David Tennant, Georgia Moffett, David Warner, Clarke Peters, Nicholas Rowe, Tim Howar, Stuart Milligan
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Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
ang on a sec! Isn’t there a new bloke playing the Doctor? Yes, there is. Didn’t David Tennant’s era end at New Year’s? Yes, it did. Then wha--? This is old material that predates his finale. Further, it isn’t even the last David Tennant Doctor stuff that’s going to be hitting DVD. No, the final material Tennant recorded as the Doctor will hit shelves in January when the third season of “The Sarah Jane Adventures” is released here in the States (although chronologically that adventure takes places between “Planet of the Dead” and “The Waters of Mars”). Where does this one, “Dreamland,” take place? Beats me, and since it’s animated it may not even count as canon, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an immense amount of fun regardless.
It’s only slightly odd that in 30-plus years of time travel and dealing with aliens that “Doctor Who” has never presented its spin on Area 51, but with “Dreamland,” that oversight has been rectified. I say slightly odd because the Doctor doesn’t make it over to the States all that often, and certainly not Nevada when he does. That’s the great thing about doing “Doctor Who” animated – the stuff that restricts the live-action series isn’t part of the animation equation.
After a thrilling pre-credits sequence in which an alien ship is shot down outside of Roswell in 1947, the Doctor lands in the fictitious town of Dry Springs, Nevada 11 years later. He enters the local diner, affecting an atrocious Western accent, looking for grub. The waitress, Cassie (Georgia Moffett), takes a liking to him, and he befriends a young Native American man, Jimmy Stalkingwolf (Tim Howar), as well. The trio quickly find themselves under siege by some Men in Black, and then attacked by a hulking alien life form known as a Viperox. Eventually, they end up at Area 51 and discover unreasonable military men and a small, depressed gray alien. So it goes. To say much more about the plot would be to ruin the charms this 45 minutes has to offer.
“Dreamland” isn’t terribly deep, but it’s a wild, loony ride, and as I was watching it I kept thinking it would’ve made an outstanding live-action piece. Heck, add some more story and a big fat budget and it could’ve been an incredible “Doctor Who” theatrical film, and a perfect way of introducing the concept to the uninitiated, especially here in the States. The story has a knack for taking a lot of the iconography we associate with the Area 51 mythos and turning it on its ear, and it introduces a number of new elements to this type of tale as well. It’s got cracking dialogue, particularly from Tennant, and some nice background CG animation as well.
The problem with “Dreamland” – and it’s a pretty big one - comes in the form of the CG character animation, which is so simplistic one wonders why the project was even mounted if the story couldn’t be done any real justice. As with “The Infinite Quest” (which was cel animation) before it, “Dreamland” suffers from pictures that cannot possibly live up to how animated David Tennant’s face looks in the live-action format. There are plenty of aliens, monsters and spaceships in the piece that all look pretty swank, but the Time Lord and the humans are so static they feel like leftovers from some 15 years ago.
If you enjoyed “The Infinite Quest,” then “Dreamland” may be up your alley provided you can get past some of the weak central animation. If you didn’t enjoy “The Infinite Quest,” then “Dreamland” may still be up your alley because the story, written by Phil Ford (“The Waters of Mars”), is more than a few steps upward. Maybe next time we can get some great animation and a great story. And Matt Smith’s facial expressions aren’t nearly as wild as Tennant’s, so that problem may just fix itself.
Special Features: There’s a second disc on this DVD that contains nearly three hours of bonus material that has nothing to do with “Dreamland.” These are three specials from the “Doctor Who Confidential” team presented under the banner “Doctor Who’s Greatest Moments,” and each hour-long retrospective looks back at the first four seasons of the new series via the titles “The Doctor,” “The Companions” and “The Enemies.” They pretty much amount to talking heads (from all manner of stars, guest stars and behind the scenes folk) and clips, but they’re a nostalgic and frequently insightful look back over the bulk of the Davies era if you appreciate that sort of thing. Personally, I’d rather just watch the episodes themselves.