Doctor Who Complete 6th Series DVD ReviewA tv review article by: Nick Boisson, Zack Davisson, Paul Brian McCoy
Matt Smith and Karen Gillen make their triumphant return as the Doctor and his companion in an all-new series of Doctor Who. This release combines the two halves of series six with the 2010 Christmas Special, "A Christmas Carol," plus hours of bonus material to make a spectacular collectible that no fan will want to miss! The new series includes the first ever episodes shot in the US and promises new thrills, new monsters, and new adventures which will leave fans pinned to the edge of their seats.
Six discs for a list price of $79.98
I am fairly new to the Doctor Who-niverse. I did not start watching until the season premiere of the sixth season (series, if you're nasty and/or British). After a few episodes had aired, BBC aired a Doctor Who marathon and played most of the episodes of the fifth season (which began Matt Smith's run as the Doctor). After watching those (and watching the missing episodes on Netflix Instant), I became a card-carrying member of the Whovians. Six seasons in and I am starting to get the shakes for season seven already. Is it 2012 yet? Where is the new Christmas special?!
As a newly-minted Doctor Who fanatic and a sci-fi geek, I jumped at the chance to review the DVD of this past season. After all, by the time the end of the season hit, I was looking forward to this set being released! Steven Moffat had so many twists and turns that the season deems numerous re-watches.
The sixth season may very well have trumped previous seasons of the new Doctor Who. Steven Moffat -- whom I have been a fan of since Coupling -- seems to have been waiting for this season throughout his entire run on the show. Right from episode one ("The Impossible Astronaut") we see that this season's villain, The Silence, has been mentioned since the beginning of the fifth season.
As I stated earlier, the season is full of twists and Moffat's mysteries that he has spread out throughout his two seasons as head writer -- as well as everything that has happened to the Doctor since the beginning of the new Doctor Who -- all lead to the events that take place this season. I know that this may seem like quite a hyperbolic claim, but if you have already watched this season, you know what I mean. Not only do we finally learn the true identity of Dr. River Song (a character that has been around since Steven Moffat's season four two-parter, "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead") but we learn what the Doctor's brash and just plain outlandish (pun-intended) actions have led to. From the first episode of season five ("The Eleventh Hour") -- where the Doctor tells the Atraxi to do a search for him and see that he is Earth's protector and not to cross him -- we see that the Doctor has become a fairly big and boastful creature. This season, we see what that boasting costs the Doctor, his friends and anyone else who happens to be around him. And Prisoner Zero tells the Doctor that "the Pandorica will open" and "silence will fall". We know what happened with the former, but the latter was not quite concluded until this very season.
We also get many great stories for the characters. My personal favorite is episode 10, "The Girl Who Waited", where we get two completely different versions of Amy due to two different time streams. This episode was a true testament to Karen Gillan's acting prowess. Arthur Darvill had some great scenes of bravery that had everyone looking at Rory in a different light in the two-parter, "The Rebel Flesh"/"The Almost People". As for Matt Smith, our raggedy Doctor, my personal favorite moments of him in character come from episodes 11 and 12, "The God Complex" and "Closing Time". In my opinion, if you wanted to show someone who Doctor Who is, you could not get any better than "The God Complex" this season.
While I will say that this has more special features than most TV DVD sets, I was still clamoring for more. But that may just be me being greedy. Looking at it, there is a lot of great stuff!
The final disc is a collection of all of the Doctor Who Confidential episodes that aired alongside the series. Well, almost...
The final disc actually contains the truncated, 15-minute versions of the normally 45-minute Doctor Who Confidential pieces. The only full episode we get is the one attached to "A Christmas Carol" on the first disc. Honestly, with BBC having canceled Doctor Who Confidential, I was hoping for some better treatment of the final episodes. Then again, BBC may be looking to double-dip and either release them separately or release a "Special Edition" set that has the episodes along with all the Confidential shows and more special features.
There are also four new "Monster Files", which introduces each new series creature introduced this season. They are always a fun watch. There are all five episode prequels that aired as ads on BBC. The two Comic Relief sketches -- "Space" and "Time" -- were truly fun. There are also two trailers, one for each part of the season. But one of my personal favorite special features comes with the five "Night and the Doctor" sketches.
What I really wanted more of were commentary tracks. We get five episode commentaries on a few of the notable episodes, "The Impossible Astronaut", "The Doctor's Wife", "The Rebel Flesh", "A Good Man Goes to War" and "The Wedding of River Song". My favorite was given by the great Neil Gaiman on his scripted episode, "The Doctor's Wife". But, to be fair, hearing Neil Gaiman talk about anything is always somewhat fascinating. Maybe I have gotten spoiled by DVD sets of The Simpsons and Futurama, but I feel that every episode should have gotten a commentary track. I would have loved to have heard Karen Gillan talk about what she had to do on "The Girl Who Waited", but neither her nor Matt Smith ever made commentary on an episode. I was happy that the finale got commentary with Steven Moffat. Showrunner commentaries are always the most enjoyable to listen to. At least when they are not up against Neil Gaiman. But you cannot blame Moffat for that one.
All in all, this is a great set for any Whovian! Just opening the packaging and seeing all of the show's stars and this season's villains alone make it a set worth picking up. If you are a fan of Doctor Who, there should be nothing stopping you from picking this up. But, if you still do not feel like doing so, go grab a Sharpie and count how many of the Silence are standing behind you, telling you not to do so.
Nick Boisson grew up on television, Woody Allen, video games, Hardy Boys mysteries and DC comic books, with the occasional Spider-Man issue thrown in for good measure. He currently roams the rainy streets of Miami, Florida, looking for a nice tie, a woman that gets him, and the windbreaker he lost when he was eight. He sometimes writes things down on Twitter as @nitroslick.
Season five of the world’s longest running Sci-Fi television show introduced us to the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith). Like all the previous Doctors had to spend some time figuring out just who he was and what kind of Doctor he was going to be. With his bowtie and Fez hat, Season Five lead us to believe that the Eleventh Doctor was a fun-loving cosmic tourist, out to see the Universe with his companion the Amazing Amy Pond and her beloved Rory. But it turns out that isn’t who the Eleventh Doctor is at all.
The Eleventh Doctor is Batman.
In Doctor Who – The Complete Sixth Series, the character and the storyline take a distinct and drastic tone-shift to Gotham City. Like the 1950s’ Batman to the 1980s’ Batman, The Doctor went from fun-loving (but dangerous) good times to actual death and cruelty. In an interview, series writer Stephen Moffat has said that this direction-shift was purposeful, and in Season Six he tried to “Batmanize” the Doctor Who series.
By Batmanize, he meant not only the darker tone of the series, but the idea that Batman creates his own enemies. If there was no Batman, there would be no Joker, no Two-Face, no people who define themselves as being in conflict with the Batman. Moffat felt that with The Doctor’s legend as a powerful and mighty warrior, he would give rise to people whose sole mission in life is to fight The Doctor, by any means necessary. He also wanted a villain on the level of the Weeping Angels, something terrifying enough that they would enter the Doctor Who mythos along with the Cybermen and the Daleks. To fill that role he gave us The Silence.
It took me awhile to warm up to Moffat’s vision. Even though I was totally against Matt Smith when he took over as The Doctor—after deciding that the Tenth Doctor was the greatest of all-time—I was instantly won over by the light-hearted and fun nature of the interpretation. I loved the idea of a magical childhood figure come to life, and was put off by the first episode of Season Six—"The Impossible Astronaut"—which serves up death as an opener and only got darker from there. Sure, there were some lighthearted blasts of entertainment in there, but things were pretty grim. But by the time of the seventh episode, "A Good Man Goes to War," the quality storytelling had won me over and I was totally hooked into Moffat’s vision. I saw how terrifying it is when the light-hearted man turns deadly serious.
And Season Six is serious. Without giving away any spoilers, Season Six deals with some big questions for The Doctor. The main one—Who is River Song? –turns out to be an amazing twist that took me by surprise. Even deeper than that, The Doctor must come to grips with why he has Companions when so many of them die, and what is his role in the Universe on the whole? It is some bleak stuff, and the answers aren’t really fun. The episode "The Girl Who Waited" was particularly heart-wrenching.
My only disappointment with Series Six was the lack of continuity of emotion. Some of the episodes, like "The Girl Who Waited," were completely devastating to those involved, but with the next episode they were right as rain and back to cracking wise and the best of friends. If you are like me and only watch Doctor Who on DVDs—one right after the other—then it can be disconcerting to see a character developed and then white-washed over the space of two sequential episodes.
The DVD box set itself is adequately excellent. I am glad I waited for the complete sixth season rather than getting the separate Part One and Part Two boxsets. This set includes not only all the episodes, but also the Christmas special, the two Comic Relief sketches, the prequels, and some cool extras like "Monster Files" and Doctor Who Confidential. I know they are planning to come out with a limited-edition set featuring four lenticular prints with various characters. If you are a collector you might want to wait for that. Personally, I care more about what is on the DVDs than what they box is made of, so this set was perfect.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the '90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.
Paul Brian McCoy
I was a huge detractor of Matt Smith as The Doctor when I heard he was cast. I didn't see a single promotional photo or image from his past work that made me think The Doctor. It's not that I was that big a fan of David Tennant, but I just didn't have any faith. However, after that very first episode of Season Five, I was in love.
Smith was freaking perfect.
It took no time for me to fall for Amy and Rory as well, and as far as I'm concerned, the Moffat/Smith Era of Doctor Who has been the best of the revival. So take what I'm about to say with that in mind.
I love Season Six.
I love the flights of fancy and the quick shifts into horror or tear-jerking drama whether it's from episode to episode or within the same adventure. The only episodes this season that I didn't care for were "The Curse of the Black Spot" and "Closing Time," but that's mainly because I just didn't buy into the twists at the ends and they were a little sloppy in their production.
However, Space Pirates is a great idea.
It's the ideas like that, and the amazing gathering of fantastic alien characters in "A Good Man Goes to War," that make me love this era. Hell, the creation of Madame Vastra and Jenny are great enough that I'm willing to overlook any minor shortcomings with the rest of the adventure.
Are you listening BBC? We need more Madame Vastra and Jenny.
Sure, there were new aliens introduced almost weekly in the previous years, but not only were they kind of bland, they didn't have any real narrative flair.
Except for Captain Jack, of course, but he was created by Moffat.
Season Six begins with the mystery of Who Killed the Doctor, builds to the revelation of the True Identity of River Song, and along the way addresses, and course-corrects, the concept of The Doctor as Superhero. We also get a number of moments that address themes of parenthood, fatherhood in particular, and they never ring too terribly false (although "Closing Time" came close). My favorite element of the season, though, was the recurring use of doppelgangers and alternate versions of characters due to crossing timelines.
That's a lot of extremely inventive television and I didn't even mention the episode written by Neil Gaiman, "The Doctor's Wife," which is one of the high points of the show's Forty-Nine year history.
Moffat kept a lot of plates spinning as the season went along, and the finale, "The Wedding of River Song" brought a lot of storylines together, along with a ton of guest-stars from episodes over the past two years. Not all of the questions are answered and a few new ones are raised, which should make the run up to the Fiftieth Anniversary very interesting.
The DVD set is a nice package of six discs that not only have every episode plus the 2010 Christmas special "A Christmas Carol," but a number of extras that really make this an attractive package.
There are abbreviated versions of fifteen Doctor Who Confidentials (most of which are abbreviated, which is disappointing, but they hit the highlights at least), four "Monster Files" installments, trailers for the first and last half of the season, five commentary tracks (including Neil Gaiman's discussion of his episode), and a few short prequels that set ominous tones for the episodes to follow.
The best part of the set, in my opinion, is the inclusion of the BBC Comic Relief shorts "Space" and "Time" which, while comedic in nature are perfect fits for the series and may very well be canonical at this point. In addition to these treats, there are five "Night and the Doctor" shorts filmed specially for this release.
I think I enjoyed these as much, if not more, than most of the episodes this season.
And I loved this season, if I hadn't made that clear above.
The first two focus on The Doctor and Amy as she tries to share her concerns about her own sanity. But it's not as heavy as that makes it sound. In fact, they embody that sense of whimsy and adventure I mentioned at the beginning of this review. The second two focus on The Doctor and River and perfectly captures the energy and flirtatiousness of their relationship.
You can just skip the last mini-episode.
All in all, this is a very nice package with a healthy number of enjoyable and satisfying extras. If you're a fan of Matt Smith and Steven Moffat then this is a must-buy. The only real shortcoming is that there aren't audio commentaries on every episode. But those mini-eps more than make up of it in my book.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot, Streaming Pile O' Wha?, and Classic Film/New Blu, all here at Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.