James Hawes

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.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e10 – The Doctor Dances

It’s a disappointing conclusion. It’s not a bad episode, but it’s a fairly obvious, kind of silly finish to the much stronger first episode. Partially because the show never really finds its footing with Christopher Eccleston and John Barrowman, who are now in a pissing contest for a number of things but also for Billie Piper’s attention. The show really leans on the idea Piper and Eccleston have some palatable chemistry and… they don’t.

Meanwhile there’s a little bit of Bi-shaming from Piper, which is a little less than when sweet teen samaritan Florence Hoath blackmailing a gay guy who’s in the closet. It’s… an odd scene and writer Steven Moffat doesn’t make it work.

There’s also a big reveal at the end, in the middle of the big reveal involving the gas mask people. It’s fairly cheap stuff, just letting Moffat and the show get away with some loose writing. The episode’s got a decent budget for a “Who” so it’s not like they ran out of money on the way to a better conclusion… Moffat just doesn’t have a very good conclusion to his story.

It messes up Hoath quite a bit, taking her from a potential Doctor protege to an eye roll of deus ex machina. Eccleston gets some more special powers during the deus ex so it’s an even cleaner finish.

Barrowman’s got a nice arc in the conclusion, with an excellent wrap-up, even if it again relies on Piper and Eccleston’s pseudo-chemistry.

There are some decent action sequences—Eccleston, Piper, and Barrowman on the run from the gas mask monsters—and James Hawes’s direction is fine. It just doesn’t pay off with anything.

Except introducing Barrowman, which is a nice surprise. The show hasn’t been able to sustain a two-episode guest star who didn’t fail yet. Though it’s a two-parter so Barrowman did have some help I suppose.

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