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"Doctor Who: The Complete Fourth Series "
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: BBC/Warner Home Video
Genre:
TV- Series
Release Date:
11/18/08
Special Features:

"Doctor Who Confidential", "David Tennant's Video Diaries", "The Journey So Far" documentary, teaser trailers for various episodes, commentary tracks on all 14 episodes, deleted scenes, "Time Crash" produced for the Children In Need Telethon, Christmas Special ---

Review:

It seems the good Doctor is running out of time in the fourth season of "Doctor Who". The fourth season opens with a special feature produced for the charity Children in Need Telethons that run every year in the UK where the tenth Doctor (David Tennant)literally runs into the fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) as their TARDIS crash into each other. The two men who are different incarnations of the same man must figure out how to patch the hole in time that their collision has created. Writer Steven Moffat creates a miniature masterpiece that runs under nine minutes but still has enough plot for a full episode. ***

The first proper episode was the annual Christmas episode focusing on the Doctor trying to prevent the S.S. Titanic a huge space luxury liner visiting 21st Century Earth during the Holidays. Unaware that its namesake sank dooming most of its crew and passengers to the oblivion of the deep sea, the crew prepares to buy trinkets and party on Earth with an ill-informed guide who has no idea about the true traditions of the planet they are visiting. When the robot servants go berserk only the Doctor (Tennant) can save the ship from going the way of its 20th century namesake. Featuring Kylie Minogue as a human server who ends up assisting the Doctor, "Voyage of the Damned" sets the bar high for the rest of season four with its memorable witty script, strong performances, direction and dazzling visual effects. Luckily, the production cast and crew were up to the challenge and most of season four is of a similar quality. ***

The Doctors new companion is an old one sort of. Donna (Catherine Tate) who appeared in the cliffhanger from season two and the Christmas episode for 2006 as the bride of…a monster (sort of). Tate brings her comedic talents to the show playing well off of Tennant throughout this season. I have to give Russell T. Davies credit for deciding to cast a full figured woman in a TV world obsessed with wafer thin wane looking models. ***

There are a number of strong episodes from this season including "Silence in the Library" a bizarre episode on the surface where the Doctor and Donna find the library planet completely abandoned and the only defense for the duo is a little girl who is very much in the 21st century. The second episode "Forest of the Dead" plays with a plot that has never been tackled before. What if the Doctor meets someone from HIS future that he hasn't met in THIS incarnation? It's a dazzling episode with some truly spooky creatures that live "in the shadows". I don't want to spoil the plot for those who missed this terrific two part episode (written by Stephen Moffat who quickly became THE best writer on the show). Other episodes are strong as well such as "The Fires of Pomepii" where the Doctor and Donna visit the ancient city before the eruption of the volcano that will consume it and "The Doctor's Daughter" which looks both to the past (American audiences probably weren't aware that the Doctor did have a daughter who traveled with him in the first season) and, perhaps, to the future. The Doctor and Donna land on a world that was to be colonized but, instead, that has been lost in a mindless war between two factions using clones to augment their numbers. The Doctor himself gets "sampled" with the resulting "daughter" being full grown within a matter of minutes and instilled with language skills, intelligence and a history of the conflict. ***

As with previous seasons Davies pens the two part season conclusion (with a major cliffhanger) bringing back Martha Jones, Sarah Jane Smith, Captain Jack, Prime Minister Harriet Jones and his first companion in the revived series Rose Tyler. The two episodes are among Davies best and bring the fourth season to a solid close. ---

Image & Sound:

"Doctor Who" has always looked pretty good in its DVD presentation. As with previous seasons the show is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. There have been some problems with past sets for example blacks tended to look dark blue (perhaps a problem created in the process of converting the shows from PAL to NTSC the two different and incompatible standards for video for the rest of the World and the U.S. That problem is still somewhat evident with blacks not looking quite right but the overall look, detail and crispness of the images are extremely good with flesh tones always looking extremely accurate. ***

Audio sounds extremely good. The 5.1 mix still puts dialog first but the musical scores and sound effects are given their due as well. We also get English subtitles for those of us who can't understand the actors because of their accents (I'm not one of them but my wife is). ---

Special Features:

All fourteen episodes included have commentary tracks with a mixture of various cast members, production crew, writers and directors. I'll be honest because of the deadline for this review I only had time to listen to two audio commentary tracks so can't address how good each one is but I've usually found those that involve Tennant and Davies to be most entertaining. ***

It should be noted that "Time Crash" where the two Doctors meet is included in this section and NOT listed with the regular episodes. I think it would be better to put it with the regular episodes since many people don't dig into special features and it's a natural choice to include it with the regular episodes. ***

We get deleted scenes for a number of episodes on each disc. Most notable are the deleted scenes for actor Howard Attfield who was originally cast as Donna's grandfather. Attfield died just after completing the scenes for "Partners in Crime". It's a nice tribute to a fine actor that will be sorely missed. We also get the various preview trailers that ran on the BBC as well as a trailer for the second season of the "Doctor Who" spin-offs "Torchwood", "The Sarah Jane Adventures" and "Primeval" another excellent series that deals with time travel…sort of. ***

"David Tennant's Video Diary" continues a popular feature from previous season sets. As with the previous set, they are entertaining looks behind-the-scenes catching the cast and crew off guard. ***

"The Journey So Far" is a half hour documentary featuring the cast discussing their characters and some of their favorite moments from the series. ***

Disc Six focuses on "Doctor Who Confidential" the popular behind-the-scenes specials that aired on the BBC. As with previous sets, these are not the full length versions of those shows and features Anthony Head ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") as narrator. ---

Final Words:

Another terrific season of fun for "Who" fans, the fourth season introduces a new companion, some outstanding and unusual episodes and a boatload of extras. If you missed the season when it was aired in the U.S. on the Sci-Fi Channel (which, if I recall correctly, are edited down a bit to fit more commercials in), this is your chance to catch up with one of the most entertaining and long lasting science fiction shows on TV. Highly recommended.

 

 
 
 
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