Who Sunday: The Christmas Invasion: Russell T. Davies

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Welcome to June and Season Two. The new Doctor (Ten) is comatose and aliens are invading London again. It’s up to Rose, Mickey, and Jackie to save the world. And Harriet Jones, of course. This one’s a great intro to a quirkier Doctor with a lot swash to his buckle and to a newer, tougher Rose, a little farther along in her transition from chav to warrior. Endings in stories are important, but beginnings are the second most important, so let’s look at this one. If beginnings are the invitations to the party that is the story, the promise the writer makes to the reader, what does this invitation promise? Remember, Davies knew he had to sell a new Doctor, so the stakes were even higher than usual.

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23 thoughts on “Who Sunday: The Christmas Invasion: Russell T. Davies

    1. I just read that yesterday.
      I’d rather Moffat would go back to writing splendid episodes and they’d get a new showrunner. I liked Matt Smith a lot, but he got handed those Doctor-centric plot lines and that kneecapped him.
      The speculation on the next Doctor is fun, though.

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  1. We begin and end in the Tyler flat, first with Ten in regeneration-induced peril, and later at the table for Christmas dinner. This domestic frame for the episode is the series writ large, basic to Dr. Who. Ten arrives at Christmas, the birthday of the savior. So, the Doctor as Christ figure. That’s a huge promise.

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    1. It’s paid off when he leaves in three (?) years; there’s a Gethsemane and he dies for others, but then he would. He’s pretty much a savior figure all the way through, rather than a quest hero. No returning home, no single goal.

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  2. As a writer, I think this episode is brilliant. (As a fan, I think it’s brilliant, too, but that’s just squee.) Davies had a huge job, switching out a much-loved Doctor for a New Guy, and I think he did it brilliantly. He gave Rose space to grieve for the Doctor she lost, he gave her and the viewers the Doctor in action and under pressure so that they could recognize him again, and he gave the Doctor big swashbuckling scenes to show not only his strength but that gleeful personality that Nine had, mixed with a lot of exultation that he was back. There are shout-outs in this one, too; the Santas in the mall a direct echo of the mannequins from “Rose,” Jackie and Micky, and Harriet Jones, the London setting, all a callback to the pilot episode. I was very hesitant to accept a new Doctor–Nine was my first and he was Fantastic–but I liked Ten in this and then the next episode, “New Earth,” sold me completely. “Invasion” is a perfect example, I think, of how to introduce a new protagonist: vulnerable, in trouble, surrounded by those who need him, answering the call with panache and courage. How could anybody resist?

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  3. I agree completely. This episode hit all the right notes and none of the wrong ones.

    And I had serious doubts about Matt Smith until that first episode with the young Amy Pond, and now I am SO not ready for him to go. I am trying to keep an open mind about the change, as much as I hate to lose the Doctors I’ve grown attached to, since each of the three actors they’ve cast since the reboot has been amazing in his own way. Still. Sniffle.

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  4. I thought this episode was brilliant because before watching it, I was convinced I didn’t want a new doctor, but by the end of it Davies convinced me that I did. Going back to the whole Rose as a place holder for the viewer…she didn’t want a new doctor and neither did I. But as things went from bad to worse (as they always do in Doctor Who) and the doctor is out of commission and unable to save the world, I’m starting to think, “Come on Doctor. Wake up. Get better. Do something!” What? Did I just find myself cheering for the guy I didn’t think I’d even like? Oh, yes I did. When Rose was bluffing with the Sycorax leader, I wanted Ten to get out there and be the Doctor. Total change in my attitude. It was almost as if his being in bed was my mourning period. When he finally came out of the TARDIS, I was ready for him to be the Doctor. THEN…when he starts talking circle of life and demanding the Sycorax leave all while trying to figure out who he is. That was just awesomeness.

    The Doctor: Now. First thing’s first. Be honest. How do I look?
    Rose Tyler: Different.
    The Doctor: Good different or bad different?
    Rose Tyler: Just different.
    The Doctor: Am I… ginger?
    Rose Tyler: No, you’re sort of just… brown.
    The Doctor: Aww, I wanted to be ginger. I’ve never been ginger! And you, Rose Tyler, fat lot of good you were, you gave up on me. Ooh, that’s rude. Is that all I am now? Rude? Rude and not ginger?

    Sycorax Leader: [shouts] I demand to know who you are!
    The Doctor: [shouts, imitating him] I don’t know!
    The Doctor: See, there’s the thing. I’m the Doctor, but beyond that, I – I just don’t know. I literally do not know who I am. It’s all untested. Am I funny? Am I sarcastic? Sexy?
    [he winks at Rose]
    The Doctor: Am I an old misery? Life and soul? Right-handed? Left-handed? A gambler? A fighter? A coward? A traitor, a liar, a nervous wreck? I mean, judging by the evidence, I’ve certainly got a gob.

    So not only are the viewers trying to figure out who the Doctor is, he is trying to figure himself out too. The writers convinced me to believe, and I did. However, when Ten changed to eleven and there were No place holders…I never felt it was the same guy. I mourned ten every time I watched eleven. I never really felt I got closure for Ten, if that makes sense.

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    1. You’re right, the transition to Eleven was really abrupt. It didn’t help that he was alone when he regenerated so there was no companion to be a transition placeholder. I loved the first episode of Eleven, but it felt like a new series (and has ever since). I know he’s the Doctor and he’s cruising around in the Tardis, but he’s not MY Doctors (Nine and Ten).
      Very interested in how they’re going to transition to the new Doctor. I can spare Clara (there was a thankless role), but not Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. If they’re there to help with the changeover, I’m in. Well, I’m in anyway.

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        1. I like Clara, but I feel like she has a lot of muddled up mess dumped on her. Still, it would be nice to have someone we know there to witness the transition and react to it. I have faith that they’ll find the perfect actor, but it’s always weird for an episode or three. And sometimes I just crave Ten so badly that I have to go watch a few, for old time’s sake.*

          I feel like Ten didn’t get any real resolution, too, which is dumb when there was SUCH a long check-on-everyone-you-ever-met thing at the end there. But I think this discussion hit it on the head: he was alone. And he didn’t want to go, and so we’re left with his last moments being so sad and full of longing after ending in all that angst and screaming, after starting so gleefully. And we all (who watched it live, anyway) went in knowing that it wasn’t just Ten leaving, but RTD and Julie and that whole group. We were walking into not just New Doctor – New Companion, but new showrunner, new visual and narrative direction. And it’s the narrative that made it hard; I love Moff, but he has a very different way of telling stories, and the show feels different and has different aims.

          That’s why it’s hard to pick up a sequel to a novel written by someone else. Or to watch a movie finished by someone else.

          ~:)

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          1. I know. Nine is my Doctor, but Ten was so splendid, and then he died alone and came back in a whole new world. It was just too abrupt. I could ALMOST believe that Ten was really still Nine, but Eleven is new. Matt Smith is great, but he got handed a thankless transition and a self-absorbed Doctor, thanks to Moffat. I love Moffat’s writing, love what he’s doing with Sherlock, but he should get his mitts off the Doctor.

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  5. Yeah, that was brilliant having the Doctor sleep while Jackie, Micky and Rose all ran around trying to fix things. I thought Rose was very brave in this one. And then when the tea revives the Doctor things get going fast. I also thought the Doctor saying “I don’t give second chances” was very telling.

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        1. Well, she took the responsibility. And Davies gave her an excellent death, defiant to the end, still identifying herself.

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  6. Having him mostly unconscious until they really needed him was a great move. For Rose and for the audience – if he’d jumped right in at the beginning there would have been more resistance. But letting things get so bad and then giving him the opportunity to do what the Doctor always does meant we all really, REALLY wanted Ten to wake up and prove he was still the Doctor. His big scene with the Sycorax shows his capability, his swagger, and just a little of how grim he can be (“No second chances. I’m that sort of man”). So much of his personality for the next four years is evident at the very beginning.

    Much as I love the big sword fight and Christmas dinner, and Ten and Rose holding hands and deciding where to go next, I also really love it when Rose whispers “Help me” and he immediately wakes up to save her. Even comatose, he knows Rose is in trouble and manages to get up just long enough to help her. More than anything else, that tells you he’s still the Doctor. He still loves Rose.

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    1. I really looked at the dynamics this time–usually I just get swept up in the story–and I realized that what he does to Harriet at the end really establishes who he is. He wakes up as this giddy swashbuckling hero who faces down a huge alien spaceship and fights a flashy duel and says, “The Earth is defended,” and then when Harriet steps over his line, he takes her down, too, very quietly. It took me awhile to realize that that’s the real character climax, that the Earth isn’t defended until both leaders who have overstepped and killed are deposed. It shifts him from a hero to a Time Lord. Whether it’s right that he does it or not, it’s exactly in character as someone who defends life in general and the Earth as a hobby.
      I really love this episode and the more times I watch it, the more I see in it.

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      1. That bigger-than-human PoV is what I like most in the Doctor. The episodes when he doesn’t try to pass as a human. He’s delightful and charming and everything, and I love him to little bits when he’s being clever, but the real character strength is in his alienness, a lot of the time. He’s not human. He loves humans, he maybe sort of wishes he was one, but he’s something else. And that’s such a great and powerful place to build a character one when it’s done right.

        ~:)

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      2. Definitely agree. What happens with Harriet is a great demonstration of Ten’s attitude toward what he perceives as wrong/immoral/unethical behavior. He verbalizes it in “New Earth” (“If you’re looking for a higher authority there isn’t one – it stops with me”), but you really see it with Harriet. Now that I think about it, Ten always seemed very certain that dealing with people who cross those lines was HIS responsibility. Didn’t realize that came out so early in his run. The Doctor as the ultimate moral compass really seemed to be something Davies focused on (status as the last Time Lord contributes to that), but I don’t think the Doctor seems to see himself that way until Ten.

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        1. Ten always seemed more aggressive to me. Nine seemed weary, as if he really had lived six hundred years or whatever it was, and then there was Rose and he laughed again. Ten seemed to laugh most of the time, to take everything easier, not to question so much. I don’t remember any moments for Ten like the one when the Dalek told Nine he’d make a good Dalek.

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          1. The only moment that seemed close to me was when Davros told him he made people into weapons. I think Ten was genuinely happier, but the attitude was also partly his way of burying all the baggage that was so much closer to the surface with Nine. Some of it was still there, he was just better at hiding it – pretty sure Donna once told him he talked all the time but never said anything. All the more impact when you get smacked with one of his biggest pieces of baggage in “The End of Time” when you get the rest of the story about the Time War (again with the Doctor making the hard but right choice, guess that really was Davies’ thing).

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      3. There are so many ways that this episode establishes who ten is, and who he’s going to be. It’s a lovely example of economy, using every scene to say something important, right down to the bit at the end. He chooses a new wardrobe, very carefully, and then — he shows up to dinner. Which is marvelous because it hails directly back to the end of the season one episode where Rose has nearly died and Jackie makes the effort to invite this strange and dangerous man in her daughter’s life to come to tea. And when Rose invites him, he says very petulantly that he doesn’t do tea, then lures her right back out to the Tardis for another adventure, leaving Jackie high and dry and suddenly a sympathetic character. Right there in that small switch, they shift the doctor from someone living on the outside of things, all but stealing this girl to travel with him because he needs so desperately to not be alone anymore, to becoming a man who is stepping back into a larger world. There really is sooo much good in the good episodes.

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