Saturday, June 27, 2009

Doctor Who, "The Next Doctor": Double vision

I offered up my thoughts on the latest "Doctor Who" movie in Friday's column (and if you didn't see it before, don't miss my Russell T. Davies interview), but I'm curious what your opinion was. The only thing I'll add to the original column is that the Mercy Hartigan character was terribly underwritten, and I say that having watched the original British cut.

Same rules as always applies to "Doctor Who": talk only about the episodes that have aired here in America. So no discussion about "Planet of the Dead," which ran in England back in April. Anything I consider questionable gets deleted. Clear?

33 comments:

Ruth said...

How much was cut from this broadcast? Just curious.

David Thiel said...

I was disappointed in this one. Like "The Doctor's Daughter," it was a tease in search of a plot. I wish that they'd had the audacity to follow through and feature the new Doctor before his proper introduction.

I liked Mercy Hartigan quite a lot, however. She cut a striking figure at the funeral in that violently red dress. But she too was ultimately a disappointment. For a moment we were teased with the idea of her molding the Cybermen into something more interesting than the monsters you turn to when you don't want to use the Daleks.

That said, giant steampunk Cyberman? Priceless.

Toby O'B said...

As a fan of steampunk, I would have preferred even more along those lines,with the normal-sized Cybermen. But of course, with RTD, everything has to be bigger.

Still, it was nice to see yet another acknowledgement of McGann as the Eighth Doctor. (The last time was in the journal Dr. John Smith was keeping in "Family of Blood".)

Ross Ruediger said...

I've come to expect characters such as Miss Hartigan at this point - especially from the Christmas specials. Remember the wheelchair dude with the gold tooth from last year? This dame was positively three-dimensional in comparison.

David Morrissey was the star of the piece. Recap from me forthcoming at The House Next Door as soon as the guys get around to publishing it.

Craig Ranapia said...

The only thing I'll add to the original column is that the Mercy Hartigan character was terribly underwritten.

Well, in the podcast Davis hinted that Miss Hartigan's backstory was (to put it politely) not full of seasonal cheer -- but even the mighty RTD has limits when it comes to what you can put out at family primetime on Christmas Day.

dark tyler said...

Only four to go. Only four to go.

pgillan said...

Meh. I guess I'm glad things weren't as they seemed- I didn't care much for the "next" Doctor, and Rosita was shrill and unpleasant. Had that been a glimpse of the actual future, I would have been disappointed. Otherwise, I found myself strangely unengaged by the episode.

My Tivo cut off just as the people were cheering, and the Doctor was starting to look down from the balloon. What did I miss?

SJS said...

Have to disagree with the review and what seems to be the consensus. I thought this was one of the more interesting episodes in quite a while. The cadences of some of the dialog was almost Shakespearean and the process by which the Doctor figured out what had transpired was more interesting than usual in that the Doctor made a number of wrong guesses along the way (the watch fob, for example). I thought Hartigan was an interesting villain, although I wish that more had been done to explain what she was angry about.

Like Ruth, I'd be interested in knowing what was cut from the US version.

M.A.Peel said...

That funeral scene was visually fabulous. And Miss Hartigan's desire to be free of men at all cost was an interesting premise, even if it had to be given short shrift in a standalone episode.

Nicole said...

I thought David Morrissey was very good in this special, and handled his role with a great mix of elements from Ten's behaviour and his own personal trauma. Mercy Hartigan has more than just one level as a villain, and almost exuded sympathy at some points. She was definitely more complex than the baddies in most DW specials.

I originally saw this around Christmas, thus before the reveal of the 11th Doctor, but even then I did not think that Tennant was leaving before RTD's specials were finished airing. So I was not disappointed that this wasn't 11. I did however think that perhaps it was another Time Lord but hiding a la John Smith.

The funeral scene was very dramatic, and even though I am not a big fan of the Cyberman, I enjoyed this special a good deal.

Anonymous said...

For people who asked what was cut -I ran the version from BBC America along a version I had gotten elsewhere from the British version and it didn't look like there was nothing cut out, which surprised me

floretbroccoli said...

Since this ran 1 hour and 20 minutes (the cable guide said 1:15; I wonder how many viewers missed the last five minutes), I figured that, for once, we would get the whole thing.

Thank you for confirming.

FlopEJoe said...

It's been a while since I've seen it but I think this is one of my fave Doctor Who specials. I had no idea this wasn't really the next Doctor but had my doubts. Hartigan and the so-called companion Rosita were great.

The only thing that's slightly irritating is falling back on the cyber-people again. It seems like there's been a lot of them and the daleks lately.

Anthony Strand said...

FlopEJoe - This was the first time the Cybermen had been featured on Doctor Who itself since the season two finale. I was thinking it was nice to see them again after such a long break, actually. (They had appeared on Torchwood in the interim.)

As for the episode itself, I watched it back in January or something. But I enjoyed it a great deal. However, I do agree with David Thiel that it would have been fun to see a multi-Doctor story where the guest Doctor is a future one.

I still wonder why they didn't give the already-hired Colin Baker a cameo in "The Five Doctors"

dark tyler said...

Theoretically they could do this in one of the remaining Specials, but I'm not holding my breath. It would be a great idea, though.

Mac said...

I missed the last five minutes; I'm hoping the show shows up on On Demand.

'I still wonder why they didn't give the already-hired Colin Baker a cameo in "The Five Doctors"'

Maybe they'd already figured out that he was awful?

Craig Ranapia said...

'I still wonder why they didn't give the already-hired Colin Baker a cameo in "The Five Doctors"'

Maybe they'd already figured out that he was awful?


Them is fighting words... :) It's always tempting to dump on Colin Baker, but given the quality of the stories he had to work with (and the pretty rancid state of affairs behind the scenes at the time) I don't think you can blame Baker for his tenure being, on the whole, less than impressive. And considering the pretty crappy way he was treated -- effectively being turned into a scapegoat and sacked --, I think he's been remarkably supportive of the show and accessible to fandom.

And while 'The Other Doctor' is far from my favourite Who story, one of the strengths of this show is that it can tell pretty much every kind of story imaginable -- from historical fiction, hard SF, psychological thriller through to outright horror -- and you're hardly going to have everything appealing to everyone.

Christy said...

I rather liked Colin Baker's Doctor. In addition to the problems Craig describes, he was also loaded down with my least favorite companion ever, Peri. She was a whiny American who screamed her way through every situation. Trust me, Jinx (In Plain Sight) is a charmer next to Peri.

I can't decide if I really liked "The Next Doctor" or if I was just watching eagerly to figure out who was playing Miss Harigan. Finally! Assumpta from the only soap I've ever watched - "Ballykissangel."

I liked the ape cyberman.

Craig Ranapia said...

Christy wrote:
I rather liked Colin Baker's Doctor. In addition to the problems Craig describes, he was also loaded down with my least favorite companion ever, Peri.

Well, she was no Sarah Jane Smith and thanks for the repressed memory. :) But one thing that really has me jazzed is that in the next special (and I don't think it's a spoiler, Alan because its been announced through proper channels) is that in the next special, the one-off 'companion' is played by Lindsay Duncan -- probably best known to American TV audiences as the postively glacial Servilia of the Julii in 'Rome'. With no disrespect to Billie Piper and Frema Ageyman (or Michelle Ryan & the divine Kylie), one thing I really loved about Catherine Tate is that, for once, the companion wasn't a girl with a crush on The Doctor. Hell, even Captain Jack wanted to shag him!

I sure wouldn't call Duncan a girl to her face if I wanted to keep all my teeth. :)

Beatuofa said...

I too got bit by Tivo cutting off the last few minutes. Even worse for me cause this was my first ever viewing of the show -- at this point, I've just decided that anything Alan reviews is worth checking out. Can anyone fill in the blanks after the cheering starts -- if not here in the comments, then via email?

Craig Ranapia said...

Can anyone fill in the blanks after the cheering starts -- if not here in the comments, then via email?

Doctor glumly heads back to TARDIS, but 'The Next Doctor' insists he joins them for Christmas dinner (cf. Donna at the end of 'The Runaway Bride') with a rousing speech about how despite all they've both lost this is the time to appreciate what you do have, and the people who are there. Not half as 'a very special Christmas episode that should convert you to Satanism' lame as you might think.

FlopEJoe said...

Anthony Strand: My bad on the Cybermen. But collectively, the new era-Doctor Who seemed like it had a lot of them and the Daleks. I remember remarking a few times "Daleks again??!?" I was also probably thinking of the CyberWoman of Torchwood.

Alan Sepinwall said...

To add to Craig's synopsis, the most notable part of the epilogue, to me, is when The Doctor invites Jackson Lake to see the inside of the TARDIS, and it seriously freaks Lake out. He doesn't get upset, but you can tell his 19th century mind doesn't want to even try to process it, and he runs out PDQ.

I wouldn't be surprised if other visitors to the TARDIS had that reaction in the original series, but it's the first I've seen it on this one.

Nicole said...

I am also excited that Lindsay Duncan is in the next special (Waters of Mars). Catherine Tate was not known for drama prior to DW, so this will be a first that a highly respected actress ends up on DW. And I won't get into the details of the preview, but I am really looking forward to this one.

Jennifer said...

I am pretty well sick of the Daleks and the Cybermen. Hartigan was interesting if she'd been given more time to develop, but this entire show felt way, way too short. I kept thinking, "this is it? it's wrapping up now?" It's pretty reminiscent of the Daleks making a human Dalek, except in this case the Cybermen weren't deliberately trying to do that and were too-briefly surprised otherwise.

Best part of the show: Jackson Lake. The beginning of it cracked me up. Also the heartbreak ending.

Not so great: Rosita. Actress was...shrill. Plus well, Cybermen.

Well, at least this year's Christmas invasion happened before the 2000's. Good idea, that.

Julie said...

My DVR ran, I think, 16 minutes past the hour, which makes me think they didn't cut anything. However, since BBC America starts programs late, I missed the end anyway. Since I was only watching on a bit of delay, I recorded the late repeat of Graham Norton to get the rest--and realized I'd missed quite a lot. Norton is usually small doses for me, but this one turned out to be a delight, as he had Tennant as a guest. Sure, it was a bit old, but Tennant was up for anything and the man-on-the-street getting lured into the TARDIS was hilarious.

Craig Ranapia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig Ranapia said...

I wouldn't be surprised if other visitors to the TARDIS had that reaction in the original series, but it's the first I've seen it on this one.

Everyone has their "ONFG, it's bigger on the inside" freak out, but (understandably) gets over it pretty quickly. :) One of the best throwaway lines in 'Partners in Crime' is when The Doctor launches into his Tardis speech, and Donna just barks "yeah, Spaceman, I know all that -- let's GO" because, of course, she does. And Donna's just being Donna, bless her -- she's not going to make the same mistake twice. :)

Something else I quite like about the RTD era Who, is that The Doctor can actually be quite frightening -- ancient, incredibly powerful and 99.999% of the time he's the smartest sentient being in any given room. But there's also a vindictive and down right nasty edge that pops out. And the companions all notice -- right from the first series where, in 'The End of The World', The Doctor stands by and lets Cassandra die. She had her chance to do the right thing and failed; and The Doctor doesn't do second chances. Because Donna was right in 'The Runaway Bride' -- he needs someone... to stop him.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Craig, this went beyond the usual OMFG reaction, though, to being outright frightened of it and needing to leave. And I found that a nice contrast to how Rose or Martha or anyone else has reacted to it.

Craig Ranapia said...

Craig, this went beyond the usual OMFG reaction, though, to being outright frightened of it and needing to leave. And I found that a nice contrast to how Rose or Martha or anyone else has reacted to it.

Certainly, but something else I don't remember ever seeing before was Donna's initial refusal to become a companion because The Doctor scared her. One thing that really impresses me about RTD is that he gave the idea of The Doctor being the last of his race (and making the Cylons looks like slackers, because he's responsible for genocide twice over), and the premise that he's going to outlive EVERYONE he gets close to, real emotional weight.

JackiWhitford said...

This was the slowest moving Doctor Who episode/movie I have ever seen. Until the last fifteen minutes I kept nodding off. This was really disappointing.

Anonymous said...

I'm interested in the 4 or 5 guys that were at the funeral that the cybermen then assimilated. Miss Hartigan kept saying their names, and one of them was the name of the actress that played in "Blink", an episode that was also referenced by the Doctor here. Besides Mr. Muligan, were any of the other names significant?

From a big, big tv nerd

Craig Ranapia said...

Besides Mr. Muligan, were any of the other names significant?

I don't think so, beyond the fact that RTD 'reuses' names a lot -- for example, Tyler, Harkness, Rose and Jones turn up a lot. He's said its just a way to get something down on the page because, like a lot of writers, he can very easily spend a whole day staring at a blank page. Especially if a deadline is just around the corner. :)