26 May 2013

Doctor Who: The Complete Specials (starring David Tennant)



It was not until we reached the end of Doctor Who Series 4 (starring David Tennant) a few months ago that I realised that Series 5 opened with Matt Smith established as the famous time lord. We had expected him to regenerate at the end of Series 4, but he didn’t. Research led me to the revelation that series 4 was mostly broadcast in 2008; series 5 not until 2010.  In the intervening year, there was no full series; instead, fans were treated to five longer ‘special’ episodes, as found in this box set.

The first episode, 'The Next Doctor', is a ‘Christmas Special’ broadcast in December 2008. The Doctor is in England in the middle of the 19th century, and meets someone else claiming to the ‘the Doctor’.  He has a sonic screwdriver - of sorts - and even a tardis, though it looks a little different from the usual police box... Meanwhile, the Cybermen are kidnapping children, and the two Doctors - naturally - sort this out.

The second episode, ‘Planet of the Dead’, was shown as an Easter Special in 2009.  There’s a rather cool upper class jewel thief, Lady Christina, who joins the Doctor on a bus as it travels through a wormhole to a strangely deserted planet. They have to figure out what’s going on, while experts back on earth try to work out how to get the bus back again without killing all the passengers.

The third ‘special’, 'The Waters of Mars', is more violent than the earlier two, and has some rather scary implications. The Doctor finds himself on Mars, meeting people he knows about from archive news stories.  He also knows that something terrible is going to happen, but - he claims - cannot do anything to change the course of history. In the meantime, something terrifying is happening to members of the crew...

The ‘specials’ end with a two-part episode, 'The End of Time', in which we finally have to say goodbye to David Tenant. It’s fast-paced and exciting, with the background of a prophecy by the Ood (from a previous series), and the regeneration of the evil time lord known as The Master, in a scene oddly reminiscent of Lord Voldemort’s regeneration in 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire'. While it was undoubtedly thrilling in places, and quite moving in others, I felt that this double episode was a bit over-long, and could probably have been condensed into just one episode.

David Tennant is excellent in this entire series, evidently determined to go out as one of the most memorable Doctors. His acting ability shines through, to the extent that the character even becomes a little scary at times with a tendency towards playing God which was a little at odds with the previous series.



In addition to the main episodes, each of the five DVDs in this box set comes with a ‘Doctor Who Confidential’, a documentary about the making of the episode; one that we very much enjoyed was about ‘Planet of the Dead’. It explained how the production team managed to transport a double decker London bus to a desert in Dubai... and the problems that hit unexpectedly! Well worth seeing.

Definitely recommended if you like Doctor Who (or, indeed, David Tennant), but I wouldn't necessarily suggest this box set as an introduction to the series if you are unfamiliar with it. It's quite expensive for what it is in the UK - only a couple of pounds cheaper than the full 13-episode series box sets - and decidedly over-priced in the US (at the time of writing).


Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews