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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “The Christmas Invasion”

(intro to my Who blogging, please read before commenting / previous: Season 1, Episode 13: “The Parting of the Ways”)

Maybe it seems silly, at first glance, to be discussing the David Tennant episodes in reverse order of season — I’ve just wrapped up the “Harold Saxon” arc, and here we are back in the “Torchwood” arc, Tennant’s first season and Billie Piper’s last. But I’m glad I did it this way, because if I’d done it the other way around…

See, I loved Christopher Eccleston before Doctor Who, I loved him as the Doctor, and I wasn’t ready to see him go. I wasn’t ready for a new Doctor, and who the hell did this Tennant guy think he was, anyway, that he could step into Eccleston’s shoes, step into the Doctor’s shoes? I was eager for more Doctor Who, of course, but I was also convinced that, well, if that first new season wasn’t the huge fuckup we dedicated Whovians were convinced it would be, then surely the huge fuckup was coming now. Another new Doctor, already? Sheesh.
If you’d asked me then, I never could have guessed I’d be so madly in love with Tennant and with his Doctor now. (Who could have guessed that we’d all be madly in love with him?) If I’d starting writing about Tennant’s episodes when they first aired, this would all be very different than it’s going to be.

Ah, the benefits of hindsight…

Anyway, Tennant’s tenure as the Doctor starts, as far as I’m concerned, before the actual beginning of the episode, with the short “Children in Need special,” which can be found in the Special Features section on Disc 1 (of the U.S. version, at least). It’s a “missing scene” between the ninth Doctor’s regeneration at the end of “The Parting of the Ways” and the tenth Doctor’s stumbling from the TARDIS at the Powell Estates at the beginning of “The Christmas Invasion.” And it’s perfect: between his quick assessment of his new body — “New teeth. That’s weird”; “Hair! I’m not bald! Ooo, big hair…” — to Rose’s bone-deep shock, this is exactly what regeneration scenes should always have been. Especially the part about Rose’s shock. Other companions seemed to take it in such easy stride, when, c’mon: Holy shit. In my Who fan fiction — which I’m still vacillating back and forth on about posting here; is it better to preserve the thin illusion, if only for myself, that I’m not a 100 percent complete and utter dork than to remove all doubt, or should I just say what the hell? I haven’t figured it out yet — my companion (in stories I never got around to writing) actually has nightmares about regeneration, which she’s heard about but never witnessed…

With Rose, though, Russell Davies really gets how it almost feels like a betrayal, not just for her character within the context of the story but for all the geekily devoted fans, too. Tom Baker was my first Doctor, and I almost refused to continue watching once he regenerated into Peter Davison, refused to believe anyone else could be the Doctor. Hell, as I just told you, I felt that way again about Eccleston. And all the Doctor’s stumbling around in this episode as he tries to figure out precisely who is he now mirrors the conclusions we come to, as well: it seems like an ironic dichotomy, but it isn’t, that just as everyone else is deciding the Doctor’s absolutely the same man he was, he himself concludes that there is indeed something new about him — he’s harder, colder, less merciful, and he recognizes that. He’s the same, and he’s different. Whichever Doctor you “really love” (to quote Mickey mostly in context), whatever he becomes is not “the proper Doctor” (to quote Rose mostly in context)… until, suddenly, he is.

The missing scene also has something that I’m not sure we’ve seen — or, rather, heard — before or since in the new Who: the TARDIS’s cloister bell, clanging in the background as the Doctor’s regeneration begins to be in trouble. The bell was always used as an indication of extreme danger — well, I say “always,” but it was hardly used at all: it wasn’t like the klaxons on the Enterprise, which blared if Picard got a hangnail; when you heard the cloister bell, it was pretty much time to kiss your ass good-bye. The interesting thing here, though, is that the TARDIS itself is not in danger: the Doctor is. There’s been all sorts of stuff all through the new series about how the TARDIS is alive and how the Doctor has some sort of telepathic connection to it, but here is the best evidence of that: when the Doctor shudders and cries out in pain, so does the TARDIS. Later, when Rose wonders why the Sycorax language isn’t being translated in her head, she concludes it’s because the Doctor is a vital element of the circuit that makes that happen, and because he’s out to lunch, the circuit’s not being completed. I like to think, though, that the reason the TARDIS isn’t working is because the Doctor isn’t working. They’re too intertwined for either of them to go it alone.

I like to think that the TARDIS — along with Rose and Martha and Jack and the rest of us — is in love with the Doctor, too, in its own alien-machine, TARDISy way.

But the Doctor and Rose… it begins here, really. The Ninth Doctor was so traumatized by the Time War — and, I also imagine and will probably have to write fanfic about, the long stretch after the war was over and Gallifrey was gone and the Doctor believed himself to be totally alone and was alone for a long while rebuilding and remaking the TARDIS — that he was so desperate for any contact with other creatures that he simply latched onto Rose out of necessity. And he got lucky that her enthusiasm and youth and kindness turned out to be exactly what he needed to save him from… what? insanity? If there was anything like “romance” in their relationship, it was of a more vague, distant, hypothetical nature. But now it becomes something else, something more urgent and, well, earthy. “Am I funny?” the Doctor wonders aloud. “Am I sarcastic? Sexy?” And he winks at Rose, and she ‘s intrigued by that.

Too bad it didn’t come a little earlier for her. Cuz, umm, who got the Doctor out of his clothes and into his jammies? Not Jackie, I’m guessing, since she asked, “Anything else he’s got two of?” in that way that makes you understand precisely what body part she’s implying it might be interesting for a man to have two of. So: it was Rose, wasn’t it? When Cassandra, in the next episode, accuses Rose of, ahem, “looking” at the Doctor, I’d guess this is where the looking started… except poor Rose was probably too distraught at this early point to really take much notice at all. Poor girl.

I think she gets more chances later on.

Torchwood! That begins here right away, too. “Not even the United Nations knows about Torchwood,” but they will later, when Jack takes over… although clearly at least the UNIT part of the UN knows about Torchwood, too. Ah, I’ve got all sorts of delicious new fanfic in my head regarding pissing contests between UNIT and Torchwood…

Random thoughts on “The Christmas Invasion”:

• Will the Doctor ever get to Barcelona, do you think?

• I do believe that the purchase of a widescreen HDTV may have been worth every penny for one reason alone: I can see now that David Tennant has freckles.

• “Tea! That’s all I needed, a good cup of tea. Superheated infusion of free radicals and tannins, just the thing for heating the synapses.”

• Nice touch, all the scaffolding around Big Ben, so recently half destroyed by a crashing spaceship…

• Very Arthur Dent, the Doctor in his bathrobe… and he knows it too! “Now, there was a nice man.” Hmm, when did the Doctor meet Arthur? And presumably Arthur was not a man to be walking around in his bathrobe for no good reason, when, exactly, in the Doctor Who timeline did the Vogons demolish Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass? You’d think UNIT would have noticed that one…

• “No denying the existence of aliens now,” the Doctor says at the end of the episode. “Everyone saw it.” Except, yup, lots of people seem to be able to deny it or excuse it after all, as we’ll continue to see throughout this season and next, and in Torchwood. Stupid humans…

• The Doctor’s no secret now, either, thanks to Harriet Jones and her request on TV for his help. Though I suppose people will forget all about that, too. You gotta know, though, that a whole bunch of geeks immediately Googled “who is the Doctor” five seconds after the Prime Minister mentioned him…

• “Don’t you think she looks tired?” And so it begins — the Doctor clears way for Harold Saxon…

(next: Episode 1: “New Earth”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
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  • Poly

    – Talking about the link between the Doctor and the TARDIS, someone else made the observation that the TARDIS is the Doctor’s daemon (in the context of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books). And as far as I am concerned, it’s absolutely perfect. They are both separate and the same thing.

    – Rose’s line from the missing scene: “Can you change back?” is echoed exactly by Joan Redfern at the end of The Family of Blood. And although it’s a slightly different context with a different answer, it reinforces the Doctor’s sadness, like he is never who he should be.

    – Davis Tennant’s freckles is the essence of his Doctor :)

    – I always thought the Doctor was talking about Arthur Dent as a fictional character, but who knows?

  • Mike Brady

    The doctor’s daemon! I like that! And just like those daemons, the TARDIS could originally change form when the Doctor was younger but is now fixed in a permanent form. I’ve been meaning to re-read those books before “Golden Compass” comes out in theatres…

  • MaryAnn

    The Doctor says “Nice man” about Arthur in a way that makes it sound like Arthur is a real person, I thought….

  • MaryAnn

    echoed exactly by Joan Redfern at the end of The Family of Blood

    I mentioned that when I blogged about “Family of Blood”.

  • RG

    I love the daemon connection! You’re right, that does make a kind of sense :)

    The Arthur line is one of my favorites so far — I think it’s meant to sound like he’s met him. Maybe something to do with the Plural Zone and pre-Time War dimensional travel? Though that ignores Mostly Harmless…

  • JSW

    Very Arthur Dent, the Doctor in his bathrobe… and he knows it too! “Now, there was a nice man.” Hmm, when did the Doctor meet Arthur? And presumably Arthur was not a man to be walking around in his bathrobe for no good reason, when, exactly, in the Doctor Who timeline did the Vogons demolish Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass? You’d think UNIT would have noticed that one…

    Has it been established yet whether dolphins still exist on DW Earth?

  • JSW

    And even with Mostly Harmless it’s still quite possible that Earth exists at certain points along the Probability Axis. It was strongly implied that in order to destroy Earth completely Jeltz would have to make sure that all the remaining Earthlings were killed in the process, hence his use of the Guide Mk. II to make sure they were all on the planet when he blew it up. However, he didn’t account for Fenchurch, who was shunted off into a divergent timeline while travelling through hyperspace and is likely still wandering the galaxy looking for Arthur.

  • Though that ignores Mostly Harmless…

    Aren’t we better off ignoring Mostly Harmless anyway? Even Douglas Adams himself kind of regretted writing it…

  • Evie

    If there was anything like “romance” in their relationship, it was of a more vague, distant, hypothetical nature. But now it becomes something else, something more urgent and, well, earthy.

    Really?! I’m quite stunned by this – I thought Nine and Rose had a carnality that far outstrips anything Tennant is able to generate with anyone. Rose and Ten are kind of cute (repulsively so in some instances), but there’s nothing that implies SEX between them the likes of the “resonating concrete” scene in “The Doctor Dances” or the “better with two” conversation in “The Unquiet Dead”, where I was firmly convinced she was about to slam him up against the console and show him just how much better “better” could be.

    I know he’s widely adored, but while I find Tennant moderately charismatic, I find his performance as the Doctor quite one-dimensional – the writing is complex (if bewilderingly inconsistent at times), and he was much better as an actor as John Smith – but his Doctor is neither charming nor powerful to me, so I find him just kind of…petulant and smug. When they go on about him being “magnificent”, I just can’t see it, in most part not because I don’t like his actions (which I often don’t), but because he just doesn’t have the kind of presence that actors like Eccleston and even Colin Baker do. His hypocritical undermining of Harriet here seems more representative of his character than his (rather amusingly incompetent) swordfight.

    Why do I keep watching, then? Because there are many other things about the show that are interesting, and sometimes the writing does come together to tell a good story within the frame of an episode.

    Just another voice…

  • TempestDash

    Considering Douglas Adams was a writer for Doctor Who, it’s probably just a matter of paying respects to the honored dead.

  • MaryAnn

    there’s nothing that implies SEX between them

    Oh, I disagree. Certainly there was a connection between Nine and Rose, and a strong one, but I felt it was more about potential than actuality — or more about the Doctor still finding his keel through her, though she wasn’t realizing that. There’s a neediness of an intimate nature but not quite of a sexual one. With Ten, though, it feels like sex to me.

    His hypocritical undermining of Harriet here seems more representative of his character than his (rather amusingly incompetent) swordfight.

    I agree completely. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though, as you seem to. He isn’t all wise or all knowing, and that makes him far more interesting.

  • MaryAnn

    Considering Douglas Adams was a writer for Doctor Who, it’s probably just a matter of paying respects to the honored dead.

    I’d still like it to make sense within the context of the story.

  • Kathy A

    Ah, I’ve got all sorts of delicious new fanfic in my head regarding pissing contests between UNIT and Torchwood…

    Please tell me that Sgt. Benton has gotten a promotion and is still around, or maybe in active retirement? He was a private in 1968, so “recently retired” would probably fit better. I always loved John Benton.

  • Evie

    There’s a neediness of an intimate nature but not quite of a sexual one. With Ten, though, it feels like sex to me.

    I’m astonished that you don’t see sex between Nine and Rose, because it smacked me between the eyes hard right away. I mean, if you don’t, you don’t (and with Ten, I don’t), but with Nine, I couldn’t miss it. Even in the first couple of episodes, I was thinking, “Hang on, where’s that asexuality that’s supposed to be happening here!?”, and by the time he was flirting with Jabe, I could see that that was, indeed, gone. I can see Ten and Rose being flirty, but I find it quite adolescent, and for me, therefore, not really very sexy. It felt like a step backward in maturity, and therefore in emotional development. I can better read series two as Rose desperately clinging to someone she’d loved, ignoring the somewhat disturbing changes, rather than really moving forward into something “deeper”.

    Part of it, too, is that Tennant’s energy as an actor seems quite selfish to me. He sucks everything in to himself, and doesn’t really give energy to others in a scene – he keeps it all for himself, whether he generates it or others do – whereas Eccleston and Piper are both “givers”, and that feedback loop creates a much more intense connection for me.

    On the other point, I agree, Ten is written as a complex character, but I’m not really finding that it hangs together in the writing, nor certainly in the performance – although he does cohere more around “bastard” than “admirable”. I don’t even mind having a bastard as a hero, I just find Tennant underpowered to pull it off. He comes off more as “jerk”.

    Just to say, I’m not trying to be hostile, just putting forward another reading!

  • I was a Dr. Who virgin until last month, with Torchwood. I just finished the first (rebooted) Who series with Eccleston and watched The Christmas Invasion last night, and am missing his alternately goofy/disturbing take on the character terribly. I’m not finding Tennant annoying, but he’s not Eccleston. I’m glad to hear that this is a common reaction and that I’ll recover soon.

    As someone with no previous exposure to Who, one of my favorite aspects of the Doctor is his subtle alien-ness. He can seem very human through most of the episode, but then he’ll do or say something that’s just not right. I don’t have any specific cites, but there are certain emotional reactions – or lack thereof – that remind you no matter how “normal” he looks, he’s a complete alien. I too thought there was a lot of chemistry between 9 and Rose (and Jack, when he showed up), but appreciated that the show was not about that – there was no drive to the UST that makes a lot of shows feel so “comfortable”. Made me wonder if the Doctor was even interested in humans in that way. (“maybe it was blown off in the timewar”, my roommate suggests.)

    I do have one big problem with the show though: I’m not scared of the Daleks – at least not as a group. Perversely, one Dalek (as in the “Dalek” episode, or the Emporor/God at the end of series one) is terrifying, but numerous Daleks are as Stormtroopers to me. Ah well. I’m sure British fans feel the same way about old-school Klingons.

  • Katie

    I think I’ve mentioned this before but the moment I fell in love DT’s Doctor was after the battle when he’s walking back towards Rose and he knows the Alien (forget the name) is coming up behind him he throws the mini orange and says ‘No second chances, that’s what kind of man I am’. There’s just something about the way he says that and his expression…I was absolutely sold right then and there.

  • Magess

    I was not a fan of Tennant when he took over. In fact, I kept calling him rat-face. I don’t think I really fell for him until he picked up Martha. I don’t know if the writing changed somehow, or if I just got used to him.

    He seems more… frenetic than Nine. And I think I agree that he doesn’t resonate sex to me. Wonder and joy and pathos, sure. I want to hold him and tell him that everything will be okay. But I can’t quite see him taking, well, anyone to bed. Even just slowing down enough to have that experience or spend that much time concentrating on someone else.

    He seems a bit like a tornado.

  • He seems a bit like a tornado.

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head as to why some people find the Tenth Doctor sexier than the Ninth. Look, the Ninth Doctor, as alien as he was, seemed vulnerable and, well, human. He was full of doubt and anguish.

    The Tenth Doctor, on the other hand, is like a force of nature–he moves fast, leaving both beauty and destruction in his wake.

    Myself, I prefer women (though I’d probably make an exception for Captain Jack), but I can see where that force of nature aspect could be, to some, very very sexy.

  • MaryAnn

    Oh my god I love you guys. Even when I disagree with you, I love you. Because this is what is so great about *Doctor Who*: how passionate it makes fans. Even the old *Who* didn’t inspire quite this kind of reaction in fans.

    Please tell me that Sgt. Benton has gotten a promotion and is still around, or maybe in active retirement?

    Yeah, I loved Benton too. I hadn’t thought about using Benton, but sure, why not.

    I’m astonished that you don’t see sex between Nine and Rose, because it smacked me between the eyes hard right away. Even in the first couple of episodes, I was thinking, “Hang on, where’s that asexuality that’s supposed to be happening here!?”

    Yes, I saw that too — wow, all of a sudden the Doctor is sexy! and interested in women! and not just in my imagination! — but interested in *other* women, not in Rose. Or, perhaps, interested but not ready. (This is all in retrospect in light of the two Tennant seasons, of course. At the time, I did feel like there maybe was more there.) I think Nine was so damaged that he just needed simple companionship — and at the same time he’s so complicated a person that if sex was gonna be part of that healing, he knew enough not to expect that from Rose, who is, let us be honest, very young and very naive, at least early on in her relationship with the Doctor.

    I can better read series two as Rose desperately clinging to someone she’d loved, ignoring the somewhat disturbing changes, rather than really moving forward into something “deeper”.

    Couldn’t it be both, though? That in her clinging, she opens herself up to other possibilities at the same time the Doctor is molding himself to be more of what Rose might need?

    One thing that’s so fascinating about the Doctor, especially as Ten’s shaping himself for Rose has shown, is that he can be somewhat malleable in personality. We’ve never seen him shape himself so deliberately toward another person before — and that says something about his own desperation. Perhaps what’s most disturbing about Ten is how needy he is…

    Tennant’s energy as an actor seems quite selfish to me.

    Oh, I don’t see that, either. I think he’s extraordinarily generous as an actor, or at least that Billie Piper — and who’d have thunk it? — is more than able to keep up with him and counter him. Certainly, having now seen other of his work (*Blackpool* and *Casanova,* which I’ll write about soon), I still feel the same way.

    He comes off more as “jerk”.

    Wow! I *so* don’t see that. I find it fascinating that you do.

    Just to say, I’m not trying to be hostile, just putting forward another reading!

    Of course. I love hearing another perspective, particularly when it’s presented in a way that’s NOT hostile.

    I was a Dr. Who virgin until last month

    You poor thing!

    I do have one big problem with the show though: I’m not scared of the Daleks

    That was getting to be a problem with the Daleks in the previous incarnation of the show, too. It’s probably a good thing that Davies seems to be phasing out the Daleks. Let’s get some new bad guys in the mix.

    [Tennant] doesn’t resonate sex to me. I can’t quite see him taking, well, anyone to bed.

    Oh. My. God.

    I’ll be in my bunk.

    the Ninth Doctor, as alien as he was, seemed vulnerable and, well, human. He was full of doubt and anguish.

    So is Ten, too, in his own way. If there’s one thing he seems to say more than anything else, it’s “I’m sorry — I’m so sorry.” This is not a man who is comfortable with everything he sees and does.

    I can see where that force of nature aspect could be, to some, very very sexy.

    It is. It really, really is.

  • I’m always amused at the idea of Tennant’s Doctor as the vengeful one, because he’s also the funniest Doctor ever. Tennant plays comedy marvelously.

    I liked him his first year, but there were moments – the shouty ones – that were horrible. It sometimes seemed like the writers were still scripting for Eccleston and Tennant didn’t quite know how to play it. That all corrected itself Series 3 and I thought he was marvelous throughout, even in the few episodes I didn’t like or thought were a bit trite and a companion who rather bored me. The last half of that series, he was downright amazing and won my heart . . . which really only makes him my 4th favorite Doctor (Eccleston, T Baker, and Davison ahead of him) but I think that’s pretty good . . . I look forward to the next series, especially because I understand it will be a little lighter and, as I said, Tennant gives me good-sized belly laughs.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m always amused at the idea of Tennant’s Doctor as the vengeful one, because he’s also the funniest Doctor ever. Tennant plays comedy marvelously.

    He does indeed. But that makes his vengeful side all the more shocking, and intriguing. It’s like he just feels *everything* more.

  • Hi MaryAnn. I’ve really been enjoying your posts on “Doctor Who”. I think it’s great that someone else could be as crazy about the Doctor as I am and admit it for all to read! I followed all your episode links back to this first episode featuring David Tennant and was wondering: do you have any posts on the episodes featuring Eccleston? Thanks for a fun read!

  • MaryAnn

    I was originally blogging about the Eccleston episodes at my now-defunct GeekPhilosophy.com, and I never finished his year, but you can see as much as I wrote about Doctor No. 9 here:

    http://www.maryannjohanson.com/2006/03/doctor-who-blogging-rosethe-en.php
    http://www.maryannjohanson.com/2006/04/doctor-who-blogging-the-unquie.php
    http://www.maryannjohanson.com/2006/05/doctor-who-blogging-world-war.php
    http://www.maryannjohanson.com/2006/07/doctor-who-blogging-the-long-g.php

    I think I should just start over from the beginning. :->

  • That sounds like an excellent plan!

    Thanks for the links. :)

  • Andrea

    I would just like to say that I love all of these Doctor Who episode blogs… and especially this one! It is so awesome to find other people who know enough about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy AND Doctor Who to fight about them! :) I am not alone.

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