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23 March 2015 @ 09:50 pm
NuWho Rewatch: The Next Doctor  
I had forgotten that NuWho had been playing an extended game of "when's the regeneration" at this point in time with both the cliffhanger at the end of The Stolen Earth and then the first thirty minutes or so of this special. I'm not sure the resolutions (either the transfer of power to the hand, nor Jackson Lake) are quite as good as they need to be to make the build up work, but of the two Jackson Lake as the man who isn't the Doctor is the more successful.

This the first in a long line of appearances of Victorian Christmas Planet. Obviously this is actually a Victorian Christmas but, to all intents and purposes, it might as well be Victorian Christmas Planet since it has the same air of theatricality. Even more so than normal this is not an attempt to recreate an actual historical setting, but more to invoke the imagery we get on Christmas cards. Or at least it is in the opening scene. As the story progresses the Christmas theme takes a welcome back seat and the production focuses more on the bleakness of the winter. Even so the production lurches rather uneasily between the effective presentation of Miss Hartigan arriving at the funeral and the subsequent cyber-attack, to the somewhat cliched kids stoking steampunk machinery, to the bizarreness of Rosita's costume which one suspects would have been out of place in Victorian London even if it hadn't been snowing but under the circumstances makes it look like the costume department were suddenly and inexplicably channeling Pirates of the Caribbean.

To be honest I think the episode is carried largely by the performances of Dervla Kirwan as Miss Hartigan and David Morrissey as Jackson Lake. Both are eminently watchable. Morrissey's performance, in particular, starting as the Doctor and gradually revealing the man underneath who proves to be compassionate, resourceful and great of heart manages both to entertain with the echoes of Tennant's performance and to be subtle and moving. Miss Hartigan is more of a caricature but Kirwan chews the scenery with aplomb and manages to convince that this woman really does have the willpower to override cyber-control and seize it for herself. Sadly this makes the ending really rather feeble in which the Doctor "opens her mind" to the reality of her situation and she collapses into screaming panic. Even if her performance beforehand hadn't been so convincing this would have been a bit of a let-down as a resolution and somewhat unnecessary since he promptly zaps the Cyber-King back into the void.

"I was really enjoying it up until that bit," NLSS Child said of the final resolution and its difficult to disagree with her. This is a little disjointed and has too many oddities to make a great Doctor Who story, but it has two outstanding performances from guest actors which raise it up above Victorian Christmas Planet and its cliches. Sadly the resolution is a bit rubbish and even the final scene between Jackson Lake and the Doctor can't really rescue the story from the disappointment. Still, I strongly expect to find that this and Waters of Mars are my favourites out of the four specials that represented Doctor Who in 2008-2009.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/149982.html.
 
 
 
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on March 23rd, 2015 09:54 pm (UTC)
I actually quite like this, but I have no idea what the Cyber King is all about. Why would the Cybermen find it logical to create a giant Cyberman to stomp all around London? As for the effects on human society/history, I note that Steven Moffat quietly retconned this and the other public invasions of the Davies era very quickly.

Edit: although I think Moffat re-retconned some of them back in in Dark Water/Death in Heaven, which was perhaps the most Davies-like Moffat script (must be why I didn't like it much).

Edited at 2015-03-23 09:55 pm (UTC)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 24th, 2015 09:48 am (UTC)
I think the Cyber-King is just a large mobile conversion unit (with sparkly bits that go bang to keep Davies happy). It makes a kind of sense especially considering the cybermen are working with limited technology and attempting to explain their concepts to Miss Hartigan in terms they think she'll understand.
parrot_knight: DavidIconparrot_knight on March 23rd, 2015 11:55 pm (UTC)
I'm no great fan of this story - the saccharine Victorian setting doesn't really work for me and offsets the points about society which Davies thinks or might think he's making. I'm not impressed by the Cyber-King concept either; though calliope85 did point out at the time in conversation that the Cybermen were behaving as Victorian chivalric knights actualising the revival of courtly love, and there might be something in that.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 24th, 2015 09:50 am (UTC)
Certainly "Victorians made children work" hardly counts as biting satire and if Davies was trying to make a correlation to the modern day in any fashion that was entirely lost on me. There is obviously a bit "because its cool" factor in the concept of the Cyber-King, but I think it just about works, within the suspension of disbelief bubble of Doctor Who if assume its a large mobile conversion unit, built with primitive technology and explained by the cyberman to Miss Hartigan in terms that they believe she will understand.
doctorxdonnadoctorxdonna on March 24th, 2015 02:45 am (UTC)
This is one of my least favorite new Who stories. Though Morrissey's performance was memorable, the story just didn't do it for me. And I agree, Rosita's costume was kind of ridiculous.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 24th, 2015 09:54 am (UTC)
Hmm, there are definitely stories I like less. The End of Time springs effortlessly to mind here and I think lots of the filler episodes in seasons 2 and 3, like The Idiot's Lantern, are simply less entertaining even if they are a bit more coherent. But I think it could have easily been a horrible mess without Kirwan and Morrissey.