From now on, will I consider Christmas to be complete without an accompanying Doctor Who special? Probably not! How did this year’s special measure up? Read on, but be warned:
“The Next Doctor” was a lot of fun in a lot of ways, but at the same time a bit of a mess.
The fun had to do with David Morrissey’s Doctor, his companion Rosita, and his enemy, Miss Hartigan. All were excellent characters, all were having a grand time (as was Tennant, as always), and all had stellar interactions with each other. The idea of a hapless mortal having to take on the persona of the Doctor (a nice reversal of “Human Nature”) is great story fodder, and filled with clever touches, such as Rosita being an amalgam of Rose, Martha, and Donna.
The mess was…well, pretty much everything else. Lord knows the Cybermen have always been the also-rans of Doctor Who monsters, and as much as I hoped that would change in the new series, it doesn’t seem to be the case. There’s just nothing to them other than being the baddies you bring in when you’re kind of tired of the Daleks.
The problem with them in this episode is that frankly, their plan makes no sense. It seems to be:
1) Build a giant robot.
2) Take over four dudes who have access to a bunch of kids.
3) Use kids to build up power in robot for a couple of hours.
4) Conquer world with robot.
Not only are steps two and three kind of stupid, but why all the trouble? For god’s sake, you’re Cybermen in Victorian England. If you just stop around and enslave everyone to get your robot going, who the hell is going to stop you? Kill a guy to bring other guys together so you can take them over to get hold of kids — wha? Why? Personally, I was hoping they needed the kids because the Cyber-King burned Dickensian orphans as fuel. But they have to be Dickensian; it doesn’t work if they’re not soot-blackened enough.
The Cyber-King itself was pretty well done, though I have to say that I’ve become quite tired of steampunk. Miss Hartigan’s fate came as no surprise to anyone who’s ever seen a Cyberman story, and for a brief moment it seemed like they were going to use her to actually make the Cybermen interesting, but alas, it was not to be. Her fate at the end and why it affected the Cybermen doesn’t make a lot of sense. Was she connected to them or not?
And finally, I wondered, “Wow. How’s the Doctor going to hide this particular incident from history?” The answer: he doesn’t. So even though we’ve got a pretty good reckoning of the mid-nineteenth century, for some reason no one felt inclined to mention that time a giant machine walked through London, raining fire on the city.
So yeah, the bit about the Doctor? Solid gold. The bit with the monsters and the plot and the action? Bleah. Fortunately the former was fun enough to not let the latter take too much away from it.
And the cyber-shades. Zuh?