After that first year, I was desperate to find every scrap of Doctor Who footage I could find. A 2 minute interview was gold! The series came back with all the wonder and excitement of my youth. But that didn’t mean we wouldn’t be objective about the episodes that were broadcast. How did Roger and I think Series 2 fared by comparison to the first? How did we like this new Doctor? Find out below…
RP: 7 – Post-regenerative trauma always makes for a weak debut, but when the Doctor eventually shows up he is of course instantly magnificent, and Rose carries the show well in the meantime. The Sycorax aren’t all that great, but I love the killer Santas.
ML: 9 – The first half of the episode is slow but when Tennant arrives on scene is makes up for any lull that had happened until that point. His official start is… fantastic! Rose keeps the viewer connected and her personal heartache is palpable.
RP: 5 – Your appreciation of this will probably depend on the extent to which you need science in Doctor Who to make any sense at all. I’m happy to see past that, and this is a lot of fun, although it is a relatively weak first episode for a new series.
ML: 2 – Man, did I want someone to take Russell’s pen away! I thought this was such a weak first episode for a new Doctor, complete with cures that pass immediately through touch and cat nurses. It has aged better than I would have expected and I had to bump the score up from what I used to think… but that doesn’t say much!
RP: 5 – I’m not quite sure what the kung fu monks are doing there, Rose and the Doctor both lose all empathy for one story, and Rose in particular is hideous this week, but a story that is basically Queen Victoria vs a werewolf is always going to be watchable entertainment.
ML: 8 – The episode suffers from some odd choice of Matrix-monks and a pair of time travelers who just take everything like a big joke but makes up for a lot by giving us a creature that the Doctor is not able to reason with. A werewolf story was always going to catch my attention. Some great cinematography to top it all off makes this a strong episode for the season.
RP: 10 – Oh, my Sarah Jane. It doesn’t matter that the monsters aren’t out of the top draw. This has Anthony Stewart Head hamming it up as the villain, Sarah and Rose getting into a girlfriend rivalry battle, and K9 and Mickey as two tin dogs. It doesn’t so much pull on the heartstrings as rip them out and stomp all over them. That moment when the Doctor sees Sarah again for the first time…
ML: 10 – For a newcomer to the series, this episode might not get the top score I give it, but any fan of the classic series will have their heart aching with this one. Sarah Jane is back in all her glory … and K-9 too! The combo is perfect and the echoes of the past just make this one of the best stories of Season 2. Long live Sarah Jane!
RP: 8 – Some fabulously inventive ideas in this and the clockwork robots are great. Real chemistry between David Tennant and Sophia Myles, although I was never entirely sold on the romance. I think at this point Rose already should mean too much to the Doctor for him to ditch her and go after somebody he’s just met.
ML: 10 – Steven Moffat’s second attempt to blow our minds pays off with a stellar cast and a great looking villain. The Clockwork Droids are outstanding and the time jumping story is another heartfelt win for the series. Again, cinematics are at the top of their game with seasons illustrating the passage of time and a great score to go with it. Top marks to this classic!
Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel
RP: 6 – The best new Cybermen design since the 60s, and parallel universes are always fun. Could have done without the reboot of the Cybermen origins, and all the stomping.
ML: 6 – Well, they looked great, but I did want the Cybermen to be scarier and that meant going more “Borg”, not more “robot”. The opening had such potential but the parallel earth didn’t hold up as well for me; how is it different than every other Doctor Who story that ignores continuity? And to lose Mickey…
RP: 8 – The Outer Limits used to do a lot of this kind of thing: take a contemporary fear surrounding a new technology and have some kind of a monster inhabit the technology. Explores television as a force for evil in a way that only Doctor Who can do, and those blank-faced people are really disturbing. This one doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, although the Doctor’s attempt to get Tommy to reconcile with his monstrous father is a moment that misfires.
ML: 7 – For a fairly light episode, there’s a lot of entertaining moments. I love the interrogation scene but across the board, this feels like a light Doctor Who episode that was just really well done. Loses something in Who-ish-ness, but gains something for a fun trip to the 50’s!
The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit
RP: 9 – This goes so far beyond the Doctor’s own experiences that it causes him to question his beliefs, and that’s scary. Claustrophobic and yet epic and awe-inspiring, with some great character moments, and this story even brings back Gabriel Woolf to do his satanic voice. More effective when the beast is being heard and not seen.
ML: 10 – Wow… this is one that hit all the right marks for me. Scary monster, exploration of hidden places, questioning ones beliefs and a new race that looked like a Lovecraftian nightmare… Then to top it off, we get the amazing voice of classic era Sutekh, Gabriel Woolf! One of my favorites.
RP: 9 – I think this is not generally popular because people thought it was poking fun at Doctor Who fans, but that’s a misunderstanding. It’s a celebration of fans, and the lifeline being a fan of something can be, bringing new friends into people’s lives. It speaks personally to me on that level, so I can forgive the silly monster and the misjudged fate of Ursula. Plus, it has some great music.
ML: 7 – This episode is way more entertaining than I think it’s given credit for, but it probably should not get to rise above an average rating. The absolute stupidity of Ursula as a stone head just for the sake of a cheap sex joke is a dreadful moment and brings an otherwise fun, if hollow, episode a little lower. On the other hand, Elton carries so much of it that it gives us a reason to care, thus manages to pull off an above average rating.
RP: 6 – Much like The Celestial Toymaker, it is now fashionable not to like this. The sheep follow the herd. At the time it was generally well-received, but it was very much of its time, tapping into the excitement about the upcoming London Olympics. The monster is a bit silly, but it’s still a fun little interlude before the big finale to the season.
ML: 5 – Lame monster but the story of a little lonely girl does tug at the heart a bit. Some great performances by Tennant and Piper which does bring the score higher, but very middle of the road on this one. (Though I now use the phrase “edible ball bearings” when eating those cupcake toppers!)
RP: 8 – Daleks vs Cybermen is a mash up the fans had dreamed about forever, but the reality wasn’t all we had hoped for. As a Cybermen fan it stuck in the craw, because it diminished the Cybermen by showing the Daleks as the far stronger foe. The emotional parting between Rose and the Doctor is obviously magnificent though, and you can’t fail to join the Doctor in shedding a tear.
ML: 8 – Like last season’s finale, the two part story has a weak opening part but a very strong second half. What really brings the number up though isn’t the Daleks vs. Cybermen, but the parting of Rose from the Doctor. That piece of music (Doomsday) rips right through the listener. Amazing!!
RP: 7 – Another midsummer Christmas in Doctor Who, with a monster that is undeniably impressive but fails to hit the arachnophobia spot because she is too humanised and too funny. Donna is a bit annoying in her debut, but at this stage she’s playing a one-off rather than a continuing companion. This version of Donna wouldn’t have been sustainable across a whole season. But the action never lets up and there are some great moments, such as the TARDIS car chase.
ML: 7 – A so-so episode is made stronger by a giant red spider (something I never expected to say) and some great banter between the Doctor and Donna. Unfortunately, the episode needed a better dynamic between Doctor and Companion. (The episode gets an above average rating though because there would come a day when we fans would realize how important it was to meet Donna like this first. Kudos to Russell T. Davies for not giving up his pen!)
In some cases, it’s hard to give the episodes a lower rating like some may actually deserve because the cast was so amazing. On top of that, the show was back after an unpleasantly long time so they could have done a lot wrong and gotten away with it (Ursula, anyone?) But could they improve on something that was so strong? ML
Post-regenerative traumas can become wearisome after a while, certainly with all the repeatable symptoms from amnesia to temperamental fits. With a superb actor like Tennant who can make the best impact he could, it makes the recovery all the more memorable. Thank you both for the Top of the Docs reviews.
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Now that you mention the Daleks being shown as the stronger foe than the Cybermen, it makes me look back on how the classic series Cybermen were once so easily defeated by the Raston Robot. It can therefore make us wonder if we ever really thought of who would win: Daleks of Cybermen, if we ever saw that long-awaited battle finally happen. Or if we just assumed that they would simply destroy each other as a consequence of their mechanized arrogance.
Our disappointments for how a great fight turns out, if you were cheering for the one who ends up losing, can teach us to be more prepared for how surprising our TV shows and movies can often be in that regard. But for the Daleks and the Cybermen, I don’t remember thinking that much about it and looking back now, perhaps I finally will.
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