After the tragic events at the end of series 4, the tenth Doctor chooses to travel alone and over the course of his final year in the role this equates to 5 longer than usual "special" episodes for David Tennant leading up to the very impressive arrival of Matt Smith at the end of THE END OF TIME PART TWO on 1 1 10 (which might be significant to any numerologists out there...).
First up is the 2008 Christmas special THE NEXT DOCTOR in which the whole idea that this Doctor might not be forever is addressed. David Morrissey guest stars when the Doctor meets a figure not unlike himself having adventures during a Victorian Christmastime and a comic tragedy unfolds that mixes Dickensian imagery with Cyberpunk as the Cybermen return with the help of Dervla Kirwan in a plot involving the kidnapping of street urchins to help create their Cyberking where only the Doctor(s) and a very different type of TARDIS can save the day.
By Easter, the Doctor has taken to riding buses around London, but even a simple bus journey can't be uneventful as before you know it he's been transported to THE PLANET OF THE DEAD with only Michelle Ryan's cat-burglar and a busload of passengers (as well as Lee Evans and UNIT) to help get him home. The stakes are high as a race of planet-eating flying manta rays are getting ever closer...
The darkest, scariest moment happens fifty years in the future when THE WATERS OF MARS are threatening to overrun Lindsay Duncan and her crew on Bowie Base One. The fact that they're all already doomed adds a dark edge to the story, but when the Doctor himself decides that he won't put up with that any more things take an even darker turn.
Back to Earth at Christmas again (via the planet of the Ood) for this Doctor's final battle. THE END OF TIME PART ONE is a curiously dark piece for Christmas Day when John Simm's Master is resurrected and attempts to hijack the Immortality Gate project with dire consequences for the whole of mankind. Bernard Cribbins, Catherine Tate and (briefly) June Whitfield are all that the Doctor can rely on as an even scarier menace than the Master - headed up by Timothy Dalton! - plans its own resurrection.
THE END OF TIME PART TWO follows on quite naturally, and the universe must be saved (again) but only at great personal cost to the Doctor. It's no secret that the events of this epic story lead to the end of the line for this particular version of the Doctor, but it's a terrific ride and makes for a rather spectacular sendoff. Bernard Cribbins makes one amazing octogenerian action hero, and John Simm & Timothy Dalton are impressive foes, but the episode really, truthfully belongs to David Tennant.
Quite right too.
With his regeneration fast approaching he does (rather self-indulgently you might think) get to revisit all his best friends, but, you know I think he deserves that at the end of four truly amazing years.
Full length episodes of DOCTOR WHO CONFIDENTIAL are included for each episode, as well as the Doctor Who proms, a selection of deleted scenes and there's a slew of extras for the final episodes including David Tennant's video diaries, a Comic-Con appearance, and the BBC Christmas idents that were so very popular at the time. There are also main cast (David Tennant and Catherine Tate/ David Tennant and John Simm) and director (Euros Lyn) commentaries on the last two episodes which are a lot of fun, there's a rather nice accompanying booklet with a lovely little piece written by David Tennant himself to top off a rather nicely put together set.Read more ›
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.
For me, David Tennant is the greatest Doctor we have seen since Tom Baker. David is for 21st century Who, what Tom was to the 20th. The strength of David's performance has carried these specials, and made every one absolutely worth watching.
At the same time, I've become increasingly frustrated with Russell T. Davies' (RTD) writing for the series. Not that I am one of these people that appear to have an irrational hatred of a man I have never met:far from it, I love the fact he brought the series back, and he has given us some great stories (The Christmas Invasion, Tooth and Claw, Turn Left and Midnight to name but a few).
Increasingly however, RTD seemed to have simply run out of fresh ideas, and was not able to produce a series finale that had a satisfactory resolution. Thus for series 1 we had Daleks trying to take over the world, series 2: Daleks & Cyberman trying to take over the world; series 3: the Master had a go; Series 4 the Daleks again and the Specials the Master had another go. Similarly, we had alien invasion of contemporary earth for Christmas special 1 (a classic), alien invasion of contemporary earth for Christmas special 2, destruction attempt of earth for Christmas special 3, then an alien invasion of Victorian earth, and for the last Master tries to take over - you guessed it - contemporary earth. With its infinite format, don't you think Who deserved some originality? I do!
So to the stories:
The Next Doctor - I was really thrilled at this one... at first. The Doctor seemed to be having a ball, for once we get a Christmas special away from contemporary earth, and the premise seemed good. However, like most RTD specials the storyline seemed to have been set up for the pre-publicity gossip (i.e. is David Morrisey the next Doctor?)and subsequent viewing figures. However, this as a basis for a good story, just doesn't simply work, and you feel so let down as there's no explanation for Miss Hartinger's motivations or why the Cyberman would go along with it; and the Doctor destroying the plot from a hot air balloon was just plain ludicrous. 6/10 - great promise, but awful resolution.
The Planet of the Dead - A landmark episode as the first story to be broadcast in High Definition. Not a landmark story though - it looks beautiful but I lost interest rapidly. David Tennant is great as usual, but the plight of those on the bus and monsters that look as though they came from the Slyvester McCoy era did not really grip my attention. Perhaps too much was trying to be achieved in one go, or we just didn't know enough about the characters on the bus to feel involved in their plight? 5/10
The Waters of Mars - the classic of these specials. This story really had a "classic Who" base under siege story. For the first time, shown on a Sunday instead of a Saturday, for once we see a different side to Doctor's character. Here he relishes the fact he is more than a mere mortal and has the capability to change future events as a Time Lord - almost like a God. The Doctor himself is scary, and it is made even more so by the sacrifice that comes at the end of story by someone who realises that her timeline cannot be changed. 10/10
The End of Time. Both David Tennant and Bernard Cribbins carry a very poor story to wind-up the 10th Doctor's era. Bernard Cribbins is an amazing man, now 80 and running around like someone half his age on screen, and with a real zest for life still. Not only that he gives an excellent and moving performance throughout! I hoped that RTD would not use his "let's throw as many elements in the mix as possible for a finale but not worry about tying them up" again but I was disappointed. The Time Lords return as evil psychopaths who want to .. take over the earth (groans), and now Rassilon is alive and well apparently. How did the Time lords manage this miraculous feat of returning after the Time War? Well it's obvious... they seeded a banging noise in the universe which allowed them to re-appear !
David Tennant plays the regeneration scene very well, but I can't help thinking the line "I don't want to go" was greatly out of chracter for the Doctor (too egotistical and wimpy). However, on the plus side: whilst many have criticised RTD's self-congratulatory visit of old companions , I think for once he showed originality for the regeneration sequence.
So for the discs/extras:
- It is rather cheeky to say the least, that for this release that the BBC has decided to master these @1080/60i on Blu-Ray rather than 1080/50i for the UK market. Many have complained at seeing a slightly jerky picture, and odd colours. Why isn't the BBC mastering in the UK for the UK market?
- DT's Video Diary - a nice, personal look at his last year on the show.
- Doctor Who Confidentials - for once, not cut down- except for the one for The Next Doctor - which has some small edits.
- Commentaries - only 1 for The End of Time. Why or why, given podcasts had been recorded for the other stories?
- BBC Christmas idents. Christmas 2009 will go down as the Christmas of David Tennant, so nice to include these. Though like many, I cannot understand why they didn't also include David Tennant announcing his last show on New Year's Day?
- Doctor Who @ the Proms. Given this was filmed in HD and recorded in surround sound, the decision here to present on the Blu-Ray in SD/ Stereo is a huge wasted opportunity.
So: should you buy this set? For a fan of the 10th Doctor, then absolutely: though the extras are not up to their usual standards for the reasons outlined above. For the "casual fan" then there are many other stories from David Tennant's era that stand out much better than those on offer here. Hence my 3* rating.Read more ›