Series 6 of the revival of Doctor Who managed to do something that, despite growing and significant popularity, the revamp hadn’t really been able to do before… it caused a stir. A legitimate, all out tizzy, and as the first few episodes aired, the blip of awareness that is Doctor Who skyrocketed as more and more people actually said the words, “Doctor Who.”
On the whole, the show has been getting even better, and it started out strong, but even the “buzz” surrounding Matt Smith’s entry as The Doctor didn’t move the show to the hot topic category with such far-reaching effect as getting to say that The Doctor died.
The trend toward the long arc that has all but taken over television in recent years didn’t give Doctor Who a miss, and while there were a few episodes that had little connection to the overall search for answers about his death, the 13-episode series often tugs at being one long movie.
As the discussion grew about the fact that The Doctor died, that discussion ventured off into other topics of general Doctor coolness (a pirate episode, an episode written by Neil Gaiman, etc.), and before you knew what happened, the show reached a new level of public awareness.
That’s the sort of thing that is bound to die down under normal circumstances, especially considering a long break in the middle of airing the series. Luckily, the show also managed to include some of the most interesting and inventive episodes in its entire history, and as more people (apparently) tuned in to see what everyone was talking about, they found themselves watching some truly great television.
This after the episode “A Christmas Carol,” which is also included in this DVD release, and is far and away one of the best things to come out the series in quite some time.
Now, I do have to come clean on one thing though, and it might not be surprising, but in the midst of the best you sometimes find yourself faced with the worst, and series six also put out two episodes that were absolute garbage. That is, if you count “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People” as one episode given that its a two-parter. Those, along with “Night Terrors”, were among the most bizarre head-scratchers to get thrown into the middle of a great season of television that has ever been witnessed, no matter what brand of TV you’re after. Balancing those were “A Good Man Goes To War”, “Let’s Kill Hitler”, “The Doctor’s Wife”, and probably the best, “The Girl Who Waited”. The remaining episodes were above-average, and the finale’s resolution worked, though it was a bit goofy, but it puts out a lot of questions that are going to make it hard to move forward.
Specific episodes aside, what’s best about this particular series is the continued adoption of the idea that, in the end, what happens around The Doctor is actually more interesting than The Doctor. Notice the opening sequence that shifts the show into actually being Amy Pond’s show, at least for now, and the general move away from The Doctor as the driving force of the action much of the time. Sure, he’s the man with the plan, and he’s always two steps ahead, but when it comes down to it, the things that happen are probably up to someone else. Indeed, coming to the fore repeatedly is his lack of ability to save everyone, especially those who have stepped into the blue box with him.
As for the release itself, the Blu-Ray quality is superb, though there were a few spots where the audio seemed to play with the levels more than I like. Still, it’s a great show for Blu-Ray, considering the vast array of wild splendor we may up for in any given episode, and the drawn out darks and shadows we may be wandering through, and the release certainly gives you what you’re looking for there.
It’s also a wonderful set in terms of the bonuses, including some specially-produced shorts available only on the home release. These “Night and the Doctor” scenes are scattered among the discs, and are real treats for fans. These tidbits of “life” outside (but near) episodes of the show are wonderful extras, and feature everything from Amy and The Doctor simply having a chat, to the Tardis being occupied by several River Songs at once, to a cute bit that is a sort of prequel to “Closing Time”, in which Craig drones on about his obvious inability to care for his son.
The mere existence of such little treasures is a testament to the consideration of fans put forward by those behind the show, and are exactly the sort of thing buyers hope for when the look at the special features.
You also get the Doctor Who Confidential featurettes that (at least on BBC America) aired during the breaks of the show, which give an inside look at some aspect each episode. These were very cool at first, and are a nice inclusion. You’ve even got a new one that takes a look at the above-mentioned mini-episodes. You also get Monster File featurettes which give a little background on the creation of some of the nasties, including concept discussion, and a look at how they were brought to life. You get the Silence, the Gangers, Anti-Bodies, and Cybermats. Of course, Cybermats are the coolest, because I remember the whacktastic little things from the original Doctor Who.
Rounding things out are two sketches from UK Comic Relief, which are rather good, and five of the episodes come with audio commentaries, none of which will I spoil for you. Sadly, “The Girl Who Waited” is not one of them. The commentaries are in line with what fans will be familiar with, and are quite good overall, especially for a television show effort.
Overall, this is a must own set, even for those who are not overly fanatic about the show. It’s a great series in itself, and it’s easily one of the better releases you’ll find among TV shows. The bonuses actually are, and the quality in terms of video and audio is the kind of thing that you’ll show off when you get the chance. Perfectly timed, this has to be on everyone’s gift list for at least one person.
Special Features List
- 5 Night and the Doctor specially recorded scenes exclusive to DVD
- 5 specially recorded episode prequels
- 2 sketches recorded for the UK’s Comic Relief charity event
- 4 Monster Files – Get under the skin and inside the minds of the Doctor’s most challenging opponents
- Doctor Who Confidential – An inside look at each episode
- Bonus Doctor Who Confidential – “A Night’s Tale” about the exclusive DVD scenes
- Audio Commentary on select episodes