2.13.2014

The Doctor Who Project: Ranking Series Two


Welcome back, Whovians! I thought I loved Fridays before, but I'm really loving them lately since starting this little project. First of all, if you're new here, thank you for joining us for this special recurring event where my friends Jaime, Justin, and I rank all seven seasons of the Doctor Who reboot. If you're new here and want to do some catching up, jump over to our compendium where you will find links to all the previous entries.

As before, we will give each episode a rank of 1-10 "Sonics." Then I will average our ranks together for a single score, do best to worst, and then average everything together again at the very end for an overall series ranking.

This week we're moving on from the single season adventure of the Ninth Doctor, Chris Eccleston and jumping into a more perennial favorite, David Tennant. He of the sideburns, and the eyebrow, and the hair, and the Converse, and the pinstripe suit, and the . . . the . . . 

Sigh... Adorableness
ANYWAY, Tennant's giddy charm with its punkish undertones and sad clown persona really brought the modern Doctor into iconic mode and has cemented him as one of the most popular Doctors of all time. We also had three seasons with Tennant, so becoming attached to him was a bit of an inevitability. But we're going to take this one season at a time and get attached all over again. Let's get started!

Special Episode: The Christmas Invasion

It's Christmas Eve, but this is to be a far from silent night - the cruel Sycorax have come to Earth to enslave mankind and, as ever, only The Doctor can stop them. Unfortunately, he's lying in a coma in Jackie's home. (IMDB)

Justin: One of the interesting things about regenerations is the actor who takes over has to act--a bit--like the previous Doctor, and then become his own person as the episode goes on. Tennant does this rather well in the first few minutes and then most of the episode unconscious. When we finally get to him gaining his tenth personality it's almost the end of the episode. The end--and Who (for me) does this well--delivers on a lackluster episode. We see the Doctor's wardrobe, and to show this is a different kind of Doctor, Ten sits down for dinner with Rose & family. It was also nice to see the return of Harriet Jones: Prime Minister (yes, we know who she was) take a slight turn in character from her earlier appearance. 6 Sonics

Jaime: This was a good introduction to the tenth Doctor, though the first half of the episode he was unconscious. Jackie, Mickey, and Harriet Jones all make an appearance. The scenes on the Sycorax ship are funny and I loved seeing Rose try to save everyone with "The Shadow Proclamation." The ending fight scene gives the viewer an idea of what kind of Doctor Ten is going to be. I thoroughly enjoy his choice of wardrobe. And the severed hand will prove to be vital later in the series. 6 Sonics

Allison: I was really looking forward to seeing Tennant in action for the first time, so imagine to my surprise when he spends 3/4 of the episode in bed. This is the dawning of the era of Who where we see several episodes in which he is not the central character of the story, and one of those stories winds up being one of the most popular of all time. This time, however, it doesn't quite come together. Still, when compared to the first episode of the first season, it's far better. All of the characters are better developed, and the alien threat is far more entertaining. And really, it was all worth it when we got to see Ten walk in wearing that suit. Yeah, I'm superficial like that. 6 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 6


Episode 1: New Earth

As Rose Tyler embarks upon her first big TARDIS adventure with the newly-regenerated Doctor, they discover a sinister hospital run by strange cat people and run in to two old acquaintances, The Face of Boe and Cassandra. (IMDB)

Justin: Shocker alert: I liked this episode. A sequel to The End of the World that delivers on introducing the newest Doctor to old faces (and I mean that literally when it comes to Cassandra and the Face of Boe). Plus, there are cat people. Cat people!!! Oh, and another favorite storytelling device: mind jumping. Too many cool things about this episode. 8 Sonics

Jaime: Really liked this one. The future episodes always seem to be my favorite. You also start to see how Rose and Ten's relationship is going to develop. Lady Cassandra is back and the passionate kiss she shares with ten (while in Rose's body) is too funny. Also get to see the Face of Boe again. I really enjoyed all the mind jumping in this episode. 7 sonics

Allison: This episode really demonstrates how far Who has come in quality since its first season. The special effects and imagination here are both next-level as the Doctor takes Rose to the future post-The End of the World (Series 1). Also, the chemistry between the Doctor and his companion has never been better. We get a sense that she's more comfortable with him in this particular skin, and as such we love them both together. The best part of the whole thing, though, was the mind jumping, as it showed both Billie Piper and David Tennant having a lot of fun. 8 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 7.7


Episode 2: Tooth and Claw

The Doctor and Rose are transported to 19th Century Scotland, where they meet Queen Victoria, and try to protect her from a ravenous werewolf and a band of assassinating warrior-monks. (IMDB)

Justin: So the Doctor and Rose are supposed to go to a rock concert but end up in the 19th century. It's at this point that I start pondering the TARDIS might not be messing up but in fact selecting key areas in time that the Doctor needs to help with. Why is it doing this? I'm not sure, but it's a feeling I had. The secret ninja monks were boring, but I dig werewolf stories and that helped this episode out...but not much. 4 Sonics

Jaime: Except for some of the banter between Rose and Ten, this episode was totally forgettable to me. Personally, I'm just not a fan of werewolf stories. But again, the TARDIS takes the Doctor somewhere other than his intended destination. I think the TARDIS has her own plans. 3 Sonics

Allison: I tend to call these kinds of Who episodes "meh-pisodes." Aside from some decent Doctor banter, they're generally forgettable and just this side of boring, which is a bit unfortunate in this case, because there seem to be some cannon events happening here. We see the origins of Torchwood, for one thing, and the whole interaction with Queen Victoria becomes somewhat important down the line too, but because it was wrapped in a story that was not terribly entertaining (like Jaime, I just really don't care for werewolves), I felt a little disconnected at certain key moments throughout the Tennant run. 3 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 3.3


Episode 3: School Reunion

The Krillitanes - aliens with a mix-and-match physiology - are trying to crack the 'God-Maker', a paradigm to give them ultimate power. They are using children as a computer, and only the Doctor and Rose, re-united with Sarah Jane Smith and K9 can prevent them from becoming masters of time and space. (IMDB)

Justin: I'm guessing I'm a villain snob, because the Krillitanes didn't interest me--even though Mr. Finch (played by Buffy alum Anthony Head) did a decent job. The show's key strength rested on the return of former companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen returning to a role she left a couple decades prior.) and Rose's realization that she will one day be left behind. One more thing to mention: Mickey continued to grow on me as a character (I think I felt whatever animosity the Ninth Doctor had towards him) and I was happy to see him join the crew. 7 Sonics

Jaime: This is a good one. Former companion Sarah Jane Smith makes an appearance along with K-9. The rivalry between Rose and Sarah Jane is highly entertaining, not to mention poor Mickey. What really does it for me is Rose's realization that she will one day be left behind and never mentioned by the Doctor. Here's a quote from the Doctor to leave you with, "You can spend the rest of your life with me. But I can't spend the rest of mine with you. I have to live on, alone. That's the curse of the Timelords." This is pretty much the epitome of who the tenth Doctor is. 8 Sonics

Allison: Has there been an episode of the reboot, leading up to this one, that better deals with the Doctor's ultimate loneliness and alien-ness as a Time Lord? No, I don't think so (though there will be more episodes later on that will do so to even greater effect). The return of Sarah Jane Smith was pivotal in pointing out the ephemeral and changeable nature of the Doctor's companions, and how as much as we love seeing Rose and Ten together, we shouldn't get too comfortable. The backdrop of this episode, the school filled with children being turned into computers, was properly creepy as well. But K-9 just annoys me. Sorry.
7 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 7.3


Episode 4: The Girl in the Fireplace

The Doctor, Mickey and Rose land on a spaceship in the 51st century only to find 18th century Versailles on board, the time of Madame De Pompadour! To find out what's going on the Doctor must enter Versailles and save Madame De Popmpadour but it turns into an emotional roller coaster for the Doctor. (IMDB)

Justin: Thinking back this could easily have been an Eleventh Doctor episode, but either way it was quality work. You get both future and the past all in one, watch the focal character Reinette go from being a little girl to becoming a woman, and the chemistry between the Doctor and older Reinette (played by Sophia Myles--then girlfriend of Tennant) can be felt through whatever portal you chose to view this episode on. 7 Sonics

Jaime: One of my favorites! Mickey is now part of the crew, which proves for some great dialogue. But Lady Reinette (aka Madame Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV) steals this one. The Doctor pops in and out of her life at random intervals and it proves to be heartbreaking in the end. The chemistry between these two practically seeps out of the TV. And this episode's villains, the clockwork creatures, are very creepy. An overall outstanding episode. 10 Sonics

Allison: Oh Steven Moffat, the feels you make me have! I agree with Justin that this is a lot like what we see in the Matt Smith era. I guess we can call it a taste of the time-bending love stories yet to come. This is one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who (it made my Top 10), and the reason is that it exemplifies everything I love about this show. While I enjoy the future episodes quite a bit, I get particularly excited to see the Doctor step into the past and become a part of established history. In this case, the use of time was done to heartbreaking effect, as we see the Doctor pop in and out of Madame Pompadour's life at various intervals. She's on the slow path, he's on the fast one. But I also loved the clockwork androids and the gorgeous costumes. New emotional depths of the Doctor were also plumbed here. Honestly, I can't say enough about this episode. 10 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 9


Episode 5 & 6: The Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel

Upon landing on an alternate version of the Earth, The Doctor, Rose and Mickey learn that Peter Tyler is apparently alive and well. Lurking in the shadows are creatures made to destroy - one of The Doctor's greatest fears have come true...the Cybermen are reborn. Lumic's army of Cybermen is on the rise, and with more and more people being converted by the hour, time is of the essence. The gang are reduced to fugitives as they roam the streets of parallel London trying to rid the earth of Cybermen. (IMDB)

Justin: I was a huge fan of the show Sliders because alternate dimensions is another thing I love about science fiction. Doctor Who gives us two great (and at times, sad) episodes about what could have been for this current crew. I think it's brilliant that Mickey is Ricky on this world, sad that Rose has to see her "dad" again, and even worse of what becomes of this world. I want to note the possible coincidence that two classic Who villains were brought back in the sixth episode of the first two seasons. 8 Sonics

Jaime: I am just not a fan of the Cybermen. I don't find them at all intimidating. What I did like about this episode was the alternate universe where Rose's dad is alive and Mickey is actually Rickey. Alternate/parallel universes are a very interesting aspect of science fiction and I think these two episodes did a decent job with the idea. But due to the Cybermen, it's not stellar. 6 Sonics

Allison: I agree with aspects of both Jaime and Justin's reviews here. I love the alternate dimensions and the whole dynamic between different versions of the same characters. Found it particularly amusing that in the alternate dimension, Rose is a dog. It's just unfortunate that things take a hit with the villain, because I hate the Cybermen. In fact, I don't think they become interesting until waaaaay down the line when Neil Gaiman gets hold of them in Nightmare in Silver, but we'll save that for another blog. Still, it's the human factor that wins me over here in spite of the marching tin cans. 7 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 7


Episode 7: The Idiot's Lantern

In 1950s London, the police are hunting down strange, mute creatures. The people of Britain gather around their new-fangled "tele-vision" sets to celebrate the new Queen's coronation - but is something affecting the signal? (IMDB)

Justin: This episode both sucked faces off of people and also did the same to my time. They can't all be winners. Redeeming quality: the interrogation. 2 Sonics

Jaime: Another forgettable episode but when I go back and read the synopsis, I remember liking it. Just nothing about it stands out except for Tennant's horrible Elvis impression in the beginning. 5 Sonics

Allison: I fell asleep during this episode. Tried to watch it again. Fell asleep. AGAIN. This is a major rare miss for Mark Gatiss, whose shows are generally enjoyable for me. It is to Who what The Hounds of Baskerville (also penned by Gatiss) is for Sherlock: yaaawwwwwwn. "Meh-pisode" seems an understatement. 1 Sonic

Average Sonics:

x 2.7


Episodes 8 & 9: The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit

The TARDIS lands on an alien planet shrouded in a darkness that even the Doctor can't figure out. And what is lurking at the bottom of The Satan Pit? As Rose battles the murderous Ood, the Doctor finds his every belief being challenged to the core, as the Pit beckons. With the planet threatening to fall into the black hole, the Doctor must make the ultimate sacrifice.

Justin: Ohhhhh, the introduction of the Ood. I love those guys, gals, errr whatever. Plus, a language that the TARDIS can't translate (something that doesn't jive with an Eleventh Doctor episode--more on that later). All this and Beelzebub thrown in for not so good measure. These are two super creepy episodes. 6(66) Sonics

Jaime: LOVE these episodes. Love the chemistry between Rose and Ten. And the Ood. What a great...species. And the ending is excellent. Rose thinking she has lost the Doctor and then the joyous reunion. Sigh. I love these two. And the supporting cast is also a great addition. 9 Sonics

Allison: A great setup. A planet that seems to be existing on the verge of a black hole. A crew of workers beseiged by a demonic presence. A TARDIS gone missing. A pit that was perhaps excavated a bit too deep, hearkening a bit to the Balrog in Lord of the Rings. Then we have the lovable/creepy Ood, who are one of my favorite Doctor Who races. Yeah, I really dug this pair of episodes. There was genuine tension and creep factor, and we see a true deepening of the regard Rose and the Doctor have for one another. 8 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 7.7


Episode 10: Love & Monsters

A run in with the Doctor at a young age leads Elton to a group who's studying him, they become friends and have a laugh until Victor Kennedy arrives. Suddenly everything becomes more serious then people start disappearing from the group. Can the Doctor save Elton and explain his past before he's absorbed by the Absorbaloff.

Justin: This is my favorite Doctor Who episode and it doesn't really focus on our Tenth Time Lord or his companion. Instead, this episode--in my humble opinion--is about us, the Whovians. People that come together because of the good Doctor and find out they have more in common than one single thing. It's about friendship, love (& monsters), belief in yourself, and most importantly...the Electric Light Orchestra. It also features a bad guy created by a young kid (wouldn't that have been cool if it was your design?), ties in several past Who episodes, and finally makes me like Jackie more than I ever thought was possible. 10 Sonics

Jaime: Eh. Not a fan of this episode in the least. It was just weird and not enjoyable for me. Sorry, Justin. 2 Sonics

Allison: The review I've most/least been looking forward to writing, because I know it's Justin's favorite while I've felt for quite some time it is really my least favorite, and that is despite the fact that I did like Jackie's turn in it, and I thought the overall format of the episode was compelling (again, I like the "Who-lite" idea, but it works better in some cases than others). Things just start to go off the rails when the alien creature is introduced. Yes, it was created by a nine-year-old kid, but it also feels like it was. Then again, since this is a Russell T. Davies episode, it's hard to tell the difference. Still, the episode has some redeemable qualities and it might have received 5 or maybe even 6 Sonics from me up until the very end. That paving stone with Ursula's face in it...the allusion that they have "a bit of a love life." No. No. No. NO. This episode exemplifies why I will never quite respect Davies. His brand of juvenile toilet humor just rubs me the wrong way. Take out the last five minutes of this episode, and I'd have a completely different opinion of it. Make a beautiful cake of togetherness and friendship, but frost it with shit. What does it taste like? Shit. 1 Sonic

Average Sonics:

x 4.3


Episode 11: Fear Her

The Doctor and Rose travel to London in 2012 to see the Olympics - only to find that children are mysteriously disappearing before peoples very eyes. The answer seems to lie with a young girl named Chloe and her strange drawings - but is there something more sinister behind the disappearances?

Justin: This reminded me of The Idiot's Lantern, and in a way where I appreciated that episode more. 
1 Sonic

Jaime: I liked this one. Again, it's the relationship and banter between Rose and Ten that really got me in this one. Also, creepy kids are always a bonus. 7 Sonics

Allison: I enjoyed the premise of this episode, where a kid can trap people inside her drawings. It built some good mystery and kept me interested. The thing with her father was also good. I ultimately thought the idea of a lonely alien that became hostile without its family was also pretty neat and original, though I can't say I genuinely loved this episode as a whole. 6 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 4.6


Episodes 12 & 13: Army of Ghosts/Doomsday

As the ghosts of loved ones appear, the whole world celebrates. But as the Doctor investigates he believes that there is a more sinister motive behind their appearence. And deep within the Torchwood tower, a mysterious sphere containing the greatest enemies of the Doctor is opened.

Justin: There are so many interesting things happening in these episodes. I had no idea who the "ghosts" were, and was even more shocked by the Daleks showing up again. Doomsday (or at least a part of it) was the first I had watched of Doctor Who, and it made zero sense. I couldn't figure out how a show could do so well when they couldn't afford better sci-fi glasses for the Doctor (3D glasses were horrible when I wore them as a kid.). So when I finally got to and finagled these two episodes I was quite pleased (and informed) with the turn out. I couldn't imagine who would replace Rose. I had an idea from seeing the DVD covers (which I will touch on in Season Three), but I was ok with saying goodbye to the Tylers & Mickey. 8 Sonics

Jaime: The opening is enough to draw you in. Rose: "This is the story of how I died." Aw, the feels! Ghosts, Daleks, Cybermen, a bad ass Mickey, and the departure of Rose. Whoa. A lot to deal with here. But this episode manages to have some humor in it before the massive amounts of tears are shed. Rose's departure was very tough and I had no idea how I would feel about a new companion. The ending? So moving. "I'm burning up a sun just to say goodbye." Damn. Ten can kick you in the feels every time. Amazing pair of episodes. 10 Sonics

Allison: My daughter prepared me a bit for these episodes and yet they still hit me over the head like a hammer. I realize there is a great manipulation going on here behind the scenes. We've seen the Doctor and Rose interact cutely together through this whole season, and when the time finally comes for her to go, it's crushing. Though if I go back and think about it, I can't really articulate WHY it's so crushing or why was Rose so much more special to him than any of the others. Maybe it was because she was his first companion after the Time War? Maybe it was because the plot says we have to make the Doctor fall in love and therefore he falls in love. I don't know, and I don't really care, because my daughter and I sobbed our stupid hearts out at the end of Doomsday, and that's all that really matters. Love is really only what you feel in spite of all logic. Finally, there were excellent turns for Jackie and Mickey and all involved. Loved the big sphere, the "ghosts" and the bittersweet ending of the Tylers back together again. One great thing I love about Doctor Who, though, is they don't let you cry for long. Always end on a laugh. Maybe it's an English thing--show some damn dignity and stop being such a sop. The appearance of Donna in the TARDIS at the very end was one of those "laugh while crying" moments this show manages to pull off so well. 9 Sonics

Average Sonics:

x 9


Episodes Ranked Best to Worst
1. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
2. The Girl in the Fireplace
3. New Earth
4. The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
5. School Reunion
6. The Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel
7. The Christmas Invasion
8. Fear Her
9. Love & Monsters
10. Tooth and Claw
11. The Idiot's Lantern

Overall Sonic Average for the Season


x 6.2


To sum up, Series 2 had a lot of peaks and valleys and there was a little polarity within our own ranks, which I think keeps things from getting too boring. While the greatest episodes of this season in many ways outshone most of what we saw out of Series 1, there were enough rotten eggs in the bunch to stink up the overall average in comparison to the previous series. Speaking only for myself here, I believe the show as a whole achieves a lot more stability after this. I am very much looking forward to next week, when we review Series 3! A lot of my favorite episodes are in that one. Let us know what you think, because as you can see, we didn't all agree here. What's your opinion of Love & Monsters? Was The Idiot's Lantern really that bad, or are we just a bunch of meanies? Sound off in the comments!

--Allison, Jaime, & Justin