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Doctor Who: The Complete Second Season 2006 boxset (DVD series review).

I’m going to do this as I did season one. I reviewed the episodes when they first came out, so I’m going to focus on the audio commentaries and extras. Be grateful, it would be a much longer review than it is now otherwise but that’s ‘Doctor Who’ for you. Bigger on the inside. Speaking of which in the credits, David Tennant is now ‘The Doctor’.

With the opening special, there is no explanation who changed the Doctor into pyjamas. I doubt if Rose’s mother was present.

The Audio Commentaries

For the opening special, ‘The Christmas Invasion’, you have to go to the set-up to activate the commentary from producers Julie Gardner, Phil Collinson, and Russell T. Davies because they have a visual box where you can see them talking and trying to keep on their Christmas hats. At least it’s easier to activate this time. They delve into a wide range of topics, including the Santas’ human hands and the locations of filming in London and Cardiff. They are also the first to film on top of the Tower of London. There were 30 pages of notes about Torchwood when it was recorded. Davis also has no idea how the Sycorax could control type A blood. I’m eI’m equally perplexed as to why AB blood types remained unaffected. well Caverns served as the filming location for the cave scenes. The eWe filmed the episode over 24 days, omitting details such as Jackie Tyler giving the unconscious Doctor shampoo as medication.  understand Collinson’s remarks that he wished Harriet Jones had stayed PM. Additionally, it appears they didn’t consider the cleanup process for the Sycorax ashes. Oh, this version of the credits notes David Tennant as ‘Doctor Who’, just to show I’m paying attention.

For the first episode, ‘New Earth’, we have director James Hawes, executive producer Julie Gardner, and visual effects supervisor Will Cohen, all giving plenty of information. The episode took 12 days to film, but there were a lot of pick-up scenes later. The filming of the TARDIS arriving in the future took place in the middle of a Force 9 gale. Looking at what was real and CGI becomes an adventure in itself, proving that these commentaries are useful for quiz material.

For the second episode, Tooth and Claw’, we have showrunner Russell T Davies, visual effects supervisor David Houston, and special effects supervisor Stephen Nicholas. Undoubtedly, Wales served as the filming location for the majority of the interior scenes. Budget restrictions meant they couldn’t do bullet-time effects, so it has to make people wonder: with the extra funding now, would he do it now? Combat isn’t the sole reason for its implementation. The commentary focused a lot on what was real and what wasn’t. Davies penned the script a mere ten days after the initial selection failed to grasp the concept or provide the required information. With the kitchen, he also corrects that it wasn’t mistletoe that drove the werewolf from the kitchen, just that women weren’t its prey. Davies also inquires about the Doctor’s previous knighthood, implying that he was referring to the McCoy Doctor, who was believed to be Merlin at that time.

For the third episode, ‘School Reunion’, we have actor David Tennant, writer Toby Whithouse, and executive producer Julie Gardner. The latter reveals that she did Phil Collinson’s job for a week but ended up running late due to costs. Russell T. Davies insisted on changing Whithouse’s original script from a military base to a school. Tennant reveals that this was the second episode filmed, as well as the problems with ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement) in finding the same emotion for repeating the dialogue to get around other sounds when recording. The K-9 in the final scene was the one original special effects guru Mat Irvine kept in his garage. Objectively, I still think this is one of my favourite episodes. Who couldn’t top Sarah-Jane finding the TARDIS and the Doctor greeting her?

For the fourth episode, ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, we have a second visual audio commentary with producer Phil Collinson and actors David Tennant and Sophie Myles, both of whom worked previously in ‘Foyle’s War’. The shape of the spacecraft, resembling a key, was a revelation to me, and given our brief glimpses of its exterior, I suspect most viewers would have missed it. The most expensive item was the amount of carbon dioxide needed to feed the jacks and, I imagine, the extinguishers. Observe the clocks closely to detect any malfunctions. Myles describes being in costume with others in modern dress as making a difference in the way they walked. Helen Mirren originally wore one of her costumes in the 1994 film ‘The Madness of King George’. David Tennant points out that he normally uses prescription glasses, but I do wonder if the pair he wears as a doctor are also prescribed lenses. France was home to three stately homes.

For the fifth episode, Rise of the Cybermen’, we have actors Noel Clarke, Camille Coduri, and Jake Simmonds. Clarke is forever leg-pulling, but both he and Coduri are knowledgeable and know various production teams. Filming for the episode took place in London, Newport, and Cardiff, despite the challenging weather conditions. There’s an interesting point about the doctor calling Mickey ‘Ricky’ as if he’s aware of the alternative version. The earpods kept popping out of their ears. Coduri, padded out for both parts, is happy to be free of the mean Jackie Tyler’s tracksuit bottoms for a change. There were only ten real cybermen.

For the sixth episode, ‘The Age of Steel’, we have a visual commentary with director Graeme Harper, cyber-leader Paul Kasey, and cyber-voice Nicholas Briggs. There’s a lot of technical info here, especially on connecting scenes filmed in different places. The inside of Battersea Power Station is actually a brewery. The information about the Cybermen is more telling. Wearing the costume does not keep them warm; it is composed of fibreglass and metallic elements and has poor visibility, especially if the eyelights are on. Y’know, considering how many cybermen have been created over the years, you would think someone somewhere would make it easier for the actors inside. Of course, they could do it like they did in the original series, using the real thing. Harper’s comment on the Cyberman attitude is, ‘So what?’

For the seventh episode, ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’, we have actor David Tennant, production designer Edward Thomas, and prosthetics technician Charlie Bluett doing the audio commentary. Despite the motorcycle’s occasional malfunction, this episode was one of the most expensive to produce. DVD players powered 25 real TVs in total. Tennant describes his quiff as taking half an hour to make the first time, then down to a quarter of an hour. The street should have been in Crouch End if it were to see the television mast, and the one created was 20 feet high. I challenge anyone to distinguish between the blurred faces created by The Mill and those that were genuine.

For the eighth episode, ‘The Impossible Planet’, we have a visual commentary with visual effects guru Will Cohen and actors David Tennant and Shaun Parkes, with a lot of reveals. For instance, a single stretch of corridor undergoes constant repainting, and due to its complexity and budget, the two-parter was the last to film at the Newport studio. The tenant also revealed a passion to eat an ood tentacle. Gabriel Woolf, the voice of the Beast, was also the voice of Sutekh in the Tom Baker story ‘The Pyramids of Mars’. Nobody seems to acknowledge the crew’s Torchwood affiliation, which prompts me to inquire: Shouldn’t they have received information about the Doctor?

For the ninth episode, ‘The Satan Pit’, we have director James Strong, actor Ronnie Jhutti (who played Danny Bartock), and editor Mike Jones. The most significant aspect is that the recording took place in a frigid February, and the three-day filming in the tunnel severely damaged all of their knees. Jones gleefully reveals he never had to go on location, but I wish he talked more about the editing process.

For the tenth episode, ‘Love & Monsters’, the audio commentary is with actress Camille Coduri, director Dan Zeff, and producer Julie Gardner. This is a Doctor-Lite episode, as David Tennant and Billy Piper were off doing the previous two-parter and being outside as a treat when they popped in. Coduri worked with actor Mark Warren in ‘A Touch of Frost’ and took three shirts to get the right wine spill. They all think this is a happy episode, although considering the citizen death count was 3½, I’m less sure. The creature, the Abzorbaloff, was originally intended to be as high as two decker buses, according to Blue Peter winner William Grantham. William Grantham did not design the LINDA group to be geeky, but rather to represent ordinary people living or dying in unusual circumstances. It also carries the first reference to Mr. Saxon.

For the eleventh episode, ‘Fear Her’, writer Matthew Graham worked with executive producer Julie Gardner. The episode, ‘Fear Her’, took place in the winter, but thankfully on sunny days, a fact they made sure to highlight. I do think they should have pointed out that the overall temperature of the street had dropped, though. Reading behind the lines here, Russell T. Davies gave a lot of guidance on what he needed in this episode. Gardner thinks this is a sad episode, and Graham thinks it’s all about loneliness, taking aspects of the second film version of ‘Invasion of the Bodysnatchers’. They both agreed that young actress Abisola Agbaje, who played Chloe Webber, was exceptional, but after looking up her credits, nothing has changed, which is a shame.

The twelfth episode, ‘Army of Ghosts, has actors Noel A. Clark (pondering over using his middle initial), Raji James, and Tracy-Ann Oberman (who was pregnant at the time); the latter two didn’t have to audition. All of them, being avid fans of ‘Doctor Who’, engaged in intense debates among themselves, particularly regarding the role of the Doctor. They debated whether the Doctor would ever be a female, even pregnant, a different colour, or even an alien. The Torchwood black floor had to be continually cleaned because any dirt was easily seen. Oberman points out that there were only 10 practical Cybermen, all of whom were accompanied by dishy men. The military extras were all serving or had served in the army. Clarke started some debate on who built the Torchwood Tower and whether the Official Secrets Act would have kept it quiet. In my view, the construction of the Torchwood tower in Canary Warf, surrounded by other skyscrapers, likely led to their ignorance of what they were undertaking. There is lots to digest here.

The thirteenth episode, ‘Doomsday’, has a video commentary with David Tennant and Billie Piper, with the former saying this was his favourite story. They both compare notes on different types of acting, such as yawning. Three cameras filmed the explosion in the Dalek room in real time. The magna-clamps were heavier than medicine balls, although neither explains how they stuck to the walls. They recorded their final scene in five takes, two at a distance, with only ten people having access to the last ten pages.

The Extras

Unlike season one, there are only extras on disc #1, which runs for 8 minutes. We have the ‘Outtakes’, and the funniest is seeing the cybermen playing around, especially in the park. Some have commented on the difficulty of seeing and moving in the armour, but this version appears remarkably light. The ‘Deleted Scenes’ are just that, running for 10 minutes, and actor Marc Warren as Elton from the episode ‘Love & Monsters’ seems to have the most time lost. ‘Billy’s Diaries’, which runs for 4 minutes, features behind-the-scenes scenes from episodes 3 and 1 in that order. In the latter, we witness the interior of the make-up room and the process of matching photos for specific scenes. One digital task involved removing a spot from Billie Piper’s forehead. After all the episodes of the season, it’s essential to see all three of these.

One that doesn’t but really should be seen before the first episode is the 3-minute ‘Children in Need’, as it features the Tennant Doctor trying to navigate the TARDIS to Barcelona of all places, but then decides to go to London prior to collapsing.

Oddly, that’s it for an extra on the episode discs this time. On the final disc, we have 13 ‘Doctor Who Confidentials, running for 12 minutes each. Reviewing them alongside the original episodes felt more like reacquainting myself with them, as the focus was on the actual events rather than any potential for future predictions. I think one of the biggest surprises is how David Tennant can grow a beard overnight. Russell T. Davies also says he would never kill a companion, and yet there are now three more that the Doctor couldn’t save or totally save.

David Tennant’s Video Diary, akin to a podcast, spans 85 minutes, prompting me to divide it over two days for optimal consumption, thereby justifying the purchase of the boxset. It gives insight into Tennant’s insecurities after nine months of filming and getting behind, as we see work behind and in front of the scenes. We observe Cybermen donning coats for warmth, utilizing wrist-to-wrist elastic bands to overcome their limited peripheral vision during group marches, and dealing with an uncooperative feline. We also get to meet the MacDonald clan and do other tasks, such as appear on Blue Peter and pose for publicity photographs. Two-thirds through, we are told about the wrap party but not shown, and then Tennant goes back to other episodes. He does believe that a nine-month stint before returning to normal life has led to institutionalization. It’s fun to see his delight at being turned into a toy and given a prototype. However, he is mistaken, as there have been previous toys featuring doctors and other similar characters.

Have I said enough? I do think this is one of my favourite seasons because so much is going on, mixing in the past, present, and future. It’s time to review the past.

GF Willmetts

May 2024

(pub: BBC. 6 DVDs 660 minutes 13 * 50 minute episodes with extras. ASIN: BBCDVD2122)

cast: David Tennant, Bille Piper, Noel Clarke, Camille Coduri and many, many more

UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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