The Good: Good performances, Intriguing premise
The Bad: The Cybermen story is not particularly compelling, Rosita's character is presented very flatly
The Basics: The mystery of the identity of a man claiming to be The Doctor in London's past overshadows the return of the Cybermen in "The Next Doctor."
Following the events of the Doctor Who episode "Journey's End" (reviewed here!), The Doctor was at an interesting point. Having lost all of his Companions and allies, The Doctor finds himself traveling alone. The Christmas episode that follows the climax of the Doctor's allies is "The Next Doctor."
"The Next Doctor" is, essentially, a mystery set in Earth's past which pairs The Doctor - David Tennant's incarnation - with what appears to be a different incarnation of The Doctor. "The Next Doctor" is played by David Morrissey and sees the return to the narrative of the Cybermen. Russell T. Davies, who wrote "The Next Doctor," had kept the Cybermen out of Doctor Who for years, since "Doomsday" (reviewed here!). Their return in "The Next Doctor" is overshadowed by the mystery of who, exactly, the Other Doctor is.
The Doctor on Christmas Eve, 1851, in London and almost immediately someone begins crying out for help from the "Doctor!" The Doctor is shocked to be joined in rescuing Rosita by another man, who claims to be The Doctor. The Other Doctor sets loose an animal with a Cyberman head, which drags both Doctors and Rosita through an abandoned building. The Doctor interrogates the Other Doctor, who acknowledges that he has massive memory gaps, as a result of the Cybermen. Investigating the home of a newly deceased man, The Doctors find a Cyberman memory module and The Other Doctor recalls how the Cyberman robbed him of his memories.
Chased out by Cybermen, The Doctor accompanies The Other Doctor back to his headquarters. Meanwhile, in town, Miss Hartigan attends the funeral of the priest and uses the Cybermen to kill off all of her enemies, but four. When The Other Doctor takes The Doctor to his TARDIS and The Doctor and his TARDIS is revealed to be a hot air balloon, The Doctor indicates he knows what is going on with The Other Doctor. When Miss Hartigan unleashes the Cybermen on London and she takes over as the new Cyberking, The Doctor and his two new companions must team up to stop them from transforming or killing all of the children.
"The Next Doctor" is a cool basic premise, though attentive viewers are likely to recognize exceptionally early on in the episode where the work is going with the titular character. After all, there is only one reason for The Doctor to give The Other Doctor a physical and the results are made very clear through the sound effects.
As a geek, there is something riotously fun about an episode of television that features the Governor and Kilgrave working together. Of course, David Morrissey has much more range than simply playing the Governor and Tennant's Doctor is nowhere near as villainous as Kilgrave. Morrissey is the caliber of actor who could credibly play The Doctor and he helps to sell the premise of "The Next Doctor" and make the viewer enjoy the discovery of whether or not his character is an incarnation of the Time Lord.
Rosita is momentarily interesting and well-played by Velile Tshabalala. Still, she is largely a flat character and the lack of a Companion for The Doctor for her to play off diminishes the impact of "The Next Doctor."
While the villains in "The Next Doctor" are not particularly compelling - the existence of the Cybershades is glossed over, for example - and the episode's climax treads toward the cheesy, the central character elements of the episode are very fresh for Doctor Who. The Other Doctor is the result of trauma and, while the episode does not make it explicit, The Doctor is suffering a trauma of his own. The way one man survives his loss and the way loss breaks another man is a compelling foil pair.
Ultimately, despite the campy plot, "The Next Doctor" does exactly what fans of Doctor Who hope it would in that it refocuses The Doctor on his enduring quest to help people. That makes "The Next Doctor" worthwhile as both a character study and a Christmas gift!
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the final season of David Tennant as The Doctor here!
For other works with David Morrissey, please check out my reviews of:
The Walking Dead - Season 4
The Walking Dead - Season 3
For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!
© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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