I’m releasing this post a little earlier than expected; I was halfway through Season 2 of Classic Doctor Who when I made my first rewatch post, so it didn’t take long to catch up. I enjoyed Season 2 considerably more than Season 1 (although neither were bad; rather, the original cast seems to be hitting their stride with Season 2). Here were some of the highlights for me. (Caution: This is not short. I’ll be trying to rein it in with future posts, but there was a lot of ground to cover this time.)
This season was dominated by the Daleks, who, with the second and second-to-last serials, neatly bookended the season. First we have The Dalek Invasion of Earth, set sometime in the 22nd century (theories vary; evidence visible in the episode could place it as early as 2157, but there are reasons to think it’s some years later as well). The Dalek invasion and subsequent resistance, as far as I know, have not been contradicted by any later episodes; and if that is the case, the invasion is hugely important to the future history of the Earth, as it would shape the course of things to come for centuries at least. Perhaps without it, there would be no Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, spanning several galaxies, as seen by the Ninth Doctor; certainly humans would not have flourished and spread in the same way without this struggle to overcome. Also noteworthy: This serial sees Susan’s exit from the TARDIS crew. No doubt it was shocking to audiences at the time, who had no reason to think the cast would ever change. Now, we know that the Doctor (quite literally) changes companions more often than he changes clothes; but Susan was the first to go, just as she was the first companion of all. It was emotional even for me, though I knew it was coming. I liked Susan; she was the victim of bad writing, as the producers famously wouldn’t allow her character much development, but I found her to be likeable enough and to have a lot of unused potential. It will be interesting to see her return in (I think) The Five Doctors when I get there.
Not insignificantly, the Daleks are also responsible for Ian and Barbara’s departures in the penultimate serial, The Chase, if indirectly. Their time machine allows the duo to depart the TARDIS and return home, albeit a few years removed from their original disappearance. I wasn’t expecting this one—I thought they stayed on into the third season—but I was satisfied with their departure. Not many companions get a happy ending, and it was nice to see that these two did. A little research tells me that in the comics, they later marry, and encounter the Eleventh Doctor some time later on; it seems they are still happy and successful. And of course there’s the later reference to an I. Chesterton on the Coal Hill School board of governors (The Day of the Doctor), showing that at least Ian is still with us decades later. (I’ve always liked Ian as a companion, and felt that he sums up all the admirable traits of male companions. He never hesitates to do what’s necessary, regardless of his own concerns; he looks out for his crewmates; he throws himself one hundred percent into everything he has to do; and so on. I wish he and Barbara had stayed longer.)
One more thing about the Daleks: I remember an interview with Tom Baker some years back, where he spoke about the Daleks. He said that it was comical on set, because they always had to pretend that the Daleks were frightening, when you could escape them by simply going upstairs. (Now, how they navigate on sand, as in The Chase…) Of course we know now that Daleks can fly, and at any rate stairs never seemed to stop them, as they appear on multiple floors of the same house even in The Chase. That was never my big question about them; mine was (and still is), how do they build things? They love giant machines, they build cities, they fly spaceships…but how do they get those things in the first place? They are supremely unsuited for the physical activity of construction! It will always be a mystery, I think.
Moving on. The series learned to play with perspective this season, in the season opener, Planet of Giants. Here, the TARDIS lands on contemporary Earth, but with a twist: The TARDIS has shrunk! The serial was cleverly done for its time, despite its unremarkable story (it was the first serial to have an environmentalist message, particularly concerning pesticide use). It’s noteworthy to me because the idea of a shrinking TARDIS was revisited (with some variation) in NuWho Series 8’s Flatline. It’s not a concept that should be used often, but it’s fun on occasion.
The third serial, The Rescue, gives us the first of two new companions, Vicki Pallister. (Steven Taylor would make his debut in The Chase. I’ll hold off on voicing an opinion of him until I have a little more experience with him.) Or at least, we believe that’s her last name, based on spin-off media; it’s never mentioned onscreen. Vicki is…perhaps not older (Time Lord lifespans!) but the equivalent of older than Susan, whom she replaces. She’s a little more mature, a little more level-headed, a little more resourceful, but overall fills the same niche as Susan, from the audience perspective. I was a little disappointed as the season wears on—she comes on scene in The Rescue as highly intelligent, being from a point well into Earth’s future, but as the series proceeds she seems to be dumbed down somewhat.
The Romans, another pure historical serial, was a curiosity to me. It covers a longer span of time than most, a total of almost four months, most of which the characters spend on what amounts to a vacation. It’s completely unnecessary, and I can’t help thinking that it was done strictly to show that yes, the adventures the crew are having take an extended period of time (enough to match the year and a half of broadcast time, I assume). That’s acceptable, though, as several earlier serials flow directly from one to the next. One would otherwise think that they had only been traveling for days. At any rate, the serial was decent; it covers the burning of Rome under Nero, an event that Ten would later claim was “not exactly” his responsibility (Series 4, The Fires of Pompeii). Spoiler alert: It totally was.
The Web Planet gives us the Zarbi, possibly the most joked-about villains in Doctor Who history. These ant creatures do look ridiculous; it’s hard to believe they were conceived as a possible rival to the Daleks with regard to audience popularity. It’s safe to say that that plan failed. I can’t help but think, though, that there’s a lot of promise in the storyline; it’s a story of slavery and oppression, with elements of resistance and rebellion and racism all mixed in. If it had come into existence in the new series, we might not think of it as such a joke. (I’m not holding my breath for a Zarbi reappearance, though…)
The Crusade, another pure historical, has the distinction of being the only incomplete serial in Season 2, although of course reconstructions exist. It was a good but unremarkable story, and I found little worth commenting on. It is notable for Ian’s knighthood by King Richard, which (according to spinoff media) still stands, making him Sir Ian of Jaffa.
I was particularly fond of The Space Museum. To me it felt more like a modern Who story, though it’s hard to put my finger on why. There’s the excellent scene of the Doctor having his mind read on a scanner, and manipulating the images to conceal the truth—something I could easily see Nine or Eleven doing. And there’s the manipulation of time at the beginning, with the TARDIS—again, through a fault—landing out of sync with the planet it’s on. The Doctor continues the fine tradition of hiding inside a Dalek casing at one point, a feat that I find more comical every time I see it for some reason. And then, of course, there’s the Time/Space Visualizer, which sets up for the events of The Chase. Season-long arcs aren’t a thing in the First Doctor era, so any continuity I can get is always welcome.
The season ended with The Time Meddler, a serial noteworthy for introducing the first Time Lord (though that name will not be used for some time yet) other than the Doctor. The Monk (or the Meddling Monk, as he is sometimes referred to) is aware of the Doctor, though the Doctor doesn’t seem to know him. Interestingly, the Doctor chides the monk for not holding to their race’s non-interference policy; the irony was strong, as we all know the Doctor meddles like no one else. I was excited to see another TARDIS, even if it was a redress of the regular TARDIS set. This serial also was the first to play with the relationship between the TARDIS interior and exterior dimensions; it ends with the Doctor having sabotaged the Monk’s TARDIS such that the interior (or at least the console room) shrinks to something close to the dimensions of the exterior, thus preventing the Monk from getting in the TARDIS to leave. (Though, to be fair, he could have fit, if awkwardly!) It is reminiscent of what happens in the opposite direction in The Name of the Doctor, where the dying TARDIS’s outer dimensions expand to approximately match the inner dimensions. A pretty advanced concept for a show that is still, for most purposes, in its infancy…and a hint of things to come, possibly.
So, that’s it for Season 2. Favorite serial this season? I’d have to go with The Space Museum. Not a bad season, overall. Now, on to Season Three, which will be a different experience completely; only three of its ten serials survive in their entirety, meaning a lot of reconstructions lie ahead. It’s a trend that will last until the end of Season 5. See you there!
All episodes can be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below. Due to the BBC’s early policy of junking tapes, some episodes exist only as reconstructions.