The Christmas Invasion

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: James Hawes

Starring: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Penelope Wilton (Harriet Jones), Daniel Evans (Danny Llewelyn), Adam Garcia (Alex), Sean Gilder (Sycorax Leader).

10“Did you miss me?”

After revisiting this one, I’m regretting ranking it quite so highly on my Christmas episodes list…

The first Doctor Who Christmas special is a fairly uneven affair, although it does serve as a good introduction for the Tenth Doctor.  The newly regenerated Doctor and his companion Rose crash back to Earth following the events of The Parting of the Ways, but any chance for rest and recovery is short-lived, as a human probe, Guinevere One, is intercepted by the villainous Sycorax, who head to Earth with their vial of A+ blood…

Firstly, the positives.  The episode is at it’s best when Tennant’s Doctor is conscious, and he certainly occupies the role with gusto, charm and with a glimpse of darkness that will be explored in later series.  It is also good to see Penelope Wilton return to the role of Harriet Jones, even if the “Harriet Jones, Prime Minister” joke wears a bit thin after a while.  The sword fight for the planet is really nicely choreographed and I like the bit with the hand.

Unfortunately, for the majority of the episode, Tennant is recovering from his regeneration, so the focus is squarely on the trio of Rose, Jackie and Mickey.  This is where Rose as a character really appears to grate on me.  At the beginning of the episode, she isn’t certain at all about the new man with the TARDIS key, which is an understandable reaction – if my best friend who I had been travelling with suddenly changed their face, I’d be a little concerned, to say the least.  However, once the Doctor is awake, Rose is suddenly fawning all over him.  This does mark a change in the Doctor-companion relationship that I’m not a big fan of, and also is the start of the Doctor and Rose smug fest that is series 2.  So stay tuned for that!  Rose is also given the opportunity to show what she’s learnt from her time with the Doctor when they are teleported but doesn’t seem to have learnt anything at all.

Jackie continues to be irritating, and the only one of this trio to escape from this episode with any credit is Noel Clarke.  Clarke himself has spoken about his change in attitude towards the role following a serious car accident that he was fortunate to walk away from relatively unscathed, and The Christmas Invasion shows just how far his character has come since Rose, and sets him up nicely for joining the TARDIS, albeit temporarily for series 2.

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The Sycorax are also a pretty forgettable opening adversary.  Although they look intimidating, at no point do you feel that they are going to follow through on their threat to kill all the people with type O+ blood on the planet.  I appreciate that it’s supposed to be a Christmas episode, a bit more of a light-hearted romp, but a good villain in a Doctor Who story is something that I believe really lets down the story, in a way that someone like Kazran Sardick in A Christmas Carol makes a story compelling.  I’ll come to look at the other Russell T Davies Christmas episodes in more depth later on, but this is something that is lacking in most if not all of his era’s Christmas specials.

It really pains me to criticise the Doctor’s actions as well, but I feel his treatment of Harriet Jones, following her decision to destroy the Sycorax spaceship after they are running away is a poor one.  The Doctor had previously highlighted her fledgeling political career as leading to Britain’s Golden Age; yet here he is shown to be willing to throw that all away.  The Tenth Doctor here can be shown to be meddling in time, and the effect of this decision to bring down Harriet Jones’s government can be seen to lead to the opportunity that the Master will later exploit in series 3, and ultimately leading to his ultimate end.

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I accept that as the first Christmas special, it is attempting to appeal to a wide audience and I feel it does that well, and I understand the need for the Christmas references, like the killer Christmas tree.  However, things like the Pilot Fish are potentially using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.  That being said, I enjoy Harriet Jones’ televised speech in replacement of the Queen’s Speech – “Did we ask about the Royal Family? Oh.  They’re on the roof” is a fantastic bit of a dark humour, in what is a good, if flawed, first episode for the new Doctor.

The Verdict: The Tenth Doctor’s introduction is much better when he is conscious but is let down by weak villains. 6/10.

Best Moment: The swordfight for the planet Earth.

Best Quote: “Look at these people, these human beings, consider their potential. From the day they arrive on this planet and blinking, step into the sun, there is more to see than can ever be seen, more to do… no, hold on… sorry, that’s the Lion King… but the point still stands! Leave them alone!” – The Tenth Doctor

 

The Power of the Daleks

Writer: David Whittaker

Director: Christopher Barry

Parts: 6

Starring: Patrick Troughton (The Second Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Anneke Wills (Polly Wright), Bernard Archard (Bragen), Robert James (Lesterton), Nicholas Hawtrey (Quinn), Pamela Ann Davey (Janley), Peter Bathurst (Hensell) and Peter Hawkins (Dalek Voices)

“WE WILL GET OUR POWER!”

Power of the Daleks diary

Patrick Troughton’s first episode, now produced in full as animation, is a fantastic story, full of Dalek menace…

This is the first Dalek story not to feature a writer’s credit for Terry Nation, and under David Whittaker’s penmanship, the debut of the Second Doctor provides a sense of creeping dread and uncertainty about the new man in possession of the TARDIS key.  The Daleks are posing as helpful for the human inhabitants of a colony on Vulcan, but the Doctor and his companions, mistaken for an examining party sent from Earth, know better.

Firstly, the new Doctor.  The script explains that the process of renewing his appearance (regeneration hadn’t even entered the show’s lexicon at this point) is linked to the TARDIS, but his companions, Ben and Polly are untrusting initially that the younger, cosmic hobo is the same man, and the Doctor doesn’t help himself by referring to himself in the third person a lot, especially in the first part.  However, the fact that the Dalek seems to recognise the Doctor eventually seems to calm most of the doubts in their minds.  It is difficult to say much about the intricacies of Patrick Troughton’s performance, due to the animation, but the vocal performance is superb and I believe that the animation does a commendable job of capturing Troughton’s visual performance.

Within the colony, the other colonists have no reason to trust the Doctor’s protests to Lesterton’s attempts to reactivate the dormant three Daleks that have been found in a capsule, even when one of them is killed by one of the Daleks in a scene which is reminiscent of Frankenstein.  One of the best scenes in the earlier parts of the episode are where the Doctor demands that the Daleks are “broken up or melted down.  Up or down,  I don’t care whichbut destroyed!”

The Daleks sell themselves convincingly to the colonists that they are nothing but servants, which is something echoed in Victory of Daleks.  This plot shows the true cunning of the Daleks – even deprived of their gun stalks, they are still a formidable threat and remain plotting, gaining the trust of colonists very easily.  They are also seen as an aid to the rebellion against Governor Hensell, being run by Bragen and Lesterton’s assistant, Janley, which ultimately backfires as the Daleks kill indiscriminately, both members of the rebellion and the loyal forces alike.

The highlight of the episode for me, however, is definitely the production line sequence.  Lesterton enters the capsule, due to increased suspicion thanks to the Doctor’s protests, to discover the Dalek manufacturing more and more Daleks, and to his impending horror, the magnitude of what he has done finally dawns on him.  Unfortunately for the colonists, Lesterton’s discovery is far too late.

The Power of the Daleks is an exceptionally strong episode, and it is a testament to Troughton’s performance that, despite his eccentricities in the first few episodes, he provides a strong performance to convince you by the end of the six parter, that he is indeed the same man who faced the Cybermen in the South Pole, just with a different face.  It is often said by actors who play the Doctor, or felt by fans, that they aren’t the Doctor until they have faced the Daleks, and so it is a true baptism of fire for him as an actor, and he comes through with full marks.

As for the Daleks, we rarely see them so devious, so patient and so cunning as we do here…and it is truly terrifying.

Verdict: An incredibly strong debut for the Second Doctor; with a strong story for the Daleks.  10/10

Best Quote: “I think we’d better get out of here before they send us the bill!” – The Second Doctor.

Best Moment: The production line scene.