Doctor Who fires on all cylinders, storming into Series Six, Part One with a trip to America, culminating with a good man going to war. In between, we’re introduced to both the Silence and the Gangers. And it all ties ever so neatly together, except for the stuff that doesn’t tie up at all… More wibbly time matters after the jump.
Here is the briefest of introductions to Doctor Who for those stepping on late in the program. The Doctor is a Time Lord, a thousand-plus year old alien. When gravely injured, The Doctor regenerates into a new person both physically and personality-wise. With use of the TARDIS, an old-school blue British police box, he travels through space and time. This makes sense as TARDIS stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space. This, the 11th Doctor (third of the “restart”), does his traveling with companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams. Then, there’s the ever meddlesome River Song, a character steeped in mystery with an unknown connection to the Doctor (time travel being wibbly and also at times wobbly). There’s a lot of running, a good deal of being clever and much use of a sonic screwdriver, quite the handy gadget if ever there was one.
The Impossible Astronaut finds the Doctor, Amy, River and Rory in America, a pretty notable milestone. It also leads to, for the first time, the Doctor dying. Sure, he’s regenerated before, it is the 11th Doctor after all, but this is the first time that I know wherein the regeneration is halted and we’re left with an actual dead, burn the body like Vader, Doctor. This isn’t a spoiler, this is the episode one jumping on point. Welcome stranger! The show isn’t over as, again, time is wobbly. The Doctor and company go on to unravel the secretive plans of The Silence, a race of aliens that have been guiding humanity for untold years. They’ve managed to stay under the radar because, aside from some subliminal suggestions, your brain forgets them the moment you aren’t looking at them. (Game on, Weeping Angels!) One-off episodes follow involving a cursed pirate ship as well as another in which the Tardis takes female form, written by Neil Gaiman, no less. Another two episodes spotlight the Gangers, Flesh-formed avatars that gain autonomy and demand equality. All the while, the mystery of River’s identity and Amy’s sometimes yes, sometimes no pregnancy persist. Everything culminates in the seventh episode that lives up to the title of A Good Man Goes to War, with The Doctor being the titular good man. Bring on the Headless Monks! Cue cliffhanger for Part Two.
Matt Smith (the 11th Doctor), though an even younger Doctor than we’re accustomed to, somehow manages to convey the character’s ancient nature. It could be his fondness for bowties, but more likely the fact that so much seems to constantly be going on behind his eyes. He slips effortlessly from carefree and charming into perhaps the most dangerous Doctor we’ve seen. Karen Gillan brings spitfire Amy Pond to the screen, much to the delight of nerds worldwide. She might even be in the running for best companion honors, were it not for her husband, Rory. Arthur Darvill is Rory and has my vote for one of the best companion arcs going (though Donna Noble may get two votes out of me). Rory’s seen the other side of existence and continues to go through it all for the love of his wife. The enigma (wrapped in a riddle) that is River Song comes to the screen via Alex Kingston. She peppers her serious moments with perfectly played cheeky ones. Some of the conundrum that is River is revealed by the very end of part one, a payoff years in the making.
If you’re like me and your provider only provides the standard definition feed of BBC America, this HD is like watching the show anew. The English DTS HD 5.1 is ear candy as well. Scene selection and English subtitles are available features.
Disc 1 starts off with a BBC America Supernatural Saturday commercial featuring Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, Bedlam, Primeval, and Being Human and another BBC America commercial, while Disc 2 has a preview for Torchwood: Miracle Day and Sherlock Season One (DVD and Blu-Ray).
Disc 1’s Monster Files focusses on The Silence. Cast and crew talk about this new enemy addition to the Doctor’s rogues gallery and reminded me how the seed of the Silence goes back to Matt Smith’s first Doctor Who episode. It details the origins creatively as well as from a practical construction standpoint. The same goes for Disc 2’s Monster Files on The Gangers (short for dopplegangers) as they discuss this new race from the two parter The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People. Inspired by identity theft, it also introduces the concept of The Flesh, something that pays off multiple times through the course of this half of the season.
I would love more special features, as two is a bit too few, but this season of Doctor Who is soup to nuts strong as they come. Showrunner Steven Moffat couples great new adversaries with more answers (and even more questions) which altogether make this a must-have addition to your Who collection.
FINAL GRADE: A