Doctor Who Series Seven, Part One Blu-ray Review: A Confusing Mess

The Doctor (Matt Smith) is back on DVD and Blu-ray for more adventures through time and space with his companions, Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill). But this time the season is cut in half as his time with the Ponds is almost at an end. So instead of a complete season being released it’s only half of the season, culminating with the mid-season finale “The Angels Take Manhatten”.

It’s been no secret that The Doctor was going to lose his companions this year, leaving fans waiting anxiously to see how the season would unfold, exactly what would become of Amy and Rory, and who is going to be the next companion that takes their place.

While the two previous seasons starring Smith as the Doctor had long all-encompassing story arcs, this third installment has been a bit of a mess. It’s not necessary for the stories to intersect, but having set such a precedent in previous seasons the overall feeling is rather jarring and a bit confusing. Ultimately, leaving the viewer a bit disappointed and feeling a bit toyed with by the writers.

The video is shot in HD 1080i with a 16:9 ratio and using a DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack. The picture is crisp and clear, which lends a richness that’s not quite there when watching it on broadcast television. The audio has some nice surround sound features but doesn’t always utilize everything to its full effect, which is something that is lacking more because of the style of storytelling used not to any deficiencies on the disc.

The best two episodes on the disc are the first two of the season. The season premiere, “Asylum of the Daleks,” finds the trio being captured by their worst enemy, the Daleks. Instead of being executed, the three are sent into the asylum, a planet of millions of defective Daleks. A spacecraft has crash-landed and the threat of an army of insane Daleks escaping is a possible threat to the universe. They must shut down the planet’s shield in order for the Dalek mothership to neutralize the threat. “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” is just a fun adventure as a ship filled with dinosaurs is making its way towards Earth and the three must figure out where it came from and why it is headed their way.

“A Town Called Mercy” and “The Power of Three” feel like filler episodes or typical monster-of-the-week episodes that are there as a distraction until they get to the pivotal episode of the season and the loss of the companions.

The Weeping Angels are one of the scariest creatures in the Doctor Who universe. They are creatures that look like ordinary stone statues while someone is looking at them, but when not observed they are creatures with sharp teeth and claws waiting to rip you apart and devour you. Or at least that’s what everyone believed. But in “The Angels Take Manhattan” the myth of the angels is completely destroyed. The angels don’t kill or destroy people. They send them back in time and feed off the time energy of wasted years. So they really don’t do anything to you. But since it’s relative to the plot, when Rory gets zapped back in time to 1938 there’s too much time distortion for the Doctor to be able to take the TARDIS back and pick him up. Although River Song (Alex Kingston) has no problems maneuvering in and out of time using her bracelet-sized Vortex Manipulator. Then there’s a novel that Amy is reading about their lives which if read too far ahead shows the future and once she reads it is set in stone and cannot be changed.

Needless to say, this episode is a complete and utter failure as the writers force time paradoxes and nonsensical rules solely for the sake of finding a way to remove the Ponds from the story. It would have made more sense for them to tell The Doctor that they quit since most of this season has dealt with their marital problems and how they’ve been postponing their other lives just waiting for The Doctor to arrive. It might not have been quite as emotional as this episode was, but it would have made a lot more sense.

In addition to the five episodes, The Blu-ray contains five special features. “The Science of Doctor Who” was previously aired on BBC America and shows interviews with various cast members and scientists interspersed with video clips as they discuss the science behind the show and what things could possibly be accomplished in the future. “Doctor Who at Comic Con” is the interview panel at the 2012 convention featuring the cast members. It’s fun to watch the cast interact with one another, but the recording gives the appearance that someone was sitting in the front row with a hand-held recorder. While that gives you the feel of actually being there, it is certainly a challenge to hear what they are saying because the sound quality is very poor.

“‘Asylum of the Daleks’ Prequel” is a dream sequence where some robed figure contacts the Doctor in a café and directs him towards the season’s first episode on the Daleks’ home planet. “The Making of the Gun Slinger” a brief short showing the cybernetics being attached to the individual transforming him into the Gun Slinger. “Pond Life” is the most entertaining feature as it’s filled with tiny promos focusing on the Ponds and what they are doing when the Doctor randomly pops into their life for very brief moments.

Now that the Ponds are gone and their story complete, it can only be hoped that the rest of the season will return to a more standard format and we’ll be introduced to the newest companion. And for those looking to buy the newest season, it would probably be more advantageous to wait until the full season is released instead of picking up only a handful of episodes that aren’t even the best ones from the Smith installment.

Todd Karella

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