The Christmas Invasion

Doctor WhoJackie Tyler and Mickey Smith are going about their normal everyday lives, each quietly hoping on Christmas Eve that the TARDIS will bring Rose home, despite the chaos that usually follows. But when it finally does appear, tumbling out of the sky, Jackie and Mickey are stunned to see a man they’ve never seen before emerge from the TARDIS and wish them a merry Christmas before collapsing. Rose steps out and tells them that the stranger is the Doctor.

Powerless to do anything but wait for the Doctor to regain consciousness, Rose joins Mickey for a bit of Christmas shopping, getting on his nerves with her constant talk of life in the TARDIS. When a group of horn-playing figures in Santa Claus masks stop playing and begin following her, Rose is immediately suspicious; when the Santas reveal their instruments to be powerful weapons and open fire, Rose quickly deduces that she and Mickey are the targets. They rush back to Jackie’s flat just before the Christmas tree there reveals itself to be a mobile killing machine. Rose puts the sonic screwdriver in the unconscious Doctor’s hand and then asks for his help – at which point he sits straight up and destroys the killer tree with a single burst from the screwdriver. He then bolts out of the flat and finds the Santa-masked attackers waiting outside, but when the Doctor brandishes the sonic screwdriver at them, they teleport away. The Doctor cryptically warns everyone that something is coming before passing out again.

Again helpless until the Doctor awakens, Rose, Jackie and Mickey watch a live broadcast, waiting for the British-launched Guinevere One probe’s first pictures from Mars. Its first picture, however, certainly isn’t of the red planet – a hideous, skull-like face appears, bellowing in an indecipherable language. At UNIT HQ, Prime Minister Harriet Jones – voted in by a landslide following the attempted Slitheen invasion – swings into action, feeding a cover story to the media to buy time. But UNIT’s people are very worried – a gigantic spacecraft has been detected leaving Mars orbit on a beeline toward Earth. The next contact from the Sycorax leaves no doubt as to their intentions: the human race will submit to slavery, or be destroyed. Her cover story blown, Prime Minister Jones openly calls for the Doctor’s help in an address to the nation.

But the Doctor is in no condition to defend the Earth this time, leaving a terrified Rose to step up, speak for all of humanity – and find out if she’s learned nearly enough from the Doctor yet.

Download this episodewritten by Russell T. Davies
directed by James Hawes
music by Murray Gold

Guest Cast: Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Penelope Wilton (Harriet Jones), Daniel Evans (Danny Llewellyn), Adam Garcia (Alex), Sean Gilder (Sycorax Leader), Chu Omambala (Major Blake), Anita Briem (Sally), Sian McDowall (Sandra), Paul Anderson (Jason), Cathy Murphy (Mum), Sean Carlsen (Policeman), Jason Mohammed (Newsreader #1), Sagar Arya (Newsreader #2), Lachele Carl (Newsreader #3)

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: So, all The Christmas Invasion has to do is reintroduce the concept of regeneration for a new audience, check up with Jackie and Mickey, tell a ripping adventure tale of its own, and finally bring us the tenth Doctor in full command of his faculties so we can see how he compares to the ninth incarnation. In one hour. No pressure.

Whereas some past spinoffs (Death Comes To Time or, arguably, Paul Cornell’s definitive New Adventures novel “Human Nature”) have argued a slightly deconstructionist case that only a selfless hero with a love for humanity is required, whether or not it happens to be the Doctor, The Christmas Invasion responds equally firmly that only the Doctor can do what the Doctor does.

Russell T. Davies basically accomplishes that message by having the Doctor out of commission for the majority of the episode, which runs to a full hour since it was a Christmas Day holiday special. So ironically, for the expanded length of the episode, this really means we get to see more of Rose falling apart because the Doctor may or may not be dying. (For his part, David Tennant’s portrayal of an unconscious man is exceptional.) The real meat of the story lies with Prime Minister Harriet Jones (to whom we were introduced, pre-election, in Aliens Of London) and the British government’s handling of the invasion (also including UNIT, though an opportunity for a Nicholas Courtney cameo was sadly passed up here).

The Christmas InvasionFor a holiday special, The Christmas Invasion is surprisingly heavy, and in places, heavy-handed. We get another potshot at current events (Harriet asks an underling to convey a message to the unnamed President of the United States that he’s “not my boss” and “isn’t going to turn this into a war”), and a lot of scenes of Rose sobbing. Far more fun are the all-too-brief scenes of a band of robotic-looking Santas converting their instruments into weapons, and the ultimate appearance of the Doctor himself. David Tennant wastes no time in making the part his own, and even though there are some elements carried over from Christopher Eccleston’s era – the Doctor’s patented tendency toward stream-of-consciousness rambling, the occasional flash of ruthlessness toward his enemies – the role very quickly becomes Tennant’s. I’m still not sold on his Cockney accent (Tennant normally speaks in what I’d describe as a pleasantly pronounced Scots brogue), but I can’t fault his performance. A sure barometer of whether or not the regeneration had lost the audience was my wife’s first viewing of the episode; by the end of the hour, to her, Tennant the Doctor. I think the kid will be all right.

There’s also the beginning of a trend toward dropping the name of an agency known only as Torchwood; by the time this special premiered, it was known that Russell T. Davies would be launching a Doctor Who spinoff on BBC3, centered around Captain Jack (John Barrowman from the new series’ first season) and the top-secret, Cardiff-based Torchwood Institute. Here at least the mention is more or less organically woven into the fabric of the story, though I got a chuckle out of their “adapted alien technology” from a ship that fell to Earth ten years prior – judging by the weapon’s look, I’m assuming it was a Vorlon ship from Babylon 5!

Until Tennant makes his grand entrance as the fully-recovered Doctor, the episode really belongs to Noel Clarke as Mickey and Camille Coduri as Jackie. In both the scripts and the performances, a nice balance has been found between both characters’ comedic elements as well as the layers of drama that were added to them in Aliens Of London and World War Three. They seem like fully-rounded characters at last, responding at least somewhat realistically to the events surrounding them.

Notes: The UNIT logo is the same one seen in the final UNIT adventure of the original series, 1989’s Battlefield, as well as on the cover of 2004’s UNIT audio adventures. Its predominantly young staff, however, doesn’t seem to have seen action, much less seen the Doctor (though the Major points out that Martians look different from the Sycorax; presumably he has a least a little experience with either the Ice Warriors or the Ambassadors of Death. It also seems safe to presume that Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood (UNIT’s CO in the audio plays, played by David Tennant prior to his being cast as the new Doctor) was indisposed during this crisis…

TARDIS wardrobeThe TARDIS wardrobe would appear to have grown since it was last seen in 1987’s Time And The Rani, when the seventh Doctor was looking for his new threads. It also seems to be a requirement that every newly-regenerated Doctor try on The Scarf at least once. This also marks the first time we’ve seen any part of this version of the TARDIS other than the control room; with its seemingly endless spiral staircases, the TARDIS appears to be more vertically-oriented than its previous interior configurations.

Though it’s not required viewing, the 2005 Children In Need mini-episode sets up the TARDIS’ crash-landing; The Christmas Invasion works just as well without it, however.

The Doctor mentions Arthur Dent – the perpetually bewildered hero of the late Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy novels – and even claims briefly to have met him.

Many things about the ninth Doctor’s regeneration into the tenth are unusual when compared to his previous metamorphoses; the exhaling of glowing energy may simply be a residual of his exposure to the raw energy of the time vortex (though in the audio commentary made available on the BBC’s Doctor Who web site, Russell T. Davies himself says the glowing energy is “Time Lord essence”). The biggie, however, is his miraculous regrowing of a severed limb, something never seen or even alluded to before, which is apparently possible if a severe injury is sustained within 15 hours of regeneration. This ability, however, may not be new; the third Doctor’s scalp was grazed by a bullet and he recovered (Spearhead From Space), and the eighth Doctor removed a catheter camera from his own chest without any further complications (the 1996 TV movie). If one doesn’t like those as examples of the 15 hour “grace period,” then it can be argued that we haven’t seen the regrowth ability before because we haven’t seen any previous incarnation of the Doctor sustain so serious an injury so soon after regeneration.

The covert Torchwood group is mentioned openly here for the first time; at the time of broadcast, the first Doctor Who spinoff to receive a full series order was half a year away from premiering, with Captain Jack (John Barrowman from the new Doctor Who’s first season) set to lead Torchwood into new adventures. This episode establishes that the Prime Minister can order them into action (despite the fact that Torchwood is so classified that she isn’t even supposed to know about them), but UNIT can’t.

On a more speculative note, it’s just possible that, with or without the Doctor’s six words, the attempt to cover up the first transmission from the Sycorax might have already been all it took to get Prime Minister Harriet Jones in trouble with her constituents in the wake of the invasion.