Doctor Who: The Complete Specials (BBC) – There was a noticeable grumble among Doctor Who fans when Christopher Eccleston left the role after a single season and the Doctor was reborn in the fun-loving, hyper-animated persona of David Tennant. There’s no question that Tennant made the part his own in his four years with the character, just as producer Russell T. Davies brought a whole new energy and sensibility to the iconic series with his 21st century reboot. And with both Tennant and Davies leaving the series, they decided to give the fans something very special by way of farewell and followed the fourth season with five hour-long “specials” (well, four actually, but one of them was broken into two separate parts and comes that way on disc). These shows take what was inherent in this incarnation of the Doctor and finally, fatefully transform the last of the Time Lords from happy-go-lucky time- and space-traveler into a tragic hero on a collision course with destiny and a death foretold.
The adventuresome Planet of the Dead (with Michelle Ryan) and the melancholy The Next Doctor (with David Morrissey) have already appeared separately on DVD and Blu-ray. The rest debut this week, separately or in DVD and Blu-ray box sets. The Waters of Mars, starring Lindsay Duncan as the leader of an Earth colony on Mars, is an invasion thriller that puts the Doctor in the heartbreaking position of putting compassion up against the laws of time and space that he considers immutable. Under the spring-loaded energy and snappy repartee that gives The Doctor his goofy amiability and lighthearted lift, Tennant layers in a note of anguish that is fully brought forth in the two-part The End of Time (titles don’t come more epic than that). And they outdo themselves on The End of Time, which delves into the mystery of the Time Lords (check out Timothy Dalton as narrator and rogue Time Lord), spins an apocalyptic showdown like you’ve never seen (John Simm as the Time Master, a madman with seemingly unlimited power to transform himself into… well, something epic) and ends with a touching farewell tour of the lives the Doctor has touched in his current incarnation before his inevitable transformation. It’s a touching and deserved farewell to one of the finest incarnations of The Doctor. Each of the specials runs just under an hour except for The End of Time, Part Two, which runs over to give the Doctor time to say farewell to everyone.