David Tennant is in the backstretch of his stretch as Doctor Who. He's in Cardiff, Wales as this is written, shooting the first of four Doctor Who Specials that will comprise this year's helping of science fictional wackiness that is the British show. Those specials take the place of a regular season this year due to Tennant's excess of other projects. He wants to move on and the makers of the show came up with this unique bridging year to wring four more performances out of Tennant before bringing in Matt Smith as the next doctor.
Given the Christmas special from this just-past holiday season, it's a well-thought out strategy.
I quite liked the last season of Doctor Who. And it's grown on me in the passage of time. What stands out is the incredible story arc created by Russell T. Davies, who brought the Doctor back from oblivion four years ago. Elements from all four seasons were all used to write an entertaining conclusion to those four years and Davies has to be applauded for creating such a far-reaching revival.
But Davies is going along with Tennant. That will undoubtedly cause trepidation, but the treasure seems to be in good hands. Still, there is more of Tennant and Davies to come. In March, we will see Planet of the Dead, which is what they are filming right now. Tennant's companion on this time will be Michelle Ryan, ex of Bionic Woman (bad) and and ex of Jekyll (REALLY quite good). Playing in her native land, with her native accent, I expect we will see a good performance out of Ryan. This is a show to look forward to.
But, if you haven't had the chance to catch that Christmas Special, The Next Doctor, you really should. I was ambivalent towards the first two Christmas Specials during the Doctor revival. They were big and bombastic and a load of fun. But no heart. And I think Christmas deserves more. Two Christmases ago we got that. Kylie Minogue guest-starred as the ill-fated Astrid in Voyage of the Damned. This year, more of the same in The Next Doctor.
David Morrisey plays The Next Doctor who seems to be some sort of steampunk future version of the current Doctor, played by Tennant. It dances around the idea with elan, leaving you to wonder how the 'unsophisticated' Next Doctor could be some future regeneration of the dapper, technologically aware current version. In the end, we see the truth and it's staggeringly horrific.
Tennant plays the Doctor with just the right bit of melancholy. It's Christmas and he's all alone. The four-year stretch (remember, the first year was played by Christopher Ecclestone), was notably busy with lots of ladies popping into his life, and true love Rose leaving it. Now, not only is Rose gone, so is Donna and Martha. Even Jackie, Rose's mum, isn't around.
The spirit of Christmas is giving and the Doctor overcomes his melancholy to return saneness to a crazy situation involving our old friends, the Cybermen. The Doctor turns back their attack and does so in memorable fashion. Still, the episode is largely Morrisey's.
All in all, I would rank this as the best of the modern-day Christmas Specials.