This first volume contains three episodes of Doctor Who’s third series.
First up is season opener Smith and Jones which marks the arrival of new companion Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman).
Show supremo Russell T Davies successfully and instantly sets Martha apart from predecessor Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), creating an equally vibrant and strong modern woman but takes the opportunities offered by Martha’s slightly older age to suggest a more mature and thoughtful character.
Boasting some awe inspiring visuals the episode also introduces viewers to the Judoon, one of the more impressive races to appear since the series returned in 2005.
Disappointingly the episode quickly dispenses with Roy Marsden whose character at first appears to have an involvement in the alien plot. However the audacity of casting such a talented and acclaimed actor in an essentially minor role allows Davies to cleverly and skillfully wrongfoot the audience.
The episode’s a great introduction to Martha and the visuals make it a fitting opener to what is shaping up as the most ambitious of the three season’s to date.
Next up is Gareth Roberts’ The Shakespeare Code. Doctor Who has long had a reputation for producing good looking historical adventures and this story’s no exception.
By securing the real (replica) Globe Theatre as a filming location the production team ensure the episode has a solid and believable feel to climatic scenes.
Those who want every nuance of a story spelt out in large print will still find themselves unable to get past the lack of an explanation for the Carrionites exactly resembling the traditional Witch and bemoaning the Harry Potter references while everyone else will be enjoying a story which boasts some witty lines and great performances, especially from Dean Lennox Kelly as Shakespeare.
Rounding off the disc is the effects bonanza Gridlock, also from the pen of Russell T Davies.
Essentially a small scale story focussing on travelers who aren’t going anywhere it’s probably true to say the majority of the tale simply serves to fill time for the Face of Boe’s secret to finally be revealed but thand to set up events later in the season.
Yes, online fandom has been chucking the secret around for a year meaning it might have been as unsurprising for some as the revelation that Annakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader but some superb writing by Davies and a wonderfully understated performance by David Tennant combine to deliver one of the most emotional scenes in the show’s history.
It hardly seems plausible that the ‘death’ of a rubber prop could provoke such raw emotions as Boe’s exit from the show does but Davies pulls it off in what must the ultimate disproving of his critics.
The episode boasts some great CGI including some impressive cityscapes and the dressing of the insides of the cars is so skillfully realised that the viewer never pauses to consider the fact that there’s just one constantly redressed set.
Already Martha is developing a trust in the Doctor which Davies cleverly betrays to reveal a more selfish and less attractive side of the Tenth Doctor.
Tennant’s delivery of his final lines in which he admits his dishonesty and tells Martha of the Time War showcases the breadth of his abilities. The tearful description of Gallifrey is a long way from the shouty performance which propels stories such as Tooth and Claw.
Due for release on may 21st by 2|Entertain and carrying an RRP of