New Who: The Story Thus Far – Series 2 (Specials, Episodes 1-4)

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John Hussey continues his series analysing the revival with Series 2.

After Series One brought a successful return for the show it was time to move forward on the second series. Sadly, it was revealed on 30th March 2005 that Christopher Eccleston would not be joining the Doctor Who team and would in fact be leaving after only one series. David Tennant stepped into the role and took the show even further forward and captured the hearts of so many fans and viewers. Doctor Who was well on its way to being a powerful figurehead within television once more.

2005 Children in Need Special, aka ‘Born Again’

2005-children-in-need-specialThe 2005 Children in Need special nicely explained the gap in-between the events of ‘The Parting of the Ways’ and ‘The Christmas Invasion’. The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) was given his first taste of screen-time and allowed to get use to his newly found body. It was interesting to see Rose Tyler’s (Billie Piper) response to the regeneration and as it turned out she wasn’t at all impressed. In fact the Time Lord process terrified her and she requested that the Ninth Doctor return. This made the Tenth Doctor sad to see her unable to except his new appearance and so he decided to take her back home for Christmas. Before long he was sent into a mad frenzy as his regeneration started to go wrong. ‘Doctor Who: Children in Need’ was a nice little extra for introducing the Tenth Doctor and made way for his beginning and first major appearance in ‘The Christmas Invasion’.

2005 Christmas Special: ‘The Christmas Invasion’

tennant-doctor-rose-christmas-invasionThe Tenth Doctor came crashing onto our screens in earnest within ‘The Christmas Invasion’ when the TARDIS lost control and crash landed on Earth before Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) and Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri). The pair looked on in confusion as this strange man greeted them with ‘Merry Christmas’ and collapsed before being told by Rose that he was in fact the Doctor. The strange part about ‘The Christmas Invasion’ was the fact the Tenth Doctor didn’t star in it much despite the fact it was his first major appearance onscreen. The story rolled over to Rose, Mickey and Jackie as they reacted to the sudden change of the Time Lord’s physical and mental form. Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton), who was first introduced in ‘Aliens of London/World War Three’, became a major character within the plot. She also received further character development in the form of being promoted to Prime Minister (an echo back to the Ninth Doctor’s description of her golden reign within power). U.N.I.T. also played a major role within the story and made a full-on appearance onscreen for the first time since their last appearance in 1989.

As an introductory story for a Doctor, it seemed weak in my eyes. I grew very fond of Eccleston’s take upon the role and so I needed to be persuaded that the new guy could be as good, or better as. So seeing him laying in bed in pyjamas for the majority of the plot didn’t really get across the feeling of reassurance I needed (naturally it took more time for me to grow fond of David Tennant). I can see the reasoning behind Russell T Davies’s ideas at the time by presenting us with a problem so great that it appeared the Earth was doomed due to the fact the Doctor wasn’t around to save it. But upon the new Doctor finally awakening in the last act and saving the Earth in style (i.e. a sword fight) we would be won over. It was a bold move that luckily paid off but it was a risk I’m glad wasn’t repeated in the future (i.e. Matt Smith’s introduction in ‘The Eleventh Hour’).

Rose was presented with the challenge of dealing with the Doctor’s change in full (after briefly dealing with it in ‘Doctor Who: Children in Need’) which really affected her. Her love for the Doctor was really showing by this point and she felt lost and betrayed by the Time Lord, even at one point declaring he had left her. Luckily, after the Tenth Doctor got into the full swing of things, she finally came to accept he was still the Time Lord she had befriended and fallen in love with and their adventures started over afresh (so to speak).

The surprising factor of the story was Harriet’s sudden turn to harsh decisions in order to save her people. By allowing the destruction of the Sycorax ship she committed an act of murder which didn’t sit too kindly in the Doctor’s eyes. This of course led to the Tenth Doctor bringing her downfall with the use of six simple words (“Don’t you think she looks tired”). ‘The Christmas Invasion’ saw the first appearance of the Pilot Fish and the first major mention of the Torchwood Institute, a secret organisation first mentioned by Major Blake (Chu Omambala) who later caused the destruction of the Sycorax ship through the means of stolen alien technology. Some final touches included the Tenth Doctor finally settling into his new body and finding his new attire (i.e. his iconic brown pinstriped suit and trenchcoat).

‘New Earth’

New EarthSeries Two kicked off in full with ‘New Earth’ which served as an easygoing adventure to begin Rose’s adventures with the Tenth Doctor. I find this episode to be a bit dull in areas and lacking true ambition. The major flaws I find are with the plot and its capacity to not take itself seriously. The whole body-swapping thing between Lady Cassandra, Rose and the Tenth Doctor was just ridiculous and in many ways unnecessary. It didn’t add much for the plot, only a couple of cheap jokes (one of which referring to the Doctor’s lack of usage of certain body parts). It was just plain silly and took away from the serious impact the story was giving and also lessened some of Lady Cassandra’s potential and what good character she had from ‘The End of the World’. Her return was good and bad at the same time. In some ways it was either a waste of time or a wasted opportunity, or it really was worth it due to her receiving some character developments in seeing life and humanity within a different perspective from her previous paranoid delusions. The whole idea of the lab-rat humans was an interesting concept and was the story’s redeeming feature. It also helped to show off the Tenth Doctor’s anger towards cruelty which would continue to be a reoccurring theme of his tenure. ‘New Earth’ gave a glimpse of a future story-arc in the form of the Face of Boe’s (first introduced in ‘The End of the World’ and voiced by Struan Rodger) secret message that would be spoken upon his next and final appearance.

‘Tooth and Claw’

doctor-who-tooth-and-clawart‘Tooth and Claw’ really began to push Series Two into the right direction and got the Tenth Doctor rolling into his established form (something I don’t think quite happened in ‘The Christmas Invasion’ and ‘New Earth’ due to David still getting into the swing of things). The concept was brilliant and took the tone of the show into darker territory; something that I love to see from time to time. The whole idea of the Werewolf (or ‘Lupine Wavelength Haemovariform’, if you want to be technical) was an interesting choice for a monster and incorporated a lot of horror themes and in many ways turned out to be quite brutal and full of bloodshed (especially during the scenes where Captain Reynolds and Sir Roberts were ripped to shreds by the creature). It continued the format for each series by incorporating mythical/horror icons into certain plots, this time with the usage of ghosts. The addition of historical figure Queen Victoria (another new format first introduced in ‘The Unquiet Dead’) really did bring depth to the storyline and challenged the Doctor’s world and how dangerous and unearthly it could be. ‘Tooth and Claw’ formed the foundation for the Torchwood Institute with Queen Victoria deciding to create the organisation to combat the extraterrestrial after the events that occurred at the Torchwood Estate.

‘School Reunion’

School ReunionReferences to the Classic series were used heavily in ‘School Reunion’ with the reintroduction of Sarah Jane Smith (last seen as a full-time companion in ‘The Hand of Fear’) and K9 Mark III (last seen in full in K9 and Company). The story really did well at bridging the gap between the two eras and even gave further development between the Doctor and Sarah Jane and the reasoning behind why she was left behind all those years ago. It allowed for Sarah Jane to finally move on from her life with the Time Lord and establish her own destiny (which ultimately became the spin-off show The Sarah Jane Adventures). We also saw the saddening end to K9 Mark III after he sacrificed himself to defeat the Krillitanes (that scene always makes me cry). After the emotional goodbye scene between the Tenth Doctor and Sarah Jane she was given a brand new K9 model to help her on her new adventures.

Rose Tyler received a rude awakening towards the role of companion and finally understood that she wasn’t the first, nor would be the last. She was simply the latest in a long line and worried about what her fate would be. This really brought about further development for their relationship where the Doctor showed off his romantic feelings towards Rose, especially with the lines stating she could spend the rest of her life with him but he couldn’t with her due to regeneration making his lifespan last longer than that of a humans. She would simply wither away with old age while he watched and eventually moved on from the pain.

The Krillitanes showed off Doctor Who’s darker elements with the implications of them eating both teachers and children. The schemes of using the souls of children to crack the Skasis Paradigm was truly inventive and gave a true sense of dilemma for the Tenth Doctor to face in whether their actions were right or wrong (even to the point making him want to take control of time to prevent the Time War). The biggest element of the story was Mickey Smith’s decision to final accept the Doctor’s offer to join the TARDIS crew (which was first offered to him back in ‘Aliens of London/World War Three’).

‘The Girl in the Fireplace’

myles-girl-in-the-fireplaceSteven Moffat returned to the writing panel to pen his second story for the new series with ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’. For one time only he was given a heavy historical piece to work on revolving around the life of Madame de Pompadour. The story inventively collided elements of the future and the past together through the idea of insane malfunctioning Clockwork Droids believing they needed the brain of Reinette Poisson due to the fact their spaceship shared the same name. In response to their ship needing repairs the Clockwork Droids also killed the entire crew and stripped their body parts for spare parts and incorporated them into the mechanics of the ship (which Rose and Mickey discover on their travels through the ship). ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ served as Mickey Smith’s first adventure in the TARDIS after serving as a secondary character during present-day Earth stories throughout Series One and the beginning of Series Two. The Tenth Doctor showcased a strong romantic side towards Madame de Pompadour throughout her adult life (after serving as a mystical friend during her childhood) which showed a side to the Time Lord we rarely get to see. This is turn left him heartbroken after his promise of taking her on a journey through time and space was met with yet more timing problems resulting in her passing before he could return for her.

My Verdict so far:

  • ‘Children in Need’ – 10/10
  • ‘The Christmas Invasion’ – 8/10
  • ‘New Earth’ – 7/10
  • ‘Tooth and Claw’ – 10/10
  • ‘School Reunion’ – 10/10
  • ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ – 9/10

 Join us for part 2 tomorrow, looking at the rest of the Series 2.