After Billie Piper (Rose) departed in the series 2 finale "Doomsday," many fans were deeply saddened and wondered if the show would collapse with a new companion (Martha Jones). However, as any "Doctor Who" fans know, a companion change is a trademark element of the show. It spices up the program by making it continuously fresh. While the character of Rose will surely be missed, I'm happy to report that Martha Jones (and series 3 for that matter) will no doubt please fans.
A summary of Series Three: The third series was a tragic year for the Doctor. Not only is he still trying to cope with the loss of Rose, but the Doctor is starting to feel alone in the world. True, he picks up a new companion (Martha Jones) to fill that void, but it doesn't seem to be enough for him. He misses his home. On top of that, the Doctor winds up losing a close friend, and meets two of his biggest foes (the Daleks and The Master).
Series Three consists of 13 episodes plus the Christmas Special "The Runaway Bride." Here's a rundown of each ep:
"The Runaway Bride"- Aside from a gripping Tardis chase and a nifty scene involving planet Earth's creation, the story about the Empress Of Racnoss trying to bring back her species treads familiar ground. Additionally, the inclusion of Catherine Tate as Donna, who will be the main companion in series 4, was a bit mixed. Tate starts out obnoxious by screaming non-stop, but she eventually mellows down and becomes more likeable as the story progressed. It will be interesting to see how she fares in an entire series.
"Smith And Jones"- The story about a fugitive blood sucking Plasmavore is by no means brilliant, but I felt this was a perfect opening to the season. The story superbly introduces Martha Jones and her family to viewers while also presenting a new alien species (The Judoon). In my humble opinion, the Rhino headed Judoon are the best realized aliens of the new series alongside the Ood.
"The Shakespeare Code"- The plot: A group of witches named the Carrionites are using William Shakespeare to bring back their sisters from another dimension. Naturally, the Doctor plans to stop them from carrying out their plan. This is simply put my favorite historical episode of the new series thus far. David Tennant is at the top of his game here with his hilarious dialogue about "Harry Potter," "Back To The Future," and Shakespeare play references. Freema Agyeman's chemistry with Tennant begins to grow here as well.
"Gridlock" sees the Doctor returning to New Earth and discovering a massive traffic jam, the Macra, and other mysteries that he must uncover. Much like fine wine, this episode gets better with age. Not only does the episode contain stunning imagery (the Macra, the motorway), but "Gridlock" also has some of the most touching scenes in "Doctor Who" history (notably the death of reoccurring character, the Doctor's determination to save Martha/the city, and the hymn).
"Daleks In Manhattan" and "Evolution Of The Daleks"- This 2 parter about the Daleks showing up in 1930's New York to create a new army starts out promising enough with astonishingly detailed sets, f/x, and costumes, but the story quickly becomes a tiresome routine tale of the daleks killing and escaping. Flaws aside, however, I was intrigued by the inclusion of the Human/Dalek Hybrid. It's a shame this story idea fizzled out because it would have made for an original story arc for the Daleks.
"The Lazarus Experiment" - The plot: A scientist named Professor Lazarus creates a machine that makes humans become young again. He tests it on himself and it appears to go according to plan until he transforms into a giant, grotesque monster. There's no bones about it, this is a good-old-fashioned "Doctor Who" monster story complete with corridor chases and peril a plenty. In addition to the action, we actually get to see (and learn) A LOT more of Martha's family here. True, they aren't as charismatic as Rose's family and friends, but it's hard to top Jackie Tyler and Mickey Smith.
"42"- The Doctor materializes aboard a ship that is about to crash into the sun. Additionally, an unwelcome alien visitor slowly begins to kill off the crew one by one. "42" is easily the weakest of the season. The story is too much like "24," "Sunshine," and last year's "Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit." The script is also dumbed down by a eye-rolling subplot about trivia questions. The only redeeming element is seeing the Doctor become possessed by an alien.
"Human Nature" and "The Family Of Blood" sees the Doctor hiding out as a human schoolteacher in 1913 England to avoid a nasty group of aliens. When the aliens eventually land in England, only Martha knows how to bring the Doctor back to his normal self. This 2 parter is a nice departure from the usual adventure, but there's simply not enough material here to warrant two parts. Granted, it's nice to see a greater emphasis on character, but most of it feels like filler. My favorite moment of this 2 parter was seeing the Doctor's darker side during the montage in which he "deals" with the Family Of Blood.
"Blink"- The plot: After an encounter with the Weeping Angels (alien statues), the Doctor finds himself trapped in time. His only hope is to reach out to a young woman named Sally Sparrow. Writer Steven Moffat is arguably the show's best scribe. "The Empty Child," "The Doctor Dances," "The Girl In The Fireplace," and now "Blink" are all brilliant episodes. "Blink" is a tour-de-force horror tale with plenty of clever plot devices (DVD Easter Eggs!) that will keep the viewer enthralled. Also, the character of Sally Sparrow is absolutely charming. The GORGEOUS actress Carey Mulligan lights up every scene she is in. She puts Billie Piper and Freema Agyeman to shame. Hopefully Sally Sparrow will become a future companion.
"Utopia" sees the return of Captain Jack Harkness (finally!). The story: Jack, Martha, and the Doctor travel to the end of the world where they meet a Professor Yana (played by the exquisite Derek Jacobi) who turns out to be the Master. "Utopia" is hands down my favorite episode of the season. From the opening of Captain Jack grabbing hold of the Tardis to the shocking regeneration scene, this adventure yarn was a non stop thrill ride.
"The Sound Of Drums" and "Last Of The Time Lords" find the Doctor returning to present day England (AKA Martha's home) to find that political candidate Harold Saxon IS the Master. Even worse, he has just been elected Prime Minister. With this power, the Master's plan of world domination begins to take effect. Will the Doctor be powerless to stop him? Of all of the finales of the new series, this 2 parter is by far the weakest. True, we do get a geektastic flashback of Gallifrey, a revelation about Captain Jack, and two other surprises at the end, but the story is rather ho-hum. "The Sound Of Drums" merely re-states all that has happened up to this point and sets up the second part. "Last Of The Time Lords" doesn't deliver on the promise of the set-up and wraps up way too quickly and predictably. The finale also boasts some frightfully bad moments (the psychic energy resurrecting the Doctor, the Master musical number). As for John Simm's Master, while he may be a tad over the top at times, his scenes with Tennant made for some good drama.
Overall, series three is on par with the last two seasons of the new series. All three seasons have their ups and downs, but the good far outweighs the bad. For my money, "Doctor Who" is the most exciting and fulfilling show on television today. Bring on series 4!
Since I reviewed a promo copy, the 1.78:1 widescreen picture quality may not appear as clear as the finished version. I did notice some lines during darker scenes, but overall the transfers were very sharp. This may be considered blasphemous, but I love seeing non-video tape/widescreen Who episodes. It makes the adventures appear more epic.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio certainly has a stronger mix than classic "Doctor Who" discs, but the show suffers from loud music cues that overpower the dialogue (a common complaint among fans). PLEASE tone down the music for series 4.
* Previews for "Torchwood" DVD and a BBC America channel.
* 2 teasers and 4 launch promos.
* A self-explanatory 18 minute Freema Agyeman Studio Tour. She guides us through the production offices, stages, prop offices, etc.
* 5 1/2 minutes of outtakes mainly showing David Tennant messing up.
* A 9 minute David Tennant Video Diary on "The Runaway Bride" set. He interviews Catherine Tate and Sarah Parish about their roles.
* Julie Garland and David Tennant give us a commentary track on "The Runaway Bride." The two chat up a storm about green screen work, scenes that were cut, and Catherine Tate.
* 18 mins. of deleted footage (mostly short extended scenes). I'm sad to report there isn't anything really notable here aside from scenes with Doctor packed into a small car in "The Runaway Bride," and the Doctor singing in "Human Nature."
* "Music And Monsters" (58 1/2 minutes) is the "Doctor Who Confidential" episode for "The Runaway Bride" and the "Children In Need Concert." The concert consists entirely of music from the show with various actors (David Tennant) and creatures (Dalek, Cybermen, Ood) appearing on stage. I wish I could have been there!
* Trailers for "Jekyll," "The Shakespeare Code," and "Gridlock."
* A 29 minute David Tennant's Video Diary featurette on "Smith And Jones," "The Shakespeare Code," and "Gridlock." David shows off his new suit and talks to Freema about her first day on set.
* Commentary- "Smith And Jones"- Russell T. Davies and David Tennant seem to be having fun as they talk back and forth about costumes, the focus on panicking citizens, and the Sontaran/Judoon comparisons.
* Commentary- "The Shakespeare Code"-Christina Cole and David Tennant give some insight into shooting at the Globe theater. The highlight includes Tennant talking about a cut scene between the Doctor (in his underwear) and Martha in bed. That would have been awkward.
* Commentary- "Gridlock"- Julie Gardner, Travis Oliver and Marie Jones mainly blabber about the F/X and catsuits.
* Trailers for "Daleks In Manhattan," "The Lazarus Experiment," and "42."
* Commentary- "Daleks In Manhattan"- Miranda Raison, Louise Paige, Helen Raynor comment on the horrendous weather plaguing production and the superb New York sets.
* Commentary- "Evolution Of The Daleks"- David Tennant, Nicholas Briggs, and Barney Curnow give my favorite commentary track of this set. Briggs is an absolute hoot to listen to as he introduces himself as Tom Baker, talks in Dalek voices, etc. I hope he will do voice acting in series 4.
* Commentary- "The Lazarus Experiment"- David Tennant and Mark Gattis ramble on about prosthetics, old man makeup, RTD's love of anagrams, and much more.
* Commentary- "42"- Russell T. Davies and Chris Chibnall talk VERY fast in this track. The highlight includes RTD comparing "Sunshine" to this episode and stating how the ship in this episode was originally called Icarus (the name of the ship in "Sunshine").
* "The State Within" preview.
* David Tennant's Video Diary on set of "Daleks In Manhattan," "The Lazarus Experiment," "Evolution Of The Daleks," "42," "Family Of Blood," "Human Nature" and his stint on "The Weakest Link: Doctor Who Special" (40 minutes).
* Charles Palmer, Paul Cornell and Murray Gold provide commentary for "Human Nature." Cornell is overly excited about everything little thing and questions Gold and Palmer frequently. Cornell does offer a few tidbits about comparisons to his "Doctor Who" book of the same name.
* On "Family Of Blood," Suzie Liggat, Tracie Simpson, and Arwel Wyn Jones provide commentary. The three mainly discuss technical aspects such as the costume designs, locations that the crew shot at, character roles, etc.
* Commentary- Murray Gold and Steven Moffat chat about "Blink's" intricate time travel story, music, and classic Who episodes.
* Trailers for "MI-5" Volume 1, "Utopia," "Sound Of Drums," "Vote Saxon," and "Last Of The Time Lords."
* A 27 minute David Tennant's Video Diary from the sets of "Utopia," "The Sound Of Drums," and "Last Of The Time Lords." Highlights: A tour of John Barrowman's trailer, Tennant dancing in the old man costume, and Barrowman getting a Dalek cake for his birthday.
* Commentary by Russell T. Davies and David Tennant on "Utopia." The two talk about the crazy filming schedule, continuity, the Master and how John Barrowman was going to do the commentary track.
* "The Sound Of Drums" commentary features Julie Gardner and Phil Collinson. Highlights include discussions of the celebrity cameos and a reference to the superb "Sea Devils" episode.
* Russell T. Davies, Julie Gardner, and Phil Collinson show up on the "Last Of The Time Lords" commentary track. In between fits of laughter, the 3 chat about the big "revelation" at the end of the episode, and how the Master won't be returning in season 4. RTD does state that he purposely set it up so that he could return in some form down the road.
* "Doctor Who" Series 2 preview.
* 13 "Dr. Who Confidential" episodes running 2 1/2 hours in length. The most notable bits include writer Helen Raynor and crew members visiting New York for research and plate shots for the Dalek episodes, behind the scenes shots, early memories of the show with various writers/actors, interviews, etc.
My only complaint with the bonus features is the absence of the animated "Doctor Who: Infinite Quest" series.
"Doctor Who" series 3 is a must buy. I am proud to give this set my first DVD TALK COLLECTOR SERIES rating.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.