Fri, 23 January 2009
This special sees the return of the Cybermen, (of the design of the parallel universe's Cybus Industries Cybermen), following their previous appearance in the two-part finale of Series Two in 2006, "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday".
During its original airing, the episode had a viewing audience of 13.1 million viewers. It was the second most watched programme of Christmas Day 2008.
The Doctor lands in London on Christmas Eve, 1851, where he encounters a woman called Rosita and another man who calls himself 'The Doctor'. After failing to capture a Cybershade, the two men talk, with the Tenth Doctor believing the other to be a future regeneration. Unfortunately, the other (dubbed 'the Next Doctor') is lacking many memories. Meanwhile, the Cybermen are planning an attack with a human ally, Miss Mercy Hartigan. The Tenth Doctor follows the Next Doctor to a house of a dead man, Reverend Aubrey Fairchild, where they search for clues to what the Cybermen are planning. The Next Doctor begins to regain some of his lost memories; when the Tenth Doctor finds a pair of 'infostamps' (the Cybermen's data storage devices) the Next Doctor remembers he was holding one the night he lost his memory. The Cybermen then attack the house, but before they can kill the 'Doctors', the Next Doctor kills them with an electrical charge in the infostamp.
At the Reverend's funeral, Miss Hartigan and the Cybermen attack the mourners, sparing four who are subsequently fitted with Ear-Pods and dispatched by Miss Hartigan to their workhouses to recruit the children. Returning to the Next Doctor's home base, the Tenth Doctor is shown the other's TARDIS "Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style" - a gas balloon. Realising what has happened, the Doctor explains that the Cybermen have escaped from the Void (following the Battle of Canary Wharf) when the walls of the universe were weakened in "a greater battle". The Cybermen came upon a man named Jackson Lake, the first person to disappear, attacking him and his wife. In the confusion, Lake destroyed the Cybermen with an infostamp (one containing information on the Doctor gleaned from the Daleks), as earlier in the house, but it also backfired, overwhelming Lake's mind with information about the Doctor. In despair at losing his wife, Lake came to believe he was the Doctor. Meanwhile, the children are taken to a sluice gate to the Thames. The Doctor and Rosita investigate and are confronted by Miss Hartigan, who explains that the Cybermen offered her liberation. The Doctor returns the infostamp to the Cybermen, who download it, confirming him as their foe. Miss Hartigan orders the Cybermen to delete the pair, but Lake appears and destroys the Cybermen with another infostamp, allowing them to escape. A furious Miss Hartigan announces that "the CyberKing will rise tonight!"
Lake reveals that he and his family were attacked at their new house and the Doctor realises it may lead to the Cybermen base. There, they find a Dimension Vault, stolen Dalek technology that allowed the Cybermen to escape the Void. In the Cybermen base, the captive children are working to generate power to allow the CyberKing to ascend. Hartigan is betrayed by the CyberLeader and 'converted' to the CyberKing - thus receiving liberation from her anger and hatred. However, she proves too powerful to control, and uses her new powers to obliterate the CyberLeader. The Doctor, Rosita and Jackson evacuate the children, including Jackson's son who was abducted when he was attacked. However, the CyberKing - a giant Cyberman-shaped robot ship - emerges from the Thames and begins to lay waste to London. Using the gas balloon, the Doctor confronts Hartigan and offers her a chance to live in peace. When she refuses, the Doctor uses the infostamps to sever her connection from the CyberKing. Realising what she has become, Hartigan screams in horror destroying the Cybermen and herself. Before the CyberKing can collapse on the city, the Doctor uses the dimension vault to transport it into the Time vortex. In the aftermath, Jackson thanks the Doctor for what he has done and offers him a place at his Christmas celebration with Rosita and his son. They walk away, to a Christmas dinner in honour of those they have lost.
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." 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.
Regarding the unanswered question 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."
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 he couldn't during the writing process think of another way to stop London being crushed by a giant robot. However, 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".
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.
Filming for this episode was conducted in April 2008 at Gloucester Cathedral  and St Woolos Cemetery in Newport,  and in 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.
David Morrissey is the main guest star, playing "a character called The Doctor – a man who believes himself to be a Time Lord". 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". 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.
Dervla Kirwan plays Mercy Hartigan, who Russell T Davies describes in the episode's podcast commentary as "a 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."
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 Paige made the flowing robes, that were "light enough to not restrict movement" to complete the Cybershade costume.
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.
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. Final viewing figures show an audience of 13.1 million viewers.
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. Australia, the ABC will broadcast the episode much earlier than usual on Sunday 25 January at 19:30.