‘Doctor Who’ Reviews – Vol. 10.1
If you’ve been following this series you may be wondering where the Ninth Doctor’s adventures are. They’ve been covered, and you can find them in the archive, so we’re going to see what’s happening with the chuck wearing, goofy grinning, smart spec sporting Tenth.
The Christmas Invasion
In London Mickey and Jackie are preparing for Christmas when the recognisable sound of the TARDIS arriving cuts through the air. They rush out to greet them but an unfamiliar face stumbles out. Rose explains that this unusual character is the Doctor, but he falls unconscious. While he is bedded down at Jackie’s apartment Rose and Mickey head out for Christmas shopping, Rose being distraught by regeneration that she’d recently witnessed. It isn’t long before the usual Doctor Who madness kicks in and a band of brass robots attack. Also: a Christmas tree.
Suddenly the rest of London is put on alert with the approach of a large, asteroid like spaceship piloted by a race known as the Sycorax. UNIT and the new Prime Minister Harriet Jones open communications with the Sycorax only to be met with hostile intentions. The invaders somehow take control of a large proportion of the population and threaten to have them leap off buildings unless the human government meets their demands. When the Sycorax try to take the TARDIS for themselves an overturned flask of tea kick-starts the Doctor back into action…
For many viewers watching the new season this was the first time they’d seen the Doctor go through a regeneration. Up until now the plot point hadn’t been brought up, and with the confusion of Christopher Eccelson’s contract it meant that a new actor was brought in to take over the role with little warning. Shifting the focus of the episode to already established characters like Rose, Jackie, Mickey and Harriet Jones is a perfect way to ease the new Doctor into the show. Seeing Harriet Jones return as the Prime Minister is plenty of fun, and having Rose try to step into the Doctor’s role in dealing with the Sycorax is a great step for the character who up until now had largely been cast as the victim.
When the Doctor does make his entrance clad in a dressing gown it is nothing short of spectacular. His glee at seeing Jones as PM coupled with his dismissal of the threatening Sycorax sets the perfect tone for the new incarnation and he proves once again that the Doctor owns every situation he finds himself in. A PJ clad sword fight over London that is won with a piece of fruit, followed by a darker confrontation with a friend, is all that was needed to convince viewers that their hero was still in good hands.
The first adventure of the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler echoes the first adventure she shared with the Ninth Doctor in many ways, heading to a location further along Earth’s future and bringing back the villain who was thought dead. Beyond the destruction of Earth is the ‘New Earth’, and it’s here that the Doctor brings them as he had received a message via his psychic paper to visit Ward 26 of the New New York hospital.
While on their way to the ward the Doctor and Rose get separated. The Doctor meets the feline nuns who treat the supposedly incurable patients with ease and The Face of Boe, the giant god-like head who is dying of extreme old age. Whilst this is happening Rose finds herself confronted with Cassandra, the last human from Earth, who has reconstructed her thin body using her remaining skin. She traps Rose and steals her body in an attempt to preserve her own life.
Cassandra, posing as Rose, joins with the Doctor and together they investigate the strange going-ons at the hospital. They discover that the basement houses dozens of genetically cloned humans who absorb all the illnesses of the patients above. When they escape, and the Doctor grows wise to Cassandra’s theft of Rose’s body, they have to escape the quarantine without allowing the plague to spread to the city amid much switching of bodies.
Bringing back Cassandra is an unusual way to get the ball rolling once again, as she was really only a one note villain. Towards the end the script does use her quite effectively with some fine comedy amid the body snatching and a surprisingly sympathetic and tragic end. The story itself isn’t especially remarkable but it is packed with great imagery. The feline staff of the hospital, the Face of Boe and the plague victims all makes it an interesting watch. David Tennant has, by this stage, already slotted himself into the role and developed an easy dynamic with Rose.
Tooth and Claw
Although the intention was to land in 1979 in order to see Ian Dury in concert, The Doctor and Rose wind up in 1979. Landing on the moors of Scotland they cross paths with Queen Victoria on her way to the Torchwood Estate to avoid assassination attempts. Posing as an actual Doctor, he and Rose are invited to travel with them, only to find on their arrival that the Torchwood estate has been compromised.
Before they arrived the house staff had been imprisoned and replaced with a group of fighting monks who bring with them an unusual weapon: a werewolf. When night falls the Queen and her protectors are trapped in the house and the transformed wolfman is on the prowl through the house, picking off the defenders one at a time. The Doctor knows that the secret to their survival rests with former occupant of the house, who had designed the estate as a trap for the creature.
Although the script falters a bit during the final scenes, this is a decent episode. The horror elements are effective enough in the face of low-level CGI monstrosities, and there’s a line of comedy that helps keep thing upbeat and humanises the characters. People tutting at Rose’s lack of clothing and Rose and the Doctor’s placing beats of getting the Queen to say that she’s ‘not amused’ are fun diversions. Without the sluggish pace and anti-climatic finale it may have been an exceptional episode, but instead it’s just a good one.