Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Discovering Doctor Who: Season 2

I’ve been meaning to write up this blog for a couple of months now, ever since I finished S2 of Doctor Who, which feels like a lifetime ago. I made notes while I was watching it, but many of them had questions in it that have since been answered (since I’m now at the end of S4) so I’ll just talk about the season itself.

It began with Christmas Invasion, the first ep with the new Doctor, although he’s unconscious for most of the ep. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to think of the guy… I LOVED Eccleston, he was my first Doctor, so this Tennant guy was going to have a long way to go to convince me he was any good. When he first awakens and comes striding out, I thought he was a bit much. All pomp and too loud, nattery and excitable. But there was something I liked about him…

And then I watched New Earth, which links back to the S1 continuity through the End of the World episode. We again see the Face of Boe, who says he’ll impart a secret to him (and now I not only know what that secret it, but who the Face of Boe actually is!!). But the true awesome of this episode is Billie Piper playing Cassandra. She is BRILLIANT.

Now, before I go any further, I want to clarify something for the Rose fans out there who very easily get their knickers in a twist when someone says something against their fave companion. In the last rundown of season 1, I said that I liked Rose, but my husband didn’t, and he actually stopped watching S1 (despite being a big Classic Series fan) because of her, saying he’d rather stick a fork in his eye than listen to her blither on. I thought he was being a bit harsh, and I said that while I didn’t love her, I really liked her a lot, and maybe with a second season I’ll like her even more, but that the Doctor outshone her for me. What I did love about her was that she stood in for the viewer as the person through whose eyes we discover the Doctor, and she asks all the questions we need answered.

That is what I said. And then I got a flurry of comments saying, “Oh NIKKI how could you HATE Rose?” Er, I didn’t say that I… “She’s WONDERFUL and the Rose haters are terrible, and I can’t believe that you are one of them!” But… I’m not, I was just saying that… “You know what, Nikki? I COMPLETELY agree with you, I hated her too, she’s just horrible and Billie Piper and can eat dirt for all I…” No, no, I don’t think she should eat dirt, I never said that…

So just to be clear, I never hated Rose. I couldn’t quite get into her at the beginning of the season despite seeing her as our conduit, but I said by the end I liked her a lot more. (It’s my HUSBAND who hated her… attack HIM! Heehee…)

I can safely say that by the end of S2, I adored her. Many of you jumped on me for not embracing her fully, but you had two seasons with her and two Doctors to watch, AND you had the full S3 where he pines after her and makes the viewer love her even more. I didn’t have that when I watched S1, yet I still really liked her.

OK. So. I hope I’ve made it clear now that I’m not a Rose hater. At the end of S2, it’s quite the opposite, actually. I thought she was wonderful.

And now back to New Earth, where Rose is gone and has been taken over by Cassandra. The chemistry between Piper and Tennant is there from the get-go, and his confusion over her acting so strangely is hilarious. (I’ll never forget her looking in a mirror and saying, “Ugh, I’m a CHAV!” and me having to email my best friend, whose parents are British, and say, “What’s a chav?”) ;)

Tooth and Claw is the one where they go to the Torchwood Estate (oooohhh….) and see Queen Victoria. My daughter walked in during this one and I thought, “Okay, everyone also mentioned on the first season rundown that Doctor Who is perfect for 6-year-olds!” She watched, was interested… and then the TV was off by the time that beast thing in the cage came to life. This really isn’t the children’s show the Classic Series is. And she had a lot of questions about the moral quandaries during the show (more stories of my kids watching it with me to come in S3 and S4…)

My fave thing about Tooth and Claw was Rose betting the Doctor that she can get Vicks to say, “We are not amused.”

And on I move to the next episode that’s held in a school and OH MY GOD IT’S GILES!!!! No one told me Anthony Stewart Head was on Doctor Who!!! Now, I have to admit, when I saw him as the demon of some long name that I can’t quite recall (started with a K or something?) I was at once elated and saddened, because since the beginning I’ve been thinking he’d make a terrific Doctor Who, and now obviously he won’t because he’s played a villain.

And yet, he actually wasn’t my favourite part of this episode: Sarah Jane Smith was. Now, again, as y’all know, I’m not one of the ones who choked on their drink and said, “OMG, it’s my favourite companion!!!” In fact, I hadn’t a clue who she was. My husband wandered in during the episode and said, “Hey, it’s K-9!!” And I didn’t know what that was, either. But I can tell all of you who are Classic Series fans that you don’t have to be to have gotten that episode. We know by this point what Rose means to the Doctor and vice versa, but more importantly, what these adventures and this lifestyle means to Rose. If she’s the “chav” who got out of her staid life and was able to go around the world with this mysterious and exciting life, what happens when the Doctor needs to move on? Is she left behind?

The answers to those questions are in this episode, where the beautiful and slightly older Sarah Jane Smith comes face to face with the Doctor after having been left behind so many years ago. He’s wearing a different face, but it’s still the man she would have given her life for. (I saw this episode just a few weeks after the lady playing her passed away suddenly, so it was with some sadness that I saw her for the first time.) The Doctor explains to her how difficult it is staying the same age while others age and slip away, and that his is a very lonely existence. It was like so many of the vampire discussions I’d seen in other shows, and for the first time I realized that despite his aloofness, he’s filled with a lot of pain. Eccleston’s Doctor was a little surly at times, but generally seemed goofy and quite joyful. I got the feeling here that Tennant’s would be a little more emo. Brilliant ep.

The Girl in the Fireplace was next, with its V for Vendetta baddies, and the girl, then woman, in the fireplace. Again, another episode focusing on the idea of the Doctor coming and going from people’s lives and him having such a strong, grave impact on them that when he goes, they can’t stop thinking about him. He, on the other hand, emphasizes that he’s so alone and stays the same while others get older and leave him. So he leaves them before that can happen.

Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel was next: I figured these guys were Classic Series baddies because I remembered seeing one of their heads in that museum where Rose and the other Doctor went earlier in season 1. We’re introduced to the Fringe-like parallel universe where everyone has a doppelganger and whose lives have taken slightly different turns based on different decisions being made (see “Left Turn” in S4). The Cybermen have things downloaded directly into their heads, which I must admit, sounded very convenient to me! Imagine plugging in and getting all seasons of a series put right there! (Yes, in an apocalypse I’d be the first one assimilated by the machines.)

What was interesting is that in this universe, Mickey is Ricky, and in S1 the Doctor INSISTED his name was Ricky no matter what Mickey said. So now we see there’s an insinuation that the Doctor had been to the parallel universe and had met Ricky first, which is why he insisted that was, in fact, his name. And the President looked a lot like the guy who was in that show with Anthony Stewart Head… damn, the show’s name escapes me but it was like a Sex and the City for guys… Manchild! I think that’s what it was. Anyway, I think he was in that, too.

So where do the Cybermen fall in the Whoverse? Are they as important as Daleks? When we first saw the head in the museum in S1 my husband immediately said, “Cybermen!!” They don’t appear to have updated them much, given what I saw in the museum, and I liked that.

The Idiot’s Lantern was a fun episode for me; not the best of the season, but generally outside of the UK, anything that’s set in a different time period tends to be either war- or royalty-related, so it’s nice to get something from the 1950s for a change.

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit: I REALLY enjoyed this two-parter. There’s this quiet, dark, scene where the Doctor is dropping down into the pit slowly and talking about faith and science, how he’s gone to the ends of the universe to see things, and maybe he just keeps travelling to see if there’s anything out there left to see… it’s one of my favourite moments of the series. Faith is a new element that seems to have come to the fore in these episodes and recently: do you believe, don’t you, does it matter? The Doctor has seen everything and he has very little faith in anything he can’t see, or so he says, but sometimes his actions belie what he says here.

One question, though: How would Rose know what a black hole is? (Do we just assume the Doctor has told her about them?)

Love & Monsters is a fairly Doctor-less episode, and I understand that Tennant had a contract that allowed him to be away for most of one episode each season? (For a 13-episode season? Seems a bit much… but anyway…) I liked the episode, though, with Moaning Myrtle and the idea of a bunch of people who’ve had Doctor sightings and have joined forces to find more about him, something we haven’t seen much of since the first episode of the New Series, where we saw the websites about the Doctor. Again, playing on the S2 theme of the Doctor coming in and out of people’s lives and touching them deeply.

The next ep, Fear Her, is the one with the little girl and her drawings. I liked this episode a LOT and it was super-creepy… The 2012 Olympics was a nice touch; will it be odd this episode watch post-2012? I mean, if the shot-put competition turns out differently than the Doctor predicted and all… ;)

Army of Ghosts is the first part of the season ender, where people believe that ghosts of the people they’ve loved and lost have come back (at a certain point of the day), not knowing that they’re not ghosts at all, but the Cybermen. Jackie’s back, and there’s a hilarious scene when the Doctor begins running through all of the strange stuff that’s happened on Earth lately and Jackie’s been oblivious to all of it (this will continue to be played to great effect in future seasons with other people who are wilfully ignorant of the goings-on around them. As a one-time fan of EastEnders, the bit on the telly with Peggy screaming at the ghost in the Queen Vic – “I don’t care if you are just the ghost of Den Watts, GET OUT OF MY PUB!!!” – made me scream with laughter. Hahahahahahahahaha!

I LOVED having Mickey back, but not as much as I loved that ending, where Rose, Mickey, and the guy who used to be on EastEnders as the only cute guy in that really annoying family who moved onto the Square and then left right after… are all standing around waiting for the Sphere to open, anticipating Cyberman, only to get… Daleks!! LOVE.

Doomsday is the finale, and the Daleks suddenly become the funniest villains on TV since Spike on Buffy. Apparently coming back in droves has made them super snarky. Highlights include the Cybermen standing in the hall telling the Daleks to identify themselves, and the Daleks countering that the Cybermen identify themselves, and back and forth until Mickey says, “It’s like watching Stephen Hawking go up against a talking clock!” Hahaha! Ooh, ooh, and then when the Dalek shouts at the group to “Cease social interaction!!” Or when the Cybermen say they’re superior, and the Dalek says the only thing they’re superior in is dying?! BRILL.

Like on Buffy, Doctor Who knows how to pull off a thrilling and incredible finale. They’re two for two at the end of this season, and Doomsday was an episode that despite its humour, had a pallor of gloom hanging over it because of the beginning, where Rose’s voiceover says that she died. She doesn’t die, but she’s separated from the Doctor, and it’s heartbreaking. Like so many characters on TV before her, I didn’t know how much I liked her until she was gone, and then I just wanted her back. The Doctor clearly feels more than just a friendship for Rose… it’s a deep, deep love, and you can tell this is one of the hardest goodbyes he’s ever had to say.

By the end of the season, Tennant had proved himself worthy and I loved him. Of course, there were a few things that became a little annoying, like the way he always had his eureka moments. “So if Who is on first… and What is…. No No NO!!! Oh GOD,” head up in the air, arms out, spinning around, “NOW I GET IT!” stops spinning, turns to the person he’s talking to… “WHO IS THE NAME OF THE PERSON WHO IS STANDING ON FIRST BASE, DON’T YOU SEE?!” knocks himself in the forehead with his palm “OCH, I can’t believe I didn’t NOTICE this before!"

I may be exaggerating slightly, but this began to irk me by the end of the second season. By the third it became endearing, and by the fourth I would have been sad NOT to have seen it.

I thought Eccleston was a marvel, but Tennant is my new favourite Doctor.


Christina B said...

I truly love watching you fall in love with my favourite show. It's like I'm seeing it through new eyes. :)

Be hinest...did you bawl as hard as I did (and STILL do!) when Rose is on one side of the wall and the Doctor is on the other side, with their faces pressed so close, yet so far apart? *sigh*

I knew Tennant would quickly win you over. I love Eccelston, but Tennant IS the Doctor.

I'm SO surprised you liked 'Fear Her'! That and 'Love and Monsters' are the two WHO episodes that are probably the most disliked.
Me, I'm not a fan of either episode.

Looking forward to the series 4 and 5 posts!

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I've been watching Doctor Who since 1965 - and David is my favourite too. :)

This really isn’t the children’s show the Classic Series is.

Didn't watch it, did you? ;)

It was never a children's show. It was a show the whole family could watch. BTW, my three-year-old grandson loves Doctor Who.

He has good taste.

I'm so glad you're enjoying it!

Erin {pughs' news} said...

I love David Tennant. Watching him say good-bye is one of the saddest moments on TV. I cried a lot. Probably not as much as I wept through the LOST finale, but still... a lot. He will always be my favourite Doctor, though I am quite fond of Matt Smith now. He's pretty awesome.

I loved reading this and remembering all the old episodes. That was awesome when Rose was trying to get Queen Victoria to say she wasn't amused!

So who's your favourite companion? Is it Donna Noble?

Page48 said...

That guy from "EastEnders" is Ash. Also from EE, Gita (remember Sanjay & Gita?) appears somewhere in S4.

The way I look at it, how could anyone not love Rose Tyler, especially after a scene like this from "Doomsday"? If I was a Time Lord, that would rip both of my hearts out.

I think that Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith have all represented The Doctor very well. Perhaps because he's the current DW, I really lean toward MS as my fave, though. I thought his 1st season was brilliant.

I soooooo hope that the Eleventh will cross paths with Rose someday.

James F. McGrath said...

Why wouldn't Rose know what a black hole is? Even people who don't read science books would have at least heard of them, right? I mean, she is supposed to be from our time period, since the London Eye already exists.

Nikki Stafford said...

I always have to watch my exact wording on here, don't I? ;)

Colleen: When I said children's show, I meant a show that is suitable for children. I'm not thinking the Classic Series was Barney. ;) Yes, I know it wasn't a children's show per se, but I was simply going by the enormous response I had the last time when people were telling me, "Oh, you can TOTALLY let your kids watch it, it's a show for children!" That's what I meant by that. Not that it would be played on Treehouse.

James: Yes, I know many people have a basic concept of a black hole, but go back and watch the episode and you'll see that Rose not only says, "It's a black hole," but then she goes on to define what a black hole is as if she'd memorized Stephen Hawking's book. It seemed a tad out of character for her. I wasn't suggesting she was stupid, but I've never seen her so scientifically inclined.

Nikki Stafford said...

Christina: It's funny, as I was watching Fear Her I was thinking, "I bet a lot of fans didn't like this episode." ;) But there was just something about it that I really liked. I liked it more than Love and Monsters, for sure, but I thought both of them were enjoyable.

Christina B said...

There was a lot of flack about the 'horrible' child actor, the 'awful' voice she does and the 'unbelievable' scribble monster.
It's nice to hear that not all fans dislike 'Fear Her'. :)

(vw: sidisco--How Spanish speakers accept a dance at a nightclub.)

Dave said...

It's great reading first impressions like these.

David Tennant was fantastic, wasn't he?

Here's a post I wrote about my favourite things from 2006, including David Tennant's first season.

Dave Wrote This

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Sorry, Nikki. The children's show thing is a touchy subject with the fans.

There's a lot of political satire and such in the series from the beginning. And it was done by the BBC drama department, not the children's department. Suitable for children works.

Quarks said...

It's been ages since I watched watched Season 2, not since it was first shown in 2006, so my memory of it isn't that great. I do remember that David Tennant is a fantastic Doctor, and my favourite of the three 'new' Doctors. I never watched the original, so that those are all I can judge.

This was quite a good season of 'Doctor Who' from what I can recall. I almost always prefer the episodes in the present or the future, and very few of this season was in the far distant past.

When I first watched 'School Reunion' (I keep wanting to call it 'School Hard' now) I didn't really know Anthony Head, and I had never watched 'Buffy', but looking back now there seems to be various 'similarities' in this episode. It's set in a Secondary School, stars Anthony Head, and the monsters are very bat-like, which can't help but bring to mind vampires (if not the like the ones in 'Buffy').

Speaking of 'Buffy', I read somewhere that 'Love and Monsters' was partly inspired by 'The Zeppo', in that they both follow a character other than the titular character and see the adventures which go on even when the Doctor or Buffy are not around.

I don't mind Rose. She's not my favourite companion, but I don't dislike her. As said in the post, she fulfils the role of a proxy for the viewer, which is most of the time the main purpose of the companion. It's similar to the role of Dr Watson in Sherlock Holmes: somebody for the Doctor or Sherlock to explain his thought process to, as the actual character does it all in his head.

I enjoy Doctor Who. It's probably one of the best sci-fi/fantasy shows we have in the UK. Another one which I like is 'Merlin', which I haven't seen since I started watching 'Buffy' and which also stars Anthony Head in a main role, so I shall no doubt be extremely confused as to why Giles is ruling Camelot when it returns in the Autumn.

Susan said...

David Tennant is my doctor, probably because he was my first doctor, and I think for a lot of people that ends up being the case.

FYI Love and Monsters is called a Doctor-lite episode, and what they would do is film two episodes over the same time period so they could fit in a Christmas special. Therefore one episode would have only a little of the doctor/companion in it. You'll see that again in seasons 3 and 4.

In Doomsday another funny line is where the Cybermen are trying to get the Daleks to identify themselves, and the Dalek says, "Daleks do not identify themselves," and the Cyberman replies, "You have just identified yourself."

I am not a Rose fan at all, and sometimes I can't tell whether I dislike the character or the actor. Billie Piper, while not really a bad actor, is terrible at enunciating, and if I don't have captions available, I have no clue what she's saying. As for Rose, she has an ability (that the Doctor sometimes lacks) to feel compassion for the individual. The Doctor is usually focused on saving everyone, but Rose can get right down to helping one person e.g. the girl in the Gelth episode, the scared maid in Tooth and Claw. But at times Rose can be really selfish. She doesn't care about how Jackie and Mickey feel about her going away and being in danger, she doesn't care that she would be separated from her mother forever, and she doesn't care if two universes are destroyed, just as long as she can be with the Doctor.

JS said...

I just started Season 2 - can't wait to read your post once we get through. Between rewatching Buffy, watching Angel, keeping up with Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, reading The Hunger Games.... jeez, how do I get anything done?

EsDee said...

My favorite from this series was The Girl in the Fireplace.

Of 9, 10 and 11, Tennant as 10 is still my favorite, I guess because he was more emo than the rest. I thought he portrayed that lonliness very well - and the angst and guilt of what happens to his companions and others who become involved with him. I always thought the rest of his craziness was just to cover that deep sadness he always felt.

I haven't quite seen that same emotion with Smith (although there was one episode where he got it just right - he finally brought me to tears - but I can't put my finger on which one it was now), although he grows on me more with each episode.

I did love Eccleston, but he was gone before I could get too attached.

As far as companions...I have a hard time rating them, except that I know Martha is my least favorite. Each had their place, does that make sense? What I like best about them is that they are never the same. Each companion brings something new and different. Guess you can say the same about the Doctors...

Quarks - I watch Merlin too, with my youngest daughter as it is a great family show. However, I am getting annoyed at the continual buffoonery of Merlin - and how Arthur continues to think he is an idiot - the joke has gotten old. Season 3 also missed some of the emotional punch from Season 2 (Merlin's lost love, and meeting and losing his Dad). My understanding from ComicCon interviews is that series 4 grows up a bit and gets a little darker - I am looking forward to that. Luckily my daughter is old enough to handle it.

Rebecca T. said...

This makes me want to go rewatch the earlier seasons. Oh David Tennant :) And I really like Rose - don't know if I can pick a favorite companion - I've enjoyed them all in different ways, thought I liked Martha better on Torchwood.

so much fun seeing your responses to the show!

JavaChick said...

I started watching Doctor Who with the Eccleston series as well, and I enjoyed it but David Tennant made me love Doctor Who. And Rose and The Doctor being separated at the end of S2 made me bawl.

I'm loving the Matt Smith seasons just as much, which was a relief. I was so disappointed when Tennant ended his run but Matt Smith is awesome as The Doctor and I love Amy & Rory.

EvaHart said...

So happy to see that you are enjoying Doctor Who! All these comments are bringing back great memories of some of my favourite DW episodes that I haven't seen for years. I really need a rewatch...

I knew you would love David Tennant- to be honest I don't understand how anyone can not like him ;)
I was so so lucky to see him in Much Ado About Nothing with Catherine Tate last week which was amazing. He is an incredibly gifted actor.

Looking forward to your comments on season three and eventually the Matt Smith era.

maven said...

Just decided to watch this show that all my on-line friends constantly talk about, and I"m so glad I did. I, too, just finished S2 and starting S3. Loved Eccleston and now love Tennant. I will miss Rose, the ending on the beach was so touching. Look forward to more updates on the series!

James F. McGrath said...

Nikki, I guess it exposes me as a science geek that I didn't even notice that when I watched it.

It has been great to have you share your first contact with Doctor Who. My son started the same way you did (he's much too young to have had contact with the pre-hiatus show) but he has now started watching classic Who. Do you think that you might do the same?

James F. McGrath said...

You can delete this comment - it just didn't give me the option of subscribing to comments when I left the previous one.