Doctor Who 2.X: The Christmas Invasion review

Review

The Christmas InvasionThe Christmas Invasion review

The Doctor: There was something I had to tell you. Something important, what was it? No, hold on, hold on…

Hold on, shush, shush, shush, shush… OH!

I know!

Merry Christmas!

Production Code: 2.X.
Doctor Who Season: Between S27 and S28 (Christmas Special).
Story Number: 167.

60 minutes of Doctor Who that has to do various things, and does these things brilliantly…

Unlike any of the other five (five now!) Christmas Specials of the 21st Century, one thing it has to do is properly introduce a new incarnation of the Doctor. Rose and The Eleventh Hour kickstarted new eras for new Doctors at the start of 13-episode runs; this is different. It’s the only Christmas Special to be part of a “Vanilla” Doctor Who “Volume 1” DVD of a season, as the others (bar A Christmas Carol) sort of float outside the ongoing Doctor Who narrative of the-Doctor-and-ongoing-companion, though The End of Time does provide “the final chapter” for the Tenth Doctor.

The Christmas Invasion reviewThe “ongoing companion” in this is Rose, and Billie Piper’s character bridges these two eras of the Ninth and Tenth Doctor. Rose is actually the focus of the story, as, in an audacious move, for most of the first two-thirds of this the Doctor is comatose in a pair of pajamas. (There’s a very clever visual element to this though, as the flowing dressing gown over these is echoed by the final clothes choice of the Doctor, the flowing coat over a striped suit, though with more subtle stripes than the pajamas. It’s like this adventure forms this Doctor, the warmth of a Christmas dinner producing a slightly more warm and gregarious incarnation.)

Once Jackie has put the Doctor to bed, after he staggers from the TARDIS – he does jolt up from his bed, briefly, to zap a robot Christmas tree with the Sonic, after Rose whispers: “help me”.

“You woke me up too soon. I’m still regenerating”: in many ways this is very traditional, with the newly-regenerated Doctor “disorientated” – in the manner of Castrovalva or The Twin Dilemma or Time and the Rani or The 1996 TV Movie – though it also starts new traditions, such as the Doctor after regenerating breathing out wisps of glowing xanthous energy, (The Eleventh Hour).

picThere’s the build-up of the alien invasion, with Harriet Jones asking her team of advisors what’s going on, the image of the stone spaceship casting its shadow over London is spectacular, though the most extraordinary scenes are with Rose, bemoaning the idea that “The old Doctor. The proper Doctor” would help them.

“Help us. Please, Doctor. Help us”, PM Harriet Jones broadcasts to the nation.

pic“He’s gone. The Doctor’s gone. He’s left me, mum. He’s left me, mum” – Rose weeping, it’s a powerful scene.

pic“The yellow girl. She has the clever blue box. Therefore, she speaks for your planet” – the production design for the Sycorax and their ship is magnificent, it really does have the scale of a movie, appropriately enough for the Christmas Day broadcast, (which is another thing it has to do: be a centrepiece of the BBC’s festive TV.)

The emotional crescendo that precedes the “return” of the Doctor is formed from a rather obscure element of Doctor Who continuity, which makes it all the more satisfying (at least for this fan). The fact that the Sycorax have to be translated is a running plot-point, and the fact that Rose can’t understand them automatically has already been mentioned, (“I don’t know. Must be the Doctor. Like he’s part of the circuit, and he’s… he’s broken”), so when Rose and the others start telling the Sycorax leader: “Hold on, that’s English”, it’s a marvelous moment.

pic“Did you miss me?”

The lack of much dialogue from the Doctor so far is more than made up for as he emerges now from the TARDIS, talking nineteen to the dozen, about this, that, the next thing, cups of tea, ginger hair, the last election.

picThe “swordfight for the Earth” is something you couldn’t quite imagine the Ninth Doctor doing or with such gusto, certainly not in his pajamas – his was a more reserved Doctor than this whirling and jolly character.

The “iron” behind the grin of this Doctor is glimpsed with the dispatching (with tangerine) of the Sycorax leader who failed to keep to the code of the swordfight and peacefully leave the planet. Plus, his anger with Harriet Jones at the end shows there’s more than just quips and exclamations of wonder to this “new man”.

picpicThe final sequence though shows the warmth of this new Doctor, as he decides unlike his previous self, he does “do domestic” and shares the Christmas meal with Rose and Mickey and Jackie. It’s part of a wonderful montage soundtracked with the superb “Song for Ten”, and it’s one of the great sequences of 21st Century Doctor Who.

So as well as introduce this new Doctor it has to bridge the two seasons, and there’s a nice acknowledgement of the Doctor just past with Number Ten uttering “Fantastic” as the story closes. At its broadcast it was one of the best Doctor Who stories of this century and it still is today.

Rating: 5/5.
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(The Christmas Invasion on bbc.co.uk/programmes/)

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