The Complete Third Series
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All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
s someone who’s been a Time Lord devotee since he was 13, it’s almost hard to believe this revival is three seasons in. It seems like only yesterday that Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) was surrounded by moving mannequins in a department store basement when Doctor #9 (Christopher Eccleston) grabbed her hand and issued the simplest of commands: “Run!” But times change and so does “Doctor Who.” In Season Three, Rose Tyler is relegated to haunting the memories of Doctor #10 (David Tennant). From the first installment in this box set, “The Runaway Bride” (last year’s Christmas special), Rose still plays a role in the Doctor’s adventures, and her name continually pops up throughout the entire season.
But the absent Rose cannot play the biggest part in the Doctor’s current life. In “Smith & Jones” (3.1), he meets med student Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), and she immediately demonstrates an open mind, quick thinking, and a bod that rivals her predecessor’s…not that the Doctor notices much of this. This new Doctor/companion relationship is defined by the Doctor’s attempts to keep Martha at a distance. Maybe his last “relationship” found him becoming too involved? Whatever might seem to be the case at first, this isn’t a repeat of what was already done with Rose.
Let’s get this out of the way before moving on: Season Three is the strongest of the new series so far, but its greatness is betrayed by the first section: a seemingly disconnected batch of romps which dovetail into a Dalek two-parter (Episodes 3.4 & 3.5) that ranks among the weakest two hours the series has presented. But once you get past “Daleks in Manhattan” (which despite the absurd storyline, has some wonderful production values), the season moves on to a couple of transitional stories, “The Lazarus Experiment” and “42” (3.6 & 3.7), both of which set up material for the big finish. And after that, Season Three offers up six straight episodes of some of the greatest “Who” ever presented. “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood” (3.8 & 3.9), written by Season One scribe Paul Cornell, form an intense, personal two-parter set in 1913 that take the series – and the Doctor - to new levels. “Blink” (3.10) is a standalone episode, in which the Doctor and Martha play small but important roles. It’s written by the great Steven Moffat (“Jekyll”) and is not only one hell of a complex time travel yarn, but will also give you the heebie jeebies. (Editor’s note: I’ll second that. Brrrrrrr…) The last three episodes form an epic trilogy that’s arguably the best season finale yet. An old enemy comes back to haunt the Doctor, but this time it isn’t in the form of a robot army; he’s Harold Saxon (John Simm of “Life on Mars”), and you’ll notice his name dropped numerous times in the season before he ever shows up. Also present for this three-parter is Capt. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) from Season One, who was spun off last year into his own series, “Torchwood.” By the time the season is over, the uneven presentation of the first section even manages to feel justified.
With Season Three, this new incarnation of “Who” has built up enough of its own mythology that it works best if you’ve seen the previous two seasons, although it’s certainly got its own arc and you wouldn’t be totally lost by partaking in these 14 episodes. Further, thanks to the new companion, Martha, a first-time viewer can see the stories through her fresh eyes. The show looks great at this point, and the production team is really firing on all cylinders. David Tennant in particular has really become the Doctor, and he’s so at ease with his interpretation of the character that it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else playing the part anytime soon. Freema Agyeman’s got a tough job, because she’s often given the job of pining over the Doctor. It all comes into focus by the end of the season, and it’s hard to give her too much guff as it pretty much comes down to: “She does a great job given what she has to work with.” This season’s very much about the Doctor, and now that Rose is gone, he’s front and center far more of the time.
Special Features: As with the previous “Who” season box sets, this one’s loaded with goodies that should give fans plenty to sift through after watching the episodes. Every episode has a commentary track. There’s a tour of the “Doctor Who” studio guided by Agyeman. Video Diaries from David Tennant (they chronicle behind-the-scenes stuff on numerous stories) pop up on several discs. There’s an outtake reel and a handful of deleted scenes that haven’t been given any post production work; as a result, they feel more like something out of old “Who” rather than the news series, and given that a couple of them are actually really good, it’s a shame they’re presented in this rough form.
Disc Six is the now-standard collection of “Doctor Who Confidential – Cutdown,” a series of mini-docs which discuss each episode. Disc One also features the “Confidential” doc “Music and Monsters,” which goes behind the scenes of last year’s Children in Need “Who” concert. Even though it’s got an hour running time, for the hardcore fan, this was a bit of a letdown. It would have been nice if they’d included the actual concert -- there’s a fair amount of it on display here, but only enough to whet your appetite for more.
Lastly, there’s an outstandingly cool Easter Egg for fans of “Blink.” To find it, go to "Scene Selection" on Disc 4 (the disc “Blink” is on). Go through all the various menu screens (there should be six of 'em, two for each ep) until you get to the final screen, which would allow you to select from the last six chapters of the "Blink" episode. Then go up to the top right hand side of the screen, highlight the episode title, press enter and behold.