Epic TV Show Review! “Doctor Who: Series 2”

Read my review of Series 1 here and my review of the 2005 Christmas Episode, “The Christmas Invasion,” here.

Barely Related Note: A Doctor Who/Highlander crossover series would be so indescribably awesome and beautiful that I can’t believe it hasn’t been done already. BBC Wales, please take note! You don’t have to credit me with the idea or give me royalties for it. Just work out the details with Rysher Entertainment and make it awesome. You’ll thank me later.

Series Title: Doctor Who
Season: Series 2
Original Air Date: Christmas Day 2005; April 15 – June 8, 2006
Length: 13 episodes, 45 minutes each
Head Writer: Russell T. Davies
Lead Actors: David Tennant (The Tenth Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler)
Content Advisory: Between PG and PG-13 level violence, very little blood, but some very horrific or nightmarish stuff is shown or implied. Also some sexual innuendo scattered throughout.
Spoiler-free Synopsis: The Doctor, now regenerated, continues his adventures in space and time with his young human Companion Rose Tyler.
Arc Word: “Torchwood.” First mention is in “The Christmas Invasion.” An arc word is a word or phrase that gets repeated mysteriously throughout the season, often with ominous connotations, only to be fully explained and exploited in the season finale. The arc words for Series 1 were “Bad Wolf,” a clue that Rose-as-TARDIS-goddess retroactively planted throughout their adventures in order to tell herself what to do at the climactic moment (yeah, it was complicated).
Reason for Watching: Loved Series 1, and just had to continue.
Reason for Finishing Season: It’s the Doctor! And he is always a blast to watch.
Episode Re-watchability: I could watch any of them again, but special mention goes to “The Girl in the Fireplace” and the “Impossible Planet”/ “Satan Pit” twofer. And the “Army of Ghosts”/ “Doomsday” twofer finale, if just for Mickey.
Final Verdict: For some reason the majority of Series 2 felt a bit less memorable than Series 1, and didn’t affect me quite as strongly. Nothing here surpassed the “Empty Child” / “Doctor Dances” twofer with Eccleston in sheer storytelling prowess, although “The Girl in the Fireplace” comes close. Still, there’s no denying this is very high quality entertainment, and a worthy second season for the show. Breaks my heart to leave Eccleston behind, but David Tennant does a brilliant job of making the Doctor his own character.

Key Thoughts

By all accounts, this was a very strong season, and one that gives many reasons to keep watching. I’m impressed how they have kept the quality fairly high in each episode; even the weaker episodes still have many redeeming qualities. The writers, still led by Russell T. Davies, take risks with characters and episode format, some of which work very well, and others not as much. Radical things happen to some major characters, and, surprisingly, I have no complaints about any of these. They were interesting developments, and well-handled. Series 1 with Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor remains my favorite, but I am happy to report that the “magic” (if it’s not taboo to say that of a sci-fi series) of Doctor Who remains firmly intact.


The Doctor: Allons-y!

The Doctor: Think you’ve seen it all? Think again. Outside those doors, we might see anything. We could find new worlds, terrifying monsters, impossible things. And if you come with me… nothing will ever be the same again!

I’ve had a hard time trying to pin down the essential difference between the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. Since the Doctor has a certain kind of personality regardless of who plays him, each performance must emphasize certain common traits and downplay others, and yet each Doctor can be said to have all the traits of every other one. So it is useless for me to say that the Tenth is wacky because the Ninth was wacky as well; but perhaps the Tenth is a tad wackier. Eccleston could be warm and gentle, but Tennant is a tad warmer and gentler. Likewise the Tenth can be quite fierce and authoritative, but the Ninth was moreso. The Ninth struck me as a street smart warrior by personality – not a killer, but someone whose instinct and ambition was to seek out and fight evil. The Tenth feels more like an adventurer – he’ll fight evil when he comes across it, but tends to travel more for the fun of it. In short, both are equally good and fun and intriguing, but will react to situations a bit differently from each other. It’s a great way for the show to keep things fresh with the same character. Despite how I miss the Ninth Doctor, Tennant kept me riveted and laughing the whole time. I’ve heard some good things about Matt Smith as the Eleventh, but he’ll have an awfully hard time matching Tennant and Eccleston in my opinion. Best of luck to him! But I’ve got a long ways to go before I get to his episodes.

The Tenth’s Companion throughout Series 2 is almost exclusively Rose, as before. Mickey joins them for a few adventures, but there’s no Captain Jack or Adam to interfere. My thoughts on Rose are basically the same as before. She doesn’t have quite as much character development as in Series 1, and her essential character flaws remain intact. However, it’s nice that she’s so experienced and confident in these episodes; while she couldn’t ever do this whole save-the-universe-by-time-traveling thing without the Doctor, she’s a very capable assistant. Also, I love it when she laughs at the utter silliness of a situation. The more experienced she becomes, the more in-tune with the audience her reactions are.

NOTE: I’ll try to leave some of the biggest twists un-spoiled, but I can’t do comments on each episode without talking about major guest characters or plot points. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

EPISODE 2.01 “New Earth”
Written By: Russell T. Davies

Synopsis: “As Rose Tyler embarks upon her first big TARDIS adventure with the newly-regenerated Doctor, they discover a sinister hospital run by strange cat people and run in to two old acquaintances, The Face of Boe and Cassandra.”

Cat nurses pay better attention to people than real cats do.

The synopsis kinda says it all with the “sinister hospital run by strange cat people” part. I should add to that “strange cat nuns-who-are-also-nurses.” And yes, the aristocratic sort-of-last-human-but-not-really Cassandra returns, having survived her explosion in Episode 1.02 through a pretty lame explanation. It was annoying that she didn’t stay dead when she should have, but perhaps Davies just couldn’t help but tell her touching background story and give her a shot at redemption. And I guess it is fairly touching, enough that I was able to forgive her irrational existence. There’s also some comedy that comes from Cassandra’s new ability to possess other people. When she starts jumping between Rose and the Doctor, the two get ample chances to show off some deliberately campy acting.

Also of interest is seeing the development (or is it redevelopment?) of the Doctor and Rose’s relationship. Rose is relaxing a bit around the Tenth, allowing for a more comfortable and affectionate rapport between them. In the previous episode she learned that the Tenth Doctor can protect her (and the world) just as well as the Ninth, and also saw him enjoy a cozy Christmas dinner with her family (her mum, Jackie, and Mickey). She is still trying to figure him out. The Doctor recognizes the transition she has to make and does her the service of acknowledging it and going easy on her in that regard, but mostly he presses forward with the adventure at hand.

Once again, the premise is basically an excuse for another “zombie” plot, as we’ve seen in 1.03 “The Unquiet Dead,” 1.09 “The Empty Child,” and 1.10 “Doctor Dances.” I’m getting a little tired of the zombie format, but fortunately the other times it shows up in the coming episodes it does so with enough variation to still be interesting.

The Doctor: So the year five billion, the Sun expands, the Earth gets roasted.
Rose: That was our first date.
The Doctor: We had chips. [Rose chuckles] So anyway, planet gone. All rocks and dust, but the human race lives on spread out across the stars. Soon as the Earth burns up, ooh, they get all nostalgic, big revival movement. They find this place. Same size as the Earth. Same air, same orbit. Lovely. The call goes out, the humans move in.
Rose: What’s the city called?
The Doctor: New New York.
Rose: Oh, come on.
The Doctor: It is! It’s the city of New New York! Strictly speaking, it’s the fifteenth New York since the original, so that makes it New-New-New-New-New-New-New-New-New-New-New-New-New-New-New New York. [Rose laughs] What?
Rose: You’re so different.
The Doctor: New-New Doctor.

EPISODE 2.02 “Tooth & Claw”
Written By: Russell T. Davies

Synopsis: “Landing in 1879 Scotland, the Doctor and Rose meet Queen Victoria, traveling with her to spend the night at the Torchwood Estate. However, a group of warrior monks have sinister plans for the monarch, and the full moon is about to summon a creature out of legend.”

A very enjoyable and fairly unique episode, although it doesn’t quite match its own ambition. Werewolves and ninja-monks are the order of the day here, and the science fiction façade is just barely maintained in the face of a story that is really more fantasy. In fact, the façade is so weak that it’s really just an excuse for the fact that this is not a sci-fi story at all. The magic of the fairy-tale element gets diluted and the sci-fi element is not explored in any depth at all; it’s very much tacked-on. It leaves you wanting a better explanation.

He tries to pass himself off as Scottish. It works because he's brilliant (and Tennant is Scottish). Doesn't work so well for Rose.

Tennant still hasn’t had a chance to show the range that Eccleston displayed from the get-go, but he pulls off the humor and quirkiness exceedingly well. While I was still missing Eccleston at this point, I was not at all regretting Tennant. His chemistry with Rose isn’t quite as strong, but his chemistry with the TARDIS is possibly better than his predecessor’s – they’re the natural pair!

However, I was very disappointed that, by saving Queen Victoria and the proper time stream, the Doctor derailed a possible steampunk British Empire by destroying that awesome moonlight-telescope-cannon. Ah well, can’t have it all, eh?

The Doctor: And, I’ll tell you something else – we just met Queen Victoria!
Rose: Oh I know! She was just sitting there.
The Doctor: Like a stamp!
Rose: I wanted to say [imitating Queen Victoria]we are not amused“. Bet you five quid I can make her say it.
The Doctor: Well if I gambled on that, it’d be an abuse of my privilege as a traveler in time.
Rose: Ten quid?
The Doctor: Done.

EPISODE 2.03 “School Reunion”
Written By: Toby Whithouse

Synopsis: While investigating suspicious happenings at a local London school (in present time), the Doctor encounters former Companion Sarah Jane Smith (of the Third, Fourth, and, once, the Fifth Doctors). Rose learns of Sarah’s legacy and must come to grips with it. Meanwhile, Mickey thinks it’s hilarious that the Doctor has to deal with “the missus and the ex” meeting.

Being unfamiliar with the original series and Sarah Jane Smith, the nostalgia at the center of this episode largely passed me by. Still, both Sarah and the robot dog K-9 are fun and likable characters. It was neat to see the Tenth Doctor so absolutely delighted at seeing them again, and so proud of the fact that Sarah has been carrying on her own private investigations of alien phenomena ever since she left him. I got a sense of why the character was so popular during the original series, and why she has now got her own spinoff children’s series called The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Rose, of course, feels quite threatened by this sudden and emotional reunion. She has just come around to accepting the Tenth Doctor, and her (undeclared) love for the Ninth is transferring over – in fact, I think the rising of her jealousy in this episode actually puts the final seal on her acceptance of the Tenth.

Mickey, while still struggling a little with the limitations of the comic relief role, is quietly continuing his growth into coolness. It’s said in a throwaway line that he was the one who noticed strange happenings at this school and contacted the Doctor to investigate it. Fortunately he seems to have pulled free from his harmful emotional attachment to Rose, at least somewhat.

A typical SAT...

I felt this was one of the weaker plots, though. It’s hard to accept thirteen aliens thinking they can conquer all of space and time using only a very awkward scheme at a London comprehensive school. Even considering that this is Doctor Who. If solving “the theory of everything” were so easy as this episode suggests, and if solving such theory could give one unlimited power, I would think they’d have done it much earlier. Or, at least the Time Lords would have done it before these rather thick-headed Krillitane.

Rose: I thought you and me were— Well, I obviously got it wrong. I’ve been to the year 5 billion, right, but this… Now, this is really seeing the future. You just leave us behind. Is that what you’re gonna do to me?
The Doctor: No. Not to you.
Rose: But Sarah Jane. You were that close to her once, and now you never even mention her. Why not?
The Doctor: I don’t age. I regenerate. But humans decay; you wither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone that you— [The Doctor breaks off]
Rose: What, Doctor?
The Doctor: You can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can’t spend the rest of mine with you. I have to live on. Alone. That’s the curse of the Time Lords.

EPISODE 2.04 “The Girl in the Fireplace”
Written By: Steven Moffat

Synopsis: “The Doctor, Mickey and Rose land on a spaceship in the 51st century only to find 18th century Versailles on board, the time of Madame de Pompadour! To find out what’s going on the Doctor must enter Versailles through a fireplace and save Madame de Pompadour, but it turns into an emotional roller coaster for the Doctor.”

One of the strongest episodes of the show thus far, definitely, and the first great one in the Tenth Doctor’s run. The story is fairly stand-alone, and has a solid, science-fiction premise that would work just as well outside the Whoniverse. In fact, it reminded me a lot of The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009), what with the Doctor carrying on a fractured romance with Madame de Pompadour by popping up (randomly, from her perspective) at various points in her life. They meet only a handful of times, but for her they are spread over 15 or 20 years, with much time for her to reflect on him, whereas the Doctor knows her only for a steady 45 minutes (or thereabouts; 45 minutes is the episode length, and I think it is roughly real-time in this instance).

The fearsome robots seem rather low tech compared to the spaceship they serve and what they are supposedly capable of. Their 18th-century attire (very Nutcracker-y) is part goofy, part creepy. It’s all in keeping with other robots in the show, though. It’s even commented on by the Doctor himself, when he knocks off their wigs to reveal that their head-computers are like beautiful clockwork.

Anyway, while the Doctor is running around through time portals trying to figure out why the creepy Nutcracker-esque robots are stalking Madame de Pompadour, Rose and Mickey work together to solve the spaceship’s mystery. It’s nice to see them working together for once, just them without the Doctor.

I have a feeling that the whole episode was designed around just this image.

“The Girl in the Fireplace” was penned by Steven Moffat, who also wrote “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” twofer, my absolute favorite story arc so far, and probably the best as well. With this one, he suggests that his previous success was not a fluke. I look forward to the next episode penned by him.

Rose: Oh, here’s trouble. What you been up to?
The Doctor: Oh, this and that. Became the imaginary friend of a future French aristocrat, picked a fight with a clockwork man… [A horse whinnies off screen] Oh, and I met a horse.
Mickey: What’s a horse doing on a spaceship?
The Doctor: Mickey, what’s pre-revolutionary France doing on a spaceship? Get a little perspective!

EPISODES 2.05 and 2.06 “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel”
Written By: Tom MacRae

Synopsis: “The Tardis ends up in an alternate universe, and must recharge before the Doctor, Mickey and Rose can return home. But corrupt billionaire John Lumic has created an improved version of one of the Doctor’s old enemies.”

Hmm. Unfortunately, my notes on this twofer consist only of the observations that, according to the Doctor, travel between parallel universes hasn’t been possible since the Time Lords fell and should still be impossible, and that this alternate London includes high-tech airships. Which is a pity, because the story had many interesting points which I can’t remember now.

The Cybermen were fun for a short while, but they do become boring. Their appeal is both similar and inferior to that of the Daleks, and their background mythology lacks the strength, dignity, and mystique that comes with an age-old connection to the Doctor. Plus, I just get bored with evil robots very quickly. They, by definition, lack true personality.

Additionally, I think the villain, John Lumic, may have been a tad too hammy for my tastes. He was somewhat entertaining, but I certainly do not miss him.

While I can’t reveal the major spoiler, the surprise that I really liked is that these episodes really belong to Mickey. It’s sad that this is technically his end, but his character arc is satisfying and intriguing. He’s really come into his own as a strong, heroic character, all the moreso because he’s not an obvious hero. He lacks the natural courage of the Doctor and Rose and their willingness to jump into danger without a second thought. He doesn’t set out with grand ideas of saving the world (…not usually, at least…), just with the idea to do what’s right and necessary. He also seems to have more compassion and sensitivity than the Doctor and Rose, whose universe-spanning perspective he hasn’t yet acquired. This is likely due to the way he is constantly forgotten and talked down to by them, a point that this story particularly highlights (see quote below). Even though Mickey has traveled with them in the TARDIS and saved the world with them multiple times (often performing a vital service), he never quite fits in with their crew. But these episodes let him find a purpose and a cause he can relate to, and a place he feels right. In the end, he may very well be my favorite Doctor Who character thus far, short of the Doctor himself. Considering the inauspicious way Mickey was first introduced, that’s quite a revelation!

[The Doctor and Rose are recalling a humorous adventure they had been on; Mickey is gingerly holding down a button on the TARDIS console]
The Doctor: [smiling] Umm… what are you doing that for?
Mickey: ‘Cause you told me to.
The Doctor: [smile slowly fades] When was that?
Mickey: About half an hour ago.
The Doctor: [sheepish] Umm… you can let go now.
[Mickey lets go to an audible ‘bleep’ from the TARDIS, Rose quietly giggles]
Mickey: How long has it been since I could’ve stopped?
The Doctor: Ten minutes? Twenty? [beat] Twenty-nine?
Mickey: You just forgot me!
The Doctor: No, no, no, I was jus— I was— I was calibrating! I was jus— No, I know exactly what I’m doing.
[An explosion emanates from the TARDIS console]

EPISODE 2.07 “The Idiot’s Lantern”
Written By: Mark Gatiss (who also wrote 1.03 “The Unquiet Dead”)

Synopsis: “In 1950s London, the police are hunting down strange, mute creatures. The people of Britain gather around their new-fangled ‘television’ sets to celebrate the new Queen’s coronation – but is something affecting the signal?”

This was a decent episode, featuring the creepy (and perhaps overbearingly metaphoric) premise of a television signal called The Wire that literally sucks peoples faces off. It moves somewhat slowly, as I remember. Rose does some detective work on her own, showing off her general competency, but ultimately gets trapped in The Wire. Her capture provokes the wrath of the Doctor, naturally. Of course we know he’ll save her, but there is still considerable tension from the fact that she’s incapacitated for so much of the episode, while the Doctor has a very difficult time figuring out what’s going on.

On the whole, though, I don’t remember this as one of the more interesting episodes. It was fine, nothing really wrong with it, but I am not itching to see it again. While the alien’s method of attacking people through the television was somewhat memorable, the concept behind the alien itself seemed very basic. I’m also getting a little tired of every alien villain trying to conquer the world or universe. It seems that those grand schemes should be reserved for villains that seem to actually stand a chance at succeeding on the large scale.

Apparently the TARDIS has a full costume wardrobe.

I do like the fact that they traveled to 1953 purely for fun: they wanted to see Elvis perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. Encounters with world or universe-threatening plots already happen with alarming frequency, so it would be a bit much if the show suggested that that’s all they ever do with the TARDIS. Instead, the majority of their time is probably spent exploring or goofing off, and only a thirteen times a year messing with the space-time continuum.

Also, the TARDIS seems to make mistakes with alarming frequency. It seems like every other adventure, they intend to go to one place and time, but the TARDIS sends them either somewhere else or somewhen else!

Eddie Connolly: [realizes that the Doctor is getting information that he wants to keep confidential] Hold on a minute. Queen and Country is one thing, but this is my house! What the… what the hell am I doing? [advances on the Doctor, angrily] Now listen here, Doctor. You may have fancy qualifications, but what goes on under my roof is my business!
The Doctor: A lot of people are being bundled…
Eddie Connolly: [fiercely] I am talking!
The Doctor: [stands up and matches Eddie] AND I’M NOT LISTENING! Now YOU, Mr Connolly, you are staring into a deep dark pit of trouble if you don’t let me help! So I’m ordering you, SIR! Tell me what’s going on!

EPISODES 2.08 and 2.09 “The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit”
Written By: Matt Jones

Synopsis: “The TARDIS lands on an alien planet shrouded in a darkness that even the Doctor can’t figure out. And what is lurking at the bottom of The Satan Pit?” “The Doctor finds his every belief being challenged to the core, as the Pit beckons.”

I think the Doctor is agnostic: he doesn’t think there is a spiritual world, but he has seen enough of the universe to know that much of it is still beyond his comprehension. That’s the attitude this story arc suggests for him, at least.

Two signs of a high quality Doctor Who story are 1) two parts and 2) an inherently intriguing premise that would work just as beautifully outside the show as in. Fortunately this one has both; in fact, it also boasts two intriguing premises, one for each episode. The planet in question is a physical anomaly, hovering right under a massive black hole that is devouring entire solar systems while remaining unaffected itself. The second intriguing premise is one that involves some fundamental philosophical questions; questions that the episode carefully avoids answering, probably for the best.

The second episode’s title kind of reveals that philosophical twist; that is, that the strange phenomena at the center of the strange planet, that causes its apparent immunity to black holes, is Satan imprisoned, called the Horned One, or the Beast. Or maybe an insanely powerful alien creature that has existed before time itself. We’re never quite sure, and the Doctor regards both possibilities with a mixture of alarm and confusion. This is the kind of creature who, according to him, is just not supposed to exist; it’s so old that he’s never heard of it, the TARDIS can’t translate its language (and the TARDIS can translate every language since the beginning of time, roughly), it can cause its mind to leave its body and invade the minds of others to convince them to do evil, and its very presence on the planet cancels the gravitational power of a black hole. It’s a master of temptation, using a person’s own natural vices to get the better of them. The Doctor speculates that The Horned One is the background behind all versions of the Devil that exist in religions and mythology…but he’s not sure if it’s an alien that has co-opted that role, or if it’s the genuine supernatural article. And, frankly, I’m glad that the show doesn’t conclusively answer that question.

If the show did try to provide a final answer, it would have to either side with a general religious idea and admit the existence of the supernatural, or it would have to accuse Christianity of being a mistake inspired by aliens. The former would endanger the show’s sci-fi premise, and the latter would be just stupid. Both would endanger the show’s neutrality on issues of faith. The Doctor makes some rather condescending remarks concerning religion and belief, sort of saying they all boil down to “the things people do” or something like that; a wildly inaccurate and fairly humanistic attitude. The Doctor’s philosophy still puts created things at the center of all that matters, and generally tries to ignore a Creator. When asked what he really thinks about supernatural things, the Doctor sidesteps the question. So I think the Doctor is agnostic. He says his central belief is that he doesn’t know everything and that he travels the universe to learn more and be proved wrong.

On an entertainment level, it’s one of the stronger stories of Series 2. The Doctor and Rose are separated from the TARDIS for most of the time, and there is a genuine risk of them losing it forever; likewise they are separated from each other for much time, and the risk of one of them dying is higher than usual. The human crew of the station are interesting, mostly admirable people, and they do a good job of engaging our emotions.

Perhaps it isn’t quite as emotional as the best of Series 1 episodes, mainly because it isn’t that surprising – we know they will find the TARDIS at the bottom of the Satan Pit by the episode’s end, and we can reasonably guess that the Doctor will use it to save Rose and the remaining crew. But this isn’t really a weakness, just an observation comparing it to the sublimely beautiful surprise of “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” twofer.

Rose has displayed increasing competence and independence in earlier episodes, but this one puts her among humans who really need her coolness under fire and Doctor-inspired thinking, when the Doctor’s not around. It does aggravate her already pushy personality, and would make her rather irritating and stressful to be around in real life, but I think it does make her the right woman for the situations she finds herself in.


A further observation about the Tenth Doctor: compared to the Ninth, he tends to charm his way through difficult situations, especially if he’s dealing with a good guy. When the captain protests the Doctor’s dangerous protocol-breaking plan, he just grins and says “Yeah, but you trust me, don’t you? I know you do.” And, apparently, that’s good enough for them! For me too, actually.

The Doctor: [talking about the TARDIS] I don’t know what is wrong with her, she’s sort of… queasy, indigestion… like she didn’t want to land.
Rose: [deadpan] Well if you think that’s gonna be trouble, we can always get back inside and go somewhere else.
[beat. The Doctor and Rose then start laughing.]

The Doctor: [about Rose] I’ve seen fake gods and bad gods and demi gods and would-be gods; out of all that, out of that whole pantheon, if I believe in one thing… just one thing… I believe in her.

EPISODE 2.10 “Love & Monsters”
Written By: Russell T. Davies

Synopsis: A group of amateur detectives/conspiracy theorists form a support group called LINDA to discuss what little they know about the Doctor, having picked up on his mysterious appearances throughout time. But when they receive a mysterious new leader, they have no idea what they are in for…

Doctor Who meets Dr. Horrible.

Very odd, experimental episode, this was. The Doctor and Rose pop in and out, tossing off some amusing lines as they engage in some unexplained adventure, and return near the end to fight the alien creature that menaces LINDA. The premise I like. By focusing on a group of people who have either seen or had brief encounters with the Doctor throughout their lives, and on their surreptitious research, it underlines his mythical, mysterious nature. Because we spend so much time with the Doctor, we get to know him quite well and he loses some of his strangeness and mystique. An episode like this helps restore it. He’s a phantom throughout history, appearing at times of great crises to save the world with incredible methods, and then disappearing just as quickly, then reappearing a hundred years later, then again perhaps two hundred years earlier, never seeming to age, but bringing great events, and often destruction, in his wake. I love getting reminded of that aspect of his legacy.

I liked the members of LINDA, and their growth from a band of conspiracy theorists into a close-knit support group of sensitive friends was nice to watch. The video blog structure of the episode was very reminiscent of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, with a similar mix of witty camp, humor, genuine drama, and breaking the Fourth Wall. Elton’s little romance with Ursula is charming, as is the romance between two older members of the group. I cared about LINDA and wanted their friendly little community to survive.

Dude is ugly.

Unfortunately the episode’s alien baddie is unnecessarily bland and illogical. Far too similar to other DW bad guys, what with the absorbing, the masquerade as a friendly human, the picking off of the group one by one through deception (and the screams of the victim we hear from outside a building, that no one else notices). The joke about him being a cousin of the Slitheen, being from the twin planet, was somewhat funny, but remember, the Slitheen were the weakest in execution of aliens up until this point. He had no twist. Also, they didn’t make clear why he really would need LINDA to help him track the Doctor, since he seemed to have all the real info and methods anyway.

And AGAIN with the standing and staring while an alien advances to kill you! Like in the Slitheen episodes, it got bad here, really annoying. We have Elton just staring, as if paralyzed, as Ursula slowly approaches the deadly Absorbaloff and gets absorbed. Ursula herself had moved as if she was going to attack it, as she had threatened, but then inexplicably stops just because it asks her to! This is stupid, illogical, and annoying. I like the human characters, but they get themselves killed by their stupidity.

The ending is also a letdown. It is intended to be bittersweet, what with the entire group of LINDA, sans Elton, absorbed into the Absorbaloff and willing committing suicide in order to kill it. Only Ursula is saved by the Doctor, her still-living face preserved in…a slab of concrete. And then it is stated that she and Elton are not only still carrying on a romance, but also a love life. That. Is. Wrong. Disgustingly wrong. TVTropes makes the point that Ursula essentially becomes a sentient sex toy, and we’re supposed to be happy for her! Davies took many risks with this episode, and while I appreciate a few of them, this one was a horrible miscalculation. I find it hard to believe that the Doctor would be okay with such an ending; even if he was, how could Rose?

Elton: When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all “grow up. Get a job. Get married. Get a house. Have a kid, and that’s it.” [sighs] But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. [grins] And so much better.

[Note for Series 3: This episode contains the first, blink-and-you-miss-it, reference to Harold Saxon.]

EPISODE 2.11 “Fear Her”
Written By: Matthew Graham

Synopsis: “The Doctor and Rose travel to London in 2012 to see the Olympics – only to find that children are mysteriously disappearing before peoples very eyes. The answer seems to lie with a young girl named Chloe and her strange drawings – but is there something more sinister behind the disappearances?”

This episode has Rose acting more independently than ever before. For the last half of the episode the Doctor himself is incapacitated and trapped, and Rose is the one responsible for the entire resolution. Again, I like being confident in Rose’s abilities, and I appreciate the fact that she is believably competent because we have seen her grow into it gradually over two seasons (a problem I have with her successor Martha Jones in Series 3 is that Martha seems instantly brilliant at everything, with little room for growth).

Like “Love and Monsters,” this is an episode with an interesting premise that is mostly well carried off, but with a weak ending (and some larger-than-usual plot holes). The aliens this time (SPOILERS!!!) are creatures who take thousands of years to grow up, all the while traveling together in one huge family of 4 billion in tiny space pods hurtling through space, feeding on each others’ love and creating imaginary worlds in which to play which can almost literally come to life. I could imagine beautiful poetry and music being written about this concept.


This episode is very dark, in contrast to its broad daylight setting, and I would definitely not let children watch it. Whatever the little girl Chloe draws ends up coming to life, and if she draws a real person then the real person gets imprisoned on the drawing paper. When she draws her abusive father, now dead, the drawing, which is fuelled by all her fears and nightmares, becomes manifest as a demonic creature that is barely trapped in her closet. Scary, emotional stuff, and very dark.

The search for answers is played effectively, with more detective work and less action (read: running) than usual for the show, but the ending is something of an anti-climax. It felt too easy, like a key element was missing. I was glad for a happy ending, certainly, but it lacked the catharsis it needed.

Also, the whole manner in which these alien creatures work to make imagination come to life is unsatisfyingly loose. Logical rules are few, and contradictions abound. Chloe draws kids on her street and they disappear, okay – she can draw just well enough to get some facial features of the kids. But it makes absolutely no sense for her to draw the Olympic stadium with a few blurry heads and somehow all 80,000 spectators and 30,000 athletes all disappear. She didn’t draw any detail for them, so how does the magic ion-whatever know what people to snatch? And why didn’t it snatch the stadium itself, since she drew it?  After all, it snatched the TARDIS when she drew it. (possible answer: the TARDIS may technically be a living thing more than a machine, what with its heart and the Doctor saying that it was grown, not built). And she draws the Earth, saying that somehow that will take all the people on Earth instead of just the physical planet, when she doesn’t actually draw the people on Earth? Nonsensical.

The post-climax bit at the very end was fun, with the Doctor carrying the Olympic torch the final way to light it. I can’t be the only one who wants to see that in reality, come 2012! Yet it seems like an awfully foolish and dangerous thing for him to do. For all his efforts to fly under the radar, he knows that people have noticed him (“Love and Monsters”), and the scattered references to Torchwood over this season should have clued him in to the fact that he’s being watched.

Rose: You know what, they keep trying to split us up, but they never ever will.
The Doctor: Never say never ever.
Rose: Nah, we’ll always be alright, you and me. [pause] Don’t you think? Doctor?
The Doctor: Something in the air. Something’s coming. [Beat] A storm’s approaching…
Rose: Easy for you to say, you don’t have kids.
The Doctor: I was a dad once.
Rose: [surprised] What did you say?

[This nugget of info hasn’t been explained yet, but a later episode is titled “The Doctor’s Daughter,” so I assume that’s where it gets addressed.)

EPISODES 2.12 and 2.13 “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsdsay”
Written By: Russell T. Davies

Synopsis: Ghosts suddenly started appearing on Earth for the past few months, and people seem to be convinced that they are the spirits of their dear departed. The world is ecstatic with joy and unthinkingly accept these mysterious, faceless shadow creatures. But when the Doctor and Rose arrive, they immediately know this isn’t right. As this epic, painful story unfolds, the mystery of Torchwood is revealed, the world is nearly torn apart by a twin threat, lost friends return, and everyone’s heart breaks…

Oh dear, hold on just a minute, there seems to be something in my eye…*dabs away tears*…there, there. I’m ready, now. I think.

…Okay, so I didn’t actually cry during the finale, but its ending is certainly the emotional climax of the both this series and Series 1. It’s not a perfect twofer, as the main plot doesn’t hold together quite as well as Series 1’s finale, but the emotional notes involving the Doctor, Rose, and Rose’s family are exceptionally resonant and moving. Of necessity, many of the big twists will be spoiled below, but I promise I’ll leave some of the best ones secret, just in case you haven’t seen these episodes yet. It’s an excellent finale, the most epic story in the new Who yet. It still did not move me quite as much as “Bad Wolf”/ “The Parting of the Ways,” but that is mainly due to the Ninth being my first Doctor and, in my opinion, having slightly better chemistry with Rose.

This is the story where the Daleks and Cybermen both come back against impossible odds, invade our Earth at the same time, only to start a war with each other that leads to mutual annihilation (well, until the next time the writers want to bring them back). It’s one of the most epic of epic possibilities in the Whoniverse, and, frankly, I willing suspended more disbelief than usual just so I could enjoy the awesome volatility of their confrontations. Their first encounter is just priceless, with one Dalek and one Cybermen stumbling across each other in a hallway:

Dalek Thay: Identify yourself.
Cyberman: You will identify first.
Dalek Thay: State your identity!
Cyberman: You will identify first.
Dalek Thay: [angrily] Identify!
[Human Observer]: It’s like Stephen Hawking meets the speaking clock!

Their exchanges are hilarious precisely because of their similarities, and it is gratifying to see the Daleks be given the advantage mainly (I think) because they are more classic, beloved villains than the sometimes-boring Cybermen. The script almost veers into self-parody when it lets them engage in a game of one-upmanship:

Cyber Leader: You would destroy the Cybermen with four Daleks?
Dalek Sec: We would destroy the Cybermen with one Dalek! You are superior in only one respect.
Cyber Leader: What is that?
Dalek Sec: You are better at dying.

Those scenes will have you grinning and laughing, and not much afraid. But the air of comedy is tempered by the very real destruction their war begins to wreak on the human population of London (and, indeed, the world, as the Cybermen are all over the world fighting human militaries).

The other big player in this war for humanity is Torchwood, the mysterious governmental organization we kept hearing about that blew up the Sycorax ship in “The Christmas Invasion,” was created by Queen Victoria specifically to hunt the Doctor in “Tooth & Claw,” and from which the Absorbaloff stole his files on the Doctor in “Love and Monsters.” They have a huge office building on the Thames that’s disguised like a normal corporation, and they have spent all the years since their inception collecting alien technology and co-opting it for use in the Earth’s defense. Which is a fine idea and all, except that they are run by incompetent and imperialistic nincompoops. I found them extremely annoying, and I was supposed to – the Doctor is also aghast at how bureaucratic and foolishly arrogant they are. It bothers him more even than their hostility to him! They are responsible, directly or indirectly, for the rise of both the Daleks and the Cybermen in this episode, and thus also for all the human deaths, all through their idiocy.

And while Davies, the writer, clearly wants us to feel this way about Torchwood, I still felt it was a bit overkill. They just don’t operate logically: they have no reason for hostility towards the Doctor, their imperialism is vague and unelaborated, they display not even a healthy curiosity towards learning how to use alien tech safely, and worst of all, they’re just not effective even at what they want to do. All the imperialism and arrogance would be easier to accept if they were at least good at using alien technology to protect Great Britain. If they displayed any real intelligence or cleverness. So in this regard, they were a letdown. However, we weren’t intended to like them, anyway, and their downfall is satisfying. At least the show knows Torchwood was run by idiots.

Also, why does the show always portray human militaries attempting to use small arms against alien supertanks like the Daleks and Cybermen? It’s almost as bad as the Transformers movies! There is one shot of a British soldier launching a proper RPG that rips satisfyingly through a Cybermen, destroying it, but in general this is not their practice. Real militaries would be using those, and grenades, and tanks, and all sorts of higher explosives against such a threat as an obvious matter of course, but in Doctor Who they labor under the delusion that maybe the next bullet will be the straw that breaks the Daleks’ shell (how’s that for a mangled metaphor?).

But all of this is just background to the human relationships (plus the Doctor). Brilliantly, the relationship between Rose’s mum Jackie and her father is even further explored (despite not being an obvious subject for this story), as well as some other relationships I cannot mention. Rose and the Doctor’s relationship is handled beautifully, heart-breakingly. This is their separation, their parting of the ways – but this time, it is Rose who must leave. Against her will, of course, against everyone’s will. The episode’s complex plot mechanics tease you with how this will happen, but when the final moment comes, and we cannot deny that she is forever trapped in the alternate dimension (well, at least for a long time), it packs quite a punch. There is consolation that she is not bereft of everyone she loves, but the fact that she is the one place the Doctor cannot reach her, however much he wants to, is quite heartbreaking.

The epilogue, where the Doctor manages to find a tiny remaining whole in the fabric of the universe through which he can project himself (harnessing the power of a dying star to do so) and call Rose to him, is beautiful, melancholy, and wonderfully poetic. On an empty beach in Norway, they meet to say their goodbyes.

Rose confesses her love to the Doctor, and he struggles to say it back. Just as he is about to say the words, his mouth open to form them, the final breach closes and they are cut off forever. And then Rose weeps, sobs, her heart utterly broken. The Doctor, back on the TARDIS, is frozen in shock, mouth open in mid-syllable, as he stares at where the thin portal showing Rose had just been. A single manly tear slips down his cheek, but he is silent. Gathering himself, he walks in a daze back to the central control dashboard, and begins flipping switches to begin his next journey.

The empty feeling where your heart used to be...

There is a strange sound.

He looks up.

There is a woman in a wedding dress standing a few feet away, her back turned.

The Doctor: What?
[The bride turns around]
Bride: Wha—
The Doctor: What?
Bride: Who’re you?
The Doctor: What?
Bride: Where am I?
The Doctor: What?
Bride: What the hell is this place?!
The Doctor: What?!

Cue credits!

She does NOT take it well...

(actually, I have by now watched Series 3, but because I had to get through it quickly before returning the DVDs to the library, I failed to take notes on each episode. Which means it will be some time before the Series 3 review is ready – I may even want to rewatch most of the episodes in a few weeks so I can take proper notes.)



  1. L. A. Beck says:

    I like your reviews a lot, they’re very thorough and neatly done. Of course, what’s the point of a review if you’re just bashing or praising something without any reasons.

    I’ve read some of your other reviews too, the whole mentality of it was that, you watch Doctor Who, I watch Doctor who, I agree with your criticism of it, you must have good opinions about other things too. :p

    Though I disagree with you on one thing, I like Tennant better. They say you never forget your first Doctor, and Tennant was mine.

    1. David says:

      Fair enough; there’s no denying Tennant is brilliant, and I’ve read at least one article argue convincingly that he is the best Doctor of them all (hard for me to say, without having seen the classic ones). He has perfect chemistry with the TARDIS. In fact, I can summarize the Ninth and Tenth this way: if I had to choose one of them to face down an alien armada, I’d choose the Ninth; if I could choose one Doctor to travel space and time with, I’d choose the Tenth.

      Thank you, I’m glad you’ve found my thoughts interesting! You’re always welcome to comment, or even to suggest other things for my to review.

  2. Melpomene says:

    Aw! If only I could get my external hard drive where all my Doctor Who episodes are stored to work again. I really really need a Doctor Who fix.

    On a side note, it seems that this season created some really fascinating side characters. Sophia Myles as Madam Pompdour was stunning. And the experimentation with different types of story-telling are pretty interesting. (Although I do prefer “Blink” to “Love & Monsters”.)

    And I have a confession; despite a general ambivalence to Billie Piper, I am an avid Rose-Doctor shipper. And I cried at the finale.

    1. David says:

      Blink is definitely better than Love and Monsters. Scarier too, but there’s Moffat for you!

      I’m surprised how much I ended up liking Rose, despite her character flaws being ones that usually annoy me. Very sad to see her go. I was actually glad the way they handled it in Series 3, with the Doctor never getting over her. If by the end of the season he’d been in love again, with Martha, it’d have been too soon!

  3. emilykazakh says:

    I must confess, since you left your comment on my post about The Hobbit, I’ve been trolling your blog, and I have really enjoyed it. And then, surprise, surprise, you have reviews about both Firefly and Doctor Who!

    You’re a kindred spirit, sir.

    My favorite companion is Donna Noble, but that’s mostly due to the fact that I was happy to see she was NOT interested in the Doctor. Plus, Catherine Tate is extraordinary.

    1. David says:

      Glad to hear! That’s the one kind of trolling I like. Eventually I will do a review of Firefly and Serenity themselves, and of the rest of the new Doctor Who, as I get caught up. If you are caught up with the new Who episodes that are showing now, you can check out mjschneider’s reviews at Catecinem.

      I liked Donna in The Runaway Bride and look forward to watching her in Series 4.

  4. Whoovie says:

    I hated “Love & Monsters,” absoutely hated it. Especially that disgusting allusion to having a “sex life.” SO INCREDIBLY GROSS! I’ve only seen that episode once, and I will never ever ever watch it again.

    1. David says:

      Yeah, that was an extremely poor choice on the writers’ parts. Unfortunately, Russell T. Davies always seemed to go for the stupid sexual/gay gags, and although I haven’t seen past Tenant’s run yet, I suspect Davies’ influence in that regard can still be felt with Steven Moffat and the Eleventh Doctor. Doctor Who will never reach its full potential as a family adventure show until such innappropriate messages are done away with.

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