Series Six is the second series of Doctor Who with Steven Moffat at the creative helm as executive producer/head writer and Matt Smith starring as the Eleventh Doctor. The first half, comprising of seven episodes, is now available on Blu-ray for those who want to relive the time-traveling adventures in high definition and can’t wait for a complete-series set. The stories are accessible for someone new to the Whoniverse, but longtime fans will get the most enjoyment from them.
Moffat gets things off to a very dramatic start with series-opener “The Impossible Astronaut,” which picks up two months after the events of Series Five. Amy (Karen Gillian), Rory (Arthur Darvill), and River Song (Alex Kingston) receive blue invitations to meet in the Utah desert where they find the Doctor. They soon discover he is future version of himself, roughly 200 years older then the last time they saw him, but they don’t get to spend much time with him before an unidentified Apollo astronaut appears and kills him. Time Lords have the ability to regenerate upon their deaths, a brilliant production idea created long ago when the lead actor needed replacing. However, the astronaut damages the Doctor before his body could begin the transformation.
Soon after, the proper version of the Doctor arrives having received an invitation as well. No one tells him about what happened to his future self, but they take the latter’s suggestion and convince the Doctor to head to 1969, where they discover an alien race known as the Silence. The creatures, whose facial features are reminiscent of Munch’s The Scream, have been living on the planet for quite a while, but they have gone undetected because when a person looks away, all memory of the Silence disappears. They were hinted at in the previous season, as flashbacks make clear. Wrapping in “Day of the Moon,” the two-parter successfully delivers a story with thrills and laughs as well as a very smart resolution to the plot. There are also hints of future storylines from Amy possibly being pregnant to a quick flash of a woman with an eye patch.
Next up were two standalone episodes. “The Curse of the Black Spot” is pirate adventure likely influenced by the fourth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise. It’s a light bit of fun, which suffers in contrast following the previous episodes’ intensity. Also, the conclusion doesn’t deliver on the intended drama, except maybe for new viewers who thought a companion was in danger. Author Neil Gaiman wrote “The Doctor’s Wife,” which puts the focus on the Doctor’s longtime love as the soul of the TARDIS is placed into a woman, and we see the two communicate as never before.
Matthew Graham wrote a thought-provoking two-parter, “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People,” where the Doctor and companions arrive on 22nd Century Earth to discover a factory where clones are being used to conduct highly dangerous work. Called “Gangers,” the clones rebel against their treatment, even though there’s no time for a fight with an impending solar tsunami about to strike the planet. The first half of Series Six wraps up with a great cliffhanger in “A Good Man Goes to War” as the Doctor comes to the rescue of a dear friend and River’s identity is revealed.
The 1080i/AVC encoded transfer displayed at 1.78:1 is more impressive then the television broadcast I saw, having more of a film quality. Colors are very bright and consistent, contributing to the picture’s good contrast, and blacks are rich and inky. Details, such as clothing texture, appear strong through and shadow delineation is impressive. There is a tiny bit of noise on rare occasion.
The audio is a DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 track. Dialogue is clear and prioritized. The effects make their presence in the surrounds, delivering slight immersion in the different worlds the Doctor takes viewers and some items move through channels. The subwoofer augments the effects well, delivering a nice bottom end for explosions and machinery.
The extras are rather slight, only two installments of “Monster Files” (1080i) “The Silence” (11 min) is discussed on Disc 1. The Gangers (13 min) get a similar treatment on Disc 2, but the featurette looks more at the make-up creation.
Don’t know if there will be a complete Series Six set in the future, but Doctor Who – Series Six, Part One is worthwhile for those who want to add these adventures to their collection right now.