for reasons which remain best known to the bbc and bbc america, the two specials which have been broadcast so far and released onto dvd have been released in america in the wrong order: planet of the dead first and the next doctor second when they were really broadcast the other way around. why? who knows. if anyone runs into russell t. davies, please ask him for me. oh, and if you do run into davies, i have a whole list of other questions, too, starting with "lets discuss owen harper for a minute...and toshiko sato."
anna and i watched planet of the dead a few months ago when i got the dvd.
it's quite good -- a very ballsy temporary companion named lady christina (unfortunate name from my point of view, but what can you do) and a nifty little pitch black-esque storyline. it was a little odd realising that the actress who played lady christina -- an aristocratic thief married to her all-black look even when in the middle of a desert -- is the same woman who played nimue in the new merlin with an entirely different take on things and far more lip gloss. planet of the dead ended with a very eye-catching teaser for what is really the third of the specials, waters of mars which looks very, very cool.
the next doctor, then, was a little anticlimatic if only because, having seen dead, we were prepared for something amping up from there and, instead, it was just a regular sort of christmas special, on a par with the runaway bride but without donna so clearly not as good. ;)
the story hinges on the existence of a second doctor -- a man the doctor runs into while discovering something mysterious lurking in the basements of london in 1851. this peculiar stranger has a companion, rosita, calls himself the doctor, and even has a "sonic screwdriver" -- sort of. as events continue, of course, it becomes clearly obvious that if this is some penultimate regeneration of the doctor, things are very badly wrong. my parents regarded the show as a waste of david morrissey's talent as "the doctor" -- i don't agree with this. i think morrissey plays a great part and is clearly having a hell of a time plunging around pretending to be the doctor and knocking about with tennant for an episode. to say nothing of the fact that his dead-sober approach to the part serves as an anchor for the show, balancing out tennant's tendency towards manicness and the villain's tendency to chew scenery.
and a word must be said for the villain -- mercy hartingan, played by devla kirwan. she was also assumpta fitzgerald way back in the day in the first season of ballykissangel if anyone remembers that. she plays a great part here and manages a truly phenomenal costume including parasol with considerable aplomb. i really wish that -- well -- that the end hadn't quite worked out the way it did so that we had a better chance of seeing ms. hartigan again. she was a great villain and might've worked really well to be help goose the "new" cybermen up a notch.
on the whole, though, the next doctor isn't the most brilliant who you'll ever see. it's a solid special -- there are some great one liners -- a lot of running -- there's a happy ending -- but it has strange weak spots. even david tennant seems less convinced than he normally is; perhaps this is just 'end of tenure' exhaustion. filming a regular season and then four of these back to back on top of his season as hamlet must have been paralyzing. part of the problem is the cybermen -- their recreation and reinstatement into the new series wasn't as successful as that of the daleks and their appearance here is kind of strange and not in entirely good ways.
but upcoming -- if you ignore how imdb has the episodes arranged -- should be this little piece of what looks like pure goodness:
and after that -- well, lets just say i accidentally glanced at the cast list for what should be the last special, end of time, and i am happy. :)