Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Story 167 - The Christmas Invasion

In which the TARDIS crash-lands in the middle of the Powell Estate, on Christmas Eve. Jackie and Mickey have heard its approach and are there to see it arrive. They are shocked when Rose introduces the stranger who emerges as the Doctor. He collapses and has to be put to bed. Mickey takes Rose shopping. As they pass through a street market, a group of figures dressed as Santas are playing carols. Their instruments conceal weapons, and they come under attack. The figures are flattened by a falling Christmas tree, brought down by their own guns. Rose and Mickey hurry home, and discover that a new tree has been delivered. Jackie thinks it came from Rose, but this is not the case. The tree suddenly starts spinning, its edges razor sharp. It advances towards them. They barricade themselves in the bedroom where the Doctor is lying. He suddenly wakes up and destroys it with his sonic screwdriver. They all go out onto the balcony and see the Santa Clause figures watching from the street. The Doctor threatens them, and they dematerialise. He explains that they are just the "pilot fish". Some greater danger is approaching.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Harriet Jones is being rushed to UNIT HQ, which is hidden beneath the Tower of London. Contact with the Guinevere One probe, launched for Mars, has been lost. Mission controller Daniel Llewellyn is also brought to the HQ. The probe has actually been dragged inside a huge asteroid which is travelling towards the Earth. Contact is re-established, and TV viewers across the globe see a quartet of alien beings on their screens. As dawn breaks on Christmas morning, the asteroid arrives in the skies above central London. Shortly afterwards, millions of people across the planet come under some strange kind of hypnotic control - compelled to climb up onto the roofs of their homes and workplaces. Harriet's PA, Alex, has a translation device which can interpret the aliens' language. They demand to speak to the planet's leader. Harriet assumes this role. She, Alex, Llewellyn, and UNIT Major Blake are all teleported up to the heart of the asteroid, which has been hollowed out for use as a spaceship by the Sycorax.

Llewellyn has worked out that the aliens have used a blood sample housed in the probe to influence all the people with a similar group to fall under the hypnotic control. The Sycorax leader demands millions of human beings as slaves, or those affected will be made to jump to their deaths. He kills Major Blake and Llewellyn. Rose decides to take the still comatose Doctor into the safety of the TARDIS. Mickey attempts to tune the scanner into the TV networks, and this technology is registered by the Sycorax. They teleport the ship up to their craft, leaving Jackie back on the ground. When Rose steps outside to see what is keeping her, she finds herself captured by the skull-faced aliens. Mickey also emerges, but is able to shut the TARDIS doors behind him. Rose attempts to bluff the Sycorax into leaving the Earth alone. As she speaks with their leader, Alex suddenly notices that the translation device is no longer needed. In the ship, the Doctor is waking up - roused by some spilled tea.

He emerges from the TARDIS, overjoyed to see Rose and Mickey, and to meet Harriet Jones again. He totally disregards the Sycorax leader - more interested in his new appearance and what kind of a person he now is. He quickly demonstrates that the "blood control" is phony. It can hypnotise, but can never be used to make people kill themselves. He releases the affected humans from its influence.
He then challenges the Sycorax leader to a duel with broadswords. The winner takes the planet. They fight, and their struggle takes them out onto one of the wings of the vast spacecraft. The Sycorax leader lops off the Doctor's left hand - but he reveals that within the first 15 hours of regeneration his body still has remarkable healing energies - and the hand grows back. The leader is defeated, but then tries to attack the Doctor as he walks away. A well aimed satsuma, produced from the pocket of his dressing gown, plunges the leader to his death. The Doctor tells the Sycorax to leave and never return, and to let it be known that Earth is defended. They all teleport back down to the ground, along with the TARDIS, as the Sycorax ship leaves orbit. Harriet then orders Alex to give an order to Torchwood. Massive laser weapons open fire and the retreating alien ship is destroyed. The Doctor is appalled, and decides to bring Harriet's premiership to an end with a few words - suggesting she is not up to the job. That evening, the Doctor selects a new set of clothes, and then joins Rose, Mickey and Jackie for dinner. Rose has fully accepted that this man really is the Doctor, and they plan their next travels together.

This 60 minute Christmas Special was written by Russell T Davies, and was made as part of the second series of Doctor Who. It was broadcast on Christmas night, 25th December, 2005.
It is the first of what will become an annual event, and introduces viewers to the Tenth Doctor for the first time, apart from his brief appearance in the Children In Need mini episode the month before. UNIT return, and it is established that they are based under the Tower of London.
Christmas Specials will also see the introduction of action set-pieces for the TARDIS - in this case it materialises in mid-air and bounces off walls before colliding with the bins on the Powell Estate.
This extra episode in the production schedule would mean that a later story in the season would need to have minimal input from David Tennant and Billie Piper - so the "Doctor-lite" stories begin here also.
By this stage, the third series had already been commissioned, as well as another Christmas Special for 2006 - so Davies was able to begin planning more complex story arcs. Harriet Jones' fall from power, and the Doctor's lost hand, would be instrumental to the Series 3 conclusion for instance. Indeed, this story sows the seeds of the Tenth Doctor's eventual demise.
Davies sat down to write The Christmas Invasion with a number of aims in mind. First of all, it had to be big and bold; then it had to introduce a new Doctor; and finally it had to satisfy the casual viewer who might not usually watch the series but would do so on the day families sit down to watch TV together - so no excessive continuity references. Oh, and it also had to be very Christmas-y.
We get Santa assassins and killer Christmas trees in the first 20 minutes.

Penelope Wilton returns as Harriet Jones, now Prime Minister. Davies chooses to have this much loved character turn out to be not quite so nice a woman as the one encountered by the Doctor and Rose in Downing Street. Arguing that the Doctor isn't always around to help, she elects to destroy a retreating spaceship - a deed inspired by Mrs Thatcher and the sinking of the Argentinian warship Belgrano. He also has a dig at perceived notions that UK leaders blindly follow their US counterparts when it comes to waging war. Bush Jnr and Blair seem not to have watched this bit of the episode.
Other cast members are Adam Garcia as Alex, Daniel Evans as Llewellyn, and Chu Omambala as Major Blake. The Sycorax leader is played by Sean Gilder. He had a particularly bad time of it under his prosthetics and thick cloak, as the sword fight was filmed during very hot weather.
Story Arc elements:

  • It is an organisation called Torchwood which Harriet has Alex call upon to blow up the Sycorax spaceship.
  • The 15 hour rule for regenerations.
  • The Doctor loses a hand, which falls somewhere in London.
  • The Doctor triggers the election for a new Prime Minister.

Overall, a cracking 60 minutes. Great SFX, and the right mix of humour and adventure for the post boozy-dinner audience watching on the night of first broadcast. The Doctor is left in bed for two thirds of the episode, but it makes his entrance all the more impressive.
Things you might like to know:

  • For the first time in a long time, the Doctor will be billed as such in the closing titles - not as "Doctor Who". Tennant specifically requested this, in the same way that his future father-in-law had done when he took over from Tom Baker.
  • The middle-eight in the theme music is re-introduced.
  • Murray Gold also writes a song especially for the episode - Song For Ten. It is Tim Phillips who sings it in the programme as broadcast. On the later CD release, Divine Comedy lead Neil Hannon sings it, with new lyrics.
  • It will become a running gag that snow falling at Christmas is never really snow. In this case, it is dust from the vapourised spaceship which falls on the Powell Estate.
  • We see another room in the TARDIS - the clothing store. This is just a redressed control room set. Pay close attention and you will see items from earlier stories - such as Steven Taylor's stripey jumper.
  • The Sycorax make for very good villains, and yet have never been brought back save for cameos. They form part of the Pandorica Alliance, and one of them is in the bar where Captain Jack will pick up Midshipman Frame.
  • The name Sycorax derives from Shakespeare. She was a witch - mother to Caliban in The Tempest. She doesn't appear - only mentioned. We will later discover that it was the Doctor who gave the Bard this name.
  • The problems with Guinevere One were topical at the time, as the previous Christmas had seen the loss of the UK's Beagle 2 probe, which crashed on its landing on Mars.
  • Llewellyn works for the British Rocket Group - set up by Bernard Quatermass. It had been referenced in Doctor Who once before - in Remembrance of the Daleks.
  • Major Blake points out that the Sycorax do not look like Martians - suggesting an unseen Ice Warrior story. Either that or the Doctor simply showed them what they looked like. UNIT will later somehow manage to get hold of a photograph of Sarah Jane Smith taken in the Citadel on Peladon.
  • We learn that the TARDIS telepathic circuits need the Doctor to be conscious to work - so he must act as a conduit.
  • It is suggested that Arthur Dent, from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, is a real person. The Doctor claims he is a nice man, as though he has met him.
  • At some point the Doctor has seen The Lion King, as he quotes from it when speaking to the Sycorax leader.
  • The Doctor's bringing down of Harriet Jones does rather contradict his earlier assertion that she ushered in some sort of golden age, as she could only have been in power for a matter of months.
  • A deleted scene had the Doctor trying to say his predecessor's catchword "Fantastic!" but failing, due to getting used to his new teeth. The pay off would have been when he does get to say it at the end.
  • Also deleted was the Doctor explaining his new accent - claiming that it came from Rose, who had imprinted herself on him like a chick just emerged from its shell.
  • The "15 hours after regeneration" rule has now been taken by fans to explain how Romana can try on different bodies at the beginning of Destiny of the Daleks.
  • The Doctor is known to be an excellent swordsman - having learned from one of Cleopatra's guard commanders. He has been seen to put his fencing skills to use against the Master in The Sea Devils, and again in The King's Demons, and against Count Grendel of Gracht, in The Androids of Tara.

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