Shiny Shelf

SHINY ADVENT: Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion

By Mags L Halliday on 06 December 2006

The tradition of the Christmas Special is embedded in British culture. It’s Morecombe and Wise in santa hats, the Trotters’s latest scheming and ‘Top of the Pops’ before the Queen’s speech. Unlike America, where a Christmas episode is merely a consequence of the long winter schedules, British Christmas episodes are deliberately ’special’, out of the ordinary.

‘Doctor Who’ had done a Christmas episode before, back in the era when it ran for forty weeks a year and sooner or later the holiday was bound to land on a Saturday. The BBC announcing a Christmas special of the new ‘Who’ was its way of crowning its new golden show. It signified that they see it as gold standard TV, sure to get attention amidst the new toys and ritual over-feasting. Ramping up the occasion, ‘The Christmas Invasion’ also promised to be the full first story of the new Doctor, David Tennant.

The masterstroke is to deny us our born-again hero: he spends the first forty minutes asleep whilst the humans flail against the alien invaders. Then Tennant steals the show shamelessly: giving us a new style of Doctor with an underlying core of character. This is mostly thanks to the continuity of writing: you can equally imagine the Eccleston Doctor accidentally quoting the Lion King.

The biggest flaw is the addition of the blatant Christmas iconography at the start. The ‘pilot fish’ robot Santas are explained but never feel integrated. On the other hand the Doctor telling them the snow they are running about in is ash from a destroyed spaceship subverts the normal signifiers. The story does what it should though: it is special.

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