The Next Doctor

The Next Doctor
199 – "The Next Doctor"
Doctor Who episode
Next Doctor.jpg
The connection between Miss Hartigan and the Cybermen is broken.
Writer Russell T Davies
Director Andy Goddard
Script editor Lindsey Alford
Producer Susie Liggat
Executive producer(s) Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Production code 4.14
Series Specials (2008–10)
Length 60 minutes
Originally broadcast 25 December 2008[2]
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Journey's End" (episode)
"Music of the Spheres" (mini-episode)
"Planet of the Dead"

"The Next Doctor" is an episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who that was broadcast on 25 December 2008 as the fourth Christmas special of the revived series.[3] During its original airing, the episode had an audience of 13.1 million viewers[citation needed] and was the second most-watched programme of Christmas Day 2008.[citation needed]

The Cybermen (of the design of the parallel universe's Cybus Industries Cybermen[4][5]) return in this episode, following their appearance in the two-part finale of series 2 in 2006, "Army of Ghosts"[6]/"Doomsday".[7] David Tennant stars as the Tenth Doctor with companions Jackson Lake (David Morrissey) and Rosita Farisi (Velile Tshabalala).[8][9]



The Doctor lands his TARDIS in London on Christmas Eve, 1851. Overhearing cries for help, he encounters a man calling himself "The Doctor" and his companion Rosita, attempting to capture a Cybershade. The Cybershade escapes the trio. The Doctor, in talking to the man, comes to believe he may be a future incarnation of himself, but is suffering from amnesia. The man, dubbed the Next Doctor, takes the Doctor to a nearby house of a recently deceased reverend, believing him tied to a series of disappearances around London and the Cybershade. Inside, they discover a pair of Cybermen data storage infostamps, which the Next Doctor recalls holding the night he lost his memories. The two are attacked by Cybermen, but the Next Doctor kills them using electrical discharge from the infostamps.

The two Doctors regroup with Rosita at the Next Doctor's base, where the Next Doctor claims his "TARDIS" is located. The Doctor is surprised to find the "TARDIS" is a gas balloon - "Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style", and comes to realise that the Next Doctor is really a human, Jackson Lake, the supposed first missing person. The Doctor suspects that Jackson had encountered the Cybermen and used the infostamps containing knowledge of the Doctor to ward them off after they killed his wife, with the side effect of infusing his mind with knowledge of the Doctor. As Jackson contemplates this revelation, the Doctor and Rosita set off to try to find the source of the Cybermen, the Doctor believing that they have somehow managed to escape the Void using a Dimensional Vault. ("Doomsday")

The Doctor and Rosita enter an underground complex to find numerous children, pulled from workhouses around the city, at work under Cybermen guard. They encounter the bitter Miss Mercy Hartigan, the Cybermen's human ally that has brought the children to them for labour. The Doctor attempts to use a modified infostamp to overload the Cyberman's systems, but they instead repair it and identify the Doctor as their long-time foe, and prepare to "delete" him and Rosita. Jackson suddenly arrives, armed with several more infostamps which he uses to distract the Cybermen long enough for the three to escape. The Cybermen turn on Miss Hartigan, converting her into the controller for the "Cyberking", a giant mechanical Cyberman powered by the energy generated by the children.

Jackson explains to the Doctor he has started recovering his memories, and remembers encountering the Cybermen on moving into his new home. The Doctor considers that Jackson's home may be near the Cyberman base, and, there, discovers a second entrance into the Cyberman base. Inside, as the Cyberking starts to rise to the city, the three rescue the children, including Jackson's son who was abducted in the initial attack and caused Jackson's fugue state. As the Cyberking starts to lay waste to the city, the Doctor uses Jackson's balloon to rise near the level of the Cyberking's control room, and tries to reason with Miss Hartigan, offering to take her and the Cybermen to a new planet. When she refuses, the Doctor uses the infostamps to severe her connection to the Cyberking, exposing her to the raw emotion of what she has done. The emotional feedback causes the other Cybermen to overload, and the Cyberking to start to topple. The Doctor uses the Dimensional Vault to draw the Cyberking and the remnants of the Cybermen into the Time Vortex, saving London.

In the aftermath, Jackson thanks the Doctor for what he has done and is allowed to see the inside of the true TARDIS, much to his pleasure. He then offers the Doctor a place at Christmas dinner. However, the Doctor initially refuses, but is convinced to stay as Jackson now says it is a demand. Before they depart, Jackson enquires after the Doctor's many companions, and the Doctor replies that in the end, they move on, and he is left alone. The pair then head off for a Christmas dinner in honour of those they have lost.


  • When trying to trigger Jackson's memories, the Doctor refers to "not blinking", "weeping angels" and "Sally Sparrow", all of which featured in "Blink". The Doctor also refers obliquely to past companions, noting to Lake that they either leave him, meet someone else or forget about him. A red herring as to Lake's identity refers to a Time Lord's consciousness being contained in a pocket watch, in reference to the events of "Human Nature", "The Family of Blood" and "Utopia"; nonetheless the watch does contain the answer to Lake's true identity when the Doctor notices his initials engraved on the front.
  • The Doctor mentions the events of "Doomsday". These Cybermen have survived the apparent destruction of the Void, using Dalek technology developed in the Void to pass through dimensions. It is also implied by the Doctor that the events of the fourth series allowed the Cybermen to escape the Void, as they also allowed Rose Tyler to visit her own universe.
  • The Eleventh Doctor mentions these events in Flesh and Stone, when he cites the failure of history to record the Cyber-King's appearance in Victorian London as an example of the many anomalies that have been caused by a forthcoming temporal collapse.



Pre-broadcast publicity, based on excerpts from Davies' book Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale, revealed that the Doctor would meet a man played by David Morrissey who also claims to be the Doctor. In further excerpts, Davies commented, "The best title for this episode would be The Two Doctors... but maybe not. The New Doctor, perhaps? Or The Next Doctor? I quite like The Next Doctor."[11] The book also contained two pictures from a scene cut from the end of the previous episode, intended to segue into the special echoing the previous two series. This scene was included on the series boxset.

Following the success of last year's Christmas special, "Voyage of the Damned", which guest starred pop star Kylie Minogue as one-off companion Astrid Peth, Russell T Davies had initially felt tempted to copy this format with another high-profile guest star, but decided against it after jokingly offering up "Cheryl Cole on board the Hindenburg" as an example.[8]

Regarding an unanswered question (from a child) of why a gigantic robot in London 1851 "isn't in the history books", Davies and Gardner jokingly offer several possibilities ranging from there being alternate history of Doctor Who England, pointing out "a spaceship didn't fly into the Big Ben in 2006 either" (in the episode "Aliens of London") or that perhaps "maybe everyone was retconned by the soon-to-be-born Torchwood, or something."[9] A line in Steven Moffat's series 5 episode "Flesh and Stone" has the Doctor recall the Cyberking's rampage, attributing history's failure to record it to the cracks in time and space that are causing time to be unwritten.

Davies, from a writer's standpoint, was also unhappy with the final scene in the episode where the Doctor gets rid of the CyberKing with the convenient Dalek dimension vault but during the writing process he couldn't think of another way to stop London being crushed by a giant robot. Later, after the episode was produced, a different idea came to him. In this alternate ending Davies imagines, Miss Hartigan "should have destroyed the Cybermen when she screamed... but she's still in the chair", as the CyberKing falls to the Earth, the Doctor calls out to her saying "Save them." This version would have Hartigan redeem herself as she is the one to cause the CyberKing to disappear, with no need for what Davies calls "a silly Dalek continuum dimension vault". Julie Gardner felt this would have been a superior, "marvellous" ending and Davies says he "can't bear that there could have been a better ending than we actually transmitted".[9]

Davies also feels he would like to write a BBC Books novel, set in the midst of that brief scene where Jackson Lake is in the Doctor's TARDIS in which the Doctor takes Jackson to another planet, ending with the "no no no" scene before Jackson invites the Doctor to spend Christmas dinner with him.[9]

Davies claims that he attempted to make Jackson Lake's companion Rosita a combination of Rose and Martha so that she felt like a companion before she had done anything.[12]


Filming for this episode was conducted in April 2008 at Gloucester Cathedral,[13][14] St Woolos Cemetery in Newport[15] and the streets of Gloucester, where shooting was hampered by up to 1,000 onlookers. The main setting of Torchwood, their Torchwood Hub was also redesigned and used as the workshop for the children.[9]


David Morrissey is the main guest star, playing "a character called The Doctor – a man who believes himself to be a Time Lord".[16] He was influenced in his performance by previous Doctor actors William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker, as he believed there was "a truth" to their performances because they "never saw [Doctor Who] as a genre show or a children's show".[17] He is joined by Velile Tshabalala as Rosita, the companion to Morrissey's "Doctor", whom Russell T Davies describes as "probably cleverer than the two of them [the Doctors] put together". For Tshabalala, the character came naturally because her "feisty cockney girl" characterisation was very "close to home" for her.[18]

Dervla Kirwan plays Mercy Hartigan, who Russell T Davies describes in the episode's podcast commentary as "dark a villain as you will ever have". A lot of her characterisation goes unstated, but Russell discussed it in long conversations with Dervla Kirwan and fellow executive producer Julie Gardner. Davies characterises Miss Hartigan as "a victim of abuse", for whom the subtext suggests a "terrible backstory" which is symptomatic of her being "part of [this] Victorian Age." Davies describes this as being "a powerless woman who's been in servitude or far worse all her life", but holds his tongue from saying her precise profession, relaying: "I'm talking quite discreetly around this because there are children listening and watching and there's only so far I should go." He does however explain that "She's had terrible things done to her" which is responsible for her "really twisted character where she sexualises everything." In terms of costume, "she wears red" because "everything's inflammatory with her". "And in the end, actually" Davies discusses how to escape her male oppression she "becomes a man, she becomes the CyberKing. She has to go through this extraordinary process because she's so damaged."[9]


Millennium FX's Neil Gorton's original design for the Cybershade took the existing Cyberman design and "refurbished" it by adding rivets and a copper finish. The design was cost-effective but Russell T Davies did not believe it was the right approach. He sketched a new design for the Cybershade that was "a crude version of a Cyberman, all angular and blocky, with its trademark handlebars set at a jaunty angle and shrouded in flowing black robes". Gorton used Davies' sketch to create a fibreglass mask that the Cybershade actors wore over their heads. Costume designer Louise Page made the flowing robes, that were "light enough to not restrict movement" to complete the Cybershade costume.[19]

Originally, Gardner relayed that there was a widespread dissatisfaction with Hartigan's CyberKing crown. The original helmet, he remarked "was like the Cyberwoman's head from Torchwood" (referring to the episode "Cyberwoman"), literally "a Cyberman's head on Dervla Kirwan" or "as if Dervla Kirwan decided to go to a [fancy dress] party as a Cyberman." Davies' response was "Oh my lord, no." The production team however worked hard, and in two days produced the final headpiece seen in the episode which Davies described as "beautiful", because it's "Victorian and it fits the design." In the scene after the headpiece is placed on her, Dervla wore black contact lenses and SFX company The Mill helped to get rid of "any traces of white" in post-production.[9]

Broadcast and reception


Preliminary figures show that the episode had a viewing audience of 11.71 million during its original airing, with a peak at 12.58 million viewers, and a 50.5% share of the 18:00 timeslot it was shown. It was the second most watched programme of Christmas Day 2008, behind Wallace and Gromit's A Matter of Loaf and Death.[20] Final viewing figures show an audience of 13.1 million viewers.[21]

The episode had an Appreciation Index figure of 86 (considered Excellent), making it the second most-enjoyed programme on mainstream television on Christmas Day. The only programme to score higher was Wallace and Gromit's A Matter of Loaf and Death, which scored 88.[22]

In Australia, the ABC aired the episode on 25 January 2009 from 7:30pm.[23] In Canada, Space aired the special instead of CBC on 14 March 2009.[24] BBC America aired the special in United States on 27 June 2009.[25]

Although The Next Doctor was not filmed in HD, the BBC aired it on BBC One HD Thursday 30 December 2010. They up-scaled the program to HD, and it also included Dolby Surround sound. This is the third Doctor Who episode that has been up-scaled in the United Kingdom. [26]

DVD release

Unfinished cover art of The Next Doctor DVD. This version lacked the hot air balloon in the top right corner, which was considered a spoiler by the production team and so a balloon-free version of the cover was released to the web prior to broadcast. The final version of the cover includes the balloon.

The DVD was released in the United Kingdom on 19 January 2009.[27] The DVD features a full set of end credits newly produced in a "cinematic" format to replace the broadcast version. There is an hour of special features on the disc, including segments of the Doctor Who Prom hosted by Freema Agyeman and the seven-minute mini-episode "Music of the Spheres".[28] The region one DVD was released on 15 September 2009.

Blu-ray release

Although The Next Doctor was not filmed in High Definition it was up-scaled for blu-ray with DTS HD 5.1 Audio. This is part of a special Blu-ray entitled "Doctor Who: The Complete Specials". [29]


Selected pieces of score from this special, as composed by Murray Gold, were included in the specials soundtrack on 4 October 2010, released by Silva Screen Records.


In April 2010, it was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, along with "Planet of the Dead". Both lost out to "The Waters of Mars".


  1. ^ Walker, Stephen James (17 December 2008). "Series Overview". Monsters Within: the Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who 2008. Tolworth, Surrey, England: Telos Publishing. p 232. ISBN 184583027X. 
  2. ^ Spilsbury, Tom (21 August 2008). "Letter from the Editor". Doctor Who Magazine (Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Panini Comics) (399): 3. 
  3. ^ "Programme Information - BBC Network TV Weeks 52/53: Doctor Who – The Next Doctor". Retrieved 27 November 2008. 
  4. ^ "Rise of the Cybermen". Writer Tom MacRae, Director Graeme Harper, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2006-05-13.
  5. ^ "The Age of Steel". Writer Tom MacRae, Director Graeme Harper, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2006-05-20.
  6. ^ "Army of Ghosts". Writer Russell T Davies, Director Graeme Harper, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2006-07-01.
  7. ^ "Doomsday". Writer Russell T Davies, Director Graeme Harper, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2006-07-08.
  8. ^ a b "Xmas 2008". Executive Producer Mark Cossey, Executive Producers For Doctor Who Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner, Producer Zoë Rushton, Series Producer Gillane Seaborne. Doctor Who Confidential. BBC. BBC Three, Cardiff. 2008-12-25. No. 14, series 4.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "The Next Doctor". Hosts Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner. Doctor Who: The Commentaries. BBC. BBC Radio 7, Cardiff. 2008-12-25. No. 14, series 1.
  10. ^ Framed 1970s era photograph of Bridgadier Lethbridge-Stewart hangs on a roof joist in Sarah Jane Smith's attic in "Invasion of the Bane", first airing 1 Jan. 2007; 1970s-era action photograph of Sarah Jane Smith is shown in a UNIT file in a police interview room in "The Lost Boy (The Sarah Jane Adventures)", first airing 12 Nov 2007
  11. ^ Davies, Russell T; Cook, Benjamin (25 September 2008). The Writer's Tale. BBC Books. pp. 500–502. ISBN 978-1-846-07571-1. 
  12. ^ Davies, Russell T. "The Next Doctor Commentary Podcast". BBC. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
  13. ^ "David Morrissey to star in Doctor Who Christmas special featuring deadly Cybermen". Daily Mail (London). 22 April 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  14. ^ "David films 'Dr Who' Christmas special in 'snowy' Gloucester". Hello Magazine. 23 April 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  15. ^ David Deans (4 April 2008). "Cybermen invade Newport". South Wales Argus. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  16. ^ "Brief Encounter With … David Morrissey". 6 November 2008. Retrieved 10 November 2008. 
  17. ^ Staff writer (28 November 2008). "David Morrissey fuels Doctor rumour", South Wales Evening Post, South Wales Media. Retrieved on 28 November 2008.
  18. ^ Collins, Robert (2008-12-16). "Doctor Who: Velile Tshabalala". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 December 2008. 
  19. ^ Gorton, Neil (10 December 2008). "How I... designed the Cybershade". Broadcastnow. Emap Media. Retrieved 11 December 2008. 
  20. ^ Wilkes, Neil (2008-12-26). "'Wallace & Gromit' leads Xmas Day ratings". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  21. ^ "The Next Doctor - official ratings". Outpost Gallifrey. 2009-01-08. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  22. ^ "Next Doctor - Appreciation Index". Outpost Gallifrey. Retrieved 2008-12-29. 
  23. ^ "ABC website Coming Soon announcement". Retrieved 24 December 2008. 
  24. ^ "Watch out for Watchmen this March on SPACE". Retrieved 2009-02-26. 
  25. ^ Thielman, Sam (27 May 2009). "'Doctor Who' returns to BBC America". Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  26. ^ "The Next Doctor", BBC,, retrieved 2011-02-04 
  27. ^ "Doctor Who Christmas Special: The Next Doctor DVD at the BBC Shop". Retrieved 28 November 2008. 
  28. ^ "Prom 13: Doctor Who Prom". Presenters Sarah Walker (BBC Radio 3), [[Freema Agyeman]] (Royal Albert Hall). The Proms. BBC. BBC Radio 3, London. 2008-07-27.
  29. ^ "Doctor Who: The Complete Specials [Blu-ray"]. Retrieved 25 September 2011. 

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