"I'm the Doctor. Simply the Doctor! The one, the only and the best."
— The Next Doctor
Visiting 1851 England on Christmas Eve for the sheer hell of it, the Tenth Doctor hears someone screaming his name. Grinning madly, the Doctor speeds to the scene of trouble and finds a young woman in distress — only to be scoffed aside by her. Instead, David Morrissey
shows up, claiming to be The Doctor!
Ten looks at what he assumes is a future incarnation... but both are immediately interrupted by the trouble that united the two Doctors in the first place: a Cyberman... cat... thing called a "Cybershade". One awesomely silly chase sequence later, the pair of Doctors are fast friends and the young woman is introduced as Rosita
, this Doctor's companion. But Ten is worried: the Next Doctor hasn't recognised him one bit. Not wanting to accidentally mess with the 1851 Doctor's fragile memory, Ten introduces himself as "John Smith
Chasing after the Cybershade, "John" and Next Doctor end up in a house filled with futuristic technology. Ten describes some tube-looking devices as "infostamps", and realises that the alternate-universe Cybermen
must be here in force after falling through the Void, together with some stolen Dalek technology. He also notices that Next is wearing a fob watch
, and quickly puts two and two together, realising this could be him in human form... but no, it turns out to actually be a perfectly ordinary fob watch. Next explains that he lost his memory while "regenerating".
The infostamps seem to mean that the Cybermen are a little lost and need help — absorbing information of the era and their enemies to replenish their collective memory banks. Of course, the pair of Doctors end up running into the Cybermen, and "John" blows his cover, announcing himself to the Cybermen as the real Doctor, while Next suddenly remembers how he dealt with Cybermen last time and kills them with an overloaded infostamp. Ten comments that Next had a great idea, but claims he was just lying a bit about being the Doctor to protect Next. He also decides to simply check Next's chest for his number of hearts, but we don't find out just yet what the answer is. With that out of the way, it's off to the Next Doctor's TARDIS!
No, not the Time And Relative Dimensions In Space
. We're talking a Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style
. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Next Doctor has made a dirigible out of household ingredients. Ten loves
it. Nearby, the Next Doctor and Rosita are staying in a large stable, alongside the luggage and belongings of a victim of the Cybermen, Jackson Lake. As it turns out, the Cybermen have been stealing people away in the night, with the Miss Mercy Hartigan
making damned sure that the Cybermen get their guy. And, coincidentally, Jackson Lake was their first victim.
The Tenth Doctor begins to put things together rather quickly — especially upon noticing the initials "JL" engraved into the Next Doctor's fob watch. As it turns out, the Next Doctor isn't a Time Lord at all, but Jackson Lake himself. The Cybermen assaulted Lake one night, and Lake's panicked fumblings ended up turning an infostamp into a deadly weapon... but also burned quite a lot of information on the Doctor into Lake's mind. But, Ten reasons, this wasn't enough to make Jackson believe he was the Doctor... and he's right: Jackson also had a wife
, who was murdered mercilessly by the Cybermen. Certainly more than enough to make Jackson flee reality. Understandably, he doesn't take this well
— believing he was completely a fake. The Doctor says otherwise, pointing out what Lake's done isn't the result of the Doctor being imprinted on him, but the result of Lake himself being awesome.
Having left earlier to let the Doctor and Jackson be alone together to speak, Rosita runs back, shouting out how the Cybermen are taking the children of London away. The Doctor and Rosita race out to see what's going on, while Lake decides to stay behind. He figures that he's not worthy of helping the Doctor. Finally, the Doctor and Miss Hartigan come face to face, and the Cybermen update their records as to who
the Doctor is with a fixed infostamp and slowly march in. Looking somewhat worried, the Doctor tries bargaining with the Cybers... until blasts of electricity rip into the Cybermen from offscreen, utterly destroying them. A quick turn to the source of those blasts reveals...
...Jackson Lake standing in a high position, wearing a bandoleer of infostamps around his chest
and grinning at the Doctor.
Lake comments that he still feels like something else is missing, but he just can't sit on the sidelines while the Doctor's in danger. Finally, the Doctor, Rosita and Lake break into the main base of the Cybermen and find out what's going on. But not before Miss Hartigan is turned into the Cyber Leader of the Week
. The children are being used to put the finishing touches upon what is only known as a "Cyberking", and it's just been finished. Since the Cybermen are done with the children, the facility begins to self destruct. Wasting no time, our trio begins to rush everyone out... and then Jackson Lake recovers another memory, and realises what was still missing: his son
, who was also captured by the Cybermen. Luckily, the Doctor is awesome and saves the poor young Lake, and everyone escapes and has a Merry Christma—
...why is there a giant Steam Punk
robot rising up from the Thames River? Wait, that's
While Lake and Rosita help everyone slowly evacuate London by running with them, the Doctor leaps into Lake's TARDIS and flies up into the skies. He takes along a piece of Dalek technology salvaged from the Cybermen base and the rest of those infostamps. To his surprise (and a bit of delight), Miss Hartigan is driving the Cyberking with her mind
. She's one of the cleverest humans that ever lived, and she's completely taken over the Cybermen with the sheer force of her own will. And now she wants to take over the world. As is the tradition for the Tenth Doctor, Ten offers the Hartigan a chance to live in peace (albeit on another planet with no life to take over) and marvels at what an extraordinary human she is. Of course, Hartigan refuses so the Doctor blasts her with the collective group of infostamps, boosted by a handy sonic screwdriver. Rather than directly
killing Miss Hartigan, though, it simply frees her mind from the Cyber-Conditioning she's undergone
. Needless to say, she freaks out, the Cybermen turn against her, and the Cyberking begins to topple as she and the Cybermen slowly explode... and fall on top of London.
Luckily that chunk of Dalek tech is a handy key to send it into the Time Vortex, where it seemingly blows up harmlessly. Jackson Lake gets up on a lamppost and begins to preach to the crowd about how the Doctor has just saved them all, and how he deserves applause just this once. Of course, the crowd obliges.
Finally, the Doctor tries to sidle off to his own TARDIS and leave, but Jackson follows. The Doctor offers to take Lake along with him, but the Lake only limits himself to a quick look inside the real TARDIS, which his mind can barely handle. He absolutely insists that the Doctor join the Lakes and Rosita for Christmas dinner. The Doctor tries to weasel out of it, like he does every Christmas. But Jackson is persistent enough to change the Doctor's mind, a rare feat. Wishing one another a Merry Christmas, the camera slowly moves off into the snowfall... which is, for once, actual freaking snow
This episode is significant to the show's history as it is the first revival-era episode to actually show moving images of the first eight Doctors, confirming a direct line of continuity to the original series (which up to this point had still been a matter of debate), and most significantly including footage of the Eighth Doctor from the 1996 TV movie; although an image of Eight had been seen previously, this was the first to confirm that the movie actually occurred within canon.
- Accidental Innuendo:
- Artistic License – Astronomy: There was not actually a full moon on December 24th, 1851.
- Assimilation Backfire: The cybermen's attempt to upgrade Miss Hartigan fails to remove her emotions, and allows her to rewrite their programming.
- Badass Bandolier: Jackson Lake wears one made of the Cybermen infostamps while destroying them left and right.
- Badass Normal: Common in Doctor Who, but Jackson Lake takes it to a new level.
- Black Eyes of Evil: Hartigan's eyes become completely pitch black when she becomes the Cyberking.
- Christmas Episode / An Ass-Kicking Christmas: The first Special not set in the 21st Century.
- Composite Character: Rosita = Rose + Martha ("Good name"), with a temperament closer to Donna (*punch!*).
- Continuity Nod:
- "Don't blink". When the Next Doctor uses the words "Don't blink" Ten tries to see if he has any memories of Sally Sparrow.
- The infostamp containing information on the Doctor shows clips of all ten Doctors; the first time that footage from the classic series is used in the new series.
- Jackson's fob watch.
- Hartigan's black eyes as the Cyberking.
- Alien technology underneath a Thames floodgate? That would explain what Torchwood One was doing there.
- This isn't the first time a strong-willed female has overridden her Cyberman programming.
- Cosmic Retcon: According to "Flesh and Stone", the events of this episode never existed... until it was most likely restored when the universe was rebooted in The Big Bang. Time travel is confusing.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Averted strongly in the conversion of Miss Hartigan into the Cyberking, as the Cyber-Leader found out the hard way.
- Dissimile: The original BBC introduction to the episode asked you to think of the perfect Victorian Christmas, but with cybermen.
- Does Not Like Men: Miss Hartigan constantly refers to doing men some form of violence. It's heavily implied she was raped, leading to this hatred.
- Exact Words:
- Fire-Forged Friends: Lampshaded in the confidential, the quickest way to get the Doctor and "the Next Doctor" cooperating in-story was to have them both recklessly tackle a monster and almost die, together, then laugh about it afterwards.
- Jackson Lake's wardrobe, and at times, haircut, resembles the Eleventh's.
- The mere fact that Ten and Jackson don't start bickering from the moment they set eyes on each other is an early clue, for viewers familiar with multiple-Doctor stories, that the latter isn't really the Doctor.
- Fun with Acronyms: Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style
- Genre Savvy: The Doctor, seeing as he's dealing with himself.
Next Doctor: You ask many questions.
The Doctor: I'm your Companion.
(Next Doctor accepts this without question)
- Heroic BSOD: Next Doctor is prone to them. In fact, it's the reason the Doctor's memories took over so well — he was mid-BSOD due to the death of his wife and kidnapping of his son at the hands of the Cybermen.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Hartigan assumes Rosita is a prostitute when she tells her "I doubt he paid you to talk." Word of God confirms it, although the outfit gives an indication. As does her statement that she was out alone, late in the night, at the docks when the man she knows as the Doctor rescued her from a Cyberman attack.
- Humongous Mecha: The Cyberking, of course.
- Hypocrite: Hartigan, in one breath, explains that she joined with the Cybermen because they offered her liberation (from men, it's implied), and tells Rosita to be quiet because she's probably not paid to talk. Given the setting, there is probably some degree of racism and classism at work here as well.
- I Lied: "That was designated a 'lie'."
- Instant Awesome, Just Add Mecha: The CyberKing. It's supposed to be a ship to launch an invasion, but it's in the form of a mecha because of this trope.
- Internal Homage: The Doctor, staring seriously in a TARDIS that has just taken off for the first time the viewer sees, with the current opening theme graphics over his face? Where have we seen that before?
- Ironic Name:
Hartigan: You know, all these years, and not one of you has asked me my first name. It's Mercy.
- Large Ham: David Morrissey
- Lady in Red: "Is it too exciting?"
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: Anyone who has even heard of Doctor Who since 2010 knows who the next Doctor is, and it ain't David Morrissey.
- Nightmare Fetishist: "It started with a murder."
The Doctor: Oh, good. (gets a weird look) I mean, bad.
- Oh, Crap: When the (real) Doctor is casually searching through the house only to come across a complete, living Cyberman in the closet.
The Doctor: (opens the door to find a Cyberman standing there) Okay (slams door) ...I think we should run.
- The Power of Hate: Powerful enough in fact to override Hartigan's personality erasing cybernetics. See Too Spicy for Yog Sothoth.
- Rape as Backstory: This isn't spelled out (It's a Christmas Episode of a family show for goodness sake) but Hartigan seems to have this as her Freudian Excuse for why she's something of a misandrist. When the Doctor comes to stop her plot she asks him "And who are you, Sir? Another man come to assert himself against me in the night?"
- She Is the King: Cyberking Mercy Hartigan.
- Snow Means Death: The Cybermen gatecrash a funeral in the snow.
- Steam Punk: The Cyberking.
- Stompy Mooks: Lampshaded when two Cybermen manage to appear right behind the Doctor, without notice. "That's cheating, sneaking up! Did you have your legs on silent?"
- Sympathy for the Devil: The Doctor, as per often, to Hartigan.
- Too Spicy for Yog Sothoth: Hartigan's conversion into the Cyberking was supposed to remove her emotions altogether, but her anger and hatred proved too strong for the soul-eating cybernetics, and promptly rewired all Cybermen in the period to serve her.
- Trauma-Induced Amnesia: "An info-stamp's just facts and figures, it's not enough to make a man lose his mind." After losing his wife, Jackson mentally replaced his own life story with the Doctor's.
- Travel Cool: Jackson Lake's TARDIS invokes this. See Fun with Acronyms above.
- Title Drop / Running Gag: The show's title, again.
Rosita: Who are you, anyway?
The Doctor: I'm the Doctor.
Rosita: Doctor who?
Doctor: Just the Doctor.
- Victorian London: It's Christmas Eve, 1851.
- What Have I Become?: When Miss Hartigan's mind is freed from the cyber-conditioning.
- What Year Is This?: Combined with a Shout-Out to the end of A Christmas Carol, when the Doctor starts by asking what day it is.
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: A subtle variety
What do you make of me, Sir? An idiot? The Doctor:
No. The question is, what do you make of me? Miss Hartigan
Destroy him! The Doctor:
You make me into this
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Jackson. Once the Doctor puts all the pieces together and reveals to Jackson that he's not really the Doctor, Jackson (understandably) starts believing himself to be something of a fool playing at being a hero, and quite obviously comes to the immediate conclusion that a) he's been living a lie (which he has, to some extent), and b) that all this bravery and whatnot that he's accomplished while being "The Doctor" is just a farce. Ten is quite quick and eager to disprove the latter, and even to an extent the former: the memory capsules just contain facts and figures, like a biography. But it was Jackson who, when imprinted with those during his BSOD, decided to act upon them accordingly to the best and utmost of his ability within the capabilities of the technology of his time period. Or, in short, Ten effectively says, "You aren't really the Doctor, but you sure come damn well close all on your own."
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: More than once.
- You Monster!: When Hartigan sics the Cybermen on the funeral attendees.