With Doctor Who having hit newfound heights of popularity these days you really can't blame the BBC for repackaging some of the more popular serials from the series fifty year history. This third entry in the recent Doctors Revisited collections brings together two episodes for each of the three most recent actors to play the character: Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith.
Here's what you'll find...
Bad Wolf / Parting Of The Ways:
In Bad Wolf, The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) wind up getting amnesia and wake up on the sets of some strange game shows. The Doctor finds himself a contestant on a show very similar to Big Brother where the house is run by a Davinadroid (Davina McCall), Rose on an episode of You Are The Weakest Link hosted by Anne-droid (Anne Robinson) and Jack on What Not To Wear. While all of this may sound like good fun, these futuristic versions of modern day television shows have a lot more at risk than just cash and prizes, in fact, should our heroes wind up losing to their competitors, they could find themselves either disintegrated or the subject of some very unseemly surgical practices!
The Doctor escapes from his set and meets a woman named Lynda Moss (Jo Joyner) who flees with him and in turn helps him to try and track down Rose and Jack, but as in all cases like this, time is of the essence, particularly when the nefarious being known only as The Controller (Martha Cope) is at the helm of this wretched plan…
Next up is Parting Of The Ways, the final episode of the first series, which begins with a scene where the Daleks are interrogating Rose as to what The Doctor's plans are. The Doctor, meanwhile, uses the TARDIS to generate a shield as he materializes near her just as Jack destroys the Dalek inquisitor. The Doctor notices that the supreme Dalek Emperor was behind all of this and we learn of his past, how he survived the Time War and made it to Earth to rebuild his race with human DNA. This ties into the Bad Wolf episode and answers some of the questions posed here. This human has changed the Daleks so that this strain now feels different emotions.
When The Doctor realizes that the Daleks are planning an attack, he and his companions use the TARDIS to transport themselves back to the Game Station to prepare. They arrive safely, but will they have enough time to present the Daleks from committing a devastating siege against the Earth?
Christopher Eccleston's time in the TARDIS was always meant to have a different feel than that which came before, meaning that here The Doctor is a bit more of a man of action, a bit tougher but certainly no less effective. By the time these episodes were made he's found a comfort zone with the character and while the actor opted not to return for a second run, he did a good job in the few episodes he graced us with and deserves credit where credit is due for his part in the increasingly popular re-launch of the series. The two episodes showcased here are high points, they feature Eccleston in fine form and the lovely Billie Piper proving every bit his equal. Lots of action, lots of adventure, some of the humor that the series is known for and, of course, lots of Daleks.
The Stolen Earth / Journey's End:
When The Stolen Earth begins, the Earth is somehow transported out of its regular location in space just as The Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna Noble (Catharine Tate) show up, hoping to figure out just what exactly Rose was warning them about previously. With the Earth missing in action, The Doctor opts to get in touch with an interstellar police agency called The Shadow Proclamation to help him figure out just what happened to the planet. As it turns out, the Earth is one of over twenty planets that has disappeared recently, and Donna makes a strange connection to the patterns of bees on Earth that might just hold a clue to all of this.
As it turns out, Davros has returned and is leading a Dalek squad to Earth to take out UNIT and generally wreak havoc. The circumstances around Davros' return are unusual, but this doesn't stop The Doctor from gather some allies and doing all that is in his power to save the Earth from Davros and set it back in its rightful place in the cosmos.
In Journey's End the storyline concludes as the tenth Doctor manages to avoid regenerating as a new Doctor and returns to life as himself. The Daleks capture the TARDIS and they take it to their mothership which ties into the disappearance of all of the planets, including Earth. The Daleks intend to destroy the TARDIS with Donna inside while The Doctor, Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Rose Tyler have to try and stop them before it's too late. Meanwhile, some Torchwood affiliates are doing what they can to stop the Dalek menace and eventually, The Doctor must face Davros one on one.
David Tennant was a ridiculously popular Doctor and it's easy to see why in these two episodes. While the continuity here makes this a less than ideal jumping on point for new viewers (it really ramps up a lot of the plot threads that had been running through the series to this point), it does allow Tennant to really run in the part and do a fantastic job in the lead. His chemistry with Billie Piper leads to some fun back and forth and he handles himself well both in the more action intensive scenes, the dramatic moments (and there are some here that are true tearjerkers!) and the comedic bits as well. His Doctor is a bit more relaxed than Eccleston's but no less intense when the storylines call for it and is the fate of both the Earth and the TARDIS is at stake here, intense would seem to be the order of the day. Two great episodes from a really enjoyable run, these are a blast to revisit.
The Impossible Astronaut / Day Of The Moon:
Last but not least, the eleventh Doctor (current at the time of this writing, though that will change very, very shortly) in the first episode of the sixth series, The Impossible Astronaut. When this episode begins, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and her beau Rory (Arthur Darvill) receive a blue invitation that looks uncannily like the TARDIS asking them to head to Utah. They oblige and upon their arrival they meet River Song (Alex Kingston) and then, shortly after, The Doctor (Matt Smith). They four of them have a picnic near a lake and he fills them in on how he's aged almost two hundred years in the two months since they've seen him last. From here, a strange astronaut emerges out of the lake and shoots The Doctor. He survives the first assault and tells them not to get in the way of this, just as the astronaut fires again and kills him before he can regenerate. From here, Canton Everett Delaware III (William Morgan Sheppard) shows up with a gas can and the four of them burn The Doctor's body.
As the Pond's and Ms. Song have dinner and mourn their friend, trying to figure out just what exactly happened there, who should show up but The Doctor, two hundred years younger than the version they just saw murdered. He also received a blue invitation but none of them seem to know where those invitations originated. Collectively the opt not to tell The Doctor they just saw him die, and instead they start to piece together the events that lead up to this. Amy, however, sees things that the others do not and it soon turns out that a member of the race known only as The Silence is around and erasing Amy's memories for some reason…
…which leads into The Day Of The Moon where The Doctor and his three companions are doing what they can to track down The Silence and, without heading into spoiler territory, it ties into Area 51, Apollo 11 and The Doctor's past, present and future. This episode in particular has long reaching story threads and going into any more detail about how all of this plays out would be a huge disservice to those who haven't seen it for themselves.
Arguably the most popular of the actors who have played The Doctor since the series was brought back, Matt Smith really makes the role his own. Smith's enthusiasm in the part is infectious. He's charismatic and funny and clever but also able to ‘flip that switch' and, when the series does take those dark turns, bring his take on the character along with it. Here, while The Ponds were still a big factor in the series, we get to see the chemistry that existed between Smith and Gillan and which made his run a fan favorite, but we also get to see Rory and River Song play large roles in the continuity here. The cast are uniformly excellent and the storytelling as good as anything else in the Smith run. Things get quite dark here, but the layers that exist (some of which lay undiscovered until later episodes are shown) are clever and very important to where the series goes from here.
this ‘revamped Doctor Who material is all presented 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen, regardless of whether or not you choose the ‘feature version' or the ‘original version.' The difference? Not much, in terms of video quality but the ‘feature version' lets you play the two episode runs for each of the three Doctors represented here as if it were a movie, whereas the ‘original version' plays them both with opening and closing credits as they were originally broadcast. In the first two volumes of The Doctors Revisited the original versions were adjusted to fit a 1.78.1 screen for the ‘feature versions' and that resulted in some weird stretching at times. Not so here, everything looks more or less the same in terms of video quality. The Eccleston episodes look a little softer than the later ones but overall, video quality here is good. The picture quality is stable, colorful and clean without any damage issues of note and no major compression issues. In short, everything looks fine.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mixes that accompany each of the stories here are quite good. There's plenty of surround activity and some fun, well placed directional effects throughout each episode. Levels stay nicely balanced and dialogue crisp, clean, clear and perfectly audible throughout. The score sounds good, as do the sound effects. Optional English subtitles are provided across each of the four storylines, and they're nice and easy to read.
Each of the three storylines gets an introduction from current Doctor Who producer Steven Moffat that introduces the feature versions and offers up a sort of basic rundown of each story. Nothing essential, but he's a likeable enough guy and is able to offer some insight into the material. More interesting are the Doctors Revisited featurettes. There are three of them included in this set, one covering the history of each of the four men who played the Doctor in each of their respective stories. Eccleston's segment includes input from plenty of the cast, crew and production team members but sadly and maybe not so surprisingly, no input from Eccleston himself. It is, however, a nice overview of his time in the role and a featurettes worth watching. Tennant and Smith do show up in their respective pieces and talk up their roles, their experiences and generally gush about how much fun they had playing the iconic role of The Doctor. Again, plenty of other cast and crew members pop up here, members of the production team as well, and both of their featurettes, if they won't necessarily enlighten the experts out there, are entertaining and informative and as such, definitely worth sitting down with.
Aside from that we get the typical menus and chapter stops. The four discs fit inside a keepcase that in turn fits inside a slipcase. Also included inside the keepcase is a collection of four fridge magnets: one a piece for each of the three Doctors represented here and a fourth featuring an image showcasing every single one of the actors to have played The Doctor up to and including Matt Smith.
The Doctors Revisited: Nine To Eleven is a great example of some of the best of the more recent Doctor Who storylines. Each of the three leading men here bring a certain something to the role and manage to make it their own, but at the same time, still stay very much in keeping with those who played the part before. They storylines here are the right mix of humor, drama, action and adventure and the production values generally quite solid. There's a lot of really creative storytelling here, and some fantastic performances too. Of course, if you already have the series collections that contain these episodes you'll have to gauge how much the supplemental material means to you when evaluating this set, but based on those featurettes and the quality of the episodes contained herein, we're going to slap this set with the trusty ol' recommended stamp.
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.