When I first saw the teasers for the Christmas episode of Doctor Who claiming it included the ‘Next’ Doctor, I was instantly suspicious.
First – with David Tennant signed up to another four extra-length episodes, Russell T Davies and his crack team were never going to reveal the next Doctorso easily. Second – there’s always a degree of misdirection with the Christmas episode – remember the Titanic episode where the Titanic was actually a spaceship?
So, despite Tennant’s Doctor being initially sucked in by this imposter, a quick check with a stethoscope midway through the episode confirms that the other Doctor is missing that tell-tale Gallifreyan extra heart. A quick hypothesis minutes later confirms that the gent is a native of 1815 who has been exposed to the Cybermen’s data files on The Doctor, convincing him that he is a Time Lord. Nothing you couldn’t learn from five minutes on Wikipedia.
All this takes place as a handful of Cybermen are planning to infiltrate the 19th Century and start upgrading some street urchins. The Cybermen are aided and abetted this time round by a Miss Hartigan, excellently played by Dervla Kirwan. Unbeknown to Hartigan, the Cybermen are planning to make her their king. It’s equal opportunities gone mad, when a woman can become king, but there you go.
David Morrisey plays the fake Time Lord with aplomb, perhaps overdoing it in places, especially after he’s discovered that he’s only human after all.
All in all, The Next Doctor is perhaps the best Christmas episode of Doctor Who yet. I was a bit worried about the appearance of the Cybermen, perhaps almost as prone to overuse as the Daleks. But by making Hartigan their king, she becomes a psychotic beast indeed! I loved her rambling on about the time vortex and for a moment I was convinced that Hartigan was going to be a worthy adversary for the Gallifreyan. Perhaps not, he defeated her with a handful of those infostamp thingies.
My only quibble with the storyline was that the Cybermen seemingly needed a crowd of urchins to do manual labour to fulfil their plans, yet no sooner has Miss Hartigan become Cyberking than they suddenly had a fully-built robot submerged beneath the ground. Huh? I’m still scratching my head.
But in fairness, this episode was always going to be better than last year: no Kylie in it.