Sunday, 10 January 2010

Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion

“Harriet Jones, Prime Minister.”

“Yes, I know who you are.”

It’s Christmas Eve, and both Jackie and Mickey (who, we now learn, is a mechanic) hear the sound of the TARDIS materialising. “She’s alive!” cries Jackie, once again showing us how traumatic the last few months of not knowing must have been, and how thoughtless it was for the Doctor to arrive now rather than shortly after the events of The Parting of the Ways.

The Doctor collapses and ends up in Jackie’s flat. The fact that he has two hearts is quickly brought out, the first of several nods to Spearhead From Space. Rose is shaken by the regeneration, coming to realise that the Doctor really isn’t human.

Meanwhile, Harriet Jones has become Prime Minister, and the British space programme has sent a probe to Mars, apparently single-handed. I mean, come on- I know this is science fiction, but that’s just too far-fetched.

It’s interesting how the change in their relationship is revealed in the conversation between Rose and Mickey- he’s come to accept the situation to the extent that he’s able to give Rose a ribbing for constantly going on about the TARDIS. Of course, as soon as he gets her to promise they’ll just have a normal Christmas with no aliens or anything a bunch of robots dressed as Santa try to kill them with a flamethrower. And then there’s the attack of the killer Christmas tree, which I just love. In a way it’s a shame that these ideas have been used up, as no Christmas special will ever be able to be quite so Christmassy again.

The Doctor briefly wakes up and sorts it out, and then the focus shifts to the PM and UNIT in the Tower of London. The probe has come across some aliens on live TV (cue another appearance by Trinity Wells) and there’s some debate as to who they are. They can’t be Martians; as the UNIT major point out they look completely different. They make contact with the aliens; Mickey, of course, is hacking into this, as that’s how the Internet works in TV dramas. There’s another mention of the mysterious Torchwood, which the PM is not supposed to know about and the UN doesn’t know about, although the UNIT major apparently does.

Harriet refuses to surrender, and the Sycorax, controlling peoples’ blood, makes a third of the world’s population, including the Royal Family, go and stand right at the edge on the tops of buildings. Oops. It’s all looking a bit grim. And then, when things seemingly can’t get any worse, the Sycorax ship manoeuvres itself over London blotting out the Sun, Independence Day style. This is a triumph both of effects and design, the ship being essentially a massive rock with the technological components built into it.

While Rose manoeuvres Jackie and Mickey into the TARDIS, for no reason other than safety, Harriet and underlings are teleported up to the Sycorax ship, where Harriet assumes the role of leader of the world! The Sycorax leader demonstrates how nasty he is by killing both scientist Daniel Llewellyn and the UNIT major, and then proceeds to throw a major wobbly because Harriet hasn’t told him about some secret alien tech she’s hidden. This turns out to be the TARDIS, and the Sycorax leader duly teleports it on to the ship. In retrospect, this probably wasn’t a good idea.

Rose and Mickey emerge, leaving behind an unconscious Doctor and a dripping flask of tea. But as the Sycorax leader’s words start to be translated, it’s clear that tea is indeed the solution to everything as the Doctor emerges. His first scene is a killer and leaves us in no doubt that this is indeed the Doctor. Disappointed he’s not ginger (how very topical!), he babbles on for a bit before he eventually deigns to allow the Sycorax leader to speak. And then, brilliantly, he presses the big red button and calls the Sycorax bluff, simultaneously resolving a major plot point and showing us something of this new Doctor’s character. He instantly feels a lot more confident and, well, Tom Baker-ish than his traumatised predecessor.

The final challenge between the Doctor and the Sycorax leader gives us a couple more great moments; as he’s less than fifteen hours into his new body, he can regrow his hand after it’s been cut off. And we get the “No second chances” moment, which in hindsight looks as though it’s foreshadowing rather a lot.

There’s another nod to Spearhead as the Doctor explains to Harriet that Earth is drawing attention to itself with probes and such like, but the cosiness of the coda is shattered as Harriet orders the mysterious Torchwood to vaporise the Sycorax ship as it’s retreating. This causes the Doctor to end Harriet’s career with six short words in a scene which may not be entirely believable but is more than cool enough to get away with this. Still, it looks as though the Doctor has changed the future from what was supposed to happen back in World War Three

With the adventure over, the new Doctor gets the traditional clothes choosing scene. I think it was said somewhere that there was supposed to be something on screen from every previous Doctor, but all I spotted was the two scarves. Still, it’s a nice ending. The Doctor stays for Christmas dinner; this incarnation clearly does do domestic.

And just when things seemingly can’t get any better, the middle eight is back. Yes! 5/5.

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