Friday, January 21, 2011

"The Christmas Invasion"

Deary, deary me.
I may as well come out and say it right off the bat - I don't like the Tenth Doctor. It's not that I have a problem with David Tennant, who I think is a decidedly talented performer and who I have enjoyed in other roles. Indeed from interviews and QI and so on he seems like a good chap. The problem I have is with the personality of the Tenth Doctor which unfortunately I don't think I can blame entirely on RTD. There is just something a bit annoying about this incarnation. He growls. He goes "Ah yes!" a lot. He makes lame puns and lamer pop culture references. He can get very smug, and he talks himself up a lot to try to make himself look like a badass. He wears a pinstriped suit and an overcoat with Converse All-Stars and sticky-uppy hair so that he's all trendy and fashionable. He has a cult fangirl following. When he makes you laugh or smile, you hate yourself for it a little bit. That's not to say he's not without his moments, because he does have them. But on the whole I think he's a little too human, a little too personable, a little too 'cool'.
You'd think, then, that I like "The Christmas Invasion" because he appears on screen for so little time, right? But I'm so sick of this council estate, Rose's tiresome mother, and even Mickey who seems to fluctuate between being likeable and being angsty and dumb. Rose herself spends a lot of time having a big cry, too. The Doctor's let her down! It's not her Doctor anymore! Blah, blah, blah. Frankly I can't believe they wrote an episode where it takes 35 minutes, which is to say more than half, for the Doctor to fully recover and regain the major role. I was so tired of the same old family scenario that I wanted Tennant to wake up and take the reigns because at least he's the Doctor, which makes him so much more interesting than them. There's a lot of goofy nonsense like robots dressed as Father Christmases, who are apparently 'pilot fish', and a spinning Christmas Tree of Death. God it's stupid. I know it's a Christmas Special but it's meaningless. Why would the robots dress up as Santa and stand around in a plaza shooting people? Why would they use a tree to kill everybody? It's just cheesy Christmas dressing designed to make thickies giggle and think it's somehow clever. Again, people say the show in the Eighties was camp?
Then the Klingons show up, except they're the "Sycorax" a group of muscle-faced skull-headed aliens in big rubber helmets in a space ship apparently made of rock who talk and act like the Klingons. I suppose I don't really mind the 'blood control' thing for threatening the populace even though it's never explained, but the Sycorax are just such unoriginal Star Trek-esque villains and their plot to swoop down on London reeks of something from a Cold War era invasion-paranoia B-movie alien flick. Sure, it's good for some cheap scares, but what more does it do? Some people would argue that a Christmas Special doesn't need to do anything more, but if that's the case then Doctor Who shouldn't have Christmas Specials.
We also see the return of Harriet Jones, who in spite of being excellently acted by Penelope Wilton really doesn't have much to do besides stand around looking worried, and UNIT reappears sans Brigadier and pretty much everything that made UNIT remotely interesting. They too stand around doing sod all besides some translation with a lame pun about how the Sycorax apparently "rock" and then Harriet Jones makes a Superman II esque appeal on national television for the Doctor to show himself. There's a reason all this "humans being aware of aliens" stuff doesn't work - you'd need to change the status quo of modern Earth away from our own bleak and lifeless universe, and the fact of the matter is they don't actually want to. They're too scared that it will alienate (pun intended or not) the stupids who won't be able to feel grounded anymore if Doctor Who contemporary Earth feels too different from the real world. This is why in the Third Doctor's era we had both aliens who operated in secret and UNIT operating in secret. The Doctor utters a lot of guff about how Earth is being noticed (echoing the Brig from Spearhead, incidentally) and how the general public knows about aliens now, but nothing actually changes. It's a cop-out and another instance of the 'tell don't show' philosophy RTD loves. Apparently if you tell us everything changes in the 21st century, as Captain Jack loves to remind us in the Torchwood intro, you don't actually have to show any change.
So anyway Rose utters a lot of rubbishy Series 1 references and the Klingons, I mean the Sycorax, threaten to sell half the population into slavery or whatever, the Doctor jumps out in pyjamas, has a sword fight with the Klingon leader and knocks him off the spaceship into oblivion. Oh and he regrows his hand.
I know the Doctor's fought with swords before; The Androids of Tara springs most immediately to mind, but this fight is pretty bad. I don't know if the huge broadsword props were too heavy or if they couldn't get the shots right or something but there's not a great deal to it and it looks like Tennant couldn't hold the sword properly. Did I also mention that the interior of the Sycorax ship looks like it was ripped off the Geonosian colosseum arena thingy from Star Wars Episode II? The regrowing hand thing is stupid as well but apparently there is a precedent for it in spin-off fiction so there you go. All in all it feels like a bundle of cheap thrills, bad jokes and insufferable Christmas references; valueless schlock and a rather uninspiring, if reasonably memorable, introduction to the Tenth Doctor's era.

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