First, I just realized that I never set an end date for the blogiversary giveway - so if you want to enter, please e-mail me at blogthispal (at) gmail (dot) com by 8:00 pm on Tuesday, May 30th. (Click these links for details). Hey, free stuff is always worth it.
One of the great things about watching Year Two of the "New" New Doctor is the way that the character of the Doctor is being explored - if Eccleston was dealing with shell-shock, Tennant shows us a more hardened, bitter, sadder and wiser Doctor - amongst the manic bursts of speech, there is a great sadness - in fact, you could almost swear that Tennant was channelling Sylvester McCoy without the overt manipulation.
One of the things that makes School Reunion so enjoyable isn't that, to paraphrase James Brown, it "gives the companions some" - it's also that Doctor Who is actually acknowledging a Buffy-esque influence. From the casting of the main villain to some of the dialogue (Personal favorite: "Ignore the shooty dog thing"), this is an episode that hits all the right spots, despite the dodgy logic of the end...well, we're not watching this for plot, we're watching this for the fireworks between companions past and present, between Sarah's subtle heartbreak and Rose's realization that she's not the "only one"...and a key line delivered by Tennant makes us realize why the Doctor might have been relatively cold in previous incarnations.
(In reading other reviews, I'm rather bothered by the attitude of some (male) reviewers that say, in effect, "This is proof the Doctor was romantic with Sarah." The script hints at romance, but it's incredibly one-sided...and the reviewers miss the point that male/female relationships are often complicated - alien male/human female relationships should not be as one-sided. Just ask Sarek. Oops, wrong franchise).
Speaking of relationships, the Doctor finds himself in a transtemporal romance in The Girl In the Fireplace. Again, some of the temporal mechanics are dodgy, but it shows us the Doctor's almost whirlwind romance with the Madame du Pompadour...but in addition, it also reveals the heartbreak that Tennant's Doctor hints at - that he realizes that humans decay and die, and that he will always (in his mind) be alone. The Madame is one of the few humans he connects with on an intimate level...but Steven Moffatt doesn't just give us heartbreak - he also provides some stinging humor (not quite at the farcical level of "Curse of the Fatal Death"), but any episode that can give us the image of the Doctor charging in on a white horse...and an ending worthy of The Twilight Zone - is worth watching.
Finally, some (admittedly) mixed feelings about The Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel two-parter. I admit, I like the Cybermen more than I like Daleks - after all, Cybermen used to be human - and this episode plays up that fact brilliantly. It's also a unique use of the "parallel world" story, with a good explanation of why (at least, now) the Doctor doesn't travel in parallel universes. (I also like the irony of being "upgraded", reflecting our current technological obsessiveness). It also feels the most like old-school Doctor Who...however, that works to an advantage and disadvantage. Let's count it off....wheelchair-bound mad genius (already done in the soon-to-be-released-on-DVD Genesis of the Daleks), base under siege (both in the mansion and at the climax), Rose's pining for her deceased-yet-alive-in-this-reality father (didn't Father's Day resolve all this for her?) and a companion departure scene...however, this is one of those scenes reminiscent of Tegan's departure in Resurrection of the Daleks. If the Brits have an Emmy-type award, they should give it to Noel Clarke - seriously. In the past year and a half, his portray of Mickey has developed the character from one-dimensional idiot to a man realizing that he has a purpose...and that had to travel the universe to open his mind. (His scene also has parallels with The Parting of the Ways, where Rose declares that her life was one-dimensional before the Doctor - Mickey has a chance to redeem himself, despite the Tenth Doctor's declaration of "no second chances").
We had always known that Doctor Who had a charm...but a palpable sense of melancholy? Actually giving us a Doctor who truly is half-human (emotionally)? Giving the companions a sense of humanity beyond screaming and being rescued?
Sign me up for the Series Two DVDs.