Army of Ghosts / Doomsday

Tardisodes: The first is the best one yet – a young journalist pieces together clues about Torchwood, before getting too close and ending up being taken away by men in white coats. The second is an emergency news bulletin detailing the Cyberman invasion, in which everything starts blowing up around some poor newsreader, who then gets exterminated by a Dalek. A very strong end to the noble Tardisode experiment, and overall they’re a fun and worthwhile venture. It’s a shame that, save for the occasional online prequel during the Smith years, such a thing didn’t continue.

* We’re entering a phase where I have really clear memories of when and where I first watched these episodes. Army of Ghosts went out just after England had lost on penalties to Portugal in the World Cup Quarter Final. I was emotional, angry at Cristiano Ronaldo for winking after Rooney’s red card, and pissed as a fart. For the finale, two of my very best friends came round to watch it at my student house, after they’d spent the day hunting for the flat where I’d end up watching most of the next series. By the end, the scene was of three young men who knew each other quite well, but not as well as we soon would, sitting next to each other on three rickety chairs in front of a tiny portable TV, with none of us daring to break eye contact with the screen in case the others saw us crying.

* It’s odd to revisit the original incarnation of Torchwood, considering how little it resembles Captain Jack’s gang of ne’er-do-wells. These guys might be sinister and selfish, but at least they’re vaguely competent, and at least Tracy-Ann Cyberman isn’t the worst woman from the second series of Big Train to appear in this episode. There are little flashes of the Torchwood theme in the incidental music when the Doctor is ghost-hunting, not that we’d have known it at the time. Speaking of the ghost-hunting, why in the name of FUCK does Tennant say a line from Ghostbusters in a Scooby Doo voice? That has been irritating me for over a decade now.

* Hey look, it’s Martha Jones! Flirting with a bloke over MSN, like a early-to-mid-00s idiot. If this was the classic series, she’d survive the story and leave in the TARDIS at the end, rather than the team going to the effort of inventing a new character for a guest actress they liked.

* This is the first finale to contain the briefly traditional raft of celebrity cameos. D’you remember Trisha? I seem to recall she was a bit old hat even by 2006, having moved to Channel 5 and been replaced on ITV by Jeremy Kyle. Barbara Windsor is the highlight, although her (well, Peggy’s) joke about spirits doesn’t quite work – if the only spirits allowed in the Queen Vic are gin, whiskey and vodka, then that’s a shit bar.

* I love the gratuitous little scene of the kid running upstairs, only to find a Cyberman waiting for him. That’s always stuck with me as something that would have terrified me if I was ten years younger. Even though I knew what was coming, I had a HUGE grin on my face as the Daleks descend from the void ship. I jotted down “best cliffhanger ever” in my notes – I was wrapped up in the moment, clearly, but even now I’m struggling to recall a better one.

* RTD may well be the best writer of Dalek dialogue of all time. With the combination of this writing, the vocal performance and the brilliant props, everything is just right – they’re great when they’re being menacing, but the functional dialogue amongst themselves also shines, and Russell is able to make them humourous without detracting from any of this. The bickering with the Cybermen is just extraordinary.

* It’s astonishing just how many returning characters there are. That one from Byker Grove didn’t have much to do, other than over-enunciate “and so did we”, and point out the existence of lifts. It was genuinely nice to see Mickey again, and apt that he got one last chance to fuck everything up for everyone when he activated the Genesis Ark. The Jackie and Pete reunion was the first time I cried, but luckily there was a sharp jolt into some massive pitched Dalek vs Cybermen vs Torchwood battles, so I was able to compose myself temporarily.

* You can take it as read that I enjoyed everything Dalek-related, and most things Cybermen-related – even though they’re not proper Cybermen, and I still don’t think they’re a patch on the originals, they’re better here than they ever were in the 70s or 80s, perhaps because the Daleks are around to pick up the slack. The one bit that I’m really not sure about is when Tracy-Ann Cyberman turns up again, and repeats her new-found catchphrase whilst crying oil. I’m not necessarily opposed to a converted human regaining control of their Cyber body, but I found it a bit jarring in the moment, and the tear was daft.

* Predictably, I was a big blubbering mess by the end, perhaps more so than I was the first time, given there was no need to disguise it. This is despite knowing that the big goodbye isn’t quite as final as seems, and that the “this is the story of how I died” motif is a bit annoying when you know how misleading it is. But the whole thing is just so deeply sad. They’ve been ripped apart and they love each other, but The Doctor can’t even say it. Rose has annoyed me in recent episodes, but you never forget your first companion, and she was mine. I loved her too.

* Nearly eleven years later, I once again found myself croaking “fuck off, Catherine Tate” through a veil of tears. I didn’t like her as a performer then and I don’t now, but I’m going to do my best to re-assess Donna with an open mind when the time comes. But regardless of any of that, that final moment is horribly misjudged, and it damn near undermines the whole ending. I wish they’d have had the nerve and the confidence to end on a sad note, without feeling the need to add a hook to get people to come back. They would have done anyway – you’ve created this brilliant, thrilling, emotional climax, so just let it breathe.

* Fave lines that I’d previously forgotten: “Torchwood refuses to go metric.” / “Neither did we need him alive.” / “Social interaction will cease.”



  • Seasons/Series watched: 28 of 35
  • Stories watched: 177 of 264
  • Individual episodes watched: 723 of 827

That’s actually a lower average rating than most of the original run, but that’s mainly due to Fear Her, and to compare a new series to an old season is not like-for-like anyway. But still, not as good as the first series, but a damn sight better than what’s coming next. Brace yourself. I know I am. Expect weevils and bollocks and shit.

Fear Her

Tardisode: A hard-hitting advert for a service called Crime Crackers, in which a slightly irritating Welsh man appeals for information on the mysterious disappearances of several children in Dame Kelly Holmes Close. It then ends with a crash zoom into a wardrobe; there’s a formula to these Tardisodes whereby each one has to end with a fleeting glimpse of the Monster Of The Week, but often, when the rest of the piece has a central conceit such as this one, it doesn’t quite fit, and the clip would be better off without it. Especially when the monster is just a wardrobe with a red light in it.

* Ah, remember when 2012 was the future, and not some far distant nostalgic utopia where it briefly felt like we had a united country and hope for the future? The prevalence of Union Jacks has slightly different connotations now, and there’s a hint of racial tension bubbling under throughout – it just so happens that the only black family on the street are the ones who are causing the paranoia, and it’s the only black workman that everyone rounds on and basically accuses of being a child abductor.

* There’s no way around this – the big baddy this week is shit. She’s basically a malevolent Penny Crayon, except Penny Crayon had a bigger budget. Having the cheap and quick episode back-to-back with the double-banked episode gives this season a very odd structure, losing all momentum as it heads to the finale. They could have made more of the personal drama to make up for the lack of a traditional monster, but it was all so broad and half-arsed. The only details that are memorable are the ones that stand out from an otherwise particularly child-friendly episode because they’re so dark – there’s hints that Chloe’s father was abusive in some way, and naturally you assume the worst.

* The scribble monster is shit, obviously, and that’s when you really know that this is a duff episode. It’s leads to Rose making a hell of a leap to go from “this is made of graphite” to “it’s the little girl that I saw in the window, she must be trapping children in drawings”. It’s one of a number of unconvincing plot contrivances which culminates in Chloe’s mum leaving her alone in her room with a bunch of colouring pencils, minutes after Rose specifically told her not to. And what’s it all leading up to? Some flashing red lights at the top of the stairs, defeated by the simple act of a mother reassuring her child for the first time in a year.

* Huw Edwards is comically useless. For over ten years now, every time I’ve seen him on TV, I’ve found myself saying “it’s not just a torch now, it’s HOPE and it’s LOVE.” I’ve now discovered that he doesn’t say that exact sentence in the episode, but close enough to make it an accurate parody. One even funnier bit that I’d forgotten was when the torch bearer fell over, and Huw asks, in the most matter of fact way possible, “does this mean that the Olympic dream is dead?”. He delivers it as if he’s asking Nick Robinson whether something or other is good news for the government, as if “the Olympic dream” is a quantifiable thing that actually exists.

* Then if Tennant’s shit-eating grin as he lights the flame isn’t enough, we get the worst piece of foreshadowing I think I’ve ever seen on Who, and possibly on TV in general. Everything is completely fine and resolved and straightforward, and then the tone switches in a split second as Tennant looks up at the sky and arbitrarily decides that “a storm’s approaching”, although we’re never told exactly how he knows this. What a load of wank.

* As you may have surmised, I’m not a huge fan of David Tennant in this particular phase of his tenure – I thought he had a brilliant start, and that he got better again later on, but right now him and Rose together are so smug that I’m glad there’s a storm coming to split them up. Despite the godawful conclusion to the episode, the next time trailer is particularly good – although I wasn’t expecting to hear a Dalek gun, as I remember being surprised by their appearance at the cliffhanger to Army of Ghosts. Maybe I wasn’t quite as familiar with what a Dalek gun sounds like at the time…


Love & Monsters

Tardisode: A man who clearly isn’t Peter Kay, but who we conveniently only see from behind, is Googling The Doctor when he comes across the website of an organisation called Linda. He does some Mickey Smith style hacking in order to trace the IP address or something, then kills the tea lady.

* Ah yes, the single most divisive episode of the revived series so far, and possibly to date. I’ve always been a bit of a fan, but you can’t deny that they handled the double-banking a lot better in subsequent series, especially the following year. But I’m fine with the silly bits like the Scooby Doo-esque running around – what we’re being shown isn’t necessarily meant to have happened exactly as we see it, it’s a depiction of Elton’s memories and his recounting of the story, and he’s just an unreliable narrator. His computer didn’t literally blow up when “the Internet went into melt down”, and his little band doesn’t literally sound exactly like ELO the second time we see them.

* I love that this links up with established continuity from previous contemporary Britain stories. I’ve always been interested in how The Doctor’s adventures affect everyday people, and it’s been a cornerstone of the RTD years. It grounds the show by reinforcing its place in the real world – our world – which we haven’t really had since the UNIT days.

* Much like the crew from last time, Linda are a right bunch of recognisable telly stalwarts. Marc Warren! Simon Greenall! Shirley Henderson, the woman who permanently looks about twenty years younger than she is! The annoying one from Two Pints Of Shit And A Packet Of Shit (no, the other annoying one. No, the other other annoying one)! The only problem with Linda is that they are totally ineffectual before Peter Kay turns up, and terribly smug with it.

* So, having caught up on the classic series, read up on what went on behind the scenes, and all the politics within both the production and the fandom… Peter Kay is Ian Levine, right? One of those entitled, self-righteous tossers who you find in every fan community, who ultimately want to make it all about them and who like nothing better than to nitpick and moan, in order to give the impression that they’re somehow superior to the thing they supposedly love. I should know, that’s what half of Red Dwarf fandom thinks of me.

*  I have a complex position on Peter Kay. Everything I’ve heard about him leads me to believe he’s a terrible person, his stand-up persona isn’t much better, and he’s an incredibly lazy and unimaginative comedian. But I adore That Peter Kay Thing and Phoenix Nights, so I never know what to expect. He’s not bad at playing Victor, who’s quite an old school variety of rotter, and I enjoyed the “eczema” business. But when he turns into the Abzorbaloff, he’s self-consciously trying to be funny, so he falls back on his tedious comedy northerner shtick. The creature effects are weird; the prosthetics are fine, but the performances of the absorbed victims really stilted and unconvincing.

* Meanwhile, it’s one of Jackie’s best appearances, and it’s good to see her in the spotlight as the character we’re most familiar with. Her seduction at the laundrette is great, as is the rather risque reading of “you could always splash out on a taxi or… whatever.” My favourite bit is the look on her face as she drops the facade and pours wine over Elton for the second time, but Camille Coduri can also handle the emotional stuff really well.

* “We’ve even got a bit of a love life” is the single rudest joke the series has ever seen, and therefore one of the best jokes the series has ever seen. Utterly amazing that it ever made it to screen in a family show. It’s probably best not to think about whether The Doctor did the right thing in turning a dead woman into a sentient fuck-pavement without her consent, though.


The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit

Tardisodes: First, a tough-looking space captain receives a mission, from an astonishingly unconvincing corporate official, to retrieve a mysterious power source from a distant planet. He accepts, and then an Ood makes a sarcastic-sounding comment about The Beast rising from the pit. Secondly, a scene that’s set after the first Tardisode but before the first episode, where a book full of those symbols burns up, transferring the symbols to some poor sod in the process. It’s slightly quirky in terms of chronology when you watch it all in order, but I guess it’s hard to do a prequel that sits well in the middle of a two-parter.

* I liked that the pre-titles to the first episode introduced the Ood with a mini-cliffhanger that turned out to be a red herring – in the old days, those couple of minutes would have been 25. I do like the Odd, with their sing-song demonic threats that always sound slightly sassy. Of course, this is the first time I’ve clapped eyes on an Ood since I watched The Sensorites, so now I can see that they’re so clearly cut from the same cloth.

* What a guest cast. Danny Webb from off of Alien³ and Humans! Claire Rushbrook, who interviews Daisy Steiner for a magazine job! The guy with all the writing on his face who I now know best as a man in Corrie who tried to steal Craig Charles’s girlfriend by pretending he had brain cancer! Pretty much all the crew are famous telly faces, and they play a big part in this story’s success.

* Having said that, it’s weird that there’s two extra crew members who don’t speak and who nobody ever refers to. A bloke with a gun who turns up when The Doctor goes down the mineshaft, and a woman with a gun who’s caught up in the initial Ood attack. Unless I missed something, neither are mentioned early on when they go through the crew roster, and nobody seems to care too much about their deaths, considering the fuss they (rightly) make when the more senior crew members snuff it.

*  There’s lots of little hints about the society the crew are from. They’re the type of people who would happily keep slaves without questioning the morality, and who talk of “the empire”, which all sounds a bit Brexit in retrospect. It’s not a huge thing, but it’s a level of detail that would be reminiscent of an old Robert Holmes serial if there was just a little bit more of it.

* There’s a sound effect on the crew’s communicators that Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe used to use for transitions. This is most distracting.

* There’s a lovely build up of tension and drama leading to the cliffhanger, where your man gets possessed and properly scary, and absolutely everything goes to shit. But cutting when the pit opened, before we’d seen what was inside, wasn’t particularly satisfying, and it left it feeling a little like clickbait – you won’t believe what’s in there, tune in next week to find out.

* But the second part is all very exciting, and so I have far fewer notes for it. I remembered liking it the first time around, but couldn’t recall much about it. The details of what happens are perhaps not that memorable because the various components – base under siege, power failures, dwindling oxygen supplies, crawling around in the air ducts – are not particularly original, but as an action-adventure romp, it’s a very decent one. Jefferson’s sacrifice is very sad, and the little hint that Toby was still possessed added an extra dimension – you knew he’d go bad and ruin everything, you just didn’t know when.

* Rose is apparently “the valiant child who will die in battle so very soon”. Or just get stranded on a parallel world for a couple of series, but whatevs. Those words obviously stirred something in her, as she does an absolutely sterling job of taking command in The Doctor’s absence soon after. In a series where she’s been far harder to take seriously than she was last time, this is an undoubted high point for the character.

* The Doctor’s side of the story was much slower paced, but no less interesting. It’s always intriguing to see what he does when he thinks that he’s lost everything. The TARDIS is gone, they’re trapped down a ten mile mineshaft and he’s got less than an hour’s worth of oxygen, so fuck it, let’s jump down a totally deep hole. As he falls, he stops short of saying that he loves Rose, which is more galling when you know what happens at the end of the series.

* Throughout, I got a vague Alien series vibe, which is obviously right up my street. Maybe it was just the presence of Danny Webb, but also the design of the base and the fact that the crew were designed to be identifiably ordinary people. But that ending, with the highest ranking survivor logging a roll call of the deceased, confirmed to me that it was a deliberate homage. Fine by me, no wonder I enjoyed it so much.


The Idiot’s Lantern

Tardisode: An old lady’s brand new telly is on the blink, so gives it a good whack. In retaliation, the telly eats her. This is followed by a trailer for the Queen’s Coronation. Bloody repeats.

* Ah, the Doctor and Rose pissing about with scooters, grinning inanely as they reel off some suspect 50s slang. They’re definitely back to the annoying phase now that grumpy old Mickey is gone. Everything’s bright and vibrant, even the grade seems noticeably more Technicolor than usual, which serves to place a barrier between the audience and the aciton, making it harder for us to care because it all feels artificial and detached from reality.

* Cockney Hitler dad is a bit over the top, and is an irredeemable tosser – no shades of grey to be seen, and some of the dialogue reminded me of Gatiss’s earlier work, specifically Legz Akimbo’s take on kitchen sink dramas. If they’d have left it at The Doctor and Rose admonishing him, it would have been worth it for the nice bit of patriarchy smashing on a Saturday afternoon. But instead, his comeuppance is spread out over the course of the episode, and it just gets in the way of this week’s monster story.

* Aside from when they gang up against Cockney Hitler, The Doctor and Rose are both better when they’re apart at the moment. Rose gets to play the lead role for a while when she’s confronting and interrogating Magpie, and things are beginning to look up. Then she loses her face, which is careless of her, and so The Doctor gets all angry and teams up with Cockney Hitler’s son. He’s played by someone that I used to work with – it was years after this episode was made, and while I knew in the back of my mind that he’d been in Who, I failed to recognise him until I saw his name in the credits. I can only conclude that the costume and period detail had a transformative effect.

* “Hungry” is a rubbish catchphrase for a monster, “The Wire” is a rubbish name and her power is to turn everyone into Holly from Red Dwarf. I should be all over a villain based on an in-vision continuity announcer, and Maureen Lipman doesn’t do a bad job, but the character is so thin and inconsequential.

* It all becomes very cheesey towards the end. The dashboard-mounted camera in Magpie’s van reminded me of Marion & Geoff, and the long, drawn-out climbs to the top of the Ally Pally transmitter took forever. “It’s closedown, I’m afraid, and no epilogue.” Oh, shut up, you tit. Extra points for The Doctor’s use of Betamax and the action taking place on “Florizel Street”, but very little else in the plus column.


Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel

Tardisodes: First up, an intelligence briefing about John Lumic / Cybus that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the fact that he’s building Cybermen. It’s then revealed that the broadcast is being watched by Mickey, although it’s actually Ricky, except we don’t know that yet.

Secondly, an update from Cybus Industries urging people to upgrade from flesh, and lots of footage of some Cybermen marching about. Which I guess would have been exciting at the time, but I’m used to footage of Cybermen marching about by now.

* Urgh, new Cybermen. I don’t mind that there’s a new origin story – it’s a parallel world, it doesn’t affect our universe, so it’s fine. The problem is – and it’s something that I feel like I’ve mentioned every time the Cybermen have appeared from the 70s onwards – the concept that originally made them so scary seems to now be permanently lost. They work best when they’re recognisably human-but-with-extra bits, because the horror comes from how similar they are to us. When you make them uniform and regimented, they’re just generic robots – toy soldiers for The Doctor to knock down.

Transferring a human brain into a completely artificial metal suit just doesn’t cut it. A biological blob in a weaponised travel machine isn’t the Cybermen. They’ve basically just made shit Daleks. Besides which, if they’d have gone for the traditional augmentation of existing human bodies, it would have fitted much more neatly into the tech upgrade element of the parallel world.

* And then Trigger made a face. John Lumic is a ridiculous character, and Roger Lloyd Pack didn’t stand a chance with dialogue such as “and how will you do that from beyond the grave?” in the pre-titles. I quite liked a broad villain in the old days, but it doesn’t work with the gritty reality of the new series. He’s no Tobias Vaughn.

* Fishing a newspaper out of a bin to find out the date. They really don’t mind a tired old cliché, do they? But good things about parallel world include Rose being a dog (and The Doctor laughing about it), Lumic’s clever use of the ear pods to steal information, and the presence of an International Electromatics lorry.

* The Geordie boy from Byker Grove with the mid-00s haircut is rubbish. He seems like he’s having a lovely time pretending to be a big hero, but it’s not particularly convincing. Don Warrington as the President of Great Britain is a lot more like it, though you have to question why his character decided to go gallivanting off to a birthday party at such a crucial time for the country.

* Mickey has a point that The Doctor cares more about Rose than him, but a) Rose has been there longer, b) you invited yourself on board in the first place, doofus, and c) Rose is just nicer than you. His journey in this episode actually makes a lot of sense thanks to the dead nan element, and it’s in keeping with the progress he’s already made, but that line towards the start about “looking out for a better offer” just makes him sound ungrateful as fuck.

* Actually, rather than shit Daleks, when the ear pods activated and people started voluntary walking into the factories, I realised that what Lumic is actually making are just more advanced Robomen from Dalek Invasion of Earth. I must admit I do have a soft spot for the Lion Sleeps Tonight bit though.

* I like that Alternate Pete feels a connection with and an inherent trust in Rose, in exactly the same way Past Pete did last time. Alt-Jackie is a bit of a dick, though, with ridiculous knockers. More could have been done with her post-conversion; I seemed to recall a bit where she regained a modicum of control and aided Rose and Pete, but I might be mixing it up with a similar moment in a later episode.

* The Cybermen’s attack on the party and resultant cliffhanger is pretty bloody good, but it raises the question of what exactly constitutes “maximum” deletion. There’s no “next time” preview to be seen, either before or after the credits, which is a big improvement. The resolution, however is a pile of shit – The Doctor pulls out a magic weapon and the Cybermen are conveniently vapourised. It’s not a deus ex machina – the criticism that’s been misused so badly by Doctor Who fans that it’s become meaningless anyway – because we’d already established that he had this bit of TARDIS on him, but its newfound zapping ability had never been mentioned before, so it’s still a complete cop-out.

* Quite a lot of the second episode seems to concern lengthy scenes of people walking quite slowly. It’s not terribly exciting – an early example of something that’s plagued a handful of modern two-parters whereby the scene-setting and the build-up are a lot more fun than the main action.

* What’s the point of being the Cyber Controller if you’re still confined to a big wheelchair when you’re doing the controlling? The rest of the climax is better than I remembered, to be fair. The Doctor pleading his case by extolling the virtues of emotion is a pleasingly old-school method, and the stuff with the emotional inhibitors at least acknowledges that the traces of humanity within the Cybermen are where the interesting material lies. I seemed to remember thinking that the Doctor fixing everything by jamming Rose’s phone into a handy docking station was another cop-out, but it didn’t bother me at all this time – maybe it’s because we have NFC and wireless docking now, but the technologies being universally compatible made sense.

* Mickey’s departure was another staple of the classic series being dusted off – staying behind to help rebuild a world that they’ve been in for five minutes. If only the line about Ricky and Jake being a couple hadn’t been cut, he could have gone the whole hog and married a bloke he’d only just met. I did enjoy the dynamic of having a third traveller for a few episodes, but overall Mickey has been less likeable than I remembered, and I’ve just about had my fill of him. The timing was right for him to go.

* Fave lines that I’d previously forgotten: “Or maybe Lucy’s just a bit thick.” / “Well, it could be that Cybus Industries have perfected the science of human cloning, or your father had a bike.” / “I once saved the universe with a biiiig yellow truck.”


The Girl in the Fireplace

Tardisode: An unnamed generic spaceship enters an ion storm, and then the crew are attacked by unseen assassins who make a ticking noise. It’s a teaser for an entirely different type of episode, but then what could you do that wouldn’t give the game away? But then, rather than ending on a reveal of the villain, as is the custom, it cuts to a clock on a mantlepiece breaking, as if it’s something mysterious and threatening. Obviously I know the significance now, but god knows what I thought at the time, before I’d seen the episode.

* This is the best example so far, including the entire classic series, of Doctor Who using time travel as a plot device. I love this type of story-telling – Moffat has taken it to further extremes during his era, and this now feels like the first fledgling step into new territory, in the same way, say, The Web of Fear preempted the UNIT years.

* I mean, what happens with Reinette is basically a more gradual (and ultimately more tragic) version of what happens with Amy in The Eleventh Hour, with the Doctor being mistaken for an imaginary friend who then shows up, unchanged, when the little girl becomes an adult. Except this time, he ends up shagging her. “Dance with me”, indeed. Saucy.

* Other little moments that reminded me of later stories: The Doctor and Rose being separated by an impenetrable time barrier (this time it was only for a few hours, but it’ll be a lot worse come the end of the series); and The Doctor having to take the slow path with the woman he loves (this time it wasn’t through choice and it got resolved fairly quickly, rather than a voluntary 20-odd years with River).

* Reinette has got to be one of the all time great guest characters. Right from the very first time she turns up as an adult, her dialogue is great; she’s not just a confused or scared victim, defined by her relationship with the Doctor and the threat of the clockwork droids. She’s funny and confident, she’s got a life of her own, and she knows herself. Her lines about the Doctor being worth the monsters struck a chord. It is Valentine’s Day after all.

* Watching this back to back with School Reunion, it’s weird that none of Rose’s resentment regarding Mickey joining the crew has carried over – she’s happily guiding him through his first adventure, sharing the experience in quite a heartwarming way. It instantly makes Mickey better when he’s not a minor antagonist, and I much, much prefer this approach – again, something Moffat would later do with Amy and Rory.

* Although I have many favourite lines, foremost among them “have you met the French?”, these are the favourite lines that I’d previously forgotten: “Just a routine fire check… hope you enjoy the rest of the fire.” / “Mickey, what’s pre-revolutionary France doing on a spaceship? Get some perspective.” / “And so’s your dad.” / “We do not require your feet.”


School Reunion

Tardisode: Mickey Smith goes to a cyber cafe to do some more of his l33t hax0ring, only to be stopped by a big flashing “Torchwood – Access Denied” message. You know, that super secret organisation that the Prime Minister isn’t supposed to know about. Of all the companions with the surname Smith to give us a bonus episode with…

* In the pretitles, Finch eats a child, and thinks he’ll get away with it because she’s an orphan from a children’s home. “No parents – no-one to miss you.” Pretty sure orphanages keep records of who lives there, and where they go to school.

* “Happy-slapping hoodies with ASBOs and ringtones”. Between that and the giant VDUs in the classrooms, I think I’ve just pin-pointed the moment at which the mid-00s became “the past”.

* But anyway, Sarah Jane. Brilliant brilliant Sarah Jane. She hadn’t changed a bit, really – a few years older, but instantly recognisable as the same character. Her initial meeting with The Doctor, where she doesn’t know who he is but he’s absolutely delighted, is beautiful, and then I got goosebumps as she stumbled upon the TARDIS. It’s easy to say in hindsight, but there really wasn’t anyone else they could have brought back, was there? The Brig is the only one who can match her, but the story required a direct parallel with Rose, plus Sarah’s departure was tragic and needed to be addressed. For most companions, it would be “yeeeeah, I really should have stayed with you instead of marrying that bloke I’d just met, shouldn’t I”?

* And of course, K-9. Weird to think that if it wasn’t for a failed spin-off pilot a quarter of a century earlier, Sarah and K-9 would never have met, and therefore he wouldn’t have been in this episode or the subsequent more successful spin-off. Understandably considering the other returnee, K-9 sort of got short-changed for screen time, but having now watched his original tenure, that’s kind of fitting. Leaving him in the car with Mickey is just like what the Fourth Doctor used to do with him whenever the adventure featured a location with an uneven surface.

* Why does the big confrontation between The Doctor and Tony Head take place either side of a swimming pool? I’m sure it seemed cool at the time, but it just struck me as odd watching it tonight. It’s also weird that all the Krillitanes can switch between human and bat forms apart from Finch – he’s the boss, genre convention dictates that he should turn in to some sort of giant megabat.

* I found myself fighting back tears when Sarah-Jane and The Doctor said goodbye and I’m not sure why. I know that they’ll meet again, and that I’ve got a hell of a lot more Sarah Jane still to watch, which I’m looking forward to immensely. Obviously, it’s partly to do with the wonderful Lis Sladen no longer being with us, but also I think that this is what long-term fans must have felt when this episode first aired.

Through the microcosm of one iconic companion and her life with and without The Doctor, it’s a small scale celebration of the classic series and a moment of closure – a chance to finally say goodbye, but to move on to something new. Sarah Jane Smith effectively passes on the baton to Rose Tyler, and that’s huge. When I first watched this episode, I loved it because it gave me a glimpse of what the old series meant to people. Now that I am one of those people, it gives me so much more.

* That said, The Doctor leaving behind a new K-9 for Sarah, revealed when the TARDIS
dematerialised… what if she’d have taken him up on his offer and decided to travel with him again? Was K-9 just going to be left on his own on 21st Century Earth? Poor bugger.


Tooth and Claw

Tardisode: A big egg falls to Earth. Three hundred years later, Tim the Enchanter from Holy Grail gets eaten by a werewolf.

* Pretty sure the pre-titles sequence of a slow-mo kung-fu fight in red pyjamas was a BBC One ident from the time.

* The Tenth Doctor can do a pretty good Scottish accent, can’t he? Tennant seems to alternate between his natural voice and a slightly posher version from scene-to-scene. One unfortunate side-effect of returning to this story in 2017 is that spooky tales being told in exaggerated old-fashioned Scotch accents now make me think of Athletico Mince. It’s lucky the werewolf didn’t have the face of Brian McDermott.

* What’s Samantha Briggs from The Faceless Ones doing posing as Queen Victoria a hundred years in her past? She’s very good indeed, and I like the idea of her being so clued-up about the paranormal, and streetwise enough to protect herself by shooting an evil bald monk. I sometimes forget about this one in the pantheon of celebrity historicals, but it’s a good example of the subgenre.

* I was not amused by Rose’s constant attempts to make Victoria say “we are not amused”. Or by them pausing the action to hug and laugh at the fact they’re facing a werewolf. It was around this point that Tenth & Rose’s larking about began to grate a little bit, and it was the first time that there’d been a development that I didn’t like. It feels like they’re not taking the situation seriously, which rather undermines the plot, and it makes for an awkward juxtaposition when the death and destruction starts happening.

* The werewolf transformation is very brief but pretty good. It’s all about the bone-cracking sound effects. There seems to have been lessons learned from the first series in terms of how to use effects sparingly in order to make them more effective; minimalism being planned at the writing phase and used to fuel creative directing, rather than having to improvise out of necessity at a later stage when they’ve realised they were too ambitious.

* In an episode that concerns an extremely bad wolf, we learn a lot more about this year’s buzzword, Torchwood. In fact, between seeing the Institute being founded here, and already having seen what they can do in The Christmas Invasion, I can’t recall what else there is to reveal ahead of the Battle of Canary Wharf. It’s by no means a Bad Wolf style mystery like I remembered, more of an in-universe trailer for the finale and the forthcoming spin-off series. Victoria spells out the entire back-story, and thinking about it, “beware of Torchwood” isn’t a bad philosophy to have.

* What was all that about Victoria potentially being bitten? It was set up to be the classic thing from any werewolf or zombie film where someone’s been infected but they soldier on for a bit before they transform, but instead it was just a set up for some ridiculously over-acted jokes about the Royal Family being secret werewolves. Yeah, Ten and Rose as a combo are really starting to get on my tits whenever they’re not in immediate peril.

* Fave lines that I’d previously forgotten: “Margaret Thatcher, eeeurgh.” / “I’m Dr James McCrimmon from the township of Balamory.” / “Well, that’s true of anything if you wait long enough.”


New Earth

* Each Series 2 episode was preceded by a minute-long “Tardisode”. As this project covers everything, I will of course be watching those alongside each main ep. I hoovered these up at the time – this was the period where I was really into consuming as much Who as possible; I was at university and therefore had an incredible amount of free time. I even watched every episode of Totally Doctor Who on Friday afternoons. Anyway, this Tardisode was a little sales pitch for the hospital, and seemed to hinge on the notion that the cat people are scary. They are in fact just big old cats.

* I hadn’t realised just how many episodes Jackie and Mickey appear in, even if it’s just for a few seconds at a time as it is here. My memory was that they just turn up whenever the episode is set in the present day, but there’s constant reminders of Rose’s roots throughout other stories too.

* This was a self-consciously funny episode, which is code for not very scary or interesting or important. I liked the Doctor’s obsession with little shops, and the substituted swearword gags, but despite a decent performance by Billie Piper, as soon as Cassandra jumped into Rose’s body, it all felt a bit forced and self-indulgent. The kiss feels somewhat gratuitous, like they just wanted to have Tennant and Piper snog at the earliest opportunity after the minor hoohah when it was her and Eccles.

* This is also the episode where the Face of Boe is established as being all knowing and a bit magic, and they set up the big secret that he has to pass on. I lapped this stuff up at the time, but now that we know how it ends, why is it his big secret that The Master is alive? The way the cat nurse talks about the legend, it sounds like it should be a secret about Boe himself, but instead his identity is tossed off as a gag at the end of the following series. Maybe. Also, it was very rude of The Face of Boe to bugger off like that at the end of their conversation. It reminded me of the Cobbles victim from Look Around You.

* It’s just all a bit meh this episode, almost like a series of vignettes and set pieces with nothing holding it together. It’s the kind of thing that was done every now and then in the classic series where you’d have lots of little bitty plots going on, none of which would be substantial enough to sustain an episode on their own. It’s not awful – there are far worse episodes coming up this series – but it’s not one I’m ever likely to revisit again.