TV & Radio
Blu-ray review: Doctor Who - Series 2
REVIEW: (BBC/Roadshow Entertainment, PG)
For many Christopher Eccleston's Doctor was the first, despite eight actors playing the role on television before him. When he regenerated into David Tennant's Doctor in the Series 1 finale The Parting of the Ways many new viewers didn't know what to expect. Some were even worried.
Thankfully they had Billie Piper's assistant Rose Tyler to hang on to while the new Doctor got his plimsolled feet under the TARDIS' table. Piper guides the audience through Tennant's first story, The Christmas Invasion, voicing many of the fears viewers had about the new leading man. He looked different, the show wouldn't be the same, and so on.
Yet by Episode 3, School Reunion, both Rose and therefore the audience are completely at home with Tennant's Doctor. They were welcomed to the larger world of Doctor Who - a show that remained on screens more or less on television screens for 26 years precisely because it embraced change.
It seems incredible, 7 years later, that anyone would have worried about Tennant. His tenure as the Doctor is highly regarded and considered the best by some. (Personally, I don't think anyone has nailed it as well as Matt Smith who played an old old man in a young young man's body as if he was born to it.)
The Christmas Invasion was clever because it robbed us of any Doctor at all for most of the episode - Tennant's Doctor spends most of the episode tucked up in bed recovering from the regeneration. When he does appear, at the 11th hour at episode's end, he sends the alien hordes packing. The Doctor triumphant has arrived.
The first two episodes of Series 2 feel a lot like Eccleston shows. New Earth is a sequel to the Eccleston story The End of the World and reminds us that Tennant is the same man as Eccleston.
Tooth and Claw, which follows, is set in Tennant's Native Scotland and is a Doctor Who story of yore set in 1879. It's got Queen Victoria, warrior months and a werewolf. Russell T Davies used the story, and many more in this series, to launch his Torchwood spinoff about a top secret group who investigate paranormal and extraterrestrial activities on Earth - a dark and murky version of Doctor Who starring John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness.
School Reunion was the first episode I turned to when I popped Series 2 in the Blu-ray player. Not until The Name of the Doctor, at the end of Series 7 starring Matt Smith, does Doctor Who honour its beginnings. It's a great episode which works on two levels. Sarah Jane was the companion of 3d Doctor Jon Pertwee and 4th Doctor Tom Baker between 1973 and 1976. First the Doctor is pleased to see an old friend, but second Tennant is gushing at meeting his childhood heroine. Looking back, I'm a little cynical about Davies' decision to bring Sarah Jane and her robot dog K9 back as Davies used it to launch the Sarah Jane Adventures on Children's BBC the following year.
Next up is The Girl in the Fireplace, where current show runner Steven Moffat really gets to flex his writing muscles. The TARDIS lands on an alien spaceship in the far future whose rooms contain time portals to the 18th century Palace of Versailles. Through one, a fireplace, the Doctor meets the King of France's lover who is being plagued by clockwork monsters. It's a tear jerker with a wonderful twist at the end.
It took long enough, but finally the Cybermen return in the two parter (Davies cleverly insisted that two parters have different names so casual viewers don't feel they've missed out on too much if they join a story partway through) Rise of the Cybermen and Age of Steel. Sort of. These are, in fact, alternative universe Cybers. So we are able to get a genesis of the Cybermen story while visiting a parallel Earth where Rose's father Pete is still alive. This is a clever piece of writing as we'll need Pete again in the series finale.
Before that there's Love and Monsters, a Doctor lite episode about a group of London based geeks who meet every week to discuss the Doctor and their hope of hearing his TARDIS materialise. No episode of Doctor Who has ever divided the fan base so much. Some love it for its daring, off the wall, humour. Other's hate it for the same reason. It is a firm favourite of mine, but then while I am most definitely a fan who listens to the Doctor Who Podcast each week I have never really been a member of such a group.
The Idiot's Lantern, an OK tale set before Queen Elizabeth II's coronation which introduces a threat which is taking over the world via the airwaves, before we head into another two parter. The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit pits the Doctor, erm, against Satan himself. The Doctor is so often a saviour so why not have him save the universe from ultimate evil? Except, of course, there's more evil in the next episode for him to deal with.
Fear Her is a bit daft, but is the lull before the storm of the two parter Army of Ghosts and Doomsday which can only be described as epic. A Dalek cult has survived the Last Great Time War and made its way to earth followed by alternate universe Cybermen. The Daleks want to exterminate everyone, the Cybermen want to convert humanity into Cybermen, and none of it is pretty. The series closes with the Doctor losing Rose, and he can never see her again. This has to be one of Doctor Who's greatest moments for pulling on the heart strings.
The Blu-ray boxed set includes three high definition discs containing the same extra material as the DVD boxed set from years ago. Series 1, 3 and 4 have also been released.