Doctor Who, Review, Television

Doctor Who Specials: Last Bridge Before Season Five

This one should hopefully not take too long. There are only four episodes to talk about. Granted, they’re long episodes! They’re basically movies! But that hasn’t stopped me before! To be fair, I haven’t done it before, but we’ll see how it goes!

There was a long gap between seasons four and five. One that my small-child self felt like Chinese water torture! Thankfully, we fans weren’t left out to dry! Every now and then, we’d get one of these specials! They were long, they were fun, and the only made me hungrier for more!!

Little did I know what I’d get later would be vastly superior to everything that came before it. But these are still good! Mostly…

Oddly enough, these four specials are more connected than most episodes in the previous four seasons. Funny how that works.

After saying farewell to Donna, the Doctor has vowed to never travel with anyone again. Thus, he goes on all-new adventures all on his own. However, early on in his new journeys, he receives a mysterious, all-too-familiar warning: “He will knock four times.”

The first special, ‘Planet of the Dead’, is easily the corniest. The Doctor, along with a jewelry thief and a bunch of other varied characters, is sucked through a wormhole to a desert planet on the other side of the universe. In order to get back, they need to outfit the bus with alien activity and communicate with UNIT back on Earth. All the while, they unravel the mysterious fate of the planet and the coming doom headed towards Earth. It’s dumb, but it’s actually rock-solid! The characters are all great, although everyone aside from The Doctor and Christina is a bit flat. The story is cheesy as fuck, even by this show’s standards, but it’s still engaging, suitably mysterious and tense, and easy to go back to. Easily one of my favorites from this bunch.

‘The Waters of Mars’ may be the best of all these episodes. The Doctor heads to Mars, where he meets an important figurehead in the growth of the human race. Unfortunately, in order to become so, she must meet a gruesome end there and then. When the members of her crew start becoming possessed and attacking the others, our hero faces a moral dilemma, unlike anything he’s faced before. This one has all the strengths of the previous: great characters, a compelling story that’s mysterious and creepy as fuck, and lots of fun factor!

Plus, it has some of the best emotional moments in the whole series! The Doctor’s snap towards the end as he throws his beliefs and rules away is amazing, leading to one of the most impactful endings to any episode in the Russel T. Davies era! Plus, it leads to the next two episodes perfectly! It’s a great episode!

Remember that time NASA found water on the surface of Mars? How did everyone react? “Don’t drink it!!” And that was years after this came out! That should be a testament to how good this story is!

And then there are the next two. ‘End of Time’ parts one and two. David Tennant’s grand finale. The coup de grace for the fan-favorite Doctor, as well as the Russel T. Davies era. Question is: do they hold up today?

Well… yes. But also no. A bit of one, a bit of the other.

The story is incredibly simple. After a warning from the Ood, The Doctor rushes to Earth to stop the newly resurrected Master. Unfortunately, he arrives too late. Now, he must chase after his archnemesis before he does something drastic. At the same time. Wilfred Mott has been having strange dreams of The Master, as well as a strange woman giving him advice on how best to save The Doctor from his fate. All the while, the Time Lords move to make their dramatic return.

Let’s get the positives out of the way. Bringing Wilf back? Brilliant! The Doctor and he played off of each other beautifully, arguably better than he has with several companions! His place in the story is more than earned, especially in the end. It’s always nice to see the best character in the history of the show getting time to shine!

I also love the Vin Votchi (y’know, those cactus guys). They add an interesting dynamic to the story, have some great lines, and they play off of both The Doctor and Wilf in a fun, interesting way. I only wish they were more important to the story as a whole. As they stand, they’re basically a plot device, used for the sole purpose of getting the main characters out of trouble and getting them to the final confrontation.

The ending of this story is absolutely perfect! It has some of the most emotional gut-punches yet, even outside of Ten’s final line. It’s not just a loving farewell to him; it gives just as much love to all the others as well. Rose, Martha, Donna, Sarah Jane, even good ol’ Captain Jack! Hell, they even reference that one lady he fell in love with during ‘The Family of Blood’! It makes me tear up every time. Plus, it leads directly into season five!

These episodes also have some of my absolute favorite musical tracks in the whole show! ‘Vale Decem’ is the perfect track to accompany the Tenth’s passing, being both incredibly dramatic and tragic simultaneously! ‘The New Doctor’ is the best possible opening track for the Eleventh Doctor, being wildly energetic, mildly insane, and a shit ton of fun just to listen to! ‘Four Knocks’ is a beautiful song, perfectly building up a quiet, tragic melody into a dramatic finale! I love every single track in these episodes!

And then there’s the rest. Which is where my criticisms come in.

Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of The Doctor in these two episodes. All he really does is run around, whine about how he’s about to die, and either fail to do anything or he doesn’t do anything at all. It’s not until the very end of the story that he actually does something! David Tennant still killed it in the role, but I am not a fan of how the character was written.

On the same note, I’m not a fan of the Master. Sure, he’s still maniacal as shit and he actually drives the story forward. But the whole ‘turns into a skeleton and shoots lightning’ thing is something I’d expect from Power Rangers; not Doctor Who. Plus, his plan makes no fucking sense. He turns every single human into him for no reason, then figures out that he can use them all to amplify the sound of the drums and find their source. He then wants to bring all the Time Lords back so he can do the same thing to them for… no reason. I guess he’s just that evil?

The story itself is also absolutely ridiculous. The Master turns every single person on Earth into him with a medical gate powered by a nuclear glass box, which leads to the return of the Time Lords. But it’s not just them; he pulled all of Gallifrey through, so now the two planets are bound to crash into each other. And the Doctor saves the day by shooting a diamond. From space.

Remember when I said that ‘Planet of the Dead’ is the corniest episode of the bunch? That was a lie.

These episodes are weird. They’re dumb, they’re crazy, and they’re wildly enjoyable to watch! For every moment it made me go “Wait, what?”, it also made me cry like a baby. I do think they could’ve been better, but as the send-off for the Tenth Doctor? Not bad. Just bizarre.

All four of these episodes are full of ups and downs. If I had to rank them, I’d say that ‘The Waters of Mars’ is the best, followed by ‘The Planet of the Dead’, then ending with a tie between both parts of ‘End of Time’. I still enjoy revisiting all of these episodes, despite their flaws. Am I biased? More than likely! But I’d be a liar if I said these weren’t some of the most fun episodes I’ve reviewed so far!

And now we’re finally here. We’re at the most consistently great season of Doctor Who. Next week, we’re reviewing season five, motherfuckers! Buckle up, because it’s gonna be a wild one!

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