So here with are, with an unusually early play of the Doctor Who Christmas special. I wonder if there’s anything in the title, “The Next Doctor”?
Hmm. We’ll see.
In the interim, before the episode actually starts, here’s a little rant that some of you in Queensland might recognise: What the hell is up with this humidity?! Seriously, Brisbane, I’m likely to die if you don’t tone this weather down. A weak cool change, you say? What use is a weak cool change when there’s three degrees of difference between the lowest temperature and the highest temperature? Seriously, this is unnatural!
Right. I feel slightly better now.
Oooh, hang on—the ABC is repeating season two of Doctor Who? Right, it may be necessary to live-blog those, as well.
But here we are with the Christmas special.
And there’s the Doctor, stepping out into a Christmassy scene—snow, which is presumably not the detritus of an alien spaceship, for once; people in Victorian costumes; spinning camera angles; Christmas carols; a mouthy urchin.
All very Dickensian.
But there’s someone calling for the Doctor off-screen, which is much more to his taste: it’s an attractive woman in a corset, who must be freezing (well, bits of her must be freezing).
But she keeps calling for the Doctor, and David Morrissey comes haring around the corner, pulling out his sonic screwdriver, telling Rosita to get back to the TARDIS, and telling the Doctor that this is a job for a Time Lord.
The Doctor’s bewilderment is brought to a sudden halt by a furry creature wearing a Cyberman mask.
Both Doctors: Allons-y.
The creature starts climbing a building, and the new Doctor (to make it easy) manages to lasso it, but is pulled straight up the building—as is our Doctor when he grabs the rope.
NEW DOCTOR: Perhaps if you could pull?
OUR DOCTOR: I am pulling. I couldn’t not pull in this position.
Our Doctor is a little startled that the new Doctor doesn’t seem to recognise him, but they’re mostly worried about their impending deaths, as they’re pulled through a window, across a warehouse floor, and towards another window.
Rosita saves them, but they’re simply roaring with laughter and embracing. I’ve always known that the Doctor was a narcissist, but this seems to be taking it a little far.
Our Doctor is really keen to induce recognition in the new Doctor—he doesn’t want to know how he regenerated, as long as it wasn’t something stupid, like tripping over a brick: “Although, there are worse ways to go. Depends on the brick.”
Our Doctor claims to be John Smith, presumably because he recognises—as the new Doctor admits—that this new Doctor has some form of amnesia. He can remember nothing since the Cybermen—which comes as a shock to our Doctor, though it probably shouldn’t, not with the creature with the Cyberman mask.
The new Doctor remembers nothing, just a vague sense that something odd is going on. Now he’s off to a funeral—and our Doctor is not going to let him out of his sight.
Ooh, a Cyber Controller! Thought Nick says not: he’s never called a Cyber Controller. But he has a visible brain! What else could he be?
Ooh, and Dervla Kirwen! Maybe I’ve spelt that wrong, but I’ll go back and check later.
And she’s going to the funeral, too. Ooh, I wonder if that’s a coincidence?
Of course, the new Doctor is not actually going to the funeral—he’s just breaking into the corpse’s house (that’s not a good phrase, but that’s live-blogging, for you) during its final absence.
Ah, the new Doctor’s sonic screwdriver.
OUR DOCTOR: But . . . that’s a screwdriver. How’s it sonic?
NEW DOCTOR: Well, it makes a noise. (Taps it on the doorframe) That’s sonic.
Love that line.
While he and the new Doctor wander around the house of the late Reverend Aubrey Fairchild, the new Doctor tells him about the previous death: Jackson Lake, come to London to take up a new job.
Oooh, a fob watch. Really? And whispering? Are his memories contained within?
Nope. Says the new Doctor, “It’s more for decoration.”
Nick wants me to point out that the Cybermen seems unusually excited and happy about the Cyber King—well, unusual for the Cybermen.
And now our Doctor has found an infostamp—like a floppy disk, apparently, containing a history of London from 1066 to 1851, where we are now. And it has a curious effect on the new Doctor, who says he was holding an infostamp the night he regenerated.
Our Doctor wants to head back to the new Doctor’s TARDIS, but a quick final look through the house reveals a Cyberman hiding in a cupboard—and another one who comes from somewhere else.
Our Doctor leads them upstairs, telling the new Doctor that they can’t afford to lead them out into the London streets. He’s insisting to the Cybermen that he, not David Morrissey, is the Doctor, that they should be attacking him, not the new Doctor—but it’s the new Doctor who neutralises them, by doing something with the infostamp’s core that I can’t pronounce and wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to spell.
The new Doctor is not pleased that our Doctor told the Cybermen that he was their target—he’s worried that our Doctor is trying to steal his only remaining thing, his identity, like the Cybermen did.
And now we’re at the funeral, a grave surrounded by sombre Victorian gentlemen—except for Dervla Kirwen, as Miss Hartigan, matron of a workhouse, who arrives slowly, dressed in bright scarlet with a scarlet parasol, thoroughly scandalising the mourners.
And she taunts them about the difference between their charity and the sheer hard work involved in what she does, about their suppressed desires and their hypocrisy, before she calls the Cybermen to slaughter all but four men whom she names and protects.
She needs them, she tells them, for their children—presumably they also run workhouses or orphanages.
But back at the new Doctor’s home—Rosita has been worried about their absence—our Doctor is surprised they’re not living in the TARDIS and by the presence of mounds of Jackson Lake’s luggage in the corner, which our Doctor immediately tears opens, over Rosita’s complaints.
(Nick and I have a brief conversation, in which Nick is surprised that I’m not shocked by his tentative identification of Rosita as a prostitute. Seems obvious to me.)
The new Doctor takes our Doctor out to see his TARDIS: Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style. It’s a hot-air balloon. Well, powered by gas—I don’t know whether that’s different to a hot-air balloon or not. It’s rather stunning, though. I don’t know how advanced the technology was by this point, though people had been ascending in balloons for some fifty years by this point.
But our Doctor doesn’t think much of balloons, and offers to tell the new Doctor how he became the Doctor—he thinks he’s figured it out now.
(Elsewhere, Mercy Hartigan is sending the four men from the funeral off to an unspecified task involving their children; they’re controlled now by those glowing Cybermen devices in their ears.)
Back in the stables—at least, they look like stables—where the new Doctor is living, our Doctor explains how the Cybermen could have escaped from the battle of Canary Wharf, thanks to the battle with Davros and his reality bomb at the end of last season.
And the Cybermen came across Jackson Lake . . . but he’s dead, says the new Doctor. Not quite, says our Doctor, showing the mongrammed “J.L.” on the back of the new Doctor’s fob watch.
(I stop blogging briefly to coo over the images in the Cybermen’s database on the Doctor and all his previous regenerations.)
This data stamp is the one that Jackson Lake was holding the night he went missing—and it streamed its content into his brain, causing him to believe that he was the Doctor. But Jackson knows there’s something else going on here—he knows the Cyberman took something from him.
And the Doctor is genuinely sorry to say this, as he points out gently to Jackson that the pile of luggage is very large for a single person—and Jackson’s face freezes and then breaks, as he sees all over again the death of his wife.
Man, David Morrissey is brilliant in this scene.
And the Doctor’s sympathy rather dissipates—and the music becomes rather inappropriately jaunty—as he hears the infostamps buzzing and sees them glowing: it’s a call to arms, and the Cybermen are on the move.
It’s not so much the Cybermen, though, as dozens of children under the Cyber-controlled presence of the four men from the funeral. The Doctor can’t remove the control, because the furry Cyber-creatures (does anyone remember the Cybermats? They were a bit rubbish) are keeping guard from alleyways.
They’re all converging on an unidentified building that the Cyber-controlled men call “The Court of the Cyber King.”
(Meanwhile, Jackson’s “fugue state” has dissipated, and he’s now fluctuating between despair and anger.)
Two Cybermen sneak up on the Doctor and Rosita—DOCTOR: Do you have your legs on silent?—and Miss Hartigan appears, scorning the Doctor’s offer of help.
The Doctor, planning on injuring the Cybermen with a damaged infostamp, does at least manage to convince them that he, not Jackson Lake, is actually the Doctor. That doesn’t look as though it helps, since Miss Hartigan orders them killed, but Jackson arrives and destroys them, as he did in the Reverend Fairchild’s house, with the manipulated infostamps.
Jackson Lake has found the deeds to his London house, in the cellar of which he thinks he found the Cybermen and saw his wife killed: this, then, could be a way into the Cybermen’s lair.
Meanwhile, Miss Hartigan kills the four men she had previously saved from the funeral—and puts the children to work in some sort of insane, steampunk chamber full of chains and wheels and mysterious spheres with spikes on them.
She takes the Cyberman’s arm, as he takes her off to see the Cyber King that they’re all so proud of.
Meanwhile, the Doctor, Jackson, and Rosita are in Jackson’s basement, where they find a Cyberman and Dalek technology.
Miss Hartigan, on the other hand, has just found that she is supposed to become the Cyber King, and she isn’t overly thrilled about the whole thing:
MISS HARTIGAN: But you promised me I would never be converted.
CYBER CONTROLLER: That was designated a lie.
Becoming Cyber King involves having a Cyber helmet—or at least those curious handle parts—welded onto the sides of your head. It doesn’t look like a pleasant process.
The Doctor and his companions, meanwhile, have found the room where the children are working; the Doctor recognises it as an engine, but he’s not entirely sure what’s happening, since the machine is reconfiguring itself.
The Cybermen aren’t too thrilled with Miss Hartigan, meanwhile, because the conversion hasn’t removed her emotions: her joy is too emotional a response, apparently. (NICK: And “All hail the Cyber King!” isn’t?)
So she deletes the Cyber Controller, and that scares the other Cybermen into behaving themselves. Meanwhile, the Doctor and his companions are evacuating the child workforce.
Jackson, though, is having another of his moments: he’s starting to remember what else the Cybermen may have taken from him, in the figure of an angelic blonde child, who is now standing high up on the machinery, wearing, frankly, far too much mascara. The stairs explode before Jackson can get to his son, but the Doctor is rarely fazed for long, and he’s up (improbably fast, it must be said) on a convenient rope, grabbing young Frederick, and down through red-tinted smoke.
Now, this is the point where I’m going to ask everyone to suspend their disbelief and just forget how deep the Thames is, for a moment. This is a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen—movie, that is—approach to the relative depth of urban water courses.
Yes, apparently there’s an enormous robot in the Thames, but that’s okay, because it’s stomping its way across some of the Thames-side suburbs of London as we speak.
It’s actually a pretty nice piece of steampunk design.
The Doctor, rejecting Jackson’s offer of help, grabs infostamps and sets off for the TARDIS—the hot-air balloon TARDIS.
The Cyber King, meanwhile, is using its guns to demonstrate its overwhelming might.
NICK: Oh my God, you just killed Charles Dickens!
And the Doctor is off in the TARDIS. (Wow, that’s . . . seriously, that’s a lot of mascara on that kid.) He’s showing remarkable control for someone who has never flown a hot-air balloon before.
(Nick is torn between being uncertain about Dervla Kirwen’s acting and being impressed by how attractive she is.)
NICK: I’m starting to think that Russell T. Davis doesn’t like uppity women.
The Doctor fails to convince Miss Hartigan that she should leave, to colonise another world, and instead attacks the main Cyber party with his infostamp.
(Last time we watched this, a friend exclaimed at that point, “Hey! He’s getting Zoom whitening.”)
What the Doctor has done is sever the connection between her and the Cyberman, which allows he to scream herself and all the other Cybermen to death. Actually, I’m not entirely sure what happened there. It’s not as though she was receptive to the Doctor’s rhetoric before she became the Cyber King, so why is she receptive now? It’s as though the infostamps basically worked as an extremely fast-working course of anti-psychotic drugs.
Oh, well—that’s not important right now. The Doctor also uses the Dalek technology to transport the falling body of the Cyber King into the void before it can crush half of London.
And everyone in London cheers, though I think the Doctor does actually get thanked rather a lot, doesn’t he? I remember him being thanked by the Ood last season, for example. Still, a bit of cheering is always nice.
Jackson is trying to ask the Doctor to Christmas dinner (a combination Christmas dinner and wake, it sounds like), but the Doctor is reluctant. He shows Jackson the TARDIS, at Jackson’s request—and Jackson insists that the Doctor needs a companion.
I’m pleased, I admit, by the Doctor’s stutter there when he says that sometimes his companions forget him—I’d hate to think he felt no backlash from what happened with Donna. But, no: says the Doctor, his companions break his heart.
And so he agrees to Christmas dinner with Jackson and Rosita—and they’re off. Until the specials at Easter, anyway.
And that was “The Next Doctor”! (Wow, sorry—that was long. Won’t happen again!)