Unearthly Times

The Tenth Doctor: David Tennant

The Next Doctor


N.B. there might (or might not) be spoilers in this article!

I was out of the UK for the Christmas of 2008/09, so spoilers – and a certain Doctor Who Confidential announcement in the New Year – meant I knew David Morrissey was not the next doctor by the time I sat down to watch, ahem, The Next Doctor.

The reveal that we’re not seeing the Eleventh / Twelfth / Umpteenth Doctor in action comes pretty early in the episode. There’s a bit of teasing with the fob watch, which turns out to be a rather neat double bluff, and plenty of dashing and derring-do when the two Doctors are on-screen together, but once the truth behind the gimmick of the next doctor tease is revealed, the episode becomes an effective set-up for Jackson Lake’s assessment of the TARDIS: “Oh my word … but this is nonsense.”

Nonsense or not, Dervla Kirwan has a whale of a time, stealing pretty much every scene she’s in, running rings around stuffy Victorian and Cybermen alike. It’s almost a shame the Doctor has to defeat her: Miss Mercy Hartigan was well worth a return episode. In truth, I’d also happily watch more of the scientific romances of Victorian adventurer Jackson Lake and his trusty companion Rosita.

“The events of today will be history, spoken of for centuries to come.

Jackson Lake, The Next Doctor

But it’s as the next doctor mystery passes and the episode reaches its climax that we find Doctor Who playing fast and loose with its own recent continuity – well, at least regarding the first human mass interaction with aliens – to bring us its own cyberpunk version of Mechagodzilla bestriding mid-nineteenth century London.

You’d have thought Londoners would’ve remembered a whacking great CyberKing stalking the metropolis, but it appears the collective memory stored the Great Exhibition, rather than the Christmas threat to its very existence, as the main event of 1851. As the Doctor says, “Funny that.”

Still, as much as The Next Doctor verges on the ludicrous – ‘utter, wonderful nonsense’ as Jackson Lake might say – it remains enjoyably so.