(Spoilers for The Next Doctor ahead.)And by that, I mean this year's Christmas special, not the actual next Doctor to succeed Tennant by the end of next year. And for those who really thought it could be David Morrissey (above, right), all I can say is sorry! When a "future" version of the Doctor shows up (albeit with amnesia), there could only be four possible explanations.
1) He really was the next Doctor, which we meet here as a tester for 2010. If he hadn't gotten good reviews, some parallel timeline thing might have been conjured up (after all, we don't ever expect the Doctor to become the Valeyard, do we?).
2) This was a parallel Doctor, which would have accounted for the presence of the parallel Cybermen.
3) He was a con man, using the Doctor's legend to his benefit. This was done to great comic effect in the Big Finish audio The One Doctor, which is probably on Russell T Davies' radar since he seems to have poached the Weakest Link sequence from it back in Bad Wolf.
Or 4) he was a lowly, confused human who somehow got some of the Doctor's memories (like Tim in Human Nature or Donna in Journey's End). This isn't the one I would have expected (or even thought of), so it's good this was indeed RTD's choice.
Bit obvious once it gets going though, but that may just be me. The rest of my household actually fell for the red herrings like the fobwatch. Morrissey's Doctor was nicely old school, if a touch generic, and there's great fun to be had before his identity is revealed. Despite not being the real thing, there are a lot of similarities (a lost family, the name of his companion, his means of escape, what's in the watch, etc.). Even better is the real Doctor getting to play the part of the companion, asking a lot of questions, etc. He's incredibly humane in this, and Morrissey's true origin may well touch you. It's once the cat's out of the bag that things go a south.
It's a Christmas special in the Dickensian vein, with orphans put to work by a cruel lady, but with Cybermen who've broken out of the Void in the wrong time. Not necessarily a big fan of theirs, though there are some interesting twists on the usual formula. When the giant steampunk mech comes out of the Thames, I felt my mind teeter on the edge of my possible reactions. Final result: I started laughing. It might have gone another way, and I don't blame you if you hated it, but it was one of those crazy Russell T. Davies ideas, much restrained through the opening acts of the story. Total visual silliness.
But you kinda needed it, I think. After the first half-hour's mystery and presentation of the Morrissey Doctor, the story treads water. Without that final punch, I don't think The Next Doctor would rise out of its okay-ness. Not at all the misstep of last year's Voyage of the Damned, but perhaps the most like an episode rather than a special.
Other thoughts about The Next Doctor
-Big fanboy squee moment when the Doctor projects his many faces on the wall, doing the Journal of Impossible Things one better by confirming the existence of the 8 previous Doctors on video.
-A throwaway line mentions a war in the Void, which can only be between the Cybermen and Daleks. Intriguing. Did they help break down the dimensional walls again? Either way, the presence of Voidular Cybusmen in Victorian England opens the door to their invading our universe at any point the creators like.
-I really liked those Cybershades (which I call Cyberapes). Great masks. What the heck were they?!
-Scene I could have done without: The big moment at the end where Morrissey's Doc claims the Doctor never gets thanked. That's just not a true statement, is it?
-Favorite Line: "...and i suppose... they break my heart." Discussing lost companions between Doctors. A great heartfelt moment and what I like these Christmas specials to do, i.e. reflect on the past series in an emotionally meaningful way.
Extra Doctor Who Links
What other bloggers had to say in the wake of the Christmas special:
-For a spoiler-free second opinion, check out Blog THIS, Pal!
-Acrobatic Flea's take on it over at HeroPress.
-Frank makes some good points at Cathode Ray Tube.
-Mwb's World, check it out.
And lots more besides... You've got Google. Use it.
I've been sorely remiss in covering Series 4 on the blog, so expect that situation to be addressed between now and Planet of the Dead, which I expect around Easter.