The journey never ends

I have this perverse attitude that I don’t want to do something long, but then do two or more short things that take up more time than the long thing would have. In specific, I almost never sit down to watch two-part episodes of the modern Doctor Who. I don’t have this problem with the classic series, maybe because they’re four- to six-part serials of 25 minutes per part, so I don’t mind watching a couple and then, if I feel like it, go do something else and watch the rest the next day. But for some reason, modern stories with two 45-minute parts are daunting to me. I don’t have a problem watching “Human Nature” / “Family of Blood” any time it’s suggested to me, probably because I love that episode to bits, but any other two-parter elicits a groan from me, and instead, I sit down to watch a single episode. Then another. And often another. And then kick myself that I didn’t just sit down and watch the two-parter.

Three episodes, but worth every minute of it!

Three episodes, but worth every minute of it!

Because of this, I actually haven’t seen most of the two-part episodes more than three or four times (and I know I’ve only seen the three-part “Utopia” / “The Sound of Drums” / “The Last of the Time Lords” twice, even though I love it to death). I didn’t really realize this until I sat down to watch “The Stolen Earth” / “Journey’s End” this week. As we got to the scene were the Doctor suppresses Donna’s memories, I realized that the fanfic I had written that referred to that scene was written in February, and I hadn’t seen the episode since. That means it’s been at least nine months since I’ve seen one of my favorite episodes, and it’s all because for some reason, I won’t start two-part episodes. That’s just crazy.

Be that as it may, I thoroughly enjoyed watching TSE/JE for the first time in a very long time, and it amazed me how much subtext was written into it. Maybe it’s because I’m writing my own stories, but for some reason, I’m starting to see a lot more subtlety in the RTD-era episodes than I have before. (I have no idea how much subtlety the Moffat-era episodes have. I like to think that Moffat is not a subtle writer, but I’m perfectly willing to admit that I know and understand his seasons a lot less well than I know the RTD seasons.) Everything that happens in TSE/JE was written to highlight Davros’ reveal of the “Doctor’s soul.”

Rose, not at her most flattering

Rose, not at her most flattering

All of the Tenth Doctor’s companions return in this episode. Jack, of course, is part of Torchwood. Martha is part of UNIT, and she goes to prepare the Osterhagen Key. Sarah Jane goes to the Crucible armed with a Warp Star. Most tellingly, Rose comes to find the Doctor armed with the biggest gun in the show, and Mickey and Jackie, who follow her, are also armed similarly. She even pauses in her search to threaten some petty looters with it. Remember that the three came from Pete’s World, where the stars were going out, and they had no idea what was causing it, and though the Doctor always tried to teach them non-violence, they came armed with weapons mighty enough to kill Daleks in one shot. Jack, Martha, and Sarah Jane knew what they were up against, so they at least have a reason to feel that violence was warranted; Rose had no such excuse. She’s the prime example of the character who the Doctor molded into a soldier, and this might very much be why the Doctor chose to place her back in Pete’s World.

(This is a common argument. Not only was Rose very much a soldier when she returned, but she had already been building the dimension cannon to break down the walls between the universes when they started seeing the stars going out. She knew that the cannon would start breaking down the universes, but still chose to do so just to return to the Doctor. Discounting the at least two years he had to move on from her, this character development, towards violence and irresponsibility, could have soured him against her.)

Interestingly, the one person who didn’t follow the Doctor, and the one person who he has condemned for violence, Harriet Jones, is the only true pacifist here. I’ve written before what a magnificent character she is, and this is one of her shining moments. In “The Christmas Invasion,” the Tenth Doctor’s very first full episode, she disagreed with the Doctor about what was right for the defense of planet Earth. Both of them were right: the Doctor sees things from a different view and wanted to protect the Sycorax as much as Earth, and did not like that they were shot in the back, while PM Jones knew that the Earth couldn’t let itself rely on the Doctor to be there every time danger lurked. In TSE/JE, she stood by what she believed, but works for it not by raising an army or developing weapons, but by building a communications network to contact the Doctor when he was needed.

Davros and Dalek Caan

Davros and Dalek Caan

The soldier companions converge on the crucible, with Rose and the Doctor imprisoned, make their threats, and reveal the Doctor’s soul, as described by Davros. This is what breaks him, and what makes him vow never to have another companion, which, of course, leads to his downfall in “The Waters of Mars.” The problem, of course, is that the Doctor is far too willing to blame himself for everything, and even though the judgment passed on him is given by an enemy filled with hatred for him, who he knows is completely amoral, the Doctor still completely agrees with him. Interestingly, though, the most objective judgment comes from Harriet Jones, the one person in the entire story who can be called neutral: she neither follows the Doctor nor hates him. She tells Jack, “And you tell him from me, he chose his companions well.” She sees that they are all brave and trying to do what’s right, and that sometimes what’s right requires violence, but they aren’t needlessly violent. Sadly, Jack never passes on her message, something the Doctor needed to hear.

The only other non-violent character in the story is Donna. She gets infused by the metacrisis and is able to stop the Daleks, but that’s the thing: she stops the Reality Bomb, confuses the Daleks’ circuits, and defuses the energy generator by sending the planets home, but she never attacks anyone. She even tries to stop the Metacrisis Doctor from destroying the Daleks. And for her efforts, she’s rewarded with a mind-wipe. Only the Doctor’s soldiers survive this conflict. It’s all very well-woven.

Probably a half an hour before the Doctor is alone once more.

Probably a half an hour before the Doctor is alone once more.

The conclusion of the story continues to reinforce the Doctor’s problems. Sarah Jane tells him, “You know, you act like such a lonely man. But look at you. You’ve got the biggest family on Earth,” and immediately runs off to her own family. Jack, Mickey, and Martha similarly leave, and of course, Rose, Jackie, and the Metacrisis Doctor stay in Pete’s World. They all unconsciously reinforce to him that he’s just a friend that they once knew but have moved on from, almost more like a co-worker from a job they left long ago. “Hey, it was great seeing you again. We did some great things together. Let’s go out for drinks sometime.” Of course, the Doctor contributes to his own problems by making decisions for everyone else like he always does – he forces Rose back to Pete’s World, insists that the Metacrisis Doctor stay with her, and removes Donna’s memories against her wishes – but in the end, everyone contributes to his eventual loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, and self-hatred.

Much of this is readily not apparent until you watch the episode two or three times, but it really is beautiful. There are a few quibbles with the narrative that are certainly justified, especially the rather deus-ex-machina-y ending with Donna suddenly beating Davros, but the deeper story is where it really is all at. Oh, and I have to mention that Dalek Caan is one of my favorites ever, with his manipulation of the events as he decreed, “No more!” His soothsayings were also very clever: the Dark Lord (oo, the Doctor as the Dark Lord, that’s chilling), the Threefold Man, “The Doctor will be here as witness, at the end of everything,” meaning, of course, the end of everything Dalek. In my opinion, while this episode isn’t the best at straightforward plot, it really shines with theme and character development.

The adventures of Sarah Jane

UsjaS3Promos-0001This week, we did something that we’ve been putting off for a while: watched some episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures. I ordered the disc with “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith” from Netflix, so that we could finally watch the episode with the Tenth Doctor in it, and then added the disc with the Eleventh Doctor’s episode, “The Death of the Doctor.” We received the disc about two months ago and promptly ignored it, mostly because we had so many other things to do, including re-watch the Eleventh Doctor’s full run. After paying for Netflix for two months for one disc, we popped it in this week and watched all of the episodes on it: “Prisoner of the Judoon,” “The Mad Woman in the Attic,” and “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith.” And I’m happy to say, I loved it.

Now, SJA is a children’s show, aimed, I believe, at the young teen crowd, and that’s one of the reasons that my husband didn’t like it as much as I did. He’s not fond of children protagonists and plotlines that revolve around children’s problems, like figuring out whether or not your friends actually like you or are just tolerating you. I don’t have a problem with this kind of thing, and I found the show to be fun and engaging. That said, I really don’t like the character Clyde Langer, but the rest of it was great.

SJA seems to be structured like “filler” DW episodes, without an overarching season plot (but I could be wrong, as I haven’t seen a whole season), and this is probably the thing I like about it most: it’s a series of adventures, where the main characters get into a situation and solve it within the episode. It’s nice in modern TV to have longer story arcs, but it’s not necessary if the individual episodes are well-crafted to be fulfilling stories, and this is probably a good thing for a children’s show, not requiring the kids to follow an arc over several weeks or months. The show is about Sarah Jane defending the world from aliens with three teens, her “son” Luke Smith, and Rani Chandra and Clyde Langer, two kids who live nearby. The creators seem to have taken the character of the Doctor and broken him up into his component parts to create them: Luke is the hyperintelligent tech geek, Rani is investigative and compassionate, and Clyde is the smartarse. Sarah Jane is still Sarah Jane – willful, spunky, clever, and brave – though instead of being the companion, she’s the leader.  Add in the alien supercomputer Mr. Smith and the tin dog K-9, who together serve the purpose of the sonic screwdriver by giving the team the information they need as well as a little bit of firepower in a pinch, and you’ve got Doctor Who.

Spoilers in the next four paragraphs. Skip ahead if you don’t want to know.

The first episode we watched was “Prisoner of the Judoon,” in which a Judoon captain with a dangerous prisoner in custody crash lands and has to re-catch the prisoner. The prisoner has the ability to take over other creatures, and takes control of Sarah Jane to get into a nanotechnology firm to get nanites to build him a spaceship and then destroy the planet. Since the Judoon, as we know, are  just a little bit thick, Clyde and Rani have a lot problems steering the captain towards finding the prisoner. It’s up to Luke to save the day, as he uncovers why the prisoner revels in destroying civilizations and reverses the nanites’ destructive programming. Sarah Jane, once freed, tries to help the prisoner overcome his anger, but fails, which is a refreshing bit of reality – you can’t solve everyone’s problems in just a few minutes of soft words. The depiction of the Judoon was also perfect, as the law-abiding and imperceptive mercenaries we saw in “Smith and Jones.”

Next up was “The Mad Woman in the Attic,” and this episode was just superb. The “mad woman” is Rani in 2059, isolated and regretful after having lost Sarah Jane, Luke, and Clyde due to her own actions. In the current time, she is feeling ignored and underappreciated by her friends, and so she goes to investigate the claim of a demon-sighting by herself. I really don’t want to spoil the story of this one, because it really is a fantastic episode. It sets up the initial antagonist, and then twists it around – nothing is as it seems. The story teaches Rani a lot about how she fits in with her friends and how it’s not all about her. The episode also refers to the Last Great Time War, which astonished me; I was not expecting SJA to refer to such heavy DW subject matter.

The last episode we saw was “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith,” which, as I mentioned before, has the Tenth Doctor in it. Sarah Jane falls in love with a man named Peter Dawton and is about to get married to him when the Doctor, who throughout the episode had been trying to land the TARDIS at Bannerman Road, bursts in to try to stop the wedding. Too late: the Trickster appears and locks Sarah Jane and Peter in one second of time and the Doctor, Luke, Rani, and Clyde in another, to keep the Doctor from saving Sarah Jane. Turns out, Peter had been on the edge of death when the Trickster appeared to him as an angel, offering him his life in exchange for marrying Sarah Jane, an action which would remove her from her alien-fighting lifestyle and leave the planet open to chaos. Peter reneges on the Trickster’s deal, sacrificing himself to save Sarah.

sarahjaneadventuresThis was in a way the weakest of the three episodes overall, as a large part of it was devoted to the Doctor running around with the kids, pointing the sonic screwdriver in random directions to follow Sarah Jane as she moved around in the second she was trapped in; they wasted his appearance in this episode, as he honestly did nothing other than wait until the plot brought him back to Sarah Jane to tell her what was going on. On the other hand, the Doctor got to be the exuberant Doctor that he didn’t get to be through a lot of his last series. The ending of the episode was completely worth it, though. First, Peter’s decision and sacrifice was beautifully handled. Second, the parting of the Doctor and Sarah Jane was tragic: the dialogue mirrored their parting in “The Hand of Fear,” and since the episode was set just before The End of Time, we know exactly where the Doctor is heading, and his final expression as Sarah Jane walks off is heart-rending.

At the end of the day, SJA is an entertaining show, offering adventure and aliens and one of the most endearing characters ever to ride in the TARDIS, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it. I’m not sure when I’ll get to watch more of it, as there are still so many classic Doctor Who episodes to watch, and I want to move into Torchwood, AND this last episode of SJA has really sparked me into wanting to watch me some Tenth Doctor again, but I am definitely looking forward to starting SJA from the beginning. Donna may be my favorite companion, but there is no one like Sarah Jane Smith. We miss you!

An empty TARDIS

Midnight-(Doctor-Who)-picIn contrast to the full TARDIS that seems to be coming up in series 8, I would love to see a bit more empty TARDIS scenarios. It’s not a common thing for the Doctor to not have companions: it only happened once during the classic series (in “The Deadly Assassin”), and once during the modern series (in “Midnight”). I’m not counting any episodes in which the Doctor didn’t have a regular companion but picked up another character that he bonded with closely enough to count as a one-off companion (such as most of the Christmas specials and “Planet of the Dead,” “The Waters of Mars,” The End of Time, “The Lodger,” and “Closing Time.”). 

If the Doctor doesn’t have a companion, the episode must focus directly on him or on the situation at hand. In “The Deadly Assassin,” this allowed us to view Time Lord society from the point of view of the Doctor, rather than any alien (to Gallifrey) companion (Sarah Jane, in this case). The script was more streamlined than usual, because the Doctor did not have to explain everything to Sarah Jane, and in the process, the audience got to experience everything, rather than being told what they were seeing. It also allowed the Doctor to get trapped for nearly two episodes in the Matrix without requiring them to keep cutting back to reality to show what Sarah Jane was doing or getting her trapped somewhere so that they could ignore her. The Master also could concentrate on the Doctor, instead of getting distracted by having to deal with her.

The lack of a companion was even more effective in “Midnight.” A story about what happens when humans are afraid of the unknown, “Midnight” would have played out very differently if Donna had been there to try to calm them down and convince them that the Doctor wasn’t the threat. Even if the humans didn’t listen to her (which they probably wouldn’t), the tension of the tight story would have been broken by Donna’s pleas; part of the strength of the final moments of Sky’s possession came from the various characters starting to doubt that the Doctor was the threat and trying to decide if they should intercede.

Both of these episodes came into being under unusual circumstances. For “The Deadly Assassin,” when Elisabeth Sladen left the show, Tom Baker asked for an episode in which the Doctor didn’t have a companion. “Midnight” was series 4’s “companion-light” episode. Back in series 2, in order to expand the series to fourteen episodes instead of thirteen, they created a “Doctor-light” episode, “Love and Monsters,” in which the Doctor and companion appeared only sparingly so that they could be filming another episode at the same time. In series 3, the “Doctor-light” episode was “Blink.” For series 4, they expanded this idea by filming a “companion-light” episode, “Midnight,” with Mr. Tennant appearing in almost every scene, while Ms. Tate was simultaneously filming a “Doctor-light” episode, “Turn Left.” Take a look at this list of episodes: they were all fantastic, with the exception of “Love and Monsters,” which was a fantastic episode until the Abzorbaloff appeared. (Think about how good that episode could have been if a reasonable monster had been the antagonist.) Doctor Who is a great show, but it excels when it steps outside of its usual boundaries.

In my opinion, empty TARDIS or companion-light episodes should be explored more often, to tighten the storytelling a bit, occasionally give the Doctor more spotlight, and take the show in different directions. It’s not difficult to set up – the companion has to go home for some reason, for example – which makes me wonder if it’s a contract thing, saying that the companion must appear in X episodes per series. It isn’t something that should happen often, though – probably not even once a series – but certainly more than twice in fifty years. Perhaps there aren’t many data points, but it seems to be a successful formula for the show, given that the actors who have played the Doctor have all been dynamic performers who could easily carry an episode on their own.

Hard classic data

As a quick note, I’m going to be out of town for the next week. While I’ll have access to computers at the hotel and I have a keyboard and the WordPress app on the iPad, I’m not sure I’ll be able to post regularly, and certainly anything I do post won’t have images. But rest assured, I’ll be back. (I haven’t tried out the WordPress app yet. I hope it’s easy to use. For some reason, the workings of “productive” iPad apps still elude me.)

IMDB average ratings for classic episodes, with Doctors indicated

IMDB average ratings for classic episodes, with Doctors indicated

Yesterday, I wrote about the TV ratings graphs on GraphTV and discussed the ratings trends of the modern Doctor Who, and today, here’s the graph for the classic series. You can see the real graph here, but the image to the left has the Doctors indicated. I don’t have much time today to really look at this graph, but here are few interesting points.

First, there are few very important things to note about the data itself.

  • The dots indicate episode parts, not episodes themselves. For example, “The Caves of Androzani” is made up of four parts, and so there are four dots on the graph for it. Another important point is that the early episodes had different names for their parts, such as the first episode is in total made up of “An Unearthly Child,” “The Cave of Skulls,” “The Forest of Fear,” and “The Firemaker.”
  • The number of user ratings per dot are much lower for the classic series than for the modern series. These averages are calculated from 100-200 user ratings, while the modern series’ averages are calculated from 1000-2000 user ratings.

In general, it seems that the average rating for each season is about 7.5 across the whole classic series, with a couple of very notable exceptions: the Second Doctor’s second season, the Third Doctor’s first season, the Fourth Doctor’s first three seasons (Sarah Jane and Leela), and the Seventh Doctor’s first season. I don’t really know much about the history of the show itself, so I don’t know why his first season was so bad, but… wow. Not a single episode rated above 7.0. He definitely makes up for it in his last season though.

It looks like the show’s best and most consistent time was from the beginning of the Third Doctor through the third season of the Fourth Doctor: only rarely did the episodes dip below 7.0. I’d be interested in seeing what kinds of changes in the production staff happened at the beginning of season 15 that caused the quality to even back out to 7.5 again. The show’s most inconsistent season is season 6, the Second Doctor’s last season, which has some of the lowest- and the highest-rated episodes in the entire show.

One season that’s worth looking at is season 21, the Fifth Doctor’s last season. Mr. Davison has been quoted as saying that if he had known how good that last season was going to be, he wouldn’t have left the show at that point, and the ratings show this: it started with a low episode (“Warriors of the Deep”), but then shot up and ended the Fifth Doctor’s tenure on one of the best episodes in the entire series. Sadly, the average and slope of the ratings line are destroyed by the Sixth Doctor’s debut episode “The Twin Dilemma,” which unusually counts for season 21, instead of the Sixth Doctor’s first season, season 22.

One other thing that I noticed was that while “The Trial of a Time Lord” is usually mentioned as being one of the low points of the series, on this graph its episodes average around 7.5, the same as most of the other seasons’ averages, and its ratings are tightly clustered around that average, so there aren’t any truly poorly-rated episodes.

That’s that for now. Hopefully I’ll be able to write regularly, but if not, see you all next week! To days to come!

Playing favorites

doctor-who-companions-63-13My husband asked me today to list my three favorite companions. Now, number one should come as no surprise to anyone who’s read what I’ve written before: Donna Noble is definitely the best. No question. No hesitation. Just the best. But the top three? That took a bit more thought, and I realized that I could probably name my top five, but I had a lot of problems with top three. So, here are my top five companions, not listed in order, except of course with Donna at the top. (I’m counting only traveling companions, not one-shots and few-shots like Jackson Lake, Wilfred Mott, and Craig Owens. Also please note that I’m not very familiar with the companions of the first three Doctors and a few of the other classic companions.)

Five Favorite Companions

Donna Noble: Donna was the perfect support for the Tenth Doctor. She acted as his conscience, and was the friend that he needed. She was always willing to defend her beliefs and was strong enough to stand up for herself, even against the Doctor. Both she and the Doctor grew while they were together.

Sarah Jane Smith: A strong, confident, fearless  woman, she was always willing to get right into the heart of the problem. She also worked well with all of the Doctors she met. I think a lot of Sarah Jane’s appeal had to do with her actress, Elisabeth Sladen, a woman who just sparkled on screen.

Vislor Turlough: One of the things I really like about Turlough is that he had secrets. His introductory stories were about his deal with the Black Guardian, which bound him to trying to kill the Doctor. The only other episode of his I have seen so far is “Planet of Fire,” and again, in that, we find out about his history on Trion, which he has guarded up until this time. He’s a survivalist, which makes him look a bit cowardly, but this makes him more realistic, as well as rounds out his character.

Ace McShane: Ace was a rough-and-ready street urchin, a great complement for the educated, sophisticated, and cunning Seventh Doctor. She was straightforward and unapologetic, and sometimes her decisions would cause more trouble than they would solve, but that’s how she was.

Rory Williams: Rory was loyal to the Eleventh Doctor without being obsessed with him, an important contrast to Amy. Thus, his motivations were far more complex, and it also allowed him to be a less than perfect companion: he was fearful of danger, worried for Amy, and distrusting of the Doctor.

Honorable Mentions

Tegan Jovanka: I haven’t seen enough Tegan, I think. She’s brash, blunt, and obnoxious – in short, a lot of fun.

Barbara Wright: I’ve only seen two First Doctor episodes, but I really loved Barbara in both of them. She’s not a sympathetic character, but she’s confident and takes charge when she needs to.

Companions I Don’t Like

Rose Tyler: Not a popular opinion, I know. I liked her a lot more in series 1, but in series 2, during the show’s “let’s see how silly the Doctor can be when he’s in love” stage, she’s insufferable. She’s whiny and selfish, manipulates the Doctor when she can, and treats everyone else like crap (especially Mickey, but also Jackie). Her writing was also erratic, portrayed as a strong, take-charge person in one episode and a cringing coward in the next. During the Darlig Ulv Stranden scene, I cried for the Doctor, but was glad to see Rose go.

Melanie Bush: I’ve only seen her in “Time and the Rani,” which was a terrible episode, but Mel made it so much worse. I am hoping she turns out to be better when she’s in a non-terrible episode.

Clara Oswald: The “Impossible Girl” arc was interesting, but Clara herself has no character. She simply seems to exist as a deus ex machina for stories in which the Doctor doesn’t win. And then suddenly we find out that she fancies him, with no previous, in-character clues. I’m hoping she’s treated better in the new series.

 

“Robot”

Perfect outfit, Doctor!

Perfect outfit, Doctor!

“Robot” was the first Tom Baker episode ever, with Sarah Jane Smith as his companion previous to his regeneration and with the introduction of Harry Sullivan as his second companion. It was a bit jarring to return to watching a 1974 episode after the 1988 “Remembrance of the Daleks,” but the episode was excellent enough to make me forget that I’d gone back in time 14 years in terms of production values.

Spoilers, ho!

Since “Robot” is a regeneration episode, the first part of it was taken up with the usual hijinks that happen after the Doctor regenerates, and it was certainly fun. The Doctor started out addled enough that the Brigadier orders bedrest for him, and Harry was assigned to take care of him. He attempted to leave, and when Harry tried to stop him, he outwitted the UNIT doctor by basically confusing him with his eccentric behavior. Why the Brigadier didn’t tell Harry that the Doctor was going to be a handful, I don’t know. Later on, after the rest of the story had started, the Doctor tried on many possible costumes, which the Brigadier rightfully disapproved of, until he finally came out of the TARDIS wearing the Bohemian outfit and long scarf that we all know and love. Great scene!

The rest of the episode is about the eponymous robot, which was created in a think tank which, unbeknownst to anyone else, secretly wanted to rid the world of unintelligent people and rule by (their version of) science. The interesting part of the episode was the treatment of the robot: it had a “don’t harm humans” prime directive, but the think tank deliberately gave it commands to kill humans, so that it would become confused (“Do I do what was ordered, or do I follow the prime directive?”), and eventually it broke down and became psychotic. The only human it respected was Sarah Jane, who, due to her experiences with the Doctor with aliens and robots, recognized that the robot was sentient and displayed care and understanding of it. The episode was a study of sentience and how humans can easily mistreat other sentient creatures.

Another thing I liked about this episode was its unusual structure. Because the Doctor was incapacitated for the first part of the episode, the story had to be carried by the other characters. Sarah Jane went out to investigate the think tank under the guise of her job as a journalist, and the Brigadier investigated the mysterious thefts and attacks that were going on at military and research centers. It gave us a bit of a look at what the humans would do if a situation came up and the Doctor wasn’t around, something that we don’t get to see again until “The Christmas Invasion” (as far as I know, anyway).

One last thing, which I probably wouldn’t have noticed if we hadn’t been watching whatever episodes happen to be in the house at the time, is that the Fourth Doctor seemed in this episode to be a lot more likable than he was later. I’m referring to him in “The Horror of Fang Rock.” In “Robot, he seemed charmingly eccentric, while in THoFR, he was nearly offensively random – at a few points, he had completely non-sequitur outbursts that almost felt like the writer said, “Oh, he needs to be eccentric, so let’s just make him yell something random here.”

Bottom line, “Robot” was a pretty good episode, not the best, but certainly above average, and a great introduction to the new Doctor.

Favorite scenes – Tenth Doctor

David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor

David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor

Here is a list of favorite scenes from the Tenth Doctor, who, I should note, is the Doctor I know the best, so the list is longer than you might expect. This list is in broadcast order, not in any ranking order.

“The Christmas Invasion” – The Doctor appears: From “Did you miss me?” to “No second chances. I’m that sort of a man,” the Doctor keeps up what amounts to a twenty minute monologue which demonstrates to us exactly who he is.

“School Reunion” – Sarah Jane meets the Doctor: Just beating out John Smith’s stunned babbling when seeing Sarah Jane for the first time in hundreds of years, this scene has Sarah Jane confronting the man who ran out on her thirty years before. Ms. Sladen switches beautifully between surprise, hope, love, and anger, all in the course of a short couple of minutes.

“The Girl in the Fireplace” – The Doctor is stranded: This is one of the episodes in which my favorite scene is probably very unexpected. The Doctor looks up at the stars, realizing that he’s now living with the humans just like they do, and may never return to the TARDIS and the rest of the universe again. He starts to think about what that really means, and how he’s going to survive. I couldn’t find a video that showed just this one scene.

“The Age of Steel” – Mickey triumphant: Once the Doctor regenerated into his tenth form, he started to respect Mickey more, though he still always put him down. At the end of this episode, the Doctor instructs Mickey clandestinely on how to shut down the Cybermen, relying on his computer skills. Mickey succeeds and then rescues them all from the exploding factory. Mickey finally comes into his own right here.

“42” – The Doctor in the stasis chamber: Fighting back against his possession by the sentient star, the Doctor instructs Martha to put him in the stasis chamber. He cries out, “I’m scared! I’m so scared!” and it’s not because he’s afraid of dying, but because he knows that if he loses the battle, he’s going to kill everyone on board. The Doctor showing fear is chilling, and the reason for it is still so the Doctor.

“The Family of Blood” – The Doctor returns to Nurse Redfern: For all of the wonderful scenes in this, my favorite episode, the final scene with Nurse Redfern is still the best. After we’ve watched an hour and a half of Mr. Tennant as John Smith, the human teacher living his life and falling in love, now he’s back to playing the Doctor, and the contrast between them is startling. Even though he’s no different than the Doctor in any other episode, he feels alien here, and perhaps for the first time we truly realize that he doesn’t think and feel like humans do. He invites Nurse Redfern to travel with him, in an attempt to give her hope and love, but only succeeds in being cruel, because as the Doctor, he can’t truly understand her. (The video link only shows half of the scene. The other half can be found by the same poster, under “scene 16.”)

“The Last of the Time Lords” – The death of the Master: I really don’t have much to say about this one. It makes me cry every time.

“Time Crash” – The whole thing: I’m just going to call this one long scene and say that everything about it is wonderful: the writing, the acting, the humor, the interactions between the two Doctors, the tribute to the Fifth Doctor. If I could call it an episode, it’d be at the top of my favorite episode list.

“The Fires of Pompeii” – “Donna, human, no!”: From the Time Lord and the audience perspective (because we know how the laws of time work), Donna may be wrong, but this scene establishes the lengths she’s willing to go through when she thinks she’s right. She’s willing to stand up to the Doctor and fight, without whining or complaining, and without backing down.

“The Poison Sky” – Luke saves the Doctor: Two things about this scene. First, Luke, the completely unlikable genius, redeems himself, without fanfare or heaps of schmaltz. Second, when the Doctor returns from the Sontaran ship, Martha hugs him and Donna punches him. They are completely in-character, and it’s little things like this that make this show so good.

“Journey’s End” – Genesis of the Meta-Crisis Tenth Doctor: Not the actual birth of the MCTD, but the interaction between him and Donna. Mr. Tennant and Ms. Tate work together so well, and to top that off, Mr. Tennant plays the Tenth Doctor with Donna’s mannerisms. Excellent performances from both of them. Sadly, I couldn’t find a video for this.

“The Next Doctor” – Jackson Lake’s story: Jackson Lake’s story is so beautiful, and David Morrissey’s performance in this scene is heartrending.

The End of Time – Four knocks: For all that I love the end of The End of Time, from the moment Gallifrey appears to the Doctor’s regeneration, the best scene from it is when Wilf knocks and the Doctor realizes that he hasn’t escaped his fate. For once, the Doctor voices the thoughts he normally keeps inside: that he doesn’t want to die, he wants to keep fighting, that he wonders what makes someone else’s life more valuable than his own, and, finally, that he’s lived too long. Then, like the Doctor always does, he sacrifices himself for someone else. I couldn’t find this video either.