Friday, December 21, 2012

The Doctor Who Christmas Special (Shitmas Day #21)

The sci-fi adventure show Doctor Who has been a staple of British pop culture for years. It first aired in 1963 and its initial run went until 1989. I, unfortunately, have not had the time to revisit the original Doctor Who episodes (they are also pretty hard to find in full season form). I am a new age Doctor Who convert. In 2005 Russell T. Davies renewed the series with Christopher Eccleston (Shallow Grave, 28 Days Later) as the sharp tongued Time Lord and Billie Piper (then British pop sensation) as his loyal companion Rose Tyler. A friend suggested I check this odd little show out and even though I was skeptical I gave it a try – I was so hooked by the story and the relationship between the Doctor and Rose that I went through the entire first season in a matter of days. Now, here’s where things get difficult with this program. A main plot element of the Who universe is that no Doctor stays forever. Eleven actors have headlined the series as The Doctor. The transition from one actor to another is written into the plot of the show as regeneration, a life process of Time Lords through which the character of the Doctor takes on a new body and, to some extent, new personality, which occurs when sustaining injury which would be fatal to most other species. Although each portrayal is different they are all meant to be aspects of the same character.

This took some getting used to for me – I had just spent an entire season with Eccleston’s Doctor and watched his relationship with Rose blossom. Much like Rose herself I had gotten attached. I loved these two and at the end of the first season Eccleston regenerates into David Tennant (Fright Night remake). There were rumors that Eccleston originally was meant to play the role for at least another season but because of some off screen disagreements did not want to return. I threw a bit of a tantrum – wasn’t cool with this new lanky goof ball Tennant at all. Until The Christmas Invasion aired on Christmas Day that is. Just when I thought I had pledged my undying loyalty to the 9th Doctor and really believed I wouldn’t be continuing to watch the show David Tennant’s portrayal of the 10th Doctor won me over in his first appearance.

The Brits do this awesome thing with Doctor Who – each season has a little pre-emptive Christmas special that airs before the regular season picks back up after the New Year. The Christmas Invasion was David Tennant’s first full appearance as the iconic character and he essentially was auditioning for all the fans out there that were still unsure about him. Since the revitalization of the show there have been 7 Christmas specials (not including the one scheduled to air this Christmas 2012). David Tennant has been in the majority of them. For this Shitmas review I chose my favorite one from my boy Tennant because even though I like the new guy, Matt Smith, I am and will always be a 10 gal.

Terminology explained for Non Doctor Who Fans –

TARDIS - the Doctors time and space travelling ship that’s shaped like a Police Call box and that’s bigger on the inside!

Sonic Screwdriver – the Doctor’s multifunctional tool/weapon

The Christmas Invasion opens up with Rose Tyler literally crash landing in the TARDIS back into her mother Jackie’s and on again off again boyfriend Mickey’s lives. Rose and the Doctor are on the heels of the first season finale where in order to save the world Rose put her life in danger. In response to save her the Doctor ended his life (as Christopher Eccleston anyway). The episode ended with the Doctor regenerating into David Tennant and promptly losing consciousness.

Rose is thrown into a whirlwind of emotions this episode. She has come to love the Doctor and her Doctor as she knew him is now gone. She feels abandoned and unsure of this man with the new face. While the Doctor is recuperating from his regeneration Rose and her mom and Mickey try to enjoy the Christmas holiday. While Rose and Mickey are out shopping they are attacked by a trio of brass band Santa’s. Rose and Mickey get back home only to be attacked again, this time by a Christmas Tree tornado that begins slicing and dicing through the apartment. The Doctor has been unable to wake up from his coma until Rose whispers “help me” in his ear. He hears Rose’s voice and sonic screwdrives the tree to smithereens and wakes up long enough to explain that the Santa’s were merely pawns and that something bigger is coming. It senses the Doctors energy and is most likely coming for him, but unfortunately right after this small bit of help he falls back into his coma.

Of course what ends up coming is a big ass Alien spacecraft with a pretty nasty looking Alien battalion on board. Through blood control they body snatch one third of the population to get them to all walk to the ledges of the nearest buildings – the Alien’s threaten that with one push of a button “they will die.” Or the Prime Minister can relinquish control of the planet to them in which case the human population will just be enslaved.

All looks pretty bleak – Rose has given up. The Doctor she knew always came to save the day, but this new Doctor still hasn’t woken up. She gathers her mom and Mickey and they carry the Doctor’s comatose body to the TARDIS to wait out the end of the world. They end up getting beamed on to the Alien spaceship where the Doctor wakes up just in the nick of time. He challenges the head Alien to a duel for the planet and wins - after getting his hand all Luke Skywalkered. Lucky for him he is able to grow it back. Since Tennant has been more or less in a coma the entire episode this final scene in the episode really shows the fans what kind of character this new Doctor will be – an idea that is actually written in to the scene itself with Tennant having an entire monologue about what kind of man he wants to be. We find out that David Tennant will be playing a Doctor not to be trifled with. The episode ends with the ash of the destroyed alien spaceship making snow for the Brits and The Doctor and Rose begin to plan their next adventure across the stars.

In this fan’s opinion Billie Piper’s Rose is the girl that all subsequent companions tried to live up to and even though I liked them all in their own ways all of them fell short when compared to the chemistry Tennant and Piper had. Theirs was the quintessential tragic love story – they had no way of having a future together – him being an immortal Alien who knew he would have to come to terms with her one day aging and dying. Yeah, I know this little horror chick is showing her soft side, but every now and then ya need a little romance so why not have it with aliens and time travel. In the words of the latest companion, Amelia Pond, every girl wants a “raggedy man” to run away and have adventures with.

- Katherine Backoff

1 comment:

  1. Actually no, Classic Doctor who isn't available in any form of full season DVD at all! But, that isn't really a problem, considering each serial is longer than a movie, and the DVD's are usually packed with special features!...The only downside to them is that they're SSSOOOOOOO damn expensive! To buy a single Doctor Who serial, it'd cost at least 35 bucks if you're lucky!