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