Television Review: Doctor Who Series 7, Part One Blu-Ray

I recently reviewed the blu-ray of Echo Bridge’s Godvilla Vs. Biollante for Cine-Apocalypse, and in my review I stated that Godzilla had been an ever-present force in my life for as long as I could  remember. That sums up Doctor Who for me as well. I grew up on Tom Baker’s stint as the Doctor, and even though I have seen a few episodes with Doctors prior and later, Baker has always remained my favorite.

To be honest, I never thought Doctor Who would ever get “rejuvenated” as a viable series again, but in 2005 a producer/screenwriter by the name of Russell T. Davies did just that. Not really thinking it was going to be any good, I tuned in to see Christopher Eccleston portraying the Time Lord and I quite enjoyed his take on the time traveling alien. It wasn’t until he regenerated into David Tennant that I really got hooked, but I had serious reservations when the next actor in line was announced to take over the role.

When they announced Matt Smith would be the next Doctor, I saw how young he was and quickly assumed the show had finally “jumped the shark”. Wow, was I wrong; he’s perfect for the role, with the right amount of gravitas to carry the heavier scenes, which I didn’t think he had in him. In fact, he’s so perfect for the role he’s knocked off Tennant as my second favorite. Yes, he’s that good.

With this blu-ray collection of Doctor Who: Series Seven, Part One, Matt Smith enters his third year playing the Time Lord, whose real name we still don’t know. This collection is divided into two discs, three episodes on Disc #1 and two episodes on Disc #2.

We start off with Asylum Of The Daleks”. In the first few moments we learn it’s not easy getting a message to the Doctor, and those who manage to do it make the Doc nervous. We also learn his stalwart companions, Amy Pond and Rory Williams, are having marriage troubles. So much so that Rory delivers the divorce papers to Amy, which she even signs right there on camera. Say it isn’t so! But things get worse when all three are kidnapped and whisked away to Skaro, the home world of the Daleks. Now here’s one of the twists in this episode: the Daleks don’t want the Doctor dead. They want something much different.

To complicate matters, a transmission coming from the planet was picked up; apparently a woman who crashed landed on it a year prior would greatly appreciate it if she could get the hell off it. So, while the Doctor, Amy and Rory are dealing with the Daleks, they not only must seek out a way to disable the force field surrounding the planet, but also seek out this survivor and rescue her. I cannot say anymore for there are a couple of nice twists that need first hand experiencing for them to work.

Next up is “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship“, and, yes, you will see the three time adventurers on an actual alien spaceship that’s filled with dinosaurs. Very good CGI dinosaurs, I might add. The mission here is to find a way to either stop this spaceship or alter its course, which has it heading straight for earth. Otherwise Earth’s orbiting defense platform is going to light up the atmosphere with the ship’s debris using a shitload of missiles.

The final episode on Disc #1 is “A Town Called Mercy, in which the Doctor and his companions have their first Wild West adventure. Well, first for this incarnation of the Time Lord anyway.

There’s something wrong with Mercy, it’s got electricity ten years too early, and it’s got a cyborg who has stated that he will kill anyone who ventures passed the town’s borders. Yet, this cyborg isn’t the real bad guy, it’s the town’s doctor who’s not who he seems, and this cyborg has been tracking him. This wasn’t my favorite episode.

Now I move on to Disc #2 for the final two episodes. Before I get into them I must state this season has gotten more notoriety than most due to the fact that this is the season that beloved companions, Amy and Rory, are slated to end their run on the show. How is this going to happen? News leaked earlier in the year that their departure may not be as simple as a pat on the back and a ‘Nice knowing ya, now go live your lives’ send off, but more on that later.

First we get to see an episode from the companions’ point of view. In “The Power Of Three” the story stays with Amy, Rory, their life on earth as a happily married couple fraught with visitations by the Doctor, and how they deal with it. They’re at a point in life where they wish to enjoy their normal married life just as much as they enjoy traveling with the Time Lord, but they feel that a choice must be made. It’s one or the other. In the midst of this life changing decision, the earth is invaded by an onslaught of mysterious black cubes that show up all over the world. Oddly, these damn cubes do nothing and over the next year as the humans incorporate these seemingly useless alien things into their lives, the Doctor slowly learns the bait has been taken and the invasion to wipe out humanity by yet another alien race has begun again.

Okay, here we are at Rory and Amy’s final episode, and I will warn you it’s a bittersweet one. I won’t reveal what ultimately happens to them, only saying there are two endings for the couple. Both will choke you up, and the second one will hit you out of nowhere. This episode is called “The Angels Take Manhattan“. As the title suggests, the Weeping Angels are back and they have taken over New York City, setting up a “farm” where they can feed unfettered by any complications. For the three, this starts off as just a vacation with the Doctor showing his friends a good time in modern day New York, but it all turns weird when Rory, on a coffee run for Amy, gets transported back in time. As the Doctor reads a pulp novel, he suddenly sees that everything they are saying and doing is turning up in the book, along with Rory, who’s now in 1930’s New York.

This is one of those brilliant episodes where writer Steven Moffat creates a series of time trippy events and conundrums that fold in and meet up with one another at perfect angles. I can say no more about this episode. It’s best experienced with little to no knowledge and with a hanky at the ready. River Song also appears, playing a very integral role, and for those who know her connection to Rory and Amy, it’s fitting that she be on hand for their final adventure.

The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfers are crystal clear and perfect, as usual, for this new series. The bulk of the extra features are on Disc #2 and here’s what you get:

Pond Life (6:12): There are 5 separate parts which you can play individually or as one video. This might be best viewed before you watch any of the episodes. They’re a series of vignettes about Amy and Rory and how they cope with the Doctor popping in and out of their life. The videos are not random; they do have a connection to this season, and for the most part, are comical until you get to the final one, where you see the beginning of their marriage start to unravel.

Asylum Of The Daleks (Prequel) (2:25): This appears to be a scene that was simply excised from the episode, either for pacing or time, but here is where you see the Doctor receive that “message” I spoke about above.

The Making Of The Gunslinger (1:46): At first sight I thought this was a making for the episode of “A Town Called Mercy“, but it is not. This is probably what the Doctor saw on the computer screen of the ship he broke into. Again, this could be something that was taken out for either pacing or time.

The Science Of Doctor Who (43:52): This is a feature on various actors, comedians, etc. who are fans of the show, talking about the science fiction concepts presented and whether they are probable. It also helps that some name scientists and researchers weigh in with their opinions. I found this very fascinating.

Finally, there’s Comic-Con Piece (11:04), which is the three actors (Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill) and Steven Moffat doing a Q&A panel at Comic-Con.

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