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New Series Episode 58:
The Next Doctor
The Doctor arrives in 1851 London on Christmas Eve. To his surprise, he finds another Doctor active in the city -- but one with no memory of past incarnations, and sporting a suspiciously conventional sonic screwdriver. Nonetheless, the other Doctor and his companion, Rosita, have uncovered Cyberman activity in London. Men have been murdered and children have disappeared. It is up to the two Doctors to find a way to stop the Cybermen and their ally, the ruthless Miss Hartigan, from setting in motion the rise of the CyberKing.
Ever since the return of Doctor Who in 2005, the programme had been honoured with a special episode on the BBC's Christmas schedule. This had always been made at the start of the recording calendar, with 2005's The Christmas Invasion immediately preceding the production of the 2006 episodes, and so on. This would change for the 2008 festive special, however. It had been agreed that Doctor Who would be “rested” in 2009, with just a handful of specials being aired instead of a full season. It was felt that this would prevent the show's audience from becoming complacent, and would also permit star David Tennant to enjoy some other professional opportunities. However, since no 2009 season would begin recording in the summer of 2008, this meant that the Christmas special would have to be made immediately following the end of work on the 2008 season.
Consequently, executive producer Russell T Davies found himself already contemplating the 2008 special around the start of May 2007, even before Voyage Of The Damned -- its 2007 counterpart -- had gone before the cameras. At this point, Davies' idea was simply to write an historical Cyberman adventure, inspired by the image of the Cybermen striding through the snowbound Antarctic wastes in their very first story, 1966's The Tenth Planet. For a brief time during the summer, he considered going a completely different route: a fantastical adventure in which JK Rowling would appear as herself in a world driven by her own imagination. Tennant disliked this notion, which he felt would veer too close to self-parody, and Davies began developing the Cyberman idea more seriously.
By now it was known that the 2008 season would wrap up with the Doctor alone in the TARDIS, and that each of the planned specials would feature a one-off companion figure. Having settled on Victorian London for his historical setting, Davies began to contemplate what Christmas stories he could draw upon, and began to consider a grown-up “Little Match Girl” (inspired by Hans Christen Andersen's 1845 short story) as the companion. Davies was still having doubts about the idea, especially since a Victorian Christmas setting had already been used in 2005's The Unquiet Dead. He contemplated shifting the adventure to the court of King Henry VIII, but rejected this notion on the grounds that it would not feature enough recognisible Christmas traditions (since these typically postdated the sixteenth century). He also mulled another completely new idea, about a hotel which becomes displaced in time.
Davies' confidence in his ideas for the Christmas special was not at all helped by the slow development of The Stolen Earth / Journey's End, the climactic episodes of the 2008 season. By December 10th, the situation looked so grim that Davies and fellow executive producer Julie Gardner contemplated the possibility of cancelling the 2008 Christmas special altogether. Davies, however, was determined not to leave the BBC with a gaping hole in its holiday schedule -- especially given the recent appointment of Jay Hunt as BBC1's newest Controller. Fortunately, Gardner was able to secure the funds to push back the start of production on the Christmas special by one week, giving Davies a few more precious days to write.
During January 2008, Davies' ideas about the festive adventure began to coalesce, with the story's fulcrum becoming the introduction of a new character who would claim to be the Doctor. This would enable Davies to invert the “standalone companion” idea by allowing the Doctor to act as the companion figure to the apparent impostor. He also devised a new monster called the Cybershade, envisaged as a monstrous black form with the head of a Cyberman, which would serve the Cybermen in much the same way as the diminutive Cybermats which had first appeared in 1967's The Tomb Of The Cybermen. Unfortunately, Davies' progress on the adventure was further hampered by a bout of bronchitis at the end of February, and as a result he did not start work on the Christmas script until March 3rd.
Davies' initial impression was that the story's title should be “The Two Doctors”, but immediately rejected this because it had previously been used for 1985's The Two Doctors. Instead, he preferred The Next Doctor, although he briefly opted for the working title “Court Of The CyberKing”. By the time Davies finished his first draft on March 17th, however, the original name had been restored. The “Little Match Girl” character had evolved into the “Other Doctor”'s companion, whom Davies christened Rosita -- a conscious echo of Rose, Martha and Donna, the three main companions of the Tenth Doctor. The murdered reverend was called Aubrey Fairchild, a name Davies had previously used for the doomed British Prime Minister in a scene ultimately excised from The Stolen Earth (as also referenced in Gary Russell's 2008 Doctor Who novel Beautiful Chaos).
The Next Doctor originally began with a reprise of the scene that Davies had intended to conclude the 2008 season. Here, after leaving Donna with her mother and grandfather, the Doctor would return to the TARDIS only for Cybermen to loom up behind him in the control room. The Christmas special would begin with the Cybermen vanishing; the Doctor realises that they're falling through time and pursues them to Victorian London. Davies was conducting a protracted e-mail correspondence about his writing with Doctor Who Magazine contributor Benjamin Cook (eventually published as Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale) and Cook suggested that the cliffhanger ending felt inappropriate after the melancholy conclusion to Donna's time in the TARDIS.
Although initially reluctant, Davies eventually came to agree with Cook that the cliffhanger scene should be dropped. Particularly persuasive was the fact that, unlike in past years, footage from the Christmas special would already be recorded by the time Journey's End was broadcast, which meant that a trailer for The Next Doctor could be transmitted instead. The final scene was therefore excised from Journey's End, and Davies rewrote the start of The Next Doctor to have the TARDIS land in 1851 at random.
The director assigned to The Next Doctor -- which would be made on its own as the tenth production block of the recording schedule -- was Andy Goddard. This would be his only Doctor Who episode, although he had previously handled six episodes of Torchwood including Combat and A Day In The Death. Goddard had also directed episodes of programmes such as Stacey Stone, Twisted Tales and The Bill, and would go on to work on shows including Law & Order: UK.
In the pivotal role of the Other Doctor, Goddard cast David Morrissey. Interested in acting from childhood, Morrissey got an early start in the theatre, and became a friend of future Eighth Doctor Paul McGann. Morrissey's popularity as a television actor grew during the Nineties, and he starred in programmes such as Finney, State Of Play, Our Mutual Friend (with McGann) and Blackpool (with Tennant). He also appeared in feature films including Hilary And Jackie, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Basic Instinct 2 and The Other Boleyn Girl.
Filming for The Next Doctor began on April 7th, the first of two days at Fonmon Castle in Rhoose; this posed as Reverend Fairchild's residence. April 9th and 10th were then spent at St Woolos Cemetery in Newport. Around the same time, Tennant met with Moffat to discuss the new showrunner's plans for Doctor Who. It had generally been assumed by the production team that Tennant would be leaving Doctor Who at the end of the string of specials, and this was certainly the way the actor was leaning by the end of 2007. A devoted fan of the programme, Tennant was becoming concerned that he might be tempted to overstay his welcome as the Doctor, and was keen neither to let the show atrophy nor his own career stagnate. Nonetheless, Tennant had already been impressed with Moffat's scripts for Doctor Who, and now found himself enthused by his designs for the 2010 season. Tennant began seriously considering remaining on Doctor Who for another year. However, Moffat would need a decision quickly, because he would soon need to begin work on his scripts.
April 11th took cast and crew to Upper Boat Studios for the scenes of the Doctor in his counterpart's “TARDIS”. On the 13th and 14th, material in the alleyway where the two Doctors first meet was recorded at the Maltings in Cardiff Bay. The building into which the Cybershade dragged the two Doctors was actually part of the Caerwent Training Area, a disused Ministry of Defense establishment; filming there took place on the 15th.
April 16th and 17th then saw Tredegar House in Newport serve as the Other Doctor's factory hideout. Material recorded there included the scene where the infostamp displays a montage of all ten Doctors. Davies had originally written that only images of the Tenth Doctor would be projected, but Gardner lobbied for a more comprehensive overview of the Doctor's past, which she thought would be a nice Christmas gift for the fans. The clips shown included the First Doctor from The Time Meddler, the Second Doctor from The Ice Warriors, the Third Doctor from Terror Of The Autons, the Fourth Doctor from City Of Death, the Fifth Doctor from Arc Of Infinity, the Sixth Doctor from the first segment of The Trial Of A Time Lord, the Seventh Doctor from Time And The Rani, the Eighth Doctor from Doctor Who (1996), the Ninth Doctor from The Parting Of The Ways, and the Tenth Doctor from The Family Of Blood.
The 16th was also the day that Tennant met with Moffat and Piers Wenger, who would be replacing Gardner for the 2010 season. Tennant informed them that he chosen to hew to his original plan and depart Doctor Who after the specials -- meaning that the 2010 season would introduce a new team both behind and in front of the cameras.
On April 18th, the scenes in the underground tunnels were recorded at Hensol Castle in the Vale of Glamorgan. This was followed by four days in Gloucester, spanning the 20th to the 23rd. Recording focussed on the majority of the scenes in the London streets, filmed principally at Millers Green, with some material on the 20th also captured at Gloucester Cathedral. More such sequences were taped on the 24th at Shire Hall in Monmouth. The final day on location, April 25th, saw cast and crew return to Tredegar House for the scenes with the moored “TARDIS” and the remaining street footage.
The rest of the recording schedule was confined to Upper Boat, starting with three days of material in the Cybermen's headquarters from April 28th to 30th. This was actually the set for the Torchwood Hub, which Davies ensured was completely redressed to mask its identity. Greenscreen footage was also shot on the 30th, and this carried over to May 1st, when scenes in the TARDIS console room and the tunnels were also recorded alongside various inserts. More inserts were taped on the 2nd, as were sequences in the CyberKing chamber and on the CyberKing throne. Filming on the latter set wrapped up production on May 3rd.
With recording for the year finally complete after ten gruelling months, production on Doctor Who stood down for its longest hiatus since the programme's return. Tennant would now embark on a season with the Royal Shakespeare Company, performing in Hamlet and Love's Labour's Lost, which would keep him busy until he returned to Doctor Who in January 2009. This also marked the end of producer Susie Liggat's time on Doctor Who. Liggat had been filling in for regular producer Phil Collinson on and off since 2007's Human Nature / The Family Of Blood. With Collinson having left Doctor Who with the conclusion of the 2008 season, Liggat decided that she was not interested in pursuing the producer's chair full-time, and moved on to other projects as well. These included the telefilm Blood And Oil.
On May 20th, the BBC officially announced that Moffat would be taking over from Davies for the 2010 season. Over the summer, there was considerable discussion amongst the production team and the BBC as to how and when Tennant's forthcoming departure should be announced. Moffat would soon need to begin auditions for the role of the Eleventh Doctor, and there was enormous concern that this would be leaked to the press, effectively giving the game away.
As it happened, Tennant had been nominated in the Outstanding Drama Performance category at the National Television Awards, held at the end of October. The actor suggested an audacious plan: in the event that he won the award, he would unveil his decision to step down from Doctor Who as part of his acceptance speech. It was soon realised that Tennant would not be able to attend the NTA ceremony due to his commitments to Hamlet, but it was agreed that a live link to the theatre at Stratford would be arranged instead. With the cooperation of the NTA producers, the announcement of the winner would be timed to coincide with the interval of Hamlet, affording Tennant the opportunity to appear before the live television audience.
The plan -- jokingly labelled “Operation COBRA” after the government crisis response committee named for Cabinet Office Briefing Room Alpha at Whitehall -- was put into action, with the utmost secrecy maintained. At the NTA ceremony on October 29th, Tennant was indeed announced as the recipient of the Outstanding Drama Performance prize. Moments later, the nation watched in amazement as he followed his gracious acceptance of the award with the acknowledgment that when Doctor Who returned for its next full season in 2010, it would be with a new Doctor at the helm of the TARDIS...
Given the timing of Tennant's announcement and the near-contemporaneous revelation of the title of the Christmas special, press interest in The Next Doctor immediately hit the stratosphere, with considerable speculation that David Morrissey had actually been cast as the Eleventh Doctor. Appetites were further whetted when the pre-credits sequence was broadcast on November 14th as part of the Children In Need charity appeal. In reality, the new Doctor had not yet been cast: in fact, Moffat and Wenger only started meeting with actors the following week. Moffat's impulse was to cast a more mature performer in the role, but he and Wenger were captivated by the audition of an actor even younger than David Tennant: 26 year-old Matt Smith.
Acting was not originally Smith's ambition. In his youth, he had serious aspirations to become a professional football player, only to see these dreams shattered by a back injury. Smith was eventually persuaded to try his hand at acting; he joined the National Youth Theatre and studied drama at the University of East Anglia. Smith garnered accolades for roles in plays such as Swimming With Sharks and That Face. He also began appearing on television, with credits including Party Animals and Moses Jones, as well as several roles opposite former Doctor Who regular Billie Piper, such as an episode of Secret Diary Of A Call Girl and the Sally Lockhart telefilms The Ruby In The Smoke and The Shadow In The North. By December, Moffat and Wenger had decided to offer Smith the starring role in Doctor Who; on the 10th, the identity of the Eleventh Doctor was revealed to Davies.
With interest in Doctor Who continuing to climb, The Next Doctor aired on Christmas Day to an audience only slightly smaller than the previous year's Kylie Minogue-bolstered Voyage Of The Damned. Just like in 2007, Doctor Who was the second-most-watched programme of the festive week, trailing only Wallace And Gromit In A Matter Of Loaf And Death.
But with the Other Doctor revealed not as a new regeneration but as an amnesiac Jackson Lake, curiosity about Tennant's successor was still cresting. Finally, in an unprecedented move, a half-hour block of the BBC1 schedule on January 3rd, 2009 was reserved for a special edition of the documentary programme Doctor Who Confidential. Originally billed as a retrospective of the first ten Doctors, it was announced on the 2nd that this would in fact be the venue for the revelation of the Eleventh Doctor. Twenty-four hours later, with more than six million people watching, Matt Smith was finally unveiled to the world... and the countdown was underway to a brand new era of Doctor Who.