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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In my opinion...the BEST series of Doctor Who. EVER., 20 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Doctor Who : Complete BBC Series 4 [2008] [DVD] (DVD)
Normally, when a series reaches its fourth season, signs of faltering start to show. Or you find that a programme is way past its best, recycling old material/plot ideas and is no longer as fresh and quality as you fondly remember.

Mercifully, though...that is not something that applies with the fourth series of Doctor Who. Far from being tired and overdone, the fourth season of the new series was just as inventive and deep as ever, with Russell T Davies taking the show in further directions. In fact, I'd call it the best series of new Who. Aside from being my personal favourite, I found Series 4 more consistent and epic than anything that has gone before or since. And most importantly, it turned me from an admirer of the show, into a die-hard fan.

Here, David Tennant was now entering his third series as the Tenth Doctor, and had established himself as both an icon of television and arguably the greatest incarnation ever of the Time Lord, supported by great companions whose chemistry drove previous series to such classic heights. After choosing Billie Piper and Freema Agyeman to share the spotlight with David, Russell T Davies shocked the world by unveiling high-profile comedienne Catherine Tate to reprise her role as loudmouthed temp Donna Noble to return to the series; as the Doctor's FULL-TIME companion.

The reaction was understandable, given that the Donna Noble character (from the ill-received episode `The Runaway Bride'.) was absolutely unbearable and that Tate herself was a comedienne whose style some people find (myself included) hit-and-miss. But Davies clearly knew what he was doing by bringing Tate back. Here, Catherine once again showed absolutely tremendous chemistry with David, and won millions of viewers over (myself included) with her brilliantly funny and heartbreaking portrayal of Donna.

The character itself was reinvented drastically for Series 4, maturing from a real gobby idiot to a much more well-rounded and deeper companion, truly worthy of the Doctor. What's so refreshing about this series was the relationship between the time traveller and his companion. Here, Donna is truly the Doctor's best mate, the big sister he never had. No romance whatsoever. With Rose in series 2, the soulmate premise and implied love felt natural. With Martha and her unreciprocated love, it made for an interesting sub-plot in Series 3. But the relationship here is just two true friends going around and having a good time, and that's what gave Series 4 its heart.

Right from the first episode, "Partners in Crime', you can expect nothing but laughs and quality. It's such a solid start to the series and is terrifically paced, with Donna having long realised to open her eyes and show everyone just how brilliant she is as she seeks out the Doctor, both (independently) investigating an insidious scheme to seed aliens as...weight loss pills (!). In terms of plot, the episode is laughable, with the whole Adipose premise being overly silly. But why the episode is such a winner, is the character depth/interaction, the look at Donna's life and the Doctor and Donna finally reuniting after constantly missing each other. You find yourselves cheering the reunion when it happens, and when the Doctor and Donna team saves the day and sets off, you know you're in for a brilliant ride across the series.

And right throughout, that's what you get, with both David and Catherine at the top of their game, bringing drama, comedy and flat-out excellence, both together and by themselves as they provide so many unforgettable Doctor-Donna moments. In terms of general plot of the whole `Medusa Cascade' arc, Series 4 delivered in a way no other series did, with cracking sub-plots, ominous omens, high-stakes, daunting questions about the futures of both Donna and the Doctor and outstanding guest appearances from the likes of Billie Piper (Rose), Freema Agyeman (Martha), Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane) and John Barrowman (Captain Jack). As for monsters, you can expect some great frights from returning creatures like the Ood and the Sontarans, the insidious Vashta Nerada and dangers of planet Midnight, and of course, the ULTIMATE horror in the Doctor's life (give you a clue, begins with `D'!) and the long-awaited return of its CREATOR.

In terms of overall consistency, Series 4 can still be viewed as being an absolute triumph. Very few episodes are below par, with the majority being either great or must-see classics. Ones to watch are definitely "Partners in Crime", "Planet of the Ood", Steve Moffat's phenomenal "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" two-parter, Russell T Davies' staggeringly good "Midnight", and the utterly essential three-part finale, consisting of "Turn Left" (Catherine's greatest ever performance), "The Stolen Earth" (a rollercoaster epic) and "Journey's End" (an exceptional finale with a climax that's initially uplifting, then utterly heartbreaking).

Special-features, there's loads to sink your teeth into. Commentaries, deleted scenes, trailers, a whole disc full of Doctor Who: Confidential pieces, featurettes, David Tennant's video diaries...Oh, and there's also the 2007 `Voyage of the Damned' Christmas special (featuring Kylie Minogue) and the absolutely brilliant "Time Crash" Children in Need special (featuring the Fifth Doctor himself, Peter Davison). Quality-wise, the picture and sound are typical 2Entertain crispness, there are subtitles and audio navigation (for those who need them) and the package itself features beautiful panoramas that fold out.

Even though Catherine Tate's Who days are long over and David Tennant has now regenerated into Matt Smith, Doctor Who: Series 4 still remains utterly essential viewing. I still consider it the best series ever and its impact can never ever be forgotten. At such a bargain price, there's all the more reason to purchase this boxset. It just doesn't disappoint. Classic, quality viewing. Relive the days where the Time Lord continued his travels with (truly) his best friend by his side.
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