David Tennant

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.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e03 – School Reunion

They did a CGI werewolf episode, so why not a CGI vampire episode—except the vampires are aliens who can’t really turn into humans except Anthony Head (get it, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” non-vampire, playing a vampire, get it—also, he plays the headmaster of a school; headmaster; get it). They kind of look like the flying Gremlin from The New Batch but darker and without as much personality.

Because budget. They do pretty well with all the CGI, going for an exaggerated realism, which serves them well at the budget. Especially with David Tennant mugging opposite the CGI.

Despite Head being a stunt guest cast—and not a bad one at all; he doesn’t manage to mug or chew the same way Tennant can with the material, but he’s fine. If I cared about a “Buffy” stunt cast, I’d be happy.

A meteor lands and then strange things start happening at an elementary school where Head’s… headmaster. Tennant and Billie Piper investigate at Noel Clarke’s request, leading to a fun intro to Tennant as a teacher and Piper as a lunch lady.

There’s a lot of Clarke in the episode. Tennant does temper him; writer Toby Whithouse does an amazing job with everything except Clarke. And not even because it’s Clarke. Whithouse just gives him strange characterizations. I suppose it’s been however long since we’ve seen him but still.

Turns out Head’s just a MacGuffin, albeit a dangerous one, and the main plot of the episode is about bringing Elisabeth Sladen back to the franchise after thirty some years.

She happens to be investigating the same mystery and meets up with Tennant and crew. It’s a great combination of humor and character drama, with Sladen and Piper doing really well together as they bicker. Tennant’s outstanding with Sladen.

Seems weird the Doctor never talks about the companions and there are some new questions about his relationship with Piper. Also… don’t go down a rabbit hole trying to figure out what’s up with Tennant and Sladen’s break-up thirty years before. They change it up. Just watch the episode. It’s stunning how effective Sladen’s story plays out given I’ve never seen the original series with her on it.

I hope Whithouse writes some more episodes.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e02 – Tooth and Claw

Tooth and Claw opens in nineteenth century Scotland, where a bunch of royals get attacked by a group of monks who know wire fu. Is it good wire fu? No. But it’s odd enough to get one interested and then it’s only a few minutes before David Tennant and Billie Piper find themselves in the same castle as guests of Queen Victoria (Pauline Collins).

Tennant and Piper have stumbled onto a very complicated, very elaborate plan to attack Collins and they’ve got to contend with the wire fu fighter monks as well as the giant werewolf they’ve brought with them.

There’s a number of solid action chase sequences—director Euros Lyn does an excellent job keeping up the tension and making the werewolf, which is CGI and fake but in the right way fake, a constant threat.

See, the monks, led by Ian Hanmore, have got lord Derek Riddell’s whole household held hostage in the basement with the werewolf—the human part played by Tom Smith, who isn’t exactly all human because there’s this whole “werewolves are from outer space” thing. It’s complicated as well though. Russell T. Davies’s script never dwells too long on it and it passes fine because there’s enough suspense and action.

So while Riddell’s trying to convince Collins and Tennant there’s nothing wrong—with Tennant getting more and more suspicious—Piper finds herself in the basement with Smith and the lady of the house, Michelle Duncan.

Adding to the aforementioned successes of suspense and action are the characterizations and performances. Collins is great as the Queen, who’s very much a thoughtful leader in a crisis situation. Collins plays the part with resolve and humor. And then Duncan’s absolutely awesome, discovering some of the werewolf’s weaknesses—it’s kind of like Die Hard in a manor house with a werewolf as Alexander Godunov—while rallying all the other “helpless” womenfolk.

And the ending’s got a rather neat, albeit downbeat, twist.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e01 – New Earth

I just realized—while I was watching New Earth, which aired almost four months after the Christmas special, it never occurred to me how weird it is the show doesn’t try to establish Billie Piper’s relationship with the new Doctor (David Tennant). They have a bunch of scenes together but most of the time Piper’s been possessed by Zoë Wanamaker, who’s back from last season.

So there’s no real banter establishing for Piper and Tennant, at least not as far as an indicator of what’s to come. Because Piper playing Wanamaker playing Piper gussies herself up in general—Wanamaker had previous just been a piece of skin, the last human from the planet Earth alive, some five billion years in the future and she likes having a body—but also to cozy up to Tennant.

Lots of chemistry as the euphemism goes and presumably none of it forecasting the rest of the season. Unless it’s going to be about Piper and Tennant traveling through time and space and getting giggly with each other before knowing fadeouts, which would be fine because it’s still Tennant. And Piper does moon over him well, whether playing Wanamaker as Piper or just herself.

Piper and Tennant are in the future because Tennant’s got a message to visit someone at a hospital, which turns to be run by humanoid cat people. Wanamaker’s hiding out with a devotee (Sean Gallagher, who’s funny) and remembers Piper from their last encounter.

Only it turns out there’s more than meets the eye at the hospital, with the patients getting well from illnesses Tennant doesn’t think they ought to be recovering from, so he’s obviously going to investigate.

The show’s clearly got a better budget than last season, even if director James Hawes can’t quite figure out the action sequences. The show plays Tennant as almost a James Bond-type (complete with appropriate music), which is utterly absurd and shouldn’t work, but Tennant then effortlessly makes it work.

Just like the show itself now.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e00 – The Christmas Invasion

There are quite a few things to say about The Christmas Invasion. For example, as improbable as it seems, there’s a chance David Tennant is going to redeem Camille Coduri, who went from a perfectly fine guest player at the beginning of last season to a complete time suck by the end of it. It’s unclear whether Tennant will be able to work that magic with Noel Clarke, who’s still really annoying no matter what number Doctor we’re on.

The episode opens with Coduri and Clarke hearing the TARDIS coming into Christmastime London so they rush to the street to greet it. The doors open, an unfamiliar Tennant stumbles out, warmly embraces them, collapses. Then Billie Piper comes out and says, “That’s the Doctor.”

To which Coduri replies, “Doctor who?”

Wokka wokka.

Though Christmas Invasion does work as a fairly easy introduction to “Doctor Who.” Do they always ingloriously shuck the previous Doctor or is it Tennant being immediately amazing. Well, somewhat immediately. He’s in a coma because of transforming from Christopher Eccleston at the end of last season. This Christmas special doesn’t just introduce Tennant but makes a bunch of promises for the Doctor’s upcoming adventures.

Tennant’s in his coma for maybe the first half of the episode but it does feel a little longer because we’re got to get through the initial stages of Coduri and Clarke whining about Piper being a time and relative dimension in space traveller. Also for aliens to invade. There’s a big action sequence, which director James Hawes sadly doesn’t pull off, despite there being obvious money behind it. Then we get to catch up with Penelope Wilton, who’s gone on to become prime minister since we last saw her.

Wilton’s great. She could carry a show about her being a small town politician turned prime minister.

Events occur to get Piper and company teamed up with Wilton (on the alien ship, which is actually rather interesting—it appears the alien race launched themselves into space with their ship built under their planet’s crust or something). The aliens are this weird mix of Star Wars and Star Trek, dynamic enough to engage the casual viewer.

They only have to maintain interest so long, because once Tennant wakes up, no one’s paying attention to anything else. He’s amazing from go. Spellbinding. You can’t wait to see the next adventure because it’s him. So it’s a great promotion for the brand.

It’s also got an exceptionally problematic twist where Tennant takes advantage of sexist and ageism to “do the right thing,” except he’s not just being vindictive because it’s a bureaucracy. It’s also cruelly done.

Will Tennant’s fun-loving, convivial Doctor go on to be cruel?

Guess we’ll have to wait for a Dalek to find out. But Tennant puts “Who” into a “must see” category it didn’t even glimpse last season.

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