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Tansy Rayner Roberts

Watching New Who: Season Two Report Card

January 29th, 2012 at 18:30

Two seasons down, four to go! (for now) I’ve been having great fun rewatching these episodes and commenting on them with David and Tehani (plus of course my offsider Raeli, now seven years old and firmly in the David Tennant camp after a year of being certain Matt Smith was her Doctor) because of the fresh perspective it comes from bouncing off each other.

You can find David’s report card and Tehani’s report card for this season on their websites.

Tansy’s Season Two Report Card

The Doctor: David Tennant
I do like me a bit of David Tennant, I have to say. The Tenth Doctor is often written quite unevenly, and it feels like we’re supposed to adore him regardless of whether he is behaving badly or being genuinely heroic, or maybe that’s just the actor’s charisma shining through? He did a great job of taking over from Eccleston which was a huge deal only a year into the new show – but I found the relationship with Rose dragged his character close to soppiness on far too many occasions.

The chemistry between the two actors was great, and they could really have done with less overt “romancey” dialogue, because the combination of the two felt like overkill. I liked the Tenth Doctor (and Rose) best in the non lovey-dovey episodes, particularly those with Mickey in the TARDIS (“School Reunion”, “Girl in the Fireplace”, “Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”) and despite the problems with the scripting of that episode, I will always love this Doctor for the scenes in “School Reunion” where he met Sarah Jane Smith again.

This season is not the Tenth Doctor at his best, and I think he took longer to find his feet than the Ninth did, but he had some marvellous moments and it’s no surprise that he was swiftly heralded as one of the most popular and beloved Doctors of all time.

The Companions:
Rose Tyler: Billie Piper

I felt Rose lost her edge in this season, as she became a more worldly traveller and was indulged in her honeymoon relationship with the new, younger, more romantic model of the Doctor. She verged on the smug at times, and while that was obviously set up so that the end of the season would be all the more tragic, I think they could have benefited from a rockier first half to the season and smoother second half – of course, having Mickey did do that to some extent, and when I actually sit down watch all the episodes, there’s a lot less smug than I recall. Amazing the difference that putting “Tooth and Claw” AFTER the Cyberman episodes might have made, though. I don’t think it works to have the Doctor and Rose called on taking their adventures too lightly so early, and for the payoff coming so late in the season – I would have rather seen them take Queen Victoria seriously when she chastised them.

Rose is at her best when she is unsettled and not completely comfortable, plus getting a chance to show off Billie Piper’s great comic timing, so my favourite episodes with her are “School Reunion”, and those where she has to deal with one or both of her parents (or “parents”). She had some important scenes in the silly demon story, and my heart went out to her when she was casually trying to plan for a life without the TARDIS, while it was crystal clear that the Doctor was never going to live in a house with her. The final two parter was a great showcase for both Billie Piper and Rose and I’m glad they gave her such a good, strong story to go out on.

Mickey Smith: Noel Clarke

Far less of a comic relief character in this season, Mickey got a proper arc from zero to hero, which I enjoyed very much. If anything I think we could have done with more Mickey episodes in this season, to keep the Doctor and Rose a bit less coupley. But all the episodes with him in are my highlights – his tin dog speech and banter in “School Reunion” and “The Girl in the Fireplace” were lovely, and we learn so much about him in the Cyberman two parter, as we watch him grow up. And just as I start to wonder if it’s OTHER WRITERS which are making him awesome (only RTD wrote the character in Season One & “The Christmas Invasion”, and all the eps I just cited are written by other writers) Mickey return in the final two parter was worthy of the character, and a fitting farewell.

Recurring Characters:
Jackie Tyler: Camille Coduri

I totally want to count her as a companion. She travelled in the TARDIS! Her performance in “Army of Death” in particular is just spectacular, with some deeply moving scenes showing how much she loves Rose and is worried about what an endless life with the Doctor is going to do to her – far beyond the kind of airs and graces one might acquire from working in a shop! Her wary and then wholehearted reunion with OtherPete is also lovely, and conveyed in just a couple of scenes. I also really like all the humour she carries off in her time as the accidental companion – sitting in the TARDIS and accusing him of kidnap, being passed off as an incredibly aged Rose Tyler in Torchwood, that sort of thing. Plus her turn in “Love and Monsters” is great, I’m so glad they thought to show what it was like for her when Rose wasn’t around.

Pete Tyler: Shaun Dingwall
He’s not our Pete, but the appearances of OtherPete added an interesting dimension to the show (heh, literally) and I like the way he and Jackie were used to ground the alternate Earth. None of his appearances in this season came close to the emotional resonance of “Father’s Day”, but it’s lovely to have him back, and *that* hug with Jackie, plus saving Rose at the end, were lovely hero moments for him.

Though, I have to be honest, it’s a bit patriarchal, that end bit, isn’t it? Would have been nice to have Jackie rescuing Rose at that point … though she would have had to figure out the technology first! Okay, maybe not…

Harriet Jones: Penelope Wilton
I love Prime Minister Harriet all through “The Christmas Invasion”, from her flustered introductions to her cooler, harder decisions. I don’t agree with what she did at the end of the episode myself, but I understand completely why her character (and government) went there, and it’s tragic that the Doctor can’t forgive her for it – obviously he didn’t love her as much as the Brigadier! In any case, building on Harriet’s character is one of the best things about this first Christmas special, and it’s alarming how casually the Doctor chose to destroy the ‘Golden Age’ of her prime ministership. So much for the Web of Time…

Sarah Jane Smith: Elisabeth Sladen (or should she be in Companions??!)
Always a companion. ALWAYS a companion! Sarah’s return is everything I wanted – the sight of her still investigating the weird stuff, just like in the 70s was simply glorious, and there were some wonderful performances from both Lis Sladen and David Tennant in the reunion. I hate hate hate the lines that suggest that she somehow put her life on hold pining after him, and particularly that being wistful about Tom Baker (ick) is the reason she never settled down and had children. A couple of tweaks to show that it was her job and her passion to find out the more alien mysteries of life that filled her life, and the rest of it would have been perfect – because she does have every right to be furious with him about the way he left her, more than nearly all of them. Still, we got her back, and while it wasn’t perfect, her return to the show was one of the most epic achievements of this era. I’m so glad they did it.

And, let’s face it, it wasn’t the first time Elisabeth Sladen had to overcome and transcend some dodgy characterisation in her scripts. I could watch her every day.

What is your favourite episode of this season?
“The Girl in the Fireplace” – hate to be boring or predictable, but it’s a bit good, this one!

Least favourite episode?
“Fear Her” – dull and charmless, and a bit too much of everything that wasn’t great about this season. Again, a really obvious choice, which makes me a little regretful, but I can’t bring myself to view this one as a hidden gem.

Favourite guest performance?
Sophia Myles as Reinette in “The Girl in the Fireplace” – a magical performance in an excellent script.

Describe this season in one word!
Romancey!

Grade: Season 2 is always better than I remember it being, and there are some most excellent highlights, but the fact that I always look back on this series as the least interesting is … hmm. Worth keeping in mind, I guess. B-

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13 Responses to “Watching New Who: Season Two Report Card”

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