Doctor Who: The Complete Second Series

Long-time fans of the time travellin’ time lord are used to the regeneration (aka recasting) process of Britain’s most celebrated sci-fi hero but few expected Christopher Eccleston to drop out of the show after only one season. The rebirth of Doctor Who in 2005 was a joyous comeback that dazzled lifers and found a new, devout audience, but how easy would it be to reinstate another actor in such big shoes so soon? Judging by the second series, the transition went rather smoothly, as Scotsman David Tennant (in full faux English accent) is yet another perfect fit, though he couldn’t be any more different from Eccleston if he tried. Gracious, kooky and filled with plenty of vitriol, when called for, he’s not quite as camp as, say Tom Baker, but he’s certainly on the lighter side compared to Eccleston’s moodier Doctor. We last left off at the regeneration but the show kicks off in London with the ailing Doctor, but who’s on the mend after the gruelling transformation. What regulars Rose, Mickey and Jackie face though is everything from a spinning killer Xmas tree and gun-toting Santas to a major plot to control the blood of the world’s A-positive population. Of course, at the right time our hero jumps back into action with the perfect line: "Not bad for a man in his jim-jams.” This leads us to the series’ biggest quandary: the cast elevate their characters shrewdly but the teleplays are severely lacking the vitality of the previous series. Plenty of "big bads” are lurking in the shadows — including a double threat when the Daleks and Cybermen clash in London (featuring a choice quote from the Daleks, "You are superior in one respect: you are better at dying!”) and then Satan is in full evil mode haunting an exploratory team in outer space, if you can believe that — but rarely does the hair on your neck stand up the way it once did. That’s not to say there isn’t fun to be had, it’s just a little disappointing. Thankfully the producers still know how to ham up the effects, as well as beefing up the guest spots with both familiar and new faces. Aged characters appear, like everyone’s favourite robo-dog K9 (whom Rose wittily describes as "so disco”) and original sidekick Sarah Jane Smith (brought back to life by Elisabeth Sladen), as well there are one-off appearances by funny man Peter Kay as an "Absorboloff” and an embarrassing turn by Buffy’s Anthony Stewart Head, who both break type by playing villains. But when the finale comes rolling around, which provides the series with another jarring changeover to the cast (no, not another regeneration), it does appear that the show will regain its composure when the third series arrives. The extras are plentiful, with various commentaries and deleted scenes, and Tennant gets his own video diaries to fill in viewers on his new job. But as with the first series, it’s the comprehensive "Doctor Who Confidential” feature that offers the most by looking behind the scenes of every episode through interviews and script studies. (BBC)