“This is your last warning! OK, this is really your last warning! Oh… I panicked!”
Doctor Who is the longest running Science-Fiction series on television, with seasons airing off and on since the 1960s. The Doctor (played in these specials by David Tennant) is the tenth incarnation of The Doctor who is a humanoid alien from Gallifrey that travels time and space in his TARDIS (time machine). As he’s traveled he’s encountered much drama and action but can heal himself if he is injured. Each time he heals himself, he changes his appearance and voice in a simple attempt to keep continuity while changing actors for decades.
Unfortunately for me, I had very little knowledge of Doctor Who and absolutely no experience with any episodes or specials. However, being quickly thrusted into the Doctor Who Specials I was caught in a cheap looking joyride that offers plenty of entertainment.
Doctor Who: The Next Doctor
Doctor Who: The Next Doctor gets started immediately without any introduction or back story for those who are not aware of the current running series. The Doctor (Tennant) arrives in 1851 and quickly comes face to face with somebody calling himself ‘the Doctor.’ The Other Doctor (David Morrissey) and The Doctor quickly begin to work together on uncovering a string of murders that has the town worried on Christmas Eve. The Doctor, believing the Other Doctor is a reincarnation of himself, fills in the Other Doctor’s memory loss with pieces of his life. Besides the murders, The Doctor stumbles across Mercy Hartigan (Dervla Kirwan) and the Cybermen and learns that everything bad happening is connected.
Doctor Who: The Next Doctor was my first ever viewing of a Doctor Who show or special and it was decent one to start with if you are able to get passed not knowing anything else about the series. Tennant, who was recently voted as the best Doctor – with good reason, was a charming and entertaining entity to the show giving Doctor Who: The Next Doctor all of its gusto. Past Tennant, the other acting is hit or miss and the show is obviously proud of its low budget, special effects (and occasional big-budget effects) as well of its witty script. Although, with some Doctor Who knowledge I could have been much more entertained, both my son and myself found this special as an enjoyable sci-fi show even though it has its moments of cheese.
Special Score: 7/10
Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead
Shortly after traveling through time, The Doctor spends his next special in space. Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead sends The Doctor to a distant planet through a wormhole in London. After Lady Christina de Souza (Michelle Ryan) steels a treasure from a museum she jumps on a double-decker bus to encounter a way too friendly Doctor (Tennant). After fidgeting with a special device, The Doctor and the bus are transported to San Helios, a planet where the Tritovore are being endangered by another alien species. While the bus riders attempt to return to Earth, The Doctor and Lady Christina help the Tritovore with their attempt to survive.
Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead continues in a short series of specials that saw the end of the Tenth Doctor’s (Tennant) reign on the Doctor Who series. Just like the previous special, there isn’t really any introduction as the audience is thrown right in with the show immediately getting into the action. Doctor Who is once again played well by Tennant, but the supporting cast in this special is noticeable weaker. The story itself is far from terrible but it sure is weaker than what was found in the first special. Ryan’s character is annoying and terribly acted, adding to the negatives of this episode. Even though the plot seems a bit weaker and the acting is not even close to the first special, there’s something about this special that is rather entertaining and enjoyable.
Special Score: 6/10
Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars
If redundancy isn’t the theme of this review I don’t know what is. Not that Doctor Who is redundant, but the style of the show and presentation are. Anyways, Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars starts off much like the previous specials, with no lead-in or back story. The Doctor (Tennant) finds himself on Mars, where there is a space station for scientific study set up. As Doctor Who crosses path with the crew of the space station, he quickly realizes who they were and that their deaths were around the corner. Upon this discovery, The Doctor must decide if he should change the past or go on his way. As the decision is made, the entire crew gets caught up in an issue they didn’t see coming but the Doctor did.
Wildly entertaining, yet again is Tennant as The Doctor. When asked to state his name, rank and intentions (at gunpoint no less) he simply replies with, “The Doctor, doctor, and fun.” There is an upgrade in the acting in this special, as the actors in The Waters of Mars are a major upgrade from the previous special. The story is a bit of an upgrade as well, with the mystery at hand being a bit more interesting and mysterious. The mystery of space has often been played with before, butDoctor Who does a nice job of keeping a fresh twist on a similar story. Once again, this Doctor Whospecial gets me pleasantly off guard as each special peaks my interest more and more in this series. This special plays out more as a horror special than a sci-fi special leading to a clever change of pace.
Special Score: 7/10
Doctor Who: The End of Time (Part 1 and 2)
Doctor Who: The End of Time (Part 1 and 2) call for an end of time to much of the series ongoing aspects. David Tennant comes to an end of his reign as The Doctor as the series prepares for its eleventh doctor, Matt Smith. Also, writer and producer Russell T. Davis finds himself on his last special, leading to big changes especially since he was largely responsible for brining the show back in 2005.
Arriving at the Odd Sphere, The Doctor stumbles across quite a few intertwining adventures. While trying to solve mysteries in space, a ritual sacrifice begins to take place on Earth. Arriving just too late to stop the occurrence, a domino effect of events begin to occur and The Doctor must put a stop to them in order to save the universe. Amongst doing so, he must risk his own well being and potentionally reincarnate as the New Doctor.
Once again, Doctor Who: The End of Time is a pleasing treat to not only the Doctor Who fans, but maybe a few first timers. The biggest disaster to this special, in my opinion, was the departure of Tennant as The Doctor due to him being the glue for the series that features quite a bit of average acting and average storylines. However, the special sets his tenure to end with a big bang and the special effects really come out for this one. Another action packed experience, another pleasing finale and another decent special in the books.
Special Score: 7/10
Doctor Who was anything but familiar territory when I started this series of specials. However, after watching more than five hours of The Doctor, I can see where its popularity derives from and why it continues to be successful. The stories are fun and entertaining, and even when weak links are present there’s always a feature or two holding the series’ head above water. Five plus hours down, and you can now say that I’m somewhat of a fan of Doctor Who.
Doctor Who: The Complete Specials comes to Blu-ray, joining four Doctor Who specials into one box set. All four specials (five discs; episodes) come from around the same time period with all five discs include a VC-1 1080p video encode with an English DTS-HD 5.1 track. Even with the consistent coding, the specials all find inconsistencies in their presentations, especially in the video department.
Doctor Who: The Next Doctor is the only one of the four specials to not originally air in high definition, and to be honest it is one of the better looking of the specials. The image is solid throughout the entire special, with a third-dimension that is very consistent. There is plenty of detail, especially in the snow fall towards the beginning and in character clothing and faces. Colors do struggle a bit here, with black levels washing out and bright whites being too powerful. Overall, The Next Doctor looks solid and should be good enough to please the fans.
Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead is the first Doctor Who special to be filmed in high definition, and using those high definition cameras didn’t benefit the show any. The first obvious distraction from the show itself is the colors, especially in light form. The lights on the police cars approaching the wormhole look terrible and washed out. Other lights look too bright and overpower the image around them. Planet of the Dead still has a nice amount of detail, quite strong for a television show indeed. There’s a strong, third-dimension to this special as well with the image consistently having the pop that one would expect in Blu-ray. Overall, the picture quality is solid enough to say it is an upgrade from anything broadcasted on television, but its safe to say this is the weak link of the specials.
Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars struggles from many of the same issues the first two specials do. Colors seem to vary from good amounts of detail to washing out. Black levels lose some detail, with shadows and dark spots rarely holding images they were intended to. Also like the other specials, it has the same strengths especially in the area of detail and dimension. The image consistently pops and should have no issues keeping the fans pleased. This video is a step up from the previous two however, and looks quite nice.
Doctor Who: The End of Time (Parts 1 and 2) has a nice video presentation that probably looks the best out of all of the specials in the set. The video quality has a pop to it, with plenty of true color and detail. Overall the image is very pleasing and more consistent than the previous discs.
Doctor Who: The Next Doctor shows off the audio that will be consistent across all four specials. The use of the surround sound is quite nice, and even though this is shy of reference it is strong in detail. The dialogue is clear and loud, never getting washed out. The music plays an important part in the series and can be heard on all accounts from all speakers. The subwoofer stays active and is frequently thriving. Every action sequence is full of life from all directions of the room and adds an element to this box set that the video falls short of doing.
Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead is pleasantly strong and detailed much like the audio in the first special. Dialogue is loud and clear with every conversation coming across clear as day. The detail in the rest of the audio, including special effects, music and action sequences are all lively using all the speakers in the room. With another strong performance from the subwoofer, Planet of the Deadshows off a strong audio track as well.
Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars will get me on the redundant train when discuss ing the audio, as it follows in the footsteps of the first two specials. Conversations are clear and detail in all other aspects of the audio are exactly as mentioned in the other two specials.
Doctor Who: The End of Time (Parts 1 and 2) features an arc over two discs but keeps its audio presentation sounding the same. And, just like the previous specials this audio presentation is deep and full of life. Every conversation and word can be heard plain as day, and the music thrives from the surround speakers. The subwoofer, once again, comes across strong and vibrant and each action sequence encapsulates the room sounding loud and clear.
Overall the video presentation is fairly strong and is worthy for Blu-ray. Even though there are some inconsistencies and issues with the video it is an upgrade from anything I’ve seen on television. The audio, on the other hand, is very strong and offers much for this Blu-ray presentation; a great track that even outshines some recent big release movies. Doctor Who: The Complete Specialsshould have no issues pleasing the fans of the series in the Blu-ray department and shows off what television can do in high definition.
The extras are a large amount when you look at the total across five discs, but honestly don’t seem to be that much when you break them down special by special. On top of that, the bag is mixed with high definition and standard definition features scattered across the set. The long time fans might find these enjoyable, but as a newcomer I was a bit indifferent about what was provided.
With no prior knowledge to Doctor Who I really had no idea what to expect. At the end of a nice set on Blu-ray, I can say that the show has won me over. Doctor Who: The Complete Specials is a series that is quite fun and plays off of its quirks, and shows off a sci-fi world that has been going on for decades. Tennant delivers as the Doctor and makes this enjoyable for those who are just diving in, and even more so for the long time fans. The Blu-ray is a winner as well, with solid video and excellent audio presentations that show off the high definition. Doctor Who fans should be more than pleased with this set.