Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Doctor Who: Christmas Specials Revisited - The Christmas Invasion

Each day leading up to Christmas, we will be looking back at the Doctor's previous festive adventures, with a different TGT writer reviewing each episode. Kicking off our Christmas episode countdown, Ben reviews the first Christmas Special, 2005's The Christmas Invasion.
There was something I had to tell you, something important. What was it? No, hold on, hold on, shush… Oh, I know! Merry Christmas!
The Christmas Invasion is a momentous episode for two reasons. Firstly, it was the first ever Doctor Who Christmas Special - not counting the episodes that aired on Christmas Day. It set the benchmark for our festive dose of Who and started something that would become a tradition every year at this time. Secondly, it introduced the world to David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. So, with two big chunks of heavy anticipation resting on its shoulders, how did the first festive special do?

This episode was first broadcast in 2005. To give you an idea as to how long ago that was, Mickey has to connect his laptop to the phone line to get the internet!

The episode picks up from the Series 1 finale, with the newly regenerated Doctor and his no-longer-possessed-by-Bad-Wolf companion Rose inside the TARDIS, which is crashing its way into the Powell Estate. However, shortly after arriving, the Doctor conks out. The episode moves on with the Doctor tucked up in bed. In fact, he only really joins us until near the end when he has fully recovered. This was a bold move by Russell T Davies, knowing that viewers were anxious to see this new Doctor in action, he postponed it for as long as he could get away with so that when he finally does appear it’s a big, epic moment. Personally, I would have preferred to see the Doctor a little earlier, but within the context of the story it works well.
Just let it be Christmas. Can you do that? Just for a bit. You and me and Christmas. No Doctor, no bog monsters, no life or death.
Because the Doctor is napping during all the action, the focus shifts to Rose, Jackie and Mickey, who try to save the day in the Doctor’s absence. It’s nice to see a the domestic life and a bit of reality in the show, something that is slightly lacking in the show at the moment I feel. Jackie is, as she always was, a great character that brings a lot of the humour to the episode, including the ‘what do you need’ routine and her friend who keeps fruit in his dressing gown. Rose gives us a good idea of what it would be like to cope with the Doctor’s regeneration and even Mickey’s not too bad in this episode. We also have Harriet Jones, Prime Minister, and the first mention of Torchwood.

We have a few villains in this episode, starting with the Pilot Fish, a bunch of creepy robot Santas that serve as a good decoy monster. Then we have the Sycorax, an instantly iconic alien that has been popping up in underhenges and space bars ever since. However, the best villain of the piece is of course the killer Christmas tree, destroying the Tyler household whilst playing Jingle Bells, that thing is crazy!

Finally, we come to the Doctor himself and that glorious moment when he comes out of the TARDIS and within minutes we know what his Doctor is like. I’ll admit, Tennant is not one of my favourite Doctors, but this was back in the day, before all the ‘Time Lord victorious’ and timey-wimey always-weepy nonsense. We forget now, but when this episode first aired, most children will have only ever known Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, so for them this was like watching Patrick Troughton taking over from William Hartnell.

I’ll be honest, I only started watching the show with New Earth, so I didn’t get to experience that thrill, but my fellow writers assure me that it was a great experience. Though he’s not in it for long, the Tenth Doctor makes a big impact, with an impressive sword fight - in his pyjamas no less - with the Sycorax and another first with him choosing his iconic outfit.

With all this excitement, the plot could have been the least important element of the episode, but it is actually quite strong. A classic story of the Doctor having to fight - literally in this case - an alien race trying to take over the Earth, mixed with the repercussions of the Doctor’s regeneration and a few festive references to make this an interesting and fun episode. Whilst it may not be up there amongst the best episodes, it's still a good story that is a little piece of Doctor Who history.

Join us tomorrow, as Bedwyr reminisces about returning robot Santas and a companion-to-be in The Runaway Bride.