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.