"...Christmas Eve 1851, Sir..."
The Doctor arrives, hears a damsel in distress.The Doctor steps forward to save her... when this other man swings in, dashing, brilliant, amazing, clever, witty, saves the day. The Doctor says, 'Who are you?' The man says, 'I'm the Doctor!'
DOCTOR WHO - THE NEXT DOCTOR will be previewed (2 minutes of footage) on 14 November 2008 from 19:00 as part of BBC's CHILDREN IN NEED.
EPISODE REVIEW - in the meantime...
So rich in invention. It's a dance with God. Any God. Your God. The Next God.
So, I have now truly gorged myself. This morning's Bacon "butty" replete with "dripping" fried bread followed with Pork & Stuffing with sprouts, roasties and cranberry sauce and, this evening, completed with a feast served by Chef de Partie, Russell T Davies with THE NEXT DOCTOR.
With DOCTOR WHO replacing ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES as the Christmas Day family favourite, the only phrase that could be suitable is a simple one to quote Mr Derek Trotter: "Lovely jubbly".
A complete triumph with essential ingredients "tick-boxed" successfully (though the direction by Andy Goddard was pedestrian at times, and the lighting slightly too brash): snow, cybermen, a cyber-deadnought vessel, a mystery man, and our perennial hero known as the Doctor.
More comment later:
With a disaster that was DOCTOR WHO's attempt at a disaster mini-movie, VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED - more style than content - a distant memory, Russell T Davies, like his 2005 re-imagineering of the series, returned to basics in THE NEXT DOCTOR.
Street Urchin Seller: You fick or somethin'?
A wandering time traveler, a seemingly inconspicuous blue box (surely, the "Peeler" would have clocked it after he had acknowledged the Doctor?), historical Earth, a damsel in distress and an alien presence. Oh, and snow. Oh, we love snow.
Ignore the Marks & Spencer novelty socks given by Aunty Sylvia, or the so-called "celebrity" biography hurriedly wrapped in crepe paper by a niece you never see, the only Christmas gift that was eagerly awaited (as the Christmas Day warning says, "go to bed early kiddie-winks or Russell T Davies won't sneak down the chimney, and into your bedroom while you sleep to deliver a stocking full of festive delight". So to speak) was Tennant's fourth Christmas Day adventure.
However, if, like me, you were under the all pervading evil of the Influenza virus then 2|entertain's DVD release (19 January 2009 RRP £15.99 from all good retailers and online stores) of THE NEXT DOCTOR must be heralded as the Christmas saviour. More so due to the DVD bonus feature, DOCTOR WHO AT THE PROMS 2008 concert first broadcast on BBC RADIO 3 (hosted by the affable Freema Agyeman and surprise co-host, the resplendent Catherine Tate).
The DVD release reaffirms the stunning storytelling (that harkens back to the Hartnell era of DOCTOR WHO), with exquisite performances of Tennant, garrulous "companion" David Morrissey and Dervla Kirwan as the stoically sly Mercy Hartigan, and the epic computer-generated realisation of Victorian London as the CyberKing "vessel" systematically yet needlessly demonstrates it strength.
In re-visiting THE NEXT DOCTOR , the bleary-eyed, nose-gloope evacuation and compromised memory of Lemsip, Aspirin, galleons of Benylin Blackcurrant cough syrup have become a distant experience. And one I never want to repeat.
Jackson Lake: I am nothing but a lie.
Like a sumptuous Plum Pudding, THE NEXT DOCTOR teems with richness of concept (the experimental CyberShades that prowl like marauding gorillas donned with 1970s twisted toggle cotton bathmats, and the epic "collect and construct CHARACTER OPTIONS action figure release for 2010" CyberKing), of emotional depth (the superbly developed back-story of "the next Doctor"/Jackson Lake was key to the episode's endurance; the focus upon one man so traumatised that his very heart, his very purpose for living had been exorcised by his Cybermen encounter. It was a simple storytelling device that was devoid in the "stunt-cast" VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED) and a script so lovingly prepared that it was the sought-after "sixpence" within.
In comparison to the subtle, cockle-warming journey of Jackson Lake, our erstwhile hero, the Cybermen (complete with an unexplained CyberController look-a-like CyberLeader) are merely the "incident" or the "crisis" tags that allow the story to move forward at a pace. In removing the aliens would they have been missed? In the same fashion as the CLASSIC SERIES demoted the alien-hybrid creations to merely "pawns" within a greater linear structure, THE NEXT DOCTOR reduced their presence to the menial role of "security guard".
Perhaps, just perhaps, the Cybermen need the Robert Shearman (see 2005's DALEK episode) treatment in order for the true concept of "cyber" to be borne out? Or perhaps, just perhaps, an episode that echoes STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION 's Borganisation of Picard with out hero semi-cybertised. Borganisation! Cybertised! Samuel Johnson will be crying into his dictionary.
However, in saying that, the emergence of Hartigan's "knights" across the snow consumed graveyard was chillingly effective. In fact, the deftness of direction (considering it was early summer 2008 and not the middle of winter for its filming) by TORCHWOOD stalwart, Andy Goddard delivered a range of iconic set-ups that neatly tag-teamed the obligatory ".but what does that mean, Doctor?" pauses for the explanation. The Cybershade "rope-trick" subtly with a hint to wry wit was creative as was the cyber attack within the late Reverend Aubrey Fairchild's house, and the "oh, yes" moment as the Infostamp reveals the Doctor's past lives.
However, in a slight aside, the lighting was less than impressive (considering that Ernie Vincze BSC was in command of "Photography"); the ever present flickering orange-red hues (the attempt to re-create either brazier or candle light) were over used and too out-of-place for their context (i.e. within the stables the lighting was too "bright" and the "flickering" without source material bar a few candles). The same could be said of the "engine room"; it should have been "dimmer" with pools of lighting not swathes of flicker. A minor gripe. Just this once.
The ensemble piece satisfactorily resolved itself like the dancing blue flame atop an ignited alcohol consumed previously mentioned Plum Pudding. An audience replete. The CyberKing rising (even though the Thames is and never was so deep to take the sheer scale of the vessel), the consumption of anger & hatred that Hartigan was defined by and a gas balloon (complete with a suspiciously looking WC handle & chain) wonderfully described as " Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style".
THE NEXT DOCTOR was, I hope, the first of four more "specials" that will be estranged from the previous four series, standing alone & defiant as true BBC ONE drama "shorts" for the general audience to be drawn to, whilst feeding the insatiable appetite of the both new and the more mature (like me) fans alike. This episode had the balance in perfect measure.
The DOCTOR WHO Christmas Day episode - the experience that undoubtedly now redefines Christmas for families.
The bonus feature is wonderfully joyous too. DOCTOR WHO AT THE PROMS is the perfect antidote to the Winter's "blues" and even if it had been released on a seperate DVD would have been an essential buy for all fans. It demonstrates the enduring legend of DOCTOR WHO - a creative, "mature" and emotionally-led drama series for the 21st century founded on the principles of nearly half a century ago.