Friday, December 26, 2008

The Doctor of Oz?

Doctor Who Christmas Special Spoiler Alert! Do not read on unless you saw it!

So what did you think of it? I'd find it hard not to enjoy Doctor Who I have to say as it's woven into the very fibre of my being and I've avidly followed the renegade Time Lord's adventures my whole life. Hell, I even got close to writing for it at one time when I was asked by John Nathan-Turner to produce a script for the second Colin Baker season. It didn't happen sadly - the politics surrounding Baker's tenure made it almost impossible - but I still hold out hope that one day I'll get the chance again. I do treasure the memories of many visits to the BBC production office in the early 1980s and watching episodes from Peter Davison's Timeflight and Baker's Vengeance on Varos being filmed. However, back to the present and Russell T Davies' 2008 Christmas Special - The Next Doctor.

On the whole, a very enjoyable script and some great performances by David Morrissey and Dervla Kirwan. And who couldn't have loved a giant mechanical Cyberman stomping over London in 1851? (Loved the line 'Nice year. Bit dull.' What? No Great Exhibition?) Brilliant, camp, classic Doctor Who fun. The teaser trailer (basically the pre-credits sequence) was an excellent set-up as we were left wondering just who (no pun intended) this mad man and his spunky companion Rosita (Velile Tshabalala) were. The Cybermen were, if anything, background characters to Kirwan's fanatical women's-libber and I'm afraid that I still don't quite get why the Cyber-leader had a transparent brain case or what, indeed, the Cybershades were (A primitive conversion? Why? And what for?).

Tennant showed yet again what a tough act he's going to be to follow, hamming it up excellently as 'John Smith' to Morrissey's amnesiac Doctor. And, as with all of Davies' episodes there were a fair few laughs too. The diehard fans even got a treat with a few references to past episodes and a flashback that included all nine previous Doctors.

There is just one more point I'd like to make and it's this ... was this episode Russell T's homage to The Wizard of Oz? Think about it ... we had Tin Men and a wicked witch (Kirwan's Miss Hartigan). We had a chap with no brain - Morrissey's Doctor with no memory - and a man who is often accused of being heartless - Tennant's Doctor (remember the brilliant script from this year's Fires of Pompeii episode where Donna has to beg the Doctor to save the family?). We had Morrissey's Professor Marvel type character (and even a balloon), a spirited heroine in Rosita and even the Cybershades looked a bit like flying monkeys. And the scene where Morrissey's memory is restored was very similar to the Wizard's bestowing of gifts ('the bravery was you all along!) and, let's be honest, a little man looking much more powerful by hiding behind technology is a lot like Hartigan inside her giant robot!

Okay, okay. It's tenuous in the extreme but I did wonder whether it was in the back of Mr Davies' mind as he tapped away at his keyboard. Anyway, enough with this psychobabble. It was great fun and I enjoyed watching it again this morning. Let's hope that the rest of Tennant's final year is just as good, eh?


chris hale said...


Having just watched this episode for the second time, I can't help but agree with you. Doctor Who just gets better and better, and Tennant's portrayal of the Time Lord is little short of brilliant. I am looking forward to the next series.

Interesting assessment of the plot in terms of Oz; but (to refer briefly to your recently published book) I didn't notice a suicidal munchkin. But I suppose the 'roped up' Cybershade at the start could be thus construed!

Persephone said...

I am an enormous fan of a young lady who styles herself thebigbluemeany at YouTube: I have sung her praises at my own humble blog. She just makes the cleverest fan-vids ever, many of which are about Doctor Who. Given your paralleling "The Next Doctor" with The Wizard of Oz, I think you just might enjoy this.

I have championed the theory of a Mary Poppins story arc for Season Four of New Who. It came to naught, but I thought it had merit...

Stevyn Colgan said...

Chris - He will be missed. But, then again, I've said that after every Doctor announced that he was leaving. Worst of all was when Tom Baker went. I couldn't imagine replacing him.

Persephone - What a hoot! Thanks for the link. And Happy Christmas!

VioletSky said...

Thank you for this teaser...I tried getting my relatives to watch it for me or to even turn it on while we were on the phone, but no luck - they, none of them, like The Doctor!

Damn the CBC for never importing the Christmas specials!!

chris hale said...

These are not just cybermen. These are tall, heavily armed cybermen...
(Of course, this only really works if you've seen the M & S ads!)

doctawho42 said...

Yeah, kinda (Kinda!!! get it?!??) agree with your madcap theory. The only thing I noticed was the ever persistant religious undertones of RTD's "The Saviour Of The Human Race" Doctor.
I have to say I loved it more than words can say (har, har), mainly because it regnited my passion in the show, which had been dwindling and shaking its head for some time now.

How many shows can you say made you laugh, cry and then, as soon as it has finished, make you dance around the house like a madwoman and trip over the dog.
Thats what I thought of it.

Stevyn Colgan said...

VioletSky - That's a bummer. Why buy in the series but not the Christamas specials? Madness. Wikipedia has a good summary if you want the whole plot. I know it's not the same but at least you'd know what happened!

Chris - I know ... but somehow they're still not as scary as the first cloth-headed Cybermen back in the Troughton and Hartnell era. And that bit in the Tomb of the Cybermen serial where they all burst out of their bee-like 'cells' is still spooky to watch even today. I think that the black and white helped.

Hannah - Hello! Hope you had a good Christmas. I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis of RTD's none-too-subtle Doctor as Messiah. It's going to be interesting to see what the Moff does with the show. Can't wait! x

Persephone said...

CBC did deign to show us The Christmas Invasion and Runaway Bride (the latter, inexplicably, at midnight), but for some reason is holding off on The Voyage of the Damned (no great loss, I'd say; that episode was pretty bad). Violet Sky, the current Doctor Who special The Next Doctor is available on YouTube. (Email me at if you'd like directions.) Also we have a resident sixteen-year-old who downloaded both the episode and the Confidential in glorious quality from BitTorrent. I don't approve of downloading in general, but in the case of broadcasters who withhold shows for mysterious copyright reasons, I think drastic measures are in order. We'll purchase the fifth season DVD at the appointed time, but we grab at the Confidentials whenever possible because they only offer the ten-minute version outside Great Britain.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Persephone - It does seem to be an odd way of going about retaining viewers. I'm just glad you got to see the epispde - whatever method you used.