‘Doctor Who’ Christmas countdown Day 2: ‘The Christmas Invasion’

It was a time of uncertainty for Doctor Who: after a single successful season, Christopher Eccleston had chosen to regenerate, and for the second time in 2005, viewers watched with a mix of curiosity and trepidation as a new Doctor found himself.

A whole new generation of viewers were being introduced to that heady mix of anticipation and worry that accompanies the Doctor’s new face for the very first time.

Thankfully, it was David Tennant, and that year’s Christmas special, ‘The Christmas Invasion’, marked not only the Tenth Doctor’s first proper outing, but also the first of what would become an annual tradition of sitting down on Christmas Day and forcing your entire family – even grumpy old Uncle Eric, who thinks science fiction is a load of twaddle – to watch Doctor Who.

Older viewers will remember the tradition of a new Doctor’s first episode beginning with the companion or companions fretting about the state of the newly-regenerated Doctor, while the Doctor naps – and Tennant does manage to get a significant rest in for the first act or so, until it’s clear that, with the Sycorax seeming to have less-than-friendly intentions toward the people of Earth, and with a bunch of people, united by blood-type, wandering in a zombie-like trance to the edge of the nearest very tall rooftop, this is very much a job for the Doctor.

Ok, so parts of it have aged better than others. But Jackie Tyler, beset by a manically spinning evergreen and shouting “I’m gonna get killed by a Christmas tree!” has to be up there among the series’ finest moments. The fact that it isn’t better remembered is frankly shocking.

Doctor Who Christmas Invasion Rose Billie Piper David Tennant Tenth

It’s quite interesting in hindsight to see Tennant’s Doctor taking shape in surprisingly definite form here: while largely played with copious amounts of enthusiasm and fun, he’s not afraid to bear his teeth, displaying a darkness and anger at times that foreshadows the scary places he goes toward the end of his run.

One would think that this episode’s conclusion, standing in the street as – by Christmas miracle – a dusting of snow falls (granted, it’s ash, but it still looks jolly festive), would be the moment that young Mickey Smith begins to consider seeing other people. After all, nothing says your girlfriend’s moved on quite like seeing her holding hands with another man, all snuggly and full of flirtatious wonder. Oh well. He figured it out eventually.

(Also, by pure coincidence, I have not one, but two satsumas in my jacket pocket right now.)

> Buy the Christmas specials box set on DVD on Amazon.

> Buy the Christmas specials box set on Blu-ray on Amazon.

What’s your favourite moment in ‘The Christmas Invasion’? Let us know below…

> Read more by Sami Kelsh on her website.

  • Daniel

    Although it has aged badly, still the only watchable Christmas episode made under RTD’s stewardship. One of the many, many problems with his time on the show was failing to deliver a real Christmassy treat. He got it close to right exactly once while Steven Moffat rolled out glorious Christmas special after Christmas special ( well apart from THAT one with the trees and the spitfire but even that looks great compared to Kylie in space, Catherine Tate shouting at a giant spider and worst of all, the Tennant ego farewell fest). Christmas Carol,can’t be beaten for real Christmas heart and delight but The Snowmen with the delightful and rather fetching Victorian Clara and last year’s fabulous scary and hilarious outing with Santa are up there. This year looks extra festive and judging by the fantastic previews might just top them all!

  • Worth it simply for the moment where the Sycorax start speaking English and the characters (and audience) are slowly made aware that someone is now fully conscious.

  • Dr. Moo

    I think it’s more of a mixed bag this one. Tennant’s 10th Doctor starts with lots of promise commanding the screen and forcing you to sit up and pay attention and the Sycorax are great villains that I want to see again. That’s about all this story has going for it. It’s the rest of the story before Tennant steps out of the TARDIS that is lacking. It needed something other than Rose and Mickey being boring and UNIT being useless, something like Captain Jack, to control the story because until then its little more than just a bunch of stuff that happens. Still RTD’s second-best Christmas Special by a wide margin (I have a soft spot for The Next Doctor for reasons I can’t quite fathom).

    And the Doctor’s self-assessment: “No second chances. I’m that sort of man.” That didn’t even last forty-five more minutes of total screen-time.

    • Edward Delingford

      If only they had taken the character in that direction consistently, When they did in Human Nature/Family of Blood and Midnight we got the only episodes of Tennant which remain watchable today and don’t make the viewer wince with embarrasment. One of the great ‘what ifs’ of modern Who alongside Eccleston only doing one series. Oh well.

      Christmas Invasion is lazy and simplistic but has enough sparkle despite the deathly dull plot to warrant a bare pass mark. It all gets much much worse from here on in for Davies’ Christmas specials., He simply didn’t know how to do a Christmas special and each turgid offering was worse than the previous leading us to what remains the worst episode/s in the entire 52 years of the show in The End of Time.

  • Helles

    Don’t mind this one, although it’s deathly dull both in the story line and visually. Such a great reminder of the vast improvements the show has made when compared to any of the truly great Moffat-y Christmas specials which are visually rich and full of wit and heart. Davies just doesn’t know how to thematically mesh an episode together and is far too much in love of the kitchen sink to the detriment of wonder. How I wish that Davies had written 10 more like this instead of straight to rom-com vapidity. Might revisit this list when we get to Christmas Carol – the rest before it are justifiably considered some of the worst episodes in the history of the show, although like Moo I have a little soft spot for Next Doctor, solely due to the magnificent David Morrissey – now if they had cast that David as the Doctor, the show wouldn’t have wasted three years gradually disappearing up its own fundament of self regard!