(Well nearly) and it seemed apt that the twelfth entry into the Gallifrey Archive should be a Christmas special. (Twelve days of Christmas and all that). Some would consider the 2005 Christmas Special the first ever Doctor Who Christmas episode; others would say the First Doctor story The Daleks’ Master Plan contained the first Christmas episode, entitled The Feast of Steven when the Doctor breaks the fourth wall to wish everyone at home a Merry Christmas. Whichever you feel is the first Christmas episode is totally irrelevant at the end of the day; because I’m still reviewing this one. Allons-y!
It’s Christmas Eve and high above London, the alien Sycorax are holding the Earth for ransom. The Tenth Doctor must recover from his regeneration in time to save the human race from slavery.
Only Doctor Who could have the tenacity to put their new leading man in bed for the majority of an episode, never mind on Christmas Day! The first half of this story could be considered Doctor-Lite as after telling Jackie to ‘Shut up’ (That was the moment all those years ago I fell in love with David Tennant’s portrayal of the Doctor) he collapses from the shock of his regeneration and needs to recover. What I love about this is the fact that we get to see Rose Tyler and her family (yes, I know Mickey isn’t technically family but he’s her boyfriend(ish)) come together to take on the role of the Doctor. Considering Rose is still in shock from witnessing the Time Lord she loved vanish to be replaced by some newer model, she handles the situation about as well as I think anyone should. She knows that the Doctor is still fundamentally the Doctor, and, even if it takes her a little time to fully trust him, at least she isn’t in a strop about the change and outright dismisses him. I’m looking at you Clara.
Rose is a bit of a Marmite companion for me; some episodes I absolutely adore her and some episodes I think she’s annoying, clingy and unlikeable. Luckily to help 9 year old me with the transition from the Ninth Doctor who was the first Doctor I ever watched, into this new Tenth Doctor who I had to learn to like, Rose was there like a rock for me. This is one of Rose’s strongest episodes in my opinion, as she has to prove to herself that she doesn’t need the Doctor in order to save the day; she’s perfectly capable on her own. Likewise with Mickey in this story, in the preceding Series One, Mickey was mainly the slapstick, farcical character in the show. The Ninth Doctor even referred to him as ‘Mickey the Idiot’ or called him ‘Ricky’ just to annoy him. After seeing him help Rose return to the Doctor in The Parting of The Ways, we get to see his character again shine in this episode somewhat. I think it’s a shame that we didn’t get to see more Mickey action in Series 2 after we learnt that he isn’t always the clumsy boyfriend, but can instead help save the world.
My absolute favourite character in this episode has to be the wonderfully downplayed Jackie Tyler. Her relationship with the Doctor had previously been extremely prickly, as it seemed to her that some older bloke had brainwashed her young, vulnerable daughter and taken her away from her mum. Luckily after the events of the Series 1 finale though, it seems that Jackie has become way more accepting of the Doctor and, even though I doubt she’d ever say it, I think that Jackie has a soft spot for him. Camille Coduri’s comedic timing is impeccable and she often underplays her more comedic moments. My favourite example of this is when Rose tells her that the Doctor has two hearts, she asks ‘Is there anything else he has two of?’. Some actors would have delivered that line in a camp, suggestive way, but Jackie seemed to ask with genuine curiosity rather than saying it to try and gain a reaction.
The threat of the episode, the Sycorax, look absolutely stunning, they could so easily have been just another mindless warrior race for Doctor Who with bony helmets, but instead they seemed a lot more cunning and sinister. The thing that really intrigued me about the Sycorax race was how much they seemed to rely on ransoms and negotiations. For example, if the Sontarans were wanting to mine the Earth for resources and slaves, they wouldn’t have controlled a large percentage of the human population as a negotiation tool, instead they would have gone in all guns blazing. I think that the fact that the Sycorax seemed to be more democratic than other alien races also inadvertently made me sympathise with them slightly. It seems clear that the Sycorax were just trying to survive and it so happened that Earth was a convenient planet for them. For this reason I feel that the actions that happen later on in this episode are a lot more harrowing.
Speaking of which, when the Doctor is on the Sycorax ship, fully recovered from his regeneration, we get to see a brilliant portrayal by David Tennant as the Time Lord. It would have seemed rather out of place for the Ninth Doctor’s first speech to have been The Circle of Life from The Lion King, but, for some strange reason, David Tennant manages to pull it off.
In hindsight, it’s clear that Russell T Davies was still trying to work out just exactly how the Tenth Doctor would act, which is why we get to see a lot of different aspects of different ideas that the Tenth Doctor could eventually become. My main example is the sword fight scene; I remember watching this all those years ago thinking we were going to get a more hands on, down and dirty Doctor (now looking back after seeing the Classics, I realise this was a lot like Jon Pertwee’s portrayal as the Third Doctor), however there is not really any stories where the Tenth Doctor is especially violent. The next time we really see a violent Doctor is in his swan song, The End of Time when we see him brandish a gun at both the Master and Rassilon.
The part of this episode that impacted me the most however, wasn’t the sword fight, or the global threat, or how impressive the Sycorax looked; it was how unnecessarily violent the Human Race can be. Once the Sycorax were defeated by the Doctor, they agreed to leave peacefully; a resolution I thought was perfect for Doctor Who. It was then decided by Harriet Jones (Prime Minister (Yes, I’m aware you probably know who she is)) that the Sycorax ship should be destroyed as a warning to any other alien civilisations watching that Earth is defended. I remember being genuinely shocked and disappointed in Harriet with these actions, as she’d been on the ship knowing that they were leaving peacefully. I guess it just goes to show how two faced people can be.
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For The Christmas Invasion, I will give a rating of: