Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doctor Who--"The Next Doctor"

It took forever to finally get a hold of this episode. I guess the Britons were too wowed by the Iranian president’s counter Christmas/anti-American warmongering message to worry with getting “The Next Doctor” to the former colonies. Now that I have seen it, I have mixed thoughts about it. It was the best of the four Christmas specials thus far, but that is not saying much. These things often seem to be thrown together at the behest of the BBC and have been little more than showcases for Russell T. Davies’ self-indulgence.

This time around, RTD indulges himself with all sorts of cutesie teases about who this new Doctor is, silly creations from the Cybermen, and plot holes you could drive a semi through. For example, the Cybermen who have escaped to Victorian London from the Void used stolen Dalek technology to do so. One assumes the Daleks must have escaped, too, but the doctor does not seem bothered by that as much as the audience is as we realized ththis revelation was probably foreshadowing their return sometime next year. The Cybermen also had enough technology to create some steampunk Cybershade creatures and build a giant Cyberman, but in a Dickensian twist, kidnapped children to useas slave labor in order to get the thing moving. It was laughable.

It was also typically overblown RTD writing. The giant Cyberman reminded me way too much of Arliss Lovelace’s mechanical spider in the incredibly awful Wild Wild West remake nine years ago. If you are going to rip off a movie, pick one better than that. In an even bigger homage to Will smith’s turn as James west, I did not understand how the doctor managed to defeat the Godzilla sized Cyberman anymore than I believed West’s saving the day was plausible.

Miss Hartigan was an interesting character, even if she did preen about and emote like a James Bond villain. Like I said above, I still have no idea how the Doctor used her conversion as Cyber King (Why not Cyber Queen? Are the Cybermen all chauvinists?) to defeat the Cybermen, but there you go.

It sounds as though I did not like “The Next Doctor,” but I did. The reason I did was almost exclusively David Morrisey. We find out pretty quickly that he is not a time Lord at all, much less a past or future incarnation of the Doctor himself, but an ordinary man named Jackson Lake. He plays the mercurial personality of the Doctor to the hilt. He is a tragic figure, though, traumatized by the death of his wife and kidnapping of his son by the Cybermen into believing he is the Doctor. Even some of the sillier slapstick elements of his adventures do not take away from the dignity he brought to the role. It is doubtful he will take over as the eleventh doctor and I think we are losing out because of it.

I did cringe a bit towards the end when he suggested to the Doctor that his assistant, Rosalie, would make a fine nursemaid for his son. He meant he wanted to marry her, but when you say that about a black woman in 1851, making her his wife is not the first thing that comes to mind. It was a sloppy line to throw in.

Otherwise, I am not terribly disappointed with “The Next Doctor.” It does not stand up to much scrutiny, but forfluff entertainment on Christmas, it did the job. It felt weird to not get a trailer for an upcoming season like we usually do. The next special will air at Easter. It has not been filmed yet, so there was nothing even from it other than the title: “Planet of the Dead.” I am certain spoilers will begin leaking out early next year. I will report as I find them.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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