The animated Doctor Who - Dreamland takes England's most beloved time travelling hero to the New Mexico desert of 1958 a few years after the infamous Roswell Conspiracy was born. Doctor Who (David Tennant) proceeds to visit a diner and then travel around the New Mexico locations until he winds up involved in some trouble with some Men In Black types who are brainwashing the local population and a group of military types who would rather Who and his travelling companions, Cassie (Georgia Moffet), go back to where they came from. It seems that all parties are after part of a flying saucer that crashed there some time ago and which may hold the key to some technology the military would be very interested in. Unfortunately for both the military and Doctor Who, some giant alien bugs are in the area and none too keen on anyone else rummaging through their stuff.
Briskly paced and over far too quickly at just forty odd minutes in length, Doctor Who - Dreamland originally aired in segments on the BBC's website and has now been compiled on DVD in its complete form. The computer animation employed in creating the feature works well in the context of the story, hitting a nice mix of cartoonish style and realistic backgrounds that fit the right tone very effectively. In short, the feature looks very good, it's got lots of style and great colors and some really interesting and unique character design work to keep your eyes interested in whatever is going on. Even the slower spots, of which there are very few, always at least look great thanks to some nicely rendered backgrounds and sets for which the animated characters can play off of. The flip side of this is that character movement s do sometimes seem awkward and lumbering where they should seem natural and fluid. This contrasts in a big way with the detailed backgrounds, so for every scene that looks great, there are sequences where they characters move a lot and these tend not to work quite as well.
Tennant's voice work fits in really well here, as he's got a sort of cartoonish personality to him in real life that translates well to animated form. He lends the character an enthusiasm and a charm that makes him fun to watch, and his back and forth with Georgia Moffet's Cassie adds some welcome humor to the storyline. The dialogue is written cleverly enough to play to Tennant's strong points, so expect some witty one liners on a regular basis and a bit of sarcasm here and there. Stuart Milligan and David Warner play some of the villainous supporting characters and both do a fine job of it with Warner in particular really seeming to get quite into his part here.
Dreamland might be too short to really matter a whole lot in the grand scheme of Doctor Who mythology but it is a fun way to kill some time. The story is maybe a bit on the predictable side but melding Doctor Who with the whole Roswell mystery is a choice that works - who better (pun intended) to investigate the events than he? The feature is periodically quite ambitious and frequently very interesting, benefitting from good, if very uneven, animation and a talented cast of voice actors. Essential viewing? No, but plenty entertaining. Here's hoping we have more Doctor Who animation in this vein, rather than the earlier (and far less inspired) The Infinite Quest from a few years back.
Note: The following review is based on a test disc that may or may not represent finished, retail product.
Doctor Who - Dreamland looks good in this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Lines are well defined and don't shimmer all too often and there are no problems with compression artifacts to note. Colors are bright and bold without looking overcooked and black levels are generally strong as well. The computer generated animation used to create the show offers up some good detail here and there and there are no authoring issues worth complaining about.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is fine, though a 5.1 mix would have been fun in spots, particularly those more action intensive moments that occur throughout the feature. Dialogue is always easy to understand and the levels are properly balanced throughout. Some of the sound effects sound a bit hollow and bass response won't blow you away, but overall things sound fine. Optional subtitles are offered up in English, French, German and Spanish.
The single disc sent for review contains only the feature and a menu with chapter selection options. The BBC America website advertises this as a two disc set, noting that the second disc contains a featurette entitled 'Doctor Who's Greatest Moments' but that disc wasn't sent.
Despite the barebones nature of the test disc materials sent for review, this is a fun release. While it's not as essential as some of the better, more features laden Doctor Who releases to have come out over the last few years, it's an enjoyable and entertaining, if short, last stab at the David Tennent era before the series moves on. It's hard to recommend it in an unfinished state such as this, but the material is worth seeing and a fine choice for a rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.