Collected here in this boxset of Doctor Who are the four specials (five if you count “The End Of Time” as two separate episodes) of David Tennant’s last year as the Tenth Doctor.
“The Next Doctor” deals with the Doctor heading to Victorian London and running into one of his future incarnations, who doesn’t recognise him. Things get weirder from there, with Cybermen on the march in the snow. The episode works well and is a lighter tale typical of Doctor Who before things get darker over the next three specials.
“The Planet Of The Dead” (the 200th story) is a bit hit and miss and is the one that this season could’ve done without if necessary. It has hardly any bearing on the overall arc (apart from setting up the Doctor’s death prophecy) and it features a flying bus. Children will find that awesome and adults will be saying, “er, what?”. It does feature a good role for the comedian Lee Evans, however. Naturally the fans wouldn’t have stood for removing the story but there could’ve been some references worked into “The Next Doctor” that set up “The Waters Of Mars” and the transition would’ve been seamless.
“The Waters Of Mars” itself is definitely worth watching, because it shows the Doctor at possibly his darkest. It follows him realising he’s at one of those pesky fixed points in time and shows what happens if he tries to change it on a major level. He’s at his most arrogant and insane here and it’s quite disturbing.
“The End Of Time” (Part 1 and 2 – the first time the revived version has opted for that type of title) is the best of the lot, if you’re willing to overlook the dodgy comedy of the cacti and the weird overtones that the Naismith family has (they look more like husband and wife than father and daughter). It features the return of The Master with a plan that is arguably better than any he has come up with before (and you can see him come up with it if you listen to what he says hard enough). The second part shows that plan is part of a wider scheme on the part of another, more evil individual. The best part is that it almost works, which makes it all the sweeter when it is foiled.
As everyone knows, “The End Of Time” was Tennant’s last story as the Doctor, and the thread of not wanting to regenerate continues throughout the specials to good effect. The last fifteen minutes or so at the end of the specials is spent tying up various storylines so that Steven Moffat, who wrote Matt Smith’s section at the end of “The End Of Time”, could have a clean slate. It’s seen in the otherwise “not really worth watching” Sarah Jane Smith Adventures episode “Death Of The Doctor” (in which she meets the Eleventh Doctor) that he did a lot more while dying that wasn’t shown on-screen.
The music here is top class, and some of Murray Gold’s best work to date. If you get this, it’s worth getting the soundtrack as well. You can find my review of the soundtrack here.
The special features are good overall, as each special includes a whole Confidential episode dedicated to it. However, there isn’t really anything here that you wouldn’t get from buying the discs separately, other than putting them all into one place. The commentaries on “The End Of Time” (none are featured on the other specials) aren’t terribly interesting and you’d learn more from the Confidential episodes anyway.
What redeems this is the Doctor Who Proms, included on the “Next Doctor” disc and the “Doctor Who at Comic Con” featurette, although it showed a snippet of news footage in which a newswoman called the main character Doctor Who, which made me lose any respect I might’ve had for her.
If you already have the individual stories on DVD, don’t bother with this as they’re not upgraded much from their vanilla releases. However, if you have yet to obtain this, then absolutely do so. One of your rewards for doing so is a touching short story written by David Tennant as a way of introducing the boxset. And it is wonderfully done.