Thursday, February 18, 2010

Doctor Who: The 2009 Specials

Well, the girlfriend and I finally did it. We watched all of the revival series of Doctor Who, all of the Ninth Doctor, all of the Tenth Doctor, and all of Russel T. Davies' era. Instead of reviewing the second, third and fourth series like I should, I'm going to skip them and focus on the four specials of 2009.

Planet of the Dead

The Doctor gets on a bus with a bunch of strangers when he's trying to track some sort of rip in space-time. The bus goes through the rip and they end up on a desert planet where a mysterious storm is approaching, and a couple of visually arresting aliens have become very interested in the humans.

It starts off like a pretty normal Doctor Who special except at the end, when the prophecy is told to the Doctor, about the end of his song, which was also foretold by the Ood in a previous episode. What makes this special, and the others, so interesting is the mental deterioration of the Doctor. He's a sad, lonely god, who has chosen to travel solo as to avoid any more emotional attachment and heartbreak.

Other than this aspect, Planet of the Dead is fairly run of the mill. The mystery at the heart is fairly simple, the humour is spot on, and in true Russel T Davies fashion, the foreshadowing is direct and never oblique. It's a higher quality episode but it's still just another Doctor Who episode.

Waters of Mars

The Doctor has landed on Mars by coincidence on the very same day that the first human outpost on Mars gets mysteriously destroyed. He realizes that this is a fixed point in time, and shouldn't intervene, but he just can't quite leave the humans alone, especially when they're becoming infected by something and dripping water everywhere.

Definitely an improvement on the previous special, this one raises the stakes quite a bit. For the Doctor that is. Without ruining the ending of this special, let me just say that it is awesome to see a Doctor who is badass.

David Tennant's Doctor is often maniacal, jumpy, energetic and sometimes loopy. He's also sometimes cruel. More cruel than a human could ever be. Like at the end of the third series' episode "Family of Blood" in which the Doctor devises particularly devious and cruel punishments for the Family.

This is applies also to this special. The Doctor is not human and we should never forget it. The Waters of Mars is a fantastic episode of Doctor Who and a fantastic lead in to the next special.

The End of Time

Split over two parts, The End of Time is the last story of the Tenth Doctor, the end of his era, the final singing of his song. I am not going into spoilers about this special, so the only thing I will say about this is that Donna Noble's Gramps returns, and so does the Master, but in what circumstances, I will not divulge.

That being said, I can honestly say that I enjoyed this final two part special, but I didn't love it. As a goodbye to David Tennant, the epilogue works perfectly as Davies ties all the loose ends up. There's even a heartbreaking callback to the aforementioned "Human Nature"/"Family of Blood" two parter.

But the actual plot left me a little cold. It's just a setup for a new era, a new showrunner, and a chance to blow a bunch of things up. The most positive thing I can say about the plot is that it's a terrifically ingenious use of time travel, the way Steven Moffat writes time travel.

As goodbyes go, this was sad, but the second series' two parter, "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday" remains the ultimate new-era Doctor Who episode. The goodbye between the Doctor and Rose is heartwrenching. There's an echo of that in the final moments of The End of Time, but it's not the same.

All in all, I enjoyed The End of Time and I certainly looked forward to Series 30 of Doctor Who, especially since Steven Moffat is the showrunner. However, the new Doctor looks weird and is far too young. His head is too big. Oh well, you can't always have perfect transitions.

Watch here for more Doctor Who reviews as the girlfriend and I are about to embark on a journey through classic Doctor Who. As in Doctors Four through Seven!

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