02 – Series Two – David Tennant

The Christmas Invasion

This is the debut of a new Doctor, David Tennant, and it is a strong start, despite the Doctor missing much of the first half. Rose in particular has a strong outing here, standing up to the alien invaders, the Sycorax, even if she doesn’t accomplish a whole lot. A theme throughout this season is that Rose is getting stronger and more like the Doctor in interesting ways. This also is the first of what would be a series of Christmas or New Year’s specials throughout the run of New Doctor Who. Another planted seed here is the reference to Torchwood. This agency was set up by Queen Victoria (see Tooth and Claw, Episode Three) to defend England against alien threats. The name Torchwood is in fact an anagram of Doctor Who, and was initially used to disguise film cans from the curious snoops. And we got to see U.N.I.T. once again. And finally, we see what happened to Harriet Jones. So a lot was accomplished in this episode.


New Earth

OK, the ending is a bit dicey. I am pretty sure that drenching yourself in cure liquids and hugging diseased people is not true medicine, but sometimes you have to willingly suspend your disbelief. And this episode gives you reasons to. It is set on a world settled by humanity following the destruction of the original (see End of the World in season one), and is the not the last time we’ll see this planet, since it is also the setting for Gridlock in season three. And another tie to End of the World are the returns of Cassandra and The Face of Boe, and The Face of Boe also returns in Gridlock. So you can see story arcs flowing all around here. The real treat here is the acting by both David Tennant and Billie Piper. In the show, Cassandra is able to leap into other people’s bodies and take them over, and Billie Piper in particular shines in portraying Cassandra when her body is taken over.


Tooth and Claw

It starts off with an odd combination of a martial arts film and the “bullet time” made famous by The Matrix. And this is a good time to note the need to suspend disbelief. Martial Arts monks in Scotland makes no sense at all, nor does why they need to bring a Werewolf to life by starlight. A running gag is Rose’s attempts to get Queen Victoria to say “We are not amused.” She does finally say that, but in circumstances that make it clear she is really not amused at all. The story takes place at the Torchwood Estate. The monks duly create the werewolf, But the Doctor succeeds in killing it using the Koh-i-noor diamond. The story is fun, but not the really important thing here. As a result of all of this nonsense with the Doctor and the Werewolf, the Queen decides that aliens are a threat to be guarded against, so she establishes the Torchwood Institute, named after the estate on which this all happens, and gives it a mandate to work in secret to prepare defense against aliens. We saw the result in The Christmas Invasion, and we’ll see it again later. And of course a spin-off series starring Captain Jack was created and ran for 4 seasons. Torchwood gets at least a mention in nearly every story this season, so it is the “Bad Wolf” of Season Two


School Reunion

This is about the return of Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen), a beloved companion for both the Third (Jon Pertwee) and Fourth (Tom Baker) Doctors. This story brings up something that was never really addressed in the original series, which is how the Doctor affects the people who travel with him. Sarah Jane got left behind and now it seems has been waiting for the Doctor to return. And she starts to clash with Rose, leading to Mickey’s best line of all when he points out that every man’s worst nightmare is when the Mrs. and the Ex get together. Mickey is also starting to grow, something that will continue in the future. The rest of the story is a bit thin, to be honest, but it does give Tennant a chance to show his dark side. He is, as he said in The Christmas Invasion, a “No second chances” Doctor.


The Girl in the Fireplace

This is a fun love story that shows the problems of time travel. The Fireplace in question is somehow linked to a spaceship and is a portal between the ship and a room in France. When the Doctor goes through the portal the first time, he finds himself in the bedroom of a young girl, and scares away the monsters. He returns to the ship briefly, but when he comes back she is now a grown woman. She ends up being Madame de Pompadour, mistress to the King. It turns out that the link from the spaceship was created by clockwork androids, who were the monsters from her childhood bedroom. After saving the day, the Doctor makes a quick trip back to the spaceship, but when he returns she has died. So this is basically a tragic love story with wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff going on. Best line is when the Doctor says it is only a nightmare. When Reinette (the girl) asks what the nightmares have as their nightmare, the Doctor says “Me!”


Rise of the Cybermen

This is yet another origin story of the Cybermen, and it renders void all previous Cybermen stories. But since all previous Cybermen stories were done in the original series, only old fans would know this. The previous Cybermen story was Silver Nemesis, in Sylvester McCoy’s run as the Doctor, and that aired 18 years before this story. And one thing that has never been terribly important to Doctor Who is the idea of continuity. In this story the TARDIS manages to cross into an alternate universe, and land on an alternate Earth in an alternate London. In this universe, Rose’s Dad is still alive, but there is no Rose here. Or at least not one that is human. There is a dog… Mickey goes off to find his grandmother, but is mistaken for his counterpart in this universe, Ricky. This is a humorous call back to the previous series where Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor kept calling Mickey “Ricky”. And in this universe an evil industrialist is creating Cybermen.


The Age of Steel

In this episode the Cybermen are finally defeated. Part of this involves an “emotional inhibitor” in each Cyberman, and when it is disabled it can cause the Cybermen to die when they realize what they have become. I have to say, I really prefer the original Cybermen in this respect. They had a tenacious will to live that was their central focus. Mickey completes his “redemption arc” when he leaves the TARDIS to stay on this alternate Earth and keep on fighting Cybermen.


The Idiot’s Lantern

This is not a top story by any means. Set in the 1950s in Britain there is a creature of some kind called The Wire that is using the new technology of television to steal people’s faces and turn them into zombies. A subplot involves a a despicable man who terrorizes his family, particularly his son. Inexplicably, Rose tells the son at the end to go to his father because “He’s your Dad.” I suppose this is intended as a call-back to her own experience of losing her father, but in this case the boy would have been better advised to “Get out while you can.” The ending makes this story one of the worst Doctor Who stories ever. Mark Gatiss is the writer, and I have enjoyed some of his stuff, but he really screwed up on this one.


The Impossible Planet

This is the first part of a fantastic two-parter. There is a planet orbiting a black hole, in a way which should not be possible. Of course, a scientific crew is trying to figure it all out, and they have located an energy source within the planet, and they are drilling towards it. The Doctor finds some writing which the TARDIS in unable to translate, which means it must be “impossibly old”. A servant race, the Ood, seem very docile at first, but then start to become hostile. And an archaeologist named Toby is possessed, and can now survive in space without a space suit. What does it all mean? Then the mysterious message comes that “The Beast has awakened”.


The Satan Pit

In this second part the Doctor along with one of the scientists descends in an elevator trying to find the lost TARDIS. As they do so, the Beast communicates through the Ood and tells them he was sealed in this trap “before the universe began”. When we do see him, he certainly resembles an artist’s view of Satan, and is clearly meant to suggest that that he is in fact Satan, though his defeat later would seem to contradict that. I guess the idea was to suggest it strongly. Then the cable on the elevator snaps, and the two are now in the bottom of the pit. The Beast tells just about everyone that they are going to die, but he is not quite right about that. In the end the Doctor find his TARDIS, and the archaeologist Toby, who is possessed by the Beast, is thrown into a black hole, but everyone else lives.


Love and Monsters

This is a good story in many ways. It is a look at fandom that focuses on people who are obsessed with finding out more about the Doctor. Of course, for the purposes of this program the Doctor is real, not a fictional TV program. The monster of the title was based on a submission from a young fan in a contest sponsored by Blue Peter, a children’s TV program that has been broadcast since 1958 and is now the longest running children’s program in the world. And of course Doctor Who was intended from the beginning to be a children’s program, even if the kids might be viewing it from “behind the sofa”. To an adult the monster is more hokey than scary, but then that is often the case.

This particular episode has almost no presence by the Doctor and Rose, who were busy filming other episodes, but Jackie has a nice appearance. The ending is a bit weird, and I suspect is the reason why in hindsight this is rated fairly low. But much of it is worth the watching, so give it a chance.


Fear Her

With the expense of three big two-parters this season, the BBC needed an episode that was inexpensive and could be done quickly, and that was how this happened. It is definitely the low point of the season. Most of the people act in ways that make no sense, and much of it looks like a commercial for the London Olympics of 2012, which technically wasn’t even a thing yet since London had not been officially awarded those games. Is the bad guy the alien, or is it Chloe’s father? You be the judge, but if you skip this episode I wouldn’t blame you.


Army of Ghosts

A particularly strong first-part of a two-parter. And a lot of set-ups planted through the season get paid off here. This starts at the very beginning with a voice-over from Rose telling us this is where she died. This was prophesied in The Satan Pit by the monster (Satan? You be the judge). And of course there is Torchwood as well, and as it was supposed to do when Queen Victoria set it up, they are trying to protect England from The Doctor. Big mistake there. And the opening set up with the mysterious ghosts is great. You might notice that the Torchwood theme plays in the background through the episode. This first part just piles up mysteries, but does it so well. And a future companion shows up as a Torchwood employee. So don’t miss this one. And when Mickey shows up, you see his story arc has come fully around to him being a bad-ass instead of the guy we saw in Rose.



And here is the climax! We finally get the showdown between the Daleks and the Cybermen, and the Daleks are proving to be more dangerous. Rose confronting a Dalek is absolutely priceless. There is a bit of the usual hand-waving “Sciency” stuff, such as The Doctor deciding that the border between universes has to be closed forever, then Pete pops up to catch Rose (How does that happen? And why is Pete immune to the pull of the Void? Best not to question too closely.) None of that matters because of a great tear-jerker ending. This shows something worth commenting on. I saw a video of Philip Hinchcliffe being interviewed at Gallifrey One, and he commented that one of the big differences between “Classic” Who and “New” Who is that Russell T. Davies and Steve Moffat did a lot more of exploring emotions and emotional situations than the Classic series ever did. And the end of the Rose arc hits those buttons. Of course, they had to keep the show moving along, so at the very end a Bride suddenly shows up in the TARDIS.


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