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

TV Show Review: Doctor Who Episode 2.00 “The Christmas Invasion”


Since the full review of Series 2 is taking a long time, I am posting early the review for the special Christmas episode, which technically is a “bridge” between Series 1 and 2 and thus doesn’t get officially counted as the second season’s first episode, even though it follows directly from the Series 1 finale and plays first on the Series 2 DVDs. Despite being denied an official number, it’s still an important episode. If you go straight from Episode 1.13 “The Parting of the Ways” to Episode 2.01 “New Earth,” you’ll be missing some awfully important stuff.

Series: Doctor Who
Season.Episode: 2.00 “The Christmas Invasion” (special episode bridging Series 1 and 2)
Original Air Date: Christmas Day 2005
Length: 45 minutes each
Writer: Russell T. Davies
Lead Actors: David Tennant (The Tenth Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler)
Synopsis: “A newly-regenerated Doctor must battle the Sycorax. But he can’t do that when he’s lying unconscious in Rose’s house…” (from Wikipedia)
Reason for Watching: I think I’m now addicted to Doctor Who.
Episode Re-watchability: Not as much as the best DW episodes, but as with all of them, I could watch it again and be entertained.
Final Verdict: A fine transition into a new season and a New Doctor. This episode is a good example of one of the show’s key strengths and one of its weaknesses. The strength is how in tune it is with the reactions of its audience, such that it can guide the transition from one intensely charismatic Doctor to another quite gracefully. The weakness is its often-heavy-handed and hypocritical pacifism. However, I’ve come to accept that weakness as simply coming with the territory, at least while Davies is Head Writer.

Key Thoughts

He can sleep through an awful lot.

There was no guarantee Tennant would be popular, so the decision to keep him incapacitated for most of the episode (from his regeneration) was actually a shrewd one: aliens are invading and we feel liking yelling “Wake up, Doctor, WAKE UP!” We want him, we’re desperate for him to show up. And not just the audience, but the characters also. Rose sobs as she realizes that the Ninth Doctor is really, truly gone, and cannot come back. She’s not sure if she likes the Tenth Doctor, simply because he’s different and he replaced the Ninth. Both Jackie Tyler and Mickey are also a bit confused about the Tenth, unsure of how to treat him. Thus the supporting cast and the audience empathize with each other on the subject of Eccleston’s leaving.

Heroic Mickey. He's trying, at least.

The plot involves a typical, straightforward alien invasion that’s not too interesting by itself, but does allow for some memorably goofy bits. Evil street Santas, killer robotic Christmas trees, the Doctor getting saved by a cup of tea and challenging an alien overlord to a sword duel while in his pajamas…you know, typical Doctor Who! The feel is very reminiscent of Series 1’s pilot “Rose,” with the killer mannequin zombies, where the plot is just an excuse to introduce the new characters. We also get to see our old friend Harriet Jones, former M.P. of Flydale North, now Prime Minister because of the level-headed way she navigated the British government through crisis in Episodes 1.4-5 “Aliens of London” and “World War Three.” And oh yes, that mysterious name Torchwood is becoming more dangerous.

Cue SPOILERS.

Here is where that hypocritical pacifism comes in that I don’t buy or like. The Doctor beats the Sycorax leader in single combat and, per their agreement, forces the Sycorax to retreat from Earth peacefully. But as the Sycorax spaceship begins to fly out of Earth’s atmosphere, PM Harriet Jones makes a call to Torchwood, and a green Death Star-like laser shoots out from the city of London and destroys it. Furious, the Doctor claims that she is the real monster because she breached a peace agreement and committed murder; furthermore, he brings down her government by planting suspicions in the British public that she is “tired,” despite the fact she is still implied to be highly capable and intelligent.

I don’t think the Doctor is right to do this at all, but the show seems to agree with him. The peace agreement was between the Doctor and the Sycorax, and he did not consult Jones or any other Earth leaders for it, meaning it had no authority. The Doctor was presumptuous and arrogant in doing that. Plus, the Sycorax were warlike and bent on the destruction of humanity – how is Jones to know that they have a sense of honor or keep their word? So many aliens we’ve met in the series haven’t. It wasn’t the most chivalrous thing for Jones to do, but I don’t think it was wrong. It was shrewd, and the Doctor was out of line to deny Britain the right to protect itself.

Don't try to stick your tongue out to catch the holiday's first snowflakes -- they're really pieces of burnt aliens.

The reason this bugs me more than usual (such as similar pacifism in Episode 1.06 “Dalek”) is because it makes the end of this Christmas episode very bitter. Sure, it’s touching that the Doctor finally allows himself to share Christmas dinner with Rose and her family, but when it’s revealed that what they think is the season’s first snow is really burnt ash from the Sycorax ship falling back to Earth, what are we to feel? In the DVD commentary, Russell T. Davies says he wanted to avoid an ending that’s “too happy.” Well, he miscalculated for this one – Christmas shows are supposed to be “too happy.” That’s one of the reasons we have them in the first place!

But to end on a better note, we do get to see the Tenth Doctor put together his iconic and incredibly sharp costume at the end.

No no, not with the Christmas hat and the awkward caught-me-halfway-through-smiling! This one:

Good. If you’re going to travel through space and time, might as well dress right for it.

The Doctor: Am I… ginger?
Rose: No, you’re just sort of… brown.
The Doctor: [disappointed] Aw, I wanted to be ginger! I’ve never been ginger! And you, Rose Tyler! Fat lot of good you were! You gave up on me! [Rose looks annoyed] Ooh, that’s rude. Is that the sort of man I am now? Am I rude? Rude and not ginger.

TV Show Review: Highlander, Season 1


Series: Highlander Season 1 (1992-1993)
Length: 22 episodes (about 45 minutes each)
Lead Actors: Adrian Paul (Duncan MacLeod), Alexandra Vandernoot (Tessa Noël), Stan Kirsch (Richie Ryan)
Content Advisory: Swashbuckling violence, not much blood. Occasional sex scenes that are about the most that’s acceptable at a PG-13 level, but no explicit nudity. Occasional minor swearing.
Spoiler-free Synopsis: The adventures of Duncan MacLeod, a modern-day Immortal of Scottish heritage, as he tries to maintain a peaceful life with his mortal lover Tessa Noël and mentor the orphaned teenager Richie Ryan. All while avoiding or defeating other evil Immortals who seek to take his head, gain the power of the Quickening, and abuse unwitting humanity. Part urban fantasy swashbuckler, part crime drama, part love story.
Reason for Beginning Season: Recommended by a friend.
Reason for Finishing Season: It’s fun, occasionally thought-provoking, and shows a lot of promise. Continue reading “TV Show Review: Highlander, Season 1”

TV Show Review: “Tales from the Neverending Story” – Episode 1


Copying "The Lord of the Rings" much?

Series Title: Tales from the Neverending Story
Episode: 1.1 “Heart of Stone” (2001)
Director: Giles Walker
Lead Actors: Mark Rendall (as Bastian Balthazar Bux), John Dunne-Hill (Coreander), Noël Burton (Michael Bux)
Length: 44 minutes
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Wherein Bastian Balthazar Bux, a young boy who loves books, experiences the tragic death of his mother and an increasingly awkward relationship with his father. Meanwhile, he finds the magical book The Neverending Story, the story of which begins to seem suspiciously similar to a bizarre dream he had.
Reason for Beginning: I saw it available free on On-Demand, and since I’m a fan of both Michael Ende’s novel The Neverending Story and the 1984 film of the same name, I thought I’d give it a whirl. Also, I’d never heard of this adaptation before, and was morbidly curious as to what a low-budget Hallmark TV adaptation of the inspired fantasy epic would look like.
Reason for Finishing: Gaahhhh! The horror! Can’t take my eyes off the unfolding catastrophe! Continue reading “TV Show Review: “Tales from the Neverending Story” – Episode 1″