Saturday, 20 December 2008

The Next Doctor First Reviews

Two Reviewes for the Next Doctor have now been made avaliable online. Below you can read the full reviewes. The first one is from SFX.

SFX is just back from the preview screening of The Next Doctor. So yes, now we know exactly who the David Morrissey Doctor is, and no, we're not telling you, because that's part of the fun of the episode.

And it is only part of the fun. There's a hell of a lot of fun to be had here. Once again, the Christmas episode is not an out-and-out classic episode, but it is great Christmas entertainment. And it does have a few classic moments.

The odd thing is, for much of its running time, it feels surprisingly small scale, both in terms of its plot ambitions and its imagery. Indeed, it barely feels like a Russell T Davies story for a long while, as there are few of those quirky moments that divide fans (but which the general audience laps up). While it's very funny in places, and has some patented RTD character moments, for a long time this Victorian based story is more "Evil of the Daleks" than "Voyage of the Damned" - it's very trad Who, and quite wordy in places. Nothing wrong with that, but it leaves you wondering where the budget went...

And then it becomes obvious in the last 10 minutes when the episode goes very big and completely bat's arse. It's pure RTD and jawdropping. Jawdroppingly brilliant or jawdroppingly stupid really depends on how much you like New Who. Gotta admit, I loved it unreservedly, but then I unreservedly loved the TARDIS towing the Earth.

Morrissey is great, and there's a lot more to his role than just pastiching the Doctor. The Cybershades are also surprisingly effective - they may look a bit naff in the trailers, but they prove worthy successors to the Cybermats. The Cybermen themselves aren't exactly on top form; they're more like Ciphermen much of the time, and come across a bit stupid. They also seem a lot weaker than usual. What happened to their super strength? And if you've heard that there's an Oliver Twist element involving lots of kids, well, there is, but don't worry - it's more Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom than the Baker Street Kids.

Andy Goddard directs with a lot of style, atmosphere and an eye for striking imagery, though he does seem out of his depth in a couple of the the action scenes which lack a certain oomph. However, a set-piece scene in the graveyard is shot very effectively and the opening encounter with a Cybershade is hilarious. The production design is stunningly good, really bringing to life a snowy, Victorian London and providing some wonderful cyberpunk additions.

So, yeah, there's a lot of lightweight fluff here, and one very cheesy moment, but the Next Doctor mystery provides the emotional core of the episode. Other than that I'm saying no more, as any discussion of it will give away too many clues.

Overall, though, it's enormously entertaining. Even if you don't plan on watching it, tune in for those last 10 minutes. It's something you'll definitely want to have an opinion on.

Oh, and Morrissey's TARDIS is brilliant, plus there‘s a very, very sweet final scene, and a (possible) visual allusion to Earthshock.

The next review is from the gaurdian.

Having rushed to judge last year's Doctor Who Christmas special – and praised what I subsequently thought on second viewing was overblown and a little empty – I realise that you may view any critique of this year's offering with something approaching suspicion. I further realise that drawing attention to my misjudgment, made in the giddy afterglow of a razzy screening, may also lower your opinion of my opinions. Obviously, I'd say that admitting I may have made an error is actually a sign of strength rather than weakness. But then I would say that, wouldn't I?

Enough with the navel-gazing. Let us instead look to the stars and The Next Doctor, in which Davids Tennant and Morrissey battle Evil Dervla Kirwan (in a big red frock) and the Cybermen in snowy Victorian London. Needless to say, this special is a lot better than last year – a lot – and not just because David Morrissey is a magnificent actor and a lot easier on the eye than Kylie Minogue. For a start, The Next Doctor is about something. It has a proper story (as opposed to a surfeit of CGI), some lovely sharp lines and self-referential moments that, mostly, aren't self-indulgent. It also has a mean villainess in Kirwan's chilly Miss Hartigan, and did I mention that David Morrissey is magnificent? Well he is. Seeing him and Tennant together made me want to watch Peter Bowker's brilliant Blackpool all over again.

I would say The Next Doctor is pared down, but it would be difficult for it not to be after the frustratingly busy finale of the last series, which featured Rose, Martha, Donna, Sarah Jane, Captain Jack, Mickey and Jackie (and is surely available in a special And the Kitchen Sink box set). Indeed, the restraint of The Next Doctor – I realise that restraint isn't really a word you'd readily associate with the big, bold visions of Russell T Davies, so let me remind you that context is everything – could perhaps be a sign of things to come in 2009. Davies has said that in the next special the Doctor will be without a companion and without the Tardis – though how David Tennant's back injury will affect filming, which is supposed to begin next month, is anyone's guess.

Of course, The Next Doctor has flaws. Davies is expert in pushing emotional buttons and does so ruthlessly, which can get a little wearing. There are some extraordinarily sentimental moments, far too many urchins, holes in the plot plugged with lumps of expositional dialogue and then there's the overpowering music which, lest you're unsure, tells you precisely What To Feel and When. Furthermore, as baddies go, I'm not terribly fond of the Cybermen. I know they predate the Borg but as hive-mind villains go, Star Trek's are more terrifying, not least because they're uglier. That said, the sculptural Cybermen knock Voyage of the Damned's Max Capricorn into a cocked hat and global domination certainly beats insurance fraud as an evil raison d'etre. Meanwhile, those familiar with Buffy may be reminded of the climax of season six. (Make of the Hartigan/Hannigan interface what you will).

Those reservations notwithstanding, The Next Doctor is the best Doctor Who Christmas special yet, or is at the least on a par with The Christmas Invasion. It doesn't have the emotional scope of the Doctor and Rose's farewell in Doomsday but it's moving, funny, impressive and has a big, beating heart. Possibly two, in fact.

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