This Christmas season people of good will both at home and throughout the commonwealth are all thinking about the same thing. They are seeking the answer to one basic question which has been at the heart of our national celebrations this year. That question is, of course: "Was David Tennant any good?"
The answer is "Yes, in a very real sense, David Tennant was quite mind-blowingly, astonishingly good; good in a way that blows our memories of Christopher Eccelston out of the window." When he grins and says "Fantastic" at the end of the episode, it seems positively anachronistic, as if, in the space of an hour, the guy in the leather jacket has become as remote as the the guy with the recorder. You had to look hard at Doctor Chris to find his Doctorness; some of us old-timers found ourselves saying "This is strange: unlike the Doctor, yet somehow, still like the Doctor." Doctor David is Doctorish from the moment he emerges from the TARDIS. Like Doctor Tom, he manages to shift in a second from being silly and childish to godlike and serious. Fans will be saying "This planet is defended" for years to come. R.T.D is a sly fox. It now looks very much as if he always intended Tennant to play the Doctor, but spotted that, by allowing Eccleston's off-the-wall re-invention to command the stage for one season, he would get to blow many of the cobwebs off the tired old format, and to relaunch the series twice in one year. I mean, honestly, when sitting down to watch "Rose", the TV event of the year, did anyone of us really think that nine months later, nine million of us would be watching an even bigger and more hyped re-relaunch?
Many of the 45 minute episodes have felt rushed: at 60 minutes, "The Christmas Invasion" felt developed and well-balanced. The story made a great deal of sense, although it suffered from a few examples of R.T.Ds trademarked lazy plotting -- there seemed to be no story-internal reason for the killer Santa's or killer Christmas tree -- they were in the story simply because they seemed like a good idea at the time. (The idea that the Doctor is literally revived by a cup of tea was amusing, but had no rational justification.) The papers, bless them, fixated on the idea that the story had a strong anti-war message, but compared with the in-your-face satire of "World War III" last year, it was almost imperceptible. The ground is laid, tantalisingly, for next years Torchwood spin-off without giving us any clues us to what it will be about, and we get to see UNIT without feeling that we are in the middle of a Continuity Reference For The Fans. (And no Brig. Shame.) R.T.D remains nervous about setting a story on what he calls "the planet Zog", but the alien space ship sequence was a as sci-fi as anything we've seen in the new series so far.
In retrospect, March - December now feels like a prolonged gestation period: with "The Christmas Invasion", the real Doctor is definitely back.
But why couldn't they have found some reason for him to say "Incidentally, a merry Christmas to all of you at home?"