In an echo of the Series 1 opening, we zoom in from a wide shot of the Earth until we’re inside the Tyler flat at the estate. This time the close-up is on Jackie, decorating a white fake Christmas tree. Nearby, Mickey tells his coworker at the garage to turn down the music; he’s heard the faint but unmistakable grindings of the TARDIS landing. He and Jackie both come running, and I sob out, “They both love Rose so mu-huh-huh-huh-huch!”
The TARDIS ricochets from building to building before skidding to a crash. The door opens and a new Doctor staggers out. “Here we are: London, Earth, the solar system. We did it!” “Jackie, Mickey!” Is this the first time the Doctor’s gotten Mickey’s name right? It’s a Christmas miracle! “No, no, hold on,” he mutters. “There’s something I have to tell you, it’s very important… oh, I know! Merry Christmas!” He collapses. Where’s the Doctor? Mickey and Jackie ask. “That’s him,” Rose says. “What do you mean that’s the Doctor?” Jackie demands. “Doctor Who?” Those Tyler women — always hitting the nail right on the head!
At Jackie’s flat, we find the Doctor in bed wearing pyjamas. Rose checks his heartbeats: “Both working,” she exhales to Jackie’s consternation. “Anything else he’s got two of?” Jackie asks (oh ho!). As they leave the room, the Doctor exhales what looks like Spirit o’ the TARDIS to me!
“How did he go changing his face?” Jackie asks. “Is that a different face, or is he a different person?” “How should I know,” Rose snaps before apologizing. Then she gets to the important question: “Where’d you get a pair of men’s pyjamas?” Howard from the market: Jackie elaborates on how Howard’s flirty fruit deliveries planted a seed of love — but Rose wanders off, because Harriet Jones, Prime Minister, is on the telly!
With Harriet Jones in office, it’s become the “golden age” of Britain the Doctor foretold in “World War Three” (1.05). She answers reporters’ questions about Guinevere 1, the space probe of “British workmanship” due to land on Mars and broadcast pictures on Christmas day. David Llewellyn, the project manager calls it “Our very own miracle.” But a shot from space reveals Guinevere 1 intercepted before it can reach Mars’s surface.
With the Doctor unconscious and Jackie fussing, Rose and Mickey go shopping. She forgot about Christmas on the TARDIS; things become “timeless” there. Go on, Mickey urges her: he could listen to “TARDIS this and TARDIS that” all the livelong day. Haha! “Surprised you don’t give up on me,” Rose says coyly. “You can rely on me; I don’t go changing my face,” Mickey shoots back.
They pass a line of men wearing red robes and Father Christmas masks while playing brass instruments. Creepy. Rose looks suspicious, and well she should, because they’re like the creeptacular mannequins in “Rose” (1.01). Oh, look, the Santa Creeps SHOOT FIRE from their instruments. Festive! Mickey takes Rose’s hand and runs with her — such a fantastic contrast to that earlier episode when Mickey cowers behind Rose! He’s mirroring the Doctor’s actions in that ep as well; remember all the running hand-in-hand Nine did with Rose?
They escape in a cab. But why do the Santa Creeps think they’ve been naughty, Mickey wonders. Rose says, “What’s important about us? We’re nothing, except the one thing we’ve got tucked up in bed, the Doctor.” Back at the flat, Jackie sets a cup of tea on the Doctor’s bedside table while the Doctor breathes out another golden wisp of TARDIS soul.
Rose rushes inside; they’ve got to leave. “It’s Christmas Eve; we’re not going anywhere!” Jackie objects. Hey, who replaced the plastic tree with a genuine fir? Obviously the tree replaced itself, lighting up and spinning with evident Jingle-Bell-y menace while it hacks the coffee table to bits. Man, all the symbols of Christmas have turned into enemies or weapons!
Rose, Mickey, and Jackie barricade themselves in with the sleeping Doctor. “Doctor, wake up,” Rose calls to no avail. At last she places the Sonic Screwdriver in the Doctor’s hand. “Help me,” she murmurs in his ear. He immediately sits upright and zaps the tree to stop it. “Remote control,” he says, interested. “But who’s controlling it?”
Outside, the Santa Creeps stare up at them, but beam away with one look at the Sonic Screwdriver. “What kind of rubbish were they?” Mickey asks. Not the real enemy, but “pilot fish,” the Doctor explains before staggering in pain. Rose woke him too soon; he’s still regenerating.
“I’m having a neural implosion, I need, I need,” he begins stammering at Jackie, who hurriedly offers all the possibilities, including at the end, “a nice bowl of soup?” “I need you to shut up,” he grinds out. “Oh, he hasn’t changed that much, has he?” she says, disapproving. What’s this in his dressing gown the Doctor asks, surprised to pull out an apple. Howard gets hungry. “In his sleep?” the Doctor asks incredulously before again collapsing.
“Any change?” Jackie asks Rose. He’s worse: now only one heart is beating. Everyone awaits the transmission from Guinevere 1. “Scavengers, little fish swimming alongside the big fish,” Mickey exclaims, having searched “pilot fish” online. Static fills the television set. Those are “funny sort of rocks,” Jackie observes. “Those aren’t rocks,” Rose realizes. A skull-headed teeth-bared alien fills the screen, growling: Rose, Jackie, Mickey (and I) all shriek.
Llewellyn arrives at U.N.I.T. headquarters, where “Harriet Jones, Prime Minister,” introduces herself personally and serves up a damn fine cup of coffee. Her right-hand man, Alex (“I’m not used to having a right hand man, but I quite like it,” she comments) has run interference, claiming the alien image was a hoax. So it is alien, Llewellyn says. “Not one we’ve encountered before,” HJ answers. She’s met a few, probably why “there’s an act of parliament barring my autobiography.”
When they view a communication from the incomprehensible aliens, they realize they’ll need to employ translation software. Meanwhile, Mickey’s hacked in to the same communication, but Rose can’t understand the aliens. With the Doctor ailing, the TARDIS’s telepathic translation won’t work. “He’s broken,” Rose says quietly. Back at U.N.I.T., Harriet Jones learns the US President wants to take control of the situation. “You can tell the president, and please, use these exact words: he’s not my boss, and he’s certainly not turning this into a war,” Harriet Jones says sharply as I revel in her awesome. And at the estate, “What do you need, Doctor?” Jackie whispers gently.
“I know I’m not supposed to know about it,” Jones tells the Major, but they need Torchwood. For now, they’ve translated the aliens’ demands. People (“or that could be cattle,” Alex explains helpfully) belong to the Sycorax. “Sycorax strong, Sycorax mighty, Sycorax rock” (yes, like they wanna rock and roll all night). Harriet Jones replies: ” ‘This is a day of peace on planet Earth, and we extend that peace to the Sycorax.’ Then tell them, ‘This planet is armed, and we do not surrender.’ ” It’s a more militant Harriet Jones than we might remember. But I think we all know who rocks in this situation, and it ain’t the Sycorax.
As Christmas Day dawns, the Sycorax respond. Their leader extends his hand, and a blue light, “almost like someone casting a spell,” surrounds some U.N.I.T. staff. Those affected walk zombie-like from the room. At the estate, Rose and Mickey see a woman pleading with her zombie-walking husband. “It’s happening all over the country,” Alex confirms: random people headed to rooftops, standing silently at the edges as though about to jump. Soon it’s confirmed worldwide: a third of the world’s population are positioned steps from their deaths. Though Mickey’s ready to take action, Rose gives up, saying, “There’s no one to save us any more.”
At U.N.I.T., “Surrender or they will die,” Llewellyn repeats. The endangered are family groups, “but not husbands and wives”: all have A-positive blood. Llewellyn blames himself. Turns out he included, along with other human artifacts on the probe, human blood. Seriously, Llewellyn? Have you not read genre fiction of any kind? Never hand out your blood to potential enemies in easy-to-carry vials!
Harriet Jones takes to the airwaves to tell people to remain calm, but also to implore the Doctor to step forward. “If you’re out there, we need you. I don’t know what to do.” It’s as though she’s articulating Rose’s thoughts. Rose weeps as she watches. It’s one of those moments where Rose is very self-focused, but she’s right to be: if the Doctor has essentially deserted her, he’s deserted the entire human race at the same time.
Windows blow out all over London, cripes! It’s a “sonic wave” from the spaceship hitting the atmosphere. Everyone not acting like a zombie watches as the menacing ship hovers over London. It’s “Aliens of London” all over again, but this time Rose won’t investigate. Instead she calls for Mickey and Jackie to help her carry the Doctor to the TARDIS where they can hide.
The Sycorax ask for the leader of this world to “come aboard,” (translated by Alex’s hand device). Harriet Jones is beamed onto their ship along with the Major, Alex, and Llewellyn. While the leader eases off what turns out to be a helmet, Llewellyn hopes “They might be like us.” Okay, no, it’s EVEN WORSE, with its helmet off, fleshy teeth-baring bone-encased horror that it is!
“Surrender or I will release the final curse,” the Sycorax growls. Llewellyn makes an impassioned speech about how earthlings are like children who need help. That poetic tack goes out the blasted-out window when the Sycorax lightning-whips Llewellyn, killing him and the Major in quick succession. If Harriet Jones surrenders, they’ll enslave half of humankind, but if she doesn’t, they’ll curse the entranced third of humanity to their deaths.
Rose and the others reach the TARDIS, hefting the unconscious Doctor inside. There’s no chance of flying the TARDIS again; Rose’s memory seems wiped of that knowledge. Scared and sullen, Rose acts huffy with both Jackie and Mickey, finally scoffing at Jackie’s offer of a nice cup of tea. “Stop your moaning,” Jackie snaps, and doesn’t she just sound like the Ninth Doctor?
“Tea. Like we’re having a picnic while the world comes to an end. Very British,” Mickey observes while Rose scowls. When Jackie dashes off to get the rest of the food, Mickey tries to fiddle with the TARDIS console’s screens to see what’s happening. On the Sycorax vessel, they detect “foreign machinery” and accuse Harriet Jones of conspiring. “Bring it on board,” the Sycorax leader commands, and poor Jackie watches the TARDIS dematerializes before her eyes.
“Are you going to be a misery all the time?” Mickey says to Rose, and then (come on Doctor Who, sheesh) makes a classic mother-in-law joke, that he has it worse, “stuck in here with your mum’s cooking.” Anything from a tin is fine, he wants Rose to tell Jackie; he can’t tell her himself because “I’m not that brave.” “Oh, I don’t know,” Rose says, flirtatiously, finally cheering up. Then she steps outside to an arena full of growling Sycorax, whoops!
Rushing to help, Mickey spills his tea onto the TARDIS’s grated floor. At Rose’s warning cry, he closes the door (a reminder from “The Parting of the Ways” that Rose knows the TARDIS can never fall into the hands of enemies). “Rose, I’ve got you,” Harriet Jones says, stunned to see her. Is the Doctor with her? “No, we’re on our own,” Rose whispers in her ear. But inside the TARDIS, the spilled tea creates vapors around the Doctor, and he stirs. Ahaha, the Doctor is British through and through; when all else fails, TEA!
The Sycorax demand to speak to “the yellow girl” who has the “clever blue box”. “Don’t you dare,” Mickey warns Rose as she steps forward, but “Someone’s got to be the Doctor,” she answers. “They’ll kill you,” Mickey pleads. “Never stopped him,” Rose replies (true enough!). She invokes Article 15 of the Shadow Proclamation (from the encounter with the Nestene Consciousness), commanding the Sycorax “to leave this world with “all the authority of the Slitheen Parliament of Raxacoricofallapatorius” (knowing how to pronounce that did come in handy!) “and er, the Gelth Confederacy,” (I love that she’s citing villains as seeming allies), “as er, sanctioned by the Mighty Jagrafess” (LULZ, the monster controlling Satellite 5), “and, oh, the Daleks! Now, leave this planet in peace!”
Though the Sycorax laugh at her “stolen words” I adore how Rose really acts the part of the Doctor when push comes to shove. Because like the Doctor said to the Daleks in Parting of the Ways, “If there’s one thing I can do, it’s talk!”
“Your people will be enslaved!” the Sycorax pronounce, calling Rose a “wailing child.” “That’s English,” Rose says; she and the others can now understand them. The TARDIS must be working again, and that means — Rose turns, and in a great honor-guard move, Mickey and Harriet Jones turn to flank the TARDIS as the Doctor emerges. “Did you miss me?” he inquires, still in his jammies, telling the Sycorax leader, “Now, you just wait,” after having confiscated his electrified whip and breaking its staff over his knee. “I’m busy. Mickey, hello! And Harriet Jones MP for Flydale North. Blimey, it’s like This Is Your Life!”
While the Sycorax fume, “Now, first things first,” the Doctor says earnestly to Rose. “Be honest; how do I look?” At her claim he looks “just different” he asks anxiously, “Am I ginger?” He’s terribly disappointed when Rose tells him, “you’re sort of brown.” Not only is he not ginger, but he knows Rose gave up on him. “Oh, that’s rude,” he says of his assessment. “That’s the sort of man I am now, am I? Rude. Rude and not ginger.”
“What happened to my Doctor?” Harriet Jones asks, again verbalizing Rose’s questions. The Doctor quickly proves who he is, recalling when they were trapped together in 10 Downing Street under threat of annihilation by aliens, “the one thing that scared you was the thought of your mother being on her own.” “Did you win the election?” he thinks to ask. “Landslide majority,” she confides before the Sycorax interrupt (rude!) demanding to know who he is. “I’m the Doctor, but beyond that I just don’t know, I literally do not know,” he replies.
It’s a great spin on regeneration — not only does Rose feel as though she doesn’t know him, he doesn’t know him. They’re all discovering who he might be. As he tells the Sycorax, “it’s all untested.” So what’s he supposed to do when confronted by “a great big threatening button which must not be pressed under any circumstances, am I right?” Quickly figuring out the Sycorax employed “a control matrix,” the Doctor tastes the contents of the Sycorax’s device (ew), deducing they’re using “blood control.” Now, what about that great big threatening button? “Because I really don’t know who I am. I don’t know when to stop,” he says dangerously, mashing it.
The zombified people back away from the edges. “You killed them,” Alex accuses. But no, the Sycorax used “a cheap bit of voodoo,” that, like hypnosis, “can’t do death”. When the Sycorax won’t listen to his Lion King-infused speech about humankind’s potential, the Doctor challenges their leader “for the planet”. “You stand as this world’s champion,” the Sycorax scoffs. “Thank you,” the Doctor replies. “I’ve no idea who I am, but you just summed me up.” And really, speaking as someone who, like Harriet Jones and Rose, still doesn’t know this Doctor, who wants to know what happened to my Doctor, this moment works like an epiphany. I don’t understand who he is yet, but he’s still the world’s champion, and that’s what matters.
The Sycorax jeer as the still-weakened Doctor fights with their leader. Gasping, the Doctor proposes “a bit of fresh air,” and presses a button that opens the hatch. As they fight atop the ship, his combatant forces the Doctor almost over the edge, and actually cuts off his hand. Hang on, Luke! Wait, wrong fandom. Now I know what sort of man I am!” the Doctor cries. “I’m lucky,” because he’s still regenerating, “which means I’ve got just enough cellular energy to do this!” He regrows his own hand and catches the sword Rose throws, pronouncing, “this new hand — it’s a fightin’ hand!” in a bad cowboy accent.
Having gained the upper hand, he promises to spare the Sycroax if they leave Earth and never return. “Bravo!” Harriet Jones cries. “That says it all,” Rose agrees as she helps the Doctor with his dressing gown. The Doctor pronounces it “Very Arthur Dent” before finding a Satsuma in one of the pockets. “Doesn’t that just sum up Christmas,” he says nostalgically: there’s always that Satsuma tucked away in the bottom. As the Sycorax leader goes back on his word, rushing at the Doctor, the Doctor tosses the Satsuma at a switch, sending the Sycorax leader to his death. “No second chances,” the Doctor says as he keeps walking, never having so much as glanced back. “I’m that sort of a man.”
Approaching the arena, the Doctor forbids them “by the ancient rites of combat” from scavenging Earth. “When you go back to the stars,” he tells them, “…when you talk of the Earth, then make sure you tell them this. It. Is. Defended!” He and the others beam down to Earth. “My Doctor,” Harriet Jones says, embracing him. “Absolutely the same man,” she declares. Be ready for more aliens to take notice of Earth, the Doctor tells her. Their planet is getting “noisy”.
“Oh my god, it’s the bleeding Prime Minister,” Jackie realizes as she catches up to them. As Rose, Mickey, and Jackie embrace the Doctor in a group hug, Harriet Jones gets the notice Torchwood is finally ready. “Tell them to fire,” she tells Alex, grimacing. Five points of laser fire meet to blast the Sycorax ship. “What’s happening?” Rose asks, alarmed. “That was murder,” the Doctor yells at Harriet. “You come and go,” she tells him, but meanwhile “we have to defend ourselves.”
I absolutely hate this, because I LOVED Harriet Jones in the first series! But though the Doctor is, in the truly crucial ways, the same man, Harriet Jones isn’t the same woman. When the Doctor says he should have stopped her, she replies, “What does that make you, Doctor? Another alien threat?” I mean. Holy crap. He’s the champion of the planet, and if she’s ready to tar him with that brush, she’s lost all perspective. He warns he could bring down her government with a word. No, six words, which he whispers to Alex: “Don’t you think she looks tired?”
Later on the telly, Harriet Jones defends herself as the headline, “PM Health Scare/Unfit for Duty?” flashes onscreen. While Rose and Mickey help Jackie ready their holiday meal, the Doctor goes through the TARDIS’s wardrobes to find an outfit that fits the man he is now. Then, unlike Nine who time and again swore he wouldn’t do “domestic,” the Doctor arrives at the flat to share holiday dinner.
To round out the holiday cheer, Jackie gets a call that it’s snowing outside. Actually, it’s ash from the destroyed ship. The parts of it breaking up in the atmosphere only seem like shooting stars. What’s next, Rose asks the Doctor. “Back to the TARDIS, same old life,” he says. “What, on your own?” she asks, wary. “Why, don’t you want to come?” he inquires.
Both of them worried that because he changed, the other wouldn’t want to continue traveling together. But now they join hands, side-by-side, the Doctor again taking that vital place in Rose’s life. Where will they go first? They point up at the stars, grinning at each other and wooo-ee-oooo–ooo! We’re now officially on to Series 2! I’ll start those recaps next week; join me here at HDJM on Tuesday for “New Earth”!