Disclaimer: There might be some spoilers present, read with care. This a review/analysis/critique/whatever. Be gentle, it's my first post!
This is the second time I watched season two of Doctor Who. I remmember liking most of the season, and hating some episodes. This is mostly true this time around. Overall I like the season much more, and I feel that the episodes are much stronger. The character interactions between the doctor (David Tennant) and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) are much more likeable this time around. Also, that might have something to do with Tennant taking over the role. His charming and temperamental, and at times child-like, behaviour is really what sets this season apart from the last. I also feel that the stories in the stand-alone stories are much stronger. Especially since I feel the flow is more smooth. Still, there are a couple of episodes I am still not that fond of; yes I am looking at you The Idiots Lantern, Love and Monsters and Fear Her. But the good news is that I think all the other episodes are much better this time around. The pacing in the episodes is overall a problem, and I still keep waiting for stuff to happen. Mind you, this is not a huge problem, but sometimes my patience is wearing thin.
New and Improved
This season tells the tale of the doctor and Roses second outing. Season two starts with a comatose doctor and an invasion of earth, the Sycorax has come to stay. After the doctor defeats their leader in combat, the prime minister of England, Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton), shoots them down. This is the christmas episode between season one and two. It's not necessary to watch it to enjoy season two, but it has some important moments between the doctor and Rose. After this they travel to lots of different places; among them 19th century Scotland, a spaceship with connections to Madame de Pompadour (Sophia Myles) and an alternate version of Earth. Through these ordeals tragedy, change and joy awaits the two companions. Will Rose be comfortable traveling from place to place or will she settle down? These are all questions rasised through the season. Not all of them will be answered, but we get an entertaing ride with big emotions around every corner.
Season one was not a bad season, it had a couple of really good episodes, a couple of really bad ones and a couple of stories that didn't register for me. But overall it was a good season. I wasn't entirely fond of Christopher Eccleston as the doctor. He did a good job, but he had these tantrums that at times was to much to bear. Too me he felt like a doctor that was too angry then he should be. Of course Tennant also has these tantrums, but I feel they are better acted and suits the characterisations more.
Russel T. Davies is still at the helm and I really like his stories and his approach to them. At the same time, it feels like Davies has watched too many american movies. Because some of the endings to the episodes is overly feelgood and hollywoodish. Also some of the best episodes are not written by him at all. That price goes to Steven Moffat and his The Girl in the Fireplace. It's an episode that keeps you guessing. It may not be overly complex but it really delivers at all the cylinders. This is also one of the episodes that has a known actress/actor appearing. In The Girl in the Fireplace we see Sophia Myles as Reinette (or Lady De Pompadour). She does a remarkable job and shows several emotions, loneliness among them. The connection between the doctor and Reinette is very palpable and emotional. Sometimes I'm amazed that you can get this emotinally invested in a character, when she only appears in one episode. The second gueststar i Anthony Stewart Head as the headmaster Mr. Finch in School Reunion. The only other big role I have seen him in is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and since that is a favourite show of mine, for me he is very known. In School Reunion he comes off as devilishly and charismatic. I have never really seen Head as a villain before, but this showes that this is something he should be allowed to do again.
The new incarnation of the doctor is the exuberrant and dashing Tennant. It's kinda of weird for me writing this review seeing as my first doctor actually is Matt Smith. I adored Smith as the doctor until I saw Tennant. The first time I watched season two I was in awe of Tennants explosive and child-like performance of the doctor. I still am the second time around, but I think some of the bliss has wore off. Still in my heart Smith is the true doctor. At the same time Tennant is really emotive in everything he does: From his screaming to his calm and hilarious moments. He brings it in spades in the second season, and I think we all can agree that this doctor was a step up from the first season.
Rose is also back and Piper plays the girl next door perfectly. However, calling her the girl next door might be wrong, but she is still as charming, at the same time annoying, and joyful as she was the first time around. This time however, Piper gets alot more to work with. The best thing about Rose this season is the way she takes charge when the doctor is not around. In The Satan Pit she starts ordering around the crew who's in shambles after the Ood has attacked them. She gets their selfconfidence back in spades and she shows what leader materiale she has. This girl is the epitome of strong-willed women in the Doctor Who-series.
We also get plenty of Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) and Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri), not all good though. But especially Mickey gets to show that he is not as useless as the doctor paints him to be. While Clarke may not be the best actor out there, I think he stepped up in his second outing as Mickey. The same cannot, however, be said about Jackie who can't stop being annoying. And as a mother I never really thought much of her. She just seems way to into her own problems to notice anyone elses. Her portrayal in The Rise of the Cybermen really doesn't help. But thankfully her appearences are brief and not that important to the story.
The Good, the bad and the ugly
Doctor Who has never been a show that concentrate too much time on the long story arcs. Sometimes it feel like the producers of the series puts too much emphasis one the standalone episodes. I like these little episodes I do, but I feel the seasons excellence comes in forefront when it concetrates on the larger arcs. This season the story arc of Rose is particulary compelling. She still struggles with the loss of her father, something which is crucial this season. Being this long without a father figure is probably one of the reasons she so easily goes with the doctor on his travels. She also struggles with being the companion of the doctor, and what her roles is. But when we arrive to the two parter The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit, it seems like she understands what her role is. Under great stress and the possibilty of not surviving, she becomes the leader of a group for a short time. This shows she can handle pressure and also shows us that Doctor Who is never afraid of showing strong women. Rose is also an impulsive person, you can hate her for it, and in The Rise of the Cybermen she may do it for personal reasons, but she hadn't done it things would be entirely different for the people on the alternate earth. She may not be my favourite companion, that medal goes Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), but she goes to great lengths to be an compelling character. She has flaws yes, and she is impulsive, but it is quite clear she cares about the doctor and would do anything for him.
Gone is the abrasive and tantrum turning Ecclestone, and Tennant is here to stay. He still does get angry, and oh can he be explosive when he wants to, but he is still way more mild-mannered than Ecclestone ever was. It's not hard to understand why people love this charming new incarnation of the doctor. The doctor doesn't necessarily go through as much change as Rose does. But it really doesn't matter when his characters is as multifaceted as it is. The doctor shows compassion until it's not his to give and this is a big theme this season. He loves the humans but at the same time he see them for how selfish they are. Thankfully, most of the time, he gives them the benefit of the doubt, even though they don't really deserve it. The doctor also gets to show how intelligent he is, and that there's no one like him. My favourite moments are when he is talking and arguing with himself, forming conclusions seemingly out of thin air. This is especially evident in The Age of Steel and The Satan Pit. This shows tremendous acting skills from Tennant.
Unfortunately not everything is great with the return of the doctor. As I said earlier, I like Doctor Who when it's goes full steam ahead with its arc of the season. Problem with this season and most seasons of the series is they focus too much on the standalones. Most of these standalones are great, but some of them really drag the season down. Also I think that some of these episodes are just not worth the effort. This is really evident in Love and Monsters, Fear Her but also The Idiot's Lantern. In the first episode we don't even follow the doctor and Rose. While this may not be bad in itself, see Blink for how great one unknown character can carry the show on it's shoulder, but when the story is centered around people we don't really care about then we have a huge problem. The same can be said for Fear Her. We have children dissappearing, and London having the Olympics in 2012. But the characters aren't greatly fleshed out, and to top it off, it really doesn't look like Rose and the doctor care either. So why should we care? The Idiot's Lantern fortunately has some saving grace, but they are few and far between. I have never been a big fan of monsters or villains terrorizing people through televisions or computers. It just reeks of bad and unimaginative writing. On the plus side we see how much the doctor care about Rose, and it really shows. Props for Tennant in how evident it is. Even though this is true, these episodes and others makes for an uneven season.
Also one other problem I am having with this season is it's pacing. Some of the episodes drags along at a snails pace, which is most evident in the two parters of the season. They take too long to get to the point, and when they do it's just a smokescreen for something else. Mostly this builds up to a cliffhanger that gets resolved in five seconds the next episodes. I am not a big fan of solutions like that. It comes across like a Deus Ex Machina, and especially when the doctor defeates the cybermen in the beginning of The Age of Steel. Sometimes I feel like these two parters could have just been one episode. I may be grumpy and critical, but this has always been a problem for me with Doctor Who.
I really like season two of Doctor Who, let it not be said that I don't. It just these little problems drags down what could have been a great season. The doctor and Roses travels, and their interactions are what brings the quality up, and of course their longer arcs. Also it helps that there's a lot of humour present in the dark times they go through. Combine this with sharply written episodes and you have a good season that is entertaining and fun to watch. I just wish they had gone the extra mile, kinda of like season five did. I know it's unfair to compare this one to season five, since that one concentrate much more on the bigger arcs. But all in all, I really like this season.