Following on from his recent regeneration, the Tardis lands back on Earth on Christmas eve, but the Doctor’s residual regeneration energy has attracted some unwanted attention, and he’s in no fit state to fend it off.
When I first watched The Christmas Invasion, I didn’t like it at all. I found it far too simplistic and boring. I had hoped the invasion would be a clever cover for something else, hoped the Sycorax would be more interesting than just a bunch of space warriors, wished the resolution would have involved more than just a one-on-one fight to the death, and generally found the “big global threat” angle to be tiresome.
In retrospect, I found more to enjoy this time. What we have here is an episode where the Doctor isn’t around and we see how the people of Earth deal with that. We see how threatening a race of aliens can be when the Doctor isn’t there to call their bluff. And we see just what a cocky and confident man the Doctor actually is. He ridicules the Sycorax, he shows up their technology for what it really is, and he wins a fight in his pyjamas using a satsuma. Brilliant!
But not to be fooled by his jovial Arthur Dentian ways, his darker side comes through as well. His “no second chances” to the fallen Sycorax leader is particularly harsh, and his reaction to what Harriet Jones does at the end suggests his positive opinions of humanity can change. Earth is beginning to step out into the Universe. This is the first time Torchwood has had some (off-screen) involvement in events, and the Doctor is not very happy about it. Don’t worry, Doc, nobody else likes Torchwood either.
For a Christmas episode, it’s not overly Christmassy. I suppose that’s to its advantage in some ways, as future Christmas specials have all tried to “capture the magic of Christmas” at any cost, often to their detriment. The Christmas Invasion tries to be a big “event” type story, and goes too far with it. A third of the population being mind-controlled should have had far more devastating effects on the world than what we saw. Wouldn’t cars crash into each other? Wouldn’t some aeroplanes start falling out of the sky? Doctor Who needs to stop doing global disasters and then shrugging them off as if it’s nothing. Oh, and Mickey hacking into the government network on his modem and laptop again? Come off it!
One part disaster, one part comedy, The Christmas Invasion is the sort of surreal concoction that only Doctor Who can pull off. I can’t say I totally enjoyed it, but it was okay, and funnier than I remember.