Classic Doctor Who Retrospective: Season 2
Guest contributor Michael Coats continues his series looking back at classic-era Doctor Who, this time with Season 2.
Here we are again. We left off with the Doctor becoming warmer in personality and Susan becoming more useful. How does Season 2 fare?
Planet of Giants
First up is Planet of Giants. It’s set in contemporary England for the first time since An Unearthly Child. However, the TARDIS malfunctions and the doors open before the it has materialised, resulting in both it and its crew materialising at about an inch high. Threats in the story are possibly the oddest Doctor Who’s ever had, including a fly, pesticide and and your common or garden cat (not a nun). It’s a bit like the film Honey I Shrunk The Kids, except this came years before, and the film didn’t have a murder in it.
The Dalek Invasion of Earth
Next we have the first of two Dalek stories, The Dalek Invasion of Earth. This is Susan’s last story, and she gets some fantastic lines in it. A personal favourite is when Barbara declares that she is able to cook in aid of the rebel cause, so Susan is asked what she does. She declares emphatically, “I eat.” Susan obviously has quite a large role, most notably persuading the Doctor that her future husband David is someone trustworthy who knows what he’s doing. In the end, the Doctor; realising that Susan needs to belong somewhere and yet doesn’t want to abandon him, makes the decision for her and leaves her behind. Sniff.
Moving on to The Rescue, in which there’s, well, a rescue (bet you weren’t expecting that). Apart from new companion Vicki (Maureen O’Brien) joining the TARDIS, I can’t really remember that much of this story, which isn’t a good sign. I do remember feeling that the resolution of the episode was a bit of a cop-out, though there are some good bits. One of my favourites being the poignant moment when the Doctor forgets Susan’s gone. I do think Vicki is set up much better as a character than Susan was though, so that’s one area where they have learned from.
Following on, we have the TARDIS landing rather awkwardly in The Romans. even with 4 episodes to stretch its legs, it’s certainly a packed serial. All roads lead to Rome, with the Doctor being mistaken for a Lyre player involved in a plot to kill the Emperor Nero, and Ian and Barbara ending up enslaved. It’s a rather comedic episode, with the amorous Nero chasing his wife’s personal slave Barbara and then falling over right in front of Vicki, who has no idea Barbara’s there.
The Web Planet
You remember in my Season 1 review where I said I couldn’t promise this wouldn’t sometimes be irreverent? Well, The Web Planet is exactly the serial that cautionary statement was typed for. Poor creature design (yes even for the time, besides, those Zarbi costumes would give the actor one hell of a bad back), poor plot and poor acting from everyone except the main cast. All in all, a serial that was a shocker on the Love and Monsters level.
The Space Museum
Skipping missing serial The Crusades, we come to the first of what I feel are a superb trilogy of episodes, which make up for the previous one and then some. It is The Space Museum. You could say that this is the very first timey-wimey Doctor Who story, and was probably one of the Moff’s childhood favourites. The TARDIS materialises inside a museum, but the landing wasn’t quite successful. The first episode is pervaded by the mystery of why the crew can’t be seen or heard by anyone. As it turns out, the TARDIS has jumped a time track and the Doctor and companions are exploring before they actually arrive. They have to race against time to defeat predestiny before they end up as museum exhibits. Even the humour is Moffat-esque (apparently the Doctor is friends with quite a few walruses and travels through time and space on a unicycle).
Next in my self-termed trilogy, we have the second Dalek story and Ian and Barbara’s departure story. It’s aptly titled The Chase. The Daleks, angered by the defeat in the earlier story, have built their own time machine in order to to chase down and exterminate the Doctor. It’s another very packed story, highlights include a New Yorker meeting both the TARDIS crew and Daleks and living to tell the tale, the Daleks’ robot replica of the Doctor, and of course, Ian and Barbara’s departure in the Daleks’ time machine at the end of the episode, where they finally get to go home.
The Time Meddler
Lastly, we have The Time Meddler, which is notable for being the first serial to introduce a Time Lord other than the Doctor – The Monk. After finding new companion Steven Taylor (Peter Purves) unconscious in the TARDIS having barely escaped the climax of the previous episode, the TARDIS lands in 1066 on the eve of the Norman and Viking invasions. The Monk is planning to wipe out the Vikings so King Harold doesn’t have to face them, giving him a better chance of defeating the Norman invasion and changing history as a result.
As for the characters, I’ll start off with Susan. Susan is much improved from Season 1, and I think it was a real shame she left when I was coming to like her as a character. I warmed to her replacement Vicki much quicker; she’s bright, inquisitive and doesn’t shriek nearly as much. She’s basically everything Susan should have been. Ian and Barbara don’t really develop much except maybe developing chemistry with each other, and the Doctor is much warmer towards his fellow travellers now. As regards Steven, I’m not warming to him very quickly; although he’s only had one serial thus far.
I’ll leave you with the Doctor’s last words to Susan:
‘One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.’