DOCTOR WHO: The David Tennant Years DVD Box Set

By Dark Starr

They say that your first Doctor is usually your favorite Doctor. Well, until David Tennant arrived on the scene (and even a bit after) that was true with me. I mean, Tom Baker was the first Doctor I remember seeing and for a long time he was my favorite. He’s also the man who was the Doctor longer than anyone else. At present Tennant is (depending on how one counts things) sitting in a rather large tie in the number three slot, but Matt Smith looks likely to pass that number up if he stays on as long as he says he will.

The thing is when the old “Doctor Who” show ran, I liked it, but only so much. Sure, the special effects were poor, but that was only part of what I found less than satisfying about it. It seemed that a lot of times it just lacked any kind of emotional punch, resolutions tended towards silly at times and the energy level was a bit lackluster a lot of the time. That said, I did enjoy the shows, and Tom Baker’s silliness paired with his competence worked well. I just never made a point to watch the show with any kind of regularity.

When I found the new shows on Netflix, I started the journey from the beginning with Christopher Eccleston and when (after one season) he left and was replaced with David Tennant, I didn’t really like the guy at first. He just seemed too silly. As I watched more episodes, though, it seemed to me that he was the modern version of Tom Baker. They had a similar style,, in my opinion. He quickly became my favorite Doctor, mostly because of his performance, but also because of the quality of the show. That brings us to this massive 26 disc DVD collection. It has all the David Tennant episodes in one place and a lot more.

Let’s look first at the episodes themselves. Many of the modern stories in the four seasons Tennant played the Doctor were either two (or more) part episodes or at least had things that formed part of story arcs, coming to fruition much later. The easiest improvement to point to would be the special effects, but without good stories, special effects are just pretty pictures. While some of the new stories are stronger than others, few qualify as anything close to weak.

For me, though, the one thing that the new incarnation of “Doctor Who” has that the old one lacked is the ability to really create emotional peaks and valleys. In fact, that’s one thing that makes it stand out from my other favorite science fiction show, “Star Trek.” It’s something that’s uncommon in science fiction and fantasy (and I’d argue that probably “Doctor Who” fits better into fantasy than science fiction). It’s also one of the thing that makes the show so great and so memorable.

Tennant’s Doctor traveled with some memorable companions starting with Rose Tyler and then working through Martha Jones and Donna Noble. Mickey Smith was a companion who wasn’t around as much, but also served the show well. The same could be said of Rose’s mother Jackie Tyler. One can’t forget the charming Captain Jack Harkness, either. Each of them brought something unique to the table and at times they all wound up appearing together. Perhaps even more impressive, Sarah Jane Smith returned for several episodes and even brought K-9 with her in one instance. There were a couple of episodes where we got to see the return of all the companions from Tennant’s years together in one show.

The Tennant years introduced some new villains (perhaps the most popular of those being the weeping angels) but also saw a couple episodes with The Master. The Cybermen, in one incarnation or another, were seen several times and we also got a lot of Daleks episodes. In fact, one two-parter saw the Doctor fighting and invasion of both Daleks and Cyberman who were fighting for control of Earth and to annihilate one another.

So, just getting all the episodes featuring Tennant, and all the specials in one set is something worthwhile. If they had stopped there it would have been enough. The packaging, though, is beautiful. Everything is contained in a case that’s like a coffee table book, illustrated with photos. Some have complained that this casing allows the discs to get scratched, but I’ve had mine a while and I haven’t found that to be true. Sure, it requires a little bit of care putting it back into the case, but it’s well worth the effort.

Perhaps even more impressive, though, is the massive quantity of bonus material. It takes a very long time to get through everything in the set, and I haven’t gotten through all of it, but there all kinds of behind the scenes footage and blooper reels and more. Even though they are short, my favorite bits are probably the two specials that were created for charity. The first of those isn’t the real winner, though. It is just an extended scene showing Rose Tyler interacting with Tennant’s Doctor after his regeneration.

The second, though, “Time Crash” is great. Sure, it’s only a few minutes long and it takes place exclusively in the TARDIS, but it’s quite interesting to long time “Doctor Who” fans for a few reasons. The story is just a short collision of two time-lines within the TARDIS. Those two time lines, though are one with the David Tennant’s tenth Doctor and one with Peter Davison’s fifth. Before Matt Smith took over as the Doctor, Davison was the youngest person ever to play the Doctor. So that means he’s still looking enough like he did in those days to pull it off. There are some great lines exchanged between the two Doctors, even though Tennant’s bit about “you were my Doctor” seems to challenge the reality of the bit. That said, it’s a nice tribute. There’s another layer to it, though because Tennant actually married Davison’s daughter, so there are now connected on another level.

In addition to those bonuses there are some “Doctor Who” animated shows and other odds and ends. It all adds up to a set that’s well worth having. This is a classy collection. If you enjoy Tennant and “Doctor Who” it’s a must have. If you’d like to own all the episodes, just to have a completely “Doctor Who” collection, it’s certainly less expensive than buying all the series one by one. Personally, while I like a lot of the Matt Smith episodes and he seems like a nice guy out of the role, he just doesn’t feel as much like “The Doctor” to me. So, for me, these episodes are, so far, the apex of “Doctor Who.”