Title: The Next Doctor
Written by: Russell T Davies
Victorian Christmas! Another Doctor! The one, the only and the best! Rosita! Allons-y! Cybermen! Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style! Cyberking! Miss Hartigan! Bravo sir!
Few DW episodes begin as brilliantly as The Next Doctor: Straight from the off viewers are presented with a classic Victorian Christmas; complete with snow, mouthy young boys and nobles (no Donna’s) wandering around and, as it should be, somebody calls out for the Doctor just after he remarks that 1851 is a quiet year, prompting a meeting with another man claiming to be the Doctor (David Morrissey) followed by a Cybershade jumping out of a wooden doorway! Perfect.
The Doctor, after a brilliant pursuit scene involving a rope and a lot of bum-friction, is introduced to… The Doctor, and his feisty companion; Rosita (get it? HA). We learn that something is afoot in London town, that surrounds the mysterious disappearance of Jackson Lake, and the Cybermen may be responsible for the “next” Doctor’s mysterious memory loss.
This was of course, the first in a run of specials that mainly spanned 2009 (ending with The End of Time Part 2) and so naturally the theme of the episode is supposed to address the idea of the Tenth Doctor facing the real possibility of his own regeneration. However, this theme is only touched upon a few times – and rightly so; this is a Christmas special after all. There is a sequence that showcases all of the Timelord’s incarnations in chronological order similar to the one seen in future Smith-era episode The Eleventh Hour though, which is a nice touch for fans of the classic series as well as an informative nod for newer fans.
But back to story-related matters, the villains of this episode are the Cybermen: Monsters viewers hadn’t seen for over a year at the time of broadcast, their previous appearance being in Doomsday, and they are a great addition to the plot. This time, the steely menaces are trying to use steampunk technology to raise something they call “the Cyberking” with the help of their shrewd , male-hating human accomplice Miss Hartigan (Dervla Kirwan). The cybermen get some good moments in The Next Doctor including a very cool storm-the-beach style sequence during a funeral scene and Davies plays to their strengths throughout the entire story. An interesting addition to the Cyber-ranks in this episode are the Cybershades but, as to their specific purpose, we are left guessing. They appear to be crudely cyber-converted bears, and apart from a few appearances in the story they are not really featured or used at all – let alone explained. However, due to the general effectiveness of the main plot on the whole, niggling points such as this (or another such as the rather conspicuous “Cyberking” and its apparent non-impression on history) are easily forgotten.
In the run up to The Next Doctor’s broadcast date, there was a huge amount of speculation as to whether David Morrissey really was a future Doctor. Regardless of whether or not he turns out to be however, he is simply fantastic in this episode. Morrissey, as far as I’m concerned, really could be a future incarnation of the Timelord. He certainly has the talent, and manages to pull off the role with exceptional warmth and vulnerability when trying to recover what “was lost” – a lovely reveal in itself, that comes toward the end. In particular, a scene in which he and the Tenth Doctor talk of the nightmares a Timelord who has seen so much must have is particularly telling, as well as when he shows Tennant’s Doctor his own “TARDIS” – an eye-opening reflection of the shows hero in many respects.
Tennant is also, as usual, on top form. Particularly during the final scenes of the episode when he talks about the companions who have left him: “In the end, they break my heart.” Also worth mentioning is the wonderful Velile Tshabalala, who plays Rosita, for so effortlessly filling the role of the Doctor’s companion – both of them! She gets the part pitch-perfect during the entire story and we are almost left wishing she had joined the Doctor on a more permanent basis by the end of the episode.
Favourite moment: Even though it’s in the first couple of minutes, the beginning scene is easily my favourite moment of this episode. Emerging from the TARDIS the Doctor finds himself in Victorian Britain during Christmas time. After remarking that 1851 is a quiet year, he suddenly hears somebody shouting “Doctor!” Grinning, he sets off to discover the source – “Who? Me?” Finding a woman standing in front of a doorway that is being broken down from the inside he responds to her call only to be met with “Well there can’t be two of ‘ya!” Confused, he is suddenly told to stand back by none other… than the Doctor! “The one, the only, and the best!” Together the two Doctor’s stand side by side, sonic (and “sonic”) screwdrivers drawn to face an emerging Cybershade (both: “that’s new…”) before exclaiming in unison – “Allons-y!”
The Next Doctor is easily one of my favourite Christmas specials. It has Cybermen, a brilliant cast, an excellent score by Murray Gold and a solid (and satisfying) story. Humorous and touching moments alike can be found throughout and the whole episode is a delight to watch. Another wonderful Christmas cracker (if you’ll excuse the awful pun) from Davies indeed: “Bravo sir, bravo!”
Next reviewed episode: http://goo.gl/24QFp