Since the full review of Series 2 is taking a long time, I am posting early the review for the special Christmas episode, which technically is a “bridge” between Series 1 and 2 and thus doesn’t get officially counted as the second season’s first episode, even though it follows directly from the Series 1 finale and plays first on the Series 2 DVDs. Despite being denied an official number, it’s still an important episode. If you go straight from Episode 1.13 “The Parting of the Ways” to Episode 2.01 “New Earth,” you’ll be missing some awfully important stuff.
Series: Doctor Who
Season.Episode: 2.00 “The Christmas Invasion” (special episode bridging Series 1 and 2)
Original Air Date: Christmas Day 2005
Length: 45 minutes each
Writer: Russell T. Davies
Lead Actors: David Tennant (The Tenth Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler)
Synopsis: “A newly-regenerated Doctor must battle the Sycorax. But he can’t do that when he’s lying unconscious in Rose’s house…” (from Wikipedia)
Reason for Watching: I think I’m now addicted to Doctor Who.
Episode Re-watchability: Not as much as the best DW episodes, but as with all of them, I could watch it again and be entertained.
Final Verdict: A fine transition into a new season and a New Doctor. This episode is a good example of one of the show’s key strengths and one of its weaknesses. The strength is how in tune it is with the reactions of its audience, such that it can guide the transition from one intensely charismatic Doctor to another quite gracefully. The weakness is its often-heavy-handed and hypocritical pacifism. However, I’ve come to accept that weakness as simply coming with the territory, at least while Davies is Head Writer.
There was no guarantee Tennant would be popular, so the decision to keep him incapacitated for most of the episode (from his regeneration) was actually a shrewd one: aliens are invading and we feel liking yelling “Wake up, Doctor, WAKE UP!” We want him, we’re desperate for him to show up. And not just the audience, but the characters also. Rose sobs as she realizes that the Ninth Doctor is really, truly gone, and cannot come back. She’s not sure if she likes the Tenth Doctor, simply because he’s different and he replaced the Ninth. Both Jackie Tyler and Mickey are also a bit confused about the Tenth, unsure of how to treat him. Thus the supporting cast and the audience empathize with each other on the subject of Eccleston’s leaving.
The plot involves a typical, straightforward alien invasion that’s not too interesting by itself, but does allow for some memorably goofy bits. Evil street Santas, killer robotic Christmas trees, the Doctor getting saved by a cup of tea and challenging an alien overlord to a sword duel while in his pajamas…you know, typical Doctor Who! The feel is very reminiscent of Series 1’s pilot “Rose,” with the killer mannequin zombies, where the plot is just an excuse to introduce the new characters. We also get to see our old friend Harriet Jones, former M.P. of Flydale North, now Prime Minister because of the level-headed way she navigated the British government through crisis in Episodes 1.4-5 “Aliens of London” and “World War Three.” And oh yes, that mysterious name Torchwood is becoming more dangerous.
Here is where that hypocritical pacifism comes in that I don’t buy or like. The Doctor beats the Sycorax leader in single combat and, per their agreement, forces the Sycorax to retreat from Earth peacefully. But as the Sycorax spaceship begins to fly out of Earth’s atmosphere, PM Harriet Jones makes a call to Torchwood, and a green Death Star-like laser shoots out from the city of London and destroys it. Furious, the Doctor claims that she is the real monster because she breached a peace agreement and committed murder; furthermore, he brings down her government by planting suspicions in the British public that she is “tired,” despite the fact she is still implied to be highly capable and intelligent.
I don’t think the Doctor is right to do this at all, but the show seems to agree with him. The peace agreement was between the Doctor and the Sycorax, and he did not consult Jones or any other Earth leaders for it, meaning it had no authority. The Doctor was presumptuous and arrogant in doing that. Plus, the Sycorax were warlike and bent on the destruction of humanity – how is Jones to know that they have a sense of honor or keep their word? So many aliens we’ve met in the series haven’t. It wasn’t the most chivalrous thing for Jones to do, but I don’t think it was wrong. It was shrewd, and the Doctor was out of line to deny Britain the right to protect itself.
The reason this bugs me more than usual (such as similar pacifism in Episode 1.06 “Dalek”) is because it makes the end of this Christmas episode very bitter. Sure, it’s touching that the Doctor finally allows himself to share Christmas dinner with Rose and her family, but when it’s revealed that what they think is the season’s first snow is really burnt ash from the Sycorax ship falling back to Earth, what are we to feel? In the DVD commentary, Russell T. Davies says he wanted to avoid an ending that’s “too happy.” Well, he miscalculated for this one – Christmas shows are supposed to be “too happy.” That’s one of the reasons we have them in the first place!
But to end on a better note, we do get to see the Tenth Doctor put together his iconic and incredibly sharp costume at the end.
The Doctor: Am I… ginger?
Rose: No, you’re just sort of… brown.
The Doctor: [disappointed] Aw, I wanted to be ginger! I’ve never been ginger! And you, Rose Tyler! Fat lot of good you were! You gave up on me! [Rose looks annoyed] Ooh, that’s rude. Is that the sort of man I am now? Am I rude? Rude and not ginger.