Doctor Who Series Two Review
Updated: May 2, 2020
Continuing with our weekly discussion about Doctor Who, today we are focusing on the second series of the modern revival of the show. Last week we covered Series One, in great length, and naturally this week we will discuss, review and analyse Series Two.
For those of you reading these reviews for the first time, they are being written in light of our upcoming Doctor Who walking tour of Cardiff. The Welsh capital has served as the backdrop to most of the new episodes filmed this century, be it in studios, on streets and in buildings around the city, and a tour of those locations will become a reality later this year (hopefully). In the meantime, consider these reviews a light introduction into what may or may not feature on tours in the future.
Lets begin with a bit of context and backstory ahead of our episode by episode breakdown. David Tennant takes over as the Doctor from Christopher Eccleston from this point. Those are some big shoes to fill and needless to say he does a great job in the role and for many he is perhaps the most iconic version of the Doctor to date. At this stage of his career he was a relative unknown to many, but he catapulted both himself and the show to international stardom with his portrayal of the Doctor as this zany, charming, handsome, energetic, quirky character. Doctor Who grew into an international phenomenon during his run as the Doctor, and through no small part of his own.
Regarding Welsh references, Cardiff and wider south Wales are even more prevalent in the second series, using city and suburban streets, castles and manors, and quarries and beaches throughout. Wales is also present via one of the more prominent directors this season, Euros Lyn from Cardiff, who directed four episodes including ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’. Russell T. Davies is, of course, still around as the main writer and showrunner as well.
Series Two was also by no means a perfect series though. Tennant’s performances and idiosyncrasies, and the destiny of his relationship with Rose really carry the show throughout and give it a satisfactory finale. However, it took a few inconsistent steps to get there. While the first series didn’t feature a single disappointing episode, the same can not be said for its follow up. It certainly looks impressive at times, has more glamorous effects, locations and guest stars too, but the stories can vary dramatically from episode to episode.
Saying that, the second series of new Who does contain werewolves, Cybermen, alternate realities, throwbacks to the original programme, some hilarious dialogue between Daleks and Cybermen, and a tear-jerker of a finale, so there is plenty to enjoy, and a lot to discuss. So, lets get into the episodes...
‘The Christmas Invasion’ aired in December 2005 as the first Christmas special for the new generation. Tennant starts off slowly, being unconscious and useless to Rose, so it took some time to get to know him. There was added suspense as a result though as Rose and her family were left to fend for themselves. Once he emerged he was full of life, eccentricities and, of course, he defeated the Sycarax in an ultimately iconic manner.
Moving into 2006, ‘New Earth’ is the first standard episode of the season. It brings about the return of Casandra, and The Face of Boe, for the first time since ‘The End of the World’. It was particularly interesting to get more of Casandra's backstory as a standard human being, to discover more of her personality and where she came from, and how she dies. This was also a chance for Billie Piper and Tennant to have some fun overacting and body-swapping, and re-established their relationship following his regeneration.
‘Tooth & Claw’ had a great premise, considering the time period, the presence of Queen Victoria, the spooky castle setting and a werewolf, but unfortunately was not as tense or scary as promised. However, it ultimately served its purpose with the invention of Torchwood and there was more banter between Rose and the Doctor regarding whether the Queen would say “We are not amused”...
‘School Reunion’ is really where the series finally gets going. It took a story back on modern Earth to really start moving the characters along. We’re thrown straight into the action in the school, the villains are interesting and threatening, Sarah Jane Smith makes a welcome appearance for the first time since the late 70s, and the dynamic between the characters (including Mickey!) is enjoyable. The bickering and exchanges between Rose and Sarah Jane over the Doctor are the fulcrum of the episode, and brings about, again, the question of Rose’s destiny, because if she is not to be the companion forever, what will be her fate...
‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ is a great standalone episode of television. Perhaps the first time Tennant’s doctor showed any heavy negative emotion, the first time he was forced to look at himself and his loneliness and helplessness. It also showed Rose that she was never going to be enough, as Madame de Pompadour was more of a match for him. It is a visually ambitious episode as much as it is story-wise, blending renaissance France with the sci-fi of the robots.