With Christopher Eccleston vacating the hot-seat after one solitary season as The Doctor, RTD replaced him with a man whose main reason for getting into acting was his love of Doctor Who.
Yes, David Tennant is a big Who fan, and before he was cast, he was best known for playing Casanova on BBC3 (another show penned by RTD I might add) and – to Doctor Who fans at least – as “Daft Jamie” in the dull-as-dishwater Big Finish Audio, Medicinal Purposes.
So going into it, he wasn’t a guy with the pedigree of his predecessor, and so viewers like me were a little unsure of him at the time.
As you’ll know though, David Tennant has since gone on to be one of the most popular Doctors in the history of the show, with only Tom Baker rivalling him – as far as the general public are concerned – for the title of best ever.
But, dear reader, you know I’m not one to agree with the generally held opinion a lot of the time, so we’ll see how he goes.
And first up – other than a 5 minute Children in Need special set in the TARDIS straight after his regeneration – is his opening story, The Christmas Invasion.
Doctor Wh0 – The Christmas Invasion Review: What’s This One About
An Invasion…at Christmas.
And of course it involves the standard New Doctor story that we’ve all come to know and fear.
Thoughts – Well It Is A Christmas Story
When reviewing the numerous stories that have been broadcast on Christmas Day since the show returned in 2005, I think it’s fair to say you have to look at them in a slightly different light.
You have to take into consideration – in my opinion at least – that these are going to include certain elements of comedy and silliness to take the mood of the viewers on the day into account.
As much as I love a piece of serious and emotional drama like The Caves of Androzani or Father’s Day, I don’t think they have a place on our screens on Christmas Day. There’s only a small amount of depressing TV allowed on that day, and it’s taken up every year by Eastenders.
So The Christmas Invasion has to be quite light, and in some respects it is. There was plenty for viewers to enjoy as they recovered from their overeating, with killer Christmas Trees, snappy dialogue and plenty of humour coming from the likes of Harriet Jones and Jackie Tyler. In particular, I enjoyed the running joke of “Harriet Jones: Prime Minister” “Yes, I know who you are”.
And of course, it ended with a “White Christmas” even though it wasn’t snow, but the ash of an exploding spaceship,
But it wouldn’t be fair to say The Christmas Invasion is a romp or something to be taken with a pinch of salt like The Feast of Steven; in amongst the Christmas theme there’s an attempt at a proper storyline.
The Serious Stuff
Unfortunately, the “proper storyline” is where I think The Christmas Invasion falls flat a bit.
It’s just the standard Alien Invasion story that we’ve seen in film and on TV time and time again, and it’s not helped by The Doctor being out of action for most of it.
Running an hour long, beyond the initial stuff with the tree and the Pilot Fish Santas and before the Doctor finally wakes up, it’s around 35 minutes of people standing around and wondering what they are going to do.
As a set piece, the people with Type A+ blood all walking to the highest point they can to chuck themselves off is ok, although it’s a bit silly as a worldwide thing.
Other than that it’s a bit dull, as excited viewers just wait around to see their first proper glimpse of the Doctor.
The New Doctor
Thankfully, when he finally turns up, David Tennant doesn’t disappoint.
Yes, there’s the occasional bit that makes you wince with embarrassment, like when he shouts back at the Sycorax with a put on growl, but compared to the introductions of Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann, this is top stuff.
He seems immediately comfortable in the role and a commanding authority on the screen. You certainly don’t look at him and question whether he’s capable of being a leading man.
Indeed, he steals the show despite only showing up properly at the 40 minute mark.
As a character, he’s still finding his feet though, as he wavers from being a clown to a ruthless executioner who doesn’t believe in second chances, but on the whole, he gets a thumbs up from me.
But He Had The Chance To Get Away
He should have taken the chance to get away from “Super Crazy Stalker Girl” Rose Tyler, though.
Whilst watching the Eccleston season, I found myself – for the most part – enjoying the performance of Billie Piper and the characterisation of Rose, but there was always something nagging in the back of my mind about her. My memory said I didn’t like her, and I couldn’t put my finger on why that was.
But having seen The Parting of the Ways and now this, I’ve remembered.
She’s off her head.
The writing of her in this, blubbing away saying “He’s gone” and “He’s left me” despite the Doctor having a nap on the spare room bed just seems like the creepy ramblings of a dangerously obsessed leech.
And once again, she spends her time cuddling up to her supposed “boyfriend”, Mickey – who I’m sure, if this were reality, she’d still be calling upon for sexual favours – while telling him that she plans on leaving to be with the Doctor because her life is so much better with him than with Mickie.
She also treats the comatose Doctor like her property.
It’s weird and a bit unpleasant.
And if I recall correctly, it continues as Season Two develops.
The Doctor – having already died because of her obsession – should have taken the opportunity to get out while he still could.
There’s Poor Writing Here No Matter How You Spin It
No matter what way you analyse it, the storyline surrounding Harriet Jones is supported by poor writing.
At the end of World War III, the Doctor said he knew her name because she went on to be a three-term Prime Minister and to rule over Britain in its Golden Age.
Ok, fine, but that Golden Age is apparently upon us by Christmas of the same year, with her already the new Prime Minister.
And then, despite the Doctor saying on numerous occasions that he can’t interfere with fixed points in history or become part of events (that was his incredibly weak explanation for why he couldn’t go back a couple of weeks and warn the people of Satellite Five about the Daleks) he does exactly that by bringing Harriet Jones down.
So rather than being one of the longest reigning Prime Ministers of all time, she gets ousted within a year because he planted the old “Let’s Get Rid of Thatcher” idea into the head of her aide.
That doesn’t make sense by the Doctor’s own personal standards.
And even if it did, why would her aide listen to the Doctor, why wouldn’t he tell her what he said, and why would the press be all over it and doing press conferences on Christmas Day?
So sorry, that’s poor.
- I’m with Harriet Jones by the way; blowing up the spaceship was the right call.
- How exactly did people manage to climb to the top of the Colosseum? I seriously doubt there’s easy access into the building for a start, but apart from that, I especially doubt there is a way to stand on the rim of the roof.
- The TARDIS must be of a massively flawed design if there are open circuits below a grate in the floor susceptible to water damage. What if someone accidentally spills a drink any other time, and not just at a time convenient to bringing the Doctor out of a coma.
- And being brought back by a cup of tea is a bit too twee for me.
- The bit where he accidentally quotes the Lion King was amusing.
- Watching at the time, they did a good job of giving Torchwood a certain level of mystique.
- And if it was planned in advance and not just done to pay homage to Empire Strikes Back, the Doctor losing his hand so Jack can find it and keep it is nicely done.
- Some decent incidental music, and – if I’m not mistaken – the first time a proper song has been written to be played over a scene in a sort of Montage moment.
- And it’s quite a good one too; Song For Ten is on my MP3 Player.
- There’s an argument for the brief snippet of music from the end of Delta & The Bannermen being the first but I’m not having that.
- I like his new outfit.
- Doesn’t he look young compared to how he looked when he stopped playing the part? Doctor Who must age you.
- Straight from my “Things That Annoy Me On TV” Articles we have Rose stepping out of the TARDIS immediately after the events of The Parting of the Ways with newly bleached and straightened hair.
- Also, there’s a scene where the Doctor talks for ages without getting to the point he wanted to make, before collapsing. Argh. Just say what you want to say!!!
- DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #48. Not for me.
Doctor Who – The Christmas Invasion Review: Final Thoughts
As a piece of television for Christmas Day viewing, The Christmas Invasion has its moments.
But this also has to work as the debut episode for a new Doctor.
And yet while it manages to incorporate both of those factors in – and it does it well – it leaves a gaping hole of around 30-35 minutes where nothing much happens.
There’s not enough in the way of Christmas or the New Doctor, and too much of Rose squawking about how her obsession is “gone” when he’s clearly not.
So it’s a bit of a hit-and-miss effort for me, and certainly not one I’d put in my Top 50.