Following on from my review of Season One (which you can find here
), it’s time to move on, to rank review and rate Season Two, David Tennant’s first season as The Doctor and Billie Piper’s second as companion/major love interest (why tho?) Rose. Much like my last one, this is going to be a long read, so feel free to skip to the shorter rankings and placements at the bottom! THE CHRISTMAS INVASION (5/10)
The first ever official Christmas episode of Doctor Who, and it’s not the worst thing that Who has done or will do that’s for sure. Rose’s reaction to the Doctor who she was so close with changing into someone else was very well scripted and acted, but the focal point of this episode is introducing the 10th Doctor to the show’s audience – this is a man who should not be crossed, no second chances. His takedown of Harriet Jones, Prime Minister, is brutal to watch mostly because she had a valid point – he won’t always be there to save the Earth so they have to defend themselves. So much for three successive terms. It does a decent job of introducing the sort of person that he would become… in the last third of the episode. Because we spend way too much of this episode watching Rose and her loved ones getting attacked by robot Santas and Christmas trees rather than getting to know the new face we have before us and the Sycorax are one of the most generic villains Who would ever give us. The episode is entirely skippable and quite dull until the Doctor wakes up, which is a shame because it’s supposed to be his first actual story – the only thing that makes this one worth watching for me. Okay, but there would be better Christmas episodes to come. NEW EARTH (6/10)
I probably like this episode way more than most Who fans. The comedy elements throughout the episode work well and both Tennant and Piper do a brilliant job with the body-switching shenanigans they’re caught up in. This is of course courtesy of returning villain Cassandra whose name was on absolutely nobody’s lips when asked who should return; she does, however, get a surprisingly emotional ending when she meets her past self on the night she was last called beautiful. It’s a moment that really raises this episode up and does Cassandra much better service than The End of the World
ever did. However, everything else in the episode is rather uninteresting, with the infected living flesh and Cat-Nuns proving to be the worst parts of this episode and the resolution of a big cocktail with every cure mixed in being an easy RTD ending that doesn’t feel satisfying enough. Solid episode overall, mostly because of the character work between 10, Rose and Cassandra. TOOTH & CLAW (6/10)
A werewolf. In 19th Century Scotland. Who is coming to kill Queen Victoria and claim the throne. And yet I can’t really remember much about this episode besides Rose’s nakedness, The Doctor’s Scottish accent and them both trying to get Victoria to say ‘I am not amused’ – yes, the highlight of this episode for me was the Doctor and Rose’s shenanigans throughout the episode and their sheer joy at seeing a real life Werewolf. The Wolf is a decent villain for the episode, even if it does spend most of the episode running around the mansion killing off expendable characters. Torchwood is also established in this episode, this season’s overriding arc, and that’s all I have to say about that now. The whole deal with the Monks is completely unneeded and is something that brings the episode down for me, especially the opening scene which is cringey for me. It also suffers from being made in 2006, with the CGI arguably at its worst in NuWho here. Okay, but not really memorable. SCHOOL REUNION (7.5/10)
I really wanted to give this one a higher rating, but I’ll get to why this episode only has a 7 in a moment. This episode has two major draws for me, the first of which is Sarah Jane Smith – I’ll admit I haven’t really watched Classic who but as a major fan of the Sarah Jane Adventures, anytime I see her on screen I get the biggest grin on my face. The second is Anthony Stewart Head, who is an absolute treasure to watch in anything he does (I should point out that I absolutely adore Buffy) and pulls in a brilliant performance in this episode as the main villain Mr. Finch.
This is an episode that really relies on it’s performances by the cast to pull it up because it has two major issues for me, the first of which is Sarah Jane Smith – I get that RTD really wanted to push the DoctoRose star-crossed lovers relationship thing, but it was at the expense of making Sarah Jane seem like nothing more than a jealous ex-lover of the Doctors’ and is truly a disservice to the character. Secondly, the plot is paper thin – aliens disguised as teachers are feeding children alien oil which makes them smarter to solve the Theory of Everything. I do really like this episode but it’s hard to overlook its flaws. THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE (10/10)
The most emotionally effective episode of Davies’ era, who must have been envious that he didn’t write this one himself. I really can’t find one flaw with this episode so if anyone has any please comment below because there may be something I missed. The Doctor and Reinette have genuine chemistry between each other and work better than him and Rose (maybe because Tennant and Myles were in a relationship at the time) meaning that the dramatic core of the episode really works. Reinette’s letter to the Doctor which closes the episode is an emotional gut punch that feels inevitable and acts as the perfect yet bittersweet ending the episode deserved and the reveal that she ship was named after Antoinette answers any lingering questions without having to explain the answers. The comic relief provided by Mickey and Arthur the horse is also fantastic but also necessary for the episode to work and the Clockwork Robots are an example of a simple enemy with a simple motivation that actually works but is unique compared to other enemies. Tightly paced and brilliantly acted, this was another triumph for Moffat. RISE OF THE CYBERMEN/THE AGE OF STEEL (7/10)
The first two-parter of the season and I can say, unequivocally that this is Mickey’s story – his character arc really pays off in this two-parter, where he goes from somebody scared who would cling on for safety to a front-line warrior who finally finds his place, even if it is on a different planet. This episode also marks the return of Rose’s dad Pete from Season One, but a parallel version of him, who never died and became really successful, and that’s the only way these episodes use the parallel Earth really because nothing else that could be different is really explored in as much depth as this despite the opportunities. There are some memorable side characters in this episode – Jake in particular (is it just me or was something going on with Ricky and him?) and the ill-fated Mrs Moore who feels like the only notable casualty across both episodes. Also, Rose being Jackie’s pet dog in this universe is a hilarious reveal.
The Cybermen also make their NuWho debut this episode and even though they don’t feature much across the RTD era, they aren’t well handled. They are led by cliché baddie John Lumic, owner of sinister tech company Cybus Industries and possibly the blandest two-parter enemy of the show so far – at least the Slitheen were memorable. It’s an issue with NuWho in general that the Cybermen are often nothing more than henchmen to someone more powerful than them, and this is where that trend started from. However, this is a two-parter that is watchable, but struggles with its bland enemies. THE IDIOTS LANTERN (4/10)
Mark Gatiss returns to Who to deliver his next offering. And is this episode watchable? Kind of – it’s an episode that is carried largely by more DoctoRose banter between the two and the Wire is a passable, if extremely campy villain (honestly ‘HUNGRY’ as a catchphrase was never going to catch on). I had fun watching it, even if its plot is barely even there – use a big aerial to suck people’s faces while watching the Coronation then… I don’t remember the Wires’ endgame here to be honest. The faceless people could’ve been so much scarier but weren’t. And we can say ‘what was the point of this episode’ about any episode if you’re pedantic enough but really, what was the point of this episode? Don’t watch TV because it’s dangerous? Forgive your abusive and vile father? Again, I can watch this episode, but it draws some negative opinions from me. THE IMPOSSIBLE PLANET/THE SATAN PIT (9.5/10)
I absolutely love this two-parter and I’d be inclined to say it’s one of the best and well-paced ones of the entire show. The first part is one of those episodes that know exactly how to draw you into the episode – The Doctor and Rose land on an empty base and decide to investigate around eventually finding the Ood and then the crew who are all characters who we genuinely root for and care for in regards to their wellbeing. But this is an episode that build the intrigue fantastically - the Ood and the AI uttering creepy phrases like ‘He is awake’, The Beast reaching out to Toby and Scooti’s horrific death-by-vacuum at the hands of Toby!Beast are all some of the most tense moments of the entire show and fill the audience with dread. It’s an episode that plays out like a horror film in every way right up to the cliffhanger which sees every character in perilous danger at the hands of the Ood.
If The Impossible Planet
built up the tension, The Satan Pit
allows it all to be released in one of the most action packed 45 minutes the show has ever given us – the crew are wiped out one by one, there’s chase scenes through claustrophobic tunnels and one of the best scenes of the episode, where the Beast talks to the crew for a gripping 5-minutes, and refers to Rose’s upcoming fate – he knows more than The Doctor does, and the episode ends that way too. There’s the gripping conversation between The Doctor and The Beast acting as the joint climax of the episode, which allows Tennant to show off his acting chops once again this season. There’s lots at stake here and tough decisions must be made but it makes for a gripping episode.
I’ll admit that I’m not keen and The Doctor and Rose’s conversation about settling down – the subtleties of Rose and the 9th Doctor’s relationship have completely vanished, and the ending relies on a major convenience in show with the TARDIS being found where the Doctor is. But it’s still a gripping two-part story and remains a favourite of mine to this day. LOVE & MONSTERS (3/10)
I’m keeping this one short because we all know what’s wrong with this episode – the slab-f***ing joke, the Abzorbaloff is an awful enemy and I get whiplash from the tone of this episode, which goes from comic to dark to dull in the space of a few seconds. I also cannot stand a single member of LINDA. Not. A. Single. One. The one positive I have on this episode is the development of Jackie – one thing I miss from the RTD era is the companions’ connections to Earth and those left behind feel about the fact they may never see that person again. Jackie’s fear for Rose is expertly played and Camille Coduri carries this episode – it’s a shame that that’s the only real diamond in the rough here. And that said rough might be one of the worst crimes committed to TV. FEAR HER (4/10)
I gave The Idiots Lantern
the same rating because I can watch it but it makes me angry in parts in the process. This is the opposite. Can I watch it? Yes, but it literally generates no reaction from me. No fear, despite the title, no emotional or threatening stakes throughout the episode and no real joy from watching it. There are a couple of good comedy moments such as the Doctor parking the TARDIS the wrong way and the drawings were absolutely hilarious looking, although I suspect they weren’t meant to be. But this episode suffers from one of my biggest pet hates about Doctor Who: the ‘love trumps all’ ending which is just lazy and uninspired. And the less said about the child actor the better, except for the fact that she clearly struggled with the whispering her character had to do. Big fat meh from me, although I don’t hate it as much as others do. ARMY OF GHOSTS/DOOMSDAY (9/10)
I could write pages on this episode, but I’m really going to try and keep this one short.
The emotional payoff of Rose’s arc and hers and the Doctor’s love for each other occurs in these episodes – Rose is sealed off in a parallel universe and they can never see each other again, except for when the walls of the universe are breaking down, or the Doctor crosses his own timeline or burns up a sun to say goodbye. It’s all wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff. But seriously, the scene on Bad Wolf Bad is supremely acted by Tennant and Piper and is as gut wrenching as it could be. Rose is completely broken as is the Doctor and even if I wasn’t a fan of their relationship and thought Piper had better chemistry with Ecclestone than Tennant, I still can’t help but shed a tear. This also means we say goodbye to Jackie and Mickey, both of which grew so much as characters throughout their two seasons on the show.
But that’s not all because two of the most iconic enemies in Doctor Who history return for an explosive two-part finale – the Daleks in the form of the sassy Cult of Skaro, which in my opinion were sorely underused. This feels like the last time the Daleks feel menacing for a long time yet in NuWho. There’s also the Cybermen, who work better here than they did in their previous appearance but still kind of feel underutilized once the Daleks appear. The idea of them appearing on Earth as ghosts and slowly infiltrating their what through is chilling. One of my major gripes with this two-parter is that we could’ve had an all out war between the Daleks and the Cybermen with humanity caught in the crossfire but we instead spend our time in Torchwood Tower, missing out on the action. The climax of them getting sucked into the Void feels a bit too easy, but the sight of both enemies flying back into Torchwood Tower is amusing.
I will admit that its extremely hard to talk about Army of Ghosts
because so much of the noteworthy action that happens actually occurs in Doomsday.
However, it does feature the reveal of what Torchwood really is except I don’t really care personally, mostly because it felt like a slightly more developed imitation of Season One’s Bad Wolf arc, but part of me feels like Canary Wharf’s Torchwood should’ve stuck around for longer – and I loved Yvonne Hartman and wished she’d made more appearances in Who before the finale because the payoff for the Torchwood arc may have felt more substantial.
Overall, its probably one of the best season finales that RTD had to offer yet it feels like it’s lacking in something, whether that was seeing a big Dalek v Cybermen battle to add some levity to the emotional weight of the episode, but it ends Rose’s arc in a good way. FINAL THOUGHTS
I feel as though Season Two isn’t as strong overall as its predecessor and the chemistry between Tennant and Piper wasn’t as strong as when Ecclestone was Doctor. This is arguably also Tennant’s worst season in the lead role, but he’s still a joy to watch regardless But Rose was a good companion, the perfect surrogate for the show who was flawed, but ultimately human. The amount of growth that happens in this season, especially with Mickey, was fantastic to watch too. Onwards and upwards though! FINAL RANKING
The Girl in the Fireplace (10/10)
The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit (9.5/10)
Army of Ghosts/Doomsday (9/10)
School Reunion (7.5/10)
Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel (7/10)
Tooth & Claw (6/10)
New Earth (5/10)
The Christmas Invasion (5/10)
Fear Her (4/10)
The Idiots Lantern (4/10)
Love & Monsters (3/10) SEASON RANKING
Season 1 (7.6)
Season 2 (6.9)