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As stated elsewhere, I have been a fan of DOCTOR WHO since my childhood. During that particular time in my life, the episodes featuring the then current Doctor, Tom Baker, were airing on local New York television stations. Of course, by the time I had made my initial acquaintance with the DOCTOR WHO television series, the program had been on the air for more than a decade in Britain, with Tom Baker already the fourth actor to portray the series title role. Since Baker was my first "Doctor" he has remained my favorite, that is, until the latest incarnation David Tennant. Tennant’s portrayal contains a lot of the quirkiness that made Baker so popular, but it’s a different type of quirkiness. Also Tennant exudes a lot of emotional depth in the role, although he tries to mask it with a sense of absent minded professor detachment, making his one of the most interesting interpretations of the character. Said quirkiness may also be the reason that Tennant has been dubbed the new fan favorite, edging out Baker in a recent poll.

For those unfamiliar with DOCTOR WHO, it is Britain’s (and the world’s) most long-lived science fiction series, initially running from 1963 to 1989. After a false start back in the 1990’s, the BBC finally resurrected DOCTOR WHO in 2005. DOCTOR WHO is the story of a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, who goes by the moniker "The Doctor" and has traveled through time and space with various companions from the planet Earth. Although they appear human, Time Lords are a long-lived species, which have the ability to regenerate (i.e. transform), when their current physical form becomes irreparably damaged (this usually happens when the current lead actor tires of the role). By the time DOCTOR WHO came back to the airwaves, The Doctor was believed to be the last of his race- the only survivor of a war with the Daleks, a highly xenophobic alien race intent on exterminating every other species in the universe.

DOCTOR WHO: THE COMPLETE SPECIALS ($50) serves as the last hurrah for actor David Tennant, who decided to turn in his sonic screwdriver and key to TARDIS after three complete series and the four specials contained in this collection. As Tennant is my personal favorite, I will be sorry to see him depart the role of The Doctor. One of the four special contained in the collection offers a stand alone narrative, while the remaining three build towards Tennant’s departure as the Tenth Doctor.

First up is The Next Doctor, which finds The Doctor in London on Christmas Eve, 1851. Shortly after his arrival, The Doctor encounters another man going by the moniker of "The Doctor" (David Morrissey), whom the Time Lord surmises to be a future regeneration of himself. However, The Next Doctor is suffering from memory loss, which leaves him unable to recognize his past self. Soon both Doctors are facing off against a contingent of Cybermen, who are preparing the way for the rise of their CyberKing. The cast of The Next Doctor also includes Velile Tshabalala and Dervla Kirwan.

Planet Of The Dead places The Doctor amongst the passengers onboard a London bus that passes through a wormhole and winds up the desert planet of San Helios. On the other side The Doctor, Lady Christina de Souza (Michelle Ryan) and the other passengers of the now seriously damaged bus find themselves stranded… without a way to get back home. Although the wormhole is still open, living beings are unable to make the trip without the protection that metal structure of the bus provided. Making matter worse is the discovery of a horde of metallic stingray-like creature that rendered San Helios a lifeless desert and that they intend to use the wormhole to take them to the next destination… Earth. The cast of Planet Of The Dead also includes Lee Evans, Noma Dumezweni, Adam James, Glenn Doherty, Victoria Alcock, David Ames, Ellen Thomas, Reginald Tsiboe, Daniel Kaluuya and Keith Parry.

The Waters Of Mars lands The Doctor on the Red Planet where the first human colony has taken up residence. When The Doctor is apprised of the date, he realizes the historic significance and that the colony… and its inhabitants are facing immanent doom. Unwilling to tamper with a fixed point in history, The Doctor decides to leave Mars, but his departure is delayed a strange infection that causes the bodies of the victims to gush copious amounts of water. Soon, the organism infecting the colonist makes its intentions known, it wants to get to Earth… a planet primarily covered in water. The cast of The Waters Of Mars also includes Lindsay Duncan, Peter O'Brien, Aleksander Mikic, Gemma Chan, Sharon Duncan Brewster, Chook Sibtain, Alan Ruscoe and Cosima Shaw.

The End of Time Parts One & Two brings David Tennant’s tenure to its conclusion. The Doctor, aware of a prophecy (since Planet Of The Dead) that his time is drawing to an end, finds himself face to face with his arch nemesis, The Master (John Simm), yet again. However, The Master, who has turned all of humanity into doppelgangers of himself, may seem like small potatoes compared to another threat that emerges… one that could bring an end to time itself. The End of Time Parts 1 & 2 not only serves as Tennant’s swan song, it also provides insight as to why The Doctor felt it necessary to sacrifice the rest of his species in the Time War with the Daleks. This final special also brings together many familiar faces from previous adventures. The cast of The End of Time Parts 1 & 2 also includes Timothy Dalton, Catherine Tate, Jacqueline King, Billie Piper, Camille Coduri, Freema Agyeman, Noel Clarke, John Barrowman, Elisabeth Sladen, Jessica Hynes, Russell Tovey and Thomas Knight.

BBC Home Video (via Warner) has made all the programs that comprise DOCTOR WHO: THE COMPLETE SPECIALS available on DVD in 1.78:1 wide screen presentations that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. The specials look very good in standard definition, and I can’t say I have any particular complaints the picture quality. Image sharpness and detail is very solid for SD. Colors are quite vibrant and are reproduced with excellent stability. Blacks are deep, while the whites appear crisp. Contrast is pretty strong, with the lighting being more dramatic what is applied to sitcoms. Digital compression artifacts stay under the radar.

All the programs featured in DOCTOR WHO: THE COMPLETE SPECIALS come with Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtracks. All in all, these are very good television production level soundtracks that conform to certain necessities of broadcast. Because of the broadcast equation, the sound is more frontloaded, but certain elements are directed to the rear channels. Dialogue is prominent, as well as being warmly recorded and reproduced in a very natural sounding manner. With few exceptions, intelligibility is very good. Fidelity is pretty nice, with the musical component also being given a nice spread through the soundstage. The bass channel adds a bit of punch, but not at the theatrical level. No other language tracks have been included on the DVD, but English subtitles are provided.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard episode/scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. First up, each special includes its very own hour-long Doctor Who Confidential program, which looks at the individual productions. The Next Doctor also includes Doctor Who At The Proms an hour-long live concert, multi media event. The End of Time Parts One & Two also include individual running Audio Commentary tracks. Part One features actors David Tennant and Catherine Tate, plus director Euros Lyn, while Part Two includes actors David Tennant and John Simm, plus director Euros Lyn. Other programs on Part One include David Tennant's Video Diaries and Doctor Who BBC Christmas Idents (TV Spots). Other programs on Part Two include Doctor Who At Comic-Con and Deleted Scenes With Introduction From Russell T. Davies.

Overall, this is an enjoyable collection of specials that marks the departure of actor David Tennant, who may be the best performer to take on the role of The Doctor. The presentations found in DOCTOR WHO: THE COMPLETE SPECIALS are quite nice and should please anyone that prefers standard definition. Recommended.



Doctor Who: The Complete Specials (The Next Doctor / Planet of the Dead / The Waters of Mars / The End of Time Parts 1 and 2)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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