Shiny Shelf

Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion

By Eddie Robson on 03 January 2006

Yes, we should have reviewed this earlier but frankly who has their best critical faculties working on Christmas Day? Having now had an opportunity to reassess the first Christmas Day episode of ‘Doctor Who’ in forty years, I declare it to be better than the last one.

Well, actually the last one no longer exists, so I’ve never actually seen it. The 1965 episode ‘The Feast of Steven’ has a somewhat odd reputation among ‘Who’ fans, being a rather odd piece of whimsical comedy without much in the way of adventure in it. Some people think it’s dreadful. Having heard the soundtrack, I think it’s OK – but it’s a measure of how television in general, and ‘Doctor Who’ specifically, have changed since then that whimsical comedy in a show like this is no longer a controversial departure, but part of the formula.

However, what we expect these days is for the comedy to be integrated without losing the drama, and despite a slight unevenness ‘The Christmas Invasion’ does provide this. Actually, it’s the humour which holds it together in spite of the fact that the opening set pieces of the attack from the Santas and the killer Christmas tree seem like the best bits from an altogether different script that didn’t quite come together, and in spite of the rather straightforward nature of the Sycorax plot.

Like ‘Rose’, this is an atypical ‘Doctor Who’ adventure, structured specifically to sideline the Doctor for much of its duration. Rather than leaping straight into Eccleston’s shoes, David Tennant is initially kept at arm’s length from the audience in order to build anticipation for the moment when he steps into the limelight. The ploy works and Tennant is great, obviously contrasting with Eccleston in his impetuous, jovial nature but eventually (and thankfully) revealing that he’s also willing to be ruthless. He’ll need to make sure that he reins it in from time to time and not become a cartoon eccentric, but he’s so appealing that one can imagine him becoming a serious rival to Tom Baker in the popularity stakes.

It’s a mark of how far perceptions of ‘Doctor Who’ have come that the most disappointing thing about ‘The Christmas Invasion’ was that it didn’t herald a return to the blockbuster ratings the BBC used to enjoy over Christmas, instead merely out-rating every ‘Who’ episode of 2005 with the exception of ‘Rose’. Maybe we all need to calm down a bit before series two (which looks bloody great).

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By Eddie Robson

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