Tardis gets new tennant
ON Christmas Day 1965, the Doctor took time out from an epic battle with the Daleks to partake in an odd 25-minute run-around which saw him in a silent film-style encounter with the likes of Charlie Chaplin and the Keystone Kops.
As if that wasn't bizarre enough, at the end of the episode the Timelord - then in his first incarnation as William Hartnell - suddenly turned to camera and addressed the TV audience: "Incidentally," he chuckled, "a happy Christmas to all of you at home!"
Although it was all meant in a spirit of fun, the audience of the day was not impressed.
"It was one of the worst programmes I have seen and definitely not Christmas material," wrote one contemporary viewer. Even now, hardcore Who fans still wince at the memory.
Four decades on and for only the second time in the programme's long history, the Tardis is once again materialising onto our TV screens on Christmas Day. But this time around it's all very different.
Rather than an Edwardian gentleman with dodgy dentistry, the new Doctor David Tennant is all Carnaby Street swagger and perfect teeth.
Gone too, is the whimsical seasonal run-around. Instead, The Christmas Invasion brings us an Independence Day-scale adventure, all wrapped up in Christmas tinsel, as trumpet-playing Santas and evil spinning fern trees wreak havoc across London.
As you can probably tell, the episode isn't without a sense of humour, with the Doctor at one point breaking off from making a moving speech to the evil alien Sycorax about the sanctity of life to declare: "Oh, sorry, that was The Lion King".
And he ends up saving the day with that humble Christmas stocking filler, the satsuma.
It all makes for perfect seasonal viewing from the BBC, charged with seeing off the threat posed by Chris Tarrant and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Celebrity on STV.
But will also provide fans with their first chance to properly size up the new man in the Tardis, having only enjoyed a brief sample of Tennant's take on the role in a Children In Need special last month. One matter which has been open to conjecture ever since the 34-year-old actor won the part has been what accent he would use in the role.
Born in Bathgate, West Lothian, fans wondered if he would follow the example of seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy [1986 to 1989] and speak in his native Scottish brogue. However, this incarnation of the time-traveller from Gallifrey has opted to adopt a mockney dialect, announcing " 'appy Christmas" as he steps out of the Tardis for the first time. Sadly, the reason for the dropped aitches may now be lost in the web of time. The series' lead writer and executive producer Russell T Davies admitted there was originally a line in the script where Mickey (played by Noel Clarke) commented that the new Doctor had somehow taken on the accent of his companion Rose (Billie Piper). But alas it was cut. However, a preview of what is in store next year reveals that for at least one story he will be allowed to lapse into his native accent when the Tardis takes him to Scotland in Victorian times.
When he took on the role earlier in the year, Tennant was thrilled to receive two very special letters of congratulation.
"I did get a couple of very nice notes, yes," he reveals. "One was from Tom Baker [who played the part from 1974-1981] and the other from Peter Davison [1982-1984]. I was very honoured."
One former Doctor who hasn't been in touch yet is Christopher Eccleston, who quit the programme in March after just one episode of the new series.
"I didn't get to speak to him because the regeneration sequences when one Doctor transforms into another were shot on separate days," says Tennant.
Despite being a life-long fan of the programme, he is determined to make the character - now in its tenth incarnation - his own.
"I haven't drawn on any of the earlier Doctors' portrayal, not particularly consciously. I suppose having that knowledge of the show might influence me, though.
"I am aware there's always the danger of playing it too quirkily."
One thrill we won't see until next year, is when the Doctor comes face-to-face with former companion Sarah Jane Smith, who accompanied both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker on their time travels in the 1970s.
Still played by Elisabeth Sladen, Tennant admits it was a great thrill to work with one of his childhood heroes.
Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion, BBC One, Christmas Day, 7pm
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