Euros Lyn

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) 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) 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) 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) s01e03 – The Unquiet Dead

So the time and space machine is imprecise? Is that a “Doctor Who” thing? They bumble through the time? Because this episode is supposed to be Billie Piper getting to see nineteenth century Christmas in Naples or someplace but instead they end up in Cardiff (Cardiff gets a lot of deriding this episode); so can Christopher Eccleston just not fly the TARDIS?

Because the viewer already knows they’re not going to Naples because the zombies are in Cardiff. This episode’s about Charles Dickens (a wonderful Simon Callow) getting his proverbial groove back thanks to Eccleston trying to stop a bunch of zombies from doing their thing, as they reincarnate in a funeral parlor run by Alan David and Eve Myles.

There’s a forced twisty plot—writer Mark Gatiss does a low fine job but it’s all about the actors so it doesn’t matter—and nice direction from Euros Lyn. Piper bonds with nineteenth century Myles, who can’t imagine being a lady of the future and whatnot. Myles is great. She can’t help but be overshadowed by Callow, who’s so good as Charles Dickens, Zombie Hunter, they should’ve given him a spin-off.

The problem with the episode’s the finish, when Eccleston and company don’t seem to realize they’re at fault for all the tragedy. Their bad advice. Though it seems much more like Gatiss’s fault.

We get to hear some more about both Piper and Eccleston’s past—she’s got a “big bad wolf” in her personal history (Myles is psychic, which the episode uses well as it builds to a plot point) and Ecclestone’s alien race, The Time Lords, apparently hurt some noncombatants in the Time War, or something.

Piper gets to show some agency but it’s not well-written agency, so it’s a false step.

The first half is much better than the second, though Callow makes it more than worthwhile. Myles is still good, just not good enough—given the material—to hold the thing up. Callow does, however. Overall, it’s fine, if a little pat.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e02 – The End of the World

This episode is so much better than the previous one. So much better. And the only difference, besides setting and it not introducing a new lead character (Billie Piper), is a different director (Euros Lyn). Or maybe writer Russell T. Davies just had much better ideas for this one? Though the special effects are also “better,” quotation marks because it’s a bunch of exterior space shots, which don’t involve the main characters. It’s just pragmatic exposition shots of the sun about to Krypton Earth.

The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) has brought Piper to the end of the time, at least as far as time goes for planet Earth; they’re going to watch its destruction some five billion years in the future. It’s a seemingly budgetary choice, with Eccleston teasing Piper with possible stops in the future—but she never gets to get out of the TARDIS (okay, weird thing about “Doctor Who,” the absurd jargon is catchy). Instead, they go way way into the future so they don’t need to do exteriors and instead the action takes place on this spaceship—viewing platform—where a bunch of rich future people (people meaning aliens) have paid to watch the Earth get zapped by an adjusting sun. There’s a lot of exposition about how the future works, but it’s mostly just blather, some of it amusing, some of it diverting, all of it usually amiably delivered by Eccleston.

Eccleston’s a lot better this episode—Piper’s the main improvement, acting-wise, as she goes from a very low middling to fantastic as the weight of the reality she’s experiencing hits her. She’s five billion years in the future. She’s meeting all these alien races—Eccleston calls her a racist in response to her pointing out he had the TARDIS change her brain chemistry to allow her to understand alien languages, so it’s good to see the Doctor’s a man—and the Earth is about to die. Even though everyone she knows is five billion years dead. Though Eccleston does outfit her phone with a new SIM card (taking her off AT&T?), allowing her to call through time and space and talk to mum Camille Coduri.

The main plot, involving sabotage, is rather nicely executed and quite winding. Eccleston gets a love interest—an excellent Yasmin Bannerman—and Piper makes her first alien friend, Beccy Armory, and her first future human enemy, Zoë Wanamaker.

It’s really quite good. If they were all like this episode, I’d be closer to understanding the “Who” enthusiasm.

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