Saturday, 26 January 2013

Doctor Who (Series Two)

As we all know Doctor Who became a massive hit when it was brought back to our television screens in 2005. The first episode alone received about 10 million viewers so the BBC immediately commissioned a second series. A special hour-long episode called The Christmas Invasion aired on Christmas Day 2005, with the second series airing from April 2006. Billie Piper would reprise her role as the Doctor's companion Rose Tyler in this second series before leaving the show but John Barrowman wouldn't return at all as Captain Jack Harkness. Instead Barrowman was given his own spin-off show called Torchwood, which first aired in October 2006. The second series of Doctor Who would also feature a different actor playing The Doctor. Just a few days after the first episode of series one was aired it was announced that Christopher Eccleston would be leaving the show after just one series. Eccleston has distanced himself from Doctor Who ever since and it seems extremely unlikely that we'll ever see him on the show again. Unless he gets a great storyline or is strapped for cash I doubt we'll be seeing him for the show's 50th anniversary later this year.

Eccleston's replacement for the role would be David Tennant. He had been the bookmakers' favourite to take over the role as soon as Eccleston had announced that he was leaving. This was partly because Tennant had already worked with Doctor Who's then-showrunner Russell T Davies before on the BBC mini-series Casanova; but it was mostly because Tennant had been a die-hard fan of Doctor Who ever since he was a child. Numerous times he'd been quoted as saying that watching Doctor Who as a child was the reason why he wanted to become an actor and that playing the Doctor was his dream role. This childhood dream came true when he got to play the 10th Doctor : ) In this post I'm going to be writing an overview of the series before moving on to write more in-depth reviews of the episodes in following posts. To sum up quickly though: there are two fantastic episodes in this series and two terrible episodes. The rest are all enjoyable, family entertainment.

David Tennant as the 10th Doctor
The Doctor
David Tennant's casting provoked mixed reactions from the fans initially. Not everyone likes change of course and Tennant wasn't a huge name at the time. He had mostly done stage work including numerous Shakespeare plays. Some fans were excited about his casting and some were apprehensive. I myself was excited. I had already seen Tennant before in Casanova and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and had really enjoyed his performances. And when I saw him as the Doctor I loved him! I wasn't the only one to love him either. Series two was a huge hit and proved that series one was no fluke. In fact Tennant became the most popular Doctor since Tom Baker and even became something of a national treasure.

David Tennant gave a wonderful performance as the Doctor. I liked Christopher Eccleston's Doctor but I LOVED Tennant's. His Doctor just came across as so much more likeable. He had a mischievous wit and he had a magnetic screen presence. His Doctor was also dashing, lively, adorable, quirky and energetic. Tennant had a much wider range than Eccleston too and was more of an all-rounder. He was better than Eccleston when it came to doing light-hearted, comedic scenes and he had a greater aura of eccentric intelligence. His Doctor was never as brooding and intense as Eccleston's but he could still do dark and angry scenes extremely well when he had to. David Tennant is an outstanding actor and he made for a wonderful Doctor. Occasionally the scripts let him down and I hated his regeneration scene but he was still brilliant overall. He was living his dream and his natural enthusiasm just shone through. He threw himself into the part and was clearly having a great time playing the character. Tennant won several awards for playing the Doctor but he should have won a BAFTA for the role in my opinion. At the very least he should have been nominated!

So yeah, Tennant is an exceptional actor and I think that was the main reason why he became so popular as the Doctor. But I'm not going to pretend that there aren't other reasons why he became so popular. For one thing it has to be said that David Tennant is an extremely attractive man. He's tall, dark and gorgeous and looks a decade younger than he really is. I can't believe that he's now 41! Also, his suits-and-converse look really suited him. His clothes were geeky but he still managed to look really cool with it. I think another big factor in David Tennant becoming so popular is that he's obviously a really lovely person and it comes across in interviews. He was also willing to appear as himself on TV i.e. guest-hosting Nevermind the Buzzcocks and going on Who Do You Think You Are? 

However I still firmly believe that it was Tennant's brilliant acting that caused him to be as popular as he was. Oh I'm sure his good looks, warm personality and long duration as the Doctor certainly helped but I truly believe that David Tennant is one of the finest actors working in Britain today. If it hadn't been for him I think Doctor Who could have gone disastrously wrong. As I mentioned in my series one review of the show, Doctor Who was a very flawed and inconsistent show when Russell T Davies was in charge. Yes it was still a very entertaining show but it was also a show that you felt a bit embarrassed about watching. Well, I sometimes felt embarrassed about watching it anyway! You could watch an episode of Doctor Who that was sheer brilliance one week to watching a really boring or silly episode the next. But Tennant's acting helped to keep even the worst episodes of Doctor Who watchable and he's my favourite Doctor. I liked Christopher Eccleston's Doctor. I think Matt Smith is doing an amazing job at the moment and I love him too. I've really enjoyed the classic Doctors I've seen (Tom Baker, Peter Davison and Paul McGann). But the 10th Doctor remains my favourite and I REALLY hope that Tennant will come back for the show's 50th anniversary. I reckon he'd be well up for it and I'd love to see him and Matt Smith's Doctors interacting with each other.

The only vaguely negative thing that I have to say about Tennant's Doctor is that I kind of wish they'd let him keep his native Scottish accent for the role instead of giving him a generic southern English one. They let Christopher Eccleston use his native Mancunian accent after all so why not let Tennant keep his Scottish one? Also, Tennant's Scottish accent is ridiculously sexy! Oh well, at least Tennant's English accent is really good and he did get to use his Scottish accent in Tooth and Claw.

The Companions
As I've already mentioned Billie Piper reprised her role as Rose Tyler in this series....*sigh*  I have nothing against Billie Piper, I really don't. I think she's a solid, capable actress and I think she did a genuinely great job on Doctor Who. But I can't stand Rose Tyler. Not because of Billie Piper's acting but because of the way the character was written. Rose did have some good moments in series one I must admit. I liked her "Bitchy trampoline" line to Cassandra in The End of the World. I liked her in The Unquiet Dead and Father's Day episodes. I liked the scene where Rose got semi-possessed by the TARDIS in The Parting of the Ways. However, Rose's good moments were few and far between and her character mostly annoyed me. In this series she's even even more annoying! I think Rose had a better dynamic with the 9th Doctor. Rose was willing to challenge and question the 9th Doctor's decisions in series one but her character gets really simpering with the 10th. Rose isn't so aggravating that she ruins the show but she's still an irritating character nonetheless. I know a lot of people out there really love Rose and I wouldn't judge someone for liking her character - but why?! Why do people like her character?! Throughout her time on Doctor Who Rose treated her loving mother and boyfriend Mickey like they were crap, especially Mickey. She kept stringing him along and even Billie Piper herself once admitted that Rose was a "bit of a cow" to him. Rose obviously wanted the excitement of the Doctor and the security of Mickey at the same time. Rose had a jealous, possessive streak too. She was rude and bitchy towards any woman who showed an interest in the Doctor, i.e. Sarah Jane Smith in this series and Martha Jones in series four. Rose even made the Doctor get on my nerves occasionally. And then there's the Doctor-Rose romance...

Whilst there was a bit of flirtation between Rose and the 9th Doctor in series one it was still reasonably subtle. In series two though the romantic tension between Rose and the 10th Doctor is much more blatant and obvious, at least it is on Rose's behalf anyway. It becomes obvious that she's madly, crazily, passionately in love with the Doctor. However, I don't think the Doctor reciprocates Rose's feelings for him to the same extent. I'm not saying that the Doctor didn't love Rose at all. His tears in Doomsday and his pining for Rose in series three clearly shows that he did. But I don't believe that the Doctor's love for Rose is an all-consuming passion. If so then why would he fall in love with Madame du Pompadour in The Girl in the Fireplace? Not to mention that he was much less enthusiastic at the thought of settling down with Rose than Rose was with him in The Impossible Planet. I don't really buy the 10th Doctor/Rose romance as being some great love story. I guess you could accuse me of being biased because of my dislike of Rose but I genuinely believe that Rose loved the Doctor more than he loved her.

Rose Tyler isn't the only companion of the Doctor's in this series though. Mickey Smith gets to be a temporary companion of the Doctor's too. This was a great decision. Mickey was pretty much defined as "Rose's Boyfriend" in series one. I felt sorry for him because of the way Rose treated him, but I still didn't care about him that much and I did find him a bit boring. But in this series Mickey gets more character development and he becomes more interesting and likeable. By the time he shows up again in Army of Ghosts you can see how much he's grown.

Recurring characters
I did feel some sympathy for Jackie in Aliens of London/World War Three back in series one but I mostly found Rose's mother really annoying. She was hysterical, shouty and very over-the-top. Jackie is more bearable in this series though and she gets some good character development in Love & Monsters and the Army of Ghosts/Doomsday two-parter. We get to see Rose's dad Pete Tyler in this series too. Shaun Dingwell was so good in the Father's Day episode in series one that I'm not surprised they brought him back and it was really nice to see him again.

My favourite episodes of Series Two:
  • School Reunion (by Toby Whithouse)
  • The Girl in the Fireplace (by Steven Moffat)
  • The Impossible Planet/The Satan's Pit (by Matt Jones).
My least favourite episodes of series two:
  • Love & Monsters (by Russell T Davies)
  • Fear Her (by Matthew Graham).

My favourite Guest Stars of series two:

  • Pauline Collins (in Tooth and Claw), 
  • Elisabeth Sladen and Anthony Stewart Head (in School Reunion)
  • Sophia Myles (in The Girl in the Fireplace).

Born Again
I thought I'd include the 2005 Children in Need special in this review as well. It's a little mini-episode called Born Again that directly follows the final scene from The Parting of the Ways, the series one finale. After a fairly lengthy recap of The Parting of the Ways it picks up a few minutes after that episode's final scene. Born Again feels like more a deleted scene than an actual mini-episode and it could have easily been been put in at the start of The Christmas Invasion. It would have fit in perfectly. It's still a really nice little scene though. The Doctor is full of energy and is excited about his new body and appearance. He's full of life. However, Rose is much less enthusiastic. She thinks that the Doctor must have been captured and that the man in front of her is an imposter. Both David Tennant and Billie Piper act really well in this scene. Billie Piper looks genuinely alarmed and David Tennant's acting is great already. He shows an impressive amount of range in the space of a few minutes. He goes from delight and excitement about his new appearance, to sadness at Rose's rejection, to vulnerability as the effects of the regeneration kick in, and then to slightly unhinged mania as he pilots the TARDIS back to modern-day Earth. And then we get The Christmas Invasion...


Mizzie-Me said...

Sophia Myles played Kate Nickleby in the 2001 ITV miniseries of "Nicholas Nickleby" (which you should definitely see if you haven't yet), and she was LOVELY in it. She is such an unbelievably elegant lady both as Kate Nickleby and Reinette, but what's even more amazing, she manages to play elegant with warmth :) I love talented people!!

Hannah said...

I love Sophia Myles in The Girl in the Fireplace! You're so right, she brings so much elegance and warmth to the part :) I didn't know that there was an ITV version of Nicholas Nickleby but I'll have to give it a watch after I've read the book. I do try to read books before I see their adaptations. I don't always succeed but I try!

It's kind of weird for me to see these old Doctor Who reviews of mine again! For some reason I find Doctor Who really hard to review and I'm not sure I like what I've written about the show so far. I might try to tidy these posts up a bit

Mizzie-Me said...

I'm a "books first" person as well :) Nicholas Nickleby was actually the first Dickens novel I read, and it made a brilliant introduction to him – it's truly a wonderful story; funny and tragic, sharp and adventurous ;) There are two TV adaptations that I know of: the ITV one I mentioned, and a film that came out in 2002. However, the ITV one is superior in every way in my opinion – it's got James D'Arcy and Charles Dance in the leads, for starters!