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Case Number 17406: Small Claims Court

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Doctor Who: The Next Doctor

BBC Video // 2009 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // October 5th, 2009

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart has a sonic toothbrush.

The Charge

"You're a very odd man."
"I still am."

The Case

In the original run of Doctor Who, the Doctor met himself a few times. That's to be expected, since he's lived for centuries and traveled every which way in time. However, he never met a future self. What would happen if he did? Doctor Who: The Next Doctor explores that question. The special, part of a season of four Doctor Who episodes, first aired on the BBC on Christmas Day 2008.

The Doctor (David Tennant, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) arrives in London at Christmas, this time in 1851. He hears a woman yell, "Doctor!," and rushes to make a house call. There he finds a man (David Morrissey, Basic Instinct 2) who tells him, "I am The Doctor, simply The Doctor. The one, the only, and the best!" There's also a conundrum, since Our Doctor doesn't remember this one as a past self, and the Next Doctor doesn't remember Our Doctor, either. It could be because of the Next Doctor's memory loss after a brush with Cybermen. No matter. Our Doctor decides to help the Next Doctor fight the menace of the Cybermen.

The hour-long story goes from tongue-in-cheek at the start, as Our Doctor tries to help the Next Doctor without him realizing it, to serious, as Our Doctor delves into the mystery of the Next Doctor's memory loss, and, unfortunately, back to silly, as a few too many pyrotechnics and showy CGI moves dilute what had been a moving, entertaining hour. Oh, well. What went before was darned good, despite a continuity gap (the Cybermen make a rather public appearance in 1851 London), and the story ends on a touching note, as Our Doctor prepares to enjoy what appears to be his first Christmas dinner in centuries. The interaction between the two Doctors makes the story work, despite—or perhaps because of—their contrasting styles. David Tennant (Our Doctor) plays the role with a light touch, while David Morrissey (The Next Doctor) takes on more intensity and seriousness. Morrissey steals Tennant's show with a touching, sad performance, and Tennant appears all for helping him do it.

"Attention! Attention! The Daleks have taken over the Royal Albert Hall!"

Doctor Who at the Proms, a 2008 performance at Royal Albert Hall in the famed concert series, is added as a bonus feature, about a minute shorter than the main feature. Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones) introduces the music from the current Doctor Who run in a tribute to composer Murray Gold. There's a "mini-adventure" called "Music of the Spheres," as The Doctor tries his hand at composing and lets us know he was back at the first proms concert in 1895. Catherine Tate (Donna Noble) also makes an appearance. The BBC Philharmonic gives the show's music a first-class treatment, in the style of the Boston Pops. What makes the concert as much fun as the episode it accompanies are guest appearances by the various aliens and monsters that have menaced The Doctor since his return to TV. The sight of Daleks, Cybermen, and Ood at Royal Albert Hall is about the funniest thing I've seen in a long time, and it's apparent that the audience, and even the various aliens and monsters, felt the same way. Some music from the original run might have been nice, but it's a fun experience nonetheless. If you enjoy Doctor Who and classical concerts, as I do, it's one you just can't miss.

The Next Doctor looks good on DVD; Doctor Who at the Proms is obviously shot in a darkly lit concert hall, but is well-handled for a concert video.

Since Doctor Who has been banished from Syfy Channel and is now screened on the less-available BBC America, fans are probably going to catch The Next Doctor sometime, and they won't be disappointed, even with a too-big final confrontation. As always, I'd advise against a double-dip, since it's likely that BBC will release a package of the complete set of Doctor Who specials after the one-off releases. If you feel like going for the whole thing, hold off, but if you can't wait, rent, buy, or put it on your Christmas list. It's a good yarn, with a nifty extra.

The Verdict

Not guilty, although I recommend security improvements at Royal Albert Hall to prevent future Dalek invasions.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: BBC Video
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Foreign
• Science Fiction
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Bonus Concert


• IMDb
• Official Site

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