"If you switch to ITV tonight, the universe may implode, so..."
IN THIS ONE... You become the Doctor's companion and help him save Christmas and beat the Graske.
REVIEW: New Adventures writer Gareth Roberts gets his shot at the new show, kind of, and won't get a real episode until 2007. Surprising, since his "everything in the kitchen sink" comedies were the NAs that most approach RTD's own scriptwriting style. Not that there's all that much to write of this 15-minute trifle once you take out the obligatory multiple choice games. You can hear Gareth's humor in references for the adults (Rose having gone to see Abba) and the dig at ITV, but otherwise, it's not a great audition piece for a writer. It's hard to say how good it is as an audition piece for YOU as companion, but it's an amusing conceit. The problem for adult viewers is that the games are incredibly easy, a mix of remembering what the Doctor said seconds ago, simple logic puzzles and catching obvious clues. They should be easy for kids of most ages too. And if you ever fail, no worries, the Doctor just gives you a sigh and does it for you, you donk! Actually, this is the most entertaining track to take, just like the Doctor's disappointment with Mickey the idiot is funnier than his pride in Rose. Of course, given the target audience, he tries to spare your feelings, and the adventure is stuck in a time loop so you can meet the Doctor, get your remote control connected to the sonic screwdriver, and attempt it again. Roberts is at least clever at tying the show's mythology to the idea of an interactive television game.
So if the Doctor fixes all your mistakes, can you have any impact on the story? Yes, when suddenly, at the very end, you can make an irrevocable choice that either saves or destroys Christmas. Why the Doctor would give you the option to do the latter is anyone's guess, and though the right choice is pretty obvious to anyone with an understanding of Doctor Who or genre shows in general, it's possible you'd press the other button. I wish more of the adventure had been this way, but the limits of the technology mean there are only really two "channels" at play, and you switch between right and wrong after any given choice; there is no third option and certainly no room for Shrodinger-style ramifications.
As for the story itself, it's got a couple things going for it. One is that viewers on the day saw Tennant's Doctor whole for the first time. Attack of the Graske was made available right after The Christmas Invasion in which he didn't really know who he was until the final minutes, and wasn't even in his trademark suit'n'tie'n'trainers for very long. So the Red Button event represented an opportunity to see Tennant's assured Doctor, get a feel for his rhythms, jokes, postures, expressions and general attitude. Watching it today, it could fit anywhere in his four-year run and holds no surprises, except how quickly he had his Doctorish performance down (though I imagine Graske was filmed later than his first episodes). The other item of note is the Graske, a silly little alien monster who nonetheless returned several times in the Sarah Jane Adventures. In other words, YOUR ADVENTURE IN THE TARDIS IS CANON. Thank me later. There's also a Slitheen for good measure, but no flatulence for even better measure, a bit of Victoriana for Dickens fans, and at some point, you get to help fly the TARDIS. Merry Christmas.
THEORIES: Given how the Doctor treats you like a child in this adventure, are you really yourself? Or are you seeing the adventure through the eyes of a child who actually took part in that adventure? Mmm, sounds familiar, this. I guess it's a good thing Amy Pond didn't have effigies of Tennant around her room, or we might think the POV is little Amelia's, taken on an adventure, but not yet "ready" for the full-time position...
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - It's fluff, but worth replaying twice to get all the cut scenes. We're obviously not the target audience, and even kids probably won't feel challenged, but they'll probably enjoy getting the correct answers and winning the game.