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Published on December 31st, 2008 | by Christian Cawley

The Next Doctor

I’ve been dreading writing this review. On broadcast, I loved The Next Doctor, from its interesting explanation for Jackson Lake’s belief that he really was the Doctor to the big stomping CyberKing.

Stuffed on turkey, stuffing and booze, I was a satisfied customer, just like most of the other 11 million viewers.

That’s not to say The Next Doctor isn’t any good – it just isn’t the best of the Christmas specials (it isn’t even as good as Voyage of the Damned) and certainly isn’t better than The Christmas Invasion. It seems I got a little carried away.

In the intervening days I’ve since learned (courtesy of Russell T Davies/Benjamin Cook’s Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale ) that the King of Doctor Who has a rather odd method of writing. For instance, he doesn’t write treatments or synopses unless Kylie Minogue’s agent wants one. RTD also isn’t a believer in planning a plot or story on paper, leaving it all to crystallise in his head. Not so astonishing is the fact that Russell T Davies always has a clear image in his head of final scenes – those interpersonal, emotional scenes that take place in the aftermath of the action.

All of this means something of course. But none of it means as much as recreating the Cybermen in 2006 and turning them into a bunch of stomping henchmen. Who make deals with an earthwoman. In order to make said earthwoman into their King.

That’s perversion, bastardisation and just plain wrong, in anyone’s book. 

The Next Doctor featured superb turns from David Morrissey and Dervla Kirwan, the latter of whom underplayed Miss Hartigan to perfection, lest we recall the panto-naffness of Sarah Parrish in The Runaway Bride back in 2006. Morrissey was sadly underused, however, left to be the Doctor’s cheerleader at the end. As for Velili Tschabalala – well she looks great, but she was all a bit “stagey Oliver!” for me.

The identity of David Morrissey’s Doctor was well discussed across the MingMongSphere for months before The Next Doctor aired – but after seeing the marching graveside Cybermen shots back in Spring 2008, who would have thought that Russell T Davies could have got them so wrong?

It’s not like the Cybermen are difficult to portray. Similarly, it’s not like the idea that they would nick anything off the Daleks is so bad, or against established fact – the Fourth Doctor famously dismissed them as “scavengers” back in Revenge of the Cybermen

As a race dictated to by logic, the Cybermen (Cybusmen?) curiously and illogically opted to use their resources to build a big marching, stomping Cyberfactory for conversion which required the kidnapping of children and a (very deep) secret underground base rather than quietly and patiently converting Londoners in 1851.

Why not set up a standing wave beacon to attract a passing TARDIS and ask the Doctor – either of them – to stop them?

The bizarre, emotional portrayal of the 1980s Cybermen that many fans derided throughout the 1990s is light years ahead of the current bunch, whose ability to be impervious to almost anything is matched only by their ability to be susceptible to their own technology.

In the same way in which the Cybermen seek to subvert humanity, Russell T Davies – in writing a Doctor Who Christmas special with a cynical, newspaper-bating title and pressing the Cybermen along an illogical plot – has subverted the Cybermen.

I don’t understand what they’re for anymore – neither the Cybermen nor Russell T Davies.

 

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About the Author

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A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.



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