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

The Long Game

* Midway through the series, this is the episode so far that most closely resembles a classic serial – turn up at a place, meet the locals, examine the society for a bit, then realise there’s an alien behind everything. However, because there’s only 45 minutes to play with, it skips from the set-up to the resolution within a couple of scenes, missing out all the exciting peril in the middle. The episode really takes its time to build an intriguing story, and then rushes to finish it off; it’s incredibly unbalanced and it makes for a unsatisfying and ultimately unremarkable viewing experience.

* FAKE NEWS. Satellite 5 is a failing piece of garbage. Sad! Somehow the themes of this episode seem more relevant in 2017 than they did in 2005. There’s even lines about immigration being tightened up due to fear of attacks, and the powers that be creating a climate of fear in order to keep the borders closed. Fuck’s sake, Doctor Who is usually a much-needed respite from the terrifying injustices of the real world. Give me a break!

* The companion subplot is handled much better than the monster-of-the-week element. It’s enjoyable spotting the early warning signs that Adam’s a shit. It’s a speciality of Bruno Langley’s; Adam works in the exact same way as Todd Grimshaw, in that you want to believe he’s a good guy deep down, but you just know that there’s always some sort of twisted gameplan. I’m aware that previous drafts revealed that Adam was doing it all to find a cure for his ill father, but as it stands his only motivation is that he’s a bit of a twat.

* Tamsin Greig! I’d forgotten she was in this. Bit of a waste to use such a great actor in such a small part really, and it’s the same with Simon Pegg. They’re both great here – Pegg’s really on his home territory as a character that switches between being a billy-big-bollocks a shameless lickspittle – but I wish they’d been cast in much more substantial roles at some point instead.

* We end with Adam becoming the first ever companion to be kicked out of the TARDIS for being a compete dick, although Dodo and Adric came pretty close to getting there first at times. The failed companion is a great idea from Russell, but in hindsight it’s a shame that – with Captain Jack coming along in a couple of episodes – there’s so few stories where it’s just Rose and The Ninth Doctor, as they’re such a special pairing.

RATING: 5

Nothing to do with this episode, but I can’t let today pass without saying: RIP Sir John Hurt. Kane, Quentin Crisp, Winston Smith, The Elephant Man, Caligula, The War Doctor. Any one of these would have been career-defining for most actors. What an honour for Doctor Who to have been graced by him.

The End of the World

* The ultimate destruction of Earth is an odd choice for Rose’s first trip – you’d think the Doctor would want to ease her in a little more gently, or maybe it was a test to see how she’d cope. The Ninth Doctor seems more thoughtless and insensitive than most of his successors, but he could well be moulding Rose like McCoy did with Ace.

* The psychic paper makes so much sense as a narrative device that when I first saw this episode, I’d assumed that it was something that had been carried over from the original series. Now that the average story has to be told in 45 minutes rather than 4×25, it really is a necessity.

* So much stuff is introduced in this episode; it totally makes sense that RTD wanted it to go out in a double bill with Rose. We learn about the TARDIS translation circuits, and The Doctor supercharges Rose’s phone, which makes for a neat little scene with Jackie to re-emphasise that this fantastical adventure is happening to a real, everyday person. After 26 years, the original show took its situation for granted – one of RTD’s best moves was to point out that a mad man in a box, taking people on adventures in time and space, is something truly remarkable.

* The parade of weird and wonderful aliens really felt like a statement of intent for the series. As did the Doctor flirting with a tree. The use of contemporary pop culture references is established in style, not only with the brilliantly fun appearances of Tainted Love and Toxic, but with the superb throwaway reference to Newsround Extra, of all things.

* I’d forgotten that Cassandra was a big old racist, none too subtly analogising human/alien hybrids with interracial relationships. I’m not a huge fan of the character – she’s well performed, but a bit dull, and I think the basic idea is a little too on-the-nose.

* Yes, that really is a stupid place to put an important “fix everything” switch, isn’t it? It’s a complete contrivance in order to serve the drama, but kind of worth it considering the results are so well done. As is Jabe, bless her.

* Lots of people die and stay dead – this isn’t the light and fluffy getting-to-know-you adventure I remembered. The Doctor basically executes Cassandra at the end, complete with Rose pleading him to stop.

* That final scene back on Earth is brilliant – absolutely vital that The Doctor opens up to Rose at this stage, to cement their relationship. It only takes a few lines to kick off the whole Time War backstory, which would fuel so many key moments over the next eight years.

* However, the one thing that I’ve always remembered above everything else from this story is the way Billie Piper says “I want chips” right at the end. I say it every time I have chips. AH WANT CHAAAPS.

RATING: 7