Thursday, 21 August 2014

Doctor Who: Twelve For Twelve- The Christmas Invasion Review (Tenth Doctor)

''Did you miss me?''
What a year 2005 was. A phenomenally successful return to TV for Doctor Who was the highlight of a memorable year of television. No doubt in the minds of anyone: Doctor Who was back.

For some, it was perhaps still difficult to comprehend The Doctor back on our screens after 9 years following the, let's say divisive, TV Movie following the show's cancellation, as our own Harris and Andrew elaborated on . But the plunge had been taken with Christopher Eccleston capturing The Doctor for a new audience, investigated by Sophie in her review of Rose, Who's triumphant return. The rest was history.

 So The Doctor was back, yet Nine, for long, was not. Numerous creative issues resulted in the early departure of Eccleston in The Parting of the Ways, Series 1's finale. After so much hard work, a new Doctor was needed, so soon into the revival. Step forward David Tennant, famous for his appearance in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as Barty Crouch Jr and his role as the titular Casanova on BBC One.

An observation of his performances in these productions and it is clear in hindsight to see the influence in the Tenth Doctor. You have the suaveness and romance attributed to Casanova, combined with the madness and energy of Barty Crouch Jr to create the manic and flirty Ten. The energy in Ten was clear even in his brief first appearance after Nine's regeneration. With the higher pitched voice and cheeky grin, looking at this new Doctor from an initial perspective, perhaps the guilt and darkness overshadowing the Ninth Doctor would be dead and buried. No longer was The Doctor tough and raw; someone scrawny looking had took his place. In order to right the balance upset by Eccleston's exit, the BBC opted for a juxtaposition. From guilt to glee.

''So where was I? Oh that's right.....Barcelona''

And so we come to The Christmas Invasion. Christmas did you say? Indeed I did, for this was the very first Doctor Who  Christmas special ever produced. Whilst the honour of first Christmas episode goes to The Feast of Steven, the Tenth Doctor's debut episode became the first to be centered around Christmas itself, a trend that would become a hallmark of Christmas Day television. However, there is an interesting aspect to The Christmas Invasion that results in it standing out, for both Tennant's debut and future episodes to come: The Doctor barely appears.

 This review is a tricky one. Our series of reviews, Twelve For Twelve, have centered their focus on the introduction of their respective new Doctors. With The Christmas Invasion, this presents a problem. How can you coalate a review on a character who appears for roughly 20 minutes? It would be a short review indeed. No I tell you, a mix up is in order! Ten's debut episode offers a rare opportunity in Doctor Who canon. The absence of The Doctor opens up the chance for his companions and other characters to shine, take center stage and try to deal with issues without the genius (or sometimes deus ex machina) of The Doctor to aid them. So the question remains: how will the new Doctor himself shine?

''Ssssh sshh sshh! There was something I had to say! Something important! That's it! Merry Christmas!''

Reminiscent of Rose, we begin in orbit, a shot of the moon and slowly the Earth comes into view. Effectively we get a glimpse of the scale of this episode in the first seconds. No doubt the aforementioned 'invasion' in the title will span globally, and on our home planet to boot. It is fitting, that like Doctors previous, David Tennant should make his entrance on the planet The Doctor cares for the most. A dramatic decent in to the land of Great Britain and we see Jackie decorating her christmas tree. The overzealous zoom in to suddenly stop in Jackie's house is indicative of her character. interrupts the daily movements of Jackie and Mickey, who has returned to life in the mechanics shop without Rose by his side. The whirring draws the two together into an area of flats. The Doctor is coming, they think to themselves. Which means Rose too! The sound twists, distorting as the TARDIS erupts into view, pinballing between the buildings before crashing. Before long, a familiar sound:
''Here we are then. London! Earth! Solar System lovely! Jackie...and Mickey blimey!''
Out pops a man. A seemingly impossible man. Immediately, the way this new Doctor exits the TARDIS, even in a regeneration state, radiates with energy and life. It is quite polar opposite to Nine's slightly brutish demeanour, almost with a raw strength. Here is a bright, energetic Doctor, tripping over his words at lightning speed. With this energy there is a touch of Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker about him, the freneticness that transcends more subdued, darker forms such as Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy.

From this moment on, The Doctor will take a back seat from the action as he recovers from his regeneration. Rose takes a doubtful Mickey and Jackie back home with The Doctor. The sudden loss of her Doctor has left Rose not only lost, but unable to answer clearly who this man, laying in a bed in her home, truly is. Running off with this mysterious alien, her life has become one of adventure, almost druglike, dependent on him. Very much this episode is one of conflict for Rose. She must, like all previous companions, deal with a new Doctor, and contemplate what remains of her former friend. We observe her at the other end of the tunnel; in Rose, the conflict is in her decision to stay or leave with The Doctor. Here, she must tackle a seemingly entirely new man.
''Sycorax strong! Sycorax mighty! Sycorax rock!''

Even comatose, The Doctor brings trouble wherever he travels. Expulsions of regeneration energy while resting has attracted the attention of the Sycorax, a tribal inspired antagonist. Similar to debut stories such as Robot and Spearhead from Space, the threat takes place on Earth. Whilst this could entirely be a coincidence, it does serve as a perfect platform to showcase why this new man is indeed The Doctor. His passion and love for us human beings has long been established, never more so than during his exile on Earth as the Third Doctor.

''You are the most remarkable man I've ever met. But I don't quite think you're capable of that''
What is very clear is that the fierceness of the Ninth Doctor remains. David Tennant sublimely conveys submerged rage; this new Doctor was still not to be trifled with. Jackie finds this out for herself ''I need...I need....I need... I need you to shut up!''. This turns out to be another taster of the Tenth Doctor, as with a quick neuron implosion, Rose is left alone yet again. The existence of the Sycorax is now known, albeit briefly as a hoax to the public. The extent to which people rely on The Doctor is incredible during the period between his second collapse and his awakening. For Mickey in particular, the rift between himself and Rose becomes much more plain to see. He can not compete with The Doctor, not even on the smallest of margins. Despite his confident exclamation that ''I don't go around changing my face'', he continues to struggle to hold on to Rose, which Noel Clarke embodies with a reluctant sadness and sorrow. Harriet Jones (yes, we know who you are) is another returning character indebted to The Doctor. Being the Prime Minster, she personifies the country's and the world's need for his aid. Once again, Penelope Wilton portrays Harriet with a determined strength to do what is right, even in the face of those she knows are beyond her understanding.

David Tennant's Doctor finally flourishes in the closing act. There is a determined swagger in Ten's movement as he emerges from the TARDIS. Cheeky, frantic and bouncing, this new Doctor exuberats confidence. Tennant expertly captures The Doctor's quirky madness and throws it in the face of the Sycorax chieftain. Speed is his primary tool of the trade. Mix that with the knowledge of a Time Lord and you have a decidedly wizard-like Doctor, unafraid to flourish and flaunt his advantages to his enemies, enough to press a big red button his companions are convinced could kill 1/3 of the population. The Tenth Doctor is a rollercoaster of emotions, Tennant flowing from excitement to anger with consummate ease. It also seems, despite initial perceptions, that the darkness of the Ninth Doctor not only remains but could have intensified. This is a Doctor who offers no second chances. Oh, and he can wield a sword. Very Third Doctor.
''And it is going to be......fantastic''
 Manic is how I would best surmise the Tenth Doctor. Emotions can switched on and off with David Tennant at the helm, one minute disappointed with not being ginger, the next killing with no remorse and condemning the human race a 'monster'. His debut episode may not feature him as the centerpiece, but it's in that tiny morsel in which he does feature, a slideshow of joy and fury, that highlights why Tennant's Doctor may carry the most complex emotions of any Doctor preceding him.

Tomorrow, we conclude our build up to the premiere of Deep Breath with TGT writer Owen offering his thoughts on the predecessor to the Twelfth Doctor in The Eleventh Hour.