Hmm, season 3. Weird one. I think some of these episodes are as good as the new Doctor Who ever got. It's got Moffatt's perfectly-formed masterpiece in Blink (arguably, controversially, the last great thing he's written for the series); it has the balls to go outside the box with Human Nature, which has lovely moments; it has New Blake's 7 with a masterful (I genuinely didn't intend that pun) reveal in Utopia; and it has something that's just mental in the form of Gridlock.
But it also has two two-parters that are just bloody awful. First we have Helen Raynor's risible Daleks In Manhattan (and can't you just imagine how RTD came up with that one - its title is a mission statement and brief rolled into one, clearly on the basis that it's funny or wacky) with a squawking showgirl, 'pig-slaves' (whatever you do never type that into an image search engine) and oh for God's sake I can't go on.
Then the Simm Master finale. This actually has some wonderful moments in it. Simm's thumbs-up to a dying cabinet minister's "You're insane!" is brilliant and he has other good moments but - whether its acting, scripting or direction - he's simply stupid in much of it. Eat your heart out Anthony Ainley, who at least was acting in a pantomime most of the time back in the 80s. And then the hideous shrivelled Doctor thing, which then turns into The Doctor as Jesus. The deification of the Doctor had been there for some time in RTD's scripts, but really.
The rest are - for me - utterly forgettable. I've never again watched 42, the Shakespeare one, Smith and Jones again - and I've only seen several others cos they happened to be on television at the time.
The Geek Clique - mostly new-series fans - largely gave this season the thumbs-down; not least because this season ends, as the previous two did, with the show-runner writing himself into a corner and then doing the only thing he could do - turn off the plot.
Poor Freema Agyeman also gets her fair share of criticism here. I don't think Freema was helped by the part of Martha and I think she has her fair share of very strong moments in the series. Still, Martha could hardly be thought of as a success - one wonders just how quickly RTD sketched out that character, one he never really seemed sure of - even if Freema is the most beautiful companion ever (and I include Anneke Wills and Mary Tamm in that, though I fancied most of the companions truth be told).
The Geek Clique (see season one and season two for an explanation of this weird gestalt entity) was not generally impressed. Was Who fatigue setting in? Tennant fatigue? Davies fatigue? This series scores an average of 4.2, which places it above series two but well below series one.
For me it's one of wild fluctuations in quality - we know that RTD found the pace of production very difficult and, frankly, this shows in a number of weaker episodes, which have to be carried by Tennant.
So, where does this leave my 33-33-33 split for season three? Pretty much intact actually:
Good - Gridlock, Blink, Human Nature/The Family of Blood, Utopia
Meh - Smith and Jones, The Shakespeare Code, 42, The Lazarus Experiment
Shit - Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks, The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords
But will the Geek Clique agree? Did season three make us want to not blink. Or did we, er, want to teat out our brains and put them in Zeriods?
Simm! Jacobi! Toclthingies! Marf! Helen's Rayn'or Terror! New Adventures! The Angels! Cats! A run of four straight stories that were utter shit! It can only be season three of NuDoctor Who!
This one is the most Meh season for me. It's not as offensively bad as season 4, true, but there's really nothing I felt any urge to watch again with the possible exception of Blink. Even more damningly, it's the first season of new Who for which I didn't buy the DVD Box Set: for completist nerds like us, that's surely a fairly big warning sign.
The season was a catalogue of missed opporunities and errors caused by RTD starting to believe his own hype and the hype surrounding Tennant.
On a recent cheap DVD-fuelled rewatch I skipped the Dalek one, Lazarus and fell a bit asleep during 42. Which is surprising given that it's based around a pub quiz.
There were some real standout stories - Human Nature, Blink, and apart from the finale and the dalek second episode there were none that were really poor. But it showed me that RTD's alternative to avoiding getting too dark (which he said was the failing of every long-running show) was to get too big. Far, Far too big.
I don't see any of the scripts for this year as being outstanding... I actually can't remember the vast majority of the stories in this season.
In terms of the stories I think the run from Human Nature to Utopia is very strong. Unfortunately there's also the run from the Daleks one to 42, which is utterly forgettable (see also: Shakespeare Code and Smith and Jones). And the final two-parter an absolute disaster; the second part perhaps the nadir of the whole series. Another series of radically fluctuating quality for me.
The first one was fun but inconsequential, the Shakespeare one was smug twaddle (and the scene in Bedlam in which the Doctor screams at the gaoler about his treatment of the inmates and then leaves without having even tried to change things sums up the problem with the tenth Doctor very nicely: he's all mouth and no trousers), I'd probably like "Gridlock" far less if I watched it again, the Dalek two parter was I thought rather nice in a slightly clumsy way until Jesus showed up at the end, and "The Lazarus Experiment" was a nice little filler episode let down by a stupid CGI monster (and, like most of the overtly Christian Series 3, is proof positive that RTD is the least atheistic atheist who ever lived).
Smith and Jones
Smith and Jones, while I enjoyed it at the time, is a first draft of the much-superior Partners in Crime.
The Shakespeare Code
[...of] the celebrity historicals, The Unquiet Dead wasn't bettered until Vincent & the Doctor. Shakespeare Code is perfectly servicable though, Harry Potter jokes and all.
Have come round to the position that Gridlock is conflicted in all the right places. A lovely little filmlet, that one.
How can a thing featuring both Doctor Who and a pub quiz make me fall asleep? I don't know. If anything you'd think it might even make me angry, given that Martha cheats.
Blink has a good concept but an appalling script. Like all Moffat scripts, the only voice the characters have is his.
Blink was one of the best episodes of the new era.
Human Nature / Family of Blood
Human Nature was anti-Doctor Who for me. The Doctor was cowardly and cruel. I hated it.
I didn't find Human Nature as good as other people obviously did.
I really don't get the love for Human Nature: the script is baggy, and some nice concepts are lost in yet another tiresome adventure for Captain Emo. Those scarecrows looked brilliant, and moved fantastically; they could have been the defining Who beastie for a generation, but who remembers them now? Frittered away, just like the concept of the Master would be later in the season.
Human Nature is bloody good.
The last ten minutes of Utopia was stunning (apart from that line reading) and really had me on the edge of my seat.
Utopia was actually amazing. Brilliant set up and an absolutely dreadful John Simm finale, with all the good undone by the two episodes that followed. Unfortunately it doesn't exist as a story in it's own right.
Utopia was like 70s Doctor Who. The guest star over-acting, an alien planet I don't care about, unthinking racism and dreadful direction. Bizarrely, I loved it, though. And was there ever a better break of the fourth wall in Doctor Who than when Jacobi said, "I ham the Master"?
I don't really get the mass love for Utopia and can only conclude it is because it is mostly set at night and has got a official "real famous Shakesperian Act-Or" (albeit not a very good one) in it. It felt very long, the Mad Max baddies were dull and Chan fucking Tho has to be the most awful Nu-Who character ever.
The Utopia love, for me, is based upon its precision-tooled raising of the dramatic tension from minute 1 to minute 45.
Sound of Drums / Last of the Timelords
The First part of the Simm two parter was fantastic, Simm clearly having a whale of a time and the Tocclafaines being fun new baddies. Then it all went to complete shit in the second part with magic jesus Doctor and all the rest.
I was definitely looking forward to the second part.
If I could vote for "The Sound of Drums" but not vote for "Last of the Time Lords" I would.
Both episodes deserve damnation for introducing the fucking Valiant. I have an issue with the modern day setting for stories. The global awareness of aliens and advanced technology like the Valiant make the world quite definitely not our own, despite the soap opera attempts to keep the characters grounded in our world. It's counter-productive. It undermines what should be the strength of present day set stories - the proverbial Yeti in a loo in Tooting Bec.
The point of the modern stories has to be the whole 'fuck, there could actually be a monster in the garden and I wouldn't know' thing. Otherwise what's it for?
Again, brilliant ideas (the Toclafane, the Paradox machine) chewed up and shat out to give Tennant the opportunity to look sad and do his thin-lipped, glistening-eyed biting back back emotion schtick. I honestly can't bring myself to think about Dobby the Messiah, let alone say anything.
Simm was fantastic. Her who played Mrs Master wasn't too shabby either. The regulars kept things together. And the Toclafane were one of the creepiest villains Doctor Who has ever faced.
But the story was somewhat less than the sum of its parts. A series of barely-related set-pieces, a huge FX budget, a sadistic way with the show's eponymous hero and a subplot involving domestic violence do not make for the best Doctor Who ever. It's been pointed out that, had the story been part of the original series, the Master would've ended up being betrayed by the Toclafane, joining forces with the Doctor and escaping whilst everybody's back is turned. But no, RTD had to wring more and more emotion out of his audience, had to make it all about life & death, had to up the ante one last time. And it didn't work. Arguably, it's never worked again .
...restraint might have spared us the Jones family's nigh totally vacuous onscreen humiliation, Freema lugging narrative weights that might've crushed lesser talents and obviously everybody's favourite detestable sight - floaty Doctor Jesus. But you can prise my Jacobi-Simm Master trilogy out of my cold dead etc.
The Tenth Doctor / David Tennant
Tennant really upped his game to compensate for the lack of charisma or chemistry in this series, and he is superb during a great deal of this, but even so, the Doctor needs a companion to keep things bubbling during the dull bits, and we just didn't have it.
I think the real mistake RTD made was that he cast an actor he knew could act anything - so RTD made him.
The Master / John Simm
The crowning nail up the urethra was Simms portrayl of the Master: given that this one was sold to us as very definitvely a reflection of the Doctor, it gives us a chilling glimpse into what RTD thinks the Doctor's USP is - but worse than that, of course, is the debasement of the character into a sociopathic Chuckle Brother with all the menace of the Grumbleweeds blasting out disco tunes.
I love the Simm Master - he even made Tennant's swansong watchable.
Martha Jones / Freema Agyeman
The biggest problem for me was Freema, gawd bless 'er. Easy on the eyes but, Christ, I trained with nomarks who had more acting talent than that.
Freema's acting by numbers sort of spoils most of the series for me - certainly Shakespeare and the finale. The others sort of spoil themselves. I'd probably watch all of them again without grimacing, apart from the Dalek one which was a good story, with just a really really bad idea.
Martha was a nice idea: as a professional, she could have been new Who's Liz Shaw. But instead she's wasted by being lumbered with yet another love story. And - let's be honest here - Freema, whilst easy on the eyes, could not act her way out of a Terry Nation plot.
Freema is no worse than Aldred or Tamm or Lane, and Martha is a breath of fresh air after the unbearable Rose, but the problem is partly that she is set up to fail and partly that Davies can't write women. Oh, he can do chavs (Rose), and chav harpies (Jackie), and comedy chav harpies (Donna), but if he can't copy a female character archetype off Paul Abbott then he hasn't a clue. Look at the preponderance of ludicrous ice maidens in his stories; look at the way in which middle and upper class women and black and ethnic minority women are given really, really awful dialogue, and then look at the RTD women who actually work. Neither Martha nor Freema ever stood a chance.
Freema's been bloody awful if in everything she's been in. At least Tamm could deliver lines without putting the wrong emphasis on the wrong words.
She's set up to fail from the very beginning: she's compared every five minutes to bloody Rose and found wanting. It's like the Fifth Doctor despising Turlough because he's not as special as Adric instead of despising him because he's a shifty ginger.
Freema can't act. It was like having a sexy Adric on screen. That took me a hell of a while to come to terms with.
I think she got a terrible rap with the part she had to play. I think she's OK during comic moments and seem to remember her being good in Utopia. Sarah Sutton can't act; Mathew Waterhouse can't act. Freema can act, she's just not especially good at it. But I'd say she's ahead, on average, against most old Who companions.
I just think that they made a mistake in the character of Martha and in the casting. They tried to paint her as a strong independent woman, whereas they more or less wrote her how Rose would have been in the Doctor hadn't fancied her.
Russell T Davies
There's just something about the Sound of Drums and Last of the Time Lords that strikes me as being the point at which Davies's confidence tipped over into being arrogance. After Doomsday, he shouldn't have tried to do a big series finale again for a while. Unfortunately he did, and his writing started to creak under the strain. Upping the ante continually made me lose a little interest - it's like the boy who cried wolf. This culminated in Moffat's bizarre "the Doctor really has died" obviously lying bollocks in 2011, but 2007 was when it started giving diminishing returns.
RTD has no idea how the world works or how people - except for very camp men and very brassy women, for whom he writes in exactly the same way in any case - talk. Never has done. I mean that.
I rather liked Season 3, the horrible '42' and 'The Shakespeare Code' excepted, and was pretty pleased with things until Episode 13 came along and more or less permanently fucked the RTD era up. But then, I maintain that Nu Who seasons are the antithesis of 'Trek' films in that the odd numbered ones are rather better. The bulk of seasons 2, 4 and 6 have been pretty well unwatchable (and, in the case of Season 6, I mostly didn't even try), whereas 1, 3 and 5 were mostly worth watching, if not necessarily worth watching twice.
RTD's strength lies in the fact that his stories make emotional sense. Unfortunately they make bugger all of any other kind of sense, and there aren't many actors who can carry off his brand of high octane emotion without looking like a tit. Eccleston could do it. Capaldi could do it. So could Tate (a bit) and Cribbens. Piper can't, Barrowman can't, and although Tennant pulled if off to start with having to watch him do the same wobbly lip followed by gritted teeth followed by shouting followed by sobbing schtick every week was unbearable. That's the trouble with soaps, though: if you keep upping the ante on suffering as an easy alternative to drama then sooner or later you have to bury somebody alive or steal their baby or have them come back from the dead for no good reason and it's always, always shit.
It reminds me a bit of the 'Xmas in Albert Square' thing - something that's become a joke because each Christmas needs to beat the previous one in terms of how ludicrously miserable it is (the funfair explosion one being my personal favourite). It's a matter of some astonishment that every Doctor Who series has essentially ended in this way - only much more so. To the point where 'how on Earth are they going to get out of this one?' is answered with a big fat reset - or the original narrative is demonstrated to be a lie.
And finally... (and possibly not seriously)
It is 2007, Iggy Pop is in the charts and Skegness declares itself a free democratic republic for three glorious weeks before the tanks roll in on the orders of one Margaret Thatcher. And on Television a strange little show called Doctor Who is preparing to broadcast one of the strangest and most cryptic shows of it's long run.
The episode shows three interracial romances ranging from the wholesome flirtation between Martha and Some Guy, the consensual sexual relationship between the mixed race human/pig man "Lazlo" and the chorus girl and the physical violation of the bloke in the two tone shoes by the "black" dalek Sec.
The first of these is presented as being utterly chaste and has no negative consequences for either character.
The second of these although wrapped up in a superficially sappy "love conquers all sentiment" is clearly tormented, secret and will require both parties abandoning their careers and giving up on any semblance of a normal life.
The third of these is presented utterly negatively; by consorting with the "black" dalek as a partner the bloke in the two tone shoes (and if that isn't straightforwardly obvious symbolism we might as well give up on the last 200 years of Western Critical tradition) ultimately surrenders his individual identity and is viciously absorbed into a miscegenated, vile inhuman creature.
So far so a straightforward story of middle class western fear of interacial relationships and black sexual potency.
But think about this; the Dalek Sec creature is ultimately potrayed positively. He is the only one who can lead the daleks "out of the darkness" and "into the light". His original scheme to "infect" the human subject (and it is surely no coincidence that these are mostly played by white actors) with Dalek DNA is replaced after his transmogmification with a subtler scheme to fuse the Dalek and the Human into one being, similiar to what he has become but at once greater; entierely Dalek and entierely human and greater than the sum of either parts. Just as Christ in Christian mysticism was entierely mortal and entierly god... or more appropriately given what we know of Doctor Who's alchemical nature entierley male and entierely female; a key symbol of alchemy and western msysticism. Further in this blurrirng of gender roles (in the first episode of Doctor Who written by a woman since it came back no less!) there is accomplished a key goal of third wave feminism that given Raynor's background we can only expect her to be steeped in.
Sacred Feminism and the Sacred Feminine in one easily digested bit of pop-culture. The promise of Buffy the Vampire Slayer realised in a superficially simple story of a Man in a Blue Box.
But it would be a mistake to see this as soft and cosily presented chocolate box mysticism. Sec's goals may be laudable but how does he accomplish them? By a vicious attack and violation of the man who thought he was his equal partner. Alesteir Crowley (one of the key figures in Doctor Who so far, cropping up in veiled forms in every season of the show's original run) held that the way to obtain mystic power and wisdom was through a ritual of violation. A symbolic act of rape that would free the seeker from the bounds of social convention.
Here the "black" dalek Sec violates a white partner and achieves mystic enlightenment freeing himself from his Dalek programming.
But there is something else going on here as well. In his exploitation of the native workers the bloke in the two tone shoes echoes the exploitation of the workers by the British Empire, the Daleks are explicitily colonialists, the story takes places in "New" York; one of the most famous and most ancient colonies of the British Empire.
...and also one of the first to throw off the Colonial yoke and establish it's own brash and distinct identity independent of it's colonial past. The famous melting pot where new cultures rub up against each other metaphorically and literally and strange synergies are created. As the British colonised New York and something strange and new was created so by colonising the bloke in the two tone shoes was Sec changed and something new created.
It is literally impossible at this point to argue that the show is not saying that the way for the metaphorical rape of colonialism to be overcome is through a mystic synthesis of the new and old into something else entierely. In a word; alchemy.
So there we have it. Post-Colonial Reaffirmation of an Alchemical Mystic Ideal and renunciation of conventional narratives of rape, interacial relationships and feminism all in a superficially simple story of Daleks in Manhattan.
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