On first glance you may see the title, find out that this story contains someone pretending to be The Doctor and think it’s a rip-off of another story that appeared in the this marathon, but actually that’s the only thing the two have in common, and “The Next Doctor” is a great story in its own right. So let’s take a look at the last Tenth Doctor Christmas Special in this countdown (having already covered his actual last special some time ago…)
The Doctor arrives in London on Christmas Eve in 1851 where he encounters the Cybermen and a man who claims he’s a Time Lord called the Doctor.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
The Doctor and Rosita react as this Doctor “inserts his Sonic Screwdriver” into their enemy.
The Doctor arrives in… *sigh*, Victorian London (actually this time!) and ends up encountering another Doctor, and one he doesn’t recognise to boot! It must be a future version of him (I guess in his head, the last incarnation of his, retroactively) but it actually turns out to something else entirely. The whole episode is really fun solely thanks to the relationship between The Doctor and the man who turns out to be called Jackson Lake (David Morrissey). You see, Cybermen invaded London and started kidnapping children, and one such incident involved Jackson, who while trying to fight them off opened a “data stamp” about The Doctor that accidentally implanted the data in his own head, in combination with the emotional trauma of his wife being killed / his son being taken away, he woke up and believed he WAS The Doctor. He soon found himself a companion in Rosita (Velile Tshabalala), built a TARDIS (which, erm, is a hot air balloon), waves his Sonic Screwdriver around (which is just a regular screwdriver) and started fighting the Cybermen, who he believed stole his memories.
The Doctor spends the first third of the story thinking this is true, that he is the next him and has memory problems, which is why he doesn’t recognise him or has his usual equipment, but soon figures it out and breaks the news to him: he’s not The Doctor, but the person speaking to him is. Thankfully their relationship doesn’t end there and Jackson becomes something of a companion for the last moments of the story, rescuing his son and getting everyone in London to cheer for The Doctor when he saves the day. He then has a peak inside the real TARDIS and has a really fun reaction where he runs back out and calls it “just too silly” and he generally can’t comprehend it. The Doctor ends up walking off to have a Christmas dinner with Jackson, Rosita and Jackson’s son to end the story. It’s a really fun relationship that develops well over the runtime.
The rest? It has its moments. The true villain of the story isn’t the Cybermen (the stompy, “delete!” Cybermen from another reality, sadly…) but instead a woman named Miss Hartigan (Dervla Kirwan), who has teamed up with them to help build a “CyberKing”, to which she is eventually hooked up to. She manages to keep her human instincts but in the end The Doctor (in the TARDIS hot air balloon) opens her mind to what she had become and so she destroys herself and the rest of the Cybermen with her. She’s… fine, I’m not sure “men don’t treat me like an equal” is a good character trait in Victorian London because… well, no, they don’t, and won’t for some time yet! You have a valid point, but don’t kill a bunch of people to prove it, you silly woman, no get back in the kitchen, or something… Anyway, other than that, she’s fine, and gives a more human, talky presence to the otherwise one-dimension villains.
Funny how this was never recorded in any history books, though that can be said about pretty much all stories set on Earth, to be fair…
The bad really has to be the new additions to the Cybermen lineage. We see “CyberShades”, which are “more primitive species partially converted”, but what you really get is a weird furry Cyberman who occasionally walk on their hands and knees, and other times… ride a horse and cart, somehow. Then you get the “CyberKing”, which is a massive mech / moving base that stomps on and fires lasers at the buildings and people down below. It looks pretty bad, and I’m not just talking about the CG effects, I mean it looks like one of those old school toy robots you always saw in kids’ bedrooms from 60s TV shows. Why would Cybermen want this, anyway? I thought they wanted to convert people to “be like them”, not crush and kill everything underfoot! Ah well, neither make appearances again, so I guess they were a quirk with the alternate reality Cybermen…
The other thing is the Cyberman plan of kidnapping children to use as a workforce… ummmm, why? They show the ability to partially convert adult males later in the story, but they only do that so they can lead groups of workhouse children to work for them, so… I mean, I know out of universe it was the whole Victorian London, workhouse children Oliver Twist vibe that they were going for, but it didn’t make any sense in-universe for the Cybermen to think this was a good plan at all, just partially convert a bunch of adult males to do the work, they’re stronger and have more stamina…
It’s the “CyberShades”! …. *sigh*
The “Cybus Cybermen” were first seen in the Tenth Doctor two-parter “Rise of the Cybermen / Age of Steel”, then reappeared in another two-parter in “Army of Ghosts / Doomsday”. This is their final appearance, as although the next appearance of the Cybermen they look similar, they no longer carry the “Cybus” logo on their chests…
While The Doctor tries to jog who he thinks is his future self’s memory, he mentions a lot of past episodes, but also thinks he may have converted himself into a human using the chameleon arc and so checks Jackson’s fob watch, all relating to something he did in “Human Nature / The Family of Blood”.
As mentioned this does bare slight resemblance to the Sixth Doctor audio story “The One Doctor”, though there the fake Doctor is an intentional ruse, rather than someone with memory problems. The Eighth Doctor audio “Minuet in Hell” also sees a regular human have The Doctor’s mind pattern slapped onto him, though again, it doesn’t go in a similar direction.
“Let’s have ourselves a jolly little Christmas… by killing loads of people. Hooray!”
The Next Doctor is a really fun story, with a great double act in The Doctor and Jackson Lake. There are some fun action scenes, some dramatic scenes and an ending that… well, sadly falls flat, but there you. Still one of the better Christmas stories!