The one with the one that's not the one.
Written by Russell T. Davies.
Visiting 1851 London 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, a guy played by 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, realizing 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 Dimension[s] In Space. We're talking a Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Next Doctor has made a hot air balloon 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 Jackson Lake, a victim of the Cybermen. As it turns out, the Cybermen have been kidnapping people in the night, with Miss Mercy Hartigan, the matron of the St. Joseph's Workhouse, 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: in the attack, Jackson's wife was killed. 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 Jackson's done isn't the result of the Doctor being imprinted on him, but the result of Jackson himself being awesome.
The conversation is interrupted by a commotion from outside. The Doctor and Rosita race out to see what's going on, while Jackson decides to stay behind. He figures that he's not worthy of helping the Doctor. The Doctor and Rosita find processions of children from the workhouses of London being led away by men controlled by steampunk Cyber earpods. 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.
Jackson 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 Jackson 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 saves the poor young Lake, and everyone escapes and has a Merry Christma—
While Jackson and Rosita help everyone slowly evacuate London by running with them, the Doctor leaps into Jackson'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 Jackson along with him, but he 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 24, 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 Bookworm: The Next Doctor built his own TARDIS — a hot air balloon or Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style — out of household items.
- Badass Normal: Common in Doctor Who, but Jackson Lake takes it to a new level by trying to become the Doctor himself, and doing a good job of it despite lacking a proper TARDIS, sonic screwdriver and Time Lord biology.
- Black Eyes of Evil: Hartigan's eyes become completely pitch black when she becomes the Cyberking.
- Blatant Lies: While searching Reverend Fairchild's house, the Doctor pulls out the sonic screwdriver and starts scanning with it behind Jackson's back. When Jackson asks the Doctor what the noise was, the Doctor claims he was whistling, and then actually does a very good impression of the screwdriver as "proof".
- Blunt "Yes": One of the Cybermen gives this to this to Hartigan:Miss Hartigan: Have you no pity?
- ...But He Sounds Handsome: The Doctor has heard all about the Doctor. "Bit of a legend, if I say so myself."
- Christmas Episode: The first Christmas Special not set in the 21st Century.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: When Jackson begs the Doctor to "Help me..." the latter replies, "Two words I never refuse."
- Composite Character: Of a sort; Rosita shows devotion to her Doctor reminiscent of Rose, displays the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Martha, and even the Only Sane Man attitude and best friend role of Donna. The Tenth Doctor's three primary companions of the new series, all rolled into one.
- Continuity Nod:
- 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.
- Miss 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 woman 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.
- Covering for the Noise: The Doctor was using his sonic screwdriver but kept trying to hide this fact from Jackson Lake. Whenever Jackson asks about the strange sound, the Doctor covers by saying it was his whistling and proceeds to imitate the sound.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Averted strongly in the conversion of Miss Hartigan into the Cyberking, as the Cyber-Leader found out the hard way.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: In a line cut from the broadcast episode, Jackson notes that the late Reverend was famously good to children — "he'd discipline them, birch them, send them to the workhouse."The Doctor: Oh, lovely. Nice man.
- The men at the funeral are shocked to see a woman show up to a funeral. The priest interrupts his speech to tell her how inappropriate it is. And she showed up in a red dress, with a red umbrella, on purpose.
- 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.
- Russell Davies confirmed in interviews that Miss Hartigan was a victim of sexual abuse and that is why she sexualises every conversation and scenario she is in. It's worked in very subtly, since a lot of children watch the show.
- Exact Words:
- Jackson Lake's "Sonic Screwdriver".Jackson: Well, uh, it makes a noise. [tap tap tap] That's sonic, isn't it?
- The TARDIS is also his transport through time and space. Although he's referring to all the time to himself and space away from others it grants.
- Jackson Lake's "Sonic Screwdriver".
- 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 Doctor'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.
- Forgot the Call: Inverted — Jackson Lake believes he's the Doctor, but is actually human.
- Fun with Acronyms: Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style.
- Heroic BSoD: The 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 at the night, at the docks when the man she knows as the Doctor rescued her from a Cyberman attack.
- Humongous Mecha: The Cyberking is far taller than any building.
- 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?
- Improvised Weapon: Zigzagged Trope — the Doctor grabs and rejects a cane and an umbrella before seizing a cutlass. It's only of limited use however, but then Jackson weaponizes an infostamp.
- Ironic Name:Miss Hartigan: You know, all these years, and not one of you has asked me my first name. It's Mercy.
- Lady in Red: When a cleric expresses dislike of Miss Hartigan's red dress she responds, "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.
- Large Ham: David Morrissey is clearly having a lot of fun as the "Next Doctor". David Tennant looks positively tranquil next to him.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: The reason Ten doesn't press the "next" Doctor too hard on his past is that messing with a Time Lord after regeneration amnesia is generally a bad idea.
- Meaningful Name: "Rosita" is quite close to "Rose" and "Martha", and this is subtly pointed out. It means "little rose".
- Mr. Smith: The Doctor, upon discovering that the "Next Doctor" is having memory issues, decides it would be better to use his favourite alias of John Smith.
- Mythology Gag: The Doctor hopes he doesn't regenerate after tripping over a brick. "That would be embarrassing." The Sixth Doctor suffered a Death by Falling Over after the actor refused to reappear due to disputes with the producers.
- Nightmare Fetishist: "It started with a murder."The Doctor: Oh, good. [gets a weird look] I mean, bad.
- The Nth Doctor: Jackson Lake seems to be number 11 — but just got blasted with the Doctor's personality and thought he'd regenerated.
- Oh, Crap!: When the (real) Doctor is casually searching through the house only to open a door upon a complete, living Cyberman.The Doctor: [opens the door to find a Cyberman standing there] Okay! [slams door]... I think we should run.
- Only Sane Woman: Veers into it in the chase scene, when Rosita's the only one with the presence of mind to cut the rope loose before both Doctors can be dragged out the window.Rosita: You idiots!
- 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.
- Stay in the Kitchen: Jackson Lake's attitude towards Rosita, due to Deliberate Values Dissonance, is to tell her to stay with his TARDIS and let him deal with the monsters alone.
- Steam Punk: The Cyberking is a giant mechanical monster in 1850s England.
- 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.The Doctor: I'm so sorry...
- Tomato in the Mirror: Jackson Lake spends most of the special thinking he's the Doctor, and Ten seems to think he is a future Doctor. Then it turns out he's just a human whose mind has accidentally been tampered with.
- 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 she promptly rewired all Cybermen in the period to serve her.
- Trauma-Induced Amnesia: "An infostamp'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: The show's title, again.Rosita: Who are you, anyway?
The Doctor: I'm the Doctor.
Rosita: Doctor who?
The Doctor: Just the Doctor.
- Victorian London: It's Christmas Eve, 1851.
- Villains Never Lie: Subverted. When facing convertion, Miss Hartigan protests that the Cybermen promised her that she'd be celebrated if she helped them. In response, the Cybermen hail her as the Cyber King. Miss Hartigan then says that she was also specifically promised that she wouldn't be converted. The Cybermen admit that that part, they just plain lied about.
- What Have I Become?: When Miss Hartigan's mind is freed from the cyber-conditioning she's horrified at what's happened.
- 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.
- Who Are You?: With both Doctors asking this question of each other.
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: A subtle variety.Miss Hartigan: 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.
- Would Hurt a Child: The Cybermen, at Miss Hartigan's suggestion, have been kidnapping children to work on the Cyberking's starter engine. When the engine's power is at 100%, the Cybermen attempt to "DELETE!" them, before the Doctor, Jackson and Rosita intervene.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: 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: Miss Hartigan says this to the workhouse masters after she has the children, and then to the children after they raise the Cyberking.
- You Monster!: When Hartigan sics the Cybermen on the funeral attendees.