Enough has been said in the last few weeks to trumpet this episode of Doctor Who as one of the best ever. Hype does have an unfortunate habit of biting us in the back when we least expect it, but thankfully this isnâ€™t what happened with The Christmas Invasion.
Russell T. Davies has expertly built upon the superb combination of emotion with action of the last episode The Parting of the Ways; while the Christmas tree and evil Santas at first appeared to be nothing more than set pieces, they turned out to be texture, helping us to understand the nature of the alien Sycorax before we eventually met them.
The performances, too, were developed further. Camille Coduri was particularly good to watch as Roseâ€™s mum Jackie, given some of her best lines and a performance to match them; Penelope Wilton as Harriet Jones PM was also well developed from a very lucky backbencher into a fully fledged stateswoman. Meanwhile Noel Clarkeâ€™s Mickey appears to have finally accepted that Rose is going to come and go whether he likes it or not.
Billie Piperâ€™s Rose meanwhile had just lost the man she loved. The first 40 minutes of The Christmas Invasion was devoted to dealing with Roseâ€™s reaction to the Doctorâ€™s regeneration. Regeneration might be a means of avoiding death, but as weâ€™ve seen before the Doctor returns as another man. Humans use voice, character and facial characteristics to identify people â€“ with regeneration this is all thrown up in the air. It was expertly handled.
But really, how could it all have gone wrong? The show opened with a blistering TARDIS crash-land scene as the police box bounced off the walls of the Powell Estate. Special Effects throughout the episode were largely top notch, putting every single US series to shame with their subtlety. Of particular note were the Sycorax spaceship and the “special weapon” at the end of the storyâ€¦
As a message for peace, the episode was unsurpassed by the rest of Christmasâ€™ dramatic programming (“Jesus of Nazareth” aside). Allusions to the seemingly endless war in Iraq and questionable decisions by Prime Ministers are all very well, but sadly donâ€™t give us the full story. Only by knowing the truth can we avert war in the future. As powerful a message it was, in this world of violent crime and wars fought by propaganda and illegal tactics it will fall on mostly deaf ears; an entire series of that message, howeverâ€¦
And who better to carry a message of peace than the Doctor himself? Heâ€™s stopped wars throughout history on all sorts of planets, and of course saved the Earth from alien aggression on countless occasions. This time however was a bit different as he only managed to turn up at the last minute, and in typically Doctorish manner he managed to stave off the Sycorax while dressed for bed â€“ “very Arthur Dent”, as he said himself.
David Tennant always had a difficult task in stepping into Ecclestonâ€™s shoes. However the performance was certainly deserving of the media attention the actor has been receiving in recent weeks. “Cool aplomb” is Kasterborousâ€™ own verdict; astonishingly, Christopher Eccleston with his book covers and walkie-talkie doll will soon be a distant memory to the new breed of Doctor Who fans.
It has been said that Christmas will never be the same again. We have another 13 episodes of Doctor Who to come in the Spring and then another Christmas special. On a per-minute basis, weâ€™ve never had so much Who, although of course there is the best part of 16 years to catch up on.
So thank you RTD and your team, thank you David Tennant and Billie Piper (who successfully looked like she needed a big hug throughout) and thank you BBC for a great Christmas present.