Doctor Who: The Next Doctor review

Review Simon Brew 29 Dec 2008 - 23:55
The Next Doctor

Cybermen. Two Doctors. Lots of snow. It could only be the Doctor Who Christmas special...

If you’re looking for subtleties, a bit of quietness and a little bit of restraint and withdrawal over the festive period, then the past few years have proven that the Doctor Who Christmas special is absolutely not the place to find it. From huge boats crashing into London, through to the defeat of alien invaders with a bit of spare fruit, it’s the one episode where the pressure of telling an ongoing series is put aside. The downside? The need to pack in a hell of a tale in one hour flat. Bonus points are naturally given for shunting in as much festive imagery as possible.

This year? While not quite on the scale of last year’s Voyage of the Damned, it was a tighter, altogether more interesting hour that Russell T Davies and his team put together. The Next Doctor certainly threw up plenty of highlights before launching into its absurd finale, and plotwise, it was at its finest in the early stages. Forget the Cybermen working their way through Victorian England (in fact, arguably forget the Cybermen, although more on that later), it was the sparring between the two Doctors, Davids Tennant and Morrissey, that provided the early highlights.

Morrissey appeared, in the pre-credits sequence, as the supposedly ‘next’ Doctor, with Tennant’s Time Lord assuming he’s the future regeneration of himself. He isn’t, of course, and that weeping sound heard just before 7 o'clock was an abundance of punters realising that their fiver at Ladbrokes on Morrissey being the next Doctor was a few quid wasted. But for the short time he was, The Next Doctor was really good fun. It helped that Tennant could slip easily – and with little ego – into the assistant role, and this switching of the show’s key mechanic was a hoot. But credit to Morrissey, whose performance evolved well over the episode, and who may just be one of the best Time Lords we never had.

Of course, it didn’t take long for the truth about Morrissey’s character’s identity to unravel, and for the next facet of the plot to take hold. This involved a Cyberman whose toy brains you could clearly see through his helmet. And, far more promisingly, it involved Dervla Kirwan as Miss Hartigan, as sinister and scenery chewing a baddie as we’ve had on the show in ages. Her performance, arguably against the grain of new Who, was all about restraint, and particularly in the early stages, as she ordered the death of a graveyard full of mourners, she was a far better villain than the men of steel. They just seemed to be shuttled in primarily to sell merchandise, as there's little hope of building up much menace out of them in a crammed hour. For the purposes of The Next Doctor, they were crowdpleasers at best, and sorely in need of something more interesting to do at worst.

As the episode rolled on, so things had to go somewhat back to normal, and thus Tennant started wielding the sonic screwdriver, some strange and unconvincing cyber-animal things popped up, and the Cybermen took hold as the central villains. And yet Russell T Davies had one big surprise in his story that was all but guaranteed to lead you spitting out your Christmas satsuma. Seemingly having been watching Ghostbusters at the time of writing the script, out popped the Cyberking. This, we assumed, would just involve Dervla Kirwan going a bit more bonkers and putting on a metal dress.

But it didn’t involve that at all.

Instead, we had a massive Cyberman stomping, Mr Stay Puft style, all over Victorian England. To say this reviewer had to suppress a guffaw would show a level of understatement that the massive Cyberman lacked. And yet, you couldn’t help but warm to the fella. In longer shots, it actually looked quite convincing, even if you had to argue that Christmas was the only time they’d even dare to try and get away with it. In close up, it was less successful, and the ending seemed a usual way to quickly dispense of a threat that had been building up for the past half hour or so. The stronger part of the denouement wasn’t lots of Cybermen dying, but the Doctor’s quieter speech to Miss Hartigan where he brings her to terms with what she’s done. In fact, the Cybermen were probably the weakest link in the whole thing.

The Next Doctor, then, wasn’t the best of the recent Doctor Who Christmas specials, as The Christmas Invasion still stands out by some distance. But it was a good, solid hour that you could easily pick holes in should you choose, yet was far easier to simply sit back and enjoy.

The next time we see Doctor Who, and possibly the last until next Christmas, is at Easter in Planet Of The Dead. Providing the Daleks and Cybermen are left in peace for a bit, on the evidence of The Next Doctor, it should be worth looking forward to.

 

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Enjoyed it, probably my favourite of the Christmas specials, although it did go wobbling off the rails in the last 10-15 minutes.

Victorian England is a good place to quietly spirit away and kidnap hundreds of people for Cyber-conversion...but no, the Cyber Leader wanted his big stampy robot.

Clever bit of writing by RTD - conveniently find secret weapon which can destroy baddie, aim and fire. Man that was bad. RTD - great producer, but don't give him a pen. He's the Alan Alder of Dr Who. And why were there Chinese and African children in the 1851 workhouse? Oh, yes, the BBC has to deliver its quota even in the unlikliest places!!

Despite being a big Who fan, I found that my tolerance-threshold for occasional daft-but-fun episodes was massively exceeded.

It was about the most god-awful bit of Dr Who I've seen in recent times. Moffat can't take over soon enough.

Not destined to become a classic and I never thought I would find myself thinking fondly of Kylie but I was impressed with Morrissey, so much so that I would not completely give up on that fiver at Ladbrokes. Like the Daleks the Cybermen have been overused and seemed to have drifted from the Cybermen in the other stories - all that stuff about stealing technology from the Daleks, when did that happen? The Daleks made it abundantly clear that they considered the Cybermen little more than vermin so nicking their dimensional whatchamacallit seemed a bit far fetched. As for data storage devices with the power to kill, that had me thinking I had better be nicer to my DVDs! But I warmed to Morrissey and found myself thinking that were the next Doctor look like a certain Victorian hero I would not be at all disappointed.

Moffat can't take over soon enough.



This.

I am bitterly disappointed by this review. I had come to expect much greater from Den Of Geek but it looks like I, nay the world, have been let down. Its spelt "Stay PUFF Marshmallow man". Unforgivable.

@bobsuncorp
It really isn't, so the world is safe.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F...

I hated the kid, the eye-make-up was horrific! Yet I liked Morrissey, they played before in "Blackpool".

I loved it. Even the silly giant steampunk cyber-giant at the end. In fact especially the silly giant steampunk cybergiant at the end. And Miss Hartigan was delicious.

Oh, and the second Doctor was great too.

In response to: "all that stuff about stealing technology from the Daleks, when did that happen?"

How's about the conflict at Canary Wharf? The Daleks were exterminating Cybermen as well as humans. I assumed the Cybermen grabbed the device either during that battle or in the void between universes later on. And in response to it being convenient... only in the sense that it could have been guarded better. They had to get to the Victorian age somehow, and this is the device they used. Now the Doctor uses it against them.

Despite being a big Who fan, I found that my tolerance-threshold for occasional daft-but-fun episodes was massively exceeded.

It was about the most god-awful bit of Dr Who I've seen in recent times. Moffat can't take over soon enough.

Clever bit of writing by RTD - conveniently find secret weapon which can destroy baddie, aim and fire. Man that was bad. RTD - great producer, but don't give him a pen. He's the Alan Alder of Dr Who. And why were there Chinese and African children in the 1851 workhouse? Oh, yes, the BBC has to deliver its quota even in the unlikliest places!!

Enjoyed it, probably my favourite of the Christmas specials, although it did go wobbling off the rails in the last 10-15 minutes.

Victorian England is a good place to quietly spirit away and kidnap hundreds of people for Cyber-conversion...but no, the Cyber Leader wanted his big stampy robot.

Not destined to become a classic and I never thought I would find myself thinking fondly of Kylie but I was impressed with Morrissey, so much so that I would not completely give up on that fiver at Ladbrokes. Like the Daleks the Cybermen have been overused and seemed to have drifted from the Cybermen in the other stories - all that stuff about stealing technology from the Daleks, when did that happen? The Daleks made it abundantly clear that they considered the Cybermen little more than vermin so nicking their dimensional whatchamacallit seemed a bit far fetched. As for data storage devices with the power to kill, that had me thinking I had better be nicer to my DVDs! But I warmed to Morrissey and found myself thinking that were the next Doctor look like a certain Victorian hero I would not be at all disappointed.

Moffat can't take over soon enough.



This.

I am bitterly disappointed by this review. I had come to expect much greater from Den Of Geek but it looks like I, nay the world, have been let down. Its spelt "Stay PUFF Marshmallow man". Unforgivable.

@bobsuncorp
It really isn't, so the world is safe.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F...

I hated the kid, the eye-make-up was horrific! Yet I liked Morrissey, they played before in "Blackpool".

I loved it. Even the silly giant steampunk cyber-giant at the end. In fact especially the silly giant steampunk cybergiant at the end. And Miss Hartigan was delicious.

Oh, and the second Doctor was great too.

In response to: "all that stuff about stealing technology from the Daleks, when did that happen?"

How's about the conflict at Canary Wharf? The Daleks were exterminating Cybermen as well as humans. I assumed the Cybermen grabbed the device either during that battle or in the void between universes later on. And in response to it being convenient... only in the sense that it could have been guarded better. They had to get to the Victorian age somehow, and this is the device they used. Now the Doctor uses it against them.

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