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Doctor Who and The Christmas Invasion reviewed

by Martin Conaghan, posted Dec 26th 2005 9:02AM
Doctor WhoFollowing a long wait since the departure of Christopher Eccleston from the title role of Doctor Who, viewers in the U.K. have been waiting patiently to find out if the hype and build-up to the Christmas special lived up to expectations -- especially the full introduction of Scots actor David Tennant as the 10th Doctor.

Well, I watched The Christmas Invasion last night, sitting on the couch stuffed full of turkey, and I can honestly say it ranks amongst the best 60 minutes of television on the BBC all year.

It had everything: maniacal Santas, invading aliens, a hard-nosed Prime Minister and The Doctor fighting a sword-battle in his pyjamas. Oh, and it was funny too.

Warning: Spoilers after the jump.
  
The real success of the recent Doctor Who revival has been the modernization of the format under executive producer Russell T. Davies and series producer Phil Collinson. By taking the show from a low-budget studio-based operation with cardboard sets and papier-mache aliens, to something more akin to an American sci-fi series, the two have managed to introduce big budgets, top actors, movie-grade special effects, clever in-jokes, elaborate plot lines and quality scriptwriting.

The Christmas Invasion was no exception. Even in the wake of Eccleston's departure after just one season, the successful format looks set to continue with the bug-eyed Tennant in charge, infusing The Doctor with the schizoid personality of a mad scientist and a tough-talking Cockney street boy (although, at times, his reactions often bordered on the Monty Python-esque). And all the recent characters also returned for the special, including The Doctor's assistant Rose Tyler, her boyfriend, Mickey Smith, her mum Jackie and Harriet Jones (previously MP for Flydale North, but now Prime Minister of Great Britain).

The story picked up from the end of Season One earlier this year, when Eccleston regenerated into Tennant, following an overdose of energy from the TARDIS. Unfortunately, the BBC decided to skip past the segment shown on the Children in Need Special in November, when Rose doubted Tennant's claims to be the new Doctor, but was quickly convinced when he recounted a private moment from their past.

Instead, it jumped straight into the crash-landing of the TARDIS on a London council estate, and directly to the action.

An invading alien force called the Sycorax (pronounced 'sick-o-racks') capture a Mars probe carrying a vial of A positive blood, which they use to generate a hypnotic signal and force one-third of the Earth's population to the brink mass suicide (including all of the Royal Family -- a very neat in-joke).

Of course, during the entire escapade, the Doctor remains debilitated from his recent regeneration and therefore unable to help, despite a direct televised plea from the new Prime Minister, Harriet Jones. As the planet awaits its fate, Rose, Mickey and Jackie try to save the world alone.

The Predator-like Sycorax then teleport Rose, the PM and a few military types -- along with the TARDIS and the Dcotor -- on-board their massive orbiting ship, and request the world's leaders to surrender, or they'll wipe out a third of the Earth's population and enslave the rest. Fortunately, The Doctor recovers -- thanks to some spilled tea in the TARDIS -- and defeats the leader of the Sycorax in a swashbuckling sword duel, recovering from a severed hand in the process (which immediately grows back due to his regenerative phase).

Harriet Jones then orders the top secret Torchwood Unit to destroy the fleeing Sycorax ship, an act that horrifies The Doctor. The Doctor and Rose then return to the TARDIS and head off on more time-travelling adventures.

The closing credits were followed by a preview of the new series, with a new theme tune arrangement, which included a look at the new Cybermen, a trip to see Queen Victoria -- and the return of Tom Baker's assistants Sarah Jane Smith and the robotic dog, K9.

You can visit the BBC website and download an exclusive commentary track from the Christmas special.

As the Doctor says before the end: "Not bad for a man in his jim-jams... how very Arthur Dent."

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Alex

It will be interesting to see how Tennant is accepted by a new generation of viewers who are not used to the change in actors. As an "old timer" viewer who knows a new face every so often is what helped keep Doctor Who TOS on the air for 26 years, I always find the transition period to a new Doctor to be very exciting.

I think Christmas Invasion could be one of the strongest introductory Doctor stories we've seen since Spearhead from Space introduced Jon Pertwee. Tennant -- a lifetime fan of the show himself -- hits all the right notes, combining humor and darkness. He works for me.

I am ticked at the BBC for wasting the all-important post-regeneration moments on the Children in Need special. It should have been part of the aired episode, no excuses. Yes I know it'll be on the DVD (at least it better be) but I felt cheated and that cast the only negative light on what continues to be the most spectacular regeneration (pun intended) of a TV show I've ever seen -- and that includes Star Trek TNG and the new Battlestar Galactica. Both are good shows, but the new Doctor Who has kicked their collective backsides since Eccleston's debut and Christmas Invasion shows things aren't likely to change in that area anytime soon.

January 10 2006 at 12:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Halden

The Christmas Invasion was a great teaser for season two of the best Sci-Fi on TV. David Tennant assuaged my fears with barely any on screen time in this episode.

January 04 2006 at 3:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Aleksandra Thostrup

I for one loved David Tennant's excellent performance as the Doctor. The perfect ease with which he moved between comedy, sarcasm, sadness, disapppointment, anger etc. was simply breath-taking.

I cannot wait for the next season - I watched and adored Chris Eccleston as the Doctor, but I just fell in love with David Tennant's interpretation of the character... and then he has such a great chemistry with Billie Piper's Rose...

January 02 2006 at 7:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mandy

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed The Christmas Invasion. I adored Christopher Eccleston so much that I thought I would have trouble accepting David Tennant. I won't say I love the tenth Doctor just yet, but I did enjoy him as well as the episode.

December 27 2005 at 10:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Soule

I would love to agree that I thought the Christmas special was good, I can't deny it was entertaining, but it was very obviously a Russel T Davies script (you can tell those by the story starting well and by the end cop out after cop out to conclude it). The acting was awful from all involved, (bring back Christopher Eccleston)in honesty I got the impression it was very rushed, there was something about it that just didnt feel polished.

David Tennant as the new Dr, hmm well, its early days and a little unfair to form strong opinions either way, When I first saw Chris Eccleston I didn't like him until I had watched a few episodes, that said David Tennant doesn't have the same screen presence, or the strength of character for the Dr, to me his performance felt exactly that a performance. Don't get me wrong I have seen DT in other parts and I know he can act, I have the sense he will be a little quirkier than CE's Dr but over all I didn't like the first impression he left. Ofcourse I reserve the right to change my opinion and as I see more of DTs Dr I will probably grow to like him.

My last comment is reserved for Jackie and Mickey and RTDs inability to end a story arc, yes I get the idea that they are Rose's ties to earth, but please they can't act to save their lives, and after the end of the first series of Dr Who how many more knocks can Mickey take for crying out loud. The end of the first series had teh feeling of concluding the ties to earth that Rose had, where she was rude and quite offensive to both Jackie and Mickey and well here they are straight back in it again.

RTD please please find some actors who have the ability to act or if it is not the actors that can't act get a better director to ensure they provide a good and believable performance.

December 27 2005 at 6:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mayzee

I know David Tennant is doing his best. He's endearing and a decent actor, but oh... I miss Christopher Eccleston so much. He just filled the screen every moment he was on it. Still... I intend to give Tennant the chance to grow into the role. It must be tough to follow in the footsteps of such a dynamic actor as Eccleston... a man who not only revived "the doctor", but gave him new depth and dimension, set a new standard if you will. I truly hope the best for Tennant. He gave us some wonderful moments in the Christmas invasion (like droning out a pompous speech, then saying "Oh sorry. that's the Lion King") and I hope for more... but it will take a bit for me to get used to him. Eccleston was "my doctor".

December 27 2005 at 2:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Walt

I loved the Christmas Tree of Death. There's a snippet if you want to see...

December 26 2005 at 5:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Groovemaster 2000

Where can you download this episode? Anyone??

December 26 2005 at 3:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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