Doctor Who: The Complete Specials is a new DVD release from BBC Video due out on February 2. The 5-disc set contains the five specials that aired of Doctor Who since Christmas 2008’s “The Next Doctor” and takes you all the way to the (spoiler warning!) end of David Tennant’s reign as the Tenth Doctor from the recently broadcast “The End of Time.”
Upon first glance Doctor Who: The Specials looks like a full season set like the four “seasons” before it. And even though there are fewer stories then those season sets, the wealth of extra features and story content definitely make up the difference.
The first disc on this five-disc DVD set contains “The Next Doctor,” guest starring David Morrissey as someone who thinks he’s a later incarnation of The Doctor himself. This story takes place in Christmas 1851 and features the two (?) Doctors teaming up to stop a Cyberman invasion – complete with a huge mecha-looking Cyber-construct. It’s a fun romp, especially worth it for a quick glimpse of the Doctors who came before in the series. Extras in this disc include a cut-down Doctor Who Confidential and a special Doctor Who At The Proms.
Disc Two is “Planet of the Dead” guest-featuring the Bionic Woman herself, Michelle Ryan, as the Lady Christina. While this is probably not my favorite episode on this set, there is some fantastic desert location shooting and a fun bit with UNIT’s scientific advisor who seems to be the Doctor’s biggest fan. This one also has a Doctor Who Confidential bonus.
Disc Three takes the Doctor to Mars in “The Waters of Mars.” Of any of the five stories, this is likely the most reminiscent of classic Who. The Doctor lands someplace, enters a really bad situation with some scary creatures, and everyone is under siege. Some fun stuff. It, too, has a Confidential.
The final two discs have the story that everyone anticipated – “The End of Time, Parts 1 and 2.” It’s the final story for David Tennant’s Doctor, featuring the return of John Simm as his old foe, the Master. There are a wealth of special guests in this one, the best of course being Bernard Cribbins as Donna Noble’s grandfather, Wilf. I would have totally gotten behind a whole season with Wilf as the companion if they had gone for it.
Simm’s Master is still not my favorite version of the character, even though I thought he was brilliant in Life on Mars. Either it’s the way he’s written, or directed, or maybe it’s the acting choices, but I thought Simm’s Master was just too over the top. The incessant talk of being “hungry” (especially in Part One) and the Part One cliffhanger did him no favors in being silly. I get it – Anthony Ainley as the Master in Doctor Who in the 1980’s was silly himself – but I never saw him as particularly stupid. I get the choice to play the Master as a naughty child – Ainley definitely did at times – but it’s time like these that I feel like I am watching a children’s show, which maybe I am, but I’d prefer to forget that.
David Tennant is, as he always was, fantastic, to borrow a word from his predecessor. When his character says that he is not ready to go, I think he echoed the feelings of his many fans. It was clear in his performance and in related interviews that Mr. Tennant loved playing The Doctor and believed in the role. At the end of it all I think he has earned a place as the “favorite Doctor” to many people, and I will most definitely miss him. I also dare someone to watch this story and not get teary in the final moments.
Which is not to say “The End of Time, Part 2” is perfect; although it’s much better than Part 1. There are characters who return in the story and I was a little disappointed to see them taken back to status quo. There are others who I was surprised and very happy to see again. But of the five episodes in this set, “The End of Time, Part 2” is by far my favorite.
Also in nitpick mode – if you’re going to have a TV show with an “American” broadcaster, at least make sure they pronounce “Barack Obama” correctly. It’s not “Ba-RACK.” That totally took me out of the moment. Even FOX News knows how to say his name properly.
Extras on the final two discs make this entire package more than worth it. There’s more Confidential; David Tennant’s video diary of his final days working on the series; the BBC’s Doctor Who Christmas idents; and there are deleted scenes. But that’s not all! For those of us who missed Doctor Who at Comic-Con (like myself, who was at the Smallville panel running at the same time)… it’s there. And it’s great. Part 1 of “The End of Time” boasts commentary with Tennant, Catherine Tate, and director Euros Lyn; Part 2 has commentary with Tennant, John Simm, and Lyn.
Although it wouldn’t be necessary it was disappointing that Tennant’s two episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures were not included as a bonus feature, as they aired during this time. I was also curious about the animated Doctor Who: Dreamland, but apparently that’s hitting DVD later this year.
I’m going to miss David Tennant as The Doctor and I don’t want to judge Matt Smith in the role just yet. But he has some big Converses to fill. As for this set… I give it a 5 out of 5. No Doctor Who fan will want to leave their TARDIS without it.