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The Christmas Invasion

The 2005 Doctor Who Christmas Special
Shane Anderson

After watching the first season of the new Doctor Who, I have to admit to often being disappointed in it. Granted, the show is quite often creative, well acted and has good production values. All well and good, but subjects have been added that have no place in a family program. I’m disappointed in the gutter morality being displayed, particularly in the off-color jokes that turn up in almost every episode. For a family show to discuss and joke about sexuality of all kinds is beyond the pale, particularly since that’s a topic best left to parents. I don’t care to hear the Doctor swear. That’s a very human habit, and the Doctor’s always been above that in the past. The constant intrusion of the author’s political views also grates, as does the moral equivalence that’s been drawn between the Doctor and his enemies on at least three occasions. All of this can be laid square at the feet of Russell T. Davies, executive producer and head writer.

All of which leads me to my point, that I now go into an RTD scripted episode expecting the worst and have to be won over. One may wonder just why I bother watching the show, and it may be that like my experience with the EDAs that culminated in the utter trash that was “Adventuress of Henrietta Street”, that there may come a point when I’ve had enough and drop the new series as well, as much as I’d rather not. However, to my relief, Mr. Davies has written a pretty good script when it comes to “The Christmas Invasion”. It has some of the same flaws as his other work, but on the whole it works rather well. Unfortunately, rather than being something entirely new, it is “Aliens of London/World War 3” told with more restraint. As such, if it wasn’t for the new Doctor it would feel very much like the retread that it is. The fact that I can actually take the Sycorax more seriously as a threat (“Sycorax rock” aside... ugh) than I could the Slitheen, and the fact that I’m interested in seeing how the Doctor is ultimately characterized keep me from feeling as if I’ve seen this all before.

“You’re drawing attention to yourself.” After umpteen-million invasions of Earth in the late 20th century, an alien invasion finally occurs that can’t be covered up. I find it difficult to believe that everything from Mondas itself approaching Earth to the Slitheen crashing through Big Ben have been covered up and explained away, but that was something that much of the old series didn’t handle any better than the new one, so I’ll let it go. The idea of an invasion that affects 1/3 of the Earth’s population and thus makes aliens an everyday fact of life for our planet is interesting to say the least, as is the long overdue fact that the Earth has salvaged alien technology that enables it to defend itself. As always with Doctor Who it’s a cut-rate invasion with just one ship, although thanks to CGI we have more than ten aliens. There is an armada mentioned but not seen. The ship itself is large and impressive, casting a foreboding shadow over London. The Sycorax themselves are very much like Klingons, aren’t they? They speak a harsh guttural language, are aggressive, bound by rules of combat, and fond of melee weapons. However their apparent belief in mysticism and ‘spell-casting’ set them apart from most aliens, and their stone spaceship that looks like a flying mountain is very distinctive, particularly when it’s casting a dark shadow over London. The blood control gambit to essentially hold the world hostage is another clever idea, and a reasonable way for a single spaceship to be an effective threat.

“Harriet Jones, Prime Minister”. Yes, we know who you are. This particular character was the best part of AOL/WW3 (possibly the only good part), and it’s very nice to see her again. She has a good rapport with her ‘right hand man’, and generally projects an air of confidence and strong leadership. Except of course when she gets on national TV and begs for help from the Doctor. I’m sorry, but no national leader with any pride is going to go on television and make themselves look weak. Jones’ decision to fire on the retreating Sycorax spacecraft is absolutely correct, and it’s disappointing to see the Doctor acting vindictive and childish. One hopes that she survives the no-confidence vote.

“He left me mom. He left me!” I’m of two minds about Rose. On the one hand, I have no patience with this Doctor/Rose unspoken romance nonsense, which leads me to roll my eyes when Rose pulls a jealous fit or gushes or cries over the Doctor. On the other hand, watching the Doctor regenerate must be very much like losing a close friend, and Rose’s grief at the loss is understandable. Rose herself helps to carry much of the episode while the Doctor is unconscious, and her attempt to ‘play the Doctor’ and bluff the Sycorax is highly amusing, as well as being admirable.

“Now I know what kind of man I am.” The Eccleston to Tennant change reminds me somewhat of the changeover from Pertwee to Baker, in that we’re going from an essentially straight and earnest portrayal of the Doctor to a more eccentric and humorous one. Tennant certainly seems to exude the Doctor’s characteristic eccentricity more easily than Eccleston did. On the other hand, he often seems to be walking a very thin line between playing the character seriously and trying to be Tom Baker at his most energetic, which simply isn’t going to work for anyone other than Tom Baker. An example of a good scene played well is the Doctor’s dispatch of the killer tree. Tennant is suitably sombre when wondering about the aliens who sent the tree, and then again when threatening them from the balcony. However once he steps out of the TARDIS on board the Sycorax ship, he veers perilously close to camp. In the face of numerous threatening armed aliens he takes time to walk around and greet Rose and Harriet Jones, worried more about his hair color than the threat. Of course, it’s just as absurd that the Sycorax allow him to get away with it. The sword fight is reasonable, and is in character for the Doctor. The severing of the Doctor’s hand is remarkably blood and pain free (and thus rather unconvincing), as well as instantly bringing to mind the severing of Luke Skywalker’s hand in The Empire Strikes Back. However, the ability of the Doctor to regrow his hand due to the lingering effects of his regeneration is pretty creative. The button on the side of the ship that collapses just the right wing section to allow the Sycorax champion to fall to his death is too incredibly convenient to be believable. Please, think these things through before they are commit ed to film!

The humor in this episode is sometimes crass, as seems to be RTD’s wont. There are a couple of instances that work very well however. The repeated use of “Harriet Jones, Prime Minister” joke pays off when even the Sycorax leader says “Yes, we know who you are.” The killer Christmas tree ought to be too stupid for words, but when it starts chopping through walls and furniture, accompanied by a sort of hyper-Jingle Bells musical score while Jackie screams “I’m going to be killed by a Christmas Treeeeeee” I just have to laugh. The Doctor’s sword fight in his pajamas is genuinely amusing and the revival of the Doctor with tea just feels exactly right.

Happy smiles and celebrations all around are cut short when Harriet Jones gives the order to destroy the retreating Sycorax ship. Her position is entirely reasonable given what the Sycorax have just done to Earth, and her argument that the Earth has to defend itself when the Doctor isn’t around is quite sound. Frankly the Doctor looks very petty and somewhat self-important when he takes his revenge and sets in motion events which hurt Jones’ status as Prime Minister. I suppose it’s okay for the Doctor to kill aliens who threaten Earth, but not for humans to defend themselves. It does make him look very hypocritical.

I enjoyed the sequence in the wardrobe where the Doctor chooses his new clothes. It’s nice to see more of the TARDIS than just the console room. It’s great to see the fourth Doctor’s burgundy scarf as a nod to the past. Tennant looks more Doctorish with his collar and tie and long coat than Eccleston did with his t-shirt and leather jacket, and I wonder if the pin-stripe suit is again, a bit of a tribute to Tom Baker, who seemed to wear such suits for a while back in the 90s. The Christmas dinner shows us a different side to this Doctor, who would not have sat around the table with the Tylers and Mickey before. The final scenes put a damper on the festive ending however, with ash instead of snow as the Sycorax ship burns up in the atmosphere.

Overall, a promising beginning for David Tennant. He needs to settle down and take things a bit more seriously, but he already fits the part better than Christopher Eccleston, despite the fine job Eccleston did. The story is yet another tiresome alien invasion of contemporary Earth, but at least it’s big and public and shakes up the status quo so that something new is brought into the mix. One of Russel Davies better attempts. Worth watching.

Donna Bratley

I watched series one. I even enjoyed quite a bit of it. But there was one thing increasingly disturbed me on the way to episode thirteen.

I really didn’t like what the Doctor had become.

It’s not Christopher Eccleston’s fault, although he never seemed to catch the inherent oddities of the character to me. He was given a set of scripts that turned a hero into a time-travelling chauffeur, carrying the real star of the show to whatever time and place her greater common sense and interpersonal skill could be best used to save humanity.

Billie Piper was outstanding, and that’s not something I expected to find myself saying when her casting was announced. But what the Hell had Mr Davies, that self-proclaimed Doctor Who fan, actually done to the Doctor?

Maybe my lowered expectations for The Christmas Invasion worked in my favour. The first forty minutes may have dragged at times (especially with Rose was wailing on her mother’s shoulder about the Doctor abandoning her) but boy, did it pick up when the Doctor got going!

I had my doubts when David Tennant’s casting was announced. I knew very little of him as an actor, but I knew his age, and I knew what he looked like; and in neither respect did he fit my mental picture of the Doctor. That’s as good a call on my part as doubting Ms Piper proved to be.

From the moment he pulls the electrocuting whip thing out of the Sycorax’s hand with an indignant line about its more trivial danger, the Tenth Doctor absolutely owns The Christmas Invasion, amply atoning for the length of time we’re made to wait to see him. Darting around the highly impressive interior of the spaceship, talking at a million miles an hour, attention flitting between Rose, the Sycorax and Harriet Jones, he’s instantly the Doctor, and immediately in charge. It’s a joyous performance, infecting even the lines which ought to make you groan. "Can’t get the staff," he says, deadpan, before debunking the blood control threat in the last way you could be expecting. Wonderful.

I loved the Lion King speech, with its emphasis on admiration for humanity. I loved the Doctor suddenly pulling himself up on being rude, something his last incarnation appeared to take pleasure in. Most of all, I loved the payoff to Rose’s sulk about tea. "The solution to everything" indeed.

Tennant is obviously at home in the role, more so in twenty minutes than Eccleston appeared in a whole series. The Doctor has his old love of being the Doctor back, and that is the best piece of news since it was first announced he was returning to our screens.

It’s just as well Tennant is so good, since the first two-thirds of the episode are spent showing how much the Doctor is actually needed. So much for Rose, the equal companion. Full marks to Billie, she gives it plenty of lip-tremble, but the character has guts, and the actress is at her best when showing them. Her scared, defiant little speech to the invading hordes was her best moment of the episode, but it all pointed up the same thing. Someone’s gotta be the Doctor, as she said; pity only the Doctor can be.

Much has been made of the Doctor’s power, bringing down a Prime Minister with six words, but really, didn’t Harriet Jones destroy herself? What hope for a national leader who appears live on television admitting she can’t cope with a crisis? It doesn’t take a political correspondent to estimate the life expectancy of that kind of creature, even if she did hint at the kind of masculine genitalia her factual equivalent could do with displaying to his fellow "statesmen". The suspension of disbelief has its place in Doctor Who, but it works better for me with images of great big alien spaceships casting shadows over two great British fighting men than with an implausible PM pressing the self-destruct button on her career.

Still, Penelope Wilton is an actress who doesn’t know how to give a bad performance, and just when the incessant introduction was beginning to grate came the payoff. The translated "Yes, we know who you are" was one more clever Russell T Davies touch. Like the Sycorax leader (a bravura turn from Sean Gilder) suddenly spouting English, making Rose and everyone else turn to the TARDIS. Like the revelation of the Sycorax on Jackie’s television screen. He may have difficulty constructing a coherent plot at times, but the Head Writer certainly knows how to grab his audience.

Speaking of plot, I thought The Christmas Invasion RTD’s best to date. I don’t pick through every episode; if it’s entertaining and it hangs reasonably, I won’t mind the odd unanswered question (such as, what was the point of the pilot fish, except to add a bit of festive colour?). I could do without his obsessive interest in the Tyler domestic angle; Jackie still irritates, despite Camille Coduri getting one perfect moment in the kitchen. Just watch her look of hurt when Rose snaps at the inevitable "is he a different man?" question. I’ve seen that look on my own mother’s face, more often than I care to remember. A few seconds of real relationship adds immeasurably to any programme. More, and you’re watching Eastenders.

I’m no expert on special effects, but bashing up the Gherkin raised a cheer, and the Sycorax ship, like the Sycorax themselves, impressed. The image of still, silent figures ready to jump from great landmarks like the Coliseum was a bit grim (especially for a Christmas broadcast) but admirably effective in conveying the scale of the Sycorax threat. I could’ve done without Murray Gold’s crescendo of music as the TARDIS doors opened up, but that’s a nitpick. Otherwise, I barely noticed his work, which I mean as a compliment. Background music should remain that; it’s only noticeable to me if it jars.

I haven’t mentioned Mickey. Which means he didn’t make me want to put a foot through the screen. That’s an improvement on last year. Thanks, Noel Clarke.

And thank you, Russell T Davies for restoring the natural order of Doctor Who (with a bit of help from David Tennant). For the first time, I felt like I was watching my old favourite again. 8 out of 10!

Andy Markham

After the fantastic ending to Series 1, or 27, I was on a huge high. Like everyone else, I wanted to see David Tennant go to the plant Barcelona. Right now. Not in six months.

Over the next few days and weeks, everyone slowly recovered. I watched the episode again next week and instead of the sheer happiness I felt last time,I now felt a little bit worried. For some reason, I really wasn't liking Mr.Tennant. I needed to read up on him and get a feel for his character. I watched ITV1's Secret Smile which didn't really help, because he was a villain. Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire didn't really bolster my confidence either. I was seriously worried that this new Doctor was going to be some sort of maniac.

6:59, Christmas Day. Too late now to worry. I ran upstairs and pressed record on the video, then ran down again, on that same high from The Parting Of The Ways. And it begins. The TARDIS makes a bizarre but thrilling landing. The Doctor calls Mickey by his name. He continuously hugs Jackie. I like this Doctor, I'm thinking. For a couple of reasons.

One: I loved Chris Eccleston's happy-go-lucky style, but David Tennant brings something more. He keeps quiet when he's not needed, and tells people what they need to know, while Doctor 9 would hide the truth and convince everyone that everything will be fine. He tells Harriet Jones and Rose straight that Earth is being noticed and they are not safe. I like this, because Chris' unacceptant nature was the one thing tat really annoyed me.

Two: His friendly nature. I keep mentioning this, but I love the way he's willing to be a member of the Tyler family. I was very happy indeed when he sat down for Christmas dinner with the family. It shows that this Doctor is more of a family man, and I prefer that to the Eccelston Doctor's attitude, which was frankly, rude.

So. The episode. I really find it hard to faullt it, but I'll get my little cons out of the way.

I didn't like how much Earth has drastically changed within the space of six months. Harriet Jones has already not only become Prime Minister, but wrote an autobiography. She has been a busy lady!

This episode was all very "christmas special'. The rules for this sort of special are that no one dies, it concentrates on unimportant characters, the enemy is completely harmless, and it's all just a bit of a trailer for the next installment.

But enjoyable. I loved absolutely everything else about this episode. It has humour, horror, drama, weepy scenes and two quotes from The Lion King! And a refernce to Hitchhiker's! What more could one want?

It might have been a teaser, but it definitely worked. If the rest of the series' episodes are this good, i'll be a very happy bunny. They probably will, judging by the series trail. There's a lot more of this to come! YAY! You've done it again, Russell T. Davies...

Will Hadcroft

Like all the stories from the pen of Russell T Davies so far (with the possible exception of The Parting of the Ways), David Tennant’s debut adventure, and the series’ very first official Christmas special is a mixture of the sublime and the awful. There are big concepts, witty lines and memorable moments, but there are also cheap looking set pieces, embarrassing throwaway gags and too-easy-by-far resolutions. It’s the sort of hurried mishmash Andrew Cartmel would have endorsed.

The Christmas Invasion opens with the TARDIS popping into the real world above Rose’s council estate and literally bouncing off the buildings and crashing on to the street. It’s a great effect and one cannot help but wind it back and watch it again. The newly regenerated Doctor tumbles out, wide eyed and Tom Bakeresque. But the moment is ruined when Jackie exclaims, “The Doctor? Doctor who?” How many police box travelling Doctors does she know? It is clear that Rose is claiming the newcomer is the Doctor both Jackie and Mickey have met before. The gag doesn’t work as well as Rose’s, “Don’t you ever get tired of being called Doctor?” retort in Stephen Moffatt’s excellent The Doctor Dances. Here it hits the floor with all the subtlety of a thud.

Then it’s into Murray Gold’s rather lovely arrangement of the theme music, with its perfect blend of Delia Derbyshire inspired sounds and brand new orchestrations (the best rearrangement since the Pertwee/Baker version?), synchronised with that stunning re-imagining of Bernard Lodge’s slit-scan time vortex title sequence; together they slap a smile on the face and fill one with wonder and anticipation.

The Doctor is out of action and recovering from the regeneration process, and so it’s over to the soap-styled realism of the everyday, and in particular the strained relationship between Rose, her boyfriend Mickey and her mother Jackie. There are some nice touches, with Penelope Wilton’s Harriet Jones making a welcome return as Prime Minister of a new British golden age, and some lovely continuity in the form of scaffolding around a recently restored Big Ben (it having been extensively wrecked by the Slitheen in Aliens of London).

Rose and Mickey go Christmas shopping and then all hell breaks loose as aliens dressed as trombone playing Santas open fire. This scene would easily be at home in a Sylvester McCoy serial, with upbeat poppish music accompanying a flurry of sparks and a lot of running around. Indeed, Rose continues to bear more of a resemblance to Sophie Aldred’s Ace than any other classic series companion. All she needs is a rucksack full of Nitro and some out-dated slang and she’d be made.

The Santa scene is guilty of what critic Bonnie Greer claimed of Eccleston’s debut adventure March last year. It looks cheap and staged. It doesn’t look real. A bit of tinsel, a few lights, and virtually every extra carrying a wrapped present – it isn’t convincing at all.

Another McCoy era staple is littering stories with fanciful ideas seemingly for the sake of it. Davies equally prefers fantastic visual imagery over proper plotting and character driven drama. This is served up as a homicidal Christmas tree – a tremendous special effect, and one that will stay with people for years, but there only as a bit of superficial nonsense.

The adventure comes to life momentarily as the Doctor bursts from his regenerative sleep, expels the killer fir tree and engages Jackie in a genuinely funny comic routine. However, the moment he returns to a comatose state, so does the viewer’s interest.

In fact, I would say the first half of the special, with the exception of one or two moments, is a bit boring. This isn’t helped by the amount of incidental music supplied by Murray Gold. The composer does what he does exceptionally well, but is it really necessary to point up absolutely every emotion? Sometimes less is more, and here Gold’s music is too generic. It creates an effect opposite to the one desired.

And despite all the attempts to keep us hooked in, one thing becomes sparklingly clear: Doctor Who without the Doctor is rather dull.

The story only really becomes absorbing when the Sycorax reveal themselves and people are ready to jump from the roofs of London’s buildings (and by implication roofs all over the globe) like hypnotised lemmings. Harriet Jones and her aids are teleported up to the Sycorax ship and their exchange with the alien leader is mesmerising.

The scene where Rose breaks down and mourns the loss of the Ninth Doctor is genuinely touching. There she encapsulates how many a youngster might well have been feeling as they waited for the Doctor to recover (Piper proves she deserves all the accolades heaped upon her. Never before has a companion’s emotional response to the Doctor changing his face and personality been so real).

If the story only really picks up at the half-way point, then it becomes must-see telly in the last fifteen minutes. The moment it all changes is a simple one: David Tennant emerges from the TARDIS fully born as the Tenth Doctor. Witty, unpredictable, staring, smiling, euphoric, angry, like Eccleston before him, he convinces us he is the Doctor and we embrace him. Our hero has come back to life. By the time he has chosen his pinstripe suit, World War Two trench coat and worn his old fashioned British National Health glasses, we have forgotten there ever were any previous Doctors.

As the closing credits roll, one cannot help but await with great eagerness the onset of Series Two. The Christmas Invasion is not the best Doctor Who adventure ever to grace our screens, but it is better than any first outing for a new Doctor since Robot and sets the pace for what is to follow.

Rob Shade

It's with great pleasure that I write this, my enthusiastic review of Christopher Eccleston's final adventure!

What's that, you ask? That isn't right. Surely you're mistaken. This is The Christmas Invasion (TCI), the FIRST adventure for David Tennant!

But no, I disagree - in part at least. You see, something is going on in the story that escapes the eyes of the viewer at first glance. You may choose to differ on this, but I think that after reading my words, you will at the very least understand. Let's go back...

When the Ninth Doctor regenerated, he didn't skip a beat, remaining standing and in command of his situation. Sure he transformed and there was a momentary sense of imbalance, but he continued in his conversation with Rose as though nothing had happened. And for the Doctor, regenerating may not be a personal everyday experience, but he's done it numerous times, so he shakes it off, only realizing a minute later that Rose is quite in the dark. He probably never even expected to make a change so soon after having done it just months ago, so telling Rose all about this aspect of his life wasn't a high priority.

Moving into the story proper of TCI, we see a new-faced Doctor stagger from the TARDIS, joyously greet Jackie and Mickey, then subsequently collapse to the ground. He hasn't even taken time to examine his new features, as we discover much later in the story, having to ask Rose whether he's gotten better looking or not. But this is not David Tennant here. Oh, no! This is still our Christopher, our Ninth Doctor, looking out through the eyes of a new body.

As the story progresses, we see this surface from time to time. He knows there's trouble and wants to do something but he can't. This trait is not exclusive to any one Doctor, certainly, but carrying over from Chris's strong-willed determination and daring (traits that were unquestionably augmented in his ninth life) we see a Doctor who is trying to discover who he is now.

As a side-note here I would say this is thankfully done without a tremendous amount of post-regenerative amnesia, as has been done to death in the past. Particularly with the Eighth Doctor, whom I've personally dubbed, "The Amnesiac Doctor". Really, if you go back and look, Paul McGann's run was beset by multiple plotlines in which the Doctor loses his memory: The TV Movie, the novelizations of The Eight Doctors as well as the whole recent, multi-year story-arc in which he traumatically loses it, and in more than one Big Finish Adventure!

But back to the present... It isn't until our new David Tennant model emerges toward the end of the story, that all of these things are really made apparent, as he strolls idly about the Sycorax ship musing over what the breadths and depths of his personality truly are. Never before has the transformation and recovery been address in such a thoughtful and existential manner. And this is where I make the obligatory and much-deserved nod to Russel T. Davies for crafting the new, modern and intelligent mood of the show.

You see, it's the NINTH Doctor in that dressing gown, ambling around the room. Asking himself what he's all about. And maybe also asking Rose, who knows him better than anybody else in the room. He begins as stated earlier by asking for her appraisal of his new appearance. Then, apologizes after harshly scolding her for losing faith in him, something I think we all wanted to do at one point or another during the story. But of course that would be unfair to Rose, as this is again, all new to her. It was the NINTH Doctor, laying in bed and wishing he could get up and save the world. It was the NINTH Doctor who battled the Sycorax leader, lost his hand and - freaking awesomely - grew himself a new one, adding some more guidelines to the process of regeneration for all us geeks out here. Apparently within the first 15 hours post-regen, you can slice him, dice him (within limits) and he can rebuild himself right before your eyes! Something we've imagined for decades, now made fact right before our eyes.

It isn't until the end of the story that the Ninth Doctor finally gives his nod and moves on. You may think that this takes place in the TARDIS wardrobe, which we finally get to see in all it's comic-book-magnitude glory, but actually, it's at the very end of the story. As the Doctor prepares to leave with Rose, he elicits one of his commentaries on the wonders of the universe and, sidling up to Rose, glances sidelong at her saying, "It's gonna be... Fantastic!" And with that last vestige of his old self bobbing to the surface, you could almost see the Ninth Doctor behind his eyes, turning and walking off.

Goodbye Christopher Eccleston... Thank you for hanging on a bit longer!

Basically, I saw this as David Tennant playing Christopher Eccleston's Doctor coming to terms with his new self. It isn't a Ninth Doctor-esque performance that David is delivering, but that of a Doctor in-bewteen. You may say, Well, of course he is, that's obvious! But really, never has a DW story been written or performed that showcased the sense of the old giving way to the new upon changing Doctors.

Other enjoyable touches were the lopping off of the Doctor's right hand, on account of the fact that in the mini-adventure last month, he complained about a "slight weakness in the dorsal tubercle". The fact that he affects a Texas accent and proclaims, "This new hand is a FIGHTIN' hand!" suggests that his malady has not only been rectified, but that his new extremity is actually enhanced. Probably like a bone being stronger after having been broken and re-set. And good for him!

Mickey seems to have evolved in accepting Rose's new lifestyle, moaning sadly that she's never going to want to stay home. He knows that the Doctor isn't a threat to whatever relationship he and rose may have. Not in that way. But she's still outside of our dimension with another fellow, and that can't be easy for him. You just want to hug the poor guy. But we know that eventually she'll stop traveling one day. I'm sure we're all hoping that the kids come together in the end.

My only slight criticism (and this is totally unfair to point out, so don't think it actually bothered me beyond the minute I thought of it) is the way in which the Sycorax stand back and let the Doctor run off at the mouth. It felt like all the threat and suspense and tension stopped. Like these guys would just let some human-like creature take over the situation for trivial bantering. But of course, yes, yes, absolutely... this is what Doctor Who is. There have been endless encounters in which the Doctor talked an alien threat stupid with his endless banter. So, I'll say that the moment pressed my suspension of disbelief a bit, but my better sense made me get over it and just enjoy the show.

Oh! And UNIT! Proper UNIT! Total, in-your-face, situation room UNIT, like we've always imagined! Now all we need is for Nick Courtney to do a drop in sometime soon. Please?

And it's got to be said how cool it was for Harriet Jones to put our sometimes arrogant government in it's place by making a statement to keep its nose out of the matter. It was such a disappointment to see her corrupted by her zeal to protect her people. One couldn't help feeling sorry for her, having realized what she has done.

Ah! And the Doctor mocking of the the leader's booming voice was priceless! Perfect Adams-Esque lampooning of the science-fiction genre.

And as for the trailer at the end... I can't wait! I will say this also: Come on! Anthony Head is the Master! Got to be! "Mr. Finch" sounds so like a classic Master cover name! And who isn't anxious the see the new Metropolis-style Cybermen in action?

One might say that the Tenth Doctor's persona has taken a turn for the better in a way. Last season we would see him doing everything possible to avoid spending time with Jackie, calling Rose from the TARDIS and somewhat rudely declining an invitation to dinner. Chris's Doctor was a loner, yet a lonely one. He shunned those he didn't feel that close to, probably due to fear of losing anybody, especially considering he'd just recently lost his entire world. So when he did in fact meet someone worthy of his attentions, it really mattered to him that they would agree to travel with him.

David's attitude is warmer, more receptive, embracing. We actually see the Doctor sitting at table with the Tylers and Mickey, laughing and enjoying himself. And I'd say we're all happy for him to have opened up and allowed the domestics inside finally. He doesn't rush off this time, but stays for dinner and pulls a cracker or two.

It will be a fascinating seeing how the more mature Sarah Jane receives this new, vital Doctor. Will he tell her of the Time Lords' demise? Will she find him dishy? You just can't tell in this new series. Who'd have thought we could actually be this surprised by a show we've watched for decades? Definitely not the reality we ever thought we'd be enjoying a few years ago!

Andrew Philips

What do you get if you cross Independence Day with Time And The Rani?

To be fair, it would do The Christmas Invasion a great disservice to compare it to either of the above, although there are certainly elements of both present. However, this episode is far more coherent, intelligent and entertaining than either.

The Christmas Invasion has to satisfy several requirements, not least of which is convincing nine million people that it is still part of the same show which starred Christopher Eccleston a mere nine months ago. Repeating the opening shot from his first episode, and then focussing most of the first half on the characters we already know and love (Rose, Mickey, Jackie and Harriet) is therefore a wise move and works very effectively. Less effective, though, is the danger they are quickly put in, with the attack of the Santas and the Christmas Tree. There are no explanations as to why or how these "pilotfish" (what a gorgeously bizarre term that is) take these forms, or how they arrive on Earth in advance of the main threat, or how they are so easily disposed of. The Santas are very sinister, however, and Murray Gold's hyperactive Jingle Bells music plays an immense part in making the tree so scary. More chilling than either of these is the instant hold the Sycorax have on a third of the population, and the idea that they could kill them with the touch of a button.

The arrival of the beautifully designed Sycorax spaceship allows for some of the best effects yet seen in Doctor Who, as both the Powell Estate and yet another prominent London landmark are extensively trashed. The effects triumph extends to the Sycorax themselves, who are one of the most impressive looking (if very slightly rubbery) aliens to appear in the show for a very long time.

The new Doctor finally appears for his first confrontation, and here's where things start to go runny. The tension of the moment is utterly spoiled by the lengthy and all-too-self-aware dialogue he spouts whilst the evil alien menace simply stands and watches him reintroduce himself to everybody before he bounds about their ship like Bugs Bunny. We then suddenly learn that the Sycorax's plan to kill a third of humanity won't actually work, which makes you wonder why exactly they bothered.

Nevertheless, the Star Wars-esque sword fight which follows soon puts the show back on track, and allows Tennant to show a tougher side to his Doctor, as he defeats the leader and delivers some truly wonderful dialogue. This combination of dark ruthlessness ("No second chances") and manic comedy ("Not bad for a man in his jim-jams") make him more comparable to the Seventh Doctor than any of his other predecessors, although Tennant seems to have slipped into the part far more effortlessly than McCoy, or indeed most of the others, did.

There's a sting in the tail for The Christmas Invasion, however, as our Brigadier-replacement Harriet Jones orders the destruction of the defeated Sycorax, just as Lethbridge-Stewart did with the Silurians. It's done in a somewhat unconvincing way (and once again, Star Wars comes to mind, as the laser effects are strongly reminiscent of the Death Star in that franchise), but it allows Tennant to show his dark side again. Shaky though her position appears to be at the end of the show, we know from World War Three that Harriet Jones wins the next two elections anyway, so I'm sure we haven't seen the last of her. Penelope Wilton is such a superb actress that I'm looking forward to her next appearance already.

There's many, many wonderful touches in this episode (the TARDIS crash landing; the wardrobe room moment; the final scene) that help to make this the most impressive debut for a Doctor since at least Castrovalva (and arguably since The Power Of The Daleks). Tennant seems to have a good grasp of the role (although he does need to calm it down a bit to keep it believable) and the 2006 series looks incredibly promising.

8/10. Here's to the future...