The Writers' Room

The Writers' Room
'Twas The Season Of TV

Elizabeth Grunewald | 10 Dec 2010 20:00
The Writers' Room - RSS 2.0

"The Christmas Invasion," Doctor Who


This is the first full Who episode for the Doctor in his David Tennant-y guise, and he spends most of it passed out. Our dear Doctor is more than a little pooped from the act of fully regenerating, but London could certainly use his help when things start spinning out of control. Earth has been invaded by the Sycorax, one-third of the world's population is under the alien's power and poised to commit suicide, and the Christmas decorations have gone mad and started attacking people. Don't we all feel like the decorating has gotten a little out of control?

The episode brings old friends together -- Jackie and Mickey are here, of course, but we have the first of many re-occurrences of Harriet Jones, now Prime Minister -- and touches on epic themes, both loosely biblical (the climax calls for a champion of mankind) and geeky (the Doctor loses his hand in a swordfight). The Sycorax retreat, and the Doctor and Rose prepare to set off again, but not before enjoying a family Christmas dinner, complete with crackers and crowns. This is all before Harriet Jones mucks it all up by destroying the retreating aliens, of course, but in a world where "holiday" is almost always synonymous with "end of the world," I'll take all the cozy Christmases I can get.

This isn't the only Doctor Who Christmas special, but the events depicted have far-reaching reverberations, and the Doctor's exploration of his new self mimics the frequent self-reflection we all feel around this time of year. The jolliest aspect of this holiday special is the Doctor's fervent defense of the human race. It's oft-repeated, and may get a little old, but it never hurts to hear your species heralded by another, and at this time of year, such a speech instills hope. "The Christmas Invasion" is the Christmas special for when you want to feel good about mankind.

"X-Mas Story," Futurama


If there were ever a special to make you feel better about the current state of the holidays, it's "X-Mas Story." This Season 2 episode establishes one of the most charming aspects of New New York: Holiday terror. The carols have morphed from "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" to "Santa Claus Is Gunning You Down," and everyone knows that Santa is no longer a jolly old elf -- everyone, of course, except Fry.

In the year 3000, Santa Claus is very real, now a robot, and deadly serious about who's been naughty and who's been nice. Problem is, he holds everyone to an impossible standard, and judges everyone (except Zoidberg) to be naughty. It's no good asking him to check his list twice, as he performs over fifty mega-checks a second. The jolly John Goodman provides the brilliantly menacing voice of Santa, and the episode's dialogue is about as punny and snappy as Futurama gets.

This holiday scenario creates a great deal more warmth than you might think, as the call for "peace on earth, goodwill to men" takes on new meaning, and the collective fear of everyone unites them as one big, horrified family. Save this one for when your holiday cynicism has reached its peak, and you're not sure things could get any worse, because they totally can.

Comments on