Even with my contacts on OG and the newfound ability for ordinary, NORMAL people to put stories on DVD for me, it was a case of "get what you're given and don't complain". Even when the BBC oh-so-briefly allowed a certain five minutes on their website, I wasn't in control. I had to go to an internet cafe, sit in a darkened room and watch on a tiny, pixelated window David Tennant go apeshit and marvel at his moles, sideburns and the fact he wasn't a lardarse like Eccleston. The Christmas Invasion was the last time that anything other than transmission dates prevented me from seeing Doctor Who when I wanted, how I wanted.
Good friend Chris Hale send me a nice clean, white labelled DVD with the Christmas special. Oh, I was so buzzed. The trailers with their cunning "sod all" approach of a killer Christmas tree, a flying TARDIS, Harriet Jones and Rose freaking out at her lack of godlike super powers. The fan fic! Oh, everyone had a 'Tenth Doctor' first scene and some of them were great ("I have a new lease on life because somewhere a noseless dog is waiting for me!") and some suggested humanity deserved extinction ("Can't you change back?" "Um... OK... I shall! FANTASTIC!"). For some rather odd reasons, I'd managed to ban myself from OG - not officially, but somehow my computer refused to believe OG existed - so I was totally without spoilers.
The bastard thing had no noise!
What the hell!?
The whole special, flattened into letter box format so it was like trying to watch the story from inside a toy chest, and IT WAS TOTALLY SILENT! I was determined to watch it, yet I couldn't watch such poor quality pictures with no noise. So, using my incredible abilities transferred the silent film to VHS and dubbed in two CDs worth of music - namely Icon by the Doug Anthony All Stars and the Cruel Intentions soundtrack.
You know what? It worked. It worked amazingly well. Change the Blades rang out as the Christmas tree went Tasmanian Devil. Dead Elvis accompanied the A-positives marching to their doom. You Blew Me Off exploded in time with the Sycorax and Bittersweet Symphony synched up with such perfection to the season 2 trailer that it bordered, quite simply on the spooky (not to mention the "I'm a million different people from one day to the next but I can't change" mirroring the new Doctor's identity crisis quite well).
The lack of dialogue however showed all the plot's strengths - I could follow it, for a start. The Doctor's all giddy and needs to rest, leaving Rose, Jackie and Mickey at the time they need him most. The Sycorax's death threat is perfectly explained in images as seemingly everyone is possessed and stands on tall buildings. The Doctor's recovery, defeat of the Sycorax, fury at Harriet Jones, all ending in that frankly creepy scene where he first puts on his glasses and stares at the TV showing her downfall. It's impressive that seeing this offensively young and goodlooking Doctor in a boring suit, Rolf Harris glasses and a paper hat can be a genuinely unsettling sight. The man who screamed with passion and whispered with such hate watches Harriet Jones' career plummet down the tube... and doesn't react. Truly, this quality is one of Tennant's best gifts. 90% of the time his hearts are on his sleeves, you know what he's going to do and say - but then, sometimes, he goes blank. And you have no idea what he's going to do. Andrew Cartmel's script editing goal number three achieved by a Paul Darrow esque deadpan expression. But then he's laughing and joking and suddenly he's the same borderline comic relief character we know.
Of course, on vision only some things are a bit different. Has anyone ever got a rather rude thought in their mind as the sweaty, dressing gown-clad Time Lord collapses moaning, staring at Rose's tits, whispers about "something coming" before going all limp? I always assumed the Tenth Doctor would speak his lines in a Scottish accent (thanks to baffling newspaper reports that Tennant had changed his mind and wanted to use his own voice). "Swear on tha blud of ya species!" And the whole angle with the Mars probe doesn't quite come off, giving the impression the Sycorax attacked after a traffic accident, while the Santa's status as scavengers doesn't come across at all. It's obvious they have nothing to do with the Sycorax, but there's no replacement.
It's wrong that The Christmas Invasion is automatically assumed to be the start of a new era, of the next season, when it so manifestly belongs to the year that proceeded it. Like Colin Baker's debut, it only really works in context. The hugging and bigging up of the Doctor are gratuitous and self-congratulatory unless it is seen through the prism of the previous thirteen episodes. The Tenth Doctor deposes the woman the Ninth got elected. He accepts the family the old him avoided like the plague. The Tenth Doctor doesn't go "oh well, everything should sort itself out", he ties up the loose ends. The Ninth Doctor had lost his groove, the Tenth Doctor finds it. This story is the end of Doctor Who 2005, not the beginning of Doctor Who 2006. Apart from everything else, the plot stands up to the vaguest of scrutiny, Torchwood is part of the plot rather than a crude marketing ploy, the main cast aren't selfish pricks and everyone basically seems to be on the same page.
One final point is how it focusses on the characters that the previous Doctor enabled so well. Harriet Jones, Mickey and even Jackie rise up to face the Sycorax the best they can - Rose is the only one that crumbles without the Doctor, a fact that is pointed out by all concerned. Yet this isn't the selfish brat of tomorrow, more an emotional teenager who has a sneaking suspicion she got her best friend killed (which she did, and makes sense she'd think the new version would abandon her). It's a world of difference between this and the Season Four finale, where RTD has to make the threat absolutely freaking unstoppable to ensure that all the characters don't instantly sort it out on their own.
A great story, in short, but not the best one to start with.
What a pity they dropped: the bit where Rose and Mickey shag when they think the world is coming to an end
Thank Christ they dropped: the bits where Jackie poured shampoo down the Doctor's throat, trying to get him out of a coma. I mean, WHAT THE FUCK?! This is Jackie, not Baldrick for crying out loud...
Why does no one understand: why the Doctor is vomiting energy? It's obvious. In POTW, the Doctor sucks in the Vortex, then spits it out again. But not all of it. He inhaled. This is why he dies when Rose lives. The newly regenerated Doctor still has the "poison" in his system and needs to expel it before the fifteen hours are up and his new body stops being able to cope with the stuff. When he finally gets rid of it, he's instantly cured.
What was up with: when the Doctor spits out the first orange cloud, there is a voice whispering something like "you had your chance" as it leaves orbit. What was that about? Why does vortex energy fly off into space? What happens to when it's trapped in the TARDIS?
Oh how I hate: Song for Ten. Someone did a version of the wardrobe sequence on YouTube (The Keffmass Invasion, part of a long term insult to Keff McCulloch by redubbing Nu Who eps with music from Season 24 to make it "hilariously bad") where this scene was accompanied by the Centre of Liesure tune. It was much better than what we got. What the hell is that song about anyway? Some guy who sleeps in on Christmas, finds it busy, gets drunk and tells everyone they love them? Bollocks.
The Wit & Wisdom of My Parents: My dad noticed that the Doctor wakes at the words "Help Me", the same two words he said he could never refuse in The Next Doctor, and thus his lack of reaction when Harriet Jones does her "Where are you, Superman?" speech is what convinces Rose is gone. My mum assumes that, as the Doctor clearly moves the TARDIS back to the estate, he logically would have picked up his severed hand. Unsurprisingly, she's blocked out Torchwood from her memory (oh, if only I could do). But surely that's what we ALL thought until Jack's spin off appeared?
Next: Not Attack of the Graske, because the ABC is full of weak spineless dogs.