The Christmas Invasion

Region 1
box set

Region 2
box set
Region 2
plain 2-episode volume
(Doctor Who Story No. 171, introducing David Tennant)
  • written by Russell T. Davies
  • directed by James Hawes
  • produced by Phil Collinson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 60 minutes
Story: The new tenth Doctor crashes the TARDIS in London on Christmas Eve before passing out. Mickey, Rose and Mrs. Tyler try to attend to his regeneration trauma, while Prime Minister Harriet Jones collaborates with U.N.I.T. to assess the threat of a gigantic spacecraft attracted to the Earth by a recent Mars probe satellite.

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Picture-in-Picture commentary by writer Russell T. Davies, producer Phil Collinson, and executive producer Julie Gardner.
  • David Tennant's Video Diaries
  • Billie Piper's Video Diaries
  • "Children in Need" special prequel scene (7 min.)
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: Fear Factor (contains a behind-the-scenes look at the finale of "The Christmas Invasion"
    with Davies, David Tennant (The Doctor), fight co-ordinator Kevin McCurdy, and DW Magazine editor Clayton Hickman.)
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Outtakes

The PREVIOUS DVD box set also includes:

  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: Backstage at Christmas (9 min.), with David Tennant (The Doctor),
    Noel Clarke (Mickey), producer Phil Collinson,
    director James Hawes, and special effects supervisor Mike Crowley.

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

Most Doctors get a bad break in the substance of their first story. Writers usually approach such tales by catering to the transitioning curiosities of the long-term audience that already knows the show, instead of designing a classic that can hook new viewers into a blossoming new era. Russell T. Davies brilliantly sidestepped the usual problems during Christopher Eccleston's debut nine months earlier, largely by avoiding regeneration altogether, delivering an introduction worthy of re-launching the show. But now for David Tennant's debut, Davies proves to be innocent of his earlier wisdoms, and bogs this story down with all the old typical problems, plus the newly added ones of an unsyndicatable episode length and the stigma of a story that station managers might only deem suitable during one special time of the year. Arrgh!

First frustration: the setting. After failing to stretch beyond Earth's orbit and take us to an alien planet all throughout the previous season, we head straight back to London, again, using a recycled (but nice) establishing shot. On the plus side, we get to see familiar faces like Rose's mum and, even better, Mickey. The TARDIS makes an unusually entertaining entrance, but fails to demonstrate its regular materialization anywhere else in the story despite several obvious missed opportunities. Thankfully the interior/exterior relationship is showcased well later on in the story. Too bad the decrepit interior design hasn't been replaced yet.

"While you were sleeping..."

Next major frustration: the Doctor spends 2/3 of this story in bed, recovering from regeneration. Two thirds! The Man of Sleep is back but good in this one! Never a good idea in any story, even worse for a season opener, or an era opener. The Man of Sleep can and should be avoided after regeneration, as the first stories of Patrick Troughton, Tom Baker, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy aptly demonstrate. "The Christmas Invasion" also suffers the companion problem to the Man of Sleep - as the Doctor's closest female friend proceeds to waste screen time and viewer attention by blubbering and bawling her eyes out over him. I don't know why they still write such scenes. It's very unattractive, as far as hooking new viewers is concerned, and us older, wiser fans know the emotion is wasted anyway; the Doctor always recovers. The BBC has too much invested in him to allow any other end result.

Napping for two-thirds screen time brings about the equivalent of the missing Doctor syndrome not seen since the sixties - the big question there being whether or not the companions and supporting characters can keep the story moving in his absence. This time they do make some progress, with Rose and Mickey having some nice character moments, and a Mars Probe specialist collaborating with returning friendly face Harriet Jones and the new staff of U.N.I.T., but there isn't quite enough good stuff to justify the amount of screen time these segments get.

More time is wasted with another pathetic new twist on the blubbering companion idea - this time with Harriet Jones whining and begging for the Doctor during a national address on TV. This is one of the worst ideas any writer has ever inflicted on the program. She's the Prime Minister, for heaven's sake! No leader whines on public television for a single interdimensional vagrant she's only met once before, and Jones should be far more prepared to rely on the other options she has at hand. Scenes like this make me believe that one might be able to excise 15 minutes of this story's worst material without losing a single frame of Tennant's debut performance, and have a better story in the end that can be syndicated right along with the other 45-minute episodes of the new series.

U.N.I.T. seems to feature in this story more because logic demands it than anything else. The cast charm that the old U.N.I.T. regulars used to bring to the series during the Jon Pertwee Era isn't here, largely because U.N.I.T. is staffed by a new generation now. Although one might be tempted to think that a new U.N.I.T. cast might slowly assemble during these newer episodes, Davies doesn't seem to be making any progress towards that here. Pity.

Other plot fillers include traditional Christmas sights and sounds turning horrific. There doesn't seem to be any thematic weight or point to it other than trying to freak out the audience, so it won't earn any points with me there.

But enough bashing; this story has a large host of good points as well. The alien menace manages to pose a very unique threat to keep things interesting. The linguistic challenges in the story also add a very nice touch. Also, both the interior and exterior of the alien craft provide a host of exciting, cultural, atmospheric visuals for the story. It's almost an acceptable substitute for an alien planet. (But I'll not be letting you off the hook that easily, Mr. Davies! We still desperately need much more of the real deal!)

Noel Clarke gives another thoroughly enjoyable performance as Mickey Smith, his character continuing to enjoy more solid footing with each new appearance. Penelope Wilton also gets to give us many exquisite moments as Harriet Jones, and is a most welcome addition to the growing roster of regular supporting characters.

Billie Piper and Camille Coduri turn in their usual decent work as the Tylers, and Sean Gilder makes the role of the alien leader work nicely.

However, the absolute best part of this story is undoubtedly David Tennant. Awesome! I don't think we've had a Doctor this good since the collective reign of the first five. Tennant is magnetically engaging in practically every scene and mood he plays in here, and manages to be on par with Tom Baker in balancing off-the-wall humour with the more serious, stake-naming moments of gravity. This is a Doctor who is not to be missed! And Russell T. Davies deserves due credit as well for writing such excellent scenes for the new Doctor, filled with all the right content.

Some of the ending moments seem a little too melodramatically happy, but the many excellent twists & turns that continue to occur keep things very entertaining. We also get to see some very excellent portions of the deep interior of the TARDIS as the Doctor selects his new costume from the wardrobe room.

Music by Murray Gold
"UNIT", "Harriet Jones, Prime Minister",
"The Doctor's Theme", "Sycorax Encounter",
"Rose's Theme",
the opening of "Westminster Bridge",
variations on "New Adventures",
and an alternate version of
"Song for Ten" are available on:
Audio CD:
Doctor Who by Murray Gold
Silva Screen SILCD1224

More info & buying options

A bit Arthur Dent

David Tennant's costume will do, and is a good improvement on the previous one. It gives Tennant the authority most classic Doctors commanded, which is something Christopher Eccleston's costume sorely lacked. Sadly though, the new costume does little to indicate the Doctor's eccentricity, as he can now blend in all too well with the modern corporate establishment. The new production team needs to start thinking about anachronisms and foreign/alien cultures a bit more, and give the Doctor more of the look of a gentleman of the universe rather than just one of modern England.

In the end this is a decent story. If one can muddle through the boring bits earlier on, the conclusion more than makes up for it, and delivers a thoroughly enjoyable adventure.

This story has become available on DVD.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

Region 1
14-episode boxed set
for the North American market:

Region 2
14-episode box set
for the U.K.
Region 2
plain 2-episode volume
U.K. format only

Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes only feature the plain episodes.

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "New Earth"

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