Doctor Who: Specials
Here in the United States we consider a television series that goes past a few seasons to have considerable longevity. That fact we have nothing on our friends British programming since 1963. For thirty season, or series as they call it over there, the Good Doctor has been entertaining a few generations of Sci-Fi fans. It is just not possible to attend any Science fiction or fantasy con without spotting a number of attendees dressed in homage to this series or the presentation of a panel or two to discuss the fine points of the continuing story. For those keeping count that is over 760 episodes as of this year and the amazing thing is the series is more popular than ever on both sides of the Atlantic. There was a rather long hiatus the ended with a Doctor for the new millennium resurfacing in 2005. There have been numerous graphic novels and several spin off series making this a franchise that has set new standards. . Say what you will about the character but it looks like he will be a significant part of popular culture for the foreseeable future. Since the revival of the show a tradition of sorts has started; the special. Typically these are extended episodes used to transition from one major story arc or segment and the next. Other times the special are treated as one off episodes within the series’ continuity but not directly related to the current season story arc. The latest season of ‘Doctor Who’ and its spin-off ‘Torchwood’ was shorten because of a major change over at the BBC. They were busy re-tooling for their introduction of high definition. For the first time the last of the ‘Time Lord’ could be seen in true high definition and surround sound. BBC America has released the last four ‘Doctor Who’ specials not only on DVD but on Blu-ray as well.
There is a brilliantly perfect plot device built into the series that has made it possible to become such a long lasting franchise. The problem with any series that lasts year after year is actor’s age, die, or just want a change in their career. The Doctor is an alien, more specifically a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. He is several centuries old by our reckoning of time and has been to literally thousands of worlds. When he is faced with imminent death he is able to regenerate into a new form typically with a different personality. This permits the producers the unique ability to regularly recast the role and alter the overall look and feel of the series. At this point we are up to the 11th actor to fill these intergalactic shoes but the adventures depicted in this box series belong to the age of the tenth Doctor as portrayed by David Tennant. Along with changing the Doctor the format is conducive to providing a second cast member, the companion. Frequently the Doctor’s companion is a young woman but interspecies romance is usually not explored.
The Next Doctor
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Andy Goddard
This episode continues in the established tradition of a Christmas special. Let’s just say that it is generally a good idea not to be near London on Christmas Eve; nasty aliens have a habit of dropping by for world conquest. The tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and his trusty Tardis land in London on Christmas Eve 1851. Much to his surprise he runs into a man (David Morrissey) who claims to be ‘The Doctor’. The real Doctor is confused but figures he has to be a future transformations but the Next Doctor has traumatically lost most of his memories. There isn’t much time to sort things out when they stumble into an invasion by an old foe; the Cybermen. At the heart of the sinister plot is a local to this time, Miss Hartigan (Dervla Kirwan). Together the two Doctors have to thwart the mechanical menace and save mankind. This is pretty much a typical period piece episode that has been a favorite time of both the producers and fans. The story is a bit contrived especially with the conclusion but the show is well known for such contrivances with fans considering it just part of its charm.
Planet of the Dead
April 11, 2009
Writer: Gareth Roberts, Russell T Davies
Director: James Strong
This episode opens looking more like something from Mission Impossible as thief extraordinaire Lady Christina de Souza (Michelle Ryan) lowers herself through a skylight to steal a heavily guarded gold chalice. She runs from the authorities catching a bus to escape. At the next stop the Doctor gets on carrying a strange little device. He sits next to Christina making conversation telling her he is tracking a disruption in space. As the police close in the bus enters a tunnel but disappears through a worm hole before it reaches the other side. The bus and its small number of passengers are transported to a desert planet. Christa is quick to declare herself the leader but soon realizes that the only hope of getting out of the predicament is with the Doctor. They discover that the planet was laid waste by a horde of metallic stingray like creatures. After Christina and the Doctor save the day she wants to travel with him but the Doctor is off taking on companions that either die or leave. Before he leaves one of the passengers with low level physic abilities warns the Doctor that ‘the end of his song is close’ and he will hear four knocks. Americans might recognize Ryan from the extremely short lived series ‘The Bionic Woman.
The Waters of Mars
November 15, 2009
Writer: Russell T Davies, Phil Ford
Director: Graeme Harper
The Doctor finds himself on the planet Mars on 21 November 2059. This is a pivotal time that cannot be altered since it sets in motion vital future events. The small research colony has been infected with alien water; a single drop is enough and there are hundreds of gallons in play. The Doctor wants to help but if he does the future will be drastically altered. Against his better judgment the Doctor is moved by the plight of the humans and intervenes to save them. Once back on earth with the timeline altered the Doctor has a rush of arrogance and as the last of the Time Lords feels that time must yield to his will. This will set up for the last, two-part special. It also represents a rather major change in this regeneration’s usual easy going personality into one that is afflicted with a case of hubris.
The End of Time
December 25, 2009\January 1 2010
Writer: Steven Moffat, Russell T Davies
Director: Euros Lyn
The Doctor once again has to face one of his most sinister nemesis; the Master. He is the only other Time Lord to survive but unfortunately he is a megalomaniac bent on domination of the universe. Other evil overlords want to control the world but the Master thinks really big. He hatches a diabolical plot to turn every human being into a perfect replicate of himself; his own personalized ‘Master race’. This is one of the more dramatic of the Christmas specials and definitely the best of this box set. You also see the reappearance of the Time Lords as this version of the Doctor faces his 11th regeneration setting up the upcoming season. This series was greatly redesigned to make the best possible advantage of the new high definition format. The show had been known for its cheesy special effects but the producers have stepped up to the plate creating a visually fascinating show. This is an entirely new look for a venerable series and it is incredible.