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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Adventure > Time Travel > British TV > Doctor Who – The Complete Specials (BBC Blu-ray)

Doctor Who – The Complete Specials (BBC Blu-ray)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: B     Episodes (collectively): B-



Doctor Who has fascinated television audiences for years and years and slowly but surely the series is arriving on Blu-ray.  With just one single episode (special) of the series released to date on Blu-ray, this four episode box set of TV specials was a pleasant surprise.  I have never spent too much time with Doctor Who as I could not afford the numerous box sets that are available, nor did I have the opportunity to catch it on TV.  After viewing this box set, however, I completely understand the fascination with this classic science fiction series.  The Doctor may have changed over time, but has always maintained a supreme quality throughout time (no pun intended…maybe).


There are 4 episodes or specials available in this set [The Next Doctor; Planet of the Dead; Waters of Mars; End of Time (Part 1 & 2)].  It is generally agreed that Water of Mars is the best special, quickly followed by The Next Doctor, then End of Time and finally Planet of the Dead.  I think each special had its merits, but as mentioned above some rise above the rest.


The Next Doctor allows even the most casual viewer to jump into the series with ease. The year is 1851 and the Doctor has arrived into London, only to discover that another Doctor already exists (David Morrissey) or at least claims to be the Doctor.  The story takes off as the Doctor hides his identity, while trying to discover what is going on around him.  With sudden memory loss and the evils of the Cyberman and Miss Mercy (Dervla Kirwan) encompassing his every move the Doctor must think on his feet and be ready for anything.  The story is intelligent and quickly jumps into action, but there is still a degree of campiness throughout that I just can’t get over.  I loved the science fiction aspect, but other elements remain distracting.


Planet of the Dead was pure awful in this reviewer’s opinion.  A bus containing The Doctor and a cat burglar (among other passengers) suddenly falls into a wormhole, transporting the crew to a desert planet called San Helios.  San Helios has no direct route back to their planet and in turn The Doctor and his fellow bus riders must band together to return home.  In a silly turn of events earth is being attacked by Aliens (shiny stingray people); and it is up to the passengers to return home to save the day.  The acting is abysmal and the costumes are heinous.  Tennant flounders around as The Doctor and consistently makes me ask, what is going on here?  If it wasn’t in this set with the rest I would have skipped this special all together.


Waters of Mars is by far the best special in the set.  Going from the horrors of Planet of the Dead to this epic, emotional and powerful Doctor Who special was quite a leap.  Waters of Mars features The Doctor arriving on Mars in the year 2059, meeting up with the planets first settlers.  The Doctor is quickly taken into custody by the settlers, but after the confusion dissipates The Doctor discovers the odd happenings of the planet.  It seems that the settlers are beginning to transform into hideous creatures with water powers.  Of course The Doctor sets out to save the day, but is he too late?  The special plays out brilliantly from beginning to end as each sci-fi element is executed seamlessly as horror, time travel and an emotional twist that gives the episode that extra something.


Finally we have The End of Time (Part 1 & 2); I would call this a middle-quality episode.  This is the end for the ‘10th Doctor’ and nightmares are afoot for people all over the world, but oddly enough they can’t remember them.  The whole episode gets off to an epic start as many old faces return in the form of The Master, Harold Saxon (John Simm) and old friends like that of Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) and Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins) show their faces.  Part 1 seems to add a lot of elements to the plot, but does little in terms of development; also throwing in odd occurrences that contribute little to the flow.  Part 2 focuses more on revealing the oddities set up in Part 1, but does seem a tad rushed as there are many loose ends to tie up.  I would say the end is fairly emotional, even though I have never been fully immersed in the Doctor Who universe.  The end seemed inevitable from the beginning, but from what friends tell me it did the series justice and gave a few nods to past story lines.


The technical features are the same as those found on the previous Blu-ray single release of Planet of the Dead.   The picture is a 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image with minimal motion blur here and there and has a overall nice quality, but far from being a good Blu-ray.  The color is blah, the contrast stinks and is all too apparent that this is merely an upconvert image.  The sound is a tad better in its DTS-HD Master Audio (MA) lossless 5.1 mix having a somewhat rich and full quality throughout, but for some odd reason the mostly pristine dialogue is all too often drowned out by the musical scores.  The directionality is also weak, though there is a good use of all the speakers.  The technical features aren’t the worst, but far from the best Blu-ray out there.


Between the 5 discs there a ton of extras to view….too much for my taste.  The Next Doctor includes two featurettes; Confidential a behind the scenes look at the special that is all encompassing; and ‘Doctor Who’ Proms 2009, which is an hour long special that mindlessly combines the music of Doctor Who performed at Royal Albert Hall with past Doctor Who creations romping around.  Planet of the Dead and Water of Mars both feature a similar behind the scenes featurette as The Next Doctor did, both entitled Confidential and giving approximately an hour look backstage of the special.  The End of Time (Part 1 and 2) feature the most bonus features in the set as they each include (on separate discs) an Audio Commentary and a Confidential Featurette for each part.  Part 1 also includes a David Tennant Video Diary: The Final Days, as well as some commercials entitled Christmas Idents.  Part 2 houses a Doctor Who at Comic-Con featurette and some Deleted Scenes that neither add nor detract from the series.


Overall, it is an adequate set that fans will enjoy, but this may be the last time stop for this Doctor Who reviewer.


For more on The Next Doctor, try this link:





-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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