An Unearthly Journey: Doctor Who, Season Two

doctor who classic title cardContinued from here, this series follows me on my erstwhile adventures through Classic Who. We left off on my review of the original Season One; now let’s act a little out of character as Doctor Who fans and proceed directly to the next season in chronological order.

I actually finished watching the First Doctor a while ago, and never really got around to posting about it. (I tend to watch while I sew, and with no conventions since Comic Con, I haven’t had a lot of time.) There are still two seasons with One in them after S2, but there are too many good episodes to talk about in this season to bother trying to mush all three remaining Hartnell seasons into one post.

So, without further ado, onto the review!

Season Two has some really fun episodes of both the historical and science-fictional bents. In no particular order, let’s look at all of them, because I think they’re all worth mentioning.

One of my favorites in this season was “The Romans”, which was set mostly in and around Nero’s court. Fun fact: the Tenth Doctor references the events of this episode in “The Fires of Pompeii”—how’s that for continuity?

“Planet of Giants” is a sort of silly episode, but still pretty fun. It isn’t really historical or even very science-fictional in a Doctor Who-y way; instead Team TARDIS has a Honey-I-Shrunk-the-Kids style adventure while accidentally miniaturized.

“The Crusade” was also fun, although it was missing two episodes due to junking. It features Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, and although the entire Palestinian cast of characters is whitewashed, the portrayal of Saladin as more kind and sensible than the British king in this episode is pretty astonishing, considering the time in which it was written.

“The Dalek Invasion of Earth” and “The Chase” are both Dalek-focused serials written by Terry Nation himself; in the former we say goodbye to the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan, thereby losing our first companion, when she decides to stay on Earth with a boy she’s met. The latter was also a good episode, with the Doctor and his companions on the run through time and space from Daleks who were plotting to kill the Doctor. As depressing as that sounds, and even given the fact that Ian and Barbara also leave in this episode, I actually really liked “The Chase” and thought it had a lot of funny moments.

“The Rescue”, which was the shortest serial in the season with only two parts, introduces a new companion, though, so we’re not totally alone again. Vicki is pretty fun, and enjoyably spunky.

“The Space Museum” had a pretty interesting timey-wimey concept—the idea that the TARDIS could land out of sync with a proper timeline, marooning the Doctor and co. in a mysterious museum, a few seconds out of sync with the museum’s inhabitants.(Remember how the Daleks hid the stolen planets in “Journey’s End”? Sort of like that.)

“The Time Meddler” introduced the Meddling Monk, who is a rogue Time Lord, apparently a recurring character, and who just wants to help improve the human race by, well, meddling. In this episode, the Doctor finds him busting up the Prime Directive by giving super-advanced technology to the side that was supposed to lose the Battle of Hastings, and he and Vicki and other new companion Steven (who’s a bit of a skeptic) have to stop the Monk before he puts history all out of wack.

I did find “The Web Planet”, which featured a lot of drama between two different bug-like species on some far-off planet, sort of boring and confusing. There were just too many different kinds of species and technology and political drama all dropped into one serial and I had trouble keeping my Menoptra straight from my Zarbi and my Animus.

This is the most enjoyable season of Hartnell’s Who that I’ve seen, in the end. The show was originally intended to be an educational show for children, and I think the first season had a hard time finding its footing once the producers realized that it could be interesting to a larger group and tried to adapt it. In this season I think that the show really grew into its skin and delivered a lot of well-written, fast-paced, dramatic-but-fun adventure this time around. I also liked that there were some change-ups in the companion zone—I think dealing with the decision to stay with or leave the TARDIS is one of those times when you can really understand a person’s character and motivations, and the switchups keep the cast feeling fresh and interesting.