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Monday, 26 December 2005 - Reviewed by Calum Corral

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!





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Monday, 26 December 2005 - Reviewed by Paul Condon

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.





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Monday, 26 December 2005 - Reviewed by Steve Manfred

"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.





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Monday, 26 December 2005 - Reviewed by Robert Tymec

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!





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Monday, 26 December 2005 - Reviewed by Ed Martin

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.





The Christmas InvasionBookmark and Share

Monday, 26 December 2005 - Reviewed by Eddy Wolverson

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… Sycorax rock!"

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.