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Blu-ray Review: Doctor Who Series Six Part 1
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Doctor WhoDoctor Who
Series Six Part One
DVD | Blu-Ray
Starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston, Stuart Milligan, Mark Sheppard, Suranne Jones, Frances Barber
Written by Steven Moffat, Stephen Thompson, Neil Gaiman, Matthew Graham
Directed by Toby Haynes, Jeremy Webb, Richard Clark, Julian Simpson, Peter Hoar
BBC
Warner Home Video
Release Date: July 19, 2011

The BBC release of the first half of Doctor Who Series 6 presents fans a chance to grab a hold of the episodes aired this year before the second half airs on August 27. With fascination with the Time Lord at an all time high in America since the days of Tom Baker, it makes sense that the BBC would officially release Series 6 Part 1 while the time is ripe.

Series 6 of Doctor Who does not kick off immediately after the previous adventures in Series 5. Instead, some time has passed, and companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) have been separated from the Doctor (Matt Smith) for an as of yet unexplained reason. The companions and River Song (Alex Kingston) obtain an invitation in TARDIS-blue envelopes to meet somewhere in the United States at a specific time.

The three unite with the Doctor where a perplexing individual in a NASA astronaut suit appears, in an event that proves to have deadly consequences for one of our heroes. The team travel back in time to 1969, where they meet President Richard Nixon (Stuart Milligan) and Canton Everett Delaware III (Mark Sheppard) and unearth a controlling plot by aliens known only as The Silents. The adventure begins a sequence of events that will see Amy Pond abducted during her pregnancy, and her newborn daughter being abducted in turn, along with a staggering revelation of who the enigmatic River Song actually is.

As a whole, looking at all seven episodes, performances from the main cast are at their best. Smith, Gillan, and Darvill have settled into their roles wonderfully; with Matt firmly casting out any doubts anyone had about him convincingly portraying the Doctor. Gillan and Darvill work brilliantly together both as a team themselves, and as the faithful (and needed) companions. The dynamic amid the three is always developing, and the links between their characters become stronger with each episode. Individually, Karen Gillan continues fairly much at the same pace as she was as Pond in Series 5, though with some slight maturity thrown in periodically.

Arthur Darvill, on the other hand, comes into his own as Rory Williams in this season. His character’s development from Series 5 through Series 6 is notably marked — from the big-nosed geeky nurse confused about the Doctor to becoming a good man who goes to war with valor and determination. Traditionally, looking through the history of the 48-year-old series of Doctor Who, the Doctor has aided in the development of his companions; and with Rory it is highly notable.

There is one untoward aspect of Rory’s roles in these two seasons though. He keeps dying. Effectively, he is the Kenny from South Park in this incarnation of Doctor Who, and has quite often felt very out of place. There is the possibility that showrunner Steven Moffat has something premeditated for Rory later in the series, or perhaps in Series 7, that is related to the many deaths of Rory Williams. There may be some future meaning added to these scenes, but as it stands right now, these outcomes for Rory lose meaning the more that they happen.

Series regular Alex Kingston is also tremendous through this season so far. With revelations made about her character on this DVD, and promises of more revelations to come, she truly embodies the role of River Song — and interestingly we see some solid progress of her romantic relationship with the Doctor. There are also some sad, tragic elements to it, that hearken back to the Steven Moffat written Silence In The Library and Forest Of The Dead during the era of then-showrunner Russell T. Davies and Tenth Doctor, David Tennant.

The guests that roll up during the first part of Series 6 are also of good standing as well. The one that stands out the most is Suranne Jones who plays Idris in the Neil Gaiman-penned The Doctor’s Wife. She sold her character to the viewers so convincingly; it is a credit to her art and craft; and also a huge credit to Gaiman. So much so, I predict we will see Gaiman come back for perhaps Series 7 and/or 8 to bring some more Who goodness to the fans.

Mark Sheppard in the first two installments is also outstanding as Canton Everett Delaware III, and is, in my mind, a character who I personally would love to see return in future episodes. Not as a companion, mind you, but as a series regular like River Song in Nu Who, or The Brigadier in Classic Doctor Who. His inclusion into The Impossible Astronaut and Day Of The Moon was a welcome addition, and contributed greatly to the chemistry between Smith, Gillan, Darvill, and Kingston.

The wonderful Frances Barber plays new (possibly) “big-bad” Madame Kovarian, the adversary behind the abduction of Amy Pond and her daughter. She is already accomplished in the UK acting scene, and I have seen her deliver some stellar performances in some filmed Shakespeare works on Netflix. She exemplifies the new enemy wonderfully, and makes you look forward to seeing more of her in the second part of the season.

A Good Man Goes To War is also a fitting conclusion to the first part of the season, providing a couple of surprising revelations, as well as putting forward a conclusion that served well as a cliffhanger that gives the audience some feeling of resolution as well. We grasp that the Doctor and his allies have much more ahead of them, but the answers and conclusion to the episode will serve as a solid ending. This serves much better than one of those typical Moffat cliffhangers that leaves fans shrieking at their televisions for more.

Not all is brilliant though. The episode The Curse Of The Black Spot feels out of place, and was a deficient follow-up to the two-parter that opened the season. My TARDISblend co-host Tom Cheredar and I discussed this episode at length during the podcast, and I’m sorry to say that my feelings have not changed about it ever since it first aired. While there have since been some slight connections and explanations to this episode in subsequent adventures, for the most part it comes across as a “filler” episode that’s had a couple odds and ends added into to it to connect it to the overarching plot.

The monsters in this season are all new, save for the quick appearance of Cybermen in A Good Man Goes To War. The Silents embody a new level of eerie creepiness; a Moffat creation that will rival his previous creations of The Weeping Angels and the Vashta Nerada. The Headless Monks also make an appearance, and like the Silents, they also contribute much to the sinister factor, with some scenes that will have new young fans hiding behind the sofa just like the original Daleks did back in 1963.

The visual effects of Series 6 soar above and beyond that of Series 5. I would hazard a guess that Moffat’s team reserved some of their VFX budget from last season for this one. The liquid-like creations of The Flesh will grab your attention instantly, and the space-battle sequences from A Good Man Go To War will remind you of memorable scenes from some of your favorite Sci-Fi movies and shows. There is a lot more convincing effects used this season and they are considerably stronger than those during the last series.

The Matt Smith epoch of Doctor Who is holding up very well, and in comparison to the Classics, is probably closer to the feel and spirit of the originals than previous Doctors David Tennant and Christopher Eccleston. Some of the classic Doctors also get some citation points and “almost-cameos” in The Rebel Flesh (“Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” / “Would you like a jelly baby?”) that will please fans of Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.

Despite the fact that the new series of Doctor Who has much great strength, there is one major weakness in its construction. Even though Steven Moffat is a genius in the way he weaves his complicated web for overarching designs that seem to stretch across several seasons as opposed to just one, and should be praised for it, the convoluted manner in which it is present could potentially confuse and disappoint new viewers just discovering Doctor Who. His dense expedition, full of twists and turns, is delightful; but seems to require some back knowledge of what has come before in previous episodes.

Doctor Who may be nearly 50 years old, but for the most part, new viewers could always climb on board and follow along without a prerequisite of previous continuity. With Moffat’s intricate direction of Series 6, it does seem that more knowledge is needed and may lose or disorient the new or the casual spectator. On top of that, the series is FULL of spoilers and revelations throughout, which makes writing a review like this particularly difficult!!!

However, whilst it may be problematical for noobs, for long-term fans, it is an absolute delight – and will have them guessing and predicting numerous speculations as to what will happen as the season progresses. Most suppositions may be wrong, as seen by previous Moffat works, but is thrilling to follow along and keep guessing as to what will happen next. It’s like trying to figure out a riddle or conundrum, but in the science fiction backdrop of travel and adventures through time and space.

Unfortunately, there is very little in the way of special features on this home video release. There are two featurettes looking at Doctor Who Monster Files, and the one on the subject of The Silents is of interest, though is mainly constructed of previously seen Doctor Who Confidential episodes and web features. I was disappointed that the Doctor Who Confidential shows corresponding for each chapter were not included, but I am assuming that the BBC is saving that for an uber-huge massive deluxe release later in the year after the season has fully concluded.

This release is distinctively made for the impatient fan – those of you out there that simply MUST have your copy of the episodes immediately. If you’re just after the episodes, and couldn’t give a Dalek Bump about special features, then this is the release you in all probability will want to get your grubby mitts on. For those of you who need the extras and stuff beyond the features, then it might be wise to be patient for a future release.

Doctor Who Series 6 Part 1 is electrifying; and has (up to now) towered above Matt Smith’s previous season aired last year. He has made the character of the Last Time Lord truly his own, and delivers the quirkiness and manic intelligence nicely. Aside from the one episode (The Curse Of The Black Spot) that I was not hugely tickled with, all other 6 episodes are excellent, and well worth watching.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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