DOCTOR WHO? association with the BBC? annual fund-raising telethon CHILDREN IN NEED goes way back, encompassing the first UK broadcast of the 1983 twentieth anniversary special ?he Five Doctors?and (shudder) the best-forgotten 1993 EASTENDERS 3D cross-over ?imensions in Time.? With DOCTOR WHO having been easily the BBC? biggest new drama hit of the year, it was almost inevitable that the show would contribute in some way to the 2005 festivities. Those who suspected we? be in store for some sort of witless comedy skit or ?urse of Fatal Death?style ironic parody may have been rather surprised to learn that the series?offering would actually be a continuation of the end of the last series, depicting events immediately after Chris Eccleston? traumatic regeneration into David Tennant. The sequence, just a handful of minutes of freshly-filmed footage, effectively bridges the events of the last episode with the forthcoming Christmas special. Whilst the sequence itself was enjoyable for what it was (and too short of attract any sort of meaningful scifind rating) I can? help wondering if burying Tennant? debut in the middle of an often-excruciating cacophony of all-singing, all-dancing newsreaders and Z-list reality show personalities (hello, Jordan!) might not have been such a good idea. Effectively, the impact of Tennant? full-length debut next month has been a bit lost and it? not impossible that, with a post-9pm broadcast, many of the series?new young viewers might have missed it or worse, just not been aware of it.

We?e in the TARDIS and, for those of with short memory, a flashback montage shows us the events leading up to the Doctor? enforced firework-display regeneration. The Doctor? full of post-regeneration beans, examining his slim new body and marvelling at the mole between his shoulder-blades. Rose hasn? a clue what? going on; this is clearly some alien interloper, possibly even a Slitheen, which has teleported the Doctor away and replaced him with an imposter. With some gloriously fruity – and momentarily spine-tingling – dialogue, Russell T Davies convinces her – and us, for that matter – that this new boy is just the same as the old boy, but with a new face. Then something goes wrong; the Doctor, having set the TARDIS on course for Earth to reunite Rose with her mum, spasms with agony. The regeneration? failing; next stop, Christmas Eve!

What can we glean from this six or so minute sequence? Well, clearly the TARDIS is in safe hands. David Tennant is instantly convincing in the role he? wanted to play for years. He? enthusiastic, full of life, embarrassingly energetic (Hopping, anyone?) and, when he finally convinces Rose of his credentials by referring to their first meeting, tender and compelling. He? made the role his in just a few minutes, playing the part in a way he probably won? when he settles into his new physique. Not a lot for Billie Piper to do here except stand and look confused but she does it well and her absolute bemusement plays well with the bemusement likely to be felt by much of the show? huge new audience who may not be entirely familiar with the Doctor? unique physical characteristic.

Leading nicely into ?he Christmas Invasion? it? best to look at this fun scene as a little gift to the fans and the newly-converted, and a reminder that the trip of a lifetime has only just begun?]>

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