Friday, April 10, 2009

Review of the 2008 Christmas Special: "The Next Doctor"

Given that the Easter Special (I guess that's what we're calling it) is set to air this weekend, I decided I better hurry up and type up my thoughts on this past Christmas's episode. I just couldn't bring myself to write about it at the time because it was so middle-of-the-road. Hopefully this weekend's special will be a tad more inspiring!

So, the 2008 Christmas Special, then. They called it "The Next Doctor," which set expectations fairly high. No, I didn't expect that David Morrisey was really going to be the next Doctor, but when you tease us with that idea from the outset, you better have a darn satisfying reason why he doesn't turn out to be Doctor #11 in the end. Sadly, satisficaction was something entirely lacking in the episode.

No, I didn't hate it. It started out well enough, with the Doctor arriving alone at a typical turn-of-the-century English Christmas scene for a little cheering up and immediately becoming embroiled in trouble with an act-alike adventurer and his companion. I actually really liked David Morrisey at the start of this episode. His over-the-top heroism and obvious affection for his role was ennervating. The scene where the Doctor and the faux Doctor are pulled through an abandoned warehouse on a rope and are saved from certain death at the last instant - only to then collapse into each other's arms in a laughing fit - was great. And the very idea that our current Doctor could suddenly be the companion to a future Doctor was an intriguing role-reversal that really could have been fun if sustained for a while longer.

Unfortunately, things went downhill. Fast. As soon as Russell T. Davies made it obvious that something wasn't right with faux Doctor (about 10 minutes into the episode, mind you), my interest began to wane. Soon, Jackson Lake (as we learn the faux Doctor is really called) became a blubbering, useless excuse for a companion. It was blatently obvious from the get-go that his wife had been killed and his child had been captured, but Davies decided to "save" the second revelation for a ridiculous scene near the end of the episode that comes complete with slow-motion sparks falling and bored children seemingly kidnapped from the set of Temple of Doom. By that point, Jackson Lake had become so ineffectual that all he could do was stand around crying and pointing while the Doctor made use of some improbably available rigging to rescue Jackson's sunken-eyed son.

And don't even get me started on the villains. I'm not a huge fan of these new Cybermen at the best of times, but when you add some silly new shaggy monsters with cyberfaces (creatures who are never adequately explained or utilized) and a shouting woman in a red dress, I begin to mentally tune out. There was a lot of nonsense involved in the plot on this one as well. What was Miss Hartigan trying to do? Get revenge against men? Why could she control the Cyberking? Because she was some sort of feminist genius? Why were the children necessary at all? You can't tell me that 30 lethargic children marching in circles is really going to provide enough energy for the Cyberking to rise.

Ah, well. I did like Jackson Lake's TARDIS (Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style) and I appreciated that the Doctor actually stayed for Christmas dinner for a change. Although Jackson's speech about how the Doctor had never been thanked made me want to wretch, so there was that....

Disappointing outing all around, really.

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