Gridlock

* I distinctly remember watching this episode on broadcast. I was staying with my then-new girlfriend, and it was the first time she saw me cry. Tonight was the most recent time.

* My new-found knowledge of the show’s history makes me appreciate the consistency in the descriptions of Gallifrey, but I’m also more aware that the Doctor is massively romanticising the place. The rose-tinted spectacles are fair enough, considering it’s dead and gone and it’s all his fault, but it was always a place to be feared before. Time Lords are all bastards.

* Father Dougal playing a big old cat! It’s a small role, but a memorable one, imbued with an infectiously cheery personality and a lovely turn of phrase. My only disappointment was that they went down the cute kitten route in depicting the offspring of him and his human wife, rather than the hideous mutation that would surely occur from such a union. I also enjoyed the glimpses of the other cars, particularly the old lesbian couple and the little city gent. The cavalcade of various species that had been cobbled together for a few seconds of screen time each reminded me of The End of the World, which in turn reminds me of Milliways.

* The Doctor fiddling with the police screen in order to get information and attempt to get through to someone reminded me of something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I’ve just realised that an animated McCoy does the same thing in bloody Death Comes To Time. There’s no chance it was deliberate, but if it was it’d be the oddest choice of source material for a callback ever. Until…

* The sodding Macra! After rationing himself to only Autons, Daleks, Cybermen, Sarah Jane and K-9 so far, it’s hilarious that the next thing Russell decided to bring back was a previously one-off monster from a serial that doesn’t even exist any more. In a way it’s perfect, because only those that know the backstory will know that there even is a backstory – when it’s something like Silurians or Sontarans, your casual fan will know the name but potentially be confused about the details and feel like they’re missing out. But with the Macra, you’d just assume they were a new invention, and as such I plumped for them when “characters or species that appeared in the classic and new series of Doctor Who” was a question on Pointless.

* I don’t know why the death of The Face of Boe makes me cry – my reaction surprised me then and it surprised me now. He’s just a big old face, as The Doctor so expertly points out, and he’s barely been in it – he said more words on his deathbed than in the rest of his appearances combined. But there’s something about what he represents that makes him feel important, and it’s the esteem in which The Doctor holds him that makes it emotional. It’s essentially fridging, but with an ancient giant face who may or may not be Captain Jack.

* If it is Jack, he could have been a bit more specific with his message. “You are not alone. However, it’s the fucking Master, and pretty soon he’s going to keep us both imprisoned and tortured for a year. Also, to be clear, the initials of the first four words I said comprise the surname of a professor that the Master is disguised as, so look out for that, and make sure you remember this warning the very second you’re introduced to this man.”

* The final scene is just perfect, Abide With Me and all. I’m an atheist, but I love the religious subtext in this episode. The climax boils down to The Doctor realising that Martha is someone he cares about, and someone he can trust with his secrets. Convenient that he tells her about the Daleks just before she meets them. And unfortunately, “I’m not just a Time Lord, I’m the last of the Time Lords” will always make me laugh, due to a chameleon arch toy I’ve got with a dodgy sound chip, which speeds Tennant up until he sounds like a chipmunk. (Like this video I’ve just found, but mine is worse.) But it doesn’t spoil the best episode of the series so far.

RATING: 10

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.

RATING: 6