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STUDIO: BBC Video
MSRP: $99.98
RATED: NOT RATED
RUNNING TIME: 652 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Music and Monsters
- Freema’s Tour of the Studio
- David Tennant’s Video Diaries
- Deleted Scenes
- Outtakes
- Audio Commentary
- 5.1 Surround Sound

The Pitch

It’s Time Lord time.

The Humans

David Tennant, Freema Agyeman, Catherine Tate, a host of human-looking alien species (mostly with English accents regardless of locale*)

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I can see clearly now the rain is gone…

The Nutshell

Freshly crushed by the loss of the love of his life Rose, the good Doctor embarks on another season’s worth of adventure, now replete with trusty new medical student Martha Jones as his companion. Together they face a season’s worth of apocalyptic threats (featuring old standards such as the Daleks and a villain too fun to spoil here although the packaging of the DVD will do the trick for you anyhow) traveling from the present to the past and back to the future (to the very end of time in fact) on an epic journey that culminates in a finale where the fate of the universe isn’t in the good doctor’s hands.

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The lengths some people will go to use a gloryhole.

The Lowdown

I’m a newcomer to the world of Doctor Who, to be quite honest: my only interaction with the character was with a dog-eared issue of it’s 1980’s Marvel imprint, so all I (presumptuously) knew about the character was that he traveled in a police box through time and that he wore a scarf regardless of temperature. So I was more than happy to treat myself to this British institution and see how this modernization deals with bringing the sexy back to the time-weary traveler and his rotating bevy of beauties.

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In the early going, my expectations got lowered considerably, as the episodes felt flat for some reason. There’s a lot to enjoy about this series: the hero isn’t a muscle-clad ass-kicked, instead relying on his ingenuity to pull them out of tight spots and is a pacifist for the most part who’s more in search of understanding that annihilation. Also, this show is big, with a massive scope right down to its special effects (not always up to the task, but at least they’re trying for something there) and score. There’s also a nice camaraderie between costars Freema Agyeman and David Tennant that actually reflects the unrequited love story they’re aiming to tell (they feel like good friends as the third series progresses), and you’re willing to forgive a lot based on your enjoyment of following these characters. However, the writing is almost uniformly shoddy in the early going, with exposition being bandied about every scene instead of finding more natural ways to convey information to the audience.

Also, this show uses the Doctor and co. running toward camera like Joss Whedon used stunt double fight scenes in long shot; early and often. It’s not exactly a detriment to the show, but it reaches its nadir (as does the weak storytelling of the first half) in the episode 42 which takes a solid concept (Sunshine meets 24, basically) and squanders it with a lot of squawking and running about. And while I deeply appreciate the fact that the show isn’t treating its subject matter with an aloof sense of humor and irony, this earnestness can magnify the awkwardness of certain episodes and performances (early episode The Shakespeare Code is a perfect example of this) and make the viewer embarrassed for themselves and whoever participated. Even here, though, there are plenty of bright spots.  I love the pomp and circumstance of each episode and its reliably epic scope, I love a show based around a hero who rarely if ever throws a punch. And the actors inhabit their roles so surreptitiously that you root for the characters regardless of the quality of the story being told.

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Then miraculously, right around the halfway point (starting with the two part Human Nature/Family of Blood episodes**), the show suddenly lives up to the potential of its cast and concept. It’s suddenly funny, thrilling, romantic, action-packed; everything a good sci-fi adventure series should be. A lot of it can be attributed to the writing; these episodes flow a lot more smoothly and utilize convention to its benefit (spectacular cliffhangers abound in these episodes) and the writers seem to be more well-suited to the unique talents of the actors. Particularly deserving of commendation is Stephen Moffat for the episode Blink, where the Doctor barely appears but the writing seems to get him vastly more correct than any other episode even comes close to.

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The Doctor’s travel to the set of a U2 music video for an entire episode left many fans unsatisfied.

The second half isn’t exactly devoid of the stumbling blocks that effect some of the earlier episodes (the final two episodes of the season are a tab bit clunky, but still compelling epic television), but it so compensates for the weaknesses of the earlier episodes (and through use of continuity and subtle hints as to where the season’s arc would take us actually is a means of justifying the earlier episodes in spite of themselves) that I can’t help but recommend this series. The highest compliment I can give it is that I’m eager to follow the exploits of The Doctor in season four, if only under the hopes that they can hit a hot streak comparable to that of the latter part of season three. Strong recommendation.

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The Max Headroom crossover went over gangbusters as expected.

The Package

The cover art is your standard showcase the stars method of TV season box set design, but it’s articulated so it’s like picture Braille for your hands. These Who box sets are extremely expense, so they better pack them to the gills with extras to justify the price tag, and I’m happy to report they come close (still, a hundred bucks is a little extravagant). This is a comprehensive collection of behind-the-scenes material and bonuses to the point of overkill (nirvana, though, if you’re a fan of the show). For starters, the episodes look great and are accompanied by a 5.1 soundtrack, so you can get the most of out of every larger than life music cue and alien interloper. Every episode comes with an audio commentary with a different group of the show’s creators (stars, writers, composers, directors, best boys, etc.). Then there’s a handful of bonus features contained on each disc: disc one has the special “Music and Monsters” which is a live performance of the Doctor Who score (bombast++) and is a worth a spin. Also contained on the first disc is Freema’s Tour of the Studio, outtakes and deleted scenes. It’s all worth watching if you enjoy the series. 

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Wilford Brimley: Time-Travelin’ Ass-Kicker.

Spread out over all of the discs is David Tennant’s Video Diaries which are a nice behind-the-scenes peak at the production of Doctor Who as well as a glimpse into the actor’s agreeable personality. The sixth disc is comprised entirely of Doctor Who Confidential, which are fifteen minute behind-the-scenes pieces devoted to each episode or an aspect of the production.  They’re a bit fluffy, but worth watching. Every disc also has the BBC previews for each episode. This is exactly what fans of television series should hope for in a box set, kudos to BBC for putting an immense effort behind the discs.

8.3 out of 10

*Giving it a lovely lo-fi sort of touch, in my opinion.
**Starring CHUD-beloved Jessica Stevenson, no less.