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TV Review: ‘The Doctors Revisited – Ninth to Eleventh’

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DWAs Doctor Who‘s 50th year winds down, the last set of The Doctors Revisited, Ninth to Eleventh, has been released on DVD. These are a lot like the other eight specials, with approximately 30 minutes devoted to discussion of each of The Doctor’s latest incarnations. As before, some of each Doctor’s adventures are included, this time in the form of a pair of one-hour installments rather than a complete serial, keeping with the changed format of the show.

These three are the modern Doctors, beginning with the 2005 reboot and continuing to the present. Premiering nearly a decade after the 1990s TV movie, and even longer since the show went off the air, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith take what came before them and updated it for the modern era. Still maintaining some of the magic, charm, humor, and monsters, Doctor Who has been tweaked in the best of ways, and has never been more popular.

Eccleston is the first one to be profiled, and his reign is pretty brief, having only been featured in one series. His Ninth Doctor is badly scarred from a war in which he committed heinous acts (a subject touched upon in the recently-aired anniversary special Day of the Doctor), and now he’s trying to find himself again. Along with a young, pretty companion named Rose (Billie Piper), Eccleston re-introduces us to the character as we’ve never seen him before, setting the bar for his followers.

The episodes included in this set for Eccleston are “Bad Wolf” and “The Parting of the Ways.” This is his two-part finale, in which Rose is tested and Captain Jack (John Barrowman), who will soon earn his own spin-off, concludes his time traveling with The Doctor.

David Tennant, “my doctor,” takes over in series two and stays for three years, as well as for a number of specials. The Tenth Doctor has multiple companions during his tenure, beginning with Rose, whom he falls in love with, and continuing through Martha (Freema Agyeman) and Donna (Catherine Tate). This Doctor is witty and clever, but has a dangerous edge that can come out when needed.

Tennant’s run not only makes good use of old foes, such as the Cyberman, the Daleks, and the Master, but also begins building larger-arc stories that play out over a number of episodes. The end of his fourth series is truly a culmination of all that he does, with many of his previous friends, including Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) from the old series, teaming up in a fantastic finale, which happen to be the installments selected for this DVD.

After Tennant comes Matt Smith’s Doctor. A bit more goofy than the Tenth, the Eleventh is also more unstable, prone to bouts of extreme loneliness, often resulting in the erosion of his moral compass. Though Smith stays for three series (his run will end in the upcoming Christmas special later this month), his story actually spans multiple centuries as he flits in and our of the lives of his companions, Amy Pond (Karen Gillian) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) over the course of a decade or so (from their perspective). After Amy and Rory depart, which leads to even more moping, the Eleventh begins traveling with Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman), a girl he witnesses dying multiple times, a mystery that brings The Doctor back to life.

The storytelling in Smith’s time becomes even more intricate and deep. As producer Steven Moffat takes the Doctor Who reigns from Russell T. Davies, more recurring characters populate the landscape, the Weeping Angels become an important returning villain, and events suddenly take years to play out, words mentioned in previous series culminating much later. The Doctor is also given a wife, River Song (Alex Kingston), whom the Tenth Doctor meets briefly, but whom the Eleventh loves very much, even as his tale and hers intertwine in strange and sad ways.

The episodes for Smith’s era are “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon,” the two-part opener to series six in which The Doctor, Amy, Rory, and River encounter The Silence, an alien race that cannot be remembered once they leave one’s eyesight. This is actually only the beginning of a story that will take awhile to conclude.

As usual, Moffat has recorded openings for each of the episodes, which can be watched in their original two-part versions or as a seamless feature.

The Doctors Revisits – Ninth to Eleventh is available now.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • Heather G

    I just watched the DVD of these. Was there a different version that aired live versus the dvd version? What I’m curious about it no companion or villain bio for River Song was included for the 11th doctor. You mention her in your summary but nothing was mentioned about her relationship to the doctor in the show I saw.