BBC Video // 2007 // 652 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // November 28th, 2007
"The show has a lot of bash, boom, wallop."
-- Murray Gold, the show's composer
If you were born in the United States and you told your mother that you'd spent the afternoon playing doctor with the neighbor girl, you'd probably get sent to your room without supper. If you were born in the U.K., however, playing "Doctor" has a whole 'nother meaning. Step into the TARDIS, we're off on another adventure. Doctor Who -- The Complete Third Series is available in the United States, so now we can all play Doctor together.
The Doctor has been reborn, in more ways than one. Like the famed Time Lord himself, Doctor Who has regenerated. What once was a low-tech sci-fi series for kids is now a grown-up adventure complete with high-tech digital and make-up effects, complex storylines, and characters that hook you in and hold you.
This third series (that's Brit for season) has David Tennant returning as the tenth regeneration of The Doctor but without his trusty companion Rose. Freema Agyeman joins the cast as Martha Jones. Martha's family replaces Rose's mom and boyfriend, and John Barrowman returns for a few episodes in the role of Captain Jack Harkness.
Here are the episodes that are included on this DVD.
* "The Runaway Bride"
* "Smith and Jones"
* "The Shakespeare Code"
* "Daleks in Manhattan"
* "Evolution of the Daleks"
* "The Lazarus Experiment"
* "Human Nature"
* "The Family of Blood"
* "The Sound of Drums"
* "The Last of the Time Lords"
* "Doctor Who Confidential"
I came to the new Doctor Who through a rather circuitous route. I'm one of those people who remembers when Doctor Who was black-and-white and the sets looked like they were made from refrigerator boxes. My best friend was addicted to the show (to the point of dressing in character for conventions) but I never felt the pull. Then Torchwood came along and I was hooked. I found out that the character of Captain Jack Harkness originated on Doctor Who so I sought out those episodes to fill in the gaps. I was bowled over. This was not the Doctor Who I remembered. This was sharp, witty, and charming, and I wanted to see more.
Important caveat! I am in no way a Who expert. That would be Verdict judge Eric Profancik who wrote more than a dozen Doctor Who reviews here on DVD Verdict. He's the master and I humbly accept the Who review baton from him, now that he's retired.
So onward into the breach!
Series Three is David Tennant's second go-round as The Doctor. He took over from Christopher Eccleston and I like his take very much. Co-star John Barrowman made the comparison this way, "Chris looked like a moody U-boat captain, so that was kind of a turn-on. David's funny, which is sexier than moody."
Tennant brings a wide-eyed innocence to the character, which is ironic considering how long The Doctor has lived. Traveling with him is like looking through the eyes of a child and that keeps me believing even when Cybermen are attacking London. It's this innocence that keeps him infuriatingly unaware that both Martha and Jack are in love with him, as The Doctor still pines for his lost Rose.
Unrequited love is a recurring theme on this new series, as is betrayal and loyalty -- so very Shakespearean and that's what makes "The Shakespeare Code" one of the best episodes of the season. With The Doctor spouting off non-legendary quotes ("All the world's a stage!") and a plot that equates Shakespeare's writing with magic, it's a terrific romp.
I'm also fond of the three-episode arc that brings on the season finale, "Utopia," "The Sound of Drums," and "The Last of the Time Lords." These episodes butt up against the Torchwood finale with Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) rejoining The Doctor as The Master rises to power with the help of the evil Toclafane.
Ironically, the best episode of this season is one that has very little of The Doctor in it. "Blink" is a truly creepy tale about a young woman who is running out of time, quite literally. From the spooky Weeping Angels to the clever use of a DVD Easter Egg, "Blink" could easily have been an episode of The Twilight Zone, and it's not to be missed.
Here's a hint: play around in the menus on Disc Four and you'll find a treat.
This brings me to the plentiful special features on this set! It begins with an audio commentary on every episode. Russell T. Davies, Julie Gardner, writers Moffat and Chibnall, even the composer, effects wizards, and costume designers get in on the action. There are a couple of actors included, but not as many as I would have liked (see the rebuttal).
Disc Six is entirely devoted to "Doctor Who Confidential Cut Down." These are shortened (why?) versions of the behind-the-scenes featurettes that have long been a part of this series. Anthony Stewart Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) narrates this season and they're all worth watching. I enjoy them so much I wish every TV show would document its production in this same manner.
"Music and Monsters" is a documentary revolving around the Doctor Who charity concert. A full orchestra, a choir, and dozens of costumed characters performed to a packed house in Cardiff. It's a fabulous tribute to the exciting soundtrack of the series -- I just wished they had included the entire concert and not just bits.
"David Tennant's Video Diaries" and "Freema's Tour of the
Studio" are two more features that take you behind the scenes into the
inner workings of the show. Tennant's video footage is so casual and friendly,
you really feel like you could walk right on to the set and join the fun.
On the more mundane side are the deleted scenes and outtakes, along with a collection of BBC trailers. All good stuff.
The packaging on the set is very nice. The box has an embossed photo of The Doctor and Martha coming right at you. Inside the sleeve is a foldout with stacked discs. Each disc has a picture label and the episodes written in a large font! No guessing what's on each disc. I love that. The foldout has a great selection of episodic pics and there are some goodies tucked into a side pocket. You'll find a booklet with an intro by David Tennant and episode descriptions, a folder of collectibles from the series, and a Top Trumps promo card.
The video and audio quality on this set is excellent. The images are sharp and clear and the audio mix really supports that lovely, warm, orchestrated background music.
My only complaint is the missing audio commentary track. According to the accompanying booklet, "Last of the Time Lords" has commentary by David Tennant, Freema Agyeman, and John Barrowman. This is a delightful combination and I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the commentary that is included is the podcast version with Russell T. Davies, Julie Gardner, and Phil Collinson. Rumor has it that John Barrowman broke into song (which he's apt to do) during the commentary and the BBC couldn't get music clearance rights to include this on the Region 1 version of the DVD. I'm told the actor's commentary is included on the U.K. version. Bummer.
If the only Doctor Who episodes you've ever seen are the ones from the '70s and '80s, do yourself a favor and give the show another look. This new incarnation keeps all the plot and imagery that made the original popular but presents it in a stylish, witty, and heart-tugging way. You'll find real emotions here -- love, sadness, despair, and triumph. You'll also find cool aliens, clever gadgets, and no regard for the laws of time and space. Doctor Who: The Complete Third Series is not your father's Doctor Who but it really should become yours.
Overrun by Daleks! Can't make a ruling! Must run for my life! Oh, where oh where is The Doctor when you need him!
Review content copyright © 2007 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 652 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Commentaries featuring Producers Russell T. Davies, Julie Gardner, Susie Liggat, and Phil Collinson; Director Charles Palmer, Writers Helen Raynor, Paul Cornell, Steven Moffat, and Chris Chibnall; Composer Murray Gold; Visual FX Producer Marie Jones; Costume Designer Louise Page; Production Manager Tracie Simpson; Art Director Arwel Wyn-Jones; and Actors David Tennant, Christina Cole, Mark Gatiss, Travis Oliver, and Miranda Raison.
* "Doctor Who Confidential Cut Down"
* "Music and Monsters" -- A Documentary on the Charity Concert
* "David Tennant's Video Diaries"
* "Freema's Tour of the Studio"
* BBC Trailers
* Deleted Scenes
* Easter Egg
* Official Site
* Sci-Fi Channel Site
* DVD Verdict on Doctor Who: The Complete First Series
* DVD Verdict on Doctor Who: The Complete Second Series