Doctor Who: The Complete Fourth Series (2008) Review
(More customer reviews)The major dynamic of Doctor Who has always been one of change, after all it IS a show about a 900+ year-old face-swapping, regenerating Timelord with no-fixed-abode, each week an entirely new location, with a new cast of characters. It's because of this dynamic that the series has had such (multimedia) longevity. With series 4, of the new series we see a continuation of this, with the return of Donna Noble from the Christmas Invasion Special of 2006. But, this isn't the same Donna, she herself has changed as a character for having adventured with the Doctor, although she still, thankfully, is not as in awe of the Doctor as Rose in series 1, or in love as Rose in series 2, or struck love-sick with the unobtainable man as Martha in series 3. Donna has a unique perspective on the Doctor and his universe, almost seeing herself as an equal, if unsure of her abilities, but not so completely trusting of the Doctor. As Rose grew into the role of companion, so does Donna, but her journey isn't as simple, she may be the everyman companion (like Sally Sparrow or the men of LINDA). The show's overall perspective has changed, Rose and Martha held the point of view, unraveling the mysteries (for the viewer) of the Doctor and his world, especially with the angry and enigmatic Chris E's 9th Doctor. But now with David Tennant's 10th Doctor the audience knows more about the "last of the Timelords" than any companion, we don't need the companion as an anchor, thus we has Donna on an even playing field, and an excuse to bring back Martha (also changed for her travels)...an maybe Rose?
This season the series has no major catchwords like "BAD WOLF" or "TORCHWOOD" and who can forget "MR. SAXON." Season 4 is bound by other elements, a person, phrase, a prophetic statement/question, a place, building up, so pay attention. These elements aren't clues from this season alone, but references planted going as far back as the first season, or a recently as quotes from the Master in last season's finale, remember "The Crucible," "Medusa Cascade" or the "Shadow Proclaimation?"
What else this season has is loads of great stories from award-winning writers and loads of great performances from award-winning celebrity cameos: Nigel Terry (Excalibur), kylie Minogue, Felicity Kendal, Alex Kingston (ER), Colin Salmon (MI6), Christopher Ryan (the Young Ones), Geoffrey Palmer, Georgia Moffett (the Last Detective) and more. Of course, there are loads of great performances from the series regulars. David Tennant ads so much depth to what was a relatively static character, in the series original successful run. His Doctor still enabling the everyman to act, to be a hero. Along with Catherine Tate, their sense of pathos and comedic timing are nothing short of A-list quality.
DVD set includes:(mild spoilers follow...)
Time Crash: a fully finished short for the "Children in Need" UK charity featuring the 5th Doctor (Peter Davison) meeting the 10th Doctor, written by Steven Moffat.This is a direct precursor to the 2007 Christmas Special, in fact it really occurs a few minutes before the final seconds of Season 3's finale.
"The Voyage of the Damned" or the 2007 Christmas Special. Now a Christmas Day tradition, since the 10th Doctor, newly regenerated came to our screens, this is the 3rd such special. This special is very derivative of the action film genre, more so that the previous specials, or Doctor Who as a whole. Moments very-like the Die Hard of your choice appear throughout "Voyage" while Tennant's Doctor is somewhat muted early on here. The Doctor this time out is rescuing the passengers and crew of the Starship TITANIC, a intergalactic cruise liner visiting scenic Earth, where disaster ensues and the Doctor's promises of salvation to the nicely eclectic gallery of survivors proves to be to much to handle. The Sweet, but over-rated and inappropriately aged Kylie Minogue as Astrid, a temp companion who dreams of seeing the galaxy, help the Doctor to resolve the sinister corporate machinations of Max Capricorn, at an extreme cost. Some elements are the angelic robo-baddies, homage to "the Robots of Death" and another classic iconic juxtaposition of holiday imagery.
The first of the real season is "Partners in Crime" in which we rejoin Donna Noble from the Runaway Bride special and for an opening night episode, it still feel like on of the specials. It is fun, face-paced and over-the-top, it too has some Die Hard moments. Since turning down the Doctor's initial offer to travel, she has changed her mind and been investigating on her own hoping to one day run into the Doctor, and so she does. She also runs into CEO, Miss Foster who offers an unsuspecting public new way to lose weight with a sinister secret, well sinister may be to harsh a word, but let's just say that the fat "just walks away." This one, is a bit of fun fluff, but the episode closer offers quite a twist.
The second of the season is "The Fires of Pompeii" or should I say "Volcano Day." Filmed in Rome on the massive set from the HBO/BBC sets and other Mediterranean locales, we see some of the hard historical choices the Doctor must make, a choice I though he would have faced on the real Titanic, had it not been a Starship. In a fixed point in history...Who lives and who dies in the eruption of Vesuvius? This one has got it all, molten rock monsters, togas and Donna pleading for the Doctor to save someone. From the opening to the ending of this one Donna is asking so great and obvious questions (for example, if the TARDIS translates English to Latin & Latin to English, what happens when you speak Latin?).
The third episode "Planet of the OOD" resolves the plight of the subservient, tentacle-mouthed slaves from The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit of 2006. The Doctor didn't really do right by them the last time around, but in his defense he was busy fighting the Devil. The OOD are both creepy and sympathetic simultaneously. This time the OOD are more than just tools, and yet again we have the motif of an evil CEO who needs comeuppance (3 of 4).
The fourth and fifth episodes "The Sontaran Stratagem" and "Poison Sky" obviously see the return of the potato-headed clone soldiers (pre-dating Lucas' clone troopers from "the Time Warrior"). This 2 parter also sees the return of UNIT and Dr. Martha Jones and if you missed her episodes of Torchwood series 2, she is a more confident, bolder character than when she and the Doctor parted ways. This one has another evil corporation and evil SAT-NAVs. These two are great "old school" episodes, Christopher Ryan brilliantly plays Sontaran General Staal. Watch the TARDIS monitor for another clue to the season finale.
The sixth episode title was kept secret until the week before broadcast, "the Doctor's Daughter." This is a really nicely done story, with some great casting
Including Nigel Terry (King Arthur from Excalibur) and Georgia Moffett (who is really the Doctor's daughter, 5th Doctor Peter Davison's real kid, who was nearly cast as Rose for 2005). Penned by Stephen Greenhorn, who wrote last season Lazarus Experiment, setting out to write a story that forever leaves the central character changed by the end.
The seventh episode, the Wasp and the Unicorn, is the latest from writer Gareth Roberts, the "historical cameo" king. Having written Charles Dickens & Christmas Ghosts, Queen Victoria meeting a werewolf and Shakespeare with Witches, who better to write a manor house mystery with Agatha Christie?
Done with spinning newspaper, flashbacks and a body in the study, this one is a really Doctor-Who-dunnit (sorry). It has lots of cameos, some Dr. Who vets and David Tennant's DAD as the BUTLER!
The long awaited 2-parter from writer 2 time HUGO-award winner Steven Moffat (Blink, Empty Child), "Silence in the Library" and "the Forest of the Dead" has awards written all over it. The shadows themselves are the enemy on a planet-sized Library and who is the mysterious archeologist River Song, who seems to intimately familiar with the Doctor, could she be Mrs. The Doctor? ...Anyway, if you read any of the New Adventures (of Doctor Who) in the 90's the spirit of this story will seem a very familiar homage (Google Prof. Benny Summerfield for more, irony here is her creator Paul Cornell didn't write an episode this season). River Song is played perfectly by the beautiful and talented Alex Kingston, adds to the increasing foreboding clues toward a bleak something on the horizon for Donna.
Episode ten, "Midnight" while Donna relaxes poolside the Doctor goes on a 4 hour tour (you just can trust them). The Doctor and an unlikely tour group visit the surface of the "unihabited/unihabitable" planet of Midnight...but who's outside and who has gotten in? A great answer to the Voyage of the Damned in which a disaster brings out the best in mankind, here we see people turn on each other (and the Doctor) in fear, human nature at its ugliest. This "bottle" episode contained to the "space-truck's" cabin, is claustrophobic and although it contains no monster reveal it is one of the season's most frightening shows since the angels. Props to the sound crew/editors on this one, no visual effects make the sound all the more important! Also, after the 5th Doctor's real daughter, we this time get the 2nd Doctor's son David Troughton is onboard.
Episode eleven "Turn Left" again by RTD himself leading us into the dark waters of the season four 3 part finale to come...hold on! This Doctor-light episode sees the special return of an companion and UNIT as things begin to get bad as a threat to more than just the Earth is revealed.
Episode twelve, "The Stolen Earth" the Doctor's team prepare to battle the new ***** Empire, lead by *****.
Final episode,...Read more›
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DOCTOR WHO:COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON - DVD Movie