Its taken me a few days to get round to writing this one. Was it the overdose of Turkey and stuffing or was it the forgettable nature of the latest Xmas Who episode penned by Russell T Davies?
Good question. Lets get down to details.
The story takes Tennant’s Doctor, now officially into his last furlong of his run, to 1851; where apparently nothing much happened, guess the Great Exhibition was just another example of underwhelming town planning by the city of London, eh? Anyway The Doctor hears his name being screamed and gives chase to the source. On arrival he meets a girl called Rosita (get it?) and to his surprise and delight another man calling himself the Doctor played by David Morrissey. They’re immediately caught up in a chase with something called a Cybershade with Tennant quite taken by this possible future version of himself. He soon discovers that some Cybermen who escaped the void are hatching a dastardly plan to create something called the Cyber King with the aid of the devious and heartless Mr Hartigan played by Dervla Kewan.
The plot is paper-thin as usual and has all the pantomime absurdity one would expect from a Crimbo helping of Davies Who. That’s in itself is not a bad thing as I imagine that after a double dose of soap misery courtesy of East Enders no one needs a dark and morbid Doctor crying over lost roses and forget-me-not nobles.
The problem is this - the title is called The Next Doctor, but this isn’t what we get. For the first twenty five minutes or so we get to unravel an intriguing mystery with some fun possibilities of Tennant meeting his future self. As you’d expect this is served with all the humor and pathos you could squeeze out of such a delightful paradox – essentially Time Crash in reverse. But then Davies fudges it with a disappointing revelation made all too early when Tennant works out that Morrissey’s Doctor is just a human who has been the victim of a memory pod back firing. Doesn’t make sense, does it? That’s not bad writing, just Whovian logic.
Why couldn’t Morrissey have been the real thing? That’s what I want to know. It would have strengthened the drama, with the stakes being raised as Tennant struggles to ensure the safety of his future self, knowing he won’t have the luxury of remembering how he did it because of the amnesia. There is of course the downside of Morrissey being locked in to a future incarnation, but that could be so easily explained away with a Timey Wimey thing, you know what I’m saying?
Grips aside, this is nowhere as bad as last year’s special. In fact, the last ten minutes where the Cyber King is revealed in his full majestic Godzilla / Ultraman glory is a fabulously absurd bit of spectacle, with kudos to The Mill for creating a decently realized set-piece.
All in all it's an average episode of Who that had potential for something a little bit extra, quite frankly not as filling as the Turkey and stuffing.