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Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series
Head writer/ exec producer Steven Moffat's sophomore season on Doctor Who is finally available in a complete set. The BBC previously released the Christmas special and the first half of season six (the second half was released concurrently with this set) but it's good to have the whole thing in one place. Moffat's first season in charge of the show was brilliant (read my review here) and while this one doesn't quite hit the heights that one did, it's still pretty good (and light years past any other SF show currently in production.) The season starts out with a cracking mystery that last the whole season and ends with a clever twist that was very satisfying.
(Warning: The first episode sets up the major plot for this season, and I'll reveal a spoiler that takes place in that episode. If you don't want to read it, skip down to the technical part.)
Amy and Rory are back on Earth enjoying married life without The Doctor until a mysterious blue card arrives. It has a time, date, and place (the middle of the American desert) listed on it, but nothing else. The pair show up to find River Song (who received a similar post card) and The Doctor wearing a cowboy hat. ("Stetsons are cool!")
The quartet go down to a lake and have a picnic, where the Doctor lets it slip that over 200 years have passed since he's last seen them, and that their next mission has to do with the Moon landing in 1969. Just then, someone in a 60's era NASA space suit walks out of the lake. The Doctor warns his friends not to interfere, and walks down to greet the anomalous being. They talk for a minute then the person in the suit shoots The Doctor dead. He starts to regenerate but he's shot a second time interrupting the process. His friends rush to his aid (River unloading her gun into the back of the suit that's walking back into the lake) to find him totally dead (presumably) permanently. Just then an old man shows up, bearing another blue envelope, and gives the three grieving friends a can of gasoline before leaving. They burn the Doctor's body and retire to a café to figure out their next plan when they see a fourth blue envelope lying on an empty table. Out of the bathroom walks the Doctor and warmly greets them all. It turns out that this Doctor is 200 years younger than the one who was killed. In other words the Doctor will die, but not for a while. (But he will die on that date eventually... it's a fixed point in time, one that can not be altered. At all. There's nothing that can be done to stop the events from happening without destroying the universe.)
Amy desperately wants to tell The Doctor what happened, but River forbids her. He can't learn anything about his own future, since that would set up a paradox. (If she tells him and he avoids being killed, Amy won't see him die. So she can't warn him. Which will lead to his death. Which means she'll warn him....) Just who or what was in that space suit and why did they want to kill The Doctor? Their only hint they have is The (older) Doctor's clue about going back to 1969 and the NASA Moon landing. So off they go to 1969 where they discover something odd is happening... to President Nixon. With his help, and that of a discharged Fed, they start to unravel a complex story which involves an alien invasion of Earth that succeeded. It's just that no one remembered.
The rest of the season has River, Rory, and Amy trying to figure out just who killed The Doctor and why, all while keeping the information from him. The Doctor has his own worries however... It seems that Amy is pregnant, only she isn't. The TARDIS scanners show her both with child and without. It's a mystery that covers the first half of the season and ends with one of the best Doctor episodes ever: A Good Man Goes to War. In this epic The Doctor discovers that an enemy is trying to get to him through the people he loves... and that makes him very, very angry. To combat this organization The Doctor does something he's never done before: he calls in all the favors that people (and entire races) owe him. It's a scary thing to see just how much power he can wield if he chooses to.
The second half is interesting too, and it mainly contains stand-alone stories leading up to the climactic resolution of the season, which is witty, unpredictable (though they give you all the clues you need), and very satisfying.
Steven Moffat has always had interesting ideas, his crack in the universe storyline from last season was great, and he's come up with a few great plotlines for this season. The only problem is that the subplots are a bit convoluted, with different time-lines intersecting and a new creature "The Flesh" that can make exact duplicates of anybody, it can get a bit confusing. They also seem to drop the mystery of the person in the space suit for a large part of the season and focuses on other odd events. The stand alone stories in the second half are all a bit similar too. Night Terrors, The Girl Who Waited, and The God Complex all seemed to be variations on the same theme. The TARDIS would land and strange events would take place: Large dolls would chase characters through rooms were all of the furnishing were made of wood; someone goes into a room and disappears after the door shuts; a hotel where the rooms constantly change and people just drop dead. While none of these were horrible episodes, watching them back to back got to be a bit repetative. "Oh, another strange world where nothing is as it seems."
Okay, not that I'm done picking at nits, let me mention that there are some excellent adventures in this season with some great monsters. The Silence is a fantastic race (yes, I know they're technically not a race...). Once you look away from them, they disappear from your memory so you don't know what they look like, or even that they exist. They are insidious creatures. I really enjoyed the swashbuckling stand-alone story The Curse of the Black Spot which takes place on a pirate ship and also has a unique antagonist. The Doctor also pays a visit to Craig Owens (James Corden, who appeared in the episode The Lodger last season. That's the one where The Doctor rents a room while Amy tries to land the TARDIS) in a hilarious episode that involves Cybermen. (Viewers also discover that The Doctor can speak baby.) The final episode is amazing too, but there's little I can say without giving things away.
One thing I really enjoyed about this season is that they wrapped up a lot of mysteries that have been mentioned in earlier seasons. Just who River Song is, how she learned to fly the TARDIS better than The Doctor, and why she's in jail are all explained, though it does take some time. It's also revealed just why the Doctor prefers human companions, and the explanation makes sense too.
When all is said and done, this was a great season with some memorable episodes and some great snappy dialog. "No, Colonel Manton, I want you to tell your men to run away."
This season set contains fourteen episodes (all thirteen from season six and last year's Christmas Special) on six Blu-ray discs. Like the previous seasons, it comes in a book-like package with each disc getting its own page.
Like the previous Doctor Who HD releases, this set comes with a VC-1 encoded 1080i image which did look good overall. The level of detail is nice, and the colors are strong and vibrant. There is a little banding, but nothing too significant. Overall a nice looking set.
The show comes with a DTS HD audio track that suited the show well. There is a lot of aural action in the show; the TARDIS taking off, various battles with monsters, etc., and those sequences were engulfing and forceful. There's a good amount of subwoofer action in some of the more dynamic scenes too. The dialog was crisp and clear and well placed in the soundstage. Overall I was very happy with the why this set sounded.
I was disappointed with the lack of extras on the half-season release of this sixth year of the reboot series, but the full-season set has a lot of goodies, most of which are found on the last Blu-ray disc. First off there are five commentary tracks for The Impossible Astronaut, The Doctor's Wife, The Rebel Flesh, A Good Man Goes To War and The Wedding Of River Song. I was especially excited to see that one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, contributed a track for his story, The Doctor's Wife. There were a few dead spaces where the scribe didn't have much to say, but it was a good track never the less. There are also 13 installments of Doctor Who Confidential, a wonderful look behind the scenes of each episode, and a special hour-long episode for A Christmas Carol special.
But wait, there's more! The set includes two funny Comic Relief sketches, Time and Space, six episode prequels that are required watching, over 40-minutes worth of Monster Files that look at the various no-goodniks that the Doctor encounters and television promos for series six.
My favorite bonus items however are the five Night and the Doctor comedy shorts. They're clever and funny and a very welcome addition to the set. There's even a Doctor Who Confidential about their creation that's about as long as all the shorts put together (15 minutes.)
From start to finish this was a fun set that passed way too quickly. Matt Smith is still doing a great job as The Doctor and his companions, Amy and Rory, are wonderful too. The season's larger story was really great, and the resolution was highly satisfactory. This season set comes Highly Recommended.