Once upon a time, I was NOT a Doctor Who fan. In the old days of Who, I avoided it like the plague. I hated the effects, the writing, the acting blah-blah-blah. And it took Russell T Davies and his vision of a new Doctor Who to make me interested. Then Christopher Eccleston regenerated into David Tennant...and the rest was history.
In my opinion, the quality of the stories really took off when Tennant came on board and had peaked at Series 4 (which remains my favourite series of Doctor Who bar none). And then after an amazing five year run, after so many painful departures...the man himself David Tennant declared that he was finally leaving.
It shocked me to the core, along with everyone else. For me (and millions more), he was MY Doctor. He made me a fan, and the fact that Russell T Davies was also calling it a day was heartbreaking.
So this boxset, containing the final five specials of the Davies era, marks the end of a truly wonderful era. Taking place after the monumentally superb Series 4, the premise here is the Tenth Doctor (after vanquishing greatest enemies Davros and the Daleks and saying goodbye to his best friend Donna Noble) is once again on his own. After losing so much, the Doctor decides its best to remain on his own and not to endanger anyone else and risk his heart being broken again.
These five specials (spanning from Christmas 2008 to New Year's Day 2010) feature David Tennant and a delightful all-star guest cast. Here he has a different companion for the duration of each adventure, resulting in some terrific, classic episodes, all running for an hour except the BIG FINALE, which runs for a stonking seventy-five minutes. Overall, it's most befitting for David's last run, and as the end draws nearer, his performances excel to the point where he reaches the height of his greatness, going out in a true blaze of glory that honours his Doctor and everything he's given us.
The fact that the man's regeneration was inevitable and obvious is immediately touched upon right from the word `go' with "The Next Doctor", which sees No. 10 confront his first omen of what lies ahead. The realisation that one day, he himself will have to go. Even though things don't turn out to be as they seem at first glance, it's nevertheless a premonition that sets the scene nicely for this final story arc.
All the specials are made so because of Davies (who wrote three of the specials himself and co-wrote two of them with Gareth Roberts and Phil Ford), the re-emergence of the Cybermen, terrifying new creatures, the final darkest days of the Time War and of course, the excellent assortment of guest stars on hand. You can expect nothing but first-class performances from the likes of David Morrissey, Michelle Ryan, Lindsey Duncan, and Timothy Dalton (SERIOUSLY!). They're all given wonderfully three-dimensional characters to act out, share plenty of the spotlight with David and help to make the specials essential viewing with their presence. And of course, it's great to see the return of old favourites like Bernard Cribbins (Wilfred Mott), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble) and the godlike John Simm reprising his role as the Master.
The 2008 Christmas Special "The Next Doctor" is helped because of the refreshing change of festive scenery (Victorian London). David Morrissey's `Next Doctor' and the tragic mystery surrounding him drives the episode, as does the fascinating development of the Cybermen and Dervla Kirwan simply steals every scene she's in as the charismatic rogue Miss Hartigan. Until "The End Of Time", I found this to be the best Christmas Special ever done, due to the drama, great humour, excitement and heart to be found. It's certainly still got that after repeat viewing.
The 2009 Easter Special "Planet of the Dead" is another hugely enjoyable romp of an episode with Michelle Ryan's Lady Christina being a perfect match for the Tenth Doctor. Her experience as the Bionic Woman does the character justice, making her sharp, charismatic, sexy and witty. Michelle's chemistry with David is a treat to behold, and Lee Evans will truly have you in hysterics. "Planet of the Dead" really is so much fun to watch, but after this, fun time is over. Watch the ending to see what I mean.
To me, it`s "The Waters of Mars" November 2009 Special that is the true highlight of boxset. Davies really changes gears with this episode and his writing and produces what is truly one of the darkest, most terrifying and most psychological stories ever in Who. It touches upon so many adult themes, all of which are executed brilliantly. Lindsey Duncan as Captain Adelaide Brooke comes across as the Tenth Doctor's most strong-willed companion ever with her portrayal and the consequences of what happens here changes everything forever, tarnishing the Doctor and making us all realise just how much he needs a companion. "The Waters of Mars" is a true classic and one that should be watched more than any other episode here.
Finally, "The End of Time" two-part finale can be labelled epic, thanks to everything coming full circle with regards to the haunting prophecy, the Master's return, Wilfred (Bernard Cribbins) proving himself to be the ideal companion for the Tenth Doctor's last hurrah and of course all loose ends regarding the Time War, other sub-plots and David going out with redemption and as a true hero. Seeing the Doctor saying goodbye to all his loved ones and deliver his very last line will reduce you to tears and simply cannot be missed.
For extras, you can expect fantastic Confidential pieces, deleted scenes, audio commentaries for "The End of Time", David's Video Diaries of his final days, the Christmas Idents and the wonderful Doctor Who: At The Proms concert special. All of which help round up things in a very nice bow indeed.
Russell, David, everyone...THANK YOU. For everything.