Doctor Who: The Animation Collection DVD Review: Four Doctors Are Better Than One

Doctor Who: The Animation Collection is a 2-disc set that gathers five previously released stories starring four Doctors. On Disc One, The Infinite Quest and Dreamland feature the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Shada the Fourth (Tom Baker). Disc Two presents two debuts: The Power of the Daleks with the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), and Scream of the Shalka with a non canon Ninth (Richard E. Grant) before the Modern Series was set.

The Infinite Quest (2007) was first broadcast on the children’s show Totally Doctor Who in 13 installments. Set somewhere during Series 3 as well as the 40th century, the Doctor and Martha Jones work to stop the space pirate Baltazar from finding the Infinite, a ship of legend that grants anyone who finds it “their heart’s desire.” Similar to the Fourth Doctor’s Key of Time, they travel to different planets in search of the pieces that lead to the ship. It’s an enjoyable adventure with a satisfying resolution to the story, although I was a little confused by the Doctor’s use of time to get ahead of the villain.

Dreamland (2009) was first broadcast online and TV during the Tenth Doctor specials. Legend has it an alien ship crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, 1947. The Doctor arrives in Nevada in 1958 near Area 51, also known as Dreamland, and learns what happened that fateful night 11 years prior. The Viperox are using Earth as a nest for their Queen, and have convinced a USAF Colonel that if he works with them, they will give him the power to defeat the Russians. Underneath all the science fiction and action is a sweet love story. The animation in Dreamland looks different from previous story. Going for a three-dimensional look, the characters look rather odd and their movements rather stiff. Cassie was voiced by Georgia Moffett, who played Jenny in “The Doctor’s Daughter” and would go on to become Mrs. Tennant.

When Greg Barbick reviewed the DVD of the 1992 reconstruction of Shada back in 2013, he wrote, “the story behind Shada is one of the strangest in the long history of Doctor Who.” And it’s only gotten stranger since. In 2017, a new restoration of the incomplete Season 17 story, which was aborted due to a strike, was created using new dialogue by the cast recorded by the original sound engineer on audio equipment of the era, along with newly created animated footage for the portions that were missing.

Shada is the name of the prison planet the Gallifreyans use. The villanous Dr. Skagra of the planet Dronid wants to release a Time Lord named Salyavin and use him to create a new Universal mind. The Doctor, Romana II, and K-9, plus a couple of Earthlings work to defeat Skagra. It’s a fun episode that plays with Time Lord mythology. Although I don’t fully understand what Skagra’s plan is supposed to accomplish, it sounds ominous. The blending of live action and animation scenes works well enough because it allows for a new Fourth Doctor adventure. During the animation, the nearly 40-year difference can be heard in Baker’s voice.

Scream of the Shalka (2003) was the first officially licensed, fully animated Doctor Who story and was previously reviewed by Mat Brewster when it was a stand-alone release. He concluded “[he]’d not recommend Scream of the Shalka to anyone as a starting point for the Doctor nor really would [he] recommend it to anyone but true die-hard fans, but for those of us who love our Doctor Who this is a fascinating bit of history.” I disagree with Mat as I thought it made a fine introduction to Who.

The Doctor lands in Lancashire, England, 2003, appearing to have been sent there against his will. He investigates how the town has been cut off from Britain for three weeks, which has been done by the Shalka. The aliens have plans to take over the planet, a common story throughout the Classic and Modern series. Grant’s Doctor is a bit gruff, like the First, Sixth, and how the Twelfth will later be, and should have made an interesting Doctor if he had stayed on. There were back stories to explore about who was in control of his TARDIS, how the Doctor’s previous companion died, and how a well-known character became a companion. Similar to Rose accompanying the Ninth, Alison goes off with this Doctor to see what the universe has to offer.

According to the press release promoting The Power of the Daleks (2016) screening in theaters, “The master negatives were destroyed in an archive purge in 1974. This brand new animation, being released 50 years after its only UK broadcast, is based on the program’s original audio recordings, surviving photographs, and film clips.” The story, which initially aired in 1966 during Season 4, opens with the First Doctor becoming the Second, much to the chagrin of Ben and Polly, the first companions to experience it. The Doctor is a bit confused and dismissive of them. Ben doesn’t believe he’s the Doctor but Polly does.

On the planet Vulcan, they find an Earth colony that is dealing with a rebellion. Even more troubling is a scientist experimenting on Daleks, thinking they could be a great benefit to the populace. Although they appear subservient, the Daleks have plans of their own, which is unintentionally helped by some humans who ignore the Doctor’s warnings.

Although I wish it had been in black and white, the animation looks quite good capturing the likeness of the cast. The story, though long by today’s Who standards, was compelling because there was an extra layer to it beyond the Doctor versus the Daleks. Although they look robotic, there is intelligence in the Daleks, as shown when one asks about the rebellion why would human kill other humans. While the dialogue sounded a little canned at times, there was a great use of ambient effects that really added to the scenes.

While there are no extras and it’s not worth a double-dip if one already owns a majority of the stories, The Animation Collection provides a fun mix of different Doctors in adventures.

Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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