Doctor Who: The Complete Specials (2009) [Blu-ray]
|Genre(s): Comedy / Drama / Science Fiction|
|BBC || NR - 311 minutes - $59.98 || February 2, 2010|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2010-02-27|
Writer(s): Russell T. Davies
Cast: David Tennant, David Morrissey, Michelle Ryan, John Simm, Timothy Dalton, Catherine Tate
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I’ll get this out of the way from the onset: I’ve never seen a single episode of “Doctor Who” and although I have been aware of the BBC series for a while now, I know very little outside of the basic premise, so please keep that in mind for this review.
What I do know is that series star David Tennant seems to be the most popular amongst avid fans and that these specials were produced in conjunction with the fact that Tennant has chosen to leave the series after five seasons. This set includes Tennant’s final two episodes.
For the sake of space, I am posting the plot synopsis and short thoughts for each special and then wrap everything up at the end.
The Next Doctor — **** / *****
Plot: Christmas 1851, and Cybermen stalk Victorian London. The Doctor (DAVID TENNANT) discovers a spate of mysterious deaths, and he’s surprised to meet another Doctor (DAVID MORRISSEY)! Are two Doctors enough to stop the rise of the CyberKing?
Being that this is my first foray into “Doctor Who”, I would be lying if I didn’t say it wasn’t a tad confusing. Nonetheless, I found myself entertained by the story and especially for the charismatic and quirky star, David Tennant. He has an unusual face, style and certainly humor which helped toss me into the world of time travel and killing robots.
Planet of the Dead — ****¼ / *****
Plot: When a London bus takes a detour to an alien world, the Doctor must join forces with the extraordinary Lady Christina (MICHELLE RYAN). But the mysterious planet holds terrifying secrets and time is running out as the deadly Swarm gets closer...
This special seems to stand apart from the others as it doesn’t deal too much into the Doctor Who mythos and is fairly self contained save for various comments. And that probably explains why it is my favorite (note: not best... favorite) of the bunch since I was able to delve in and not have to know anything about the series beforehand.
The Waters of Mars — ****½ / *****
Plot: Mars, 2059. Bowie Base One. Last recorded message: “Don’t drink the water. Don’t even touch it. Not one drop.” The Doctor travels to Mars and finds his way onto the base... on the last day before it blew up for, at the time, unknown reasons. The result would lead to space exploration but what will The Doctor do?
This is probably the most emotional of the group as we get to see the pain and anguish that the Doctor goes through as he wrestles with the consequences of either letting the crew on the base perish as they are supposed to or lead them to safety. It’s really the first time I saw something that went beyond Tennant’s comedic side break into something deeper.
The End of Time, Part One — **** / *****
The End of Time, Part Two — **** / *****
Plot (Part 1): Christmas Eve, and the Doctor is reunited with Wilf, to face the return of an old enemy.
Plot (Part 2): The Doctor faces the end of his life, as the Master’s victory unleashes the greatest terror of all.
This is where newcomers might get more than a tad confused, but once again it’s saved by a masterful performance by Tennant plus John Simm as “The Master”, a man key in perhaps the end of time and the end of The Doctor himself thanks to a rhythm stuck in his head since childhood. It’s a manic performance for sure, but very intense.
Even though I didn’t get some of the references this two-part finale for Tennant, I still managed to follow just enough to get engrossed into the story.
If these five specials did anything, it only made my interest in the series grow and wanting to see the David Tennant era episodes. Unfortunately, for newcomers such as myself, his first season (series 2 overall) is quite expensive but hopefully I can catch more on television.
Each special comes with a Doctor Who Confidential (TRT - 4:44:39; HD) which is a fairly lengthy behind-the-scenes documentary taking a look at how each was filmed and features interviews with the cast (including David Tennant) and crew talking about filming, set designs, etc. I was really impressed and thought “if only feature films had as in-depth behind-the-scenes as these.”
The most interesting one is for “Planet of the Dead” and the journey the double-decker bus took from England to Dubai and the damage it took on the voyage (and then the difficulties of shooting in the dessert).
Here are the running times for each:
“The Next Doctor” – 55:33
“Planet of the Dead” – 57:02
“The Waters of Mars” – 57:58
“The End of Time, Part 1” – 57:03
“The End of Time, Part 2” – 56:53
Audio Commentaries – On “The End of Time” Part 1 is a track featuring David Tennant, Catherine Tate (Donna) and Euros Lyn (director) and on Part 2 is Tennant, Lyn and John Simm (The Master).
Doctor Who at the Proms 2008 (59:10; HD) – This is a pretty cool concert that features the music from the series at the Royal Albert Hall which was held in 2008. If you love the Murray Gold’s amazing score for the show, you will certainly enjoy this. The event was hosted by Freema Agyeman who played Doctor Who’s companion, Martha Jones.
David Tennant’s Video Diary: The Final Days (40:41; HD) – Yet another insightful featurette this time the star talks about his final specials on “Doctor Who” with his thoughts via a video camera from the last specials. Most of the behind-the-scenes footage is from “The Waters of Mars” rather than “The End of Time”, but all around this was great.
Deleted Scenes with Intro from Russell T. Davies (17:16; HD) – These are the collection of deleted footage from the Series 4 Specials and writer Davies explains why each were cut while also setting up the scene.
Last up is Doctor Who BBC Christmas Idents (0:52; HD) which are just promos for BBC One and Doctor Who at Comic-Con (21:06; HD) where David Tennant and company make an appearance at Comic-Con in San Diego.
If anything, you can’t say this set skims on the lengthy extras and for these alone, whether you’re a casual fan of fanatic, this makes it all worthwhile.
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
All the specials are presented with a 1.78 aspect ratio and 1080i high-definition. Now, I should note that the first one, ‘The Next Doctor’, is only upscaled from the standard def version so it is notably the worst looking one of the bunch. The detail level simply isn’t there and I noticed a good amount of pixilation. The others are a little better, but not by much. They certainly have a little more detail levels going for them but it doesn’t exactly pop off the screen either.
All the specials come equipped with a 5.1 DTS-HD High Resolution track which serves its purpose, but isn’t going to blow your socks off. None of the specials have much of a dynamic range and at times the dialogue could sound a little muffled, but for the most part was more the exception than the rule. There’s also a fair bit of action which does use the other channels effectively enough, but don’t go in expecting a whole lot.
“Doctor Who”, even for newcomers like me, is a fantastic show (I’m now catching up on older episodes online) and these 5 specials are all great. Obviously, the success lies right at the feet of David Tennant who delivers wide ranging performance from comedy to drama, all without missing a beat. As for the Blu-ray, while the video isn’t anything amazing, the audio is serviceable and the features are extraordinary and well worth the cost.