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Apr 15, 2006

Doctor 2

A good, solid start to the season – not spectacular, and not as good as The End of the World, but then again sequels never do live up to the original. There was a lot of fun to be had, however, and Tennant and Piper were both on top form. Tennant can do flippancy and anger very well, and although comparisons to Tom Baker are often thrown around casually they do seem to be bearing out, albeit with the Tenth Doctor being rather more human and less aloof than the Fourth. Piper’s moments as Cassandra excelled, and she didn’t put a foot wrong throughout the entire episode whether she was being Rose or her possessor. The kiss scene – well, that was a throwaway bit of fun, although the Doctor’s reaction was intriguing – “still got it”, eh? 

The central idea of the plot was interesting, but I’m not sure it was brilliantly executed. I didn’t take to the lumbering zombie-type patients, but some of the hospital stuff was very good, particularly the cat nuns, who looked absolutely stunning, a wonderful prosthetic and make-up job that has to rank as one of the best we have seen in all of the new series episodes so far. The characterisation of the nurses was also well done, in that you could see why desperation to cope with all of the diseases they had to deal with had led them to this point. It’s not a new idea, by any means – something similar was even done using clone humans for vampire food in Jon Blum and Kate Orman’s Who novel Vampire Science – but it was quite chilling. Having said that, the fact that the plague clones seemed to have been able to learn to walk and talk and think purely through a kind of process of osmosis was far too convenient for my liking, a bit of a shortcut to enable us to feel more sympathetic towards them, perhaps. 

Speaking of plot devices being a little too convenient for the plot’s own good, all the body-swapping all seemed a little too easily done. Cassandra needs a massive great machine to get into Rose the first time, but then after that she can just spit herself into and out of anybody in the immediate vicinity at will? I realise that we’re not really supposed to question these things too closely, and it did of course make for the hugely entertaining shenanigans of having Piper and Tenannt playing Cassandra, but think there could have been a better way to do it.

Although it was a shame Zoe Wannamaker didn’t actually feature more she was very good, as previously, at getting across Cassandra’s character without having an actual physical presence, although of course this time we did get to see her in the flesh at an earlier period where she seems rather more sympathetic. The rest of the cast didn’t really have very much to do, with the exception of Sean Gallagher as Chip, who I thought came across very well indeed. He too had to play Cassandra eventually, and his touching little moment when she/he/it goes back in time at the end and meets her former self was very well played, although you have to wonder if giving Cassandra a heart back at that moment changes her future actions in any way, and if so would her previous actions in terms of what we’ve seen in the series still have happened?

Definitely best not to think about that one too hard!

Enigma and mystery has always been one of my favourite parts of the show, so having the Face of Boe suddenly decide to get better and not impart his message after all was a nice little teaser. Irritating for the Doctor, of course, but we’ll find out eventually – Davies said a while back in DWM that when he was told of the series three commission he immediately moved one line from this episode to the beginning of series three, and it has to be this one, surely?

Visually, the episode only fell down for me a couple of times – the first lift shot looked a little old-fashioned for the year five billion and seemed to have been taken from Rose, and I could have sworn that the gantry in the intensive care unit was the same paper mill location as the Nestene Lair from that episode, or at least looked very similar to it indeed. But then again, I don’t suppose it really matters, and only sad fans like us would notice such things!

Aside from that, it was stunning – the futuristic cityscape laid across the Gower Peninsula, and particularly the massed ranks of the intensive care pods showed The Mill at their very finest. Davies seems to enjoy setting them challenges and they always manage to rise to them, and with that opening scene on New Earth with its wonderful landscape you can see why they wanted to open the second series with this.

Last year the theme of the year five billion plus was everything has its time and everything dies. Now, in the wake of New Who’s great success, the caveat seems to have been added that sometimes, these endings aren’t quite as set in stone as they might previously have appeared.

Comments

Piper was superb in this episode. Tennant not as good. One problem I have with him is is tendancy to shout when trying to be dramatic.

About Chip/Cassandra... But isn't that the tragedy of all of this? She said to Rose earlier that the film was from the last time anyone told her she was beautiful... the tragedy is... that person... was herself!

I thought that this worked brilliantly; far, far better than Rose had been this time (ish) last year. Even the audio seemed better since I could follow every line of dialogue this time and it didn't feel like I was listening to it through a wall. The only issue, such as it is, is that it looked cold out on the apple-grass.

Otherwise, very funny, very well performed and very... Doctor Who. Tennant even got his "What's it for?!" moment, and if that cat woman's acting abilities worried me in the TARDISode then they were well and truly unfounded concerns. All this and the Face has the most gorgeous voice ever in the series.

Generally it just felt much more confident than anything we saw in the previous season. I hadn't realised how insecure Eccleston's performace seemed until we got to make this comparison, but the Doctor is now keen and bright and sparkly and angry and just how I like him.

Can I be the first person to go for a purr-fect line? It really was. Like a cross between The Ark in Space and, erm... Terminus (well I liked Terminus, so there).

Oh, and it got cloudy outside, which works for me...

Not a bad start at all. Tennant has really settled into the part, although he went a little over the top at the end when he banging on about "new humans".

What I want to know is who gave Murray Gold his drum machine back? And he had made such good progress on The Christmas Invasion too...

I thought the Intensive Care entrance was the same as the Nestene lair on the south bank of the Thames.

I hate it when something so simple (and so avoidable) breaks the magic, shattering the illusion, so you say "hold on...".
Particularly when RTD has boasted how many locations Wales offers - so why use the same one twice?

HEB -- just been listening to the commentary. It is the same location and I totally agree.

First thing that popped into my head was Nestene Lair too. Can't listen to the commentary as I'm on dialup.

Plea to the BBC: please split the mp3 file into managable chunnks for dial-up users who might be cut off in two hours - just as they hit 92% of the download. Take a leaf out of BSG's podcasts and release them in "acts" as well as a big file. Please.

In the meantime, anyone fancy cutting it into 3 parts and sticking it on a server somewhere? I'd be eternally grateful. I don't have BB access for the next 2 weeks...

Neil - The Beeb actually has a "contact us" page dedicated to Doctor Who, and, ironically enough, they have emailed me back personally all six times I've given feedback/asked a question/made a complaint. Try it out. In the meantime, do you need the commentary emailed to you? If so, click my name, send me an e-mail, and I'll snatch and cut it for you.

Neil -- Can I recommend Download Accelerator -- it lets you stop and resume a download at will and you can cue loads up and work your way through.

Happy Easter by the way!

Even with BB, you need to have Quii=ck Time which just won't work on my computer so I'm stuck staring at an empty screen. Is it available to play onto Windows Media anywhere?

You shouldn't need QuickTime - it should open with whatever program you use to play MP3 files. Mine opens with WinAmp, for example.

Try right-clicking on the downloaded file, selecting "Open With..." and choosing Media Player from that menu.

I have a Mac so I don't think download accelerator will work, will it?

Also, the BBC webpage says the mp3 is 11mb (which I could just about manage) but it actually appears to be 20mb! Is that right?

Please don't email me the file - anything over 500kb grinds things to a halt over here. But if someone could cut it into 2x10mb files and stick it on a server for a day that would be excellent.

If all else fails...
The BBC Three repeat was shown with the commentary as an audio option via the interactive menu.
I assume the Friday 9pm repeat will be the same.

The only trouble with this was the lack of any audio guide as to what was happening on screen, and as you were in interactive mode, you couldn't have the subtitles on at the same time to keep track of the dialogue [as you can with DVD commentary tracks].

Speaking about the BBC3 commentary, am I the only one who was unable to activate it? I kept pressing the red button throughout but at no time got the option for playing 'New Earth' with the commentary. I was expecting a red dot to appear in the top right corner at least.

Is it the same commentary as the one online (and, likely, the same commentary as the one that'll end up on the DVD boxset)?

What's the betting that the Face of Boe's big secret to the lonely wanderer is going to be: you are not alone?

RTD gaved it away in last year's Doctor Who annual, or did he???

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