Like many, I’m a latter-day Doctor Who fan, having just started watching the show with the brief tenure of the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) that would lead into the debut of the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), who would become one of British science fiction’s most beloved icons. After three season (or “series”) on the show, both David Tennant and showrunner Russell T. Davies announced that they would be leaving the production. That wouldn’t happen before five more specials, recounting the Tenth Doctor’s final adventures, though!
All five specials now have aired, and Who fans have bid David Tennant a fond adieu. Now BBC Video is commemorating the end of his run with special DVD and Blu-ray releases called Doctor Who: The Complete Specials. The box sets release on February 2, but we were able to get an advance copy of the Blu-ray version, thanks to BBC and their partners.
The DVD and Blu-ray versions both include all five specials, spread across five discs:
- The Next Doctor – The Doctor travels to 1851 London at Christmastime and encounters another man (David Morrissey) who believes that he, too, is the Doctor.
- Planet of the Dead – The Doctor becomes stranded on a desert planet with a professional thief (Michelle Ryan) after his bus falls through a rift.
- The Waters of Mars – Finding himself on Mars in 2059 on a monumental day in the progress of humanity, the Doctor must make difficult choices about whether to assist the leader of the Mars colony (Lindsay Duncan).
- The End of Time, Part One – In this first part of the Tenth Doctor’s final adventure, the Doctor is reunited with old friend Wilf (Bernard Cribbins) as the Master (John Simm) returns to wreak mayhem upon the Earth.
- The End of Time, Part Two – The Tenth Doctor’s final special concludes his showdown with the Master and seals his own fate after an encounter with a mysterious visitor (Timothy Dalton).
As we reviewed the individual specials here on Fandomania as they originally aired, this review will focus more on the additions and transfer to Blu-ray than on the story or content. If you’d like to see our original reviews, you can follow the links above.
How It Looks
With these Doctor Who specials being recent productions, the HD video comes through brilliantly. Doctor Who is a series stuffed full of vibrant colors, crazy CG, and tight shots on actors. These Blu-rays perform excellently in all areas. From the yellows and golds of the TARDIS to the reds and greens of the aliens, all the colors are vivid and sharp. Similarly, the darker scenes and more subdued emotional moments in the specials pack additional impact with the deep and crystal clear visuals and audio.
I’m a big fan of attractive or creative packaging for media releases, and Blu-ray box sets give the perfect opportunity for designs to shine. This five pack of discs comes attractively enveloped in a cardboard slipcase with a shiny foil treatment. The actual Blu-ray case inside is a really cool fold-out covered with images of the Doctor and his exploits. The front flap appropriately shows the Tenth Doctor, walking away. Each of the other three flap sections shows collages of screencaps from all five of the specials included in the set. The interior houses an episode guide booklet inside a folder in the first flap, while each of the other three parts hold the discs themselves. The first two disc panels hold two Blu-rays each, so the back disc on each of those panels is partially hidden by the front one. It makes for a nice looking design, but you have to remove the top disc to get at the bottom one on those panels. It’s a small quibble when you look at the overall fantastic presentation, but it’s worth mentioning.
The main selling point for me in pretty much any DVD or Blu-ray release is the extra content loaded onto the discs. All five of these specials deliver, and here’s a breakdown of what you can expect:
- David Tennant, Catherine Tate, and Euros Lyn on The End of Time, Part One.
- David Tennant, John Simm, and Euros Lyn on The End of Time, Part Two.
- Each of the five specials includes its own Doctor Who Confidential, an hour long behind the scenes look at the episode, produced and aired by the BBC.
- Doctor Who at the Proms – Originally released on the separate The Next Doctor DVD, this special features the music of Doctor Who, presented at the BBC Proms. It’s a great segment that will make you wish you were in the audience, cheesy Tennant cameos and all.
- David Tennant Video Diary: The Final Days – Just as the name implies, we have a collection of video footage shot by Tennant himself as the final specials are produced. Other crew members occasionally pick up the camera as well, allowing us to see Tennant’s emotional farewell on the Doctor Who set.
- Doctor Who BBC Christmas Idents – This is a quick feature that collects several station identification clips for the BBC, starring David Tennant, some reindeer, and a snow-covered TARDIS. The first of these is especially entertaining.
- Doctor Who at Comic-Con – One of my personal favorites on this release, the Comic-Con featurette follows the Doctor Who crew to San Diego and sits in on their massively-attended panel at the world’s largest comics and sci fi convention.
- Deleted Scenes – Lastly, we have a collection of deleted scenes from the specials, including an introduction from Russell T. Davies.
If you’re already a Doctor Who fan, adding this box set with all its bells and whistles to your collection is a no-brainer. If you’re new to the show, the one-off nature of the first three specials might serve as a good introduction to the title character and series. The Next Doctor is an especially good adventure with all the hallmarks of what makes Doctor Who great, from anachronistic visits to the past to world threatening menaces to some of the top headlining villains in the Whoniverse, the Cybermen. These five specials are the final outings from the Tenth Doctor, and their presentation here serves as an appropriate and well-deserved farewell to the team who put the show back on the pop culture map.