BBC Video // 2009 // 45 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // October 5th, 2010
"Are you British or something?"
"Something. That's me. Definitely."
If you can't wait till Matt Smith's freshman series of Doctor Who comes out on DVD, there's one last bit from David Tennant's tenure hitting the streets to tide you over: Doctor Who: Dreamland is a short, fast-moving animated feature which sends The Doctor to 1958 New Mexico for a tour of Area 51. It's put together from a CBBC serial.
A tour is probably the best way to describe it, since the CGI backdrops for the story turned out to be the highlight, from the diner where the Doctor first stops to the underground Army base to a ghost town to the New Mexico desert landscape. There's a spectacular battle sequence with the Air Force chasing a flying saucer. At times, I got the feeling that the CGI department must have been leading the production, telling the rest of the crew what they'd like to render. Whoever's responsible, it's a visual treat.
In the story, the Doctor is joined by diner patron Jimmy and diner waitress Cassie (Georgia Moffett, the real-life daughter of Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor, and Sandra Dickinson, who played Trillian in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, not to mention rumored girlfriend of Tennant). They spend a lot of time running from angry Army types and angrier big bug types. They're all after a piece of a flying saucer that could be deadly. It's a cliffhanger story, with The Doctor and friends in danger every few minutes. However, it's for CBBC, so there's not too much danger. It could be scary for tykes who aren't familiar with the Doctor, though.
The actual main feature runs under an hour, but there's a second disc with a three-part look at Doctor Who: Greatest Moments that takes nearly three hours. The three episodes include:
* "The Doctor," which relives stories about Pompeii, an amnesiac who believes he's The Doctor, and visits with historic celebrities like William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Agatha Christie.
* "The Companions," which includes comments from actresses who played the mums of his companions, not to mention a really good scene in which Rose and Sarah Jane compare notes.
* "The Enemies," which starts out with a look at The Master, an evil, insane Time Lord rival, and spends a lot of time with Lesley Sharp, who played a spaceship passenger possessed by a strange entity, Sarah Parish, who played a spider-like creature, and Erik Loren, who played a human Dalek (but rest assured that Daleks and Cybermen make an appearance).
The first two are mostly clip shows, but the comments by the guest actors in "The Enemies" provide an added sense of what makes a good Doctor Who story. The choice of starting out with The Master, who took on the identity of Prime Minister Harold Saxon in the current incarnation of the series, will remind viewers that, even though the new Doctor Who has cutting-edge special effects, the stories often go for a more satirical feel instead of gotcha scares. Look for appearances by David Tennant, Freema Agyeman, and John Barrowman throughout the three episodes.
The story's okay, but viewers will be paying more attention to the animation on Doctor Who: Dreamland. There are some interesting interviews scattered through Greatest Moments, but it's mostly clips.
This looks like this year's stocking stuffer for any Whovians on your Christmas list, and the strong visuals could make it worth a look for animation buffs with a sci-fi bent who aren't particularly fanatical about Doctor Who.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 45 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated