Billie Piper

Doctor Who (2005) s02e13 – Doomsday

The BBC does market research, don’t they? I’d love to see what their “Doctor Who” market research says as far as target audience. For instance, this episode—the momentous, earth-shattering (literally?) season finale, which will change the Doctor (David Tennant) forever–has the many experienced heroes, including ostensible eccentric space and time genius Tennant, completely flummoxed over an object.

Over a Dalek-shaped object.

It’s like writer Russell T. Davies remained really confused over the beginning of Superman: The Movie into adulthood instead of asking about it when he was… oh, geez, he was fifteen. No, no, not much chance there.

Hopefully he’s just trying for the tween male viewership.

Though it is the first “Doctor Who” to confuse me… I’m still not sure if the Cybermen and the humans team up to fight the Daleks. If so it’s a very short team-up. Maybe it was a coincidence.

Anyway.

The episode’s less about the (limited budget) invasion of the planet Earth from extra-dimensional aliens and more about getting the pieces in order for a cast change. But what kind of cast change… even though the episode still has Billie Piper narrating her last adventure, there are always possibilities.

Wait, wrong franchise.

We also learn it’s been three years since Piper and Tennant left Noel Clarke in an alternate reality where he could feign macho convincingly. It was like four or six episodes ago? The second half of season two has a three year present action. Is there a chart for the timelines? It’s like the show’s made for rerunning out of order.

Shaun Dingwall’s back because the alternate universe is back but he’s a drag in the alternate universe and continues to be a drag this episode.

Piper gets to face off with some Daleks.

Then there’s the big finale, which is effective and surprising and then Davies keeps beating the stick against it until you’re just relieved when it’s all finally over, who cares the casualties.

And then there’s an immediate setup for the next season.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e12 – Army of Ghosts

One Earth episode without Camille Coduri was clearly too much so she doesn’t just appear in this one, she also pretends to be daughter Rose (Billie Piper) and play companion to David Tennant. Coduri and Tennant don’t grate as sharply as one might’ve feared (hard to imagine her and Christopher Eccleston stuck together so much for an episode subplot)….

But I’m forgetting the most important part—the episode opens with Piper narrating. This story is the last one she’s ever going to tell (not really, because there’s a cliffhanger, so she’s referring to a two-part story). During the resulting flashback montage, Eccleston shows up for about two seconds (and not his face); does all “Who” ignore previous Doctors or is it just with Eccleston? If so, rather inglorious.

After the intro montage and narration setup, Tennant and Piper go to present-day Earth so Piper can visit Coduri and get her laundry done. Sleeping arrangements and laundry facilities on the TARDIS… are they ever discussed?

Right away, Tennant and Piper know something’s wrong because the Earth is now visited on a regular basis by ghosts. Investigating leads them to the mysterious Torchwood Institute, run by a game but too thinly written Tracy Ann Oberman, who are actually causing the ghosts by punching holes in the universe or something.

Doesn’t matter. What matters is Tennant knows they’re not ghosts—doesn’t say how he knows, “Who”’s de facto atheist, after all—and he tries to get Oberman to knock it off and do some investigating.

Unfortunately, we—the audience—know the Cybermen are back as they’ve slowly been taking over Oberman’s staff, principally Freema Agyeman and Hadley Fraser, who are conspiring to do something. Will Tennant be able to save the day, even though he’s got Coduri at his side so Piper can investigate on her own?

Not sure, because it’s a cliffhanger. It’s also a bit of old home week for Piper, because the Cybermen aren’t the only ones back from another dimension….

Noel Clarke’s back, playing tough again.

Clarke’s not good tough, but he’s a lot better tough than whiney.

Better than I was expecting direction from Graeme Harper, on par writing from Russell T. Davies (on par for Russell T. Davies, I mean).

The bookend is annoying and the cliffhanger reveal’s a trope.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e11 – Fear Her

For an Earth episode, especially one with a strangely disjointed narrative with dueling MacGuffins, Fear Her is okay. There’s not a very high bar for the Earth episodes so getting to see David Tennant and Billie Piper doing an ad for the 2012 Olympics in London. They show up—six years into Piper’s future—to watch the games, but land of a street where kids have been disappearing lately.

It’s a bit of a race to see who’s going to take the lead on the investigation—Tennant or Piper, as she’s finally coming into her own (again)—and we quickly learn there’s something weird going on with (only Black kid on the block) Abisola Agbaje. By we in this case, I mean the audience, because we find out right away Agbaje is vanishing kids and turning them into living drawings or something, while her mom, Nina Sosanya, doesn’t want to see there’s a problem.

But it also doesn’t take Piper and Tennant much time to figure it out either. And once they do, the episode kind of spins its wheels but in a fairly nice way. Tennant’s good with the family drama and Piper’s effective worrying about the missing kids.

And Euros Lyn’s directing so when the episode gets around to putting Agbaje in danger, it’s well-executed danger.

The big twist is… fine. It’s not actually a big twist and the show can’t figure out a way to pretend otherwise. Then writer Matthew Graham (an experienced TV writer and show creator—the great “Life on Mars”) just does some wonky fan service, Anglophilia thing. Before some padding with Tennant and Piper being such great pals because just as Piper feels like they’re going to be a great team forever… Tennant feels a great disturbance—and fears something terrible is going to happen.

Then we get the very spoiler-y preview of the season finale.

Again, it’s a qualified okay episode—it’s an Earth episode without the bad stuff but also without any of the good stuff in the actual good Earth episodes. It’s nice getting Tennant and Piper just doing a regular adventure.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e10 – Love & Monsters

It’s a not bad concept episode (written by Russell T. Davies, which seems weird but whatever) about a regular bloke (Marc Warren) who records a video diary on his digital camcorder to upload at 160×120 to his FTP server to share his story about the Doctor. I mean, it’s a YouTube doc before anyone knew there’d be YouTube docs. At least Davies knew where the format was going.

And once it’s clear the Doctor (David Tennant) isn’t showing up as a principal, the episode’s fine. It’s always amusing—Davies goes for more smiles than laughs and the episode’s mostly well-cast so the cast quickly endears.

When Warren was a kid he saw the Doctor in his house. As an adult, he lives through the alien invasions of the last two seasons and joins a group of other alien enthusiasts and they soon get talking about the Doctor. Eventually, they become a family, which is great until a government agent (Peter Kay) takes over their group and sets them about Doctor-hunting.

If Kay were good, it’d be great. Instead, he’s not, and it’s a not bad concept episode. It’s zany. There’s not a lot of Tennant and Billie Piper, as they’re guest stars in Warren’s life, but when they show up it’s fun and funny. Slapstick. There’s slapstick. The slapstick’s really cute.

The plot eventually involves Warren stalking Piper through Camille Coduri and an attempted seduction scene as we get to see what life’s like for Coduri when Piper’s not around. Also Mickey’s not around, which is another sadness for Coduri. It’s… the best Coduri’s been in a while. There are asterisks, but more relating to Davies’s writing and Dan Zeff’s direction.

Zeff’s okay. Better than a lot of “Who” directors without being one of the good lot.

Shirley Henderson plays the girl in the group who Warren’s crushing on. It’s a not exactly a cameo but kind of like an extended one. Maybe she’s a “Who” fan?

It’s cute, at least until the punchline, which is incredibly problematic if you give it much thought.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e09 – The Satan Pit

So, the title sort of gives away the big reveal. The Satan Pit refers to the giant hole in the middle of the planet, where they’ve already dug twelve miles down and sent David Tennant and Claire Rushbrook to investigate. She wants to go in the existing pit, as opposed to the tunnel they dug.

Tennant, however, doesn’t really think going into the pit is a good idea. Even if it’s not Satan. But it sure sounds like it’s Satan. What’s his story? Think Star Trek V. Yes, indeed, “Doctor Who” comes along and does Star Trek V almost twenty years later, makes it great, but also shows off what the “Who” franchise can do in contrast to what “Trek” can’t.

But the episode isn’t director James Strong or writer Matt Jones resting on their “gods in need of starships” laurels; it’s not even just a straight “Who” episode, with Tennant dealing with the Devil (or at least trying to convince Rushbrook they really don’t need to go investigate whether or not its Satan in the pit), while Billie Piper leads the humans above as their slave army of Oods turns lethal—the telepathic Oods prove susceptible to Satanic suggestion. So not only is it great Trekkie sci-fi, it’s great sci-fi action, and then there are all these great character arcs. Piper, captain Shaun Parkes, Rushbrook, Tennant—more about him abandoning Piper in their last moments versus fretting over what god needs with a starship (initially), plus Danny Webb as the security chief. It’s just a great episode. And a great two-parter. Definitely the most successful episodes of the series to date.

And it’s still the same technical team, which is a surprise. Strong just knows how to get Ernest Vincze to light better?

Perfect ending too. It all just works out so well.

If only the show can keep up this new momentum… they really do need to stay clear of the plant Earth. “Who” is better at the broad extraterrestrial sci-fi than the earthbound stuff. It also helps giving Piper and Tennant actual character arcs.

So big cheers for writer Jones and director Strong. They finally give Tennant a show deserving of him.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e08 – The Impossible Planet

The Impossible Planet has just what “Who” needs… right now anyway. There’s a new director to the series (James Strong) and a new writer (Matt Jones), and they give the series a push in a better (arguably best so far) direction. Is there going to be any momentum… probably not. “Who,” even the two-parters, is episodic not just in its storytelling but also its making. For whatever reason, Strong’s able to do a lot more with cinematographer Ernest Vincze’s DV lighting and Mike Jones’s editing than anyone else this season or last.

The titular planet has no name in the episode, not even a designation. David Tennant and Billie Piper go bandying about the galaxy and find themselves in some future time at an Earthling research station. The station is on a planet trapped in a black hole’s gravity well but immobile because of a huge power source. The researchers are digging to the core to discover what’s the power.

There’s Claire Rushbrook as the scientist, Shaun Parkes as the acting captain, Danny Webb as the security chief, Will Thorp as the archeologist (they’ve discovered some billion year old civilization), Ronny Jhutti is the tech nerd, and MyAnna Buring is the bosom-y maintenance tech. Because it’s 2006 and they’re still British, after all.

Writer Jones writes distinct characters with enough meat for the actors to flesh them out, with Strong directing the actors, which the show could use a lot more often.

Once Tennant and Piper get oriented—they also discover the humans have a bunch of slaves (called the Ood, who “need” to be slaves so it’s all right, otherwise they’d lemming apparently)—there’s a big earthquake (Impossible Planet quake) because black hole rippling the planet and the TARDIS falls in, stranding Piper and Tennant.

So as they get used to the idea of not just being trapped in a time and place—with Piper a lot more comfortable with the idea of homesteading with Tennant than vice versa—the researchers are just about to get to the core and they’re all about to find out exactly what’s going on. There are various hints—including demonic possession and the Ood acting weird—before it’s clear “Who” is about to try a different take on a very familiar fail of a different sci-fi franchise….

No spoilers (yet), but thank goodness they got the right director for this one.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e07 – The Idiot’s Lantern

I had high hopes for this episode. Higher hopes. Between writer Mark Gatiss, who wrote something last season and I didn’t hate it because I don’t remember his name, and director Euros Lyn, I figured it would be fine.

I just didn’t predict it’d be such a middling fine.

Once again the Doctor (David Tennant) can’t control his space and time ship and he and Rose (Billie Piper) find themselves unexpectedly in fifties London. Why is the time period important? Unclear. It’s set during the Queen’s coronation but it’s just a detail and completely unrelated to the main plot of mind-controlling televisions, which are the precursors to face-sucking-offing televisions. It’s a very unaware “Made in Britain” joke.

Tennant and Piper—shockingly, Noel Clarke does not make an appearance immediately after whining his way off again last episode—team up with teen Rory Jennings to save his gran, Margaret John. They don’t just have to contend with the face-sucking TV maker, a game Ron Cook, they also have to deal with Jennings’s absurdly asshole fifties dad Jamie Foreman. Foreman seems like a bit of a stunt cast, but he’s not any good in the part and no one seems to know how to deal with him being shorter than most of the rest of the cast so when he’s yelling at his family, he’s like yelling up at them.

I mean, not to be anti-short people but they needed the character to be consistent as a shorter bully than a taller bully.

Maureen Lipman plays the presence on the television who’s trying to get all the faces sucked off. It’s unclear why.

At one point, Tennant finds himself in a warehouse of faceless people and it’s immediately familiar because it’s already been an action beat this season.

At one point this episode, Piper—who’s having a crap season as far as character development goes—gets replaced by a red shirt copper, Sam Cox.

I’m not sure if the episode’s a success in Gatiss’s mind or a failure but it’s far more concerning if it’s the latter.

“Who”’s gone from being Tennant holding it up to Tennant the only one surviving in the rubble.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e06 – The Age of Steel

I had low expectations for this episode, given the first installment was so unimpressed; writer Tom MacRae and director Graeme Harper do not improve at all this episode. The perfunctory cliffhanger resolution does nothing to ratchet up any enthusiasm. The stakes are simple—the Cybermen are taking over this alternate universe and Billie Piper won’t let David Tennant wait it out in the TARDIS because Piper’s parents Camille Coduri and Shaun Dingwall are in danger.

Dad Dingwall works for evil mastermind Roger Lloyd Pack but did he know Lloyd Pack was really a bad guy who wanted to turn everyone into Cybermen? Tennant’s suspicious but Piper’s obstinate and disinterested in finding out the truth. She’s so annoying this episode. Tennant eventually goes to hang out with alternate Earth revolutionary Helen Griffin, leaving Piper with Dingwall. She starts annoying him pretty quick too.

Meanwhile, Noel Clarke is off learning how to be a revolutionary—his double is on a team with Griffin and Andrew Hayden-Smith—and finding himself and whatnot.

The episode reuses action beats from the show’s pilot, which is kind of… well, it’s sad, but it does have the potential for Piper to comment on it. She doesn’t, of course, because MacRae’s disposable (at best) script.

Clarke ends up with better scenes than anyone else as he has to save the world himself for once. Unfortunately, Clarke’s performance still isn’t very good but… the episode’s got a very low bar. Successfully turning Clarke into even a hero in his own mind is something.

What else… bad CGI? There’s some really bad CGI.

There’s also a fairly dark ending with Tennant having to torture a bunch of people. It seems like it’s going to be one of those sobering “Doctor Who” resolutions but somehow it’s not. Maybe because it’s an alternate universe. Maybe because it’s so insincere. Thanks to Tennant, who’s absurdly underused, season two of “Who” has been very sturdy, but MacRae and Harper seem likely to be names to dread going forward.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e05 – Rise of the Cybermen

The cold open of this episode looks pretty bad and the direction on the actors is terrible so I was just waiting to see it was Keith Boak. Then the opening titles rolled and I got a little hopeful upon seeing the writing credit—Tom MacRae, new guy (all the “Who” writers are guys so far), and the show’s done better with new writers than the regular one—then it turned out not to be Boak, but Graeme Harper. Harper and MacRae both being “Who” newbies.

Harper’s direction is fairly bad, with the show once again looking like it’s a soap opera at best. Poor cinematographer Ernest Vincze, who shoots all(?) of the episodes, yet sometimes outside his control it all looks bad.

It’s an alternate universe adventure with David Tennant trying and failing to keep Billie Piper from hunting down alternate universe dad Shaun Dingwall—it’s incredible what a bad character Piper’s become this season. She nearly broke the universe last time she went after Dingwall. Did she learn anything? Nope.

Then there’s Noel Clarke, who’s sad Tennant doesn’t like him more. There’s this whole thing about Tennant only caring about Piper and not even being interested in Clarke’s (unknown before this episode) backstory involving grandmother Mona Hammond, who died in the regular universe. But the show’s established Piper thought she and Tennant were romantically involved or at least interested so what does she want him to do with Clarke? It’s just bad writing, with the bad production values hurting things even more.

Though I guess it’s obvious the episode doesn’t know much show canon because when we find out Clarke’s alter ego is named “Ricky” instead of “Mickey,” no one remembers how Christopher Eccleston called him “Ricky” last season. It’s this great setup and then does nothing.

The villains this episode are the Cybermen, who are back from the original series, only this time they’re run by brilliant megalomaniac businessman Roger Lloyd Pack who wants to be immortal. Lloyd Pack is extremely bad. Like. Extremely.

Towards the end of the episode it appears he’s doing an impression of Sidney Greenstreet in Maltese Falcon but apparently without coordinating with director Harper.

It’s a slog of an episode. So much of one a particularly annoying Camille Coduri doesn’t even rate mention.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e04 – The Girl in the Fireplace

The Girl in the Fireplace is an exceptionally affecting star-crossed lovers story, with the Doctor (David Tennant) happening across a portal to 18th century Versailles and—initially reluctantly—becoming involved Madame de Pompadour (Sophia Myles) as he tries to save her from time-traveling automatons. See, they want Myles to repair their spaceship, only no one can really figure out why they need her, she’s just in danger. And at various points in her life, as the automatons, which have an absolutely fantastic design (they disguise themselves in Pantalone masks and Versailles appropriate dress), intrude and attack. Even though Tennant’s using the same time portals as the villains, they’ve got teleporters and he doesn’t, so there’s a chase to it all.

Meanwhile, Noel Clarke is along on his first TARDIS mission as a regular member of the gang and, well, he’s just along. He’s a sidekick for Billie Piper when she’s not too busy pouting about Tennant’s very obvious chemistry with Myles. And since Myles is just the latest in a long line of episode-length romantic interests for the Doctor… you’d think Piper’d be used to it. Even Clarke picks up on the jealousy and needles her a little because there’s no more wholesome a relationship than the one where your disinterested sort of girlfriend leaves you to time travel with another guy and then years later you join up even though it’s only been a few months for her on the outside.

What I’m saying is Clarke’s part is broken. Even if it wasn’t Clarke in the part.

The stuff with Tennant and Myles, which involves Tennant breaking out the mind meld the show hasn’t mentioned until this point, is absolutely fantastic. Great action, great suspense; Euros Lyn’s direction is excellent and Steven Moffat’s script is strong. Tennant’s performance is wonderful, Myles is perfect, and the bad guys are terrifying. What more could you ask for.

Besides Piper and Clarke having something to do except pout.

Scroll to Top