The Christmas Invasion

The Christmas Invasion
167 – "The Christmas Invasion"
Doctor Who episode
Christmas Invasion.jpg
The recently regenerated Doctor battles the Sycorax Leader on the Sycorax ship above London.
Writer Russell T Davies
Director James Hawes
Script editor Helen Raynor
Producer Phil Collinson
Executive producer(s) Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Production code 2.X
Series Series 2
Length 60 minutes
Originally broadcast 25 December 2005
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Doctor Who: Children in Need" (mini-episode)
"The Parting of the Ways" (episode)
"New Earth" (episode)
"Attack of the Graske" (interactive episode)

"The Christmas Invasion" is a 60-minute special episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It is Christmas, but there is little cause for celebration as planet Earth is invaded by aliens known as the Sycorax. It's up to Rose and the newly-regenerated Doctor to save humanity, with a bit of help from her boyfriend Mickey and her mother Jackie.

It began production in July 2005, and was broadcast on Christmas Day 2005 in the United Kingdom and on Boxing Day 2005 in Canada.

This is the first full episode in which David Tennant appears as the Doctor, and also the first specially produced Christmas special in the series' history.



The Doctor, suffering from post-regeneration effects, lands the TARDIS near Rose Tyler's flat, where she, Jackie and Mickey carry him into bed and dress him in bedclothes from Jackie's ex-beau. With little to do but wait for the Doctor to recover, Rose and Mickey go Christmas shopping. While out, they are attacked by masked Santa robots, and retreat to the safety of the flat, but find themselves facing an attack. The Doctor wakes, repels the attack and theorises that the energy of his regeneration is luring the unseen foe to him. Rose, Mickey, and Jackie keep a vigil while the Doctor rests, as he needs more time to recover.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Harriet Jones and her science team prepare for a live broadcast across the globe from the space probe, "Guinevere One", once it lands on Mars. They are unaware it has been swallowed by a giant spaceship heading for Earth. When the broadcast is shown, an alien face appears. The Sycorax aliens demand Earth's surrender, and cause approximately one-third of the world's population to go into a hypnotic state and pose themselves on the edges of the tallest buildings nearby. The Sycorax threaten to send a signal to make them step off to their deaths if the invaders are not given half of the world's population as slaves. One of the technicians discovers all the hypnotised people share the same blood type, the same as contained in a sample on "Guinevere One". Harriet attempts further negotiations with the Sycorax, and is surprised to find herself and her staff transmatted aboard the ship.

As the Sycorax ship moves over London, Rose, Mickey and Jackie evacuate the Doctor to the TARDIS, but before Jackie can return with additional supplies, the TARDIS is detected by the Sycorax and is transported aboard their ship. When Rose and Mickey attempt to leave, they are shocked, accidentally dropping a container of tea that pours over the TARDIS innards, which begin to smoke. Rose attempts to use the same ploys the Doctor has in the past to scare the Sycorax, but they are not intimidated. This, however, gives enough time for the Doctor to fully recover, rejuvenated by the smoke from the spilled tea. He reintroduces himself to Rose, Mickey, and Harriet, and presses the button that would make the hypnotised humans jump, but he knew the hypnosis couldn't coerce those affected to kill themselves, therefore freeing them. The Doctor challenges the Sycorax leader to a sword fight for the fate of the Earth. During the fight, the leader slices off the Doctor's hand, which falls into the heart of London. But because the Doctor is still within the first 15 hours of regeneration he is able to grow a new hand, and then forces the Sycorax leader to submit. As the Doctor and his allies return inside the ship, the Sycorax leader attempts to attack the Doctor from behind. The Doctor hits a sensor with a fruit he found in his bathrobe, part of the wing folds and the leader falls to his death.

The Doctor forces the remaining Sycorax to leave Earth and promise never to return, and then returns to Earth with Rose, Mickey, and Harriet. As the Sycorax ship moves away, Harriet remotely orders "Torchwood" to fire, causing five laser cannons to strike the ship and destroy it. The Doctor becomes furious with Harriet, who responds that it is their last defense when the Doctor is not present to save the world. He warns her not to challenge him, saying that he could bring down her government with six words: when Harriet firmly stands behind her decision, the Doctor walks over to her aide and whispers, "Don't you think she looks tired?" That evening, as snow (which is actually the ash from the destroyed ship) falls on London, the Doctor selects his new outfit from the TARDIS wardrobe, and joins Rose, Jackie, and Mickey for Christmas dinner. They watch Harriet Jones on the television, fending off rumours about her ill-health and a pending vote of no confidence in the House of Commons. The Doctor and Rose then get ready to set off again for more travels across space and time.


  • Just before the opening credits sequence, Jackie says the line "Doctor? Doctor who?", continuing the long-running joke.
  • The special sees the return of MP Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton), from "Aliens of London" and "World War Three". At the end of the latter episode, the Doctor stated that she would at some point become Prime Minister of the UK, and by the time of "The Christmas Invasion" she has won a general election with a large majority.[1]
  • The ability of the TARDIS to translate languages was first described as a "Time Lord gift" by the Fourth Doctor in The Masque of Mandragora (1976).[2] Although not stated in the television series, fans came to assume over the years that this ability was a function of the TARDIS. In "The End of the World" (2005), the Ninth Doctor confirmed that it was part of the TARDIS's telepathic field.[3] Although the canonicity of the novels is uncertain, the 1995 Virgin New Adventures novel Set Piece by Kate Orman first established that the Doctor needed to be alive for the TARDIS's translation function to work.
  • The story of the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood is "seeded" in this special and in the subsequent 2006 season.
  • The Big Ben clock tower is shown with scaffolding around it, in the process of being rebuilt since "Aliens of London".
  • While trying to bluff the Sycorax, Rose mentions "Article 15 of the Shadow Proclamation" ("Rose"),[4] the Slitheen Parliament of Raxacoricofallapatorius ("Aliens of London",[5] "World War Three"[1] and "Boom Town"),[6] the Gelth Confederacy ("The Unquiet Dead"),[7] the Mighty Jagrafess ("The Long Game")[8] and the Daleks.
  • Although the Ninth Doctor stated at the end of "World War Three" that Jones would be elected for three successive terms,[1] her status as Prime Minister appears in jeopardy at the end of "The Christmas Invasion", which takes place during her first term. The commentary for this episode implies that her career does not survive, which is confirmed in "The Sound of Drums", as the Master becomes Prime Minister under the guise of Harold Saxon.[9]
  • A burgundy scarf resembling the one worn by the Fourth Doctor can be seen in some of the wardrobe scenes — this is a replica owned by producer Phil Collinson, made for him by his aunt when he was a child. (The Doctor's scarf was seen to be unravelled in Castrovalva, but it is likely that he had more than one. The Seventh and Eighth Doctors also tried on long scarves after their regenerations, in Time and the Rani and the 1996 television film, respectively.)[10][11] Also, the first outfit the Doctor picks from the rail is (or looks similar to) an outfit worn by David Tennant in Casanova. According to the commentary for this episode on the BBC's official website, all of the costumes from the Doctor's nine previous incarnations are included somewhere in the wardrobe.
  • At his request, David Tennant was credited as "The Doctor" rather than "Doctor Who" as Christopher Eccleston had been in Series 1, the first appearance of the definite article since Episode 3 of Survival (1989). However, on the DVD commentary version in the Complete Second Series Box Set, the credit reverts back to "Doctor Who". This is because the commentary team were watching an earlier edit of the episode.


  • This special was the first full episode starring David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor; he was only shown briefly at the end of "The Parting of the Ways" for the regeneration sequence. A 7-minute "mini-episode", set between "The Parting of the Ways" and "The Christmas Invasion", was shown as part of the Children in Need charity telethon on 18 November 2005.
  • The Christmas special is a tradition in British television series. While this is the first story for Doctor Who clearly labelled as a Christmas special, the seventh episode of The Daleks' Master Plan, titled "The Feast of Steven", was written as a Christmas episode, even featuring a fourth wall-breaking Christmas wish to the viewers by William Hartnell.[12] Although not shown at Christmas, "The Unquiet Dead" was set on Christmas Eve, 1869.[7]
  • The Tenth Doctor speaks with an Estuary English accent, in contrast to the Ninth Doctor's Northern one. In a 23 December interview on BBC Radio 1, Tennant explained that a line had been scripted for the Christmas special explaining that the newly regenerated Doctor had imprinted on Rose's accent, "like a chick hatching from an egg," but the line was cut from the final programme. He also briefly affects an American Appalachian accent (when he regrows his hand and continues his fight with the Sycorax leader, he claims his hand is a "fightin' hand" in that accent).
  • The episode's opening shot is a repeat of the opening shot of "Rose", using a new arrangement of the same music.
  • During the live broadcast, the front page of the official BBC website stated: "THE CHRISTMAS INVASION is on BBC One NOW. HARRIET JONES SAYS: Switch this website off for Britain."[13]
  • The tie-in website "Who is Doctor Who?" was also updated with a message from Mickey referencing the Guinevere One website, and an appeal to the Doctor to bring back Rose.[14]
  • The cone-shaped building which has all its glass blown out from the ship's shockwave is 30 St Mary Axe, also known as the Swiss Re Building or "The Gherkin".
  • The climactic scenes of the episode were shot on location at Wallis House, Brentford, one of the Golden Mile's few remaining Art Deco buildings, directly opposite the Clayponds Avenue location for Invasion of the Dinosaurs.
  • Parts of the episode were filmed at the Clearwell Caves in Gloucestershire.
  • The prototype of the Sycorax swords was auctioned on eBay to raise funds for the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity.[15] It raised £920.51.[16]
  • In the pre-credits teaser, actor Noel Clarke nearly corpses due to David Tennant's performance, turning his face away from the latter as he says, "Merry Christmas!".[citation needed]


  • The song playing during the wardrobe sequence, "Song for Ten" (named in reference to the Tenth Doctor), was composed by Murray Gold for the episode and sung by Tim Phillips.[17] The last time an original song was written for the series was "The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon" in The Gunfighters (1966). "Song for Ten" is also featured as a slower, instrumental version near the end of the episode "School Reunion".[18]
  • The closing credits had a new theme arrangement restoring the traditional "middle eight" section of the theme which had been omitted in the 2005 series. This was performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by the series' composer Murray Gold. This arrangement was subsequently used for the closing titles of the 2006 series.[19] The Canadian broadcast used a different version without the middle eight for its Coming Soon trailer.
  • Various pieces of music featured in this episode were released in December 2006 as part of the Doctor Who Soundtrack (produced by Silva Screen). These included the "Song for Ten", the music played behind Harriet Jones' speech and the music played as the spaceship arrives over London. The version of "Song for Ten" released on the soundtrack, however, is not the version from the episode; this is a newly recorded version with vocals sung by Neil Hannon and additional lyrics referring to the events of the season finale, "Doomsday".

Cast Notes

Outside references

  • The British Government plan to cover up the Sycorax's initial appearance by claiming it was a student in a mask hacking into the signal. A 1987 WTTW broadcast in Chicago of the Fourth Doctor serial Horror of Fang Rock was interrupted in this way with the hacker wearing a Max Headroom mask,[24] while in 1977 a voice claiming to be an alien broke into the signal belonging to the Southern Television region of ITV.[25]
  • Sycorax is the name of the witch in Shakespeare's play The Tempest. In the later episode "The Shakespeare Code", the Doctor makes a brief reference to the Sycorax in front of the playwright, who decides to use the word somewhere.[26]
  • The Doctor's right hand is severed in a swordfight on the surface of the Sycorax spacecraft. The fate of the sword is addressed in an interactive "mini-mission" that starts at Mickey's website.[27] The fate of the hand itself is revealed in the Torchwood episode "Everything Changes".[28]
  • Harriet Jones's order to destroy the retreating Sycorax ship is a reference to Margaret Thatcher's decision to attack the General Belgrano in the Falklands War. The Doctor's six words that would bring down Harriet's administration ("Don't you think she looks tired?") are a reference to rumours about how Thatcher looked tired at the end of her term of office in 1990.[29]

Popular culture allusions and in-jokes

This episode included various allusions to popular culture:

  • The organisation that developed the spaceprobe, as mentioned on the website, is the British Rocket Group. Its logo is half-seen in the background during the televised press conference. This is a reference to the British Experimental Rocket Group from the Quatermass serials of the 1950s.[30] The British Rocket Group was first mentioned in Doctor Who in Remembrance of the Daleks (1988).[31] David Tennant starred in the 2005 BBC remake of The Quatermass Experiment as Dr Gordon Briscoe. Bernard Quatermass is also mentioned in "Planet of the Dead".[32]
  • When the Doctor is trying to persuade the Sycorax leader to spare humanity, he finds himself quoting the first few lines of the song "Circle of Life" from the Walt Disney animated film The Lion King (1994).
  • Arthur Dent is mentioned by the Doctor, in reference both to the dressing gown he is wearing (the Doctor comments on how saving the world while in a dressing gown is very much like Dent), and to his being revived by Dent's favourite drink, tea. He mentioned Arthur Dent as being a pleasant person in the sense as if he had meet him hinting that both franchises might exist in the same continuity. The Doctor previously quoted The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in Ghost Light, and mentions Oolon Colluphid in Destiny of the Daleks. Douglas Adams, the creator of Hitchhiker's Guide, was script editor for Doctor Who during 1979-1980, and wrote or co-wrote the serials The Pirate Planet, City of Death and Shada.

Broadcast and DVD release

  • A "Coming Soon" trailer was shown at the end of this episode, featuring brief clips from the forthcoming series (up to "The Age of Steel").
  • This was the first original episode of Doctor Who ever to premiere on a Sunday. (Although for a period in the mid-1970s, BBC Wales premiered the series on Sunday rather than Saturday evenings, one day after the rest of the UK had seen the episodes).
  • Immediately after "The Christmas Invasion", digital viewers were able to press their red button to view a special interactive episode, "Attack of the Graske" written by Gareth Roberts and starring Tennant as the Doctor.
  • Overnight ratings for the episode gave a peak viewing audience of 9.8 million viewers, and an average of 9.4 — the second highest rated programme of the evening, behind EastEnders.[33]
  • The Canadian presentation on the CBC on 26 December 2005 was hosted by Piper, who was attired for the occasion in a red Roots "Canada" sweatshirt. The episode was scheduled in a 90-minute long slot; as the episode and the presentations took less than the allotted time, the rest of the broadcast was filled with the start of two episodes of the animated programme Creature Comforts, which was set for the following 30-minute slot.
  • This episode was released together with "New Earth" as a basic DVD with no special features on 1 May 2006, and as part of a second series boxset on 20 November 2006. This release included an in-vision commentary with Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner (Head of Drama for BBC Wales) and Phil Collinson, recorded before the story aired. This commentary was also made available as an MP3 on the BBC Doctor Who website.[34]
  • The special was repeated on BBC One on 17 December 2006.
  • The special premiered on BBC America in 2007. Unlike the Sci-Fi version, the episode was edited down to fit inside a one-hour timeslot with commercial breaks. "Missing" content included a few short clips during the sequence when everyone goes into a trance and heads for the roof, and the wardrobe sequence towards the end. The BBCAmerica version (currently being shown in "rerun rotation") cuts directly from the long shot of Jones and her assistant to the shot of Jones on TV being questioned, the Doctor already in the dining room with Rose et al, and dressed. They also pick up several minutes by omitting the "Coming Soon" sequence and replacing the original closing credits with BBCAmerica's shortened version.

Pre-release publicity

  • On 3 December 2005, the annual Christmas edition of the BBC's listings magazine Radio Times was released, featuring a Doctor Who cover to tie-in with "The Christmas Invasion".[35] This was the first time Doctor Who had featured on the Christmas edition cover in the show's forty-two year history, and the first Christmas cover for an individual BBC television drama since EastEnders in 1986. The Christmas Radio Times cover usually features artwork of a generic Christmas scene.
  • As confirmed by Russell T Davies in the episode commentary, the Doctor Who section of that issue of the Radio Times contains a hidden message explaining what saves the Doctor: many of the paragraphs in the articles have an oversized first letter, which taken consecutively spell out "A cup of tea" (in the manner of an acrostic).
  • This episode was the highest-rated episode of the Tenth Doctor era, with final ratings at 9.84 million, up until the Voyage of the Damned, which achieved an audience of 13.8 million viewers.


  1. ^ a b c "World War Three". Writer Russell T Davies, Director Keith Boak, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2005-04-23.
  2. ^ The Masque of Mandragora. Writer Louis Marks, Director Rodney Bennett, Producer Philip Hinchcliffe. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC1, London. 4 September 1976–25 September 1976.
  3. ^ "The End of the World". Writer Russell T Davies, Director Euros Lyn, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2005-04-02.
  4. ^ "Rose". Writer Russell T Davies, Director Keith Boak, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2005-03-26.
  5. ^ "Aliens of London". Writer Russell T Davies, Director Keith Boak, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2005-04-16.
  6. ^ "Boom Town". Writer Russell T Davies, Director Joe Ahearne, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2005-06-04.
  7. ^ a b "The Unquiet Dead". Writer Mark Gatiss, Director Euros Lyn, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2005-04-09.
  8. ^ "The Long Game". Writer Russell T Davies, Director Brian Grant, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2005-05-07.
  9. ^ a b "The Sound of Drums". Writer Russell T Davies, Director Colin Teague, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2007-06-23.
  10. ^ Time and the Rani. Writers Pip and Jane Baker, Director Andrew Morgan, Producer John Nathan-Turner. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC1, London. 7 September 1987–28 September 1987.
  11. ^ Doctor Who. Writer Matthew Jacobs, Director Geoffrey Sax, Producers Peter V. Ware, Matthew Jacobs. Fox Network. 14 May 1996.
  12. ^ The Daleks' Master Plan, "The Feast of Steven". Writer Terry Nation, Director Douglas Camfield, Producer John Wiles. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC1, London. 25 December 1965.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Defending the Earth! Because friends stick together
  15. ^ Own The ORIGINAL Sycorax Sword Blade (link added) |
  16. ^ Sword Auction Update |
  17. ^ BBC - Doctor Who (David Tennant and Billie Piper) - News
  18. ^ "School Reunion". Writer Toby Whithouse, Director James Hawes, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2006-04-29.
  19. ^ BBC - Doctor Who (David Tennant and Billie Piper) - News
  20. ^ "The Poison Sky". Writer Helen Raynor, Director Douglas Mackinnon, Producer Susie Liggat. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2008-05-03.
  21. ^ "Turn Left". Writer Russell T Davies, Director Graeme Harper, Producer Susie Liggat. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2008-06-21.
  22. ^ "The Stolen Earth". Writer Russell T Davies, Director Graeme Harper, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2008-06-28.
  23. ^ Revenge of the Slitheen. Writer Gareth Roberts, Director Alice Troughton, Producer Matthew Bouch. The Sarah Jane Adventures. BBC. BBC One, CBBC Channel, Cardiff. 24 September 2007.
  24. ^ See "Max Headroom pirating incident"
  25. ^ See Souther Television broadcast interruption hoax
  26. ^ "The Shakespeare Code". Writer Gareth Roberts, Director Charles Palmer, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2007-04-07.
  27. ^ Defending the Earth! Because friends stick together
  28. ^ "Everything Changes". Writer Russell T Davies, Director Brian Kelly, Producers Richard Stokes, Chris Chibnall. Torchwood. BBC. BBC Three, Cardiff. 2006-10-22.
  29. ^ Andrew Pixley (2006). "The Christmas Invasion". Doctor Who Special Edition #14 — The Doctor Who Companion: Series Two: 15. 
  30. ^ "The Christmas Invasion - Fact File". BBC Doctor Who website. Retrieved 12 April 2009. 
  31. ^ Remembrance of the Daleks. Writer Ben Aaronovitch, Directors Andrew Morgan, John Nathan-Turner (uncredited), Producer John Nathan-Turner. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC1, London. 5 October 1988–26 October 1988.
    Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "Remembrance of the Daleks" (reprinted on BBC Doctor Who website). The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. p. 340. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. Retrieved 21 April 2009. 
  32. ^ "Planet of the Dead". Writers Russell T Davies, Gareth Roberts, Director James Strong, Producer Tracie Simpson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 11 April 2009.
  33. ^ "BBC wins Christmas TV ratings war". BBC News. 2005-12-26. Retrieved 2010-05-25. 
  34. ^ BBC - Doctor Who - Sounds
  35. ^ BBC - Doctor Who (David Tennant and Billie Piper) - News

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