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This review is from: Doctor Who - Series 3 Vol.1  [DVD]  (DVD)
A lot has already been said about the wonderful impact series 3 of DOCTOR WHO has made. I'd like to add a little more to the collective.
I shed a tear during the final ten minutes of DOOMSDAY and realised (on that beach in Norway, Wales) that we were not just facing an ending, but also a plateau. And then, a bit further beyond that, a new beginning. BILLIE PIPER had to go, but her work was done; the series itself had reached a point where the only way forward was up. And 'up' for Doctor Who means one thing: regeneration. Not for the lead, no - he's as perfect as we're likely to have for a long time - I mean the series itself. So what did we get after a three-month production hiatus?
SMITH AND JONES. A wonderful opening episode. Full of excitement and spectacle. Outrageous in execution yet supremely light on its feet (surprisingly so, given the uber-heavy Alien Menace on display). Oh, and did I mention a new companion for the Doctor? MARTHA JONES...she's excellent too. As is the little old lady with the straw (sorry, Plasmavore - aka: villain of the piece). The effects on the moon are wonderfully imaginative (the JUDOON spacecraft reminded me of the transport shuttle landing from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY with that little red flight-deck light at the top, an incredible detail). That a full adventure with a satisfying resolution can be had within forty-five minutes - and still leave room to introduce Martha's family - is testament to the supreme creative understanding of, and confidence in, a show that just keeps on getting better.
THE SHAKESPEARE CODE also displays loving attention to detail. The background shots of Olde London Town look superb are are integrated seamlessly with the live-action. The witches are firm and fruity and the idea that words can act as numbers (with the aid of the Globe Theatre) to unlock a curse is fascinating. It helps, of course, that those words belong to The Great Bard himself. Yes, there's a lot of knowing references here, but there's also no better setup in the world with which to exploit them. A joy to watch and a superb episode.
GRIDLOCK has the most intriguing story of all and is the visual treat to match. A seemingly endless traffic jam under the dead city of New New York leads to the return of Cat-Novice Hame (from NEW EARTH), a surprise monster reveal for fans of a certain age and a quasi-religious 'quiet moment' that actually brings a lump to the throat in its simplicity of execution. Other outstanding treats include an amazing CGI shot of the city that wouldn't seem out of place in THE PHANTOM MENACE, The Face Of Boe's demise and The Doctor's sad recollections of his homeworld, Gallifrey. A terrifically downbeat ending.
Also check out the performances of all the characters in these three episodes. Not one lets the side down. That's because they all know it makes for a heck of a reference on their cv and is unequivocal proof that pride in the job still matters. The same goes for the entire production team. I just think of the cynical age that we live in and feel bloody lucky that a tv show like this can still be made.
Buy this DVD and enjoy the best escapism in the universe.