The Christmas Invasion
|167 – "The Christmas Invasion"|
|Doctor Who episode|
The Sycorax look on at the humans.
|Writer||Russell T Davies|
|Script editor||Helen Raynor|
|Executive producer(s)||Russell T Davies
|Incidental music composer||Murray Gold|
|Originally broadcast||25 December 2005|
"The Christmas Invasion" is a 60-minute special episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast on 25 December 2005 in the UK and on Boxing Day 2005 in Canada. This episode features the first full-episode appearance of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor and is also the first specially produced Christmas special in the programme's history. In this episode, it is Christmas, but there is little cause for celebration as planet Earth is invaded by aliens known as the Sycorax. It is up to Rose and the newly regenerated Doctor to save humanity, with a bit of help from her boyfriend Mickey and her mother Jackie.
The newly regenerated Doctor, suffering side effects from his regeneration, crash lands the TARDIS in London. He exits to meet Jackie Tyler and Mickey, and collapses in front of them. They take him to Jackie's flat where she puts her boyfriend's robe on him and they put him to bed. Rose and Mickey decide to go out Christmas shopping while waiting on the Doctor to recover. While shopping they are attacked by masked Santa robots, and escape back to the flat. While attempting to wake the Doctor they are attacked by a lethal spinning Christmas tree. The Doctor wakes suddenly, using his sonic screwdriver to stop the tree. He tells them that his regeneration has gone wrong and theorises that the energy of his regeneration is luring an unseen foe to him. The Doctor passes out again and is returned to bed.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Harriet Jones prepares for a live broadcast from the space probe Guinevere One, set to land on Mars. The probe is intercepted by a giant spaceship heading for Earth. When the broadcast is shown, an alien face appears and identifies itself as being a Sycorax. The alien demands Earth's surrender and causes a third of the world's population to go into a hypnotic state. The Sycorax threaten to make these people commit suicide unless they are given half of the world's population as slaves. One of the scientists discovers that all of the hypnotised people share the same blood type (A-positive), the same as contained in a sample on Guinevere One. Harriet attempts further negotiations with the Sycorax, and is surprised to find herself and her staff teleported aboard the ship.
Rose, Mickey and Jackie evacuate the Doctor to the TARDIS as the Sycorax ship approaches London. Before Jackie can return with additional supplies, the TARDIS is detected by the Sycorax and is transmatted aboard their ship. Rose and Mickey exit the TARDIS, but not before spilling a container of tea on the floor that drips onto part of the TARDIS and begins to smoke. Rose attempts to bluff the leader of the Sycorax by invoking the Shadow Proclamation among other references. The Sycorax dismiss Rose, but she manages to buy enough time for the Doctor to finally recover. After smelling the tea (the tannin in the tea helping him recover) and waking up, he wanders out of the TARDIS still in his robe and reintroduces himself to everyone. He shuts down the Sycorax blood control and then challenges the Sycorax leader to a sword fight for the Earth. During the fight, the Doctor's hand is severed and falls to the ground far below. Since the Doctor is still within the first 15 hours of regeneration he is able to grow a new hand, and then forces the Sycorax leader to submit. The Doctor and his allies return to the ship as the Sycorax leader attempts to attack the Doctor from behind. The Doctor hits a sensor with a fruit he found in his bathrobe, triggering part of the wing to fold and dropping the leader to his death.
The Doctor orders the Sycorax to leave Earth and never return before taking Rose, Mickey, and Harriet back to Earth. As the Sycorax ship moves away, Harriet orders Torchwood to fire on them, destroying the ship. The Doctor becomes furious with Harriet, who tries to justify her actions by reminding the Doctor that he is not always there to save them. He threatens to bring down her government with six words. Harriet firmly stands behind her decision, and the Doctor walks over to her aide and whispers: "Don't you think she looks tired?" That evening, the Doctor selects a new outfit from the TARDIS wardrobe and joins Rose, Jackie, and Mickey for Christmas dinner. They watch Harriet Jones on the television fending off rumours about her health and a pending vote of no confidence. The Doctor and Rose then prepare to set off again in the TARDIS.
After winning the fight against the leader of the Sycorax, the Doctor says "Not bad for a man in his jim jams...very Arthur Dent", referring to the character from Douglas Adams's series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Adams was a writer for Doctor Who during the Fourth Doctor era.
This special was the first full episode starring David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor; he was only shown briefly at the end of "The Parting of the Ways" for the regeneration sequence. A 7-minute "mini-episode", set between "The Parting of the Ways" and "The Christmas Invasion", was shown as part of the Children in Need charity telethon on 18 November 2005. The Christmas special is a tradition in British television series. While this is the first story for Doctor Who clearly labelled as a Christmas special, the seventh episode of The Daleks' Master Plan, titled "The Feast of Steven", was written as a Christmas episode, even featuring a fourth wall-breaking Christmas wish to the viewers by William Hartnell. Although not shown at Christmas, "The Unquiet Dead" was set on Christmas Eve, 1869.
The Tenth Doctor speaks with an Estuary English accent, in contrast to the Ninth Doctor's Northern one. In a 23 December interview on BBC Radio 1, Tennant explained that a line had been scripted for the Christmas special explaining that the newly regenerated Doctor had imprinted on Rose's accent, "like a chick hatching from an egg," but the line was cut from the final programme. He also briefly affects an American Appalachian accent (when he regrows his hand and continues his fight with the Sycorax leader, he claims his hand is a "fightin' hand" in that accent).
The episode's opening shot is a repeat of the opening shot of "Rose", using a new arrangement of the same music. The cone-shaped building which has all its glass blown out from the ship's shockwave is 30 St Mary Axe, also known as the Swiss Re Building or "The Gherkin". The climactic scenes of the episode were shot on location at Wallis House, Brentford, one of the Golden Mile's few remaining Art Deco buildings. Parts of the episode were filmed at the Clearwell Caves in Gloucestershire.
The prototype of the Sycorax swords was auctioned on eBay to raise funds for the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity. It raised £920.51. During the live broadcast, the front page of the official BBC website stated: "THE CHRISTMAS INVASION is on BBC One NOW. HARRIET JONES SAYS: Switch this website off for Britain." The tie-in website "Who is Doctor Who?" was also updated with a message from Mickey referencing the Guinevere One website, and an appeal to the Doctor to bring back Rose.
The song playing during the wardrobe sequence, "Song for Ten" (named in reference to the Tenth Doctor), was composed by Murray Gold for the episode and sung by Tim Phillips. The last time an original song was written for the series was "The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon" in The Gunfighters (1966). The closing credits had a new theme arrangement restoring the traditional "middle eight" section of the theme which had been omitted in the 2005 series. This was performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Gold. This arrangement was subsequently used for the closing titles of the 2006 series.
Various pieces of music featured in this episode were released in December 2006 as part of the Doctor Who Soundtrack (produced by Silva Screen). These included the "Song for Ten", the music played behind Harriet Jones' speech and the music played as the spaceship arrives over London. The version of "Song for Ten" released on the soundtrack, however, is not the version from the episode; this is a newly recorded version with vocals sung by Neil Hannon and additional lyrics referring to the events of the season finale, "Doomsday".
Lachele Carl reappears as the reporter seen in "Aliens of London" / "World War Three". She is later seen in "The Sound of Drums", "The Poison Sky", "Turn Left", "The Stolen Earth" and The Sarah Jane Adventures story Revenge of the Slitheen.
Broadcast and DVD release
Overnight ratings for the episode gave a peak viewing audience of 9.8 million viewers, and an average of 9.4 — the second highest rated programme of the evening, behind EastEnders. This episode was the highest-rated episode of the Tenth Doctor era, with final ratings at 9.84 million, up until the "Voyage of the Damned", which achieved an audience of 13.8 million viewers. It is considered one of the best Christmas specials of the show. In 2014, over 7000 readers of Radio Times voted "The Christmas Invasion" as the greatest Doctor Who Christmas special with over a quarter of the votes going to it, 24.92%, a whole 10% more votes than the second favourite.
Immediately after "The Christmas Invasion", digital viewers were able to press their red button to view a special interactive episode, "Attack of the Graske" written by Gareth Roberts and starring Tennant as the Doctor.
The Canadian presentation on the CBC on 26 December 2005 was hosted by Piper, who was attired for the occasion in a red Roots "Canada" sweatshirt. The episode was scheduled in a 90-minute long slot; as the episode and the presentations took less than the allotted time, the rest of the broadcast was filled with the start of two episodes of the animated programme Creature Comforts, which was set for the following 30-minute slot. The special premiered on BBC America in 2007. Unlike the Sci-Fi version, the episode was edited down to fit inside a one-hour timeslot with commercial breaks.
This episode was released together with "New Earth" as a basic DVD with no special features on 1 May 2006, and as part of a second series boxset on 20 November 2006. This release included an in-vision commentary with Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner (Head of Drama for BBC Wales) and Phil Collinson, recorded before the story aired. This commentary was also made available as an MP3 on the BBC Doctor Who website.
On 3 December 2005, the annual Christmas edition of the BBC's listings magazine Radio Times was released, featuring a Doctor Who cover to tie-in with "The Christmas Invasion". This was the first time Doctor Who had featured on the Christmas edition cover in the show's forty-two-year history, and the first Christmas cover for an individual BBC television drama since EastEnders in 1986. The Christmas Radio Times cover usually features artwork of a generic Christmas scene. As confirmed by Russell T Davies in the episode commentary, the Doctor Who section of that issue of the Radio Times contains a hidden message explaining what saves the Doctor: many of the paragraphs in the articles have an oversized first letter, which taken consecutively spell out "A cup of tea" (in the manner of an acrostic).
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