By a happy coincidence, October happens to be the month of the Tenth Doctor. Allons-y! Oh, and there’s a few SPOILERS.
I wonder how I can possibly write this without sounding like an over-excited fangirl. And the truth is, I probably can’t. David Tennant’s Doctor is a wonderful creation. He’s witty and warm, and wears his glasses and his love of books and learning on his sleeve. I’d nearly credit David Tennant with shifting the perception of us nerds back in 2006. I know if anyone wore a T-shirt emblazoned “Geek” when I was a kid they would have been pulling it out of their oesophagus by lunchtime, whereas I saw at least three women wearing such a garment last weekend. How times have changed.
And, OK, it helps that I think he’s a total dish.
When Christopher Eccleston decided to leave after just one series (reportedly unhappy with conditions on the show sadly), lifelong Who fan Tennant jumped at the chance. Apparently, when he was three, he told his parents he wanted to be an actor because of Doctor Who, and what do you know? Sometimes childhood dreams do come true.
Throughout Series 2, it’s apparent that Tennant and Billie Piper are really enjoying themselves, and this translates effortlessly to the viewer.
So, the first huge disappointment to a Scotophile like myself is that Tennant doesn’t use his native accent. Apparently, Russell T Davies didn’t want another ‘regional’ accent after Eccleston’s Manc Doctor. Forget the Slitheen, or the constant use of ‘British Isles’, or even ‘Love And Monsters’- this is something I really can never forgive Russell T Davies for.
David Tennant spends a large portion of the opening episode, ‘The Christmas Invasion’ asleep. Regeneration is a really stressful process and a Time Lord needs a cup of tea and a nap before tackling any nasty aliens. And these are nasty aliens. The Sycorax are clearly into cheesy eighties metal and/or BDSM, going by their costumes and ship. They are also intergalactic slave traders, wanting to enslave the human race, not before bringing a third of them to the highest ledges they can find and threatening to make them jump.
It’s not long before Harriet Jones, now PM, is getting Torchwood on the case. Already we have our ‘Bad Wolf’ of Series 2.
After disposing of their leader and losing an arm in the process, the Doctor forces the Sycorax to surrender. But then Harriet Jones orders Torchwood to blast them into atoms, an act of war.
While David Tennant doesn’t possess the menace of his predecessor, he’s very good at cold. And his destruction of Jones is subtly wonderful.
But Torchwood isn’t finished with interfering, not by a long shot. And what’s even worse, Rose and the Doctor have brought it all on themselves. After a giddy trip to New Earth, where they meet the wonderful last human, Cassandra, who’s doing almost anything not to die, they’re back on Earth, during the reign of Queen Victoria.
Travelling across the Highlands, they take refuge in a country estate, which has just been overpowered by some psychotic monks and a werewolf. Guess what the estate’s called? Ah, go on. You can do better than that.
And then they meet the woman herself, who understandably is bemused by their overfamiliarity, Rose’s attire, and her strange interest in her majesty’s moods. (“Would you say you’re not amused, Ma’am?”)
‘Tooth and Claw’ sees Tennant all-too-briefly using his real accent (if he decides to release the phonebook on audio, I’m buying it) and it’s also a visually impressive episode with plenty of great one-liners (“it was her or the elephant man”). However, we gain an insight into the unforeseen consequences of time travel. While the queen is unharmed by the werewolf, she is outraged by the actions of the Doctor and Rose, and decides to set up the Torchwood institute and expel them from the Empire. And, of course, the British royal family will always have that tendency towards lycanthropy.
And of course, with cruel irony, the actions of Torchwood unleash the war on earth that will separate Rose and the Doctor forever. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. What of the rest of the series?
There’s a comprehensive school overtaken by aliens in ‘School Reunion’, where the Doctor reunites with his former companion Sarah-Jane Smith and the robotic dog, K-9. It’s a wonderful touch, introducing characters from the old series, and works well, especially when Rose and Sarah-Jane compare notes.
The Cybermen may be iconic villains but they’re a bit lost on me. The double header ‘Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of the Steel’ is set on an alternative Earth where Rose’s Dad never died and Rose herself was never born (they have a Rose, but’s she’s a terrier). It’s notable for the subtle shifts in Mickey’s character. While the Tenth Doctor isn’t as cruel as the Ninth to Mickey, he’s generally regarded by all involved as a bit of an inconvenience. However, here he takes control and decides to stay in the parallel world to vanquish the Cybermen.
‘The Idiot’s Lantern’ takes us back to 1953, on the eve of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. TV is still a new thing, so when the local TV salesman, Mr Magpie, begins selling them dirt cheap, the residents of Muswell Hill begin to snap them up. The only problem is that the TVs are inhabited by a demented alien styling herself as a BBC continuity announcer who likes to suck people’s faces out through the screen. Some nice creepy moments here, and there’s just something about that RP voice that gives you the shivers.
Less creepy is ‘Fear Her’, set during the 2012 London Olympics, where a young girl, Chloe, is causing terror by trapping people in her drawings. She’s possessed by a lonely alien, and all they need is love. The genuinely sinister presence of Chloe’s late abusive father is the best thing about this episode, hinting at something far darker.
Also creepy is the rather mystical double header ‘The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit’ where the Doctor comes face to face with Satan himself. The first episode centres on a research base on a planet orbiting a black hole (even someone as dense about physics as me knows that’s impossible). But there’s something else there, something that wants the crew to go outside in the airless nothingness.
And now to one of the most beautiful pieces of television I have seen in a long time, ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’. This was written by Steven Moffat, and bears his hallmarks of nightmare-inducing villains and mind-bending time travel. The Doctor and Rose arrive on a futuristic and failing spaceship. So far, so conventional. However, there’s a fully functioning 18th century fireplace just stuck in there, and when the Doctor pokes his head through, he’s in a little girl’s bedroom.
But Reinette is no ordinary girl. She will become Madame du Pompadour, the powerful and influential mistress of Louis XV, and for some reason clockwork robots from the future keep attacking her.
So begins a wonderfully weird friendship between the Time Lord and the French noblewoman. Inspired by Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife, the Doctor pops in and out of Reinette’s life while trying to save her in the future.
Personally, I disliked The Time Traveller’s Wife and never finished it. I just remember a grown man telling a six-year-old girl he was her husband and being so creeped out I couldn’t read anymore. However, there’s none of that here. The Doctor is totally age appropriate with Reinette and when they eventually kiss, it’s a brilliant moment. She’s a wonderfully drawn figure, open-minded, commanding and so intelligent, and she knows she’s on the ‘slow path’ because the Doctor never ages.
And it’s this slow path which leads the episode to its heartbreaking conclusion. To say more would be to ruin one of the most emotionally affecting moments of TV I’ve ever seen. All the more impressive considering it’s meant to be knockabout fun aimed at kids.
And now, from the sublime to the ridiculous. ‘Love and Monsters’ is one of the first Doctor-lite episodes, pulling back from his adventures and showing how his actions affect the wider world. It unfortunately consists of a man, Elton, talking to a video camera for far too long.
Once we get into the story proper and the sinister Victor Kennedy arrives in LINDA, the support group Elton has set up for others who’ve had brushes with the Doctor, things do pick up. Unfortunately, Kennedy’s (Peter Kay) real identity is not very threatening. And the fact that he suddenly develops a Lancashire accent when he becomes an alien had me in fits.
However, the moment we realise why Elton is fascinated by the Doctor (and ELO) is heartbreakingly beautiful, until Davies goes and ruins it with the the famous line… “We even have a bit of a love life.”
There’s nothing cute or cheeky about this line, spoken by the disembodied head of Elton’s girlfriend. It’s creepy, and gross and totally unnecessary. This blogger has written a whole analysis of the episode, and I must say I agree wholly.
Finally, the finale. Another double-header, ‘Army of Ghosts/Doomsday’. Remember those Cybermen in that parallel earth? Well Torchwood has found a gap between the worlds and they appear as ghosts, before forcing their way in. Also, in Torchwood lies a void ship- filled with Daleks! It’s a war between the Daleks and the Cybermen, and while their conversations may give you a migraine, they’re also pretty funny. As is the Doctor trying to pass off Jackie, Rose’s mother, as his companion (“Her ankle’s going”). And the only way to stop the war is to seal off the wall between worlds, meaning that if Rose chooses to stay with the Doctor, she’ll never see her family or Mickey again.
The end of the series would draw tears from a stone. Well, until Catherine Tate appears in the TARDIS in a wedding dress…
Will have Series 3 up by the end of the week, I’ve it already watched. And once I’ve finished Doctor Who, I’m going onto Breaking Bad. Yeah, because there isn’t enough on the internet about that show…