Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Next Doctor (SPOILERS)

I hope you're all having a wonderful Christmas. In this country you can barely move for Christmas traditions, the most long-standing one of which being that Russell T Davies empties out his drawer marked 'any old shit', sticks some fake snow on it and presents it to us as his Christmas Doctor Who show.

The Next Doctor is the fourth Christmas special now and, I think it's safe to say now that the Christmas Specials will always be shit. The Christmas Invasion was dull, The Runaway Bride was fun and the exception that proves the rule and Voyage of the Damned was hell on toast. The Next Doctor is halfway between Bride and Voyage, the half of the story with Doctor David Tennant and Doctor David Morrisey was quite fun and the two of them are clearly having fun. The other half of the story with Cybermen and Dervla Kirwan is confused dribble that makes no sense. Clearly there are a number of ideas that RTD wants to cram into Doctor Who before he leaves (Cybermonkeys! Giant steampunk Cybermen!) and is seeing his last chance here. I mean, why do Cybermen need children to work in their engine room? Have the Cybermen erased all emotions from their soul except the one to doss around and not really do much? Why do they need a Cyber King when they have a Cyber Controller? Exactly why is Miss Hartigan able to override the cyber-process (though to be fair we did have that in the finale to season two)? And what exactly does the Doctor do that defeats Miss Hartigan and the Cybermen? I'll buy the 'psychic feedback from her kills all the other Cybermen (the Cyberman army mysteriously depleting down to four men and someone in the monkey suit)' argument, but he zaps her with Cybermen data pods and she 'gets back in touch with her lost humanity which we weren't even aware she'd lost'? What?!

The David Morrisey side of the story is equally daft but at least he's putting some effort into it, for most of the proceedings Dervla looks extremely bored, though to be fair she's probably paid much less to appear in this than she gets making the food porn for Marks and Spencers and she doesn't even get any good lines. The gig is up within about ten minutes but he has the right amount of bombast to amuse, but what is Rosita doing? She seems at first to think that he is The Doctor, then to be some sort of nursemaid to a mentally-ill man, then falls in with the Doctor and helps him out no questions asked. She seems to be there because someone needs to be saying things at certain times between the start and Jackson realising the truth. The rest of the time, like Miss Hartigan, she becomes surplus.

The story would have been better without Miss Hartigan. Often in Doctor Who you have humans helping aliens mainly because they can speak quicker (I'm not sure the Patrick Troughton stories in which the Ice Warriors try to take over Earth have even finished yet) and explain the plot. These new, chatty Cybermen don't need that. Removing her doesn't alter the plot at all. Have them kill Rosita, so that either both Doctors or just Doctor Morrissey can emote over her death (and then point out how callous the Doctor can sometimes be (especially considering what the Doctor says at the end about not wanting to travel with a companion for a while because it's too much heartbreak)) and then explain what the children are doing in the Cybermen's Torchwood Hubpower plant. Actually, the more I think about this, the more it annoys me. No matter how you try and work it out, they only do about half an hours work. What are they doing that Cybermen can't? It's not that RTD needs the Doctor to follow the children as the only way to find the Cyber-base, it's in the basement of Jackson's house. Again, the Cybermen kill Jackson's wife and steal his son what must be at least three or four days before the Doctor arrives, if you try and figure out the timeline. What happens between that time and when all the other children arrive. Do the lazy Cybermen make him try and run all the engines on his own? Or do they just stick him up at the top of the scaffold and wait for him to starve to death?

So yes, a complete turkey of a Christmas episode. And the prospect of four more helpings of tripe before RTD finishes off next year. It's a sad day when even enormous steampunk Cyberman towering over Victorian London isn't enough to make an episode a classic.

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