Nu-View #19: Enter Number Ten

The Christmas Invasion (Series Two, Ep. 0; 2005)
Viewed 08 Jul 2014

Doctor/Companion: Ten, Rose Tyler
Stars: David Tennant, Billie Piper
Preceding Story: The Parting of the Ways (Nine, Rose)
Succeeding Story: New Earth (Ten, Rose)

    As the Ladies gather one last time at the current Chez Neowhovian, the impending move to a new house is top on everyone's mind. Next time we get together (hopefully jO will finally be able to join us again; it's been too long!), we'll be at a completely new place.

    We barely even mention in passing that we've tried before to watch this episode (though there's a little muttering about it as Mickey shushes his coworkers to listen more carefully to the TARDIS materializing). The next thing we know, Jackie's delivering the classic joke line ("Doctor who?") and the opening credits crash across the screen.

    Poor Mickey is still getting the short end of the stick. "Can you just let it be Christmas?" he begs Rose. "Not so much," jE answers for her. On screen, Rose herself is trying a little harder, nodding acquiescence.

    "You promise?"

    "Yeah," she assures him.

    "Well, yeah, until the life or death stuff," amends jE. "Then I'll renege on my promise." And so it goes.

    We watch the mystery of this new alien threat unfold while Rose, Mickey, and Jackie try to figure out what to do on their own. Memories of our first experience with this new Doctor bubble to the surface, too. He's kind of scary serious when he briefly wakes to defuse the murderous Christmas tree, and send away the "pilot fish" St Nick-costumed brass players. No wonder everyone looks at him like they've never met him before. In retrospect, it's really interesting to see that side of him so early; he had that ominous presence a lot in his later stories, but it's anomalous for Series Two.

    The story's set up as a "romp"—lots of silly fun, with plenty of comedy relief (especially the recurring "Harriet Jones, Prime Minister" gag). Dig a little deeper, though, and it's properly creepy. A third of the world's population is manipulated by blood magic, ready to die at the push of "a great, big threatening button" (giving lie to the more recent lament that there's never a "big, friendly/red [strike as relevant] button")? Not exactly fluffy. In fact, it reminds me of the central conceit of Torchwood: Children of Earth, which was extremely dark (and happened to include one Peter Capaldi in a central supporting role).

    As all of this is before the romance-heavy plot lines of the rest of Series Two, I'd like to think I'm not the only one who appreciated Rose as a character here. I love that she steps up to the plate to try to save Earth when everyone present thinks the Doctor can't possibly to it for them. The Sycorax call her out as the one to speak for the planet, and she readily agrees, over Harriet and Mickey's protestations.

    "Someone's got to be the Doctor."

    "They'll kill you!" Harriet says, trying to hold her back.

    "Never stopped him." And that's why I've always loved Rose.

    In the end we get back to the romp, with the Doctor even name-checking Arthur Dent in the Douglas Adams love-fest. He gets his hand chopped off and regrows a new "fightin' hand" (ugh) before we learn that he's the kind of man who doesn't give second chances. Then he gets to choose a new look, have some Christmas cracker fun with the extended family, and then it's through the creepy not-snow to head off on new adventures, in a new era. "This is a brand new planet Earth. No denying the existence of aliens now. Everyone saw it. Everything's new," he claims. "Hasn't that happened, like, five times before?" jA asks skeptically.

    Of course it has. Seven even outlined all the ways humans have "the most amazing capacity for self-deception" in Remembrance of the Daleks. But hush. We're regeneration afterglowing.

    General reactions:

    • jA - "So much fun watching these again. It's such a different headspace."
    • jE - good to get back to these; it's been so long
    • mrfranklin - regeneration stories are always their own brand of exciting

    Seeing this "new man" mere weeks before his successor's successor makes his debut did more than just about anything else to make me eager to meet Twelve. There's something really special about getting to know a new Doctor, especially if no one else knows anything about him yet either (as opposed to watching new-to-you Doctors about whom others have long since formed opinions). Maybe it's not the best story ever, but Christmas Invasion sets up several story lines that get revisited later, and served as a wonderful hint at the possibilities yet to come.

    Verdict: Thumbs up

    Looking ahead: New Earth (and a new house!)

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