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26 February 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 787: The Next Doctor

Dear diary,

The speculation this caused at the time! David Tennant announced as departing the programme, followed by a story entitled The Next Doctor, and with David Morrissey - a potential Doctor candidate - cast in the part! I’m not sure if I ever thought that he could be Tennant’s replacement or not… I don’t think so, though.

The mystery of who this mysterious other Doctor is has to be the very heart of this episode for me. That first half of the story, in which the Doctor slowly pieces things together while we’re given glimpses into the strange versions of familiar objects that this Doctor uses (the hot-air balloon TARDIS is great, but I really love the joke about his screwdriver being sonic), culminating in a beautiful moment when we discover the truth about him, and why he’s been acting as a Time Lord from Gallifrey. If I’m honest, I quite liked all of that. Couldn’t put my finger on why I remembered this episode being so poor, because there were several really rather nice moments to enjoy.

But then, once the ‘reveal’ is out of the way it all got really boring. I love the Cybermen, they’ve always been my favourite Doctor Who monsters, and yet I just couldn’t find the effort to care about them here. They stomp around and talk about the construction of the Cyber-King… and even when that arrives on screen - a great big Cyberman-type robot powered by coal and steam and stomping its way across London… I was still bored. By the time we get the reveal that Jackson Lake lost not only his wife the night the Cybermen attacked, but his son too, I simply didn’t care one jolt. It didn’t help that his son is left standing like an idiot while all the other children are hurried from the building. It simply felt like an excuse to have the Doctor do a big stunt at that point of the episode, to keep the action going a bit.

Somewhere along the way, this story feels like it was split in two, with the emotional, human story of Jackson Lake, and the mystery of ‘The Doctor’ being consigned to the first half (along with the one bit of Cybermen action that I can claim to have enjoyed in this one; the attack on the graveyard), while the second half was made up of a rather rubbish Cyberman story. I’d say this is the absolute definition of ‘average’ Doctor Who.

A description I fear is going to be applied to a few stories coming up this week. From this point on, there’s only two stories (The Eleventh Hour and The Day of the Doctor) which I’ve seen more than once, and on both occasions that re-watch came within a few days of the original broadcast. I can remember thinking that Planet of the Dead was rather weak, The Waters of Mars was rather brilliant, and The End of Time was rather lacking as the end to such a fine Doctor. As for my thoughts on things after that… well, we’ll get there soon enough.

So, a brief note on how I’m going to be tackling the ‘Specials’ over the next week or so. I’ll be moving - as is traditional - onto Planet of the Dead tomorrow, dipping out the day afterwards to visit Ealing for The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith (I’ll be cheating a little and doing both episodes on the same day, since the Doctor only really shows up in the second half), then The Waters of Mars, a quick trip to the US for Dreamland (which I’m particularly looking forward to, as it’s the last bit of Tennant-Who I’ve never seen), and then finishing off with two days of The End of Time. It’s almost the end, but the moment is being prepared for!

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