Tuesday, January 4, 2011

'Doctor Who' Season 2 (2006)

Starring David Tennant and Billie Piper
Developed by Russell T. Davies

Doctor Who: The Complete Second SeriesAfter the conclusion of Season One, which saw the departure of Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, Season Two begins with the newly regenerated Doctor (David Tennant) falling ill just as the world is threatened by a new alien invasion, on Christmas no less.  Rose (Billie Piper), her mother Jackie (Camille Coduri) and ex-boyfriend Mickey (Noel Clarke) must figure out a way to help the Doctor before the aliens use their mind-control technology to kill one-third of the Earth's population.

When the Doctor is finally recovered and able to resist the Sycorax, he defeats their leader in a sword fight and demands that they leave Earth, never to return.  The Sycorax do so, but the British government has other plans.  The once-kindly Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton), now believing aliens (and the Doctor) to be a threat, enlists the mysterious organization known as Torchwood to destroy the Sycorax ship as it flees Earth. 

Disturbed, the Doctor and Rose continue on their adventures, often coming across hints of this Torchwood, but never really realizing what it means.  The Doctor and Rose have a number of fun adventures this season, including fighting a werewolf in 1879, encountering a new breed of Cybermen in an alternate universe, and even the devil.  One of the best episodes is "The Girl in the Fireplace," which has a particularly fun premise of the Doctor visiting a single woman at various points in her life, and having her fall in love with him, waiting years between sightings, while for him only minutes have passed. 

The highlights of the season must be the Cybermen, of course.  These episodes are just pure fun, and the season finale featuring a war breaking out on Earth between these new Cybermen and the Daleks is an amazing capper to a season that sees the series' scope amplified.  Also amplified is the show's budget, which manages to look a lot less cheap than Season One, and also produce some pretty impressive visual effects.

The CGI werewolf in "Tooth and Claw" is quite well done, as are other alien creatures throughout the season.  When the Doctor encounters a massive creature that may or may not be the inspiration for Satan in "The Impossible Planet," it's a pretty wild bit of effects work for a British series like this, especially one that had been so cheap and hokey just a year earlier.

Of course the biggest change is the fact that the Doctor himself is now almost an entirely new character, now brought to the screen by David Tennant.  Tennant is much more instantly likable than Eccleston, who sometimes seemed uncomfortable.  Tennant jumps right into the role with a vigorous energy, and seems to really love playing the character.  He never seems to have to force the jovial side of the Doctor, which was often an impression I got from Eccleston, as much as I liked him.  Where Tennant's problem comes is the opposite - it's a bit harder to take him when he's deadly serious.  Still, whether one wants to get into the argument of if Tennant is a "better" Doctor than Eccleston, I think the case can be made.  His Doctor seems more approachable, even more likable, than Eccleston's.

Billie Piper is still fine as Rose, and where she works best is in portraying her deep affection for the Doctor.  By her final bow in "Doomsday," I was definitely sad to see her go.  Her final moments with the Doctor before the universes close between them is bittersweet, and well-played.  The fact that this sad moment is followed immediately by one of Tennant's funniest scenes is quite the juxtaposition, but a perfect way to end the episode and the season.

"Doctor Who" Season Two is a great new beginning, stepping the show up in pretty much every respect.  The writing seems tighter, the new lead cast member is a ton of fun, and the technical production really begins to step up.

See Also
Season One
Season Three