“Doctor Who: Series Seven, Part One” (BBC) – The 21st century BBC “Doctor Who” revival has turned into one of the network’s most popular exports. With only a few new episodes every year, the demand is great enough for BBC to release the season in sections.
So while we await the seventh series to conclude on BBC / BBC America, the five episodes of the first half of the season arrive on disc for those who simply can’t wait for the full season release next year.
This round opens with The Doctor (Matt Smith) arriving to find the Ponds, Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill), on the verge of divorce and kidnapped by the Daleks, a situation that spurs a fairly quick reconciliation in the name of survival. So once again the only married couple to accompany The Doctor hops into the TARDIS for another round of adventures that take them to the planet of the mad Daleks, the crippled freighter of an interstellar poacher (an episode with not one but two regulars from the “Harry Potter” series), a 19th century frontier town in the American west under threat from an alien gunman, a “slow invasion” by alien cubes, and a return visit from the “Weeping Angel” statues as they move on Manhattan.
It’s also the farewell run of the Ponds on “Doctor Who,” who make a poignant and profound exit. A new companion is slated to join him when the series returns in 2013. And you just may get a clue as to who that will be in this round.
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Introducing Matt Smith
Party Animals (BFS)
Set in the halls of party politics in the British Parliament, the 2007 BBC limited series Party Animals revolves around the young politicos in the lower rungs of power: MP assistants and researchers, lobbyists, reporters and one ambitious assistant who makes the leap from behind the scenes to running for office, and all the nastiness that starts getting directed at her in hardball campaigning.
Andrew Buchan (late of Garrow’s Law) takes top billing as the ambitious lobbyist whose compromises become a little too enormous to take and Shelley Conn is the brilliant Tory strategist who leaves her fast-rising boss (Patrick Baladi, Ricky Gervais’ popular boss in the original The Office), with whom she is having an ill-advised affair, to make her own run for office. But the selling point here is Matt Smith’s breakout role as the idealistic researcher to a Labour Party MP, where all the charm and boyish energy and comic bounce that he later brought to Doctor Who first surfaced.
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Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series (BBC) – After four series manning the extraordinarily successful revival of the most beloved time- and space-traveling hero on British television, Russell T. Davies passed the TARDIS off to the prolific and creative Steven Moffat to carry on the tradition. He does the show with a colorful season of adventures, an ingenious storyline that follows a crack in the universe from the season premiere through the entire 13-episode run (and the end and rebirth of the universe) and Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor.
A new universe of possibilities for the Eleventh Doctor
Smith’s boyish energy and animated face (seriously, he looks like a clay animation character) channels all we’ve come to love in the last of the Time Lords. Red-headed spark plug Karen Gillan gets an even more active role than usual as his companion and Arthur Darvill clicks as her devoted boyfriend, as much a hero in the quantum adventure as the Doctor himself, while Alex Kingston back as River Song, a fellow time-traveler and eternal prisoner seeking amnesty by helping the Doctor save the universe time and again. We also get the Daleks, the Cybermen, Winston Churchill (Ian McNeice), a guest cast that includes Sophie Okonedo, Bill Paterson and Toby Jones, and the mysterious Pandorica, a myth that becomes real by the end of the series.
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