Doctor Who – The Complete Second Series came out today on DVD in the U.S., following closely on the heels of the conclusion airing on the SCI FI Channel. At the end of the first series, people were dealing with the sudden shock of the man who led the return of the show, Christopher Eccleston, who proved to be extremely popular, suddenly leaving and being left with a new actor in David Tennant. Could the show survive such a sudden massive change? Well, just like the original series, the show not only survives, but the new Doctor is, to borrow a word, “Brilliant.” Read More for the series and DVD review.
Tom Baker set the standard for grins in the original. Christopher Eccleston had his own take, and was a tough act to follow given his incredible popularity. David Tennant managed to follow his grin and his footsteps with great skill, managing to keep the series going with no disruption yet still provide his own style.
The DVD set includes all 13 episodes of Series 2, plus the “transitional” Christmas special episode “The Christmas Invasion” which bridges the two series, and provides Tennant’s true introduction.
If you are watching for the first time, I HIGHLY recommend watching the “Children in Need” special, found on Disc 1 BEFORE “The Christmas Invasion”. It is a small interlude showing the regeneration scene and deals with Rose’s shock at the transformation as well as setting up the situation with which the main episode starts. It was originally aired in the UK as part of a charity special.
Some of the best or at least notable episodes include: “School Reunion”, featuring the return of Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and K9, and guest starring Anthony Head; “Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel”, featuring the return of the Cybermen (albeit in an alternate universe); “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit”, this series’ chilling episodes on the level of the first series’ “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”; and “Army of Ghosts/Doomsday” – well, any episode that features both Daleks AND Cybermen is likely to be good – but throw in probably the most emotional moment in all of Doctor Who history (to be rivaled only by the conclusions of “The Parting of the Ways” and perhaps “Earthshock”), and you’ve got a classic.
No episode could truely be called “bad”, although the episodes I didn’t mention I felt didn’t pack the same punch as the rest. They still had good points though. “New Earth” felt like an “old school” episode from the original show in feel and style, although it featured the return of first series villain Cassandra; “Tooth and Claw” gives the creation of Torchwood, and perhaps provides the basis of some animosity between Torchwood and the Doctor; “The Girl in the Fireplace” was in general a good episode; “The Idiot’s Lantern” features a TV that steals faces – another “old school” episode;
“Love and Monsters” features Shirley Henderson, who plays Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter movies – you’ll recognize the voice; and “Fear Her” is set in the near future of 2012 London at the time of the Olympics, where children are disappearing and a young girl may be responsible.
The appearance of Elisabeth Sladen and K9 provides a very welcome nod back to the original series with one of the longest and most loved companions, respect for the established canon of the series (K9 is identified as “K9 Mark III”), and hint that at least emotionally companions were more than “just along for the ride”. My only fear is this becomes a gimmick in future series. (Leela? Romana? Jamie? Who would you like to see again?)
As for the DVD set, it comes packaged similar to Series 1 – the DVDs come in a “roll-up” cardboard folder with plastic dual-stacked disc holders and a pocket for the DVD guide. The folder is decorated with a panoramic image depiciting a Cyberman from “Rise of the Cyberman/The Age of Steel” on the inside, various episode images on the two inner folds and back, and the front has a holographic card glued on that depicts a spinning TARDIS and the time vortex (a nice touch over the Series 1 case). It fits in a clear plastic slipcase which holds it together, with Billie Piper and David Tennant on the front. It appears my copy’s slipcase suffered a little heat damage, possibly from the shrinkwrap process, but it may have been an early copy and not representative of retail units.
The DVDs come with characters screen printed on them. Each has an identical video depicting the TARDIS in the vortex taken from the opening credits which then transforms into the TARDIS console for the menus. I believe the Series 1 DVDs had a bit more variety in the console, and they are a bit slow here.
For special features, they must have read my last review – OUTTAKES! I love them in general. Not only are the humorous of themselves, but also show more of the chemistry of the cast with how they deal with each other. Plus, where else can you see a Cyberman ask for directions to the BBC, play soccer (sorry, football) and have fun in the park? K9 meet a friend?
Deleted scenes are also included – there was a scene in which David Tennant tries to make a transition from Eccleston’s catchphase of “Fantastic!” to something else. Also included are video diaries from both Billie Piper (less than what she had on Series 1) and David Tennant (a whopping 85 minutes!), all 13 Confidential shorts, the “Children in Need” special, and both audio and “in-vision” commentaries – the latter feature an inset image of the commentators so you can see them as they comment on the episode. Alas, this occupies a fair amount of the screen. Perhaps a more interesting way would be to use the “angle” function that never gets any use to be able to show and dismiss the inset.
Lets transmat in some scores:
Plot/Story: Some weaker episodes, but some very strong ones. The chilling “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit” were amazing, and the series conclusion stands out on top (although it seems to eliminate a number of possible storylines). A few more hints about the fate of the Time Lords and the Doctor’s part in it, along with his lonely existence. 5/5
Characters/Acting: Billie was super as before, and especially so in the final episode. David really was “Brilliant” given the amazingly tough job he had. All the recurring characters did well – Mickey made a good transition in his character in this series. Strong performances all around. 5/5
Effects/Visuals/Audio: Again, the effects far surpass those of the original show (CGI is wonderful for budgets). Still an occasional cheesyness (the creature in “Love and Monsters”) but it wouldn’t be Doctor Who otherwise. 4/5
DVD Packaging/Extras: Menu navigation issues from Series 1 were resolved – you can go up and down now to get through all menu items (I wonder if my points from the previous review got to someone?), but transitions are slow. You have to sit through a commercial for the Series 1 DVD and BBC America on the first disc.
The cardboard folder is a bit flimsy, and hard to hold together while you try and slip it back in the cover. The hologram card cover was a nice touch. 4/5
Overall: I wouldn’t have wanted David Tennant’s job (well, maybe…), but he manages not only to maintain the momentum started by Eccleston, but provide it a boost into a third series. 5/5
Totals: 4.6 out of 5 stars (a perfect match for Series 1). If you haven’t watched it yet, get it now and watch at least the noted episodes in order, and have a box of tissues ready for the final episode.
And if “The Runaway Bride” (2006 Christmas episode) is any measure, the energy for Series 3 is going to be spectacular. I believe it begins airing in the UK in April.