I think this episode may be the most forgettable of the modern Doctor Who. Certainly not worst, in fact it isn't really bad, but one that barely dented my conciousness at the time.
Indeed, I've frequently been unable to recall the actual tite. The Empty Faces? The Hungry Televisions? In actuality The Idiot's Lantern is a great title.
And all of the parts are impressive but I don't think they gel - and the pacing is very leisurely for the first two thirds (and benefits as a result) but then everything is resolved in a flash, leaving the valedictory 'gay son gains self-esteem' epilogue.
It's less than the sum, but it's better than Gatiss' next two efforts. After The Unquiet Dead it seems not unreasonable to ask what went wrong.
Some excellent little flourishes from Euros Lyn, using unusual angles and close-ups to good effect.
The encounters with faceless people are all spooky and odd.
The conceit of the Wire is quite nice and sometimes well-realised
I quite like all the 50s nonsense that the Doctor and Rose do and their interactions feel rather more Whoish here, rather than the horrid mutual admiration codependence displayed elsewhere in series two.
All the performances are good, even if Maureen Lipman overdoes it somewhat.
The BBC shows how well it can do period dressing and ambiance again.
I can't make head nor tail of the way the plot is resolved. Admittedly I wasn't glued to the set while it was on, but the Doctor pushes some buttons and something happens and everything is OK? (See also: Daleks In Manhattan).
The whole abusive father / gay son subplot never feels anything less than awkward.
Tennant being angry. I remember reading with disbelief that Ian Briggs thought Sylvester McCoy played 'angry' very well. I wonder if the same thought occurred to virtually everyone who wrote for Tennant. They're about as right as Briggs was.
Well, what a year 2005 was. What a rollercoaster ride. A new series of Doctor Who taken immediately to the nation's bosom, a great new Doctor in Chris Eccleston, a revelation in Billie, some nice nods to the past and some old foes. Then the shock departure of the Ninth Doctor and Tennant and the decent Christmas Invasion.
I still remember the trailer for the second series that showed immediately after the Christmas Day special - and being very excited by it. Was that excitement warranted? Well, that's what we're here to find out.
Like last time, when we looked at Season One of the new Doctor Who series, I'll be asking the Geek Clique (a bunch of (largely) demographically-similar fans, you can probably guess which demographics) for their views and ratings of Tennant's first series.
If you missed it last time I asked them - in an investigation of whether my 33-33-33 good-bad-indifferent rule was about right - which episodes they liked. Just that. No marks out of ten or caveats. I also asked them for their comments on what they thought worked and why.
The Tenth Doctor, Rose, Mickey, Sarah-Jane, K9, Cybermen, the Absorbaloff. Alons-y!
For me this is probably the weakest of the series of NuWho, though Series Six is running it very close. I never really warmed to the Tenth Doctor, though I could appreciate Tennant's acting abilities. I found him rather self-satisfied, shouty and saddled with an awful accent. As one of the Geel Clique says, he's a twat. His relationship with Rose brought out the worst in them - they were hard to warm to and I was glad to see the back of the whingy, clingy, often cruel Rose by the end of the series.
I don't rate many of the stories either. It has one out-and-out classic in The Girl In The Fireplace, an episode that's funny, touching, clever, scary and weird by turn and an episode that really built up its emotional pay-off, rather than just having someone cry while Murray Gold wanks away in the background. Oh, it's 'drunk Doctor' scene is possibly the worst in the entire series, but we'll ignore that.
I also voted for School Reunion, an episode that I'd describe, favourably, as 'nice'. It's oh-so-slight and Anthony Head would have Graham Crowden frowning and thinking 'that's a bit much' but it has Sarah-Jane and K9 and some funny lines.
I really liked a lot of elements in The Impossible Planet and Satan Pit but it didn't feel like the sum of its parts. It came across as a bit jumbled, like it had been clumsily rewritten but I thought it genuinely chilling in parts - "Don't turn around" a classic moment - and boasted a strong cast. Best of all, Gabriel Woolf was in it.
NB. I forgot to vote for Girl In the Fireplace so bumped it up by one
And that was it for me. Tooth and Claw was a decent runaround, but that was it. The Idiot's Lantern seemed like a nice idea and looked a treat but was the first in a series of forgettable Gatiss scripts that just don't really come off.
I thought New Earth possibly the worst in the new series run and the Cybermen two-parter an absolute bodge of the brilliant Spare Parts audio play, with perhaps the worst single performance of the new series from Trigger off of Only Fools and Horses.
Fear Her is a complete waste of time and a bizarre fluff of the 'suburban horror' meme and the final two-parter a bemusing car crash of elements, characters, monsters and plot lines. I'm informed that half of the Geek Clique literally shit themselves with sadness when Rose went through the wall, though, so what do I know?
What else? Ah, yes. Love and Monsters. This is an intriguing little creation but it seems like it's wandered in from a different series. It's an episode about Doctor Who fans. Weird. But pretty good, on the whole.
The Geek Clique awarded this series just 35 votes. Assuming the same amount of people vote on each series that places Series 2 as last in the Clique's affections - with a series an average of just 3.5 to Series One's 58.
Anyway, as for my 33-33-33 (good, indifferent, bad) split, here goes:
-School Reunion, Girl in the Fireplace, The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
-Tooth and Claw, Love and Monsters
-New Earth, Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel, The Idiot's Lantern, Fear Her, Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
That's seven duffers out of 13, which is not a great hit rate and blows my mathematical wibbling out of the water.
Read what the Geek Clique made of the individual episodes, the Doctor-Rose-Mickey dynamic and the series as a whole below. And do let us know what you think about Series 2, both with comments and the poll at the bottom.
New Earth continues the nuWho tradition of dreadful opening nights. Like many of RTD's stories it has a grab bag of elements that sound exciting but have narrative reason to be together (nuns - who are cats, zombies, the Return of Cassandra, the Face of Boe again, etcetera). This one sounds like it was hindered by Davies rewriting the story in response to something Moffat said (Davies “invents interesting characters, then melts them”) and decided to give the story a happy ending. Instead of creating a scenario where Doctor has to kill the experimental subjects and the Face of Boe actually dies, tying in thematically with Cassandra's death, he grafted on a happy ending, which is bollocks. Cassandra's acceptance of her own mortality is completely out of keeping with everything the audience knows of the character, and the scenes in which the experimental subjects are cured by the application of the Sisters of Plenitude's medicines raising the question of why the Sisters were using the subjects for experimentation, if their diseases were so easily curable.
New Earth was an unforgiveably poor start to the season, squandering the goodwill engendered by the Christmas Invasion: after tCI, I was really excited to see the new Doctor and instead what I get is a whiny, arrogant manchild and his simpering girlfriend parading their dysfunctional codependency in front of a load of cats. And then you get Tooth and Claw...
Tooth and Claw
I'm not sure what the point of 'Tooth and Claw' was. Rose and the Doctor start to become smug and obnoxious with their cliquey jokes. The monks that Bic razors forgot are just bizarre (wouldn't pretending to be y'know normal monks be less conspicuous). And the idea of the telescope as a werewolf trap is just stupid - it's possibly the least useful weapon forever as it only works in one narrow scenario.
School Reunion is a funny one too. because Lis Sladen + K9 are in it it's quite enjoyable - but I feel that's skewing the balance in favour of this story, which is wholly forgettable shorn of its USP.
I quite like the Anthonystewartheadites. I'm not sure they'd be worth much without Anthony Stewart Head being smarmy and evil but their shtick of being obsessive self improvers has the basics for a classic Who baddy. And bat wings are cool. Also Mickey is good in this.
Looking back on all this, there are lots of episodes which have great elements which don't add up to a great episode. School reunion being the best case - I've not idea how a show could be shit with Anthony Head, Sarah Jane (this was the first time she came back and it was brilliant) K9 and scary aliens posing as teachers, but somehow it was.
Other than the bits with Sarah and K-9, 'School Reunion' is just a bit boring. It also cements how nasty the Doctor and Rose are when Mickey realises that he's relegated to the role of the tin dog. I'm also not entirely happy with the attempt to retrofit the type of relationship the Doctor has with Rose onto Sarah. And Rose is obnoxious to poor old Sarah Jane. It's a shame the monsters didn't eat her. Oh, and Anthony Head is in it! Yay! But he overacts terribly. Boo.
The Girl in the Fireplace
The Girl in the Fireplace is a story I enjoy, but which loses something whenever it's rewatched. The creepy ship and the clockwork men turn out to have the most banal rationale behing their actions imaginable, and we're supposed to think that's clever!
I've never quite understood the love for Girl in the Time Traveller's Wife, being more struck by the fact that Noel Clarke was going to get screwed over by bad planning again.
Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel
The Rise of the Cybermen two-parter was weak plot-wise, and suffered from the inclusion of an unnecessary and boring alt-earth runaround, but there were some great set-pieces in it and the art deco look of the cybermen along with with their FX-assisted stomping brought to the fore their mechanical, soulless, and cold-hearted nature. Combine this with the conversion scenes at Battersea Power Station and there was a real sense that humanity was at risk there.
The Idiot's Lantern
I've never understood the antipathy to Idiot's Lantern - a smashing episode with a fun baddie, an entertaining plot and a drunken cameraman.
The Idiot's Lantern would be ok were it not for the nonsense about the gay son calling out his evil fifties reactionary father. Gattiss can't do emotional stuff at all and in this instance it drowned the plot. Oh and the Tenth Doctor was at his shouty-twat worst.
The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
I really liked the Impossible planet, dunno why there's the hate for that one. But I suspect it was mainly the supporting actors who were really damn good.
Love and Monsters
I really like Love and Monsters: it was brave and interesting, and about time to try something different. The biggest weakness, ironically, is the Doctor and Rose: they're absolute bastards: it's impossible to believe that people are so likely to worship the Doctor when he's simply not the Doctor we all grew up worshipping. He's a twat.
Love & Monsters is easily my favourite episode of the new series. It's not doing what Doctor Who should do at all, but it stands as the one place when RTD really let rip and brought the keen vision of Queer as Folk to bear on geek culture. It's dark, misanthropic and near the knuckle, but it's also honest.
Fear Her was a fine little story, completely inconsequential and daft, but well suited to 45 minutes and a welcome change from the universe being under threat again.
So many Nu Who stories have so utterly forgettable and lacking in effort you wonder if they wonder have been better off just going with 8 episodes a year.
Fear Her should have been a nice creepy little story about something horrible living on a quiet suburban street, and I thought that the tenth Doctor was more sympathetic than usual in that one, but the abusive parent stuff felt tacked on, the guff about the Olympics seemed fairly typical of RTD's inability to let stories with contemporary settings speak for themselves, and Huw Edwards is unbearable at the best of times and made an even bigger tit of himself than usual here.
Army of Goasts/Doomsday
The finale was magnificent, second only among New DW in the heartstring-tugging stakes to Eccleston's last story. It was a comic book story brought to life, completely believable and utterly enthralling. And the dramatic tone shift in the final 15 seconds give an impression of a show runner at the very top of his game - amazingly confident, wonderfully subversive and pitch perfect in judging cliffhangers.
The final two parter was great at the time, and the end of was fantastic, and I certainly got a lump in my throat. But the elegance of the end was spoiled by the fact that the relationship was soured for me earlier on in the year.
Bad Wolf Bay is the moment that cemented the show in the affections of the nation, if not ours. It sealed the deal for the gurls and wimmin, who were absolutely crucial to what RTD was trying to do with show. That moment with the wall is and will be the moment that gets replayed on The Greatest TV Moments Ever clip shows from now till doomsday.
Rose and the Doctor
As strange as it is to apply the concept to fictional characters the Tenth Doctor and Rose really brought out the worst in each other. Co-dependent, mutually admiring and callous about all the characters around them except for when called upon to demonstrate their "compassion" for our admiration.
I really didn't like the Ten n' Rose dynamic, which spoiled a lot of stories in S2. I never liked that while I felt there was a co-dependency between Nine and Rose that made it a-OK, there was just something deeply unpleasant about the dynamic between the two of them in Season Two.
It's a shame that I can hardly watch Tennant now. Watching him through the filter of the last few specials means that it's difficult not to shout "emo twat" at the screen whenever he's on and being moody.
[Rose} went from being a sweet, normal person to a clingy cypher. Watching them again, the shift in characterisation from seasons 1 to 2 is actually quite jarring. It spoils what could have been fun episodes and turns bad episodes into something awful. The fact the season has more of the latter than the former any way doesn't exactly help.
Aside from the werewolf one, the sarah jane one and the madam de pompadour one this is probably the second weakest series so far.
Season 2, for me, is a lot less coherent than Season 1. I know there's a lot of reasons for that - Rose's change in leaving dates, the replacement of Ecclestone - but, for me, the heart and soul of the issue seems to be the writing. I think RTD was caught out by the success of the s1 (as were we all) and rapidly fell into a trap of just writing for his life. The treadmill of actually getting the thing produced overtook the writing; this would become more and more noticeable throughout the rest of the new series and really underlines the importance of having either a seperate head writer and showrunner/producer or a larger writing staff.
Looking back it's really hard to miss how lazy a lot of the plot and characterisation choices were and the faint air of desperation that hung about it as RTD realised he had a hit on his hand but hadn't really thought about what to do next. After the Tooth and Claw through Girl in the Fireplace run which had some of the best action and best jokes in the new series it was all thrown away by a lot of badly plotted runabouts with cod emotion thrown in. Also I'm struggling to think of a genuine real scare in this series - I liked some of the stuff from the Ood two parter at the time but it was all rather thrown away by the creature in the pit turning out to be a heavy metal cover circa 1982. Still all that said it was phenomenally successful and Tennant has become "The Doctor" to a generation in a way that Eccleston and Smith (both of whom I vastly prefer) haven't so it must have been doing something right. Either that or the majority of Britain is thick and deluded.
There are some phenomenally weak stories in this season, looking at them again. I never watched New Earth, the Cyberman two-parter or Fear Her again they were so awful. But I've very little desire to see any of them again, bar the brilliant Girl in the Fireplace.
Doctor Who has never been better than it was in 2005-2006. And, sadly, I doubt it will be as good for years to come.
Vote for your favourite stories of Doctor Who - season two
I remember reading an interview a few years - mid-90s at a guess - in which someone, possibly Mark Gatiss, said he was sure that Doctor Who would return one day because there'd soon come a point where people in strategic positions all over the higher echelons of the BBC (or media generally) would be Doctor Who fans.
It struck me as a thrilling prospect - and one that made a lot of sense. You only have to look at the people who worked on the New Adventures and follow a few of their career paths to see how true that prediction turned out to be.
I thought I'd see how true it was and found that Doctor Who creeps into various different areas of UK media - almost as if someone had interfered with their personal time lines 40-odd years ago and ensured they were in the right places at the right time...
Writing and production staff with direct involvement in new series
Russell T Davies
Actors with direct involvement in new series
All have been published or commissioned for TV/audio scripts outisde of Doctor Who, as far as I can tell
Miscellaneous actors and writers with some (possibly tangential) involvement in new series or spin-off media
How do you get Doctor Who sheet music for a trombone? Does Matt Smith resemble Michael Palin? What fruit does David Tennant like? What is the height of every actor who's played doctor who?
An odd, but reasonably tame insight into the minds of Doctor Who fans across the world. These queries come from Answers.com; a strange aggregator that passes off the questions people type into it as content, with the user-generated answers adding more content.
As such it's kind of a new kind of search engine, where people don't type in regular search queries but actually post their strange queries as they would address to a person. As such, they tend to throw up lots of random and bizarre questions that only real fans could ever come up with.
Lots of questions relating to Doctor Who computer games ( I deleted them - they were boring); minutiae concerning Matt Smith and David Tennant; requests for TARDIS dimensions and specifications; Doctor Who sheet music; and many many more.
Many of these are the sort of questions Doctor Who Adventures is presumably designed for - or Peter Haining books covered - but most will never be answered. Who knows whether David Tennant was in 'richmend hill' church today? How does one go about getting Matt Smith personized? How do you find doctor who theme Latin version? And just how many times are they going introduce a 'last ever Dalek' in the show?
I've rounded up a snapshot of questions below. All are genuine; most peculiar. My favourite?
Where is doctor who theme song sheet music for bagpipes?
How much does Matt Smith weigh?
Does matt smith use an inhaler?
Who is matt smith's grandfather?
Who are Matt Smith's grandparents?
Will Matt Smith or Karren Gillian come to inverness in 2011?
What are the steps to getting Matt Smith's hairstyle?
Will matt smith come to harwich?
How do you get matt smith personized?
What is matt smiths fave film?
What is Matt Smith's favorite song?
How much does Matt Smith get paid?
Does Matt Smith have any allergies?
Does matt smith resemble micheal palin in any way?
Does David tennant like to read?
What fruit does David Tennant like?
Has david tennant ever broken his nose?
What was David Tennants best part of life?
What sunglasses does David Tennant wear in the end of time?
Are you sad that David Tennant is not going to be The Doctor anymore? I am?
When was David Tennant's sister born?
What are David Tennant's like and dislikes?
Was david tennant in richmend hill church today?
What are the cello notes to the Doctor Who theme theme tune?
Where can you get the doctor who theme tune sheet music for trumpets?
Where can you find a doctor who music book for keyboard?
Where can you download the Doctor Who theme sheet music?
Where can you find the sheet music for the Doctor Who theme on trombone?
How do you find doctor who theme Latin version?
Where is doctor who theme song sheet music for bagpipes?
What was the doctor who episode where they where going to Sacrifice the doctors companion you were a kid and it was in the 80s you are sure their was probaly more than one like this?
DOCTOR WHO in the family of blood when the kid opens the pocket watch to show the alien girl and there is a scene of the doctor standing infront of a firey furnace area where can you get a picture?
How many times has the last dalek been used on the TV show Doctor Who when introducing a Delak and exactly how many more times do they plan on using this phrase?
Toys and merch
Do the Eastgate Waterstones have the book Doctor who the pandorica opens?
Does the cape of doctor who figure francesco come off?
Where can you buy Doctor Who party balloons in Australia?
Can you buy the time crash tenth doctor figure separately?
What batteries does the doctor who eleventh doctor's sonic screwdriver need?
Will there be a new doctorwho tardis play set 2010?
Where can you get a cheap sonic screwdriver in England?
Where do you get remote control Daleks in New Zealand?
Where can you find plans for a full size wooden tardis?
How do you build a tardis zipperobe?
What is Rose Tylers favourite colour?
What galaxy is gallifrey in?
Why does the doctor turn into the actor tom baker?
Who gave craig ferguson the tardis?
How many times has the tardis changed?
What is the height of every actor who's played doctor who?
Is karen gillan a catholic?
Who portrayed the daleks in the episode with Churchill of Doctor Who?
Where does arthur darvill from doctor who live?
Will the war chief return in episode 3 of doctor who series 6?
Is billie piper a rajini fan?
What does Billie Piper like?
How can you make your name look like the doctor who titles?
How do you do the doctor who regeneration effect?
Who was the woman singing in Doctor Who the tv movie?
What does Doctor Who say to the thief in the Planet of the dead?
Where can you get karen gillans purple dress from?
Who directed Dr Who?
Where is amy pond's leather jacket from?
What is Doctor Who's favourite number?
In Doctor Who What planet are the krynoids from?
Has the tardis ever been a piano?
What is the name of the final song in The Time of Angels Doctor Who Episode?
How is a Dalek made?
What happend to ace in doctor who?
How many special guests have appeared in Doctor Who?
In what torchwood novel do jack and ianto go out on a date?
Where are the vinegar bottles in K9 Deja Who?
What did Jamie do after the doctor left?
What software do people use to make their own Doctor Who title sequences?
Did Elizabeth Sladen attend John Pertwee's funeral?
What colour are the new series Doctor Who Daleks. Exact RGB colours please
What is the name of the boarding school in Doctor who Family of blood?
How can i build a dalek emperor figure about 10 inches high?
What was the dispute between the BBC and The Met over the tardis?
Will morbins returnin the new Doctor Who?
What draws the tardis to earth in 'Image of the Fendahl'?
What headset did the Doctor use in 'Planet of the Dead'?
Who was Barry Letts original choice for the part of Sarah Jane Smith before he gave the role to Lis Sladen?
I found myself watching The Waters of Mars the other day, the Tenth Doctor's penultimate adventure that was screened during 2009.
RTD had cleverly lowered expectations for the Autumn special with the pleasingly forgettable The Dangerous Planet. It wasn't actually called The Dangerous Planet but that's as much as I can remember about it, apart from the fact that it was utter shit.
Still, Waters of Mars had given us what was perhaps the best trailer of them all from the new series - a proper balls-out terrifying 30 seconds of H2O-based frights - alongside the knowledge that Tennant's run was coming to an end, and all the attendant myfficism.
Expectations were running high, but was RTD through the looking glass by this stage? Was it utter Underwater Menace or was it stupendously Curse of Fenric.
Scares - Only once or twice during its return - The Empty Child, Blink or Midnight, perhaps - has Doctor Who dared to be this terrifying. The Flood-infected members of Bowie Base are a triumph of make-up, SFX and acting. They are designed and played to be bloody frightening, and so they are.
Time Lord victorious - I never warned to Tennant's Doctor, truth be told. He was too shouty, too smug, too wacky. After three years of shouting and try-hard wackiness we finally see something interesting happen with the Tenth Doctor. A Time Lord gone rogue, shades of the Valeyard and the Master, is a fascinating development and an understandable one, given The Doctor's recent experiences in the TIme War and his possibly-unstable Ninth incarnation.
Lindsey Duncan - Playing a bit of an archetype, but brings a believability to a role that the series was crying out for after two halfwit lovelorn goons and a comedy grotesque.
The Doctor's moments with Adelaide at the end of the story are electrifying and quite wonderfully played by Tennant. WHen it is all taken away from him by Adelaide's death and the appearance of Ood Sigma it's equally riveting television.
Cast - Prett much all good, particularly the people playing the flood.
Dalek - An oddly dream-like moment that's probably pivotal to the story
Ice Warrior reference - Nice little throwaway lines that will mean little to 99.9 per cent of viewers, but so much to fans
Barry Letts tribute - Right and proper and lovely
Murray Gold. Sorry to sound predictable, but any action sequences are totally undermined by Gold's Bedknobs and Broomsticks via Scooby Doo music. A couple of sequences that aren't great in the first place - The Doctor and Adelaide riding the Gadget Gadget thing and the Doctor standing around looking solemn while everyone does 'busy' acting are made much worse by Gold's appalling audio.
Graeme Harper - Despite generally good stuff here, Harper is to blame for a few really duff moments. If there was such as thing as a Doctor Who auteur (there wasn't, but bear with me) it was Harper with his interesting angles and superb action sequences. In the new series he was just another hack - in the trust sense of the word.
Gadget Gadget - Is that what it's called? An odd, jarring note in a sombre, ominous story. Even (!) Doc Ten hates it.
Waters of Mars is one of the least typical NuWho stories of the run and, as such, it's a welcome relief. Not since Logopolis has been the slightest angst over a forthcoming regeneration and it shows us a side of the Doctor rarely seen.
That WoM is, in itself, a strong, scary story is also in its favour. Deservedly won RTD and Phil Ford a Hugo award and suggested an epic, groundbreaking climax.
Predictably it was business as usual, like a final, weary wank from Davies following a Queer as Folk box-set for End of Time. Ho hum.
Wasn't it exciting when we knew Doctor Who was coming back. Not Scream of the Shalka. Not Reel Time. Not Death Comes To Time. They were all very welcome but, well, they weren't going to come close to the excitement of seeing Eccleston running down that tunnel away from the fireball, were they?
And wasn't it exciting when it was - quite often, if not always - pretty good? Of course it was no Robots of Death or Inferno - what is? - but I'd've settled for it in the main. Apart from Rose. And the Aliens of London two-parter. And Boom Bloody Town. But by and large a strong start.
I edited a magazine in Liverpool and got my mate, Dave Quinn, to cast a not-we eye over it. This is what he thought.
Predictable, lazy, amoral, simple-minded garbage – this is what we are told modern mainstream telly has become. Doctor Who was pretty much the opposite.
There wasn’t a ginger bloke in a neck-brace bellowing nonsense about 'sex wee'. There weren’t any wannabes or minor celebrities punching each other, eating maggots, stripping naked or having sex. There was no Scottish nutritionist examining anyone’s shit. And no-one bought, did-up or sold a house.
While ITV’s spring/summer schedule struggled with Celebrity Wrestling, Celebrity Love Island and Celebrity Cannibal Taxidermy Experiment (one of these is made up), the BBC, almost by accident, managed to re-energise the “family drama” genre with such simple qualities as clever writing, decent acting and bloody big alien invasions. And hooray for that.
The significance of the success of Doctor Who could just reinvigorate the schedules. We’ve been told the concept of the family gathering around the telly for a weekly series is as dead as a Dalek in this 'multi-channel' age. That the only television kids will watch is Channel U (try it – Sky Digital channel 467) or programmes where they can text in to have someone shot dead. Doctor Who, with up to 10 million viewers, has gone a little way to shattering the theory.
From the opening episode where wheely bins and shop dummies sprang to life, to the final regeneration of Christopher Eccleston’s grinning northern Doctor into David Tennant’s grinning Cockney one, this was about as good as it gets.
Much of it is down to the vision of Russell T Davies, who, as the creator of the all-new Doctor Who, as well as Queer as Folk and Second Coming, has surely proved himself as one of television’s most talented and valuable auteurs.
A little known fact about Davies is that he once wrote scripts for 1980s kids programme Why Don’t You?, turning a 'try this at home' magazine show into a slightly bizarre drama. He was also responsible for the completely forgotten Breakfast Serials (it was on telly in the morning, see?). While working on that, Davies confesses to making up random one-sentence Radio Times programme synopses, involving non-existent characters in ridiculous scenarios. Evidently no-one noticed.
Clearly Davies has come a long way since then, and notwithstanding the obvious brilliance of much of his earlier output, Doctor Who is arguably his greatest triumph.
But I would say that, wouldn’t I? You’re probably thinking I’m some kind of bearded Doctor Who fanboy who has every episode of the landmark Peter Davison series on Betamax (like the editor of this magazine, for example - that was me - PB). But I’m not. I had no particular hopes for this latest incarnation, and that’s why it was so refreshing.
OK, so some of the aforementioned fanboys have whinged about the farting in the 'Slitheen' episodes. Perhaps they need reminding that this is essentially children’s telly with the occasional sly gag thrown in for the enjoyment of their parents. My girlfriend’s six year-old nephew thought it was great. Perhaps the geeks should stick to watching re-runs of The X-Files and other such po-faced shite.
The only let-down was the BBC’s PR department, which managed to botch the announcement about Eccleston’s departure. It was almost certainly the intention of both Davies and Eccleston to keep the regeneration at the end of the series a secret, and imagine how great it would have been if they had. Sadly, a bit of over-zealous spin-mongery – complete with made-up Eccleston quotes for which the corporation was forced to apologise - put paid to that.
But that’s nitpicking. Here was a programme that was thrilling, entertaining, witty, clever and – gulp – cool. Bring on The Christmas Invasion.
For what it's worth I think that's a pretty even-handed view, though the Slitheen veer way across the line beyond 'for children' into 'childish' for me - it's no coincidence to my mind that some of the series' greatest driving forces always believed in this rule of thumb, and Moffat certainly appears to understand it.
But, however much I think RTD's self-discipline; characterisation; more populist, childish and naffer instincts resulted in some of the worst Doctor Who ever made, we've got to be careful to observe the debt every Who fan owes to the man. He made our programme popular and successful again. I'd buy him a pint.
The image is by Will Daw. Good, eh?
Not really sure what Justin Bieber is, despite airheads banging on about it constantly on Twitter, but found this - and found it amusing.
Well, Tennant's facial expression anyway. If we could be bothered we'd replace the Bieber panel with one of Tom Spilsbury's giving another run-out to his horrible description of Doctor Who fans as 'dafties'.
Other possibilities: The Huw Edwards bit from Fear Her; anything from New Earth; Cyberwoman; Barrowman on one his awful talent shows; one of Pip'n'Jane Baker's tongue-twisters.
Showing RTD knocking one out for 90 minutes may have been slightly less indulgent than The Stolen Earth and the second parter, which is no doubt called the Impossible Everything Apocalypse or something (I checked, it's called Journey's End).
By this time the new series was feeling very tired, and a crying out for a new broom. But RTD had other ideas. One last big wank. Until The End of Time.
Cribbins - Brilliant as always, his webcam line is the highlight of the first episode
Julian Bleach - Davros is a real success in this. Lunatic, screaming mania – but done with real conviction
Jack - When not playing some sort of weary, ageless, lonely but stupidly horny demi-God, Jack is an enjoyable character played with evident relish by Barrowman.
Dalek invasion - A few of the invasion scenes were quite good, certainly considering how weak the New Series had previously done the Earth invasion stuff.
Donna - Tate surprised me by how good she was, when she's not being written as a complete shouty twat.
The Daleks - Totally neutered by now, the Daleks in the new series have been a case of diminishing returns. Every appearance seems to be bigger and more outlandish than before; with the result that the only feeling they inspire now is apathy.
Regeneration tease - Perhaps the fourth, fifth or sixth time someone was about to die in the series and then just... didn't. Talk about writing yourself into a corner; the worst thing was no-one in their right mind believed it in the first place. Also sets up the ridiculous two Doctors, then three Doctors, then Donna dies (but doesn't) drivel later on.
The gates of Elysium...the Nightmare Child... - Oh do fuck off. All of this drivel is genuinely hard to listen to, especially when it's always delivered with Tennant's tight-lipped spittle-drenched shouting.
Rose - Rose's long-suspected but little-desired return is a predictably tedious, self-absorbed affair, but it's really not helped by Piper's quite weird, lisping appearance.
Sarah-Jane - Seems out-of-place and quite annoying here. Lis Sladen's frightened acting is just awful. Only her very brief dialogue with Davros makes any sense.
Harriet Jones - Who gives a fuck?
Close up of man saying 'Ladies and gentlemen, we are at war - Utter shit
Dalek Caan - Embarrassing
Martha - Pains me to say as it, as she's rarely helped by scripts, but Freema has one of her weaker episodes, and it shows her up alongside the others.
Jackie - I'd've preferred it if Bruno Langley had come back.
Murray Gold - terrible, terrible, terrible
An absolute car crash. It's totally incoherent; at no stage does it make even the remotest sense; fan-wank is piled on in such proportions that even fan-fic authors would baulk.
There's some kind of weird 'you know it's wrong' pleasure to seeing such a hodge-podge play out on screen, with everything imaginable thrown at the wall. Jelly, cream, chocolate, jam, vodka, Red Bull and heroin – but mainly cheese.
A very few crumbs stick, but if this wasn't evidence that RTD had run out of juice by now, I don't know what was.
• Caves and Twins? What are you dribbling on about?
Go here: Caves and Twins
So that was Series Five. Or Series 31. Or Series One. Or Series Chin, whatever you want to call it.
The stakes were high, with news that filming was overrunning horribly, Matt Smith was crap and kept forgetting his lines, Karen Gillan was 'wooden' and Phil Collinson had been called back in to sort the whole mess out.
We won't reveal our sources, although it seems entirely likely that pretty much everyone in fandom knows where they came from, but let's just say there was an element of fear going into Series Fnarg.
And how wrong we all were eh? Chief among this wrongness were the rumours that Smith was crap. In fact, it's hard to imagine this being any further off the mark.
Matt Smith is wonderful, and his gentler, more alien, Doctor is perfect for Moffatt's 'fairytale' Doctor Who. The whole tone of this series feels a more comfortable place for Doctor Who, and the Doctor, to be than Russell T Davies' iteration - which was a series of ever-decreasing circles by the time the excellent David Tennant went, though his Doctor was not highly-liked in these parts.
It seemed almost unthinkable that the series, and Smith, could carry on where RTD and Tennant left off, but a fairly hefty shift in tone and pace and lead character has made it all look rather effortless.
For the first time in quite a while, the series felt much more Who than it had in a long time. Smith may just be the best Doctor... ever.
But while all the big things got sorted out, the parts that made up the whole didn't always feel right. Murray Gold's presence dragged the series back to a RTD vibe, and his syrupy/BOMBASTIC! style took away a lot of the nuances of the new series.
More bizarre still were some of the author/story choices. Toby Whithouse and Chris Chibnall delivered exactly what their previous stories suggested they'd deliver - utterly underwhelming stories that felt like a throwback to a couple of years ago.
Against rather lovely oddities like Amy's Choice, Vincent and the Doctor and The Lodger, they felt jarring in their straight-forward simplicity.
Mark Gatiss' Victory of the Daleks was, by all accounts, rather hacked to death in the editing suites and the end result was, frankly, a mess.
And stepping up to show-runner certainly sapped Moffatt's brilliance, with the slapdash The Beast Below and breakneck incoherence of The Big Bang.
There were no new, interesting monsters. In fact, the closest thing we got were the rubbish new Daleks. We had to put up with CGI thing hiding inside humans on at least three occasions, and the limits of the budget were evident in The Pandorica Opens when it turned out the Fucking Sycorax and the Fucking Weevils were in on the intergalactic plan to put the Doc away for good.
Still, Moffat handled the Autons and the Cybermen ten times better than RTD ever did - another subtle difference to the approach the two brought to the series.
And yet, funnily enough, it didn't really matter to me. The series felt fresh and fun. The Doctor seemed like, well, The Doctor. And Amy was breath of fresh air; a believable, volatile girl who didn't love her favourite Time Lord.
She may have had a slightly less healthy obsession with him, but inter-personal angst was banished from the TARDIS forever - 'I'm not that clingy!' seemed like a great riposte to the years of Marf and Wose.
Arthur Darvill's Rory eventually eclipsed the 'emasculated male' cipher that's been the default setting for most recurring male characters in the new series to become a rounded companion in his own right.
And, always at the centre of it, was Matt Smith. It's interesting to note that most new Doctors come into the role praising Patrick Troughton, and Smith took it a step further.
Watch him running - it's a straight lift from the Second Doctor. And he's always doing something with his hands - First Doctor? There's a bit of Four, Five and Eight in there too by our reckoning.
Not that The Eleventh Doctor is a pastiche; Smith has brought something new to the role again, and emphatically made it his own. He's a perfect choice.
So, series thingummy. A hearty slap on the back from us, and the best TARDIS crew in ages. No doubt tweaks will be made for next season.
Probic Vent demands Zygons and Yeti and the Dream Lord and a past Doctor and The Brigadier. And a remake of The Horror of Fang Rock. Simple enough eh? Oh yeah, and STOP RUINING OLD MONSTERS!
• Here's an end-of-season C&T for the series.
The Eleventh Hour - Fresh, fun and firmly established Smith as something new and interesting
Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone - A home run from Moffat, with plenty of twists and turns and great monstering
Amy's Choice - Offbeat and enjoyable - an episode that seems unthinkable under RTD.
Vincent and the Doctor - Intriguing, if cloying
The Lodger - Would have been horrible with Tennant. Good with Smith.
The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang - Absolute gibberish, but wins points for not having thousands of cloned Sontarans invading the Taj Mahal and Eiffel Tower. Magic Light and Power of Love notwithstanding.
The Beast Below - Too many elements that didn't seem to add up.
Victory of the Daleks - A horrible mess, and shit new Daleks. Almost saved by performances, but not quite.
Vampires of Venice - Dull filler
Hungry Earth/Cold Blood - Dull Chibnall filler that fluffed one of the most interesting premises in Who mythology.
• Caves and Twins? What are you dribbling on about?
Go here: Caves and Twins