Written by: Russell T. Davies
Directed by: Andy Goddard
Starring: David Tennant, David Morrissey, Viele Tshablala, Dirvla Kirwen
The Doctor appears to have had the TARDIS set to land at a random location, as he arrives in 1851, with no idea when or where he is. However, within seconds of arriving he hears someone screaming his name, calling for assistance. He rushes down a back lane and finds a damsel in distress. Unfortunately, he is not the Doctor that she was expecting. A man appears and informs all present that he is The Doctor, the original and the best. Doctor#10 instantly assumes that he has crossed his own timeline and he has encountered a future version of himself. Things don’t quite add up though. Doctor#10 tags along, and it soon becomes apparent that the Next Doctor is not all he appears to be.
Elsewhere in London, a funeral is taking place. The governors of all the workhouses in Central London are present to pay their last respects to Reverend Aubrey Fairchild a well loved local clergyman who died under mysterious circumstances. Miss Mercy Hartigan, matron of Saint Joseph’s Workhouse arrives at the graveside in a bright red dress. She causes a stir, but not as big a stir as the Cybermen, who kidnap four of the mourners and kill the rest.
Using the power supply of an alien Infostamp device, Doctor#10 and the Next Doctor narrowly escape the Cybermen hidden in the late Reverend Fairchild’s house. They go back to where the Next Doctor has set up his base and parked his TARDIS, the Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style, a hot air balloon.
Doctor#10 has worked out who and what the Next Doctor is. He tells the Next Doctor that Jackson Lake had moved to London to start a new job. Unfortunately the basement of his new house was at the entrance to a Cyberman base. They killed Lake’s wife but before they could kill him, he used an infostamp powercell to destroy the cyberguards and escape. In his greif he absorbs all the information from the infostamp that had killed his tormentors, information all about the Cybermen’s greatest enemy, The Doctor and his mind snapped. He became the Doctor and Jackson Lake died.
Lake remembers who he is, but it is too late, the Cybermen are moving. Children from four local workhouses are marched to the Cyberbase, where they toil away powering up a giant starter motor. The Cybermen have betrayed Miss Hartigan and installed her as the central processor of the Cyber-King, a dreadnought class Cyberwarship. However, Hartigan’s mind is more powerful than the Cybermen could have imagined, and she uses her intelect to take command of the Cyber-King and all its crew of Cybermen.
The Real Doctor must now use the Fake Doctor’s T.A.R.D.I.S. balloon to destroy the Cyber-King.
Another cracking Christmas Special, but for some reason, I felt a bit empty after it had been broadcast. It was just as cinematic as previous year’s specials, but there was something about it that did not quite gel. I still love Voyage of the Damned, think The Runaway Bride is unbeatable, and enjoyed The Christmas Invasion. I suppose it is because I am now used to a big fat dose of Doctor Who on Christmas Night and my expectations for this story were set way to high. Never the less, there was so much in this story to enjoy.
One of the big selling points of this story was the identity of the other man calling himself The Doctor. Was he really the next incarnation of The Doctor, who had somehow jumped across the timelines, was he a conman I speculated back in November or was he just a screaming nut-job. Well, as it turns out, my speculation was completely wrong, he was not a conman he was infact a man who in a moment of extreme pressure became a charactature of The Doctor to hide from the horrors of the real world. In many ways, this makes this story closer to the Big Finish’s Doctor#8 Audio play Minuet in Hell than their Doctor#6 Story The One Doctor. (Although fortunately this story left ot the atrocious fake Deep South accents from that particular audio production). David Morrissey’s performances were without fault, whether as a man who through tragic circumstances become a parody of The Doctor, or the broken and greiving man given hope to rebuild his life. I still believe that he would be great if cast as the real Doctor#11, but after seeing this story it now seems very unlikely. However, if the character of Jackson Lake were to become a regular recurring character, with at least one story per year, for the foreseeable future, set in the 1850’s, lets face it, the Doctor’s upcoming regeneration gives rise to at least possible story where the new Doctor and Lake have to rebuild the rapport that developed in The Next Doctor.
Once the mystery of Jackson Lake and who he really was solved, it was as if a switch was flicked and the less interesting Cyber-Invasion plot moved up a gear and took centre stage. It was fairly obvious from the start that the Cybermen would double-cross the deliciously evil Miss Hartigan. Following in the footsteps of Tracy Ann Oberman as a woman who beat the Cybermen at their own game is Dervla Kirwen playing the villainous Miss Hartigan with just the right amount of arrogance and insecurity. It seems to be a trademark of Russell T. Davies that he creates strong willed women who are able to resist the might of cyber-conversion and hold their own against the metal monsters. Indeed, Davies implied in the podcast commentary for this episode that Miss Hartigan’s background had damaged her to such an extent, that even Cyber-conversion was not great hardship. Hartigan was already insane, which is why she made her Faustian deal with the Cybermen in the first place, and it was that insanity that lead to her being able to over-rule the cybertechnology in which she found herself ensnared. It is not until The Doctor breaks the link between the Cyber-King and repairs her damaged mind that Miss Hartigan can see clearly what she has done and what she has become. She destroys herself and her court of Cybermen, leaving the Doctor to dispose of the hulking dreadnought that could do so much damaged to the web of time.
At first I thought that the appearance of a giant robot on Christmas Morning 1851 was very silly, as after all the Doctor Who Universe is supposed to be almost identical to our own, and in the presense of alien tech in the middle of Queen Victoria’s reign would cause a massive divergence. Which is why it had to magically disappear, this is not some cop-out ending as some critics have claimed, it was a vital part of the story. In Remembrance of the Daleks Doctor#7 asks his companion Ace if she “remembered the Yetis in the Underground or the Zygon gambit with the Loch Ness Monster?”. When Ace replies in the negative, The Doctor states that Human Beings have a remarkable talent for self deception. Jackson Lake states that the events of this story will enter into history,but again he is mistaken. More apparently rational reasons for the events of 25th December, 1851 will be dreamt up. Excuses that better fit the zeitgeist will take the place of the truth, and anyone who remembers the truth will be labeled a lunatic.
Which brings us back to Mr. Jackson Lake and his relationship with young Rosita. Russell T. Davies cleverly plays the social structure of the age with these two characters. When she thought that she would be dealing with The Doctor and travelling in space and time far away from the World she knew, the she was on first (albeit strange first) name terms with The Doctor. Once she realised that he was simply Jackson Lake, a man from the same place in time as herself, but so much higher up the social ladder, then she started refering to him as “Sir” and became far more subservient. It was exactly the same with Mr. Lake, as when he thought he was The Doctor, then she was his companion because he was the egalitarian hero, once he realised who he really was, then Rosita was instantly demoted from the position of friend to that of servant, merely a potential nursemaid for his son.
I’m not exactly sure why the Cybermen needed all those children from the various London workhouses. And why did they need them for such a short period of time. The only reason I can think of is so that there was a big set-piece rescue towards the end of the boring cyber-invasion sub-plot to make The Doctor and friends look good.
The thing that I disliked most about this story was the way that The Doctor was dealing with the rump of the Cybus Cybermen from the alternative Universe Rose now lives in. The fact that they had a dreadnought Cyber-King was is a bit of a problem, because it does not fit neatly with what we know about the Cybus Cybermen. They were a newly created creatures, who were rapidly building up their numbers when the Doctor foilled them in the alternative Universe, these Cybus Cybermen were then royally thrashed by the Daleks and locked away in the howling void between universes. There is no way that that the Cybus Cybermen could have build the sort of vehicle that was displayed in The Next Doctor. However, if they were Cybus Cybermen, then this has to be the Grand Unifying moment that connects the Cybus Cybermen with the traditional models. Imagine if Jackson Lake got it wrong, and the Cyber-king did not disintegrate in the Vortex, but travelled through it before crashing on the Planet Mondas, which at the time was making its way back to its parent Solar System. The sick and dieing indigenous people of Mondas saw Cybus upgrades as a way of surviving and growing strong in their harsh world, and the Cybermen that we know from the original run of Doctor Who were born.
4 out of 5