With Easter just behind us, it’s nearly time to start thinking about Christmas.
Last week saw the release of The Target Collection – five new novelisations of Doctor Who stories using the cover art style of the classic Target Books range. Jenny T. Colgan takes on the Tenth Doctor’s first adventure in ‘The Christmas Invasion’.
The Christmas Invasion
(I’m going to assume you’ve at least seen the TV episode. If not, spoilers ahead.)
The Doctor is gone and this skinny weirdo has taken his place. The TARDIS crash lands in London on Christmas Eve where Rose, Jackie and Mickey have to face an impending alien threat alone. Meanwhile, Harriet Jones (oh, you know who she is) has UNIT on high-alert and terrible choices to make. Can Rose revive the Doctor in time to save Christmas?
Out of all the new series novelisations that the Target Collection has released, I think Jenny T Colgan had the biggest challenge. While the script has plenty of action, the main thrust of the story is more akin to a kitchen sink drama. ‘The Christmas Invasion’ has three major set-pieces and two of them occur in the first 15 minutes. The rest of the episode consists of scenes between small groups of people and how each deal with the looming threat. Colgan not only has to take the dialogue that Russell T Davies first penned but expand on it. To explore what the characters think about while awaiting possible doom. Luckily, Colgan’s bibliography proves that she’s just the writer for the job!
Jenny T Colgan
If you’ve been following Doctor Who spin-off media in almost any form, the name Jenny T Colgan will have cropped up. Colgan is a novelist from Scotland with a prolific history in Doctor Who. Among her novels, she penned ‘Dark Horizons’ in 2012 and ‘In The Blood’ in 2016, which we reviewed last year. For Big Finish, Colgan’s credits include the first River Song audio story ‘Boundless‘ and the Tenth Doctor adventure ‘Time Reaver‘. Outside the Whoniverse, Colgan writes romantic-comedy fiction and recently won an RNA Romantic Comedy Novel Award for her most recent book ‘The Summer Seaside Kitchen‘.
So when it comes to a character-driven, sci-fi adventure about a daft alien and the woman who loves him, Colgan is a great choice.
The use of narration, small tweaks to scenes and dialogue and even creating two new characters helps the novelisation develop the themes that Davies hinted at. Of course, we get a lot insight into Rose and how she’s feeling about the Doctor’s sudden change. Billie Piper gave an exceptional performance as pressure kept being piled on Rose. Hearing her thoughts adds a fascinating dimension. Same goes for Mickey and Jackie and their strained relationships with Rose and each other.
This is wonderfully executed in the case of Llewellyn and Sally. A really strong new scene and dropped hints suggest a rapport developing between the two. In the original episode, Llewellyn’s death was frightening but he wasn’t a character we really knew enough about. This new take on both characters turns his demise into a full blown tragedy. Sally’s last moment as a perspective character is a small but heartwrenching moment.
Harriet and Major Blake also get a lot of development, including how the two met which was rather touching. The loss of Blake has a profound effect on her which ties into her later decision to destroy the Sycorax ship. It makes her confrontation scene with the Doctor sizzle in a way that puts them on a more even footing. The only time I think this falters is in the case of Harriet’s aide, Alex. We don’t get much more insight into him or his relationship with Harriet, which feels like a missed opportunity.
This extends to the friendship between two new characters who worked on Guinevere One. But because they’re original to the novelisation, I don’t want to give too much away. Suffice to say it’s a sweet and uncomplicated friendship that was I enjoyed immensely.
That’s not to say, however, that the novelisation is devoid of action. You probably already know ‘The Christmas Invasion’ features some of the most ambitious sequences Doctor Who had yet attempted. The explosive Oxford Street battle with a Santa-themed brass band and the infamous killing Christmas tree are both retold in excellent detail. However, the character perspective that is otherwise very strong in the story gets dropped at these scenes. Occasionally reading like a description of what’s happening on screen rather than what Rose or Mickey are seeing. Colgan has compensated for the slower middle act by developing the rooftops sequence and the sonic wave. A series of effects shots in the broadcast episode becomes a moment of sheer panic for the reader.
Keen observers will also notice that deleted scenes and dialogue from the episode proper get worked back in. I was really glad to spot the Children in Need cutaway sequence not only worked into the story but brilliantly expanded upon. The book is peppered with these little details that will be great to keep in mind next time you break out the Christmas specials.
The Target Collection novelisation of The Christmas Invasion is a different type of story from its TV original. Colgan delves deep into these characters and demonstrates incredible insight into their motivations and beliefs. For an episode I’ve watched far too many times, it’s incredible to get a whole new perspective on it. Colgan has done a fantastic job and ‘The Christmas Invasion’ is clearly an essential addition to your Target collection.
The Target Doctor Who novelisations are available from Amazon £6.99 each.