is for our new Doctor to meet Davros...
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
Given the quality of the last season, and having enjoyed the short prelude to this story broadcast during Children in Need, my expectations for the Christmas Invasion were fairly high. Overall I was not disappointed. What was broadcast was a fairly entertaining story with something in it for everybody. For long term fans there were a couple of nods to the past U.N.I.T and hints past Earth encounters with aliens. For more recent fans there were clear links to episodes from last season, particularly Aliens of London/World War Three (my favourite being the scaffolding around Big Ben). There were also some nice Christmassy elements combined with some emotional drama, light relief and a twist ending.
Other highlights included the performance of David Tennant. The Tenth Doctor is clearly an interesting character. He is very Doctorish, but was at the same time different from what has gone before. He seems to be more light-hearted than his immediate predecessor, yet at the same time he also seemed slightly more ruthless than any previous Doctor. His actions on the Sycorax and at the end against Harriet Jones show he will not tolerate any action he sees as wrong. This will make him a very dangerous opponent for his foes. Yet he also seems to have a far better relationship with humanity than the Ninth; enjoying Christmas dinner at Rose's house and being far more tolerant of Mickey and Jackie. Tennant captured this complicated character well and was clearly the ideal choice to replace Christopher Eccleston.
There were many other positive features. Billie Piper put in her usual excellent performance as Rose. Indeed none of the cast put in a bad performance in what was a very well acted piece. The visual and special effects were, for the most part, extremely good. The Sycorax and the Santa Robots were particularly well realised as were the scenes of their ship over London. The Sycorax were also quite an interesting race, although I would have liked to see more details of their culture and how the Doctor knew so much about it. Also the incidental music in this story was fairly enjoyable as was the different end theme arrangement.
However, this story had a few elements that disappointed me. Although the overall writing and direction was good, the first half contained too much silly comedy for my taste. Similarly, I felt the Doctor should have been introduced to the main action earlier. Lying in bed was a waste of the talents David Tenant and slowed the pace of the narrative. Additionally I thought the CGI space probe and the CGI TARDIS in the crash landing sequence were both too obviously computer generated. Certainly neither was up to the usual high standard of special effects the series has come to be noted for. I also found the idea of the Doctor challenging the Sycorax leader to combat too easy a resolution. That said the subsequent actions of Harriet Jones and the Doctor's response were brilliant; even if they were slightly reminiscent of Doctor Who and the Silurians.
Yet, these were really minor flaws and on the whole the story was a good Christmas romp.
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
I'm a self-confessed fan boy who has all the videos, DVDs and Big Finish stuff. I love it all, even when the plot holes are big enough to drive a fleet of Dalek ships through a script. And I did enjoy The Christmas Invasion as I sat and watched it whilst away with my mum, knowing that back home my flat mate, my partner and all my other non Dr Who friends would be watching it too.
But a classic episode The Christmas Invasion was not.
Yes, there was much to enjoy. I liked the Harriet Jones character and cheered at her line about the US president making the alien incursion into a war. Indeed some of the dialogue was as sharp as it comes, "Earth is defended", "No second chances", the Lion King gag, the Arthur Dent bit, Rose trying to mimic the Doctor when trying to negotiate with the Sycorax, and the wonderful way the Doctor has a go at the Prime Minister near the end of the episode for sinking her metaphorical Belgrano.
But the story didn't really make sense did it? What was the Blood weapon exactly? How did it work? Why were the Santas attacking Rose and Ricky? Why did they run away at the sight of the Doctor's Sonic Screw Driver? (Indeed Ricky pointed out that that didn't add up
) I could go on, but most of all, what was stopping the Sycorax simply invading the earth irrespective of what the Doctor did?
The story had some reasonable set pieces, but the Tardis crash landing FX at the start of the episode wasn't up to the Mill's usual very high standard. And I wasn't convinced by the sword fight at the end, the direction looked a little clumsy. The fight should have been more exciting.
On the positive side the new theme tune arrangement sounded greet pity the BBC felt that they had to talk all the way through it at the end. And the clips of the next series looked brilliant. David Tennant has made a reasonable start as a new Doctor, not easy when filling the shoes of the great Christopher Eccleston
RTD had proved that he can deliver great Doctor Who that can be enjoyed by all. This episode may have ticked all the boxes in terms of Christmas family viewing, but in Season 1 he delivered much better than this. Yes it is an enjoyable romp, but it doesn't stand up to repeated viewing. Shame that, really.
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
The Christmas Invasion is an important episode of Doctor Who, not least because it introduces a new Doctor. It is the first Christmas special for forty years (to the day); it is the first Christmas special to exist in the BBC's archives, and it is the first Christmas special to exist independently of a wider story. The fact that it is written by Russell T. Davies carries negative connotations for many (myself included) but I was in a forgiving mood for this one: a Christmas special is intrinsically campier and less serious than a regular episode and so I am prepared to let quite a lot go. However, I did watch this with my cousins who are not fans and hadn't seen the new series; hence, for this episode only I present the cousin-o-meter, the little barometer with which fannish elements that people can't be expected to get without having seen the series can be judged.
The first scene is one of Jackie laying out a present sadly; this is not her first Christmas without Rose (her daughter having been away for twelve months between Rose and Aliens Of London), so the last time must have seen her hammering on the walls. At least she knows where she is (give or take a galaxy) this time round. The TARDIS landing is quite spectacular, even if it doesn't quite convince as the model is moving much more slowly than the CGI version. Tennant is playing the Doctor as a complete lunatic from the word go here, but no more so than Tom Baker did in Robot, and he does have a charisma that Christopher Eccleston lacked.
Jackie's line of "anything else he's got two of?" upon learning of his hearts is something I really can't let go, as it sees Davies indulging in his usual predilection for smut; the simple fact that children won't get it isn't a good reason to be so lowbrow in a show that, if it was genuinely true to its roots, should remain intelligent. Another big flaw in the episode comes from the moment we first see Harriet Jones: if you haven't seen World War Three then large portions of this episode seem very poorly plotted as my cousins demonstrated. Also of note is the fact that people only question the Doctor's identity very briefly, before largely accepting him. Then again the episode is only an hour long so I must ask myself what I was expecting.
The probe Guinevere One getting sucked into the Sycorax ship is very dramatic for the simple reason that what's actually happened hasn't been revealed; this story has been justifiably compared to Independence Day, and my favourite part of that distinctly average film is right up until stuff starts to happen, as the anticipation and mystery really sell the story.
The killer Santas are quite good and creepy (I don't think I'm the first to see a link to Terror Of The Autons), but much less is made of them than the episode's marketing led me to believe. The Christmas tree scene is even wackier but also good, with the jaunty music giving an edge of creepiness; for the first time Davies gets the balance between humour and scares just right (unlike, say, that interminable space pig). However, Mickey's attempt at waving a chair in front of it is very flatly done: James Hawes, who did an amazing job with The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, seems to have a bit of a weak spot for action scenes. The explanation of "pilot fish" is a very thin veil over a simple plot device to get a bit of action into the first half of the story; arguably it would have worked better if they had been excised altogether, which would have allowed for more time to introduce the Sycorax ship and to iron out some of the plot holes. That said, it is an interesting concept and raises the question of whether these things are actually part of the Sycorax (they have the same teleporter technology) or whether they are a separate race that just tags along. Another big feature is that they show up how Christmas doesn't affect the episode on more than a surface level, unlike for example Ghost Light where the plot and setting are linked so strongly that its themes of human evolution wouldn't work in any other context.
Jackie's incredibly shrill "what do you need" verbal explosion takes a year off my life every time I see it and stands as one of the new series's most annoying moments, putting me in mind of a pneumatic drill that's slipped away from its user and is now skidding around uncontrollably. The Doctor finding an apple in his dressing gown is a funny moment, but takes on a slightly sadder edge when you realise that it sets up the ending.
The Sycorax's first appearance on the television is an amazingly dramatic moment, one of the episode's best, and sees Hawes atoning for his work on the actions scenes of the episode. What is interesting is that the American newsreader from World War Three makes an appearance; she was named "Mal Loup" in those scripts, technically making it a bad wolf reference. It is great to see UNIT back in action, and even better not to see them being rubbed in our faces. Penelope Wilton is a classy actress, and shows up the pretty but wooden Anita Breim as Sally.
Access to UNIT's web site is a poor moment for not being explained, as it is assumed that the viewer has seen World War Three; my cousins (who hadn't) didn't take to this scene at all well, drowning out the next five minutes with jokes. In any case, you'd think that after their site was hacked into and a missile launched at Downing Street UNIT would have changed their password. The Sycorax's speech is great though, a combination of effective sound modulation, superb acting from Sean Gilder as the leader and a convincing-sounding alien language.
The little baby steps into the world of satire fall flat (again), and the idea that UNIT can translate an alien language in five hours is also daft and scored high on the cousin-o-meter. I know that UNIT have a lot of technology, but the plot device of allowing them and Torchwood to be able to do pretty much anything starts to wear thin long before the episode closes.
The blood-control scene is truly brilliantly done, with Hawes really shining; what he lacks in action scenes he makes up for in those of pure atmosphere. The scene is creepier for not being excessively showy, but the image of thousands of people perched on rooftops is one that most Hollywood blockbusters would kill for. The explanation of A+ blood is a nice one, although the fact that they draw that conclusion from three examples out of two billion shows up the time limitations of the new series and isn't it funny how none of the major characters have A+ blood? However, I should say that Anita Breim is much better suited to playing a zombie.
Billie Piper's upset acting is some of her bet for the series, and by drawing the viewer's attention it makes the sonic explosion more of a shock. The sonic wave effect is a well thought-out plot point (unusual for Davies) and a good effect, although I do have two criticisms: firstly, thousands of people should be wandering round London with burst and bleeding eardrums, and aren't; secondly, the exposition could be better done than to have Llewellyn leap up and yell out what's just happened in a single line. The Sycorax ship in all its glory looks truly magnificent even though the idea of a stone spaceship is straight out of Ghost Light. A good idea, however, is a good idea. I notice that Big Ben, although it's difficult to see, seems to be set at 7:40am which should mean that it's pitch black in late December (maybe Earth's in a miniscope). The teleporter effect is great, as is the interior of the Sycorax ship; the Sycorax are such well designed and thought-out monsters that it's hard to believe that they come from the same man who invented the dismal Slitheen. My only question is why there are no references to The Tempest after Davies decided to name the monsters after Caliban's mother. Anyone who tells me that it's too much to bring in Shakespeare into a family show will be hunted down for sport, especially since there was a time where the Doctor would quote from the bard at once a season. Llewellyn's death looks absolutely great, although another cousin-o-meter moment occurs when the Major responds by invoking the Geneva Convention.
We now see the TARDIS interior for the first time, and it's much better lit; in the first series it was so garish and bright that it almost induced nausea, but now the lighting is much more natural and flat and works much better. The Doctor's revival with tea is an extremely silly moment that I'm prepared to overlook (just keep telling yourself that it's a Christmas special), but the reveal with him stepping through the doors is corny in the extreme however, Gilder slipping into English highlights his performance further. He feels like an original series villain; one thing that the first of the new series had lacked was an authentic ranter. The Doctor's conversation with Rose shows Davies indulging himself a bit too much (again), and the Doctor says "literally" twice in two minutes, leading to a desperate hope that this isn't going to be his catchphrase.
The sword-fight is controversial is it different to the Doctor holding a gun? However, it must be noted that the Doctor does not intend to kill the leader. Again though the action isn't brilliantly directed; the shots set against the ground as seen from the wing of the ship look fake, and there isn't a lot of wind (but plenty of oxygen) at several thousand feet. The Doctor growing his hand back is a nice touch but I'm really not convinced about the fifteen hours: the TARDIS lands during daylight on Christmas Eve and this scene is set on Christmas Morning, meaning that more like sixteen or seventeen hours must have passed since the regeneration and that's a conservative guess. However, the death of the Sycorax leader is silly, not just because it's done with a Satsuma but because of the gigantic contrivance of having a button for collapsing the part of the wing that the leader is standing on. It is over too abruptly, and his fall is another unconvincing effect. The real reason this is unsatisfying is that it uses a comedy moment to resolve the plot, undermining the viewer's capacity to take it or the monster seriously and consequently taking a bit of edge out of the final twist. It is, however, important to know that the Sycorax break their promises.
The last scenes see Spearhead From Space and Doctor Who And The Silurians references almost back to back; the final twist of having London turn into a Death Star is an interesting one although the Doctor's reaction is overstated it worked better in The Silurians when the episode ended with a shot of the Doctor's wordless, disgusted face. However, the wardrobe scene is a fun fan moment, and the end scene is nicely heart-warming in a bittersweet way.
Many of the criticisms I have made I am prepared to forget about simply because this is a Christmas special. That said there are many wonderful moments, not least of which being the superb monsters. As it is The Christmas Invasion is daft and campy flimflam that just so happens to be hugely enjoyable.
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
Well that was good, don't you reckon? That certainly seems to be the general consensus among both fans and casual TV watchers alike. Even my old Nannan Wolverson was talking about it the next day! Being a fanatic, I was even more impressed with it than even the masses Christmas at ours actually revolved around "The Christmas Invasion" and after seeing it, justifiably so!
After being deprived of any (substantial) new Doctor Who on TV since Christopher Eccleston bowed out in one the greatest and most epic episodes ever, the pressure was really on for Russell T. Davies and company to deliver with the much-hyped Christmas Special. As soon as the episode began it reminded me just how fast Doctor Who is, compared to not only its television rivals but to feature films which these days can seem to go on for an eternity. After some brief but beautiful special effects shots (a cross between the opening shots of "Rose" and the "Eastenders" title sequence) Jackie and Mickey find themselves putting their lives on hold once again as the TARDIS materialises in thin air and crashes spectacularly on the TARDIS estate! The best (and probably fastest) title sequence in television kicks in suddenly "The Christmas Invasion" has arrived
"There's no-one to save us. Not anymore."
David Tennant lies in bed as Rose and Jackie dote on him. You really have to admire Davies' skill as a writer here these early scenes have so much in them. Without realising it, the viewer has assimilated a tremendous amount of information (Jackie has a new bloke, Harriett Jones now Prime Minister has sent a Probe to Mars, Rose accepts that this man lying in bed is the Doctor yet she still grieves for her Doctor etc.) but it is all written with such humour and feeling that it's all completely credible. Moreover, not a word is wasted everything said is vital either to the 'A' plot of the Sycorax Invasion or the 'B' plot of the Doctor's regeneration and his adopted family's reaction to it.
I was quite pleased that the overtly Christmassy scenes were over with in the first quarter of an hour. Despite how well they were done, an hour of "Invasion of the Killer Santas" didn't really appeal to me. The brevity of these scenes, though, certainly didn't lessen their impact. In true Doctor Who style, the familiar has been taken and turned into the stuff of nightmares. The scenes of Rose and Mickey being attacked by the brass band of Santas were shocking, especially as I wasn't expecting any action so early in the story. I should know better by now! Seven minutes in and a bunch of Santas are firing flamethrowers (disguised as musical instruments) at our heroes!
Heroes plural? Mickey? Yep. I've always been a fan of the character and I'm particularly impressed at how he is being developed as the series goes on. Unlike Rose, aliens and monsters really bother poor Mickey even in this episode as the Santa's attacked it is clear that he is visibly shaken. However, unlike the quivering wreck that Rose left behind right back in "Rose," Mickey is becoming truly brave and conquering his fears. In the next scene back at the Tyler's flat, as the killer Christmas Tree attacks causing Rose and Jackie to run for their lives, Mickey grabs a chair and does his very best to 'fight the tree!' Ludicrous as it sounds, on TV it works and it demonstrates wonderfully how far Mickey has come on since "Rose."
The Killer Christmas Tree scene was brilliant. Just as I'm sure the writer intended, "the one with the Christmas Tree" will live in memory just as long as "the one with the green maggots" and the like. "I'm gonna get killed by a Christmas Tree" being screeched by the hysterical Jackie as a very fast, very creepy version of 'Jingle Bells' is being played might have been a step too far for a lot of people, but personally I loved it! In fact, Camille Coduri very nearly stole the show she certainly had some of the most comic moments, probably even more than usual - "
is there anything else he's got two of?" and the brilliant whole "
he hasn't changed that much" / "he gets hungry in his sleep?" sequence spring to mind!
Of course, it is here in the episode where we are first properly acquainted with the Tenth Doctor. For many people (having probably not seen the untitled 'Children in Need' mini-episode) this was David Tennant's big hello, and he acquitted himself admirably all business. Leaping into action at Rose's request, he quickly sorts out the tree with his Sonic Screwdriver before pointing it menacingly at the Santas, which has them running (beaming) back to from whence they came.
With his companions safe for the time being, the new Doctor takes another turn for the worse and is out like alight again. Although I don't really have any major bones to pick with "The Christmas Invasion," one minor quibble I have is to do with the nature of these 'pilot fish.' In truth, they have sod all to do with the Sycorax Invasion plot and if I were a cynic I'd say Russell T. just shoved them in so that he could explain away a Killer Christmas Tree and a flame-throwing bunch of murderous Santas! That said, I can't think of a better way to have done it, so fair play to the man!
The face of an alien broadcast live on BBC1 and what an alien. A roaring, raging monster. This is where "The Christmas Invasion" truly begins. The pace of the music picks up, Harriett Jones is marched into U.N.I.T. Headquarters and the true threat is revealed the Sycorax. With another writer these scenes could have been very stale but the script gives life to even such small roles as Llewellyn, Major Blake and Zali, the latter who puts a face for the audience on these potential A+ 'jumpers' under the blood control of the Sycorax. Moreover, there are some fantastic exchanges between Harriett Jones, Llewellyn and the Major the lines about the act of Parliament preventing Harriett's autobiography (no doubt featuring the Slitheen) and Martians "looking completely different" (Ice Warriors, anybody?) were both met with smiles. I also liked how the modern U.N.I.T. soldiers revere the Doctor as "the stuff of legend," and how the mysterious 'Torchwood' organisation were frequently mentioned, yet not so much so that they play on the viewer's mind. Because of all the fuss over Harriett Jones asking for the Doctor's help, you don't really give much thought to Torchwood or what they might bring to the table.
"Surrender or they will die
James Hawes really outdid himself this time. The scenes of the hypnotised masses marching slowly but resolutely for the tops of the highest buildings were immensely powerful images in themselves, but the epic scope that shots of Paris and Rome (as well as many of London) brought to the scenes put them right up there with anything you'd see in the cinema. I've heard people call this episode a British version of "Independence Day" and there are clear parallels
only this is much, much better. Depending on what you consider 'an episode', this is at least the fourteenth episode of the new series. Suffice it say as an audience we are well and truly invested in all these characters Rose, Mickey, Jackie and of course the Doctor which give the whole episode an emotional weight a one-off movie such as "Independence Day" could never have.
For example, amidst all the panic of the alien invasion the episode has a moment to focus on Rose as she realises that she can't understand the Sycorax language; that the TARDIS can't be working; that the Doctor is isn't working. Mickey very poignantly asks, "you love him, don't you?" to which Rose responds simply by resting her head on his shoulder a really touching little moment. I equally liked the shots of Rose finally breaking down into tears and crying on her Mother's shoulder "He's gone! The Doctor's gone! He's left me Mum!" it is as if the Doctor has actually died.
The classic series never truly recognised a regeneration as a death after all, it's the Time Lord way of cheating death. However, to a human being never seeing somebody again is a massive thing, and although the ninth Doctor tried to make light of his regeneration to save Rose this heartache and these feelings of loss he could never succeed entirely. The ninth Doctor is dead, probably forever - well, at least until the computer-generated "The Thirteen Doctors" episode for show's the 75th Anniversary in 2038. Rose, much like the audience, is in mourning for Eccleston's Doctor and is unsure about his replacement his replacement who is lying in bed as the world ends
"There's no-one to save us. Not anymore."
With a spectacular sonic boom the Sycorax ship enters orbit, and although my fiancée thought it looked like "a big turd," I was very impressed with it a very original design, incredibly well realised on a TV budget. As it came over London, I wonder how many of you noticed Big Ben surrounded by scaffolding, being rebuilt after the Slitheen crash? Absolute class from the production team.
On board the Sycorax ship, I found myself yet again impressed, this time with horrific deaths of Major Blake and Llewellyn the Sycorax leader's disintegrator whip is certainly a weapon and half! I can see that one causing the nation's children a few sleepless nights. In what other TV show would you get the horror of something like that juxtaposed with the "Harriett Jones, Prime Minister" / "Yes, I know who you are" gag being paid off?
Mickey the idiot inadvertently saves the world again. First of all, his fiddling about with the TARDIS' Telly trying to get the news causes the Sycorax to teleport "the foreign machinery" (right along with Mickey, Rose and the Doctor) onto their ship, which of course gets the Doctor on board. Second of all, as he rushes out of the TARDIS after Rose he spills his tea into some wiring or circuits or something near the Doctor, which causes him to inhale the cuppa
Rose addressing the Sycorax was painful to watch. You had to admire her spirit, but as she banged on about "the Shadow Proclamation," the Slitheen and the Daleks I was gritting my teeth, imagining that disintegrator whip around her neck. I was also curious as to how she knew they were called Sycorax, I don't remember the name of the alien race being mentioned to her at any point. Maybe it was on TV! Suddenly, it didn't matter anymore as everything became English. The TARDIS was working again, so just maybe
Just in the nick of time, the moment arrives and as one Doctor famously said, "the moment has been prepared for."
"Did you miss me?"
What an entrance! It was worth waiting forty minutes for. Healed by Mickey's spilt cuppa and dashing about like Arthur Dent on speed, the Doctor strutted out of the TARDIS, defiantly snapped the Sycorax leader's weapon in two and then took time out to catch up with his old friends! Like Eccleston before him, from the go I immediately accepted David Tennant as the Doctor. "Am I ginger? I want to be ginger!" Quirky, off-the-wall, but in the eyes you see danger.
Sean Gilder was obviously relishing playing the Sycorax Leader as some sort of proud, almost-Klingon warrior and he acted as the perfect adversary to the new Doctor. "Who are you?" he roared, to which Doctor number ten amusingly retorted "I DON'T KNOW," absolutely ripping him to shreds by doing some sort of gorilla impression as he roared it!
"Am I sexy? It seems I've certainly got a gob on me
rude and not ginger
oh look! A great big threatening button that should not be pressed under any circumstances
Davies must have had a ball writing this stuff, and Tennant must have had even more fun delivering it. The threat of the blood control is thwarted my the Doctor easily (too easily I'm sure some will complain. It's the old sonic screwdriver / anti-plastic / time goddess get-out-clause again) and after quoting the Lion King (forever endearing himself to my Nannan Wolverson) he accepts the mantle of 'World's Champion' and takes the Sycorax leader the "big fella" on in a swordfight.
I can stretch my disbelief to the point that I can swallow that Russell T. Davies may not have had "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" consciously in mind when he wrote "The End of the World," but I will never believe that when he wrote the Doctor having a swordfight up in the clouds with a tall, masked caped villain that he didn't have "The Empire Strikes Back" in mind. The Doctor's hand being cut off clenched it!
I must say that was definitely a "what the fuck" moment, pardon my French. Even in the anything-anywhere-any when-ever-goes world of Doctor Who, there are rules, and I'm sure the Doctor not sporting a Luke Skywalker-like prosthesis is one of 'em. The get out was cheesy but brilliant, emphasising once again the Doctor's unique physiology and apparently tagging Tennant as 'the lucky Doctor.' Less than fifteen hours since his regeneration means that the Doctor can magically grow a new hand, and guess what "
it's a fightin' hand!" What else can you do watching that, other than applaud?
Thankfully the tenth Doctor has the same sensibilities as (most of!) his former selves, and so he wouldn't kill the Sycorax leader in combat. Instead, he takes the Sycorax leader's word that his race would leave Earth and never return. I loved how Tennant's Doctor could change from deadly seriousness to saying things like "Cheers for that, big fella" whilst playing with a Satsuma (this 'Howard' bloke of Jackie's nocturnal eating habits about to pay dividends for the whole planet) and then straight back to deadly seriousness again as the flying Satsuma sent the untrustworthy Sycorax to his death. One of my favourite shots of the whole episode was the Doctor, still in his dressing down, walking with grim determination towards the camera.
"No second chances. That's the kind of man I am."
And that's also the kind of Prime Minister Harriett Jones is. Exactly like Maggie Thatcher's infamous sinking of the Belgrano, Jones gives the order to have this mysterious 'Torchwood' organisation (which most viewers have forgotten about by now) destroy the retreating Sycorax ship, enraging the Doctor.
"Run and hide 'cos the monsters are coming! The human race!"
In vengeance, he brilliantly brings down her whole government with six simple words "doesn't she look tired?" and the truth is, by the end of "The Christmas Invasion" she did.
Murder or defence? As well as the moral issue here, there is the deeply personal issue. Davies was keen to put across a strong anti-war message, and although that really hit home with most viewers, I think it's harsh to turn against the Harriett Jones character completely. At heart she's a good woman, certainly way out of her depth and with an impossible decision to make. As appalled as the Doctor was at her actions, they were no worse than the consistent actions of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (one of the Doctor's greatest friends) back in the U.N.I.T. era. After all, the Sycorax actually began an outright invasion of Earth much more than the Silurians ever did, for example, whom the Brigadier bombed into extinction. Personally I hope we see Harriett Jones again and that she is given a chance to redeem herself in the eyes of the Doctor.
The ending to the episode was fitting in that it also felt like the beginning of something special. In true Doctor Who tradition, the Doctor rummages through the TARDIS wardrobe (beautiful depth shot of the TARDIS, by the way) pulling out the fourth Doctor's scarf and Casanova's outfit before settling on a very smart getup indeed this Doctor is certainly gonna be a hit with the ladies. The closing moments had everything; the music was great, there was a real chemistry between the Doctor and Rose and even more than that, there was a great family atmosphere. The last of the Time Lords having Christmas dinner with the mother-in-the-law and the missus' ex-boyfriend. Fantastic.
The final scene was superb; the fallout from the Sycorax ship gave the scene a really grim finality, yet the sparkling dialogue looked to the future I loved the "not with these eyes" line from the Doctor. It's gonna be interesting to see how things go on future visits to contemporary Earth; this new Earth where aliens are matter-of-fact, another bold move from the production team. What is going to be even more interesting though, are the Doctor and Rose, Mickey, Catwomen, Queen Victoria, Sarah-Jane Smith, K9
and the Cybermen!!! Spring couldn't come soon enough.
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
On the first day of Christmas
my true Beeb gave to me
a Doctor in his Pee Jays.
On the second day of Christmas
Auntie explained to me
two beating hearts,
Of a Doctor with a new face.
On the third day of Christmas
My dear Beeb scared me with
Three evil Santas
And a Micky with a fierce tree!
On the fourth day of Christmas
My Dav-ies gave to me
Four leading males
All very good,
Two helping birds,
One a-lien and one slept through.
On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
Forty long years
To cam'ra said
'Happy Christmas,' to you and me.
On the sixth day of Christmas
dear Doc said evily
six words, a-laying
Fear and doubt
For falling Prime
To take a drop
On the seventh day of Christmas
My true love wrote for me
seven hams an acting,
Six foot Sycorax,
Right royal jibes,
Three leading hens,
And an alien up a gum tree.
On the eighth day of Christmas
My Russell made me think,
Eight thoughts a chilling;
Billions a - walking,
Will they jump?
Earth's Torchwood fear!
Two cracking whips
And a Doctor with a new hand.
On the ninth day of Christmas
My Davies gave to me
Neat lines a-dancing
With grace and purpose,
Poking fun at Royals-
'Oh-they're on Buck roof.
Fine Bush wit!
This England strong
Can have strength
To alone act
To save our world from misery.
On the tenth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Ten lordly effects;
Fine fir Tree dancing,
Hard Santas fighting,
Sycorax so jungly,
Torchwood a beaming,
Gold new breath,
Fine tardis bouncing,
Good Unit set,
Earth's opening shot
And an ashfall on an estate.
On the eleventh day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
A confused Piper piping
The plot line steering
Through invasion and
Of Doctor's new form.
Face so new!
With Lion King quotes,
Smell of change
And power shown
To those against his authority.
On the twelfth day of Christmas
We give to Russell T
Twelve drummers sounding
Applause piping from us,
Tenant a leaping -
His role for keeping,
Our minds a-waiting
Stories to delight,
Few more years!
For this Time Lord
To bring us
Through stories new
A fine Tenant at Num-ber Ten!
(Heavily borrowed from a certain song
try to sing it through, it nearly scans!)
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
David Tennant's opening scenes in the Children in Need special were engaging and very amusing, perhaps slightly over-acted in places but this is par for the course in regeneration sequences (cue Tom Baker's introduction in Robot, exasperatedly empathizing with Harry Sullivan being too busy a man to worry about someone's new ears, and hilariously though ludicrously jumping with him in unison over a skipping rope). What was certain to me was that Tennant was a far more suitable choice of actor to play the Doctor than Eccleston had been despite his acting talents. Eccleston for me was just too earnest and human for the role, and the least equipped out of any of the incarnations to convince with eccentricity, for me one of the most important idiosyncrasies for any Doctor (Davison comes a close second to that deficit, though proved to be a very memorable and worthy incarnation by the end of his tenure). I'll remember Eccleston's Doctor chiefly for his confrontation with the Dalek in Dalek, livid and Ralph Fiennes-esque, disturbingly but powerfully unDoctorish certainly his Doctor was the most distinctively different to any other incarnation, but unfortunately for me, largely to the detriment of my rating of him. I'd say he had the edge over Colin Baker's bungled portrayal, and was only slightly less credible than Davison and McCoy. But in my opinion the first four Doctors, yes, even Hartnell (whose original portrayal in Unearthly Child was the most memorable for me after Patrick Troughton and Gothic-era Tom Baker), still tower above the Ninth: their gravitas was more credible, their humour more affecting.
Tennant instantly jumps out as an obviously more suitably cast Doctor to me, perhaps almost slightly over-doing the eccentric element, but fitting his casting far more comfortably than Eccleston did even up to the end of his tenure (though his farewell speech to Rose was genuinely well acted and quite moving). As other reviewers have noted already, there's definitely some element of the Second and Fourth Doctors to the Tenth, notably Troughton's impishness and Baker's palpable alienness especially when he stares wide-eyed and silent at Rose as she struggles to come to terms with his new identity. There's also Davison's youthfulness, symbolized also by a similar pair of white trainers. I'm just not too keen on his hairstyle, a bit too trendy for my taste the leather jacket too added to this radically different Doctorial manifestation, making him resemble a Jarvis Cocker-style Brit Pop frontman.
Onto RTD's first installment for the Tenth incarnation. Well, predictable irritants such as the superfluous return of Jackie and that bloody council estate again, this episode's general tone was a relief for me, as it was overall fairly straight, without any obviously cringe-worthy moments as in RTD's previous Earth invasion shambles, Aliens of London. Finally he proved he could create a fairly convincing alien race without any scatological aspects to undermine its sense of menace. The episode cavorts forth typically briskly and hyperventilates its 'story' in the true way of modern TV which makes stories such as Earthshock seem relatively slow-moving when watched now. I suppose in the case of one-dimensional action stories, this is partly excusable considering the time limitation, however, some more of a build up with the emerging festive threats would have added to the credibility of the invasion scenario. Though puzzlingly plagiarized from the machinations of the Autons (Rose, Terror of the Autons, Spearhead from Space), I thought the tuba-torching Santas and the spinning Christmas Tree were very well realized and actually faintly menacing but I think RTD may as well have just had the Autons behind it, giving him a chance with a clearly extended budget this time, to do those foes full justice in tying up the loose, or rather non-existent ends, of the non-story Rose, and also maybe having one more stab at the perpetually 'unrealized' Nestene Consciousness. But no, cue a new alien race from the rather limited imagination of the producer: the Sycorax look convincing and are quite sinister, but they have nothing unusual about them, nothing distinctively Doctor Who-ish like the aliens of the old series (Sontarans, Ice Warriors, Autons etc.), but come across as basically Star Trek-style aliens speaking in a lingo strongly reminiscent of Greedo or Jabba the Hutt's language from Star Wars. Their ship is extremely well realized but again, nothing overly original, reminding one obviously of Hitchikers. One does get the feeling of other writers' and directors' previous ideas being brought in together to form one big rehashed potpourri, in the JK Rowling vein.
This lack of disctinctiveness continues with the second and equally nondescript appearance of UNIT, now wearing red berets with a newly designed logo which makes them look like Paratroopers. What happened to the blue of Battlefield? No attempts to produce a 21st century Brigadier equivalent from their blank-faced ranks Harriet Jones now fills in for the semi-cooperative Earth/military authority and yes, as one reviewer has pointed out, the end scenes of this episode are strongly reminiscent of The Silurians.
I suppose considering this one is set at Xmas it's inevitable to continue the tedious Tyler soap opera which unapologetically monopolized much of last series. But this really is an element which should be gradually phased out in my opinion if the series is to truly compete with the original, and also to allow at least this incarnation to have room to be substantially developed. So too must Rose eventually leave so the Doctor can reclaim his series fully. It's ironic that, as with the original format of the programme, this reinvention kicked off focusing as much on the companion as on the Doctor, but the difference is that Susan was apparently of the Doctor's race also, whereas Rose is ultimately simply a human companion accidentally and ultimately ephemerally linked to the core character, and so to the series. I was shocked when one newspaper referred to Doctor Who starring Billie Piper and co-star David Tennant. And we used to think Ace had too much attention.
When Tennant finally revives (from a cup of tea, a nice parochial touch linking not only to the old series in its inimitable, Lewis Carrolesque Englishness, but also of course to the Hitchikers references, dressing gown and pyjamas and a mention of Arthur Dent), the episode lifts considerably from what up until that moment, give or take the odd scene with Santas, is a pretty run-of-the-mill, rather dull 'story line'. Tennant's humour is genuinely humorous (not embarrassing like some of those gurning Eccleston moments), especially when he seems pointlessly preoccupied by the apple in his pocket. He also takes command very quickly and displays a convincing sense of authority, rather than the face-contorting turns of a man on the brink of a breakdown of his predecessor. His cheeky nonchalance towards the Sycorax leader is very funny, though maybe a little bit too funny and thus suspense-killing it's also hard to understand why aforementioned alien and his legion comrades just stand around doing nothing while the Doctor takes his time adjusting to his new persona and chatting with old friends. The sword-fighting denouement is well executed and probably as filmic as Who has ever looked though not necessarily a wholly good thing. I suspect, incidentally, this episode is on a higher definition film camera than the previous series. Certainly this episode was hard to beat in the area of visual spectacle in the history of Who, but one feels this expense might have been better used on a more imaginative storyline.
I'm not keen either on new catchphrases such as 'That's the kind of man I am' again the terrestrialisation of the Timelord initiated shambolically in the Doctor Who Movie and then maintained quite excessively throughout the Ninth Doctor's incarnation, is hinting its ugly head again, though thankfully the Tenth Doctor convinces sufficiently in alienness to distract from such scriptorial dubiousness.
Yes, the script. Well, I know this story is meant to be an introductory romp, but a line such as 'there's a great big alien invasion and I just don't know what to do' from Rose to Jackie is just plain banged-it-out-and-didn't-redraft-it bad scripting. The script of this episode was quite amateur, unimaginative and dull overall, apart from some of the Doctor's more quirky speeches and a few well-thought-out lines such as Harriet Jones saying 'they've brought in an Act banning my autobiography' when someone quizzes her on her apparent incredulity regarding alien life-forms. Those sorts of lines work well by cementing the credibility and continuity of the new series, and I commend RTD for giving sufficient thought to the believability of his reinvention by putting them in. I will also commend him for producing a pretty straight and fairly menacing episode thankfully free of any childishness this time round. It's still a great pity though that the new series' tinny incidental music is prevalent, gratingly upbeat and lacking in atmosphere, emphatically filmic, or cod-filmic, but ultimately quite appalling (only beaten by Keff McCulloch's atrocities of the McCoy era).
But the question remains, is this really good Doctor Who? My answer is, not really. We now have a potentially very good Doctor, much more in the vein of previous incarnations, suitably eccentric and alien, charismatic, elfin, impish, very amusing but who also adds one new aspect to the character, that of insatiable energy, which is a welcome new element to the character. He's almost a Timelord on speed at times. But scriptwise this was another lazy effort from a man who is puzzlingly much more creative with scripts outside his own series (re Casanova). At the end of the day the script is pretty much everything and despite the gloss, pace and energy of this episode, The Christmas Invasion still to my mind falls far short of the writing standards of most of the old series. Though having said that, from some of the teasers at the end of the episode, it looks like Doctor Who's long history of peerlessly imaginative storytelling (only ever near-matched by PJ Hammond's Sapphire and Steel) has not yet run out of steam, and may indeed be about to undergo a renaissance from the general averageness of last series with some tantalizingly unusual story titles and plots (Girl in the Fireplace etc.) echoing those unsung glory days of the early Davison era, when anything from mathematically-created cities to sailing ships in space was possible.
Filters: Specials Tenth Doctor Television
Yeah, well. Tennant didn't really actually DO much of anything did he? Well, not til the end, anyway. But still.
I mean, I LIKED him and all, but dammit....I still miss Chris. He's still "my" Doctor til Tennant wins me over. He was the perfect, post-modern, post-Watchmen sort of Doctor we were all looking for, and on many levels the deepest we saw on TV ever. They seemed to be hinting that the 10th is gonna be a bit more bouncy, and the way that fandom collectively squee'd over his casting just, you know, put me off a bit. That said, I still have high hopes, but I really kinda hoped we'd see a bit more drama with Rose, as, well, let's face it, despite saving the day, he's still not the Doctor she fell in lust withERRRRRR! knew. We'll see. As always.
Also...Sycorax my ass, that's GWAR they was fighting! That leader dude looked ready to bust into "The Salaminizer" at ANY moment.
OK, on a more serious note, kinda sad that they had to undo Harriet Jones like that. On some levels, I can't fault her logic, but at the same time, YOU DON'T SHOOT A RETREATING ENEMY IN THE BACK. PERIOD. But...you know, it's true. Earth does need defense beyond the Doctor. But that wasn't "defense" tho, was it....
As regeneration type episodes go, it was "Okay." As a nice holiday pantomine special thing, it was joyous, and worth the wait. Roll on Season 2!
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"Of course not, Martians look completely different"
The Christmas Invasion was the one piece of TV programming that I was most looking forward to, albeit with a touch of trepidation with the talk of killer Christmas trees and a seasonal feel to the show. I needn't have worried.
I enjoyed the series with Chris Eccleston, but rarely felt that I was watching the Docotor I knew. David Tennant, even in the 5 minute sketch broadcast last month seemed to be already familiar to me. So I was not worried about his portrayal of the central character, but RTD's writing has not always convinced me. From my point of view I felt his episodes of the series were generally the weaker ones, with the over-reliance of 'deus ex machina' or companions saving the day.
Russel entirely redeemed himself with The Christmas Invasion. I imagine he had a good budget for this special episode, enabling the production team to use a full orchestra for the incidental music (and I am warming to Murray Gold's compositions), and to use some great sets.
I don't intend to dissect the plot, others do that admirably and most readers will be familiar with it. I will say that RTD has learned a classic Doctor Who tactic - frighten with everyday objects. The killer santas and Christmas tree were well realised (exepct the tree base which was poor CGI). I really liked the UNIT HQ, surely we will see UNIT again and hopefully in a greater capacity. I enjoyed David Lewellin's surprise that the PM and UNIT people knew of the existance of aliens, and Major Blake's line "Of course not, Martians look completely different".
"Surrender or they will die!"
The Sycorax leader and their ship were suitably impressive, though the sword fight was perhaps slow. Overall this episode had just a little Christmas feeling (enough to justify its time slot) but genuinely felt like Doctor Who of old, something RTD's previous scripts often failed to do. The humour was toned down to acceptable levels, the plot was good and the Doctor himself saved the day - which I feel is important. I've nothing against the companions occasionally saving the Doctor's bacon but that happened all too often in the Eccleston series.
It was entirely appropriate for the Doctor to spare the life of the Sycorax champion. I always felt Eccleston standing there while Cassandra died was out of character, and put that down to the Doctor being a changed man after the destruction of Gallifrey (of which I hope we will learn a good deal more). It was also appropriate for the Doctor to allow the "big guy" to die when he was double crossed.
A word for Harriet Jones, Prime Minister. Although her last minute poor decision to destroy a retreating ship may rule her character out of future appearances, what with her premiership hanging in the balance, I hope she re-appears in the future. I also hope that the references to Torchwood are kept to a minimum. I realise the BBC want to plug their new spinoff series but we don't need a reference every episode.
If I had to give a rating I'd say 7 or 8 out of 10. A very accomplished story, could have done with being 10 minutes longer so we saw more of the Santas and had some more dialogue but it was a fine piece of Doctor Who.
And so to the teaser for next year's series. All I can say is that it's got me, and the wife, anxiously waiting for spring! The brief clips from future adventures are, of course, designed to have that effect but they genuinely look exciting. The new Cyberman retains the essence of the previous incarnations while developing the concept - as has been the case since 1966. To me, he looks frightening and sad which always seemed to be the point of the Cybermen so top marks to the design team. Having rebuilt the Daleks successfully, roll on the silver baddies!
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.the Doctor is back in The Christmas Invasion (herein referred to as TCI). Well for about five minutes and then hes asleep the next forty minutes, only to rise again to save the Earth in the last twenty. It was fun, it was slick, it was even a bit scary at points but was it really any good?
Well the answer is yes
and no! My initial response to it is it is quite good until the Doctor wakes up. I was quite involved in the plight of the human race and Harriet Jones desperately trying to keep their collective heads above water as the Sycorax descended upon them
but as for the Tyler family melodramas
TCI is much better than Russell T Davies similar outing from season one, namely Aliens of London/World War Three. It is executed in a much sharper manner. Suspense is built up at the right pace and there are no farting aliens thank god! The Sycorax are a race you respect, the Slitheen were a poorly realised race wrapped up in the wrong story. With the Doctor out of action of the most of the story and Rose busy dribbling at every opportunity, one cant help but divert attention to U.N.I.T. and the PM. The characters in this part of the story are well acted and supported by (for the most part) decent dialogue. Even despite the Harriet Jones Prime Minister gag being repeated at every opportunity!
However on the housing estate, Davies has reduced Rose and her family to an episode of East Enders. In past reviews I had noted that he had crafted dialogue for these characters very well. Now it has become clichéd. Jackie being the one who cops it the most with lines like Im going to be killed by a Christmas tree (which totally diffuses the already hard to hold credibility of the killer Christmas tree). For me however, it is when Rose drops her bundle on Jackies shoulder, dribbling about the place that I began to get impatient. We got the kiss thing out of the way at the end of season one, but Rose continues to carry on like she has the wedding dress on stand by in the Tardis. Boring.
The Sycorax were great! Ok, not totally original but hey, they were nasty. The make-up very well realised and with the Doctor out for the count, having them speak their language made them all the more threatening. The wheels fell off however, when the Doctor emerges from the Tardis and it all becomes a little farcical. The duel which spills out onto the wing of the Sycorax ship was absurd. The editing also left a little to be desired at this point with much of Tennants reactions becoming fuzzy. Like Roses look out! as the leader swung his sword toward the Doctor. Tennants reaction was lost in a sloppy jump-cut back to him, his dialogue becoming almost totally inaudible in the process.
Now onto Doctor number 10. When he is light, he is very light. Almost like McCoy in some respects. Having said that, I do believe Tennant is an extremely talented actor. McCoy was badly cast. Having seen Tennant do the heavy stuff in other shows I have no doubt he can do it. I think part of the problem lies in Davies indulgent writing. The Doctors dialogue after the steps out of the Tardis into the Sycorax ship is embarrassing (references to The Lion King???). Much of what he said could have been reduced to a few lines. The sword fight, as mentioned was tacky. As was the hand gimmick and that god awful line its a fightin hand. It became a silly camp spectacle.
Tennant, like Davison is just too young. Im not for a second implying either of them are not good actors. Davison proved his worth on numerous occasions throughout his tenure. Tennant will definitely be believable and will carry off the job credibly. But how can a 34 yr old actor (and these thoughts come from someone who is only two years younger than him and who is an actor!) carry off being an alien who is over 900 years old, with all the battle scars and history that we know he has? It is a big ask. In the same way an actor of his age and life experience would struggle playing a fifty year old man who has lost his family or experienced a severe trauma. Only life experience can give you the raw materials which you can successfully mould and use as you need them in your performance.
Troughton, Baker (T), Pertwee and Eccleston (of whom I am a big supporter), all gave us performances with great depth. All of them older by at least 10 years. Going by Tennants performance in TCI, he lacked depth. The wisdom, intelligence and style of the previous Doctors were sacrificed for cheap gags and gimmicks. Hmm
perhaps what I wrote first is more on the money
let us hope it IS just RTDs writing and things will improve.
So overall, despite this somewhat down beat review, I enjoyed TCI. As I have written in previous reviews, for the average family viewer it no doubt pressed all the right buttons. It looked great. The build-up to the arrival of the Sycorax was suspenseful. But it seemed a bit of a cop out at the end. Having said that, the season two trailer looked very good. Bring it on.
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Thats The Lion King!
The Christmas Invasion proudly presents audiences with their first significant viewing experience of The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant). Wed previously seen glimpses of the new Time Lord in the closing moments of the epic Dalek-fest The Parting of the Ways, and the fleeting and unnamed Children in Need special (2005); the latter concerning Rose Tylers (Billie Piper) allergic reaction to The Doctors abrupt regeneration. Thusly, this hour-long special can be considered Tennants debut story. Is it any good? Its OK. Does it compare with past new lead debut tales? Its an improvement.
The plot is unsurprisingly wafer-thin and often cringe-inducing Easily attributed to writer Russell T. Davies. The TARDIS crash-lands spectacularly in the London Powell estate, eliciting Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) and Jackie Tylers (Camille Coduri) but curiously no-one elses - attention. The Doctor springs out, bug-eyed, declaring Happy Christmas!, before collapsing in a form of post-regenerative coma. The next forty minutes concern a visiting homogenous alien race - the Sycorax - issuing newly-elected PM Harrier Jones (Penelope Wilton) an ultimatum: surrender Earth, or all persons possessing A+ blood will leap off the nearest edifice! Eventually, The Doctor re-awakes, and in moments, turns the seemingly hopeless situation into walk-in-the-park routine; scoffing at the Sycoraxs reliance on ye olde blood control. He swiftly dispatches the Sycorax leader in a blunt and uninspiring sword fight, utilizing a satsuma! The final scenes depict a demonstration of the mysterious Torchwoods power in a morally-dubious sequence, Tennant donning his new civvies, and Christmas lunch with the Tylers and Mick.
Ive come to watch Davies outings expecting to cringe, and, inevitably, cringing. Hes a poor writer. The pre-title sequence closes with reliance on the classic/infamous (substitute as appropriate) Doctor Who joke, screeched by the cardboard cut-out representing Roses mother. Later, the same two-dimensional character squeals: just to clarify her situation Im going to get killed by a Christmas tree!. Other dialogue triumphs include Sycorax rock and You just cant get the staff. As Davies aim is to get the audience to accept and like the new Doctor as The Doctor, were provided ample allusions to past new adventures, a la Children in Need: Rose mentions the Slitheen yet again but oddly relegates the far more deadly and memorable Daleks to the end of the list. Fortunately, in addition to these inherent shortcomings, many deep and meaningful double entendres and themes are subtly expressed (again: sarcasm). Hes not my boss, and certainly not turning this into a war, declares Jones, of the US President. Very contemporary (and if only).
There are several triumphs in the dialogue area, like Tennants line regarding free radicals and tannins revitalizing him In particular, this line is typically Davies Deus ex machina-style, but its also very Doctor Who. The Doctor can get away with such!
Davies also harbours a tendency to posit moral dilemmas without questioning them deeply Not necessarily a bad thing, but it, too, reeks of superficiality. Jones decision in the finale harks back to the Jon Pertwee serial Doctor Who and the Silurians (1970). Who do we sympathize with: Jones or the quietly-irate Doctor?
So, in this context, is Tennant any good? Yes! Unlike his immediate predecessor (Christopher Eccleston), his performance is effortless, not effortful. Ill miss #9s more human and dark interpretation, but welcome Tennants quirkier and genuinely eccentric direction. Still clad in his PJs aboard the alien spacecraft, he addresses the mini-world of Sycorax war-lords with a romantic, idealistic, but generic speech concerning humanitys potential and place in the universe. Or something. After a little thought, he acknowledges his plagiarism and corrects: No, wait
Thats The Lion King!. Hes a chatty character who verbalizes internal dialogue (Who am I?), is quietly (That struck a chord
) and loudly comical (Its a fightin hannnd!); but maintains a slightly dubious side (No second chances.). I can relate to this incarnation more and am immensely enthusiastic about the second series. My only noteworthy complaint is that Tennants sometimes high-pitched voice irritates; but overall: Thumbs up! Its well worth the forty minute wait.
Piper has less to do once Tennant emerges. Throughout the first half, she acts basically as a stand-in, although she doesnt possess the ability or experience to persuade a horde of alien invaders to pull a prompt U-turn. Mickey isnt particularly memorable, but not a caricature as previously depicted. I care more for Penelope Wiltons performance this time around Haircut, perhaps? The Sycorax, led by Sean Glider, are an acceptable addition to the rogues gallery. Danny Llewellyn (Daniel Evans) is somewhat emotionally-bipolar: Initially hes profoundly enthusiastic about the Guinevere Martian probe, yet is later equally worrisome about the yuletide invasion. He also serves as a reminder that Doctor Whos gone Welsh! Chu Omambala plays Major Blake, boasting a UNIT insignia. Oh, and Lachele Carl reprises her American newsreader role from World War Three (2005).
Its all fun overall, if feeling like a usual episode stretched into an hour-long one; and the hype doesnt do it justice. The closing credits offers us an orchestral reworking of the main theme, re-integrating the (in)famous middle eight. Sadly, the whole piece is flat and unmemorable. The teaser for series two peppers our retinas with distinctly unimpressive aliens, Anthony Stewart head looking clinically insane and Hannibal Lecter-esque, Tennant kissing Piper (Not again! Why, oh why?!), K-9 and Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen), and
A weighty-sounding Cyberman. Ive no doubt Daviesll continue to disappoint me, but the new Doctor, Rose, a fast-paced series and promise of the Cybermen and K-9 will maintain my curiosity and enjoyment. [***.5/5]
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Well, well, well, even the best of us can be wrong!
Let me tell you, I had decided to compensate for my terrible fears for Series 2, and Doctor Whos whole future, by drastically lowering my expectations. I fully expected this to be rubbish I had to, or I just couldnt bear the disappointment (ignoring the malicious voice which kept saying but surely it cant be worse than The Parting of the Ways! Can it?).
Imagine my surprise when, instead of a frothy high-camp Christmas satire in which the Doctor is even more sidelined than usual, I got another James Hawes spectacular! The effects, it has to be said, were great. That, and the direction, went a long way it really felt like a fresh start, and was consequently immeasurably better than that previous episode in the summer, at whose name I shudder, which looked tatty and awful, as if all that remained of the dwindling series budget had been spent on a bunch of unnecessary and not-particularly-good-looking space shots, rather than sets or actors. (Still on PotW here, if youre puzzled)
Aherne was all Who-ed out on that one, it seems to me, but Hawes, after the triumph of The Empty Child, is still fresh as a daisy, and very well suited to the show. His depiction of the controlled humans, and the UNIT headquarters at the Tower, were simply excellent. The sense of scale was enormous, and the episode gained extra credibility from it. RTD produced by far his best script as well, that much is obvious.
Of course, his legendary (notorious) wit misfired at times, as you would expect: the ever-more loopy Harriet Jones insistence on introducing herself as Harriet Jones, Prime Minister, to her immediate subordinates was one of those bits you just sit through in polite silence, the indulgent smile on your face slowly growing more strained (although it did lead to a funny moment where even the alien leader knows who she is).
Although Billie Piper shone again, whos surprised any more? as Rose, who filled the dramatic glue role, holding the whole thing together with assurance and panache, David Tennant was really at the centre of this episode both in terms of our expectations, which were largely focussed on him, and literally: he motivated much of the plot. It is to Russells credit, though I doubt hell keep it up, that he managed to both: a) keep the necessary tradition of post-regenerative trauma going, and b) tone down Roses capabilities sufficiently to allow the Doctor, when he does get his get-up-and-go back, to take over the story. And this he did, in incredible style.
Tennant is probably the best Doctor since Davison already, in terms of sheer quality of acting, definitely outshining Eccleston, and Colin Baker and McGann, pretty much maybe even McCoy at his sinister best! This (and the CiN special) have been one of the highlights in Doctor-performances in this dreary post-Androzani world; something of a treat! Plus, the dialogue achieved classic (if cheesy) status at times - Did you miss me?; Witchcraft!... Time Lord!; It is defended!. The only thing really conspicuous by its absence was the Sycorax leader exclaiming WHO ARE YOU???, and the Doc replying dramatically I am the Doctor! If I had been writing it, Id have put that in! (this isnt a criticism)
The only really dodgy bits were the threat of Christmas mass-suicide, broadcast for a family audience although we cant really complain, we want Doctor Who to be weighty drama, after all! and the ending, an apparently deliberate snub from atheist Russell to the whole notion of Christmas spirit, and the idea of the redemptive ending. After Mrs Thatcher
sorry, Harriet Jones
blows up the aliens, and the pretty-pretty, Bridget Jones snow begins to fall, we are told that its actually ash, and the accompanying meteors are bits of spaceship. Hmm, nice. What should have been a perfect, utterly romantic ending, is spoiled rather grotesquely. It would have been really nice if RTD had let us have our happy, indulgent, white-Christmas-and-meteor-shower ending. But no, hes a serious writer. (I console myself with the thought that the aliens werent actually very nice, really, and the ash is at least frozen cos its been so high up)
But it remains good for all that, very good. Near-perfection is all the more annoying for falling a little bit short, but this time Im not going to let myself dwell on how amazing it could have been I fell into that trap with Rose, and, later, Dalek. Instead Im going to do my best to relish the Doctors epic sword duel with the Sycorax leader, the sense of impending doom in the first half of the story, the TARDIS telepathic language circuits re-engaging and leading up to the Doctor opening the doors, the Doctor re-growing his severed hand and proving himself categorically a better hero than Luke Skywalker and of course the Doctor defeating the warlord with a satsuma...!
I expect if I rewatch it I will begin to find Jackies manic monologue, the spinning Christmas tree, the Lion King bit, the Sycorax rock line, Rose blathering about Gelth Confederacies (or something) and particularly that damn ending, intensely annoying. Solution: dont rewatch it! Preserve the memory of a happy Christmas reunion with the Doctor, just as I remembered him. (Got to rewatch the trailer though, with the Face of Boe, Sarah Jane, K9, and the Cybermen! Oo-wah!)
So yes, for the moment, its good. And the key to it all is, that the Doctor was just so
proactive. Its the first time since the McCoy years, Hawes previous (Steven Moffat-authored) masterpiece excluded, that hes actually done something, wrested control of the story, influenced events, had an effect, busted a gut, prevailed through his wit and strength and mysterious Time Lord powers!
It was just lovely to get who I regard as the proper Doctor back, after all this time. It was like awaking from an unpleasant, leather-jacketed, fantastic nightmare to find that the Doctor is back with us again, God is in his heaven, and alls right with the world at least for now. Henceforth (if this happy trend continues) I will be pleased to regard Series 1 as an intermission. Hmm, let me see now, what shall we call it
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Well well. The 14th episode of 2005 broadcast on the big day itself, and it actually beat Coronation Street in the ratings...remembering the dark days of the late-eighties when the soap repeatedly slaughtered Doctor Who in the ratings really brings things home. Blimey,it's been quite a year, really, hasn't it.
Cutting to the chase, the important stuff...I could've *sworn* I saw Robert Carlyle as an 'extra' in one of the crowd scenes with the 'A-positives' heading for the nearest high building. It wasn't a turkey overdose-induced hallucination, honest!
Sorry. The *really* important stuff. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Did I rate David Tennant's 'proper' debut as the tenth Doctor? OH yes.
Having the Doctor struggling with a difficult regeneration as others drove the plot reminded me very much of 'Castrovalva' (a favourite) and I think this worked well here too. Rose was an emotional mess, Mickey increasingly proactive and brave and Jackie came over all nurturing in the quieter moments; I noticed her placing a cup of tea next to the Doctor as he lay unconcious; as it turns out, rather a good idea! Nice little character developments here...but all leading up to that wonderful scene where the TARDIS doors open, and the Doctor enquires "Did you miss me?" I am so encouraged that from this moment on, the episode belongs to David Tennant completely...the initially off-hand Fourth Doctor-esque attitude towards the alien threat; his warm if rather addled reactions to Rose, Mickey and Harriet Jones; the instinctive way that he knows what needs to be done here...pressing the "great big threatening button" (love the way he says "button") and challenging the Sycorax leader; the heroic 'duel' fought in his pyjamas....indeed more Arthur Dent than Captain Kirk, and thank heavens for that. (no offence to the original, splendid Star Trek series, mind)
But there is still a steeliness there. No second chances for the Sycorax leader, and cold fury when Harriet Jones fails to live up to his expectations. The former, very Ninth Doctor, the latter very Fifth.
I adored the costume room/ Christmas dinner sequence very much. Beautifully directed and edited, and soundtracked by one of Brian Wilson's mid-sixties pop symphonies...wow. I love the Doctor's new look and grinned even more when he put on his spectacles. Reminded me of Hartnell, Davison and Jarvis flamin' Cocker all at the same time! (That's never happened before...!)
Moving on, Billie Piper again appears to be incapable of giving anything other than a superb performance, and I personally thought Camille was hilarious and actually rather loveable here, although I'm sure others will disagree! (Her hug with the Doctor and whispered "Are you better" at the end was rather sweet, I thought.) This Doctor clearly does do "domestic", and I was relieved that the possibly twee "everyone's safe, it's Xmas and, oooh look, it's snowing!" ending was a little more than that. ("That's not snow...it's ash.")
I thought the plot was pretty generic and simple (The Sycorax were VERY Star Trek-y), but necessarily so...a big invasion story with Christmas-y elements that was fun and dramatic and, most importantly, a successful introduction to a new Doctor. Some parts didn't work 100% for me (Thought the 'pilot fish' stuff was a bit vaguely explained, for example) but,as an 'old' fan (Do you mind?!) I am used to the regeneration process, and obviously it is crucial that the 'new' generation who adored 2005 'Who' are kept on board and take to Doctor Number Ten....with this fun hour of television with a terrific Tennant debut, I think things are going to be fine.
As for the 'Coming Soon...' clips; Phwoar. 'The Guardian' had a snippet the other day saying that Whovians (who they?) are already worried about the 'Rose kisses Doctor' clip...oh, come on! Context is everything; yer a good paper, stop making things up!
Speaking of context, as a 'bridge' between Doctor Who 2005 and 2006; Doctors Nine and Ten; I think this deserves a cheery 8 and a half out of 10.
Roll on spring.
Filters: Christmas Tenth Doctor Television
I wasn't looking forward to 'The Christmas Invasion'. I'd become increasingly disillusioned with Russell T. Davies' writing for Doctor Who as the first series progressed and all the best episodes turned out to be written by other people, and the plot holes, clumsy dialogue, and deus ex machina ending of 'Bad Wolf'/'The Parting of the Ways' had left me feeling distinctly hostile towards the prospect of what I thought might be an exercise in camp and twee seasonal excess. As things turned out however, I was more than pleasantly surprised; 'The Christmas Invasion' is possibly the best episode of Doctor Who Davies has thus far written.
For me, the success of 'The Christmas Invasion' rides largely on David Tennant's performance as the Tenth Doctor. Whilst I grew to like Christopher Eccleston's performance, and whilst he had some truly great moments on screen, I never felt that he captured the character's inherent eccentricity very well, often veering uneasily between moments of convincing anger and periods of unconvincing mania and gurning. Tennant is a different matter; whilst at times here he almost chews the furniture, he effortlessly carries off eccentricity, but equally convincingly brings a hard edge to the Doctor. Some of the dialogue that Davies saddles him with is appalling, such as when he asks Rose, "Am I ginger?" (a nod, perhaps, to Billie Piper's irritating ex-husband?) and once more we get a character discussing his own characterisation rather than simply exhibiting it, as the Doctor loudly ponders the question of who is with a stream of bilge such as, "Am I funny? Sarcastic? Sexy?" But Tennant handles it well, and makes feeble puns such as, "You just can't get the staff" (when he breaks the Sycorax leader's staff) genuinely amusing. There is a warmth to this Doctor that his predecessor lacked, and when he needs to be he's very commanding, such as when he contemptuously grabs the whip that reduced two humans to piles of steaming bones. He clowns around during the duel with the leader, but he's suitably threatening when he holds the sword to his opponent's throat, giving the impression that he really will kill him if he needs to; this is confirmed moments later when he flings the Satsuma at the control panel and sends the sword wielding leader plummeting to his death, grimly noting, "No second chances."
But best of all is the fact that whereas the Ninth Doctor spent several episodes standing around ineffectually whilst Rose or random supporting characters were left to save the day, this Doctor is proactive, and is solely responsible for defeating the monsters. At times, Davies casts him not just as the self-declared defender of Earth, but almost as a super hero, most obviously during the extremely dubious scene in which he loses a hand but is able to grow it back as a result of his lingering regeneration cycle. This is a Doctor who brims with moral outrage and brings a flawed Prime Minster acting under duress and enormous emotional strength down with six well-chosen words (although more on that later) and who snaps out of a coma to defeat killer Christmas tress and banish hostile aliens with a threatening gesture. Refreshingly however, this is also a Doctor who does do domestics, sitting down with Rose, Jackie and Mickey to enjoy a Christmas dinner before setting off once more in the TARDIS. And whilst Eccleston's "U-boat captain" look was very contemporary, the switch back to more outlandish clothing, especially an outfit that looks like it's come out of my wardrobe, is most welcome.
The monsters work well here too. Although I liked the Slitheen, Davies' attempt to give them an original motivation resulted in the need to suspend disbelief to almost unworkable lessons as they executed a plan so ludicrous that it made me want to put my foot through the television. The Sycorax just want to invade, enslave humanity, and nick all of our mineral resources. It's all very traditional, and it is now impossible for a humanoid alien race with a code of honour not to bring the bloody Klingons to mind, but Davies' makes them interesting due to the numerous hints that they consider magic to be just as important as science, with the intriguing notion of blood control and references to curses and witchcraft, which is relatively uncommon in Doctor Who in any of its media. The Sycorax costumes are effective enough if not wholly original, and their stone spaceship is visually impressive. The other token monsters, which seem to be present purely to add a Christmas flavour, are less effective; the killer Christmas tree looks ridiculous, and the killer Santas achieve little, although the "Pilot Fish" concept is another potentially interesting idea, especially as they don't seem to be collaborating with the Sycorax, just riding alongside them. Although this doesn't explain why they share the same teleport special effect, unless the budget was wearing thin. It is also very nice to have an invasion of Earth rather than the Home Counties, even if we don't see it much, and the glimpses of the Eiffel Tower and the Coliseum are welcome.
Ironically, with this new Doctor proving far more capable than the old, Rose immediately becomes less effective and for much of the episode is quite annoying. With the Doctor in a coma, she proves less reliable than even, alarmingly, Peri, and spends a lot of time panicking and whining, "There's no one to save us, not any more" and tearfully telling her mum, "He left me". Never has she been so blatantly besotted with him, and as a result falls apart whenever he's asleep. Having said that, Billie Piper continues to act her heart out, and Rose does get a good scene when she decides to try and bluff the Sycorax leader; she announces, "Someone's got to be the Doctor" whereupon Harriet tells her, "They'll kill you" and she mutters, "Never stopped him."
Of the other recurring cast members, Noel Clarke continues to put bad memories of his wooden performance in 'Rose' behind him, and Mickey works well through 'The Christmas Invasion'. His continuing frustration at seeing Rose but listening to her talk endlessly about the TARDIS is convincingly acted, and he again proves that he's got a lot braver since he as scrabbling at the TARDIS doors in terror surrounded by Autons. Jackie on the other hand, should be shot. Davies continues to make the character so fundamentally irritating that I cringe whenever she appears on screen uttering verbal dross throughout. The character has no redeeming features, remaining as she does an air-headed bimbo saddled with such vacuous lines as, "I keep forgetting he's not human." One of her first lines here is, "What do you mean, that's the Doctor? Doctor who?", which exists purely to serve as a cheap and very old joke; whether she understands who the lanky stranger at her feet is or not, which *$#ing Doctor does she think Rose is likely to be talking about? The character also plums new depths of contemptibility as the unconvincing Christmas tree attacks and she frantically advises Rose, "Leave him, just leave him!" This might be easier to swallow if she was convincingly terrified, but in the mouth of Camille Coduri lines such as "I'm going to get killed by a Christmas tree!" become even less convincing than they ought to be.
The other recurring character here is Harriet Jones, previously employed as comic relief during 'Aliens of London'/'World War Three' and improbably elected to Prime Minister in the interim. Penelope Wilton puts in a fine performance, and for much of the episode the character works rather well. Just when her tendency to introduce herself as "Harriet Jones Prime Minister" seems poised to become facile, she says it to the Sycorax leader, who amusingly replies, "Yes, we know who you are." Nevertheless, Davies' hamfisted grasp of real-life in a fantasy surround results in such jaw-dropping moments as her broadcast to the nation when she pleads, "Doctor, if you're out there, we need you. I don't know what to do! If you can hear me Doctor, if anyone knows the Doctor, if anyone can find him, the situation has never been so desperate. Please Doctor, help us." To recap, this is the leader of the country making herself look utterly unable to cope with an admittedly large crisis on national television, even though she should a) actually be wondering how to stall the Sycorax until the mysterious Torchwood is prepared (especially given how effective it proves to be), and b) not panicking the two-thirds of the country not under laine control by crumbling live on air. Essentially however, Harriet Jones is present here to allow Davies to convey an anti-war message that makes the infamous WMD line in 'Scream of the Shalka' look subtle, but works marginally better than that in 'Aliens of London'/'World War Three', as she says of the US President, "He's not my boss and certainly isn't turning this into a war" before blowing up a retreating enemy craft. What you make of all of this probably depends largely on your own politics, although Wilton conveys Jones' sheer stress at the end so well that I can't help feeling sorry for her when the Doctor leaves her looking lost and alone near the end.
I have other criticisms of 'The Christmas Invasion', but they are all relatively minor. The line, ""Sycorax rock" as in the modern sense, "they rock"" is profoundly crass and fuels my suspicion that Davies prefers Buffy to Doctor Who, and it is terribly convenient that none of the main characters are blood group A positive, leaving them free to do other things. And yet again, Murray Gold's incidental score is pompous, overblown, and intrusive. But there is also much to enjoy here; the idea of the Doctor being brought around by tea is an obvious attempt to remind us how very British he is, and it isn't exactly subtle, but it is rather sweet and the line about anti-oxidants and tannins just about covers it. The TARDIS not translating Sycoraxic into English until the Doctor recovers is another interesting concept, and a reminder that it is more than just a spaceship, and for the established fan there are numerous nice nods to the past, including the TARDIS wardrobe room, UNIT (in a more impressive capacity than in 'Aliens of London'/'World War Three'), references to Martians, and the British space program sending probes to Mars. Speaking of which, the Doctor's line, "You're getting noticed. You better get used to it" is very 'Spearhead from Space', which is rather appropriate given that the new series is the first occurrence of a recurring cast of supporting characters since the Pertwee era.
The end of 'The Christmas Invasion' is great, the grim revelation that the "snow" falling all around is actually ash from the Sycorax ship taking the saccharine edge of the proceedings, but not dampening the sheer joy of the Doctor excitedly talking about new horizons and monsters, and cheekily acknowledging his previous incarnation with the line, "And it is gonna be
fantastic!" Given that I thoroughly like the new Doctor, and with the reassuring feeling that this marks a considerable improvement in Davies' writing for the series (who is in any case only writing five of the next thirteen episodes), I find my enthusiasm for the second series has fully regenerated. And with a trailer boasting Cybermen, K9, and Sarah Jane Smith, I can't wait.
Filters: Christmas Tenth Doctor Television
Picture this, stuffed full of naughty Christmas foods, mum and boyfriend either side of me on the sofa, tree lights twinkling in the corner and a glass of mulled wine in my hand
and Doctor Who is on the telly in two minutes time. It could have been one of the best feelings in my entire life. Mum was not impressed with the Eccleston era, saying he was far too intense and funless as the Doctor and Simon took the opposite angle, loving every second of the new series and eagerly anticipating further adventures. I've listened to Dalek Empire II, I've watched Casanova and Blackpool, and I know David Tennant is a bloody good actor so now its time to see how he fares as the Doctor
First off I want to comment on how confident Russell's writing seems here. Season One was a good learning curve for the writer, a way of finding out works and what doesn't (not to be mistaken for what people want and what they don't which has been the failing of many a producer). Gone are the embarrassing fart jokes and silly pigs, the baby faced monsters and the overdone angst
this feels like it is being written by a writer at his peak, a carefully crafted story which leads to a deliberate, stunning conclusion. Much of the dialogue sizzles throughout, from Russell's occasional soap boxing (criticizing Bush and telling us the Prime Minister can be brought down with six little words
), to his lovely character moments (who didn't smile along with Mickey when Rose told him he was brave?), to his wonderfully characterised new Doctor ("I DON'T KNOW!" he mocks the monster when asked who he is), I never actually cringed at one point during this episode which I did at least once during each of his episodes last year, even the top notch ones.
What I found most delightful though was that RTD seems to have found that little Doctor Who fan inside him again and his written what is without a doubt the most astonishingly traditional Doctor Who story since Eater of Wasps was published (or if you're talking about Doctor Who on the telly, probably since The Visitation). Last year there was so much envelope pushing going on it was rare that the show actually felt like it could actually fit into 'old school' Doctor Who which is all fine and dandy because it had an astonishing amount to achieve. Attracting a whole new audience, bringing the show up to date, returning old monsters with panache, etc, etc. But lets face it after winning awards, ratings battles and critical acclaim they really don't need to prove anything anymore. We know the show is good so lets get on and prove to people why it had been such a winning formula for so long
I mean come on; this is a best of Doctor Who hits Christmas Special! A dangerously out of control Doctor regeneration story. Aliens invading Earth. Everyday objects coming to life and attempting to kill people. UNIT back in action. Good grief
it reads like Spearhead from Space! Yet it please me to report that Russell gets all these things spot on. The Doctor was kept out of the action just long enough for me to be hungry for his return and bouncing up and down with excitement when he did. The scene with the Christmas tree coming to life and hacking through the Tyler household was so outrageously fantastic I didn't think the episode could possibly get any better. The aliens are beautifully made up to convince and scare the shit out of little kids. And have UNIT every seemed so professional and well equipped? The Christmas Invasion is Doctor Who epitomised, executed to perfection and engaging as hell. Who cares if there aren't any real surprises
not when there's a ruddy great spaceship casting a long shadow over London!
The only aspects that didn't seem to gel quite as well were the traditionally new elements. Whereas Jackie, Mickey and Rose made for fascinating new characters in the first season they were the only things that felt out of joint here. In the midst of a scary invasion why should we care about Rose blubbing? When people are threatening to jump of rooftops do you really give a damn about Jackie Tyler whinging about bringing bags of food to the TARDIS? And in the end of the day, besides putting the Doctor to bed what do any of them contribute to the story in anyway whatsoever? Not a whole bunch I have to admit and in amongst so much confident trad Doctor Who the human angst of their domestic situation felt far too small scale and uninteresting. I love all three characters, honestly I do, but they need to be given something worthwhile to contribute and cut off from the Doctor and the important stuff going on in UNIT they really are just hanging around until the climax and that is an unforgivable waste of three promising characters.
The Sycorax actually made quite an impression despite being pretty much cod aliens. This has something to do with their impressive visual impact; thanks to some great spaceship sets, dazzling CGI (which convinces you are in a room with hundreds of them) and wonderfully scary masks with glowing red eyes that no doubt left some kids scared to go bed Christmas night. I loved their blood control and the conceit of getting a third of the worlds population on the edge of buildings, threatening to make them jump unless the world accedes to their demands. A very clever scheme, I thought. And the leader was played with such relish it was hard not to be engrossed, especially his dazzling duel with the Doctor on the exterior of the spaceship. There was an emphasis on blood and honour that reminded me of Klingons but then one cut off the Doctor's hand and I forgot all about it.
What really made me sit up and take notice were the Earth scenes that didn't involve the Doctor. Penelope Wilton makes a stunning return as Harriet Jones and for much of the story reigns as a Prime Minister you can cheer for. This struck me as an important moment for Doctor Who, the one invasion UNIT couldn't cover up because the alien threat was broadcast around the world for everyone to see. It made everyone sit up and take notice, the threat feeling very real to normal people on the street as their families were brainwashed into attempted suicide. Not being able to communicate with the Sycorax was another lovely touch, with Harriet having to navigate through some tough negotiations on her wits. But none of these moments match up to the ominous mention of Torchwood, the (apparently) linking theme for season two. This mysterious organisation even those in highest levels of power aren't supposed to know about
we finally get to see Harriet's strength of character when she orders the ships destruction at the climax, a shocking moment for the Doctor as well as the viewer. All their affection is wiped away and she slaps him down with the fact that while he was sleeping off his regeneration people were dying and that they need to be able to protect the Earth when he isn't around. The Doctor turns on her and spits "I gave them the wrong warning, I should have told them to run, run and hide from the monsters, human race!" a condemnation harsher than anything the ninth Doctor ever offered up and a fantastic twist conclusion, RTD refusing to end his snug invasion tale comfortably.
So did David Tennant match up to expectations? Of course he did! Christopher who? Nah, that's a bit harsh but here in full demonstration is a man clearly in love with his part and wanting to offer more than a chance to prove he can surprise in his career. Talk about attacking a role with gusto, he is funny and charming and violent and angry and silly and confident
everything Peter Davison was in Four to Doomsday (except the last one) except well acted. It's an explosive brew of reborn vitality and hidden anger that I think will make compulsive viewing no matter which way the scripts take him. Tennant is a treasure to watch, leaping about, cracking jokes, grinning like a loon and duelling like a hero
he lights up the episode the second he wakes up. Not to take anything away from Eccleston (whose intense Doctor is well worth a revisit in books and audios) but this is exactly the impression that McGann made in The TV Movie, instantly and recognisably the Doctor from his first line.
It looks like a feature film in most scenes with some jaw dropping special effects (with my favourites being a toss up between that horrid gherkin tower exploding and the people lined up on the Coliseum) with a sense of scale that is helped by scenes set in space, around the world and yet on a London estate also. The stylish camerawork is adeptly handled once again by the very talented James Dawes, making sure that the important moments are given dramatic close-ups and showing the money exactly where needed. Saying that I still think the spinning Christmas tree was brilliant, a fab mixture of live action and CGI that never fails to convince for a second. Top locations are chose to give the story its importance and the shot of Big Ben being renovated is inspired. And who couldn't fail to be impressed by the innovative TARDIS landing, 40 years and still finding new ways of introducing that blue box!
Lots of lovely touches add so much. The anguished realism from the two actresses begging their families to stop walking absolutely sells the Sycorax mind control. The mention of Martians looking nothing like the Sycorax. The thought of the Royals being out on the roof. Finally getting monsters who where a mask and someone has to go and make the daft observation, "They could be like us!"
" The same reporter back from Aliens of London. The tea (how British). The Doctor quoting The Lion King. What could have been a god awful twee ending with the snow turning the whole thing around into a poignant reminder of the earlier violence when we realise it is ash. Lovely little moments that mean nothing on their own but add to the overall magic.
Mum thought it was wonderful, she fancies the pants off of David Tennant and thought the storyline was better than anything she saw in season one. She has signed up for series two. Simon loved the FX and all the Torchwood stuff (he loves arcs!) and squealed with delight when he saw K.9 in the teaser for series two. He's on board too. As for me, well of course I liked it! As I said it wasn't the most imaginative story every written but it was certainly hugely entertaining and left me with a warm, fanboy glow once I had finished. To share it with my family was my best present of the day.
Oh and the wardrobe room was great.
Filters: Christmas Tenth Doctor Television
I watched series one. I even enjoyed quite a bit of it. But there was one thing increasingly disturbed me on the way to episode thirteen.
I really didnt like what the Doctor had become.
Its not Christopher Ecclestons fault, although he never seemed to catch the inherent oddities of the character to me. He was given a set of scripts that turned a hero into a time-travelling chauffeur, carrying the real star of the show to whatever time and place her greater common sense and interpersonal skill could be best used to save humanity.
Billie Piper was outstanding, and thats not something I expected to find myself saying when her casting was announced. But what the Hell had Mr Davies, that self-proclaimed Doctor Who fan, actually done to the Doctor?
Maybe my lowered expectations for The Christmas Invasion worked in my favour. The first forty minutes may have dragged at times (especially with Rose was wailing on her mothers shoulder about the Doctor abandoning her) but boy, did it pick up when the Doctor got going!
I had my doubts when David Tennants casting was announced. I knew very little of him as an actor, but I knew his age, and I knew what he looked like; and in neither respect did he fit my mental picture of the Doctor. Thats as good a call on my part as doubting Ms Piper proved to be.
From the moment he pulls the electrocuting whip thing out of the Sycoraxs hand with an indignant line about its more trivial danger, the Tenth Doctor absolutely owns The Christmas Invasion, amply atoning for the length of time were made to wait to see him. Darting around the highly impressive interior of the spaceship, talking at a million miles an hour, attention flitting between Rose, the Sycorax and Harriet Jones, hes instantly the Doctor, and immediately in charge. Its a joyous performance, infecting even the lines which ought to make you groan. "Cant get the staff," he says, deadpan, before debunking the blood control threat in the last way you could be expecting. Wonderful.
I loved the Lion King speech, with its emphasis on admiration for humanity. I loved the Doctor suddenly pulling himself up on being rude, something his last incarnation appeared to take pleasure in. Most of all, I loved the payoff to Roses sulk about tea. "The solution to everything" indeed.
Tennant is obviously at home in the role, more so in twenty minutes than Eccleston appeared in a whole series. The Doctor has his old love of being the Doctor back, and that is the best piece of news since it was first announced he was returning to our screens.
Its just as well Tennant is so good, since the first two-thirds of the episode are spent showing how much the Doctor is actually needed. So much for Rose, the equal companion. Full marks to Billie, she gives it plenty of lip-tremble, but the character has guts, and the actress is at her best when showing them. Her scared, defiant little speech to the invading hordes was her best moment of the episode, but it all pointed up the same thing. Someones gotta be the Doctor, as she said; pity only the Doctor can be.
Much has been made of the Doctors power, bringing down a Prime Minister with six words, but really, didnt Harriet Jones destroy herself? What hope for a national leader who appears live on television admitting she cant cope with a crisis? It doesnt take a political correspondent to estimate the life expectancy of that kind of creature, even if she did hint at the kind of masculine genitalia her factual equivalent could do with displaying to his fellow "statesmen". The suspension of disbelief has its place in Doctor Who, but it works better for me with images of great big alien spaceships casting shadows over two great British fighting men than with an implausible PM pressing the self-destruct button on her career.
Still, Penelope Wilton is an actress who doesnt know how to give a bad performance, and just when the incessant introduction was beginning to grate came the payoff. The translated "Yes, we know who you are" was one more clever Russell T Davies touch. Like the Sycorax leader (a bravura turn from Sean Gilder) suddenly spouting English, making Rose and everyone else turn to the TARDIS. Like the revelation of the Sycorax on Jackies television screen. He may have difficulty constructing a coherent plot at times, but the Head Writer certainly knows how to grab his audience.
Speaking of plot, I thought The Christmas Invasion RTDs best to date. I dont pick through every episode; if its entertaining and it hangs reasonably, I wont mind the odd unanswered question (such as, what was the point of the pilot fish, except to add a bit of festive colour?). I could do without his obsessive interest in the Tyler domestic angle; Jackie still irritates, despite Camille Coduri getting one perfect moment in the kitchen. Just watch her look of hurt when Rose snaps at the inevitable "is he a different man?" question. Ive seen that look on my own mothers face, more often than I care to remember. A few seconds of real relationship adds immeasurably to any programme. More, and youre watching Eastenders.
Im no expert on special effects, but bashing up the Gherkin raised a cheer, and the Sycorax ship, like the Sycorax themselves, impressed. The image of still, silent figures ready to jump from great landmarks like the Coliseum was a bit grim (especially for a Christmas broadcast) but admirably effective in conveying the scale of the Sycorax threat. I couldve done without Murray Golds crescendo of music as the TARDIS doors opened up, but thats a nitpick. Otherwise, I barely noticed his work, which I mean as a compliment. Background music should remain that; its only noticeable to me if it jars.
I havent mentioned Mickey. Which means he didnt make me want to put a foot through the screen. Thats an improvement on last year. Thanks, Noel Clarke.
And thank you, Russell T Davies for restoring the natural order of Doctor Who (with a bit of help from David Tennant). For the first time, I felt like I was watching my old favourite again. 8 out of 10!
Filters: Christmas Tenth Doctor Television
It's with great pleasure that I write this, my enthusiastic review of Christopher Eccleston's final adventure!
What's that, you ask? That isn't right. Surely you're mistaken. This is The Christmas Invasion (TCI), the FIRST adventure for David Tennant!
But no, I disagree - in part at least. You see, something is going on in the story that escapes the eyes of the viewer at first glance. You may choose to differ on this, but I think that after reading my words, you will at the very least understand. Let's go back...
When the Ninth Doctor regenerated, he didn't skip a beat, remaining standing and in command of his situation. Sure he transformed and there was a momentary sense of imbalance, but he continued in his conversation with Rose as though nothing had happened. And for the Doctor, regenerating may not be a personal everyday experience, but he's done it numerous times, so he shakes it off, only realizing a minute later that Rose is quite in the dark. He probably never even expected to make a change so soon after having done it just months ago, so telling Rose all about this aspect of his life wasn't a high priority.
Moving into the story proper of TCI, we see a new-faced Doctor stagger from the TARDIS, joyously greet Jackie and Mickey, then subsequently collapse to the ground. He hasn't even taken time to examine his new features, as we discover much later in the story, having to ask Rose whether he's gotten better looking or not. But this is not David Tennant here. Oh, no! This is still our Christopher, our Ninth Doctor, looking out through the eyes of a new body.
As the story progresses, we see this surface from time to time. He knows there's trouble and wants to do something but he can't. This trait is not exclusive to any one Doctor, certainly, but carrying over from Chris's strong-willed determination and daring (traits that were unquestionably augmented in his ninth life) we see a Doctor who is trying to discover who he is now.
As a side-note here I would say this is thankfully done without a tremendous amount of post-regenerative amnesia, as has been done to death in the past. Particularly with the Eighth Doctor, whom I've personally dubbed, "The Amnesiac Doctor". Really, if you go back and look, Paul McGann's run was beset by multiple plotlines in which the Doctor loses his memory: The TV Movie, the novelizations of The Eight Doctors as well as the whole recent, multi-year story-arc in which he traumatically loses it, and in more than one Big Finish Adventure!
But back to the present... It isn't until our new David Tennant model emerges toward the end of the story, that all of these things are really made apparent, as he strolls idly about the Sycorax ship musing over what the breadths and depths of his personality truly are. Never before has the transformation and recovery been address in such a thoughtful and existential manner. And this is where I make the obligatory and much-deserved nod to Russel T. Davies for crafting the new, modern and intelligent mood of the show.
You see, it's the NINTH Doctor in that dressing gown, ambling around the room. Asking himself what he's all about. And maybe also asking Rose, who knows him better than anybody else in the room. He begins as stated earlier by asking for her appraisal of his new appearance. Then, apologizes after harshly scolding her for losing faith in him, something I think we all wanted to do at one point or another during the story. But of course that would be unfair to Rose, as this is again, all new to her. It was the NINTH Doctor, laying in bed and wishing he could get up and save the world. It was the NINTH Doctor who battled the Sycorax leader, lost his hand and - freaking awesomely - grew himself a new one, adding some more guidelines to the process of regeneration for all us geeks out here. Apparently within the first 15 hours post-regen, you can slice him, dice him (within limits) and he can rebuild himself right before your eyes! Something we've imagined for decades, now made fact right before our eyes.
It isn't until the end of the story that the Ninth Doctor finally gives his nod and moves on. You may think that this takes place in the TARDIS wardrobe, which we finally get to see in all it's comic-book-magnitude glory, but actually, it's at the very end of the story. As the Doctor prepares to leave with Rose, he elicits one of his commentaries on the wonders of the universe and, sidling up to Rose, glances sidelong at her saying, "It's gonna be... Fantastic!" And with that last vestige of his old self bobbing to the surface, you could almost see the Ninth Doctor behind his eyes, turning and walking off.
Goodbye Christopher Eccleston... Thank you for hanging on a bit longer!
Basically, I saw this as David Tennant playing Christopher Eccleston's Doctor coming to terms with his new self. It isn't a Ninth Doctor-esque performance that David is delivering, but that of a Doctor in-bewteen. You may say, Well, of course he is, that's obvious! But really, never has a DW story been written or performed that showcased the sense of the old giving way to the new upon changing Doctors.
Other enjoyable touches were the lopping off of the Doctor's right hand, on account of the fact that in the mini-adventure last month, he complained about a "slight weakness in the dorsal tubercle". The fact that he affects a Texas accent and proclaims, "This new hand is a FIGHTIN' hand!" suggests that his malady has not only been rectified, but that his new extremity is actually enhanced. Probably like a bone being stronger after having been broken and re-set. And good for him!
Mickey seems to have evolved in accepting Rose's new lifestyle, moaning sadly that she's never going to want to stay home. He knows that the Doctor isn't a threat to whatever relationship he and rose may have. Not in that way. But she's still outside of our dimension with another fellow, and that can't be easy for him. You just want to hug the poor guy. But we know that eventually she'll stop traveling one day. I'm sure we're all hoping that the kids come together in the end.
My only slight criticism (and this is totally unfair to point out, so don't think it actually bothered me beyond the minute I thought of it) is the way in which the Sycorax stand back and let the Doctor run off at the mouth. It felt like all the threat and suspense and tension stopped. Like these guys would just let some human-like creature take over the situation for trivial bantering. But of course, yes, yes, absolutely... this is what Doctor Who is. There have been endless encounters in which the Doctor talked an alien threat stupid with his endless banter. So, I'll say that the moment pressed my suspension of disbelief a bit, but my better sense made me get over it and just enjoy the show.
Oh! And UNIT! Proper UNIT! Total, in-your-face, situation room UNIT, like we've always imagined! Now all we need is for Nick Courtney to do a drop in sometime soon. Please?
And it's got to be said how cool it was for Harriet Jones to put our sometimes arrogant government in it's place by making a statement to keep its nose out of the matter. It was such a disappointment to see her corrupted by her zeal to protect her people. One couldn't help feeling sorry for her, having realized what she has done.
Ah! And the Doctor mocking of the the leader's booming voice was priceless! Perfect Adams-Esque lampooning of the science-fiction genre.
And as for the trailer at the end... I can't wait! I will say this also: Come on! Anthony Head is the Master! Got to be! "Mr. Finch" sounds so like a classic Master cover name! And who isn't anxious the see the new Metropolis-style Cybermen in action?
One might say that the Tenth Doctor's persona has taken a turn for the better in a way. Last season we would see him doing everything possible to avoid spending time with Jackie, calling Rose from the TARDIS and somewhat rudely declining an invitation to dinner. Chris's Doctor was a loner, yet a lonely one. He shunned those he didn't feel that close to, probably due to fear of losing anybody, especially considering he'd just recently lost his entire world. So when he did in fact meet someone worthy of his attentions, it really mattered to him that they would agree to travel with him.
David's attitude is warmer, more receptive, embracing. We actually see the Doctor sitting at table with the Tylers and Mickey, laughing and enjoying himself. And I'd say we're all happy for him to have opened up and allowed the domestics inside finally. He doesn't rush off this time, but stays for dinner and pulls a cracker or two.
It will be a fascinating seeing how the more mature Sarah Jane receives this new, vital Doctor. Will he tell her of the Time Lords' demise? Will she find him dishy? You just can't tell in this new series. Who'd have thought we could actually be this surprised by a show we've watched for decades? Definitely not the reality we ever thought we'd be enjoying a few years ago!
Filters: Christmas Tenth Doctor Television
What do you get if you cross Independence Day with Time And The Rani?
To be fair, it would do The Christmas Invasion a great disservice to compare it to either of the above, although there are certainly elements of both present. However, this episode is far more coherent, intelligent and entertaining than either.
The Christmas Invasion has to satisfy several requirements, not least of which is convincing nine million people that it is still part of the same show which starred Christopher Eccleston a mere nine months ago. Repeating the opening shot from his first episode, and then focussing most of the first half on the characters we already know and love (Rose, Mickey, Jackie and Harriet) is therefore a wise move and works very effectively. Less effective, though, is the danger they are quickly put in, with the attack of the Santas and the Christmas Tree. There are no explanations as to why or how these "pilotfish" (what a gorgeously bizarre term that is) take these forms, or how they arrive on Earth in advance of the main threat, or how they are so easily disposed of. The Santas are very sinister, however, and Murray Gold's hyperactive Jingle Bells music plays an immense part in making the tree so scary. More chilling than either of these is the instant hold the Sycorax have on a third of the population, and the idea that they could kill them with the touch of a button.
The arrival of the beautifully designed Sycorax spaceship allows for some of the best effects yet seen in Doctor Who, as both the Powell Estate and yet another prominent London landmark are extensively trashed. The effects triumph extends to the Sycorax themselves, who are one of the most impressive looking (if very slightly rubbery) aliens to appear in the show for a very long time.
The new Doctor finally appears for his first confrontation, and here's where things start to go runny. The tension of the moment is utterly spoiled by the lengthy and all-too-self-aware dialogue he spouts whilst the evil alien menace simply stands and watches him reintroduce himself to everybody before he bounds about their ship like Bugs Bunny. We then suddenly learn that the Sycorax's plan to kill a third of humanity won't actually work, which makes you wonder why exactly they bothered.
Nevertheless, the Star Wars-esque sword fight which follows soon puts the show back on track, and allows Tennant to show a tougher side to his Doctor, as he defeats the leader and delivers some truly wonderful dialogue. This combination of dark ruthlessness ("No second chances") and manic comedy ("Not bad for a man in his jim-jams") make him more comparable to the Seventh Doctor than any of his other predecessors, although Tennant seems to have slipped into the part far more effortlessly than McCoy, or indeed most of the others, did.
There's a sting in the tail for The Christmas Invasion, however, as our Brigadier-replacement Harriet Jones orders the destruction of the defeated Sycorax, just as Lethbridge-Stewart did with the Silurians. It's done in a somewhat unconvincing way (and once again, Star Wars comes to mind, as the laser effects are strongly reminiscent of the Death Star in that franchise), but it allows Tennant to show his dark side again. Shaky though her position appears to be at the end of the show, we know from World War Three that Harriet Jones wins the next two elections anyway, so I'm sure we haven't seen the last of her. Penelope Wilton is such a superb actress that I'm looking forward to her next appearance already.
There's many, many wonderful touches in this episode (the TARDIS crash landing; the wardrobe room moment; the final scene) that help to make this the most impressive debut for a Doctor since at least Castrovalva (and arguably since The Power Of The Daleks). Tennant seems to have a good grasp of the role (although he does need to calm it down a bit to keep it believable) and the 2006 series looks incredibly promising.
8/10. Here's to the future...
Filters: Christmas Tenth Doctor Television
After the fantastic ending to Series 1, or 27, I was on a huge high. Like everyone else, I wanted to see David Tennant go to the plant Barcelona. Right now. Not in six months.
Over the next few days and weeks, everyone slowly recovered. I watched the episode again next week and instead of the sheer happiness I felt last time,I now felt a little bit worried. For some reason, I really wasn't liking Mr.Tennant. I needed to read up on him and get a feel for his character. I watched ITV1's Secret Smile which didn't really help, because he was a villain. Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire didn't really bolster my confidence either. I was seriously worried that this new Doctor was going to be some sort of maniac.
6:59, Christmas Day. Too late now to worry. I ran upstairs and pressed record on the video, then ran down again, on that same high from The Parting Of The Ways. And it begins. The TARDIS makes a bizarre but thrilling landing. The Doctor calls Mickey by his name. He continuously hugs Jackie. I like this Doctor, I'm thinking. For a couple of reasons.
One: I loved Chris Eccleston's happy-go-lucky style, but David Tennant brings something more. He keeps quiet when he's not needed, and tells people what they need to know, while Doctor 9 would hide the truth and convince everyone that everything will be fine. He tells Harriet Jones and Rose straight that Earth is being noticed and they are not safe. I like this, because Chris' unacceptant nature was the one thing tat really annoyed me.
Two: His friendly nature. I keep mentioning this, but I love the way he's willing to be a member of the Tyler family. I was very happy indeed when he sat down for Christmas dinner with the family. It shows that this Doctor is more of a family man, and I prefer that to the Eccelston Doctor's attitude, which was frankly, rude.
So. The episode. I really find it hard to faullt it, but I'll get my little cons out of the way.
I didn't like how much Earth has drastically changed within the space of six months. Harriet Jones has already not only become Prime Minister, but wrote an autobiography. She has been a busy lady!
This episode was all very "christmas special'. The rules for this sort of special are that no one dies, it concentrates on unimportant characters, the enemy is completely harmless, and it's all just a bit of a trailer for the next installment.
But enjoyable. I loved absolutely everything else about this episode. It has humour, horror, drama, weepy scenes and two quotes from The Lion King! And a refernce to Hitchhiker's! What more could one want?
It might have been a teaser, but it definitely worked. If the rest of the series' episodes are this good, i'll be a very happy bunny. They probably will, judging by the series trail. There's a lot more of this to come! YAY! You've done it again, Russell T. Davies...
Filters: Christmas Tenth Doctor Television
Like all the stories from the pen of Russell T Davies so far (with the possible exception of The Parting of the Ways), David Tennants debut adventure, and the series very first official Christmas special is a mixture of the sublime and the awful. There are big concepts, witty lines and memorable moments, but there are also cheap looking set pieces, embarrassing throwaway gags and too-easy-by-far resolutions. Its the sort of hurried mishmash Andrew Cartmel would have endorsed.
The Christmas Invasion opens with the TARDIS popping into the real world above Roses council estate and literally bouncing off the buildings and crashing on to the street. Its a great effect and one cannot help but wind it back and watch it again. The newly regenerated Doctor tumbles out, wide eyed and Tom Bakeresque. But the moment is ruined when Jackie exclaims, The Doctor? Doctor who? How many police box travelling Doctors does she know? It is clear that Rose is claiming the newcomer is the Doctor both Jackie and Mickey have met before. The gag doesnt work as well as Roses, Dont you ever get tired of being called Doctor? retort in Stephen Moffatts excellent The Doctor Dances. Here it hits the floor with all the subtlety of a thud.
Then its into Murray Golds rather lovely arrangement of the theme music, with its perfect blend of Delia Derbyshire inspired sounds and brand new orchestrations (the best rearrangement since the Pertwee/Baker version?), synchronised with that stunning re-imagining of Bernard Lodges slit-scan time vortex title sequence; together they slap a smile on the face and fill one with wonder and anticipation.
The Doctor is out of action and recovering from the regeneration process, and so its over to the soap-styled realism of the everyday, and in particular the strained relationship between Rose, her boyfriend Mickey and her mother Jackie. There are some nice touches, with Penelope Wiltons Harriet Jones making a welcome return as Prime Minister of a new British golden age, and some lovely continuity in the form of scaffolding around a recently restored Big Ben (it having been extensively wrecked by the Slitheen in Aliens of London).
Rose and Mickey go Christmas shopping and then all hell breaks loose as aliens dressed as trombone playing Santas open fire. This scene would easily be at home in a Sylvester McCoy serial, with upbeat poppish music accompanying a flurry of sparks and a lot of running around. Indeed, Rose continues to bear more of a resemblance to Sophie Aldreds Ace than any other classic series companion. All she needs is a rucksack full of Nitro and some out-dated slang and shed be made.
The Santa scene is guilty of what critic Bonnie Greer claimed of Ecclestons debut adventure March last year. It looks cheap and staged. It doesnt look real. A bit of tinsel, a few lights, and virtually every extra carrying a wrapped present it isnt convincing at all.
Another McCoy era staple is littering stories with fanciful ideas seemingly for the sake of it. Davies equally prefers fantastic visual imagery over proper plotting and character driven drama. This is served up as a homicidal Christmas tree a tremendous special effect, and one that will stay with people for years, but there only as a bit of superficial nonsense.
The adventure comes to life momentarily as the Doctor bursts from his regenerative sleep, expels the killer fir tree and engages Jackie in a genuinely funny comic routine. However, the moment he returns to a comatose state, so does the viewers interest.
In fact, I would say the first half of the special, with the exception of one or two moments, is a bit boring. This isnt helped by the amount of incidental music supplied by Murray Gold. The composer does what he does exceptionally well, but is it really necessary to point up absolutely every emotion? Sometimes less is more, and here Golds music is too generic. It creates an effect opposite to the one desired.
And despite all the attempts to keep us hooked in, one thing becomes sparklingly clear: Doctor Who without the Doctor is rather dull.
The story only really becomes absorbing when the Sycorax reveal themselves and people are ready to jump from the roofs of Londons buildings (and by implication roofs all over the globe) like hypnotised lemmings. Harriet Jones and her aids are teleported up to the Sycorax ship and their exchange with the alien leader is mesmerising.
The scene where Rose breaks down and mourns the loss of the Ninth Doctor is genuinely touching. There she encapsulates how many a youngster might well have been feeling as they waited for the Doctor to recover (Piper proves she deserves all the accolades heaped upon her. Never before has a companions emotional response to the Doctor changing his face and personality been so real).
If the story only really picks up at the half-way point, then it becomes must-see telly in the last fifteen minutes. The moment it all changes is a simple one: David Tennant emerges from the TARDIS fully born as the Tenth Doctor. Witty, unpredictable, staring, smiling, euphoric, angry, like Eccleston before him, he convinces us he is the Doctor and we embrace him. Our hero has come back to life. By the time he has chosen his pinstripe suit, World War Two trench coat and worn his old fashioned British National Health glasses, we have forgotten there ever were any previous Doctors.
As the closing credits roll, one cannot help but await with great eagerness the onset of Series Two. The Christmas Invasion is not the best Doctor Who adventure ever to grace our screens, but it is better than any first outing for a new Doctor since Robot and sets the pace for what is to follow.
Filters: Christmas Tenth Doctor Television
After watching the first season of the new Doctor Who, I have to admit to often being disappointed in it. Granted, the show is quite often creative, well acted and has good production values. All well and good, but subjects have been added that have no place in a family program. Im disappointed in the gutter morality being displayed, particularly in the off-color jokes that turn up in almost every episode. For a family show to discuss and joke about sexuality of all kinds is beyond the pale, particularly since thats a topic best left to parents. I dont care to hear the Doctor swear. Thats a very human habit, and the Doctors always been above that in the past. The constant intrusion of the authors political views also grates, as does the moral equivalence thats been drawn between the Doctor and his enemies on at least three occasions. All of this can be laid square at the feet of Russell T. Davies, executive producer and head writer.
All of which leads me to my point, that I now go into an RTD scripted episode expecting the worst and have to be won over. One may wonder just why I bother watching the show, and it may be that like my experience with the EDAs that culminated in the utter trash that was Adventuress of Henrietta Street, that there may come a point when Ive had enough and drop the new series as well, as much as Id rather not. However, to my relief, Mr. Davies has written a pretty good script when it comes to The Christmas Invasion. It has some of the same flaws as his other work, but on the whole it works rather well. Unfortunately, rather than being something entirely new, it is Aliens of London/World War 3 told with more restraint. As such, if it wasnt for the new Doctor it would feel very much like the retread that it is. The fact that I can actually take the Sycorax more seriously as a threat (Sycorax rock aside... ugh) than I could the Slitheen, and the fact that Im interested in seeing how the Doctor is ultimately characterized keep me from feeling as if Ive seen this all before.
Youre drawing attention to yourself. After umpteen-million invasions of Earth in the late 20th century, an alien invasion finally occurs that cant be covered up. I find it difficult to believe that everything from Mondas itself approaching Earth to the Slitheen crashing through Big Ben have been covered up and explained away, but that was something that much of the old series didnt handle any better than the new one, so Ill let it go. The idea of an invasion that affects 1/3 of the Earths population and thus makes aliens an everyday fact of life for our planet is interesting to say the least, as is the long overdue fact that the Earth has salvaged alien technology that enables it to defend itself. As always with Doctor Who its a cut-rate invasion with just one ship, although thanks to CGI we have more than ten aliens. There is an armada mentioned but not seen. The ship itself is large and impressive, casting a foreboding shadow over London. The Sycorax themselves are very much like Klingons, arent they? They speak a harsh guttural language, are aggressive, bound by rules of combat, and fond of melee weapons. However their apparent belief in mysticism and spell-casting set them apart from most aliens, and their stone spaceship that looks like a flying mountain is very distinctive, particularly when its casting a dark shadow over London. The blood control gambit to essentially hold the world hostage is another clever idea, and a reasonable way for a single spaceship to be an effective threat.
Harriet Jones, Prime Minister. Yes, we know who you are. This particular character was the best part of AOL/WW3 (possibly the only good part), and its very nice to see her again. She has a good rapport with her right hand man, and generally projects an air of confidence and strong leadership. Except of course when she gets on national TV and begs for help from the Doctor. Im sorry, but no national leader with any pride is going to go on television and make themselves look weak. Jones decision to fire on the retreating Sycorax spacecraft is absolutely correct, and its disappointing to see the Doctor acting vindictive and childish. One hopes that she survives the no-confidence vote.
He left me mom. He left me! Im of two minds about Rose. On the one hand, I have no patience with this Doctor/Rose unspoken romance nonsense, which leads me to roll my eyes when Rose pulls a jealous fit or gushes or cries over the Doctor. On the other hand, watching the Doctor regenerate must be very much like losing a close friend, and Roses grief at the loss is understandable. Rose herself helps to carry much of the episode while the Doctor is unconscious, and her attempt to play the Doctor and bluff the Sycorax is highly amusing, as well as being admirable.
Now I know what kind of man I am. The Eccleston to Tennant change reminds me somewhat of the changeover from Pertwee to Baker, in that were going from an essentially straight and earnest portrayal of the Doctor to a more eccentric and humorous one. Tennant certainly seems to exude the Doctors characteristic eccentricity more easily than Eccleston did. On the other hand, he often seems to be walking a very thin line between playing the character seriously and trying to be Tom Baker at his most energetic, which simply isnt going to work for anyone other than Tom Baker. An example of a good scene played well is the Doctors dispatch of the killer tree. Tennant is suitably sombre when wondering about the aliens who sent the tree, and then again when threatening them from the balcony. However once he steps out of the TARDIS on board the Sycorax ship, he veers perilously close to camp. In the face of numerous threatening armed aliens he takes time to walk around and greet Rose and Harriet Jones, worried more about his hair color than the threat. Of course, its just as absurd that the Sycorax allow him to get away with it. The sword fight is reasonable, and is in character for the Doctor. The severing of the Doctors hand is remarkably blood and pain free (and thus rather unconvincing), as well as instantly bringing to mind the severing of Luke Skywalkers hand in The Empire Strikes Back. However, the ability of the Doctor to regrow his hand due to the lingering effects of his regeneration is pretty creative. The button on the side of the ship that collapses just the right wing section to allow the Sycorax champion to fall to his death is too incredibly convenient to be believable. Please, think these things through before they are commit ed to film!
The humor in this episode is sometimes crass, as seems to be RTDs wont. There are a couple of instances that work very well however. The repeated use of Harriet Jones, Prime Minister joke pays off when even the Sycorax leader says Yes, we know who you are. The killer Christmas tree ought to be too stupid for words, but when it starts chopping through walls and furniture, accompanied by a sort of hyper-Jingle Bells musical score while Jackie screams Im going to be killed by a Christmas Treeeeeee I just have to laugh. The Doctors sword fight in his pajamas is genuinely amusing and the revival of the Doctor with tea just feels exactly right.
Happy smiles and celebrations all around are cut short when Harriet Jones gives the order to destroy the retreating Sycorax ship. Her position is entirely reasonable given what the Sycorax have just done to Earth, and her argument that the Earth has to defend itself when the Doctor isnt around is quite sound. Frankly the Doctor looks very petty and somewhat self-important when he takes his revenge and sets in motion events which hurt Jones status as Prime Minister. I suppose its okay for the Doctor to kill aliens who threaten Earth, but not for humans to defend themselves. It does make him look very hypocritical.
I enjoyed the sequence in the wardrobe where the Doctor chooses his new clothes. Its nice to see more of the TARDIS than just the console room. Its great to see the fourth Doctors burgundy scarf as a nod to the past. Tennant looks more Doctorish with his collar and tie and long coat than Eccleston did with his t-shirt and leather jacket, and I wonder if the pin-stripe suit is again, a bit of a tribute to Tom Baker, who seemed to wear such suits for a while back in the 90s. The Christmas dinner shows us a different side to this Doctor, who would not have sat around the table with the Tylers and Mickey before. The final scenes put a damper on the festive ending however, with ash instead of snow as the Sycorax ship burns up in the atmosphere.
Overall, a promising beginning for David Tennant. He needs to settle down and take things a bit more seriously, but he already fits the part better than Christopher Eccleston, despite the fine job Eccleston did. The story is yet another tiresome alien invasion of contemporary Earth, but at least its big and public and shakes up the status quo so that something new is brought into the mix. One of Russel Davies better attempts. Worth watching.
Filters: Christmas Tenth Doctor Television
Jenny T Colgan
Based on the original script by
Russell T Davies
Released May 2018
To begin this review at the end, Jenny Colgan’s Afterword sees her describe her love of the classic Target range. She touches on that old chestnut that in her day it was the only way to relive episodes after their broadcast and, besides, all this t’where fields back then lad, but doesn’t dwell. Rather she weaves a picture of a lovely childhood spent lingering at the desk of her local library. Trying to navigate the torture of rules that meant she could only get out four Targets a month. She concludes with the observation that the first Target she’s ever own all to herself will be one she wrote and notes how mad and wonderful that is.
So, it’s in this context that the novelization of The Christmas Invasion brims with affection and nostalgia for childhood days with your hands propping up your chin and you lost yourself in those curious little tales of Doctor Who. It also means that it’s the most traditional and straightforward adaptation. Russell T Davies uses the Target range’s long-standing custom of inventing entirely new subplots out of nothing but those subplots are very uniquely in his style. The Day of the Doctor, meanwhile, is so gloriously playful in its structure only Steven Moffat could have written it.
But Colgan takes the route of expanding on the script but, nearly always, doing so by giving us more insight into the thoughts and feelings of the various characters as they experience events pretty much identical to those seen on TVs on Christmas Day, 2005. Near the start, there’s a whole set of introductions to the Guinevere One team and their daily routine but once we get going there’s not much deviation from the plot. The Doctor piloting the TARDIS back to Earth from the Sycorax ship, rather than the Sycorax teleporting it down, is about as divergent as it gets.
But honest, believable emotion and character are Colgan’s strong suits, as anyone who’s read her non-Doctor Who books can tell you (yes, boys and girls, you can read novels without spaceships in them from time to time; your hair won’t go on fire, I promise). Her choices here bring the story very much into her wheelhouse and she expands skilfully on Davies’ own ability to make believable a character with only fifteen lines of dialogue. The chief beneficiaries of Colgan’s eye are Guinevere One boss Danny Llewellyn and UNIT operative Sally. On screen they get a brief flirtation – him flustered by a woman so beautiful being nice to him, her endeared by his combination of earnestness and humility. On the page, we lean in to the tragic undertones, as each mentally sizes up the other – imminent death focusing their thoughts on possible futures, possible futures they’ll never have the chance to even dip their toe in together.
The audiobook edition is read by the myth and legend that is Jackie Tyler herself. Or rather Camille Coduri, proving herself to be so much more than just Jackie. It’s easy to fall into the trap, when an actor is just so good at portraying one character, to forget that they have a whole acting range to explore. So apologies are due to Coduri in this review for she shifts effortlessly from one character to another throughout. Even her Jackie should be saluted as she recaptures with apparent ease every ounce of energy in her television performance, flicking back forth from that to her narrator’s voice with ease.
But her Rose is also astonishing. Even though Piper and Coduri have similar voices, and played their roles with similar accents, Coduri proves adept at capturing even that subtle difference. In some scenes of the Tyler women bickering back and forth, you could almost believe Piper had popped in for a cheeky cameo.
Her accents for the Welsh characters are almost as impressive. It probably shouldn’t surprise that a couple of years living and working in Cardiff gave our storyteller a good grounding in those Celtic tones, but it’s still striking that there’s nothing broad or comedic about her Llewellyn, but simply an authentic sounding rich tone. And when her Sycorax leader shows up, it almost blows you out of your chair in surprise. It certainly sent this reviewer into a few tracks of distractedly listening while googling who the second performer was. But, nope, 100% Camille Coduri. Treated and artificially deepened though it is, her capturing of the hard biting rage and disdain of the Sycorax is still note perfect and astonishingly good. With other male characters, she plays it safe and, perhaps wisely, simply throws a nod towards their style of speech though it’s still glorious to hear her Doctor and her Jackie’s take on the “I need…” routine.
Sound design wise, there are some clever choices here. Colgan adds the actual TARDIS departure to the ending, and in the audiobook’s take on that coda the full, lengthy version of the dematerialization sound is given a rare outing. Its fading swoops and burbles and beeps form a subtle soundtrack to Jackie and Mickey’s thoughts on being left behind. Elsewhere, the soundscape wisely keeps out of the listener’s way but adds just enough background to give a nice sense of space and location.
Meanwhile, the handsome cover by Anthony Dry uses the same, striking pointillist style – each dot painstakingly created one at a time in pen and ink - that’s dominated his Doctor Who work over the past two decades and has made everything from DVD insert booklets to the mural wall of the Doctor Who Experience so striking. It’s a style that, through artists like Ron Turner, Frank Bellamy and Chris Achellios, has long been associated with Doctor Who and makes for a comfortable fit for the next generation of novelizations.
Some may dismiss The Christmas Invasion as the least experimental, and therefore most disposable, of the new range. But that would be a mistake. Because its also the most successful at evoking that undefinable Target feeling. Of sending you back to days on tip-toes, peeping over the librarian’s counter to ask when you’ll next be able to take it out again. Add to that a versatile reader and sympathetic sound design and you’ve a release ready to stand up proud next to any of them in Target’s Golden Age.
Filters: Tenth Doctor Audio Specials