Doctor Who: The Next Doctor

First the good news. ABC is giving us the 2008 Doctor Who Christmas Special in January – usually they take months to get around to it. Now the bad news: ABC is giving us the 2008 Doctor Who Christmas Special in January. If you’re a die-hard fan you probably watched this on Boxing Day via illegal downloads, right?

Britain’s tradition of Christmas specials is legendary. Eleven million viewers watched this one, just behind the 14 million for Wallace and Gromit. At least we saw that one before the Brits did.

This 60-minute edition is titled ‘The Next Doctor’, which sounds like a teaser for the switcheroo to Matt Smith, who was announced as David Tennant’s replacement just days after this aired. Wrong. Instead there’s a second Time Lord here played by actor David Morissey (Viva Blackpool). The TARDIS lands in Victorian London on Christmas Eve, where Tennant collides with a second Doctor who has a feisty female assistant (Velile Tshabalala) and a sonic screwdriver… sort of… Without giving too much away, Morissey’s Doctor is arguably more Wizard of Oz than Who.

London is under attack from the robotic Cybermen, led by a human ally, the ravishingly dressed Miss Hartigan (Dervla Kirwan). As the villain of the piece she gets to have all the fun here, running riot over the men of British society, drawing in scores of Dickensian children to abet her masterplan and spitting out all the best dialogue, too.

The more the episode progresses, the more you get the feeling we’re now in a holding pattern before the takeover of Matt Smith and new writer Steven Moffat. Ironically, as if to remind us of how brilliant he has been, in this adventure Tennant can be heard yelling “I am The Doctor! I am The Doctor!” There’s even a visual reminder of the actors who have preceded him (he still looks #1).

Ultimately, this Christmas edition feels like the universe, or ‘WHOniverse’, is undergoing great change – rather like some of the plots we’ve enjoyed before. With Donna Noble’s tale concluded in 2008, The Doctor is now sans assistant. As enjoyable as it tries to be, the writing in this episode is no better or worse than a weekly episode, upstaged by the 2007 Titanic special featuring Kylie.

There are four more specials to air before Smith’s arrival, including temporary assistants for Tennant’s Doctor. Hopefully ABC will air them just as quickly?

The Next Doctor’ airs 7:30pm Sunday on ABC1.


  1. Am having withdrawals from the Doc ,need to know when he will be back on ABC1. Tennant is the one and only Doctor for us, missing him terribly.

  2. Can anybody tell mehow I can see this episode, my 12 yr old daughter is mad on Dr Who but was unable to watch at the time due to my poor health. Also can anybody tell me when the next series will start on abc

  3. Why is it every review of this episode was at extreme pains to spoil its main plot point? Its like every reviewer suddenly felt they were performing a public service in case we were worried this might actually be the next Doctor.

  4. I have to agree, I didn’t feel that this was a spectacular Christmas Episode but I still think it was fantastic. I found Voyage of the Damned a little bit cringe-worthy at times with cheesy lines, but that’s what Doctor Who is all about – never afraid to mock itself!

    Did anyone else sob at the doctor’s line “they break my heart”?? Probably didn’t help that the emotions were raw after finishing the dvd boxset of season 4 30 minutes before with the loss of Donna and his companions still fresh in my mind!!!

  5. ‘upstaged by the 2007 Titanic special featuring Kylie.’

    You’re kidding right? ‘The Next Doctor’ was far, far superior to ‘Voyage of the Damned’. Better plot, better effects and a guest star who’s actually an actor and not a cheesy pop singer trying yet to again to prove she’s got even a tiny bit of acting talent (she doesn’t…).

    Also, the ‘Next Doctor’ himself finding out his past was felt more emotional to me than any of the deaths of poorly written characters in ‘Voyage’.

    And can’t go wrong with a giant robot either. Sorta had a wanting to see a big robot effect in Doctor Who since the old Tom Baker story Robot (and special effects sure have come a long way since that story). The Cyberking was beautifully designed.

    Anyways yup, for me personally this was the best of the christmas episodes and certainly ‘Voyage’ is by far the worst.

  6. Love Doctor Who!! :) Have been watching since the beginning. Tried to record the Christmas episode last night and my DVD crashed! (VCRs were so much more reliable!) That’ll teach me – won’t go out next time. Doesn’t appear to be available on iView which I’ve only just started using – anyone know if it might be repeated soon?

  7. No_Net_filter

    I saw this on Boxing Day, because I expected it wasn’t going to be on ABC until mid year or next. Had ABC announced earlier its intentions to ‘fast track’ it , I might have waited for the broadcast!

    It’s a bit darker in tone than previous Christmas specials, although there’s still quite a lot of camp as it progresses. According to one of Davies’ commentaries they deliberately moved the focus away from Tennant’s Doctor and onto the other characters for this one.

  8. While full of the usual fast paced entertainment of new Doctor Who, this episode has suffered from writer Russell T Davies taking on far too much and being over worked … he didn’t start writing it until after it was due to start pre-production. Although it has come together quite well, it lacks the extra “something” that we are used to, particularly in comparison to the previous year with Kylie Minogue … And when the “Cyber King” was revealed, that is when it lost the plot for me …
    i am sure the next four specials will be much better … Russel has had a chance to rest!

  9. Love this series and looking forward to this christmas special – this new updated version of Dr Who has revived the dreaded Daleks and the Cybermen…I wonder if they’ll resurrect the dreaded ‘Ice Warriors’ down the track – they were recurring villans in the old Dr Who series?

  10. I always find the Xmas Dr. Who specials way too over-the-top. Perhaps if I was watching it on a gloomy British Christmas night it would seem more appropriate.

  11. Is there a reason the ABC can’t air Christmas Specials on Boxing Day?
    I remember they once aired the Vicar Of Dibley special on Christmas Day – and I appreciated the effort.

  12. Michelle Ryan (Bionic Woman) has been spotted filming the next Dr Who Special – planet of the Dead. She is the favourite to be the next permanent assistant to Matt Smith

  13. Yes, I watched it on Boxing Day, despite the BBC doing its best to halt the illegal downloads. It’s great fun, as always. I wish Morissey were the new Doctor.

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