About this blog

This is the official blog of Phoenix Roleplaying, a multi-genre simming site, created in August 2010.

Run by the players, we hope to achieve great things.

Where our journey takes us, who knows.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Aliens, Smith and Jones ('Doctor Who' Season 29/Series 3, 2006-7)

Well, we've found some more missing episodes... nine of them in fact. I've updated the article on Season 5 to reflect this amazing find. What's even more amazing is that these two stories topped the UK iTunes for Film and Television the week when they came out - and also are doing very well on Amazon.

2007 saw a major change in British television with the launch of the BBC's on demand service, iPlayer. This service, which other UK networks soon copied, allowed online viewing of most BBC programming for a week after transmission - and would seriously alter British viewing habits. The BBC regularly releases reports on how many views its most popular programmes get on iPlayer - and Doctor Who regularly gets well over a million, if not two million.
ITV, seeing the success of the show, attempted to get in on the act with their own time-travel/fantasy show, Primeval, involving a variety of scientists dealing with prehistoric creatures (frequently dinosaurs) coming through anomalies into the present day - the first season aired in the early part of 2007. While getting good reviews (although its lack of ethnic minority cast was criticised by RTD) and fairly good ratings, it was cancelled after three seasons in the context of a major financial loss for the third channel - they simply didn't have the money for it. A co-production deal with digital channel Watch and German broadcaster ProSieben led to two more seasons in 2011, but a Canadian spinoff last year was axed after one season. It is probably fair to say that the show is extinct - it never endangered Doctor Who (the only time they were scheduled against each other, Doctor Who won comfortably with the 2009 Easter Special "Planet of the Dead").
The third season of the revival saw Tennant now fully settled into his award winning tenure as the Doctor. The show's international success was assured - it had even been sold to The Sci-fi Channel in the US and its domestic success would continue, as a new companion stepped into the TARDIS.
Martha Jones - is there an actual doctor in the house?[1]
Medical student Martha Jones (later Dr Martha Smith-Jones) gets a good deal of stick for fans for not being Rose and for falling in love with the Doctor, then clearing off when she found it he didn't love her back. While she's not my favourite companion, I've got to call myself a Martha fan.
(Martha's family make a number of appearances, but are not as prominent as the Tylers)
Frema Agyeman (1979-), the first non-white woman to play a companion - she's of mixed Ghanian and Iranian heritage., added a second e to her first name to become Freema Agyeman when she started acting so people said her name correctly, started off in TV in Carlton's 2001-3 revival of the long-running and notoriously cheap ATV/Central soap opera Crossroads as Lola Wise.
Once that was canned, she did a small number of guest parts, including two different ones in The Bill before getting the part of Adeola Oshodi in "Army of Ghosts", her role there (where she was killed off) getting her part of Martha Jones, later stated to be the former's cousin. She was written out at the end of the season by RTD, who decided that the unrequited love arc wouldn't work into a second season - with the aim of bringing Martha back into the part for Season 30 a little older and wiser.

While she did make a number of further appearances (six more in Tennant's era) and even did a stint in Torchwood, further appearances were precluded by her next big role. Before that, she appeared as Tattycoram in a BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit (alongside two other Torchwood alumni) and was prominently featured in the publicity for the BBC remake of Terry Nation's Survivors... where she got killed off by the global pandemic in the first episode.
Agyeman in fact switched channels at this point, appearing in 39 episodes of Law & Order: UK, playing junior prosecutor Alesha Philips, later alongside former Doctor Peter Davison. Her role in that came to an end when she headed stateside to appear on the CW's 1980s prequel to Sex and the City, The Carrie Diaries, which is due to start it second run on 25 October in the US.

This was another 14 episode run with a concert for Children in Need and a animated episode for CBBC thrown into the mix. The third lot of episodes doesn't have an outright stinker like the previous two, although many were distinctly unimpressed by the Dalek two parter. The Doctor gained a second regular costume - a blue suit to provide some variation from his brown pinstripe (for one thing, it was easier to animate).

The logo was slightly altered, changing the font and making the design a bit cleaner.

The 'arc words' for this one were 'Mister Saxon', a mysterious British politician who would soon be causing Team TARDIS a lot of problems...
The Runaway Bride (60-minute Christmas special)
When a rather annoyed bride turns up in his TARDIS, the Doctor is in for a very turbulent Christmas.
The first appearance of Donna Noble, this Christmas special contains some pretty enjoyable moments, including the sight of the TARDIS flying down a highway, something that RTD had wanted to see since childhood. Donna is pretty annoying - she improved considerably on her later appearances, but the characterisation of the character made her announcement as a regular cause some considerable consternation among fans.

This story was intended for Season 28, but put back when the third Christmas special was ordered.
Smith and Jones
A group of alien police officers steal a hospital[2] and take it to the Moon... with the Doctor, plus one Martha Jones inside.
The first appearance of the popular 'space rhino' Judoon (if there's a major Doctor Who event involving monsters in costume, expect one to turn up) and featuring a villain who sucks blood through a drinking straw [Must be a sharp straw - Ed.], this one has a good number of moments but drags a bit towards the end.
The Shakespeare Code
The Doctor takes Martha to London in 1599, where strange things are going down.
Written by Gareth Roberts, a big Shakespeare fan who included him as a character when he'd previously written a Ninth Doctor comic strip for Doctor Who Magazine, this enjoyable tale contains lots of jokes about Shakespeare, including over claims he was bisexual and the soon-to-be-published final Harry Potter novel[3].
The costumes and sets (not to mention the trip to London to film in the reconstructed Globe Theatre) cost a fair bit of money, but BBC Wales were able to re-dress these sets for other things, including for The Sarah Jane Adventures.
The time travellers return to New Earth, where they discover an epic traffic jam and the Doctor learns a big secret...
The final part of a loose trilogy of stories (starting with "The End of the World") focussing on the human race in the far future and featuring the ancient Face of Boe, this pretty good story written by an atheist ironically got nominated for an award for the positive depiction of faith.
This is also the 727th episode of the series, the point at which the show beat the entire Star Trek television franchise for most episodes aired[4].
Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks
In New York in 1930, the Cult of Skaro (the four surviving Daleks from "Doomsday") continues to try to become supreme and further develop their race.
With Helen Raynor becoming the first woman to write for post-2005 Doctor Who, this frankly mediocre tale saw a key plot twist spoiled by RTD for the sake of a Radio Times cover (something the show now has no problems getting) and the first overseas location filming for the BBC Wales era - with second unit establishing shots filmed in New York, as Doctor Who Confidential were going there anyway.

Significant guest stars including Miranda Raison, then of Spooks and since then a number of other things - she's one of those actors who pop up quite frequently on the box in Britain.
The Lazarus Experiment
The Doctor prepares to drop Martha off back home, but then learns of Professor Richard Lazarus and his plan to change what it means to be human...
Featuring Mark Gatiss in front of the camera for a change (as Professor Lazarus), this rather good tale features some nice jokes, including on 'reversing the polarity' and also extensive Mr. Saxon references.

A crazed crewmember sabotages a cargo vessel and sends it, along with the time travellers heading towards a star. They have 42 minutes before impact...
A story that runs in more-or-less real time (a homage to 24 in concept and title), this contains a good number of dramatic moments but is probably one of the weaker stories of this run - it's certainly less remembered.
Aired after a week's break for the Eurovision Song Contest[5], this story saw a bunch of actors (including Michelle Collins, best known for EastEnders) pretending to be in an increasingly hot spaceship while in reality in a disused Welsh warehouse in February... something that required ice cubes and baby oil to a) avoid their breath from misting and b) make them look suitably grimy.
Human Nature/The Family of Blood
In a English private school in 1912, teacher John Smith has a secret... but even he doesn't know that he is the Doctor.
Adapted by Paul Cornell from his novel of the same name as the first part, this story excels at almost every level - brilliant acting (especially from Tennant), a strong story and demonstrating just what happens when you truly get on the wrong side of the Tenth Doctor. It was nominated for the same Hugo that the next episode would win and came sixth in the Doctor Who Magazine Mighty 200 poll, one of two Tennant stories in the Top Ten.
Game of Thrones fans may spot not one, but two actors from the show in this two-parter, which also includes a wonderful reference to Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert.

An abandoned house holds the deadly Weeping Angels and only Sally Sparrow can stop them. All she has to do is not blink...
After last season's dog's dinner of a Doctor-lite tale, this is much better... to the point of winning a third Hugo for Steven Moffat and coming second in the Mighty 200 poll - beaten only by "The Caves of Androzani". Introducing the very popular Weeping Angels, who became an A-List race straight off the bat, this is a superb tale loosely based on a short story by Moffat from the 2006 Doctor Who annual and also features an early role for Carey Mulligan, who would later be nominated for Best Actress for An Education, losing out to Sandra Bullock's role in The Blind Side[6].
Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords (final part 51 minutes long)[7]
When the TARDIS arrives at the Cardiff rift to refuel, Captain Jack jumps onto the ship (literally) and the crew are flung forward to the very far future, where another Time Lord is lying dormant... It's only the start of a very bad year for the three of them.
A suitably epic season finale that features the return of that old favourite the Master, who doesn't have a beard, but does have a wife. While there are some very strong scenes in this, the final episode in which the Tenth Doctor progressively ends up looking like Dobby the House Elf and then Jesus arguably marks the point where RTD began to wear out his welcome.

Did someone order a lunatic? Master No Six[8]
The Master has always been a bit mad; someone who on their first appearance tried to remotely strangle someone with a telephone cord isn't quite right in the head. Over the run of the show he's gotten progressively crazier... and this one is the least sane of the lot. Consider his scheme in this episode, which involves creating a giant paradox.

John Simm (1970-present) born in Leeds, started off supporting his father in performances at working men's clubs[9]. At 16, he started going into musical theatre, but decided it wasn't for him and went for more serious acting, training at the Drama Centre London. He was also in a rock band.
His professional acting debut came in 1992, when he appeared in Rumpole of the Bailey for Thames Television (an earlier BBC role ended up on the cutting room floor) and after a variety of bit parts, including, you guessed it, The Bill, he broke through with a role as a troubled teen in Cracker in 1995. Further film and television roles followed to more acclaim, including Human Traffic and by the time he played a reporter in the BBC political thriller State of Play in 2002 (a highly acclaimed mini-series that got a US film remake), he was clearly a name to watch.
Then came Life on Mars, where he starred as Sam Tyler, a modern day detective who found himself back in 1973 after being hit by a car. While upstaged by Philip Glenister's DCI Gene Hunt[10] (who would also appear in sequel Ashes to Ashes, not featuring Simm), he achieved huge success in a series that won two International Emmys, got him a BAFTA nomination and is considered a masterpiece of 2000s UK TV, probably because it was deliberately ended after two seasons to avoid it going stale.
The Doctor Who role followed shortly after (he took it so his son could have something to watch him in as most of his work is post-watershed) and was well received. Since then, he has appeared in the first season of the BBC historical drama The Village (which aims to cover the life of a Derbyshire village over the 20th century and is planned to last seven seasons) and also in all three seasons of the rather trippy Sky 1 series Mad Dogs, also with Philip Glenister.

The Infinite Quest (animated, 12 3'30" episodes aired as part of Totally Doctor Who and final chapter included in an omnibus broadcast - not officially part of Series 3)
The Doctor and Martha must find a legendary lost spaceship before Baltazar, the scourge of the galaxy.
A full-length episode with Tennant and Agyeman voicing their roles and featuring an animated version of the regular title sequence in its full broadcast, this is a de facto 14th episode and actually pretty good. It's clear why another of these was commissioned for the following run.

Average ratings (not counting iPlayer) were a little down 7.5 million, but no episode went below 6.5 and three from the main run exceeded 8.4 million, with "The Runaway Bride" hitting a final figure of 9.4 million, although the audience does tend to be a little more 'captive' on Christmas Day.
The BBC, fresh off the success of this and Robin Hood, now had another fantasy series in development, which we will discuss next time, as we look at the first part of Season 30, which would last over two years. The Doctor was about to meet another lady, one who was surprisingly bothered...
[1]Whether the Doctor has an actual doctorate in medicine (or anything else for that matter) isn't confirmed; he certainly demonstrates a strong knowledge of the subject and has stated that he studied with Lister (no, not that one) in Victorian Scotland.
[2]The fictitious Royal Hope would later appear in the first episode of Law & Order: UK... albeit as somewhere where a dead baby is found.
[3]The ending of that book is one thing that the film improves on. Since then Rowling has written two adult novels - The Casual Vacancy and The Cuckoo's Calling (under the name Robert Galbraith). The latter (which was not revealed to be penned by her for four months... then shot up in sales once it did so), which I'm currently listening to on audiobook, contains a lead character by the unlikely name of Cormoran Strike. Even Richard Castle from the ABC series Castle (him of Nikki Heat) would reject that as excessively silly.
[4]Though Star Trek beats Doctor Who when it comes to overall screen-time.
[5]Serbia won the contest held in Helsinki, Finland - the UK came joint 22nd (with France) out of 24, gaining 19 points with Scooch.
[6]The previous year she won a Razzie for All About Steve - and collected it!
[7]There is a debate as to whether this is a three-parter or a one-parter and a two-parter. The BBC goes for the latter, but Russell T Davies counted it as a three-parter when he designated "Planet of the Dead" as story 200 and TARDIS Data Core goes with the former too.

[8] Russell T Davies insisted that the anagram of "Master No. Six" (this was the sixth incarnation of the Master as seen on TV) was a coincidence. Pull the other one...
[9]Social clubs for working men, typically found in Wales and the North of England.
[10] The boorishly un-PC Hunt became a rather unlikely sex symbol and cult figure through his (largely unprintable in a family blog) bon mots [Speak English, you soft Southerner! - Gene], combined with considerable swagger. It's no accident I based (and use an image of him for) Pierce Langer on Gene Hunt.

Friday, 11 October 2013

FallFest '13 is tonight!

If you can make it, please come along - details here!

My talk on roleplaying in the universe of Doctor Who is at 10pm BST/5pm EST.

Doctor Who Season 5 (1967/68): More bases under siege

(Article originally published 14 April 2012)

Update - 11 October 2013: The discovery of nine missing episodes from this run in one go has made many of my comments more than a little redundant. I will retain the original text but add my corrections below in italics.

This forty-episode fifth season of Doctor Who is another lost season – only one story is intact and that is only due to it turning up entirely intact in the archives of Hong Kong broadcaster ATV in 1991.[1]

Make that two, with another two essentially intact through reconstructions.

There was another change in production team mid-season, with Innes Lloyd moving on to pastures new and story editor Peter Bryant taking on the producer role. The new story editor was Derrick Sherwin, who appointed Terrance Dicks as an informal assistant. We’ll be hearing more about Mr Dicks as this story progresses – he was and still is a big cheese in Who. The transition was entirely smooth and Bryant saw no reason to change a formula that had been working well.

It would continue to work – despite all bar one story being a “base under siege”, many fans see this as a classic season (although one can’t but wonder if nostalgia plays a part in this as most of the episodes are missing).

The Tomb of the Cybermen (4 episodes, complete)

The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria arrive on the planet Telos, where a group of archaeologists are trying to get into the lost tombs of the Cybermen. The Doctor helps them out, not knowing just what is inside…

The first appearance of the Cybermats, “Tomb” is considered a classic of Troughton era Who, with scenes that live long in the memory. It’s current Doctor Matt Smith’s favourite story and from what I remember of it, I can see why.

The Abominable Snowmen (6 episodes, only Episode 2 survives)

The time travellers arrived at a Tibetan monastery in 1935 – a monastery that is under siege from the robot Yeti…

One of the guest stars in the story, Jack Watling, who played Professor Travers, was actually Deborah Watling’s father.

The Ice Warriors (6 episodes, 1 and 4 to 6 in the archives, but 2 & 3 have been animated for DVD)

Arriving on Earth at the time of a new ice age, Team TARDIS arrive just in time for the revival of a humanoid creature found in a glacier. A humanoid creature who has mates and wants to conquer Earth…

This is the first appearance of the Ice Warriors, one of the B-list Who villains, a large bulky Martian race with a hissing voice. Of course, back then, we thought that Mars might have had some form of life in the past.

I now have this on DVD and a review is planned when I get to watching it.

The Enemy of the World (6 episodes, only Episode 3 survives complete)

A sort of Doctor Who meets James Bond story (it’s the only non-base-under-siege story of Season 5), where the Doctor arrives on Earth in 2017 and is mistaken for Ramón Salamander (Troughton playing both roles), a scientist/politician who is trying to take over the world via causing ‘natural’ disasters… So, the Doctor decides to impersonate him and get to the bottom of this.

Episode 3 was the first story filmed with 625-line video tape as opposed to 405-line, the “high definition” of its day.

Found in Nigeria in 2013 and available on iTunes with a DVD release scheduled. Not sure if I'll buy this one.

The Web of Fear (6 episodes, only episode 1 survives episode 3 missing)

Another go for the Yeti, this time in the London Underground (an excellent recreation in studio), forty years or so after the events of “The Abominable Snowmen”[2]. Probably the story that fans most want to see back, I’ve seen Episode 1 and quite enjoyed it. 

And they've now got it back - episode 3 is currently a telesnap reconstruction from 37 images and the audio, but who knows, it might be animated for DVD?

There’s one other thing that this story is notable for:

Brigadier Sir Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart

Although he’s only a Colonel in this story (and UNIT doesn’t exist at this point in time), “The Web of Fear” is the first appearance of one of Who’s much loved characters. 

Only a pair of boots in Episode 2 and his first full appearance is still missing.

Appearing alongside all seven of the classic Doctors (although one of those was non-canonical) and also appearing in The Sarah Jane Adventures, “The Brig” was a true warrior, facing the unknown while remaining completely unflappable and putting his own life on the line many times. One of the few military men the Doctor really liked, it’s fitting that the Doctor learning of his death is such a pivotal point in “The Wedding of River Song”.

He was played by Nicholas Courtney (1929-2011), a lovely man who I had the honour to meet at one of my local department stores a few years before he passed away – no-one really has a bad word to say about him.

Fury from the Deep (6 episodes, none complete)

Victoria’s last story, this story involving mind-controlling seaweed in a gas refinery has a reputation for being very scary. Pity most of it doesn’t exist in video form… It’s also the first story to feature the sonic screwdriver, favoured ‘get out of jail free’ card of many a Who writer in both the classic and new era.

The Wheel in Space (6 episodes, 3 and 6 available)

With Victoria gone, it was time for another female companion. This one would be Zoe Heriot, mathematician from the 21st century, who combined high intelligence with high hemlines[3]. She joins the TARDIS at the end of an adventure which involves the Cybermen trying to take over a space station – so they can use it to invade Earth.

Following the conclusion of “The Wheel in Space”, a repeat of “Evil of the Daleks” with a specially added voiceover with the Doctor talking to Zoe (as he was mentally relaying the adventure for her to give  an insight into what she’d be facing) was aired. This then led straight into the first story of Season 6, a run that was going to see some classic moments indeed.

[1]Since  Between 1991 and 2013, no other story has been was completed due to the finding of lost episodes.
[2]We’ll be discussing UNIT dating next time.
[3]This, after all, being the late 1960s.

You wait ages for a missing Doctor Who episode...

Then nine turn up at once!

The discovery of the five missing episodes of "The Enemy of the World" and four of the five from "The Web of Fear", along with their immediate release on iTunes (I'll wait for the DVD release) is great news for fans of the world's longest-running science fiction show. It's the biggest haul in three decades - one more than the previous finds combined.

I'll be updating my Season 5 article to reflect these discoveries.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

From the Newsletter: Phoenix gets Graphics Department

Originally published in The Burning Question: Edition 10, July-August 2013

Phoenix forums has acquired a Graphics Department, a forum sec-tion in which several forum members provide their services to design com-missioned banners, logos, avatars and other images.
Graphic Officer is ksabers and cur-rently four players are offering their services: Kevin Diamond, Jason An-dersen, Misty Wilson and Silent Hunter. Each artist has his or her own thread in which creations of these artists can be found. Image requests can be made in a separate thread.

The forum is intended to help people who are not proficient in creating their own images to order an image to their taste to use on the forums. Rules con-cerning the use of created images are posted in a separate thread.

Any player interested in joining as a Graphic Artist is free and welcomed to do so. (mb)

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Starter for Ten ('Doctor Who' Season 28/2, 2005-6)

It's fair to say there has never been a poor Doctor... even Colin Baker has vastly improved his reputation over the years from his Big Finish work.
With one of its leads departing 13 episodes into the run, things could have gone very wrong very quickly for the show. Interestingly enough, it was at this time that Kate Todd departed NCIS in truly dramatic style[1] and was replaced by Ziva David, who was initially played as untrustworthy for an audience who arguably missed the haughty agent... the show went from strength to strength; it ended Season 10 as the most watched scripted show in the US and the 2nd most popular overall[2].
Anyway, enough discussions about women from crime shows and onto a guy who has been in a couple himself...
Fire and Ice and Rage - The Tenth Doctor
The British media site Digital Spy recently held a Best Doctor poll... and the Tenth Doctor won with just over 50% of the vote. It is completely true to say that David Tennant's portrayal has dethroned the previously most popular Doctor, Tom Baker, to be considered the best of the lot.
The Tenth Doctor was certainly a very well-developed character. From his initial "Cockney wideboy in space" persona, a much deeper man emerged. He could be highly enthusiastic, prone to go off on a tangent mid sentence and always attempted to give an enemy a chance to leave without violence. However, he was firmly of the "no second chances"... you angered this guy, you paid hard - very hard.
The human who would play this alien was David McDonald (1971-), far better known by the stage name he had to take for Equity reasons, David Tennant - a surname taken from Neil Tennant of The Petshop Boys. Growing up in Renfrewshire, where his father was a priest and later held the post of Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland - a year long position but a hugely important one for religious Scots ("Sandy" McDonald would later cameo in "The Unicorn and the Wasp"). His love of Doctor Who in his youth led to him in going in to acting - and he went totally starstruck when he actually got to act alongside Lis Sladen.
 After a spot of roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company, he got his TV break with (appropriately enough) Takin' Over The Asylum for BBC Scotland[3], where he played a bipolar contributor to a hospital radio station. Moving to London in the 1990s, lodging with Arabella Weir (who would later appear in "The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe" alongside Tennant's successor), a batch of further television work followed, along with stage work and audio - including Doctor Who stuff for Big Finish, as well as "Scream of the Shalka". He attempted 14 times to get an appearance in STV's Taggart, but did do an episode of The Bill in 1995. There were a couple of series appearance, the biggest of these being the musical series Blackpool in 2004, where he was increasingly considered one to watch. His role as Casanova then followed, working with Russell T Davies for the first time.
Shortly before his debut proper as the Doctor on 25 December 2005, he appeared in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as Death Eater Barty Crouch Jr, although his character spends most of that movie being played by Brendan Gleeson. What screentime Tennant does get allows him to exercise a good deal of evil ham.
His time as the Doctor, where he chose to use an Estuary English accent instead of his native Scottish brogue (a line about Rose's accent 'imprinting' on him got cut from the script), saw him gain considerable critical acclaim and thirteen awards. However, he still wanted to take to the stage and did a highly regarded turn as Hamlet for the Royal Shakespeare Company alongside Sir Patrick Stewart as Claudius - which was subsequently filmed for BBC2, being aired in December 2009 as he was preparing to depart the role of the Doctor. I've seen this and his take on "To be or not to be", which involves Hamlet pointing a gun at his head (it's a modern dress production) is one highlight of an excellent performance.
After Doctor Who, he made an attempt to break into the US with an unbroadcast pilot for a show called Rex Is Not Your Lawyer, where he played a panic attack prone lawyer who helped clients represent themselves, but the show was not ordered to series.[4] A return to the UK followed in due course, where he took leading roles in Single Father and most notably, ITV's highly acclaimed Broadchurch (renewed for a second season and with a US remake planned for next year), as DI Alec Hardy.
Tennant also does a great deal of voice work - he has done a good number of adverts and Party Political Broadcasts[5] for the Labour Party (although he declined to do these while he was playing the Doctor as he didn't want the character to be seen to be politically partial). He also is planning to appear as Richard II, another well known Shakespeare role... I'm going to say that if any Doctor were to get a CBE or even a knighthood, it would be him.
The expansion of the run to 14 full length episodes meant that it became necessary for the creation of a "Doctor-lite" episode to allow for filming these in the same time to do thirteen otherwise; a trend that would continue[6] with the later addition of "companion-lite" episodes. Each episode after "New Earth" saw minute-long "TARDISode" prologues, downloadable from the BBC website and also intended for smartphones. For the second year in a row, the show started on Easter Saturday, something now pretty standard for the show.
Russell T Davies took a slightly reduced role in the writing of the season; it would allow some other writers to shine. Again, these are 45 minutes unless specified and two-parters are grouped in the obvious way. The run is a strong one, although it lacks some of the heights of the previous run (most of the writers didn't have the knowledge of Ten that RTD had to this point).
As for grouping, the Christmas specials are generally filmed and production code numbered in-house with the following season (as 2.X in this case), so will go with those.
"Born Again" (7-minute Children in Need special[7])
A canon special that follows the Doctor and Rose in the minutes after the regeneration, this is the shortest televised Doctor Who episode of them all ("Time Crash" is a minute longer). With the fundraising scroller removed at RTD's request, you can focus on a short and quite good scene, albeit one somewhat forgotten - you'd be forgiven for jumping straight to the next story...
The Christmas Invasion (Christmas special, 60 minutes)
The first Doctor Who Christmas special since the questionable in every aspect one that was "The Feast of Steven" (part of the "The Daleks' Master Plan) back in 1965, the show has not skipped a year since and is considered a key part of the BBC1 Christmas Day lineup. It's not hard to see why based on this. While the Tenth Doctor spends much of this episode unconscious, but when he awakes and has fully arrived as the Doctor (albeit in his pyjamas[8]), he rocks from the first line. There's also some political comment in a story that sees the first mention of the Torchwood Institute, most notably a bit on Margaret Thatcher and the sinking of ARA General Belgrano in May 1982 (see my article in The Burning Question #10 for more on that).
This episode also sees a new orchestral arrangement of the closing theme and the change of the lead character's credit back to "The Doctor" at Tennant's request - it has remained so ever since.
New Earth
The Doctor and Rose head to New Earth in 5,000,000,023, where they meet an old friend, an old enemy and a load of cat nuns with a questionable attitude to medical ethics.
A sequel to "The End of the World" that RTD intended to use to show that things would not change with a new Doctor (it also contains the first extrasolar trip since 1989), this had significant production problems - bad weather, damaged props and CGI issues, as well as major rewrites when RTD was advised by Steven Moffat that he had a habit of creating interesting characters and then killing them. While this has some good moments, it ultimately isn't the best of the run.
Tooth & Claw
Team TARDIS arrive in Victorian Scotland, where they have to save a monarch from a werewolf.
An enjoyable episode with a lot of action, including wire work, plus some great lines (including a reference to Jamie). The events of this result in the creation of Torchwood - which will soon employ one Jack Harkness.
School Reunion
The Doctor, Rose and Mickey Smith (her former boyfriend) investigate a haunted school. Also on the case is K9 and Sarah Jane Smith.
Featuring Lis Sladen's first appearance in the show since the non-canon "Dimensions in Time" in 1993 - she took some persuading and with a villain played by Anthony Head (Giles from Buffy), this one is a great story, with some superb moments and one-liners. Indeed, I named a TV Tropes entry after a line from this (The Missus And The Ex) in fact.
This also features the final work done by the BBC Model Unit (responsible for many great models, most notably on Red Dwarf) before it was closed down - it's members, most notably Mike Tucker, went freelance and have contributed to the show since.
At the end of this episode, the Ninth Doctor acquires another companion...
The Tin Human - Mickey Smith
When Rose first appeared, she had a well-meaning but not exactly smart boyfriend named Mickey Smith, a car mechanic - a man obsessed with football, sex and conspiracy theories. Mickey got captured by the Autons and his reaction to alien life did not impress the Doctor, who did not invite him into the TARDIS when he left with Rose - resulting in Smith getting suspected of her murder when she failed to come home for a year. He then proceeded to get considerably better all-round, showing strong computer and physical "hacking" skills in his other Season 27 and 28 appearance, so became a companion as of "School Reunion".

His arc saw him staying in a parallel universe to fight Cybermen and then eventually returning home, seemingly working with Torchwood (a planned appearance in Children of Earth was dropped due to Noel Clarke getting another part). The Rose-Mickey relationship broke down, but he later married her replacement, Dr Martha Jones.

Noel Clarke (1975-present) is the first non-white actor to play a companion in the television series. Hailing from London, his first TV role was in 1999 and after a few guest roles, he appeared in 14 episodes of the BBC revival of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (a comedy drama about a group of British migrant construction workers) from 2002 to 2004, when the run concluded. He then went on to Doctor Who, where he admits he pitched his performance too comedic initially as he thought he was doing a children's show - it gets dialled in for his later appearances.

He also wrote an episode of Torchwood ("Combat") - the first companion to also pen a script for the franchise and also did some BF audio.

Since Doctor Who, he has become a rising actor and especially director, with Kidulthood and sequel Adulthood gaining plaudits for his turn behind the camera, but also acting in films like Storage 24, Fast Girls (a film about an athletics championship that was not the London Olympics as the IOC wouldn't let them use their trademarks) and most recently Star Trek: Into Darkness.

The Girl in the Fireplace
The three TARDIS crew arrive on a deserted spaceship in the future, containing clockwork robots and portals to 18th century France...

Another Hugo-winning story from Steven Moffat, which sees Sophia Myles (who would later have a relationship with Tennant) as Madame de Pompadour, this one contains many a funny line and a thrilling moment, as well as a scene that possibly implies the Doctor discussed Uganda, if you know what I mean, with Louis XIV's mistress. Sad ending too.

Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel
The TARDIS ends up on a parallel Earth, where a new and terrifying race is about to be born...

Partly inspired by a Big Finish audio ("Spare Parts", reviewed on this blog), this two-parter has some great moments and a strong new interpretation of the Cybermen - they even acquire a catchphrase, but ultimately not the best Cyberman story. Noel Clarke gets to play two parts (Mickey and alternate universe version RIcky), with his character chosing to stay here at the end of the story. The lead villain is played by Roger Lloyd Pack, best known for his role as Trigger ("because he looks like a horse") in Only Fools & Horses.

This story also sees the directing return of Graeme Harper in his first of nine contributions to modern Doctor Who.

The Idiot's Lantern
The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II is looming and many people are buying their first television sets... but something is lurking in the airwaves.

An enjoyable episode (although not perhaps best for young Rose fans) with some good jokes - although a "Logopolis" reference got cut from the script before filming; this is a demonstration of why Mark Gatiss keeps getting asked back. It's also a strong early example of what happens when you annoy the Tenth Doctor.

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
A base orbiting a black hole is home to an awaking entity that wants to feed on its crew.

A horror two-parter that has fun with the marker pen and killing guest casts as well as references to HP Lovecraft (especially the Ood, who make their debut here) and Alien - indeed one of its actors appeared in the third film. Might need to rewatch this one; I don't remember being massively keen on it, but it has its moments - as well as an ominous prediction for Rose.
Love & Monsters
A London man by the name of Elton Pope becomes obsessed with the Doctor and Rose, discovering other dangers when he joins a fan club.
The "Doctor and companion-lite" episode (the two regulars only appear in a few scenes), this story focuses on a character played by Marc Warren, a well known British actor who has turned in shows on both sides of the pond. It also features a monster designed through a competition on Blue Peter, the woman who played Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter films and one of the dirtiest jokes yet to feature in any Doctor Who[9].
It's also an extremely poor episode - the worst of this run and quite possibly the worst post-2005.
Fear Her
The 2012 London Olympics are about to begin... but a creature in a girl's closet could ruin that.
One I found OK, but which gets a very bad rep from fans in general for being a bit boring, ranking 192nd in the Mighty 200, the lowest of the post-2005 stories in that poll. This tale is interesting in its setting and depiction of the then recently-won London Games; the logo used is the bid one (the proper one wasn't revealed at this point) and interestingly enough, David Tennant didn't get to carry the torch in RL but Matt Smith did[10].
This is the first explicit discussion of child abuse in Doctor Who, but there have been implications before this - an allusion to paedophilia in "The Empty Child" and going right back to the very first episode, the reason that Ian and Barbara pushed their way into the TARDIS was because they feared Susan was being abused by the Doctor.

Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
A mysterious army of ghosts have appeared... and Torchwood are involved. Little do they know what they are about to unleash...
The first and so far only Daleks vs. Cybermen fight (the former arguably win as they get away), this also sees the debut of the Doctor's "Allons-y!" catchphrase, Graeme Harper directing, Freema Agyeman appearing in a role different to the one she would take the following season, the setting up of the Torchwood spinoff... and the departure of Rose in a heartbreaking manner. She may not have died, but to the Doctor it was basically the same thing.
This is a strong season finale capped by a strong climax, some great deaths and that final moment...
The average ratings, not bolstered by the big debut of "Rose", were a tick down at 7.8 million, with "The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit" averaging about 6.2. This was still however very good all round.
The continuing success of Doctor Who was such that the BBC decided that Saturday evening family drama was worth doing more of - so they launched Robin Hood, a new take on the legend of the redistributive robber that sometimes shot up historical accuracy with a sheaf of arrows. It lasted three seasons (and gave David Harewood a notable role pre-Homeland) before declining ratings and several characters leaving, including Robin himself, led the BBC to pull the plug there.
Russell T Davies was one for subterfuge when it came to concealing plot spoilers... the final scene of "Doomsday" was filmed during the wrap party with the script limited to only those involved (IIRC, it was left off the preview tapes). The previous year had actually seen a fake ending for "The Parting of the Ways" filmed with the intention to drop the regeneration on everyone before Eccleston's departure leaked.

The surprise was kept this time and so after the harrowing departure of Rose Tyler, the Doctor had to come with Catherine Tate turning up in his TARDIS.

It would be a very interesting year for the Time Lord...
[1]The statute of limitations on spoilers isn't quite up for that one. Sasha Alexander now plays a doctor herself... Dr Maura Isles in TNT's Rizzoli & Isles, arguably the funniest of the 'forensic scientist in 4-inch heels' brigade.
[2]And I've just compared the Tenth Doctor to Ziva David... oddly enough, Cote de Pablo was one of the 'played by' possibles for Romana VI.
[3]The BBC regional stations do produce a number of local only shows, such as River City for BBC Scotland, although these can be found in iPlayer and in the upper reaches of the Sky EPG, which has all the BBC versions available.
[4]The fate of most pilots in fact. Every year, hundreds of Anglophone actors try to get cast in pilots that may never make it to air as a full series - sometimes they end up marrying drug dealers and accidentally ODing on heroin (as Uma Thurman's character did in Pulp Fiction)
[5]With political advertising banned on TV, parties are instead allowed to broadcast short films at certain times e.g. during the week of the Budget or during elections to persuade people to vote for them. Most people, myself included, just reach for the remote.
[6]While a good number of US shows happily clear 15 episodes a season or more, Suits (to give one example) is an ensemble show that does not require Gabriel Macht or Gina Torres to, say, engage in night shoots in on the freezing battlements of a Welsh castle, stand in front of a greenscreen and look terrified at a tennis ball, or engage in a running gun battle. Unless Louis Litt were to eat a particularly dodgy steak and start hallucinating.
[7]The story was explicitly left untitled on screen, but the official guides seem to have settled on this one for a title.
[8]This Christmas special was filmed in the midst of a warm June, so David Tennant appreciated being able to run around in his pyjamas while everyone else was wearing thick coats... he also mooned the paparazzi that flock around this show in droves now.
[9]Kids' writers, remembering that adults usually end up watching these things too, frequently chuck in references and jokes that will go over the heads of the younger audience, but be appreciated by the adults. The joke in question just beat another one by Steven Moffat on a similar theme.
[10]The cauldron itself was also not lit by a Time Lord... after much speculation, it was brought into the stadium by Sir Stephen Redgrave, put into seven smaller torches and given to teenage athletes for the actual lighting - which was a nice way of doing it.
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