Doctor Who: The Next Doctor (Christmas 2008 Special)


Rating 3

Directed by Andy Goddard

Written by Russell T Davies

Starring David Tennant, David Morrissey, Dervla Kirwan and Velile Tshabalala

The Doctor, now without a companion, arrives in snowbound London on Christmas Eve, 1851, only to discover another apparently future incarnation of himself (played by David Morrissey) is already there. The two doctors soon find themselves battling against one of their oldest and most deadly foes, the Cybermen.

Continuing a theme that began following the end of the first season of the revived ‘Doctor Who’, when the new doctor, David Tennant (taking over from Christopher Eccleston) was introduced in the classic 2005 one-hour episode ‘The Christmas Invasion’, Christmas Day 2008 saw the broadcast of the fourth “Christmas Special”.

Following the muted reaction that greeted ‘Voyage Of The Damned’ in 2007, not least because of the casting of guest star Kylie Minogue, the announcement of ‘The Next Doctor’ was greeted with a great deal of speculation. It had already been announced that there would not be a new season of the show during 2009. Instead, there would be four special 60-minute episodes, which would mark the end of the involvement of both David Tennant and executive producer and senior writer Russell T Davies. After that, Steven Moffat, one of the show’s regular writers, takes over from Davies, and a new actor will assume the title role, the third since the show was revived.

There was some speculation that Davies was playing a kind of double double-bluff and ‘The Next Doctor’ would actually be used to announce David Morrissey as the new doctor, rather than being the red herring that was initially supposed. That was not the case. In fact, his character was not the doctor at all, but simply supposed himself to be so.

‘The Next Doctor’ proved to be a typical Christmas episode, played out at a frenetic and breathless pace. It contains all the hallmarks of a Russell T Davies script, including a nod to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (in this case, the classic Buffy episode ‘Hush’), but I could not help but think that the template has become a little worn now. The involvement, once again, of the Cybermen was a little tiresome. They have rather been overused in recent times, I think, although I appreciate that they are iconic foes of the doctor down through the years. I am not sure whether or not we should read too much into Dervla Kirwan’s character, Miss Hartigan, being a kind of proto-suffragette who turns evil, but I could not help but wonder at the implication.

I suspect Davies, one of television’s greatest writers, has probably taken the show as far as he can do and his decision to step down is a good one. It will be interesting to see what changes Steven Moffat makes; hopefully he will choose to pursue a new direction. Equally, David Tennant’s approach to the role of the doctor is beginning to wear a tad thin, as good as he is. Once again, it will be interesting to see what changes are brought about by the casting of a new actor in the role.

‘The New Doctor’ was watched by nearly 12 million viewers (giving it a 50% share of the total television viewers in its timeslot), the second highest viewing figures on Christmas Day, continuing the extraordinary success of the show under the stewardship of Russell T Davies. Reviews were generally very positive.

Review posted 31 December 2008


No comments: