I revisit Doctor Who Season 2, starring David Tennant and Billie Piper.
Season 2 of Doctor Who is arguably its weakest of the new series so far. I’ve never been a fan of Rose Tyler – in fact, in a list of favourite companions she’d probably rank near the bottom, but you can’t help but argue as to whilst this series does have some god-awful episodes such as New Earth, Love & Monsters and Fear Her (aside from the London 2012 Olympics End Scene, it was terrible) there are some absolute gems in here as well. The Girl in the Fireplace for example is one of my favourite episodes of the new series – written of course by Steven Moffat, and The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit are among the top three two-part episodes of David Tennant’s era – right up there with The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. Then there’s Human Nature/Family of Blood from Series 3. I think it’s safe to say that Doctor Who Season 2 is a polarizing season to say the least, and can either be really brilliant or really awful depending on the episode, or even somewhere in the middle.
Starting with The Christmas Invasion, we witness the first episode to feature David Tennant as the main Doctor. However, Tennant doesn’t get a lot to do here with The Tyler Family and Harriet Jones working together to stop the Sycorax from killing off every human with an A positive blood type. It’s a distinctive Christmas episode and establishes David Tennant’s Doctor as a man who takes no second chances, and a move that would be great at the series stuck with it, but it doesn’t. Overall The Christmas Invasion is a fairly average episode with a few good scenes – but overall had a promising start for Tennant’s run as the Tenth Doctor. Then that was followed up by New Earth – cat people running a hospital says it all. It was nice to see the return of the Face of Boe but overall this was a distinctively poor episode, with the humour not really working at all. There were some fun moments when Tennant and Piper got to act campy on purpose when they were possesed by the return of Cassandra, but aside from that, this episode was a disappointment.
Following a trip to the future we then had, as per the norm, a return to the past with Tooth and Claw. Whilst we could have done without the Monks it allowed for a fun, entertaining romp through a house with a Werewolf chasing Queen Victoria. In this episode we also learn the origin of Torchwood, the arc word for the series that would become revealed later down the line as the organisation would play a more prominent role. The humour worked in this episode when there was some attempts at it – “[after meeting Queen Victoria] I wanted her to say “We are Not Amused.” Bet you five quid I can get her to say it.” “Taking that bet would be an abuse of my responsibilities as a traveller in time.” “Ten Quid.” “Done.” And whilst perhaps the biggest disappointment of this episode is actually that The Doctor prevents Britian from becoming a steam-punk empire of the wolf, there at the same time wasn’t anything that stood out to make this one a classic. It’s a fun, entertaining episode of Doctor Who that works.
After Tooth and Claw came the return of fan-favourite Elizabeth Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith from the classic series bringing K-9 in tow for a School Reunion. This episode guest starred Anthony Head in the villain role and allowed for a great scene in the School’s swimming pool, featuring a strong conversation between Head and Tennant. The exchanges between Sarah Jane and Rose were fun to watch as well and this episode overall turned out to be really solid and entertaining – being another good episode for Doctor Who. And then, immediatly after came The Girl in the Fireplace, with some fun one liners, Mickey Smith’s first trip in the TARDIS, and a great mystery that stands as a must-watch for any people looking to get their friends and family into the series. It’s clever and enjoyable – and for me, this is not just one of the highlights of Season 2 or Tennant’s run but one of the highlights of the entire series.
So far, then – Doctor Who S2 has had a fairly strong outing with its only disappointment being New Earth. Then the second came with the return of the Cybermen and a trip to a airship-dominated parallel Earth in Rise of Cybermen/The Age of Steel where Pete Tyler is still alive and Rose is a dog (much to the amusement of The Doctor) – with parallel Mickey being London’s Most Wanted in a complete role reversal of his character. “For parking tickets.” However it seems that almost every episode of Doctor Who featuring a Cyberman has been below expectations and whilst there was nothing especially bad about this one I kept help thinking that we should have ended up with more. It allowed Potter fans the novelty of seeing Barty Crouch Junior (10) go up against Barty Crouch Senior (John Lumic) but above all this was a fairly average two part episode that was followed up by something that was even less entertaining – only notable for featuring Alexandria Palace, a building near where I used to live growing up. Face-stealing TV monsters should have been a fun watch but ultimately The Idiot’s Lantern was another letdown – not providing the enjoyment that came with Gatiss’ last historical era-adventure tale in Season One’s The Unquiet Dead.
Then the tables turned and Season 2 gave us The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit, and became a really enjoyable two part episode that I’d love to see more of under Moffat’s era. Featuring the Ood and the Doctor going up against a chained Devil – this was probably my favourite episodes of the season aside from The Girl in the Fireplace. Everything about it just worked – with some pretty scary moments as well. Things were looking up for Doctor Who’s second season after three episodes of averageness, but this was all pushed aside by the introduction of two of the series’ worst episodes to date, Love & Monsters and Fear Her, both disappointing and awful episodes with barely any redeeming qualities. Thankfully though, Fear Her proved to be only the calm before the storm as we were introduced to an epic two part finale – whilst it didn’t turn out to be one of the best yet (in fact, aside from The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End, Army of Ghosts/Doomsday would be my least favourite two part episode of the whole lot under RTD’s run), featuing the Cybermen and the Daleks and arguably the last episode where the Daleks have ever felt a real “threat”. The Cybermen and the Daleks showdown was great with the main bulk of the second episode taking place entirely in Canary Wharf, allowing for a strong finish off with a great send off for Rose (that by all accounts was ruined by the her return in Season four). The final two episodes then had me feeling a little better about the series itself.
Overall, Doctor Who Season 2 is a fairly average season that comes out as the worst of the whole run so far aside from maybe Season 4 (on consideration, I used to view it as one of the better seasons but there are decidedly some average episodes in there) and Season 7. There are however some much watch episodes in this season that I can recommend even if you’re not a fan of Doctor Who – with The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit and The Girl in the Fireplace being good episodes to convince non-fans of the series. However, thanks to some disappointments and awful episodes – Season 2 isn’t going to get a high rating from me.