The last full-length review I wrote had a pretty awesome intro, in my opinion, so I’m not going to try to replicate that. You can click the link in the last sentence if you’d like to read it. So let’s just jump in, because this is already promising to be a bit of a lengthier review.
A long time ago, or possibly in the future, a Time Lord stole a box called a TARDIS and went on grand adventures through time and space (though he kept coming back to modern-day England, which prompts the question why don’t I live there). But travelling alone has a way of making him a little crazy, and ruthless, and incredibly lonely, so he picks up people off the streets of London (or Cardiff; the Doctor seems to like Cardiff) and brings them along as companions on his adventures. And every so often he dies, at which time he regenerates and gets a new face and a new personality, which is just incredibly distressing if you’ve gotten attached to the old face. Like I did with David Tennant. Literally just about every time I’ve been reduced to a sobbing mess has been because of the Tenth Doctor. Just… you’ll see.
David Tennant was the man I knew to be the Doctor before I started watching, which is why it was confusing for me when I had to start with Christopher Eccleston and why I was so glad to see him go (sorry, Chris). I mean, he was absolutely flawless. It was like he was born to play the part. He had the looks and smarts of a young professor in an English prep school, who’s juuust young enough that it’s not creepy for you to fail your exams on purpose just so you can get a little extra tutoring after class. That’s not weird at all. Right?
Much as I did enjoy Eccleston, I think Tennant’s incarnation was better. BUT. It was not because he was attractive (well, not just, anyway). It was because the Tenth Doctor was, if anything, even more ruthless than the Ninth. It was something you didn’t expect to see in a face that young, that lighthearted, that utterly, boyishly handsome. You expect everything to be shiny and happy all the time. You don’t expect him to exact justice like he did with the Family of Blood. (Quick recap: they killed a bunch of people and forced him to hide out with a new identity, John Smith, and no memories, which led to him falling in love with a lady who can’t be with him when he gets his memories back and is a different person again. Simple, right?)
And here’s what he did: he wrapped one of them in unbreakable chains, forged from a dwarf star alloy, and imprisoned him in an underground chamber. He chucked another one into the event horizon of a black hole, trapping her there forever. He hid another one inside every mirror in existence and would, for some reason, visit her once a year (in case you were wondering about that flicker of movement in the corner of your eye when you look in a mirror, that’s her). And for the last one, the most ruthless of all, in my mind, he was locked in time and stuffed into the body of a scarecrow to watch over a field forever (he had a thing with some scarecrows. It’s poetic justice, honest).
That’s not the kind of thing you expect from a Doctor that looks the way he does. And I think that’s part of the appeal for me: it’s not just that he has a pinstriped suit and Converse and some really great hair. It’s that he knows that people expect him to act a certain way because of the way he looks—or maybe he legitimately has no idea how attractive people find him; I don’t know—but he uses that to mask a really, truly terrible inner nature that’s only becoming stronger as he gets older.
Yes, he gets domesticated even further (I discussed that in the last review), and yes, he’s half of one of the saddest love stories of all time, but he’s still a Time Lord on the inside. He’s not human. And no matter how much we fangirls gawk and sigh and write fanfiction (I mean, whaaaat?), he’s not the kind of man who can be tamed. He comes close every now and then, but at heart(s), he’s wild, and he always will be. No matter how awesome his hair is.
The Companions – The Big Three
Rose Tyler was the main companion in season 1, and as season 2’s companion, she’s sort of a proxy viewer, too. She reacts to the Doctor’s regeneration in the same way we do: fear, shock, uncertainty, and no small amount of unhappiness. She was in love with the Doctor, and now that he has a new face and a new personality, he’s not the same Doctor she fell in love with, even if he has all the same memories.
But one of the more interesting theories about the Doctor suggests that each reincarnation is merely a new facet of his greater personality. So the bit that loved Rose is still there, even if it’s different, and his love has grown even stronger following his regeneration.
Season 2 is, at heart, a love story. Despite the crossings-over of universes, the arrival of some new and terrifying enemies, the exploration of the concept of hell, and all sorts of other crazy events, the thread running through the season and holding it together is the blossoming of Rose and the Doctor’s relationship. It starts uncertainly, with Rose taking care of the Doctor after his regeneration—because even if he has a new face, he’s still her Doctor—and it ends with one of the most gut-wrenching moments I’ve ever seen. And then another one immediately after.
In the immediate aftermath of a Dalek attack, Rose is about to be sucked into a vortex when Mickey, who’s been hanging out in an alternate universe, appears and brings her home with him. Even though Rose has been saved, she and the Doctor can’t see each other again, because the vortex is shutting down the little holes between the universes that allow people to go back and forth. But the Doctor manages to say goodbye one last time, projecting his image to Rose on a grey beach in Norway. Rose tells the Doctor she loves him, and the Doctor says, “Rose Tyler, I—”… but the hole closes, and they’re separated forever. And he never got to say it.
You know how much of a sucker I am for a good story, particularly one like this. Is it any wonder Rose is my third-favourite companion?
What? Only third? You’ll see.
Season 3’s Martha Jones is not one of my favourite companions, nor is she anyone else’s. And that’s quite sad, given that the Doctor didn’t particularly care for her either. Yes, he saw her as a little Band-Aid to cover up the hemorrhaging emotions leaking out of both of his hearts, but after what happened with Rose, he could never see her in the same way she sees him. And that’s pretty hard to watch.
Martha is also a doctor, although she has an actual degree for it. She’s brave, and smart, and witty, and cares deeply for her family (and for the Doctor), and yet no one appreciates her for it. And I know the reason for that: she has the bad fortune to come immediately behind something wonderful and not quite measure up. If she had been the first companion in the new series, I’m sure she would have succeeded quite well. But I got Rose first, and I got attached to her, and I got attached to the idea of her and the Doctor, and I didn’t take it well when my expectations were shattered. And no companion, however clever and caring, could make her into the person I wanted her to be.
It’s like Martha knows that everyone watching her, along with the Doctor, wishes she were someone else. No one is giving her a fair chance, but I don’t think anyone (apart from the people who hated Rose) is willing to give her that chance. So it comes out as a desperation in her performance, a wanting to be liked, a needing to be recognized as a valid addition to the show.
But in the season finale, she realizes that she can’t keep trying to be the person the Doctor needs, because she will never be that person. That person is in another universe and won’t be coming back. So Martha stops trying, and stops travelling with the Doctor, and tries to pick up the pieces of her broken heart.
But the worst of it was in “The Family of Blood,” when the Doctor lost his memories, he fell in love with someone else. And Martha had to stand by and watch. I may not have liked her because she wasn’t Rose, but the Doctor, even when he was missing all his memories of Rose and was free to love someone else, just had no romantic feelings for her whatsoever.
Like I said, it was hard to watch.
Donna actually appeared right at the end of season 2 and starred in the special episode (because they have those before the next season starts for real). There’s the Doctor, mourning Rose, when a bride in full wedding dress appears in the TARDIS and freaks right the hell out. They have a grand adventure and, in true Doctor form, he invites her to travel with him. But Donna says no. And that makes her the most intriguing companion yet, and my second-favourite.
Donna doesn’t exactly have everything in her life going for her. Her fiancee turned out to be a jag who was only in the relationship to help the episode’s enemy, she’s a temp at offices around the city, and her mother is an absolute shrew. But Donna is sharp—not just in brain, but in tongue—and loud, and rough, and maybe not particularly clever at times, but she does have a conscience that shines through when the Doctor needs it.
What? Oh, yes, she was only around for that one episode, but after Martha left, Donna was able to track down the Doctor and start travelling with him—after making him load up all her suitcases. That’s one of the nicest things about Donna: she made a conscious choice, knowing what was involved and not running off harebrained and with only one outfit. So while she can be impulsive, she’s more mature than both Rose and Martha (not surprising, given that she’s a few years older), and that’s something the Doctor needs: emotional maturity to balance out the fact that he’s in a pretty dark place as far as his feels go. And the best part is, Donna is just a friend. She has no interest in a “space man,” and she’s appalled at even the (mistaken) suggestion that he might feel that way about her. After the ups and downs of the last couple seasons, it’s nice to take a breather and see the Doctor recover with someone who doesn’t have any romantic expectations of him.
Well, until the season finale. As part of a meta-crisis (whatever the hell that is) caused by Donna in which a second (human) Doctor is created, Rose makes it back to our universe, and she and the Doctor can finally be together. But the Doctor knows that she’ll only last a blink of an eye compared to him, so he tells her to be with his human clone, who’s exactly the same as him except able to age and die. Rose tests him, asking what he would’ve said to her that day on the beach, and he just says, “Does it need saying?” (Yes. YES. GOD, YES.) But the human Doctor is able to say it, and she kisses him, and they’re together, but it’s not the same, and you can tell it’s killing the Doctor inside, but Rose is happy, and maybe she deserves that much, even if he can’t be happy with her.
And as if that weren’t enough, Donna was the one to create the clone in the first place, which meant absorbing all the memories of the Time Lords for some reason. Her human brain can’t handle all that, so the Doctor is forced to wipe all her memories of him and return her home. She can never hear his name again, never be reminded of what they did, or her brain will be burned up. And so she’ll never know that, in the words of the Doctor, she was “the most important woman in the universe.”
See, with this show, not even friendships can end happily.
The Cybermen are one of the enemies from the original series. They had a bit of a rocky start, costume-wise, but they’ve become a legitimately scary enemy. To me, they represent cold, unyielding progress, particularly when compared to the relative whimsy of the rest of the show. They’re similar to the Borg in a lot of ways, actually; they can turn people into Cybermen, they view every other species as inferior to their own, and they have no concept of mercy or empathy. They’re literally killing machines, and the sound of hydraulic boots tramping on the ground is one I’ve come to fear.
To the best of my recollection, the Weeping Angels only feature in one episode during the Tenth Doctor’s tenure, “Blink.” That being said, they’re a pretty regular feature for the Eleventh Doctor, so I’ll give you a quick rundown. They’re creatures that are quantum-locked when under direct observation, which means they can’t move when someone is looking at them. They appear as statues, most commonly as angels covering their faces with their hands. But when you’re not looking, even if it’s just for the space of a blink, they can move frighteningly fast. And if they touch you, they’ll transport you back in time.
Don’t think that’s particularly diabolical? By the time you’ve caught up to the present, you’re either very old or quite dead. The Doctor referred to it as “killing with kindness,” but there’s nothing particularly kind about knowing that everything you love is gone, and by the time you see it again, you’ll be too old for anyone to recognize you. Your life is lost in a single instant, and you might as well be dead.
As a result, every time I pass the statues in the city centre square, I watch them. Intently. Unblinkingly. I’m not even sure if I’m doing it on purpose, as a laugh, to be ironic, or what, but there’s something inherently dreadful about a creature even more merciless than the Cybermen.
Ah, the Master. Here we come to something I haven’t quite figured out, so I’m sure I’ll do a pretty awful job of explaining it. The Doctor was not, in fact, the last of the Time Lords. The Master wasn’t in the battle against the Daleks when the Doctor created a time lock around it, so he was out in the universe, not knowing who he was. And when he rediscovered his identity, in the same way that the Doctor did when he was John Smith, the Master broke.
Throughout his life, the Master’s been hearing a drumbeat. He doesn’t know why, but it’s been driving him mad. Four beats. Always those four beats, over and over. He travels to a point in the not-too-distant past and sets himself up as the Prime Minister of England, imprisoning the Doctor and ruining the world for a year. During that year, Martha travels the world and tells people about the Doctor so they can pull a Tinkerbell moment at a set point later on, and everyone can believe in him at the same moment so he can be restored to full power or something (that episode never really made sense to me).
Anyway, they’re successful, the Master is killed by his wife/companion, and the Doctor is wracked with guilt knowing that, again, he caused the death of his entire race. But it doesn’t end there. The Master’s actions paved the way for him to be brought back in the specials season. The drumbeat was the heartbeat of a Time Lord, a signal to break the time lock and bring back the Time Lords, who really couldn’t care less about anyone but themselves and are far less merciless than the Doctor himself—and you already know how little mercy he can have.
The Doctor has been travelling with Donna’s grandfather, Wilfred, during this time, and together they stop the threat. But the Doctor is forced to sacrifice himself to save Wilfred, and following a massive radiation dose, he travels the universe to say his goodbyes before a violent regeneration.
And that’s perhaps the worst thing about the Master: though he was the primary villain for the Tenth Doctor, he was only a gateway to a more terrible threat that ultimately proved to be the Doctor’s downfall.
That was, for me, the point of the Tenth Doctor: every act he commits has emotional ramifications, which torment him for the rest of his incarnation. Nothing he does makes any difference, because even the best actions lead to ruin. Rose is gone. Martha is heartbroken. Donna can’t remember him. The times he had with his companions are over, and when he’s gone, he’s certain none of them will mourn him.
But that’s not true. When saying his goodbyes, he discovers that Martha is happy with Mickey, Rose’s ex from seasons 1 and 2. Donna has gotten married, this time happily. We don’t see Rose, so I don’t know how she’s doing, but I assume she’s happy, too. Even if it wasn’t the effect he wanted, the Doctor had a good effect on people’s lives overall.
That being said, he’s still tormented. Which is why regenerating is the best thing for him right now. I admit, I cried and raged and stormed and hated the living crap out of Matt Smith for replacing David Tennant, but the tenth Doctor was almost buried under the weight of everything that happened, every guilty moment, every broken heart, every person who died, whether directly or indirectly, because of him. He needed peace. And in the end, I think he found it.
Even if he didn’t want to go.
Favourite Episodes: “Doomsday,” “Blink”
Reason: too many emotions, appearance of Donna, squaring off the Daleks against the Cybermen); Sally Sparrow, WEEPING ANGELS
Least Favourite Episode: “School Reunion,” “The Unicorn and the Wasp”
Reason: didn’t get any of the references to the original series, didn’t like Sarah Jane, kind of a dumb story; a REALLY dumb story (seriously, who bangs a wasp alien)
Final Grade: A
- I love that the Doctor only wore the 3D glasses like one time, and now they’re this big iconic thing for his character.
- “From the day they arrive on this planet and, blinking, step into the sun, there’s more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than- no, wait… sorry, that’s The Lion King.”
- Colin Morgan appeared in an episode! And so did the guy who played Barty Crouch, Sr. And Timothy Dalton. Seriously, “Welcome to England; we have six actors.”
- Why do all alternate universes have zeppelins?
- The Doctor and Rose making a bet on whether or not Rose can make Queen Victoria say, “We are not amused.”
- The Sontarans look like potatoes. I’m glad someone else noticed.
- The Tenth Doctor’s adventures led to a spinoff series, Torchwood, which I don’t really have any interest in watching, actually, even if it does star Captain Jack Harkness.
- This thing.
- Also, this thing, which is not actually Doctor Who.
- ALSO THIS THING, which is also not actually Doctor Who, but is still awesome because it’s the very first exposure I had to the show, and it’s Donna.
- IN THE LIBRARY. SEEING RIVER SONG. THAT IS ALL. FOR NOW.
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