Original air date: December 25, 2005
The one where the Doctor's bummed he's rude and not ginger.
Written by Russell T. Davies, this story notably marks the first Christmas special in the series since "The Feast of Steven" exactly forty years prior.
It's become traditional for a new Doctor's first story to deal with regeneration trauma. Ten's is fairly mild — compared to, say, Six's brief homicidal mania (he thankfully didn't wear a technicolor coat this time) — and consists of him spending Christmas unconscious in bed. It's rather close to the Fifth Doctor's regeneration process, where the Doctor spent a lot of time sleeping before running around a lot.
The story is an interesting foreshadowing of what would become important themes in the next few series of Doctor Who and its spin-offs: what happens when the Doctor isn't there to save the day.
It is Christmas Eve on Earth. As Jackie prepares presents and Mickey works in the garage, both of them hear the distinctive sound of the TARDIS' engines. Rushing out into the street of the Powell Estate, they see the TARDIS materialize into existence above them, ricochet off a few buildings and a post van, then come to a crashing halt in a pile of bins; not the Doctor's best landing, but definitely not the worst. A freshly regenerated Doctor stumbles out of the police box doors, greets them by name and wishes them a merry Christmas before collapsing. Rose follows and, in response to Jackie and Mickey's questions, identifies the Doctor.
They bring the Doctor up to Jackie's flat and dress him in pyjamas belonging to Howard, Jackie's current beau, who has the habit of keeping pieces of fruit in his pocket for snacks. While Rose discusses the Doctor's change of appearance and the fact he has two hearts with Jackie, they do not see a wisp of vortex energy emerging from the Doctor's mouth, which then floats into space.
On television, Prime Minister Harriet Jones note and project director Daniel Llewellyn give a press conference about the Guinevere One space probe, which is about to land on Mars. In space, however, the probe is swallowed up by an asteroid shaped spaceship.
That evening, Rose and Mickey go Christmas shopping but are attacked by a group of masked Santas armed with lethal musical instruments. Managing to escape when the tuba mortar brings a giant Christmas tree down on the Santas, Rose realises that the Santas are after the Doctor. She and Mickey rush home. When they reach the flat, Rose notices an unfamiliar Christmas tree in the sitting room, which Jackie says was delivered to the door. As they deduce that none of them purchased the tree, it comes to life, whirling around with razor-sharp branches while playing a cheerful rendition of "Jingle Bells". The three retreat to the bedroom, the "Christmas tree" in hot pursuit. Rose places the sonic screwdriver in the still-comatose Doctor's hand and asks him to help her. Reacting instinctively, the Doctor rises as the tree bursts through the door and disintegrates the tree with the screwdriver.
He then strides outside the flat to see who was remotely controlling the tree. From ground level, the Santas stare up at the Doctor, but transmat away when the Doctor points the sonic screwdriver at them. The Doctor calls them "pilot fish" and collapses in pain, saying that Rose woke him up too soon: he is still regenerating. The energy leaking from him has attracted the "pilot fish"'s attention. However, he soon spasms in pain, saying he is having a neural implosion because they woke him too soon. He tries saying what he needs, but Jackie keeps interrupting; he tells her to shut up. He grips Rose, warning her that something bigger is coming. The Doctor then loses consciousness again.
The first signal from Guinevere One arrives: an alien face, which is soon broadcast all over the world. Llewellyn is escorted by Major Blake to the Tower of London, which houses a facility run by the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. There, he meets Harriet and her aide, Alex, who tells him that they're sending out a temporary cover story that a student in a mask hacked into the broadcast as a prank. Llewellyn is shaken to realise that extraterrestrial life does exist and that both the British government and the United Nations are aware of this. A technician, Sally Jacobs, explains that the signal did not come from Mars but 5000 miles above the planet's surface, which means that there is a ship...moving rapidly towards Earth.
As Rose and Mickey use his laptop to monitor UNIT's readings, the aliens send another signal to Earth. The aliens speak in their own language, but Rose does not understand it. Normally, the TARDIS would translate it for her, but it seems that with the Doctor unconscious, that function is not working. Rose examines the Doctor, finding one of his hearts has stopped, meaning he is too injured to be of use and may die if they attempt to wake him again.
At UNIT, Blake orders the use of translation software. With no sign of the Doctor, Harriet asks Blake about Torchwood. She knows that she is not supposed to know about them (not even the United Nations knows) but she wants them to be ready.
Eventually, the software translates the message. The aliens are the Sycorax, and they are claiming Earth as their own, demanding surrender or "they" will die. Their word for "human" also appears to be similar to that of "cattle", temporarily baffling UNIT. Harriet declines to surrender, warning the Sycorax that the planet is armed. As dawn rises over London, the Sycorax enact their first move. With a wave of the leader's hand, blue energy sweeps over a third of the world's population, mesmerising them. The mind-controlled people, Sally Jacobs amongst them, climb to the highest spots they can find, primarily the roofs of buildings and stand at the edge, poised to jump.
Checking the UNIT staff's medical records, Llewellyn discovers that all the affected people have A+ blood. The Sycorax found the sample of A+ blood that was sent with other materials on Guinevere One to identify the human race in case of alien contact, and are somehow using that as a control mechanism. Desperate now, Harriet gives an emergency broadcast on television, pleading for the Doctor's help if he is out there. She also informs the public that the Queen's Christmas speech has been cancelled as the Royal Family happen to be among the Sycorax' hostages.
Just then, the Sycorax ship enters the atmosphere, emitting a loud sonic boom that shatters windows all over the city; the gigantic craft takes position above the Houses of Parliament and an under-reconstruction Big Ben. Rose, driven to despair by the Doctor's comatose state and not knowing what else to do, asks Mickey and Jackie to help move her move him to the safety of the TARDIS. Jackie gathers food and other supplies, including a thermos flask of tea.
The Sycorax then transmat Harriet, Alex, Blake and Llewellyn up to their ship. The Sycorax leader removes his helmet, revealing a skinless face surrounded by a mantle of bone. His hand hovering over a large glowing button, he demands immediate surrender of half the world's population, or he will order the controlled humans to jump. Llewellyn tries to reason with the Sycorax but is reduced to a pile of bones by the leader's energy whip, as is Blake when he protests.
As Rose and Mickey move the Doctor into the console room, Jackie goes back to get more supplies. Rose, having apparently given up, broods by the console as Mickey tries to use the TARDIS scanner to tune into what is happening, but the time machine's advanced technology is detected by the Sycorax. Outside, Jackie watches helplessly as the TARDIS is transmatted up. Not realising that they are aboard the Sycorax ship, Rose steps out of the TARDIS and screams when she sees the aliens. Mickey rushes out after her, dropping the flask of tea, which spills and starts dripping through the grilles at the base of the console next to the Doctor's unconscious form. The Doctor breathes in the fumes created as the tea sparks against various components.
Rose tries to bluff the Sycorax by quoting various events and races she has encountered on her travels, commanding them to leave, but is answered with laughter. The Sycorax leader taunts her attempts to pass off second-hand knowledge as authority... and as he gloats, his alien words start turning into English. Rose realises that the TARDIS translation is working again, and as the Doctor must be conscious for it to be active, that can mean only one thing: the Doctor is awake. On cue, the Doctor emerges from the TARDIS, smiling as he says, "Did you miss me?"
Easily deactivating the Sycorax leader's energy whip and breaking his staff, the Doctor bluntly tells the alien to wait while he gets more important things out of the way, namely, getting reacquainted with his friends. Disappointed at not being "ginger" (red haired), and somewhat annoyed at Rose's speed in giving up on him, he tells them that all he needed was a "good cup of tea; a superheated infusion of free radicals and tannin. Just the thing for healing the synapses." As the Sycorax leader demands to know who he is, the Doctor blithely strides across the ship's floor, nattering on cheerfully and still working out what his personality is like in this new incarnation. He walks up to the glowing button, discovers that it is powered by A-positive human blood, and quickly deduces that the Sycorax are using blood control — they're controlling all the humans with A-positive blood. The Doctor tells the leader that in his unstable state, when he sees a large glowing button he just cannot help himself — and to everyone's shock, he pushes it.
However, instead of sending the possessed crowds on Earth to their deaths, it simply releases them from the Sycorax control. The Doctor explains that blood control is like hypnosis: "you can hypnotise someone to cluck like a chicken or sing like Elvis, but you can't hypnotise them to death. Survival instinct's too strong." The Sycorax were bluffing, and the Doctor called them on it. The leader says that they can still conquer Earth with an armada, but the Doctor demands that the humans be left alone (quoting part of "The Circle of Life" from The Lion King in the process), challenging the leader to a duel.
The Doctor goads the leader into it the fight by insulting him in his native Sycoraxic. The swordfight goes from inside the ship to its exterior. In the midst of it, the leader cuts the Doctor's hand off, and it falls below with his sword. The leader assumes the Doctor will yield as he's been "disarmed". While his friends are horrified, the Doctor is calm; he notes that he is still within the first fifteen hours of changing into his new incarnation. Grinning, he explains that there's leftover energy after the change to rectify any anomalies or missing bits; his hand regrows.
Grabbing a new sword, the Doctor notes "This new hand, it's a fightin' hand!" and reengages the leader in battle. The Doctor ultimately pins the leader, telling him to leave the planet and never return, in return for the Doctor sparing his life. As the Doctor walks back, celebrating his victory with Rose, the leader tries a final attack whilst the Doctor's back is turned. The Doctor calmly bounces a satsuma he finds in Howard's dressing gown off a control button, opening a section of the ship's wing beneath the leader, sending the alien plunging to his death. With a now-grim expression, the Doctor states that he is a man who doesn't give second chances.
The Doctor sends the other Sycorax on their way with a reminder that Earth is defended. They are transmatted back to London and reunite with Jackie, and Harriet asks if there are more aliens out there. The Doctor notes that there are thousands; the human race is being noticed more and more. As Harriet ponders this, visibly troubled, Alex receives a telephone call and quietly informs Harriet that Torchwood is ready. Harriet seems reluctant but nevertheless gives the order to fire. Five green beams converge as one over London, and the resulting energy burst destroys the Sycorax ship as it heads into space.
The Doctor is furious at Harriet for just ordering mass genocide, but she tries to justify the use of the weapon (engineered from a crashed spaceship ten years previously) as defending Earth. She tells him how Llewellyn and Blake were merciliessly killed in front of her while he was asleep, making her realise the Doctor cannot be there all the time. The Doctor bitterly muses he should have warned the Sycorax to run, as the real monsters, the humans, are coming. When Harriet asks if she should consider the Doctor another alien enemy, the Doctor warns her that he can bring down her government with just six words. He whispers them into Alex's ear: "Don't you think she looks tired?" Alex gives Harriet a startled look, and she demands to know what the Doctor just said, growing frantic in her attempts. Everyone else leaves without a word, and Harriet apologises quietly.
Jackie, Mickey and Rose serve Christmas dinner in the flat. The Doctor looks through the TARDIS wardrobe, finally settling on a brown pinstripe suit and a long brown coat. He joins the others for dinner, and they watch Harriet on the television, fending off rumours about her ill-health and a pending vote of no confidence in the House of Commons (it's not as if that'll come back to haunt us later on). Outside, what looks like snow is falling over London, accompanied by shooting stars, but the Doctor bitterly points out that it is, in fact, ash — the remains of the Sycorax spaceship. It is a new start for Earth, however; with so many people seeing the Sycorax ship, there is no covering up the existence of aliens this time.
But there are new worlds to see and explore. With a now-trusting Rose by his side and eager to continue their travels, the Doctor looks up into the sky to choose a star for their next destination, assuring her that it will be, in the words of his previous incarnation, "fantastic".
- Absurdly Ineffective Barricade: During the attack of the Christmas Tree of Death, Jackie and Mickey barricade the door of Rose's bedroom with a wardrobe. Unfortunately, it's made of flimsy medium-density fiberboard, and the terrible Tannenbaum just rips through it like balsa.
- Actor Allusion:
- The TARDIS wardrobe contains a Hogwarts uniform. David Tennant was fresh off his appearance as Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
- There's also an item of clothing that looks like it's from the Restoration period (red, blue collar, made of silk). The costume was one of Tennant's outfits from Casanova, which was also written by Russell T. Davies.
- Arc Words:
- Harriet Jones, Prime Minister note calls Torchwood to take out the Sycorax warship.
- "Who am I?"
- An Arm and a Leg: The Sycorax leader cuts off the Doctor's hand during their duel, and he grows it back moments later.
- Artistic Licence - Space: London seems a bit too sunny for a city at 51°N latitude four days after the Winter Solstice, don't you think? Not only that, but the Astronomic Zoom at the beginning appears to be from June. (See more at Writers Cannot Do Math.)
- An Ass-Kicking Christmas: Starting a NewWho tradition, complete with a Sword Fight, severed limb and Wave-Motion Gun.
- Astronomic Zoom:
- Attack of the Killer Whatever: At one point, the protagonists come under threat from a madly spinning Christmas tree.
- Backstab Backfire: After the Doctor wins their duel, the Sycorax leader gets up and charges him from behind. The Doctor (without looking or breaking his stride) throws the satsuma he's just found in his dressing gown pocket at the hull switch, opening it under the Sycorax.
- Badass Boast: When Llewellyn wonders why Harriet Jones is speaking so casually about aliens as a matter of fact, she merely quips, "There's an act of Parliament banning my autobiography."
- Bad Santa: A whole brass band of them, complete with weaponized instruments.
- Big Bad: The Sycorax Leader.
- Big Eater: Howard, the original owner of the pajamas and robe the Doctor ends up wearing, judging by the fact that he keeps fruit in the pockets of his robe because "he gets hungry in his sleep".
- Big Red Threatening Button: "I really don't know who I am. I don't know when to stop. So if I see a great big threatening button which should never, ever, ever be pressed, then I just want to do this!" (He hits the button.)
- The official subtitles on BBC iPlayer even render it "A Great Big Threatening Button Which Must Not Be Pressed Under Any Circumstances," capitalized for emphasis.
- Big "SHUT UP!":The Doctor: I need...
Jackie: Is it food? Something simple? Bowl of soup? Nice bowl of soup? Soup and a sandwich? Bowl of soup and a nice ham sandwich?
The Doctor: I need you to shut up!
- Blah, Blah, Blah: Mickey tells Rose how his grandmother talks about her a lot:"She does my dinner on a Sunday, talks about you all afternoon, yap yap yap..."
- Blood Magic: The Sycorax use "blood control" to hypnotize a third of the population of Earth. Technically it's Magic from Technology, but one of the UNIT characters commented that it appeared like they were casting a spell. The Sycorax reverse-engineered their technology from invaders, and think of it as magic.
- Bloodless Carnage: There's no blood to be seen anywhere when the Doctor's hand gets cut off.
- Bond One-Liner: "No second chances. I'm that sort of a man."
- Borrowed Catchphrase: The Tenth Doctor borrows Nine's "fantastic" to reassure Rose about the adventures they could go on.
- Call a Human a "Meatbag": When the Sycorax's message to humanity is translated, their word for "human" is translated as "cattle".
- The camera focusing on the newly regenerated Tenth Doctor's face, as he's unconscious on the ground. This is more or less the exact same pose many of the classic Doctors were in before and after their regenerations.
- Harriet Jones makes a point of knowing the names of everyone she meets. The explanation isn't given, but since the last time she appeared she never learnt the name of the man Blon Slitheen murdered, it's likely to make sure she knows this time.
- Catchphrase: Harriet Jones' has been accordingly upgraded to reflect her new status, which is met with some exasperation from everyone else — since when did the Prime Minister need to introduce herself?
- Celebrity Paradox: The Doctor makes reference to Arthur Dent. But Douglas Adams, who wrote the Hitchhiker's Guide books, also did writing work on Doctor Who in the 1970s.
- Characterization Marches On: The Doctor's casually killing the Sycorax's leader for trying to pull an I Surrender, Suckers shows the Tenth Doctor's early characterization as a more ruthless and calculating person, before he later became a Messianic Archetype who tried to save everyone, even the bad guys if at all possible.
- Chekhov's Gag: The Doctor finds fruit in the dressing gown Jackie had, since the man who she's currently seeing tends to get snacky during the night. He later uses a satsuma he finds there to defeat the Sycorax leader.
- Chekhov's Gun: The Doctor's severed hand. It wasn't intended as such at the time, but it would go on to be a very important item throughout the remainder of Russell T. Davies' tenure in charge of the franchise.
- Christmas Episode: It's Christmas in London and therefore supposed to be a "day of peace". Because the Sycorax don't respect this, the Doctor has to kick their ass. Then Harriet Jones blows their ship out of the sky.
- Clarke's Third Law: The Sycorax's blood control technology is described by Harriet's advisors as "like casting a spell".
- Combat by Champion: The Sycorax leader demands that the Earth send their best as champion, or "your world will be gutted, and your people enslaved." The Doctor obliges.
- Continuity Nod:
- Rose's address to the Sycorax is basically her rattling off whatever useless bits of knowledge she's gained about aliens over the course of the last series.
- Big Ben is still covered in scaffolding from not being completely rebuilt.
- This isn't the first time the Doctor's regeneration almost failed... or, for that matter, he spent a portion of the adventure sleeping.
- The Doctor's hand regrowth is also seen by some fans as an explanation of how Romana managed to do "trial" regenerations at the beginning of "Destiny of the Daleks".
- On seeing the Sycorax, Mr. Llewellyn wonders if they're actually Martians. UNIT Major Blake dryly informs him that Martians look completely different.
- The Fourth Doctor's outfit can be seen while the Doctor chooses his new clothes.
- Converging-Stream Weapon: Used by Torchwood London against the fleeing Sycorax.
- Deadpan Snarker: Mickey's moved on from being hostile, and now just taunts Rose about how she never stops talking about the Doctor, and the TARDIS.Mickey: Oh, yeah, because I just love hearing stories about the TARDIS. "This one time, the TARDIS landed in a big yellow garden full of balloons!"note
- Declaration of Protection: Courtesy of the Doctor:"By the ancient rites of combat, I forbid you to scavenge here for the rest of time. And when you go back to the stars and tell others of this planet, when you tell them of its riches, its people, its potential, when you talk of the Earth, then make sure that you tell them this... IT! IS! DEFENDED!"
- Disney Villain Death: The Sycorax Leader has a particularly nasty one here. Like in most Disney movies, you never see the body, but boy, that was a very LOOOOOOOOOONG fall there.
- Disproportionate Retribution: The Doctor derails history by deposing Harriet Jones, all because she did something he disagreed with. This has become one of the show's biggest What the Hell, Hero? moments.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Harriet's decision to order Torchwood to shoot the retreating Sycorax ship was likened at the time to Thatcher's decision to sink the General Belgrano in The Falklands War.
- More contemporarily to the events of the episode's original airdate, the idea that "Don't you think she looks tired?" could end Harriet's career may have been an allusion to Tony Blair being hospitalised with a heart murmur in 2003. There was speculation in the press as to whether this was a pre-existing condition, or if it had been brought by the stress of the war in Iraq.
- Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: Lampshaded: The Doctor discovers the "Big Red Button" the Sycorax are using to control any human with A+ blood, and says, "How am I gonna react when I see this? A great, big, threatening button. A great, big, threatening button which must not be pressed under any circumstances, am I right? [...] Which leaves us with a great, big, stinkin' problem. I really don't know who I am. I don't know when to stop. So if I see a great, big, threatening button which should never, ever, EVER be pressed, then I just want to do this." [presses the button]
- Double Entendre: Jackie's comment when Rose was explaining to her about how the Doctor has two hearts. This while she's eyeing him up and down."Anything else he's got two of?"
- Duel to the Death: The Doctor duels with the Sycorax leader. After winning, the Doctor graciously decided to let him live (despite the fact the aliens had come to enslave humanity and had previously killed two diplomatic aides in cold blood), but when the humiliated alien captain attacked the Doctor from behind, the Doctor finished him off by dropping him off the edge of the spaceship hovering over London. By throwing a satsuma at the release button.
- Eagleland: The United States immediately demands to take over the situation... not that Harriet cares.
- Edible Ammunition: The satsuma.
- Epic Fail: Rose's attempt to talk to the Sycorax using random words she picked up from the Doctor. The vast majority are just the names of previous aliens of the week, and the Sycorax just wind up laughing at her.
- Establishing Character Moment:
- The entire episode is basically one for Ten, as he tries to find out "what sort of man he is".
- He answers the question when the Sycorax leader tries to kill Ten after the Doctor commanded his race never to invade Earth again. He then promptly throws the satsuma in his pocket at a switch, which makes him fall to his death. "No second chances. I'm that sort of man."
- Establishing Shot: When the victims of the Sycorax mind control are going to high places, threatening to step off, one of the techs states that it is not only in the UK, but all over the world. This is demonstrated by showing people standing on rooftops with the Eiffel Tower (France), and the Roman Coliseum (Italy) in the background.
- Everyone Has Standards: The TARDIS translates all alien language into "human" (or, at least, something humans can understand). Apparently, whatever the Doctor says to the Sycorax is so offensive that the TARDIS refuses to translate it.
- Evil Plan: The Sycorax come to Earth looking for slaves and minerals. They demand surrender so they can make another conquest.
- Evil Sounds Deep: The Sycorax leader has a low, rough voice.
- Flynning: A particularly bad case between the Doctor and the leader of the Sycorax. Most notable is a moment when the Doctor charges the Sycorax leader with an overhead strike. In any realistic fight, the Doctor would've ended up with a sword through one of his hearts.
- Fruit of the Loon: As provided by Jackie's friend Howard, who regularly keeps snacks in the pockets of his dressing gown.
- Group Hug: The Doctor, Rose, Mickey and Jackie, after the Sycorax have left.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: The Doctor argues with the Sycorax leader.Sycorax: I DEMAND TO KNOW WHO YOU ARE!
The Doctor: I! DON'T! KNOW!!
- He Had a Name: Harriet Jones is shown making a point of asking even minor flunkies she talks to for their names. It's not explained why she does it, but it was probably meant as a Continuity Nod to show that, even without the Doctor getting all self-righteous about it, she learned her lesson from her previous appearance.
- Heroic Second Wind: The Doctor recovers after regenerating his hand, and proceeds to win the duel.
- He's Back!: "Did you miss me?"
- Hot Drink Cure: The Doctor recovers from his regeneration sickness thanks to inhaling evaporated tea. It's indicated his Bizarre Alien Biology is the only reason this worked.
- The Doctor in regards to the Sycorax. He says he's now someone who doesn't give second chances, yet expected the Earth to just let the Sycorax leave after they were fully willing to kill a third of the population and had made it quite clear that they wanted to take over the Earth, not to mention having the gall to say that he should have told the Sycorax to warn the galaxy that Humans Are the Real Monsters, despite the many, many, many different alien species both in the old and new series that have come to Earth with the intent of turning it into their personal playground.
- Harriet Jones. She tells the American president that "he's certainly not turning this into a war"...and then she herself orders that the Sycorax ship be shot down as they're retreating.
- Impact Silhouette: The animated killer Christmas tree leaves a Christmas-treetop-shaped gap in the top of the doorframe at Jackie's place.
- Instrument of Murder: The robot Father Christmases wield brass instruments which double as weapons, including a trombone flamethrower and a tuba which, by dint of launching rockets, manages to make itself just barely more dangerous than the usual sort.
- The Ketchup Test: The Doctor, upon discovering the blood sample the Sycorax are using, gets a bit of it on his finger and tastes it, declaring it to be "A positive, with just a dash of iron".
- Limb-Sensation Fascination: When the Doctor's hand gets chopped off, shortly after his regeneration, there's a short focus on it as he grows a new one. "I've got just enough residual cellular energy — to do this." [regrows hand] "... Wanna know the best bit? This new hand — it's a fightin' hand."
- Literal Disarming: During the duel between the newly regenerated Tenth Doctor and the Sycorax leader, the latter cuts off the Doctor's right hand which was holding the sword. However, thanks to the Doctor being within 15 hours of his regeneration he was able to regrow his hand with a stronger better fighting hand, where he proceeds to overwhelm the Sycorax leader and knock him down.
- Living Battery: The Doctor says that the "pilot fish" could use him as one with his excess regeneration energy.
- Lower-Deck Episode: The Doctor spends most of the story unconscious, leaving most of the action up until the end focused on UNIT and the prime minister.
- Make an Example of Them: After The Doctor forces The Sycorax to retreat, Harriet Jones decides to destroy their ship as they're leaving. She justified her decision by pointing out to The Doctor that he can't be there all the time and humanity needs to prove themselves as capable of protecting themselves.
- Mars Needs Women: Parodied; the Sycorax demand our minerals, our cattle, and our women. The reference to women was edited out of the spoken dialogue, but one of the characters has a translator and the text can be seen on its screen.
- Mass Hypnosis: The Sycorax control of a third of the Earth's population.
- Mauve Shirt: Mister Llewellyn and Major Blake, who are beamed to the Sycorax ship with Harriet Jones, and killed shortly after.
- Named by the Adaptation: The Guinevere One short story gives Major Blake the first name of Richard, the novelization to the episode said his first name was Thomas.
- "Nations of the World" Montage: We see people walking to the edge of buildings in Paris and Rome. With, of course, the Eiffel Tower and Coliseum.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- The Guinevere-1 probe has a sample of human blood on it, which is what allows the Sycorax to hold all those people hostage with blood control.
- The Doctor deposing Harriet Jones creates a power vacuum (and disrupted timeline) that allows the Master to enslave the Earth later on.
- Non Sequitur, *Thud*: The Doctor on stepping out of the TARDIS in the intro. "Merry Christmas!" [thud]
- No-Sell: The Sycorax leader has a whip capable of disintegrating flesh and clothing, leaving only charred skeletons, which he uses to kill Llewellyn and Major Blake. However, when he tries to use it on the Doctor, he just grabs it and yanks it out of the Sycorax's hands without being affected even slightly.
- Nothing Is the Same Anymore: While it's been known by their governments for a long time, Christmas 2006 marks the day the people of Earth learn, irrefutably, that they're not alone in the universe.
- The Nth Doctor: David Tennant makes his debut as the Doctor. Regeneration is explored:
- Rose has no idea what's going on. All she knows is the man she knew and loved has changed, and there's some skinny guy in his place. She even compares him unfavourably to the Ninth Doctor, saying he'd sort everything out, and later breaks down crying over being "left alone".
- Harriet is also pretty confused, wondering briefly if Ten is Nine's son.
- Offhand Backhand: The Doctor pulls this on the Sycorax leader with a satsuma.
- Oh, Crap!: Fadros has this reaction when the Doctor reveals that he's a Time Lord.
- Ominous Floating Spaceship: The Sycorax ship hovering above London, demanding surrender.
- Pajama-Clad Hero: After spending most of the episode laid up in bed, the Doctor does the climactic confrontation and duel still dressed in jimjams and dressing gown.
- Paranoia Gambit: The Doctor's "six words" that bring down Harriet Jones's government are to tell her aide "Don't you think she looks tired?", then refuse to tell Jones herself what he said, leaving her to worry herself into a total mess who really does look agitated and exhausted.
- Patrick Stewart Speech: Attempted, but the Doctor gives up halfway when he realizes he's just quoting "Circle of Life" from The Lion King."But the point still stands; leave them alone!"
- Pardon My Klingon: Just after making a big deal out of the translation mechanism, the Doctor lapses into Sycorax when insulting the alien leader. Since the Translator Microbes are linked to the Doctor's mind, it's not quite clear whether he's doing this for effect, or it's a suspiciously timed failure of his still-unstable mind. An Expanded Universe story claimed previously that the Translator Microbes have a "swear filter".
- Phrase Catcher/Running Gag:Harriet Jones, Prime Minister: [flashes ID badge] Harriet Jones, Prime Minister.
Everyone (including the Sycorax): Yes, I/we know who you are.
- Pop-Cultured Badass: Ten, starting as he means to go on, quotes The Lion King and references Arthur Dent.
- Power Walk: After defeating the Sycorax leader, the Doctor's Power Walk is coupled with the dialogue — in classic Western-showdown form — "No second chances. I'm that sort of a man."
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: "This new hand — it's a fighting hand!"
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: In a quite controversial moment, the Doctor gets Harriet Jones fired for destroying the Sycorax when they were retreating. There are good points to be said for both of them, however the Doctor just uses it to portray her as the monster. This, despite him killing the Sycorax leader for not honouring the bargain earlier, and how the Sycorax might have ended up attacking another planet. Ten uses this as an excuse to bring down Harriet Jones in a contrived and ridiculous manner, thus changing history and cheating Britain out of its Golden age. In other stories the Doctor was very adamantly criticising others for trying to change history, even if they thought it was for the better. And stories like Torchwood: Children of Earth seem to show the Doctor changed history for the worse.
- Psychic-Assisted Suicide: The Sycorax threaten to do this by taking control of about a third of the Earth and making them all march to the nearest high place. They'll order them to jump if their demands aren't met. It turns out to be a bluff — the form of mind control used can't overcome the survival instinct.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
- The Sycorax leader and the newly-regenerated Doctor both speak like this: "I DEMAND TO KNOW. WHO. YOU. ARE!" "I. DON'T. KNOW!"
- Also, the Doctor's Declaration of Protection:"By the ancient rites of combat, I forbid you to scavenge here for the rest of time. And when you go back to the stars and tell others of this planet, when you tell them of its riches, its people, its potential, when you talk of the Earth, then make sure that you tell them this... IT! IS! DEFENDED!"
- Rapid-Fire Interrupting: Jackie does this to the Doctor during the balcony scene, trying to guess what he needs while he can't get a word in edgewise due to his regeneration sickness-induced headache.
- Rationalizing the Overkill: Harriet Jones, Prime Minister, justifies her blasting of the Sycorax spaceship out of the sky by saying that though the Doctor scared them off, who's to say they wouldn't have turned right around and attacked once the Doctor was gone, just like their leader did after being defeated and giving his solemn word on the blood of his race. Thus, she had to Make an Example of Them to show that Earth could defend itself without him.
- Replacement Scrappy: In-universe, this is how Rose initially views the Tenth Doctor. She warms up to him later.
- Resurrection Sickness: The Doctor briefly becomes extremely erratic and irrational before collapsing into a dramatic coma which lasts for most of the episode, and at one point, thanks to being woken up too early, his brain almost collapses.
- Royal Inbreeding: The Queen's speech is cancelled because the British royal family is "on the roof" being controlled by the Sycorax. Apparently, every member of the royal family shares Type A+ blood.note This implies a significant amount of inbreeding, even for the royal family.
- Rule of Empathy: In spite of Jackie's often harsh words and attitude towards the Doctor (demonstrated in this very episode where she encourages Rose and Mickey to abandon him so as to save themselves), she becomes very caring for him as his condition worsens. The Doctor, likely aware of everything that happened within earshot, later thanks her for saving him with the tea by pulling her into a Group Hug.
- Sadistic Choice: The leader of the Sycorax offers the choice of letting half of humanity be sold into slavery, or forcing one-third of the population to kill themselves.
- Screw Destiny: Harriet Jones, Prime Minister, becomes the victim of the Doctor's decision to significantly alter her history after her first year as Prime Minister.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The Doctor deliberately creates one of these to get Harriet Jones kicked out of office, saying he could bring her government down with 6 words. "Don't you think she looks tired?" whispered in someone's ear. This got spread around, until there was a huge controversy regarding her health. Meanwhile, the stress of her not knowing what he said, and the resulting media circus, actually affected her health and she ended up kicked out of office.
- After the defeat of the Sycorax leader, the Doctor nods to late Who staffer Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by describing his Pajama-Clad Hero status as "very Arthur Dent."
- He also tries to convince the Sycorax that Humans Are Special by saying "Look at these people. These human beings. Consider their potential... from the day they arrive on the planet and blinking, step into the sun... there's more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than — no, hold on. Sorry, that's The Lion King."
- Does that scene where the Doctor is hanging over the edge of the Sycorax spaceship, having had his hand cut off remind you of anything?
- What about the weapon Torchwood uses to destroy the Sycorax mothership?
- Evidently he still has The Lion King on his mind when he has the defeated Sycorax champion hanging over the edge at sword-point — "Leave this planet, and never return."
- Sick Episode: The Doctor spends most of the episode unconscious in bed at Rose's flat while he recovers from the recent physical trauma of his regeneration, occasionally gasping up wisps of yellow energy. Which apparently inconveniently attracted an alien invasion.
- Skewed Priorities: Before dealing with the Monster of the Week, the Doctor asks Rose how his latest regeneration looks and is somewhat peeved to discover he's not ginger.
- Sophisticated as Hell: The Sycorax deliver an ultimatum demanding the Earth's every last resource, which is all fine and threatening until they end it with "Sycorax strong, Sycorax mighty, Sycorax rock!!!" (and no, this is not a "Blind Idiot" Translation, as Harriet's assistant clarifies, "... as in the modern sense, they rock.")
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The Christmas tree attack is accompanied by a slightly deranged version of "Jingle Bells".
- Squee: The Doctor's voice goes all squeaky when he figures out the Sycorax are using blood control."I haven't seen blood control for years!"
- Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Super-Powered Robot Santas; they have weaponry.
- Sword Fight: Between the Doctor and the Sycorax leader.
- Take That!:Harriet Jones, Prime Minister: You may tell the President this, and please use these exact words: He's not my boss and he's certainly not turning this into a war. note
- They Would Cut You Up: Fear of this trope is why Rose shoots down Jackie's suggestion that they take the Doctor to a hospital.Rose: We can't, they'd dissect him! One bottle of his blood could change the future of the human race!
- Title Drop: Jackie uses the words "Doctor who?" in the series' long-standing Running Gag.note
- Tranquil Fury: The Doctor kills the Sycorax leader by irising open the floor beneath his feet, announcing, "No second chances. I'm that sort of man." Moments later, he has a second moment against the Prime Minister, after she shoots down the retreating fleet, killing thousands needlessly, as he sees it. He talks over her pleas, saying "I could bring down your government with a single word... no... six words. Six." He then turns and whispers to her aide, "Don't you think she looks tired?" This alters the course of history and strongly reverberates all the way through to the end of Series 3 of Doctor Who and the Torchwood miniseries Children of Earth. Between Harriet Jones' speech proving that sometimes the Strawman Has a Point and the aftermath, this has gone from a Moment of Awesome to a What the Hell, Hero? moment.
- Twisted Christmas: The Tenth Doctor's first adventure had him spending most of the day going through regenerative sickness, almost being killed by a Christmas tree, and then had his triumphant moment getting rid of the aliens spoiled by Torchwood shooting the alien ship down. And he has a huge falling out with Harriet Jones, Prime Minister, which ends with him getting her sacked, destroying "Britain's Golden Age".
- Wacky Wayside Tribe: The Pilot Fish attack the Doctor, Rose, Jackie and Mickey early in the episode and are never heard from again after the Doctor destroys their Christmas Tree of Doom.
- Waxing Lyrical: The Doctor starts accidentally quoting the lyrics of "Circle of Life" from The Lion King when addressing the Sycorax leader.
- What Does This Button Do?: The Doctor parodies it when he finds the Sycorax's Big Red Button, describing it as "The Great Big Threatening Button That Must Not Be Pressed Under Any Circumstances"... before pressing it.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- The Doctor gives Harriet a tongue-lashing when she shoots down the retreating Sycorax ship. Harriet defends herself by saying the decision was "contingent to tactical necessity", especially given that the Sycorax proved untrustworthy, such as when the leader tried to kill the Doctor after swearing on his blood that he wouldn't."THAT WAS MURDER!"
- The Doctor is also angry that Rose gave up on him. Then he admits that was rude.
- The Doctor gives Harriet a tongue-lashing when she shoots down the retreating Sycorax ship. Harriet defends herself by saying the decision was "contingent to tactical necessity", especially given that the Sycorax proved untrustworthy, such as when the leader tried to kill the Doctor after swearing on his blood that he wouldn't.
- Wounded Hero, Weaker Helper: The Doctor needs to be cared for by Rose (and to a lesser extent Mickey and Jackie), and they have to try to deal with the alien invasion for him while he recuperates.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: During the swordfight the Doctor's hand gets cut off. He can regenerate it, because he's still within the first fifteen hours of his regeneration cycle. Except that he arrived in London on Christmas Eve, while it was still light, and his hand gets cut off the next day, also during daylight hours. Christmas is only a few days after the Winter Solstice, and the night lasts longer than fifteen hours in London at that time.
- "I'm gonna get killed by a Christmas tree!!"