Monday, June 29, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 1x14: "The Christmas Invasion"

Written by Russell T. Davies
Directed by James Hawes

Ah, Christmas Day. Stuck between watching both Emmerdale and Coronation Street and wondering why I should even bother caring if Kat and Alfie leave together in EastEnders, I thought I had to watch Doctor Who.

I take that back! I have been on tether-hooks in anticipation for this special for the last six months and as we speak I’m counting my money to purchase Season One on DVD and while they were some slow moving elements to this Christmas special, I can easily say this was the TV treat of my night.

It’s been six months since “The Parting Of The Ways” and our special starts with Mickey and Jackie being disturbed from their individual loneliness when the TARDIS crash lands and our new Doc starts babbling incoherently before passing out and a beleaguered Rose appears.

Just like Jackie and Mickey, Rose too is unable to explain of her newly regenerated friend and Billie Piper plays her uncertainty and reluctance with such effect. It was a smart move to employ this tactic because for our Rose to easily accept The Doctor in his new form would’ve been unrealistic and there is an element of realism in both her and The Doctor’s relationship which is what has made them such an enjoyable team to watch.

Of course being Christmas, Rose’s hopes for a peaceful Yuletide are thankfully shattered (I know it sounds terrible but some Chrimbo Calamity was always going to be on order and it needed to be relatively big in order to justify this prelude to the second season) when a couple of plastic Santa’s add a new meaning to the term sleigh bells when they attack passer-bys on the street.

It’s eerily reminiscent in a way to the Autons attack in “Rose” and more havoc starts at home when the Christmas tree spins a hole in the house. Both of these attacks look pretty cool but only serve as a smoke and mirrors to the real threat of this year.

Enter the Sycorax, a rather nasty alien species intent on taking over the planet and to prove they’re not a force to be trifled with, they assume control over a third of the world’s population and threatens to kill them if the English government refuse to surrender.

Along with David Tennant’s first proper outing as the new Doctor, the episode sees the rather welcome return of Penelope Wilton as Harriet Jones who’s now an MP and given her not forgotten encounter with the Slitheen, Harriet has far from neglected to read up about other alien life forces.

A part of me thought she was brave to not surrender to the Sycorax but when they started killing off two of her staff (including the guy responsible for this species being able to use A positive blood as a controlling tool); I wanted to shout, “shut up” at the screen.

While the storyline does sleepwalk a little, things liven incredibly when the TARDIS gets teleported on the Sycorax’s space ship and Rose tries her best to appear threatening but fails miserably. Still though Billie Piper flexes her comedy skills and after the majority of the episode snoozing it up, our new Doc finally awakes and faces his first new foes in his new guise.

Now the moment of truth has landed – is David Tennant any good? Honestly I can say he is. He may have overplayed one or two pieces of dialogue but overall he did a bloody good job and there’s no way anyone can say his performance mirrors any of the previous incarnations of the Time Lord.

He’s definitely charming and his comments are offhand (his snarky remarks to Rose and Harriet) but his altercation with the Sycorax’s was the episode’s highlights. We got a proper battle with the two of them, neither holding back but what’s more, Tennant proved he wasn’t taking the piss when he said his Doctor was gong to be darker and it showed.

He relented at first with the Sycorax leader and was willing to let him go, until he tried his luck and our new Doc used a Satsuma to end his days. The ultimate sting in the tail was the surprisingly sour turn his friendship with Harriet took after she used a special contact to make sure the Sycorax would never be a threat again.

That scene in the street and his six words to Alex that look set to ruin Harriet’s career showed us he wasn’t a force to reckoned with. I bet Harriet now wishes she hasn’t been so hasty with her assassination of the Sycorax now.

As villains go, this lot worked out pretty well but we’ve had better ones. One thing that does strike me though is The Doctor saying that sending probes into space is making other life forces aware of human existence and vice versa. It’s only noteworthy because it felt like a kind of “D’oh!” moment.

The last five minutes of the episode felt like a re-establishment of “Rose” and it was. We had The Doctor chiding her about not trusting him and her more than happy to explore all the universes as well as Mickey moaning about her constant desire to leave him and her mum.

A while back I would’ve dismissed him as Rose’s desire to explore the world (thousands in her case) is understandable but ultimately I’m realising that Mickey does genuinely love her and is only slowing adjusting to the fact that he can’t be with her in the way he craves to be.

Jackie is also getting more rounded as a character too and I liked her turn as a carer for The Doctor during his recovery time as well as the hilarious but subtle Christmas dinner. Now wasn’t this better than EastEnders? All of you can say yes.

Also in “The Christmas Invasion”

I don’t remember there being a “Previously On” bit. They just jumped straight into the opening teaser.

Rose (re The Doctor): “He’s got two hearts.”
Jackie: “Anything else he’s got two of?”

Since we’ve last seen them, Mickey works as a mechanic and Jackie has been dating a fruit and veg man. At least it explained her having Men’s pyjamas for the Doctor in her possession.

The Doctor: “I need...”
Jackie: “Is it food? Something simple? Bowl of soup? Nice bowl of soup? Soup and a sandwich? Ooh soup and a little ham sandwich?”
The Doctor: “I need you to shut up!”
Jackie: “Oh he hasn't changed that much has he?”

Harriet (re the Sycorax): “And then tell them; this planet is armed and we do not surrender.”

I quite liked Harriet’s right hand man Alex, played by the gorgeous Adam Garcia. If we can’t have John Barrowman in Season Two, can we please have him? He can read alien languages, survived this episode, seems resilient and looks good in a suit. Plus it’s eye candy for Rose and a slight foil (in a friendly manner) for The Doctor, so why not?

Sycorax leader: “I demand to know who you are?”
The Doctor: “I don’t know.”

Sycorax Leader: “You stand as this world's champion?”
The Doctor: “Thank you. I've no idea who I am, but you've just summed me up.”

Character bits: The Doctor’s TARDIS and himself got cured by tea (I know silly) and his new gear is plimsols. Oh and Torchwood was mentioned several times. Is it a reference to a resurrected Captain Jack?

The Doctor: “Doesn’t she look a bit tired?”
Harriet: “What did he say?”
Alex: “Nothing.”

Did anyone else think the inside of the Sycorax’s ship look like the Hellmouth on Buffy the Vampire Slayer? I certainly did and the way they were lined up was similar to the way the ubervamps lined up at the end of Season Seven.

The Doctor (re hat): “It’s pink.”
Rose (to Jackie): “You should wear it.”

I liked the preview of Season Two and the option of playing the Attack Of The Graske at the end. I played it twice after this episode. Oh and the song was “Song For Ten” by Murray Gold.

As a Christmas special and a prelude to the upcoming season, “The Christmas Invasion” was a treat and the perfect remedy in another predictable Christmas TV line up. I enjoyed it a lot and I defy anyone who didn’t. In fairness, how could anyone hate something that doubles as being entertaining and informative at the same time.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

No comments: