This is still sacrilegious to some David Tennant "Doctor Who" fans (among whom, I count myself), but I knew that Matt Smith was going to be a great Doctor just from the opening minutes of "The Eleventh Hour;" Smith's first full episode in the title role. And barring a few exceptions, the fifth series of "Doctor Who" was exceptional.
The sixth series of "Doctor Who" is not quite as strong as the fifth series, although there's still a lot to love… especially about this DVD set. When it comes to the episodes themselves, "Doctor Who" generally falls into two categories: Steven Moffat's episodes and everybody else. Unfortunately, most of the other writers simply aren't as good as Moffat, which occasionally leads to some episodes dragging down the rest of the show.
Kicking off the set are three episodes by Moffat, including the excellent Charles Dickens inspired "A Christmas Carol" followed by an energetic two part season opener, "The Impossible Astronaut" and "Day of the Moon;" which reunites the Doctor with his companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) and the Doctor's mysterious love, River Song (Alex Kingston). Upon the Doctor's death in the Utah desert, his heartbroken friends team up with a younger version of the time traveling hero to unravel the mystery of the Silence… which runs throughout the entire sixth series.
The third episode was a largely forgettable pirate romp, "The Curse of the Black Spot" by Stephen Thompson. However, the fourth episode, "The Doctor's Wife" is among the best of the entire series. Penned by fantasy novelist, Neil Gaiman; this episode finds the Doctor finally meeting his most faithful friend and companion under some very dangerous circumstances. "The Doctor's Wife" is also one of the most quotable episodes in recent memory. My personal favorite line is "Biting is fantastic! It's like kissing, except there's a winner."
Matthew Graham's "The Rebel Flesh" and "The Almost People" are probably the worst episodes of the season. Those two episodes meander through a pretty boring story that is only slightly redeemed by a powerful ending and a great cliffhanger heading into Moffat's "A Good Man Goes to War." In that episode, the Doctor gathers an army for the Battle of Demon's Run and he learns the truth about River Song.
Moffat follows that up with "Let's Kill Hitler," a fun trek to Nazi Germany as the Doctor and River play a deadly game of cat and mouse. Mark Gatiss' "Night Terrors" revisits the classic "Doctor Who" trope of a child plagued by monsters that are real. While "Night Terrors" has some occasionally effective moments, it's nothing special. Tom MacRae's "The Girl Who Waited" puts Rory and the Doctor in a difficult position regarding Amy's fate; which seems to thematically culminate in Toby Whithouse's "The God Complex." Both "The Girl Who Waited" and "The God Complex" are solid installments, but the emotional ending of "The God Complex" puts it over the top.
Before the end of the season, the Doctor runs into the Cybermen in the amusing and sad "Closing Time" by Gareth Roberts; before Moffat returns with "The Wedding of River Song" and a riveting season finale that wraps up most of the storylines and reveals the ultimate question hiding in plain sight.
That's the bulk of the content. But beyond the episodes themselves, the real draw of "The Complete Sixth Series" are the exclusive shorts, "Night and the Doctor;" which were filmed exclusively for the DVD and Blu-Ray sets. In four fantastic short segments, Moffat shows us what the Doctor is up to while Amy and Rory are asleep.
The short answer is that the Doctor never stops going on adventures. But these mini-episodes are unexpectedly poignant and feature some of Moffat's best writing. They're all amazingly compelling, especially considering that they take place entirely in the TARDIS and have very few special effects shots. There are occasional episodes of "Doctor Who" where the budget restrictions are quite telling. However, if those episodes were as captivating as the "Night and the Doctor" shorts, then there would be a lot fewer complaints. There's a particular moment between the Doctor and River that is absolutely pivotal to both characters… and there's almost no way that it won't come up again on the show at some point.
The fifth "Night and the Doctor" short features the Doctor's friend, Craig Owens (James Corden) and his family, but not the Doctor himself. It's amusing, but not as special as the other shorts.
Also on this set are the Comic Relief "Doctor Who" skits, "Space" and "Time;" which feature the TARDIS stuck within itself and hilariously showing what happens when Amy Pond falls in love with herself. The set also includes the internet prequel scenes for "The Impossible Astronaut," "The Curse of The Black Spot," "A Good Man Goes To War," "Let's Kill Hitler" and "The Wedding of River Song." The only downside is that the scenes aren't reintegrated into the episodes themselves and they are only accessible through the special features.
The commentary on five episodes is entertaining (especially Gaiman's solo commentary on "The Doctor's Wife"), but it seems strange that fewer than half of the episodes have a commentary track. I'd definitely like to hear more of those on the next series release.
The final disk in the set is devoted exclusively to content that was created for the "Doctor Who Confidential" series on the BBC; which appeared in the USA as interstitial clips during BBC America's "Doctor Who" airings. These aren't the full episodes of "Confidential" as they were originally seen, but they are all worth watching. There's even a special "Confidential" segment for "Night and the Doctor."
The ultimate question of any DVD set is whether or not it's worth your money and time. For "Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series," the answer is "Absolutely." This is a set that no "Doctor Who" fan should be without. And while this may not be the best starting point of new "Doctor Who' fans, it will make a hell of a gift for some future converts.
Crave Online Rating: 9.3 out of 10.