Friday, December 19, 2008

The Telegraph: The Next Doctor

Doctor Who review: Who will be the next Doctor?
By Michael Deacon, Television Features Editor

Ever since it was revealed that David Morrissey would co-star in the forthcoming Christmas special, bookmakers have made him favourite. The Christmas episode is, after all, subtitled The Next Doctor, and in it, we were told, Morrissey would be playing another Doctor.

Well, at a press screening yesterday, I saw the episode. And the answer is… Naturally I shan’t spoil it by telling you. But I can say this: Morrissey gives a performance that befits a Doctor. He goes about it quite differently from Tennant: he does much less of the boyish gaping and mugging and raised eyebrows. He’s solid, sturdy, serious but with a soft side. And a voice oddly reminiscent of the prison warden Mr Mackay from the Seventies sitcom Porridge: it’s a rich, full-throated bark.

The episode itself is a blizzard of action. It’s set in London on Christmas Eve, 1851. Doctor Who (David Tennant) materialises in a snow-bound market – only to bump into another Doctor Who (David Morrissey). Much of the plot is devoted to the relationship – at times amusing, at times poignant – between these two Doctors, as we begin to learn the life story of Morrissey’s character.

But the pair have something more pressing to deal with: the arrival of the Doctor’s old foes, the Cybermen, led by the sinister Miss Hartigan (played icily, but with a touch of camp, by Dervla Kirwan).

The first half is festooned with comic moments – look out for an amusing scene featuring a Sonic Screwdriver. From half way through the pace accelerates, as the Cybermen’s plans become clear.

But although there are some unnerving computer-generated graphics, the action remains family-friendly – younger viewers shouldn’t have nightmares.
Viewers who have previously considered Doctor Who over-hyped (this reporter among them) may find themselves thawing. The episode is witty, compelling, and, perhaps most importantly, does not feature Catherine Tate and her ceaseless squawking.

Tennant himself gives perhaps his most energetic performance in the role to date. Whether or not Morrissey is the next Time Lord, it’s clear that Tennant will be a hard act to follow.