Doctor Who, Movie Monday, Review, Television

Doctor Who Season 2: Rise of the Tenth

Remember TV Thursday? That was a thing I did! You remember that? Me neither!

It’s been a hot minute since I talked about Doctor Who. I can’t remember if it was my brief TV Thursday series or my Honest Critique of season eleven; probably the former. But it’s been a fair amount of time since I even watched the show. I completely missed season twelve! Though I didn’t hear many good things.

Have you ever been physically hurt by writing a sentence? Because I just did.

Today, I’m going to begin a trip down memory lane. I already reviewed season one of the modern era; now, I’m going to begin my trek through the rest! I’m going to pick up right where I left off! Let’s review the second season of modern Doctor Who!

Story: Don’t Think About Their Ages

Look, I’ll be the first to say that the romance between the Doctor and Rose is adorable. But if you really think about it, it is kind of messed up. Friendly reminder that she’s nineteen/twenty and he’s over nine-hundred years old; maybe older. Just don’t think about it, okay?

This season picks up right where the last left off, with the now reborn Doctor and Rose heading back to Earth for Christmas. Shortly after they arrive, the Doctor passes out, leaving the Earth defenseless against an alien invasion. In the midst of this adventure, the mysterious organization called Torchwood reveals themselves. With his new body, the Doctor and Rose head out for all-new adventures through time and space!

Talking about Doctor Who seasonal plots can be a bit tricky, especially in this particular era of the show. See, the actual season-wide conflict is never the main focus of the episode; it’s always hinted at, but it’s never a central part. Each episode until the season finale is its own, self-contained story. So I need to talk about this more as an anthology story than a complete one.

Unfortunately, not all of those stories are especially strong. Episode two, ‘New Earth’, is pretty strong right up until the end, where the Doctor just bathes everyone in all the hospital’s medicine at once and saves the day; the complete lack of logic brings the rest of the story collapsing in on itself. ‘Love and Monsters’ is certainly unique, being the first Doctor-light episode (an episode starring a character outside of the main cast), but the execution is bland and somewhat painful. Both ‘Fear Her’ and ‘The Idiot’s Lantern) are dumb episodes built on dumb premises with dumb characters. So there are a fair few stinkers in this batch of stories.

But when they’re good? Holy shit are they good!

This season has some of the best episodes in all of Doctor Who! ‘School Reunion’ is a fantastic love-letter to the old series, bringing back both Sarah Jane and K-9 in an organic, interesting way. ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ is one of the most intriguing and tragic episodes, featuring fantastic characters and some of the best dialogue. ‘The Rise of the Cybermen’ and ‘The Age of Steel’ are the best Cybermen episodes in the entire modern era, bringing the iconic monsters back and perfectly capturing their robotic horror. Plus, it plays a major part in the buildup to the season finale!

Speaking of which, let’s talk about that finale. The final two episodes, ‘Army of Ghosts’ and ‘Doomsday’, are pretty divisive among fans. I can wholeheartedly see why; the plot, while it does ultimately come together, is pretty sloppy and devoid of logic. It kind of tries to explain it, but it doesn’t do a good job. How did the Cybermen break through to the main universe; how’d they find out about the hole the Daleks opened and how did they use it? How did the Daleks escape the Void after being trapped there for years? How did Torchwood find out about the ‘ghosts’? On their own, these plot holes wouldn’t be a problem. But when they all stack up on top of one another, it becomes problematic.

Thankfully, it’s balanced out by some of the most iconic moments in the show. Rose’s farewell is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the whole show. The Dalek VS Cybermen conflict, while cheesy, is a fun change of pace from the typical formula. The drama of the Tyler family, which we’ve gotten bits and pieces of across the last two seasons, is paid off here in a fun, satisfying way. Plus, it’s nice to see Mickey doing cool things, even if they ultimately don’t do anything to help save the day.

Name one other character with the balls to aim a gun at a Dalek in a face-to-face encounter. Excluding River Song, Captain Jack, the rebel soldiers from season eight, and… you know what, never mind.

This season has plenty of downs, sure. But it’s also got more than enough ups to balance it out! It’s definitely one of the best seasons of the show! David Tennant opened his time as the iconic character with a bang and he’d only continue to deliver! One season was all it took for him to earn his title as a fan-favorite!

Although I do wonder what it would’ve been like to have Christopher Eccleston around for another season or two. God knows he deserved to get them.

Presentation: More Than One Color!

One of my biggest problems with the first season was the color balance. Or in this case, the lack thereof. Most shots were basically all one color; mostly orange, yellow, and occasionally blue. There were the occasional shots that looked pretty good. But those were few and far between. It certainly doesn’t help that the lighting was uncomfortably bright in certain scenes.

Thankfully, this season is an upgrade. There is a much greater balance of colors, making each shot much easier on the eyes. The lighting is significantly better, although it can still be uncomfortably bright in certain episodes. In both regards, this season is a definite upgrade.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the CGI. Remember: this is a show from 2006. It should go without saying that the special effects have aged poorly. Thankfully, all the practical effects still look phenomenal. Unfortunately, the balance between practical and CGI is skewed pretty heavily towards the ladder.

Everything else looks pretty good. The sets and costumes are all well made and fully convincing. The cinematography, while not especially amazing, does the job pretty well, making the show very visually appealing. For a show from 2006, it looks pretty good!

It certainly helps that there are some incredibly interesting aliens this season! We’ve got the classics in the Cybermen and the Daleks, sure. But we also got other mainstays, such as the Ood, the Clockwork robots, and even the cat people! They all look incredible, standing out as some of the most interesting creatures in sci-fi!

Also some of the cheesiest. But that’s part of the charm.

Performances: Stealing the Show Together

You know, I find it incredible that all of these actors did such a good job with such corny material. Granted, most TV shows are corny on some level.

Everyone in this season did a great job. But there are two performances that definitely stand out amongst the crowd. If you’ve watched this show, you probably know what I’m talking about already. It’s fairly obvious.

The first is David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. He is a fan favorite and it’s easy to see why. He puts so much energy and charisma into his performance that it’s impossible not to like him! He steals the stage every time he’s on-screen, perfectly balancing his light-hearted childish side with the dark survivor of war. He fits the character like a glove!

Billie Piper as Rose Tyler is just as phenomenal! Her chemistry with the other members of the cast is incredible, especially with David! She perfectly balances childlike innocence with a proud ferocity! She brings her character to life beautifully, creating one of the greatest companions, if not the greatest, in the whole series!

Though I’m personally more of a Donna guy, but that’s beside the point.

Conclusion

Doctor Who is my favorite show of all time. Unfortunately, the most recent seasons have left something to be desired. It’s been on a downward slope for years now, which breaks my heart. So, despite its flaws, it was nice to go back to the early days when things were simple.

And well-written. And good.

If you’ve found yourself disappointed by recent episodes like I’ve been, then you should revisit season two (after season one, of course). If you haven’t watched the show at all and you’re into sci-fi, you should give it a chance! It’s corny as hell and it’s shown its age in many ways. But it’s still one of the most fun seasons of a TV show I’ve ever seen!

I swear, I’m not talking out of nostalgia. I’m not reviewing season five. Well, at least not yet.

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