Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series

Directors - Various

Cast - Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill

Country of Origin - U.K.

Discs - 6

MSRP - $89.98

Distributor - BBC Home Video

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

The Series (4/5)

     When Steven Moffat took over Russell T. Davies with Doctor Who Series 5 I knew Doctor Who was in good hands.  After all Steven had written some of the most landmark episodes of the RTD era Blink, Silence of the Library, Forest of The Dead, Girl in the Fireplace, The Empty Child, and the Doctor Dances. I had no idea it would get as good as it got. Doctor Who Series 5 was, in my option, better than any of Davie's series, and Smith proved almost immediately to be an excellent Doctor (my personal favorite since Tom Baker). 

   I also liked how he appeared to be taking Doctor Who in a more story-arc centered direction.  I wasn't sure about the whole Cracks in time and space angle, but he pulled it off in spades, and left me wanting more.  With Doctor Who The Complete Series 6 he not only followed up the excellent promise of his first series, but may have bettered it, and in doing so may have created the single best series of Doctor Who since the 2005 revival.

     Doctor Who Series 6 also revolves around a story-arc centered premise.  If you haven't been following the show. STOP READING NOW! There will be spoilers!

 Also, the set kicks off with A Christmas Carol. If you want to read my thoughts on that follow this link for information on the BBC stand alone release.

http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/Doctor_Who_Christ mas_Carol/doctor_who_christmas _carol.html

     The series begins with what can only be described as an epic 2 parter The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon.  After a few months apart from their perspective Amy and Rory receive TARDIS blue invitations to meet the Doctor in rural Utah, apparently River Song, has also received a similar invite.  From the Doctor's perspective it has been over 200 years since their last meeting, and while picnicking on the beach side of Lake Silencio, an astronaut emerges from the water.  When the Doctor goes to speak to him, he gets shot which starts his regeneration, but is shot once again which stops the regeneration process, and kills him stone dead. 

     A little later The Doctor emerges from a diner bathroom 200 years younger, and also holding the same invitation, and thus begins an adventure that will involve a Religious Order known as the Silence and the Mind-Wiping creatures that are part of that order. We then see the Doctor get involved in a conspiracy that involves the Nixon White House, an abandoned orphanage, and the possibly pregnant Amy Pond.

   Much like the series does at this point I will segue here for a 2nd for my only minor complaint about this run. I did not even begin to do that 2-parter justice with my synopsis.  It is a fantastic 2 hours of television, and ends on an intense cliffhanger, and starts off what would become quite an excellent story-arc.  However, right after it begins we have quite a few stand alone episodes some of which are great, some are good, I wouldn't say any are bad, but the first few have very little to do with the arc introduced at the beginning of the series leaving the audience on a series of fairly epic cliffhangers.

     The series than goes into pirate territory with Curse of the Black Spot. I feel like this one has been unfairly maligned by fandom as being a truly bad episode, and while it does have the unfortunate position of being sandwiched between 2 of the series highest points, it is still a fun time.  The story involves a pirate ship hitting still water for 8 days, and being terrorized by a siren. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory, end up landing the TARDIS in the ships hull, and get involved.  I won't say much more as that would get into spoiler territory, but will say that I did see parallels between this story, and the Tom Baker serial the Stones of Blood.

     Neil Gaiman and Doctor Who seem like they would be a perfect match Neil has said in interviews before that he has been a lifelong fan of the show going back to the First Doctor (William Hartnell) era, and is a particular fan of 2nd Doctor Patrick Troughton, so when it was announced that Neil Gaiman would be writing an episode of Doctor Who, my ears not only perked up they practically did the macarena.  His episode may not have any real connection to Moffat's season long story arc, but it is one of the absolute high points of the series, and a real love letter to Doctor Who.

     The episode opens with the Doctor receiving a hypercube distress call which appears to come from another Time Lord. He jettisons a few rooms from the TARDIS in order to get the energy together required to hop dimensions, and ends up a tiny planetoid ruled over by an entity called House. Upon arrival the TARDIS goes dead, and it's Matrix (the heart and soul of the TARDIS) disappears.  The trio are now stuck in House's domain with the Crazed Auntie, Uncle, and Nephew, and a strange woman named Idris, who refers to the Doctor as her "thief." It's up to the 3 of them and Idris to escape the Planetoid, and leave House in the pocket universe, so that it cannot wreak any further havoc elsewhere.

   We then have a pair of episodes that don't directly follow the story-arc, but in a way do.  The next 2 episodes The Rebel Flesh/Almost People have the TARDIS team landing on an island in 22nd century Earth. The island houses a factory that deals with a highly volatile acid substance, and in order to deal with the handling of it, the workers have created a substanced called "The Flesh."

     The flesh creates avatars of the individuals in the factory, who essentially do the dangerous work in place of the employee. During a solar storm the flesh avatars gain their independence and revolt.  The Doctor, Amy, and Rory end up in the middle of the conflict between the Flesh and the humans on the island.  This episode was another season high point for me, I felt it indirectly continued the arc, and it made me feel that the living Doctor knew more than what he let on.  It also was the most classic series feeling of the entire run, with the Doctor appearing nonchalantly at a location becoming involved, and then leaving. For classic Who fans there is also a nice little nod to the 3rd and 4th Doctors at the beginning of the serial.

     We then begin to follow up on the Death of the Doctor story-arc with A Good Man Goes to War.  This is Doctor Who at it's most epic, and has a real amazing space opera vibe running through the whole thing. The conclusion of the last 2-parter ended with the revelation that the Amy Pond that has been with the Doctor for the whole of this series has been a flesh duplicate.  Upon discovering this revelation the Doctor melts her down, which reawakens the real Amy Pond who is currently in the midst of active labor on a military base located on the asteroid named Demon's Run.  She has been kidnapped by the "eye patch lady" who has been seen throughout the early episodes of the series.  It turns out her name is Madam Kovarian, and she has been holding the pregnant Amy Pond hostage in order to kidnap her baby, and turn her into a weapon to use against the Doctor.

     The episode entails Rory and Amy's efforts to assemble an army of the Doctor's allies calling in the favors the Doctor has been owed over the centuries, and then stating a battle at Demon's Run to free Amy and rescue the baby. This is really epic stuff here, and when it aired on TV it was the Mid-Season finale, that ended on the cliffhanger that Amy's daughter was to be River Song, and even with the Doctor and Rory's best efforts was still kidnapped by Kovarian.

     The series picks up with an episode whose title would make an exploitation film producer smile Let's Kill Hitler has the Doctor dropping in on Amy and Rory after spending a good amount of time searching for their baby Melody.  It turns out Melody was named after their friend Mel's who interrupts the reunion, hijacks the TARDIS and forces the Doctor to take it to 1940's Germany to confront the Fuhrer himself. Of course, things don't go exactly to plan, Hitler gets shoved into a closet, and an assassination attempt by the Teselecta a robot manned like a spaceship, and that can shapeshift seemingly into any object gets on Hitler gets thwarted accidentally as well. In the initial crossfire Mel's is shot, killed, and begins to regenerate into River Song.  Unfortunately, this isn't the River Song we've come to know, this is a psychotic River who is on a mission to kill the Doctor.

   The series continues on with a series of 3 stand alone episodes the first Night Terrors takes the Doctor, Amy, and Rory into a child's bedroom, and into a creepy doll house.  The episode has an excellent classic series vibe, and is definitely hide behind the couch material for the kiddies in the audience. We then have The Girl Who Waited.  Which involves the TARDIS team landing on a hospital planet, where Amy ends up in an alternate reality where she is forced to become a warrior, and fight for her own existence for 30 years, before being rescued by Rory and the Doctor. One of the best episodes of the series, it has an excellent minimalist science fiction vibe that feels one Part Doctor Who - Warrior's Gate and another part THX-1138. We then have The God Complex, which has the Doctor, Amy, and Rory versus a fear eating minotaur in a Shining-esque hotel.

     The series concludes with the Wedding of River Song. On the shores of Lake Silencio the Doctor was shot and killed, completely.  In order to prevent his death, River prevented herself from firing the gun, causing the world to stay still at exactly the same minute.  It is up to River, The Doctor, Amy, and Rory, to stop the Silence, Madam Kovarian, and put time back on course, even if it means the Doctors death.

     Series 6 continues the darker Who vibe that Moffat began implementing with Series 5, and it works very well for all involved.  The Doctor has always done well in dark circumstances, and the atmosphere in these episodes very often harkens back to the Tom Baker-Philip Hinchcliffe era of Doctor Who.   I enjoyed the River song arc since the beginning, and am glad to see that continued here, also the interaction between the current TARDIS team is one of the best in the shows 50 year history. Special mention should go to Arthur Darvill whose performance as Rory has evolved quite a bit from the beginning of series 5.

     Doctor Who The Complete Series 6 is absolutely my favorite of the revived series, and it's conclusion has done what any good show should aspire to do, made me want more of it.  Luckily, we are weeks away from the Doctor Who Christmas Special, before the long wait until next Autumn's series 7. 

 

Audio/Video (4/5)

The Doctor Who Complete Series 6 Blu-ray box set presents all 13 episodes (and A Christmas Carol) of Doctor Who Series 6 in 1080i Widescreen. The level of detail shown in these is absolutely fantastic, and continues the BBC's tradition of quality transfers. The colors absolutely pop, black levels are quite deep, and flesh tones are largely accurate. The only minor issue is some minor noise issues, but they are minor, and very rarely detract from the transfer.

The audio is presented in an English 5.1 audio track. The track is solid, everything is mixed well, and dialogue is completely audible throughout. I did not notice any instances of background noise or distortion on the track.

Extras (4/5)

     BBC/2 Entertain have put together a nice slate of extras for their release of Doctor Who The Complete Series 6. The set has 5 commentary tracks.  The first is on the Impossible Astronaut and features Arthur Darvill with Producer Marcus Wilson and Line Producer David Mason. We then get Neil Gaiman flying solo on The Doctor's Wife. The next commentary track is on The Rebel Flesh and pairs up director Julian Simpson with actors Mark Bonnar and Marshall Lancaster.  Arthur Darvill is back, this time with the effects supervisor Tim Barter, and actress Neve McIntosh for the mid-series finale A Good Man Goes To War. We then have show runner Steven Moffat joined by Frances Barber (Madam Kovarian), and director Jeremy Webb for the Wedding of River Song commentary. 

     We then have 13 episodes of Doctor Who Confidential totaling over 2.5 hours. Obviously these are not the full length off-air versions, but they are absolutely fantastic behind the scene glimpses into the making of the show.  This set also comes packed with a series of shorts and prequels kicking off with a few comic relief sketches Time and Space.  We then have 5 Night and the Doctor Shorts. They are meant as comedy bits, that do a bit of referencing to events in the last few series.  There are also prequels to 5 episodes including the Impossible Astronaut, Curse of the Black Spot,  A Good Man Goes to War, Let's Kill Hitler, and the Wedding of River Song. We then have a Doctor Who Confidential on the Night Shorts that runs about 15 minutes. The disc is rounded off 43 minutes of Monster Files going over this series villains, and a few trailers for the Blu-ray's.

     As far as the Christmas Carol disc is concerned the Content is similar, with the exception of the Doctor Who Proms being excluded from this set.

 

Overall

     Doctor Who The Complete Series 6 is quite possible the best series of Doctor Who since the revival. This set has great A/V, and is loaded up with extras.  If you're a fan this is a no-brainer, if you're new to the fold, pick this and Series 5, and enjoy.  Highly Recommended.