Friday, December 26, 2008

Review: Doctor Who, Episode 4.14, "The Next Doctor"

No plot spoilers, except what was already revealed in the promo and by the title itself.

London. Christmas Eve, 1851. The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) encounters a man who also claims to be the Doctor (David Morrissey) while trying to defeat an invasion of Cybermen.

As written by outgoing showrunner Russell T Davies and directed by Torchwood veteran Andy Goddard, "The Next Doctor" is a fun Christmas special with touches of melancholy and some nods to Dickens. It's slower paced than previous Christmas specials, but there's also more of an emphasis on the characters. It's a bit predictable and sentimental at times, but again, it's a Christmas special and Davies is always good at writing on an emotional level. There's also a scene that should make old school Who fans squee.

The production values are high. As always, the BBC is good at recreating the past, and there are a few nifty steampunk touches, too. These days, the visual effects on Who are always excellent for a television budget, and this episode is no exception.

Tennant is in his usual fine form as the Tenth Doctor, while Morrissey delivers a big, bold, but never over the top performance as the other Doctor while handling the emotional scenes with equal skill. Velile Tshabalala and Dervla Kirwan are also quite good as the other Doctor's companion and Miss Hartigan respectively.

"The Next Doctor" is an entertaining and more than satisfactory Christmas special, which leads into David Tennant's four final episodes as the Doctor. Next up, "Planet of the Dead" in March, with three more specials to air in 2009 and early 2010 before new showrunner Steven Moffat and a new actor as the Eleventh Doctor take over.