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When we last left The Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) at the end of the fifth series of Doctor Who a few lingering questions remained to be answered, but the universe had been saved for the moment and wedding bells were in the air for The Doctor's companions. Series six picks up a few months later when Amy and Rory and River Song (Alex Kingston) each receive an envelope containing a date, time and map reference which is unsigned but unmistakably TARDIS blue. This strange summons reunites them in the middle of the Utah desert and unveils a terrible secret that The Doctor's friends must never reveal to him. Trusting in Amy, The Doctor agrees to join them on a mission of the gravest importance which serves as the main thrust of this sixth series.

 Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series
Last year's fifth series turned out to be my second favorite of the show's run since it's relaunch in 2005--the second series and David Tennant's first go at The Doctor is tough to beat--so I was really looking forward to more of Stephen Moffat's take on the character and his adventures and curious as to whether or not the quality of the last series could be sustained over another 13 episodes. In short, the sixth series isn't quite up to last year, but it's still one of the best science fiction programs currently running on television.

Everything begins with a good running start with the two-parter "The Impossible Astronaut" and "Day of the Moon" in which a new alien menace is revealed in the form of The Silence and the series' main storyline in nicely set up, but things cool down a bit for the next four, largely self-contained episodes. In the weakest episode of the Matt Smith era, "The Curse of the Black Spot" finds The Doctor and friends on board a 17th century pirate ship whose crew is menaced by a siren. The quality spectrum swings the other way for the next episode, the Neil Gaiman written "The Doctor's Wife", where through strange circumstance the spirit of the TARDIS is made flesh. This charming tale turns out to be one of the top episodes of the series since its 2005 return and a real treat, especially for long time Who fans. With the fourth and fifth episode two-parter "The Rebel Flesh" and "The Almost People" the series' main storyline is still MIA for the most part with unhappy doppelgangers running amuck in an isolated acid factory. This entry in the series would have been better served as a single episode, but you can't really argue against the fact that the cliffhanger ending of the first part made for great television when it originally aired.

 Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series
The main storyline picks back up with what was considered at the time the mid-series finale, "A Good Man Goes To War", which manages to mostly answer a question that's been on the mind of most Who fans since the fourth series while also raising others by the time the end credits begin. The main plot threads are picked right back up a few months later with the second half opener "Let's Kill Hitler", but again the series shifts back to four more, largely stand alone stories. A frightened child occupies The Doctor's time in the second weak link of the series "Night Terrors", Rory and The Doctor must race against accelerated time to save Amy in the excellent "The Girl Who Waited", everyone's trapped in a strange hotel in the average "The God Complex" and James Corden returns as Craig to assist The Doctor again in the also average "Closing Time".

The main story is again front and center for the series finale, "The Wedding of River Song", which turns out to be one of the weaker finale episode of the show's six-year run. It's a frustratingly compact episode that tries to cram too much into the limited 45-minute running time and the wrap up of the series main storyline isn't altogether satisfying. From the very first episode of the series we know that The Doctor is going to win the day--hard to do the show without him--but the solution to the problem presented in "The Impossible Astronaut" isn't all that interesting or clever. Also disappointing is that even though The Silence do return for the finale they aren't given much to do other than look menacing. To top it off the finale brings up more questions than it answers leaving bits dangling for episodes later next year, even some going back to the previous series.

 Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series
I really only have one problem what's presented here, and it's that over the past two series Stephen Moffat has crafted a multi-seasonal story arc with too many episodes that merely fill in the gaps between anything substantial. Of the 13-episodes comprising the sixth series only five are dedicated to the overarching plot, which only seems to get more complicated as things progress. Just when things get going we're saddled with a few episodes that vary in quality and grind things to a halt, and it's a bit frustrating that by the end of the sixth series we're left with some of the mysteries dating back to last year still unresolved.

To be fair the Russell T Davies produced years of Doctor Who suffered from the same problem of the more stand alone episodes not always having much to do with the rest, but it seems more frustrating this time around mainly due to Moffat's stories being more intricate and a larger part of the show's DNA. Truth be told, I actually miss the more Buffy the Vampire Slayer approach that Davies brought to the show by having each series culminate in the reveal of a main baddy with the story wrapped up by the time the end credits rolled on each series finale. That being said I like the fact that Moffat is attempting something different by bridging each season with intertwining stories and mysteries, I just wish there was less fat to chew through in order to get to the real meat of the ongoing story.

 Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series
Video
BBC Home Video presents Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series on Blu-ray with a 1080i, AVC encoded video transfer and the results are excellent, easily matching last year's output and the David Tennant specials that marked the series first attempt at high definition a couple years back. The video transfer really presents the show nicely with vibrant, rich colors that leap from the screen, black levels which are deep and skin tones and textures that are finely detailed and completely natural. I'm sometimes amazed at some of the effects work that is pulled off for the budget of this show, and the work put into these episodes holds up very well on Blu-ray. I couldn't detect much of, if anything at all, in the way of aliasing, edge enhancement or other such anomalies that would detract from the overall experience. This is an excellent video presentation and one that fans should be very pleased with.

 Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series
Audio
So far so good from the technical perspective, and so now it comes down to the audio which I'm happy to report is every bit the video transfer's equal. BBC Home Video has provided the series with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio track that is easily able to handle everything from the soft to the bombastic. I've always found the series' sound effects to be far above average, and here you can truly hear them in all their glory--every TARDIS landing, laser shot and whirligig is reproduced without a flaw. Murray Gold's compositions for the show have been some of my favorite examples of a musical score for television on a grand scale and here the track doesn't disappoint either. Dialogue is clear and there's plenty of use of the surrounds in the mix while the robust LFE channel is gravy on top of gravy. This is definitely one of the better--if not the best--audio tracks I've heard for a television series.

 Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series
Extras
Like last year's fifth series release, BBC Home Video has packed Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series with plenty of behind-the-scenes material and other goodies.

Since it's not part of the series proper and was already released as a feature laden disc on its own, I consider the 2010 Christmas episode located on the first disc of the set, "A Christmas Carol", as an extra here. The first full fledged Christmas episode of the show since its 2005 return, the special is a charming take on the Charles Dicken's classic that starts strong and tends to get a bit silly by the end of its 62-minute running time, but it's all in good fun. The special is also accompanied by its Doctor Who Confidential related episode, "A Christmas Carol Confidential" which runs a beefy 56-minutes and contains all the behind-the-scenes material you'll want pertaining to the special. Also included on the disc are two unreleased comedy sketches, "Time" and "Space", starring Smith, Gillan and Darvill.

Last year's release contained a series of video commentaries and none of my preferred audio commentaries, but series six contains audio commentaries for five of the episodes in the set--"The Impossible Astronaut", "The Doctor's Wife", "The Rebel Flesh", "A Good Man Goes To War", and "The Wedding of River Song". These are all worth a listen and rarely overlap on information since only one participant--Arthur Darvill--appears on more than one track. Other contributors include Neil Gaiman, Stephen Moffat and various directors, producers and actors. It's a shame that neither Matt Smith or Karen Gillan are featured on the tracks, but their contributions are felt elsewhere in the extras.

 Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series
The next major features found within the set are 153-minutes worth of high definition selections from the recently canceled Doctor Who Confidential show. Though these aren't the full episodes, I do believe that these truncated versions work better since there's little filler material and the information contained in them rarely overlaps. If you really want to dig into the makings of the show this is where you start with the set. Other behind-the-scenes material can be found on each disc of the set in the form of "Monster Files" featurettes, each focusing in on a particular creature such as The Silence and the lethal Cybermats.

The set also offers up an eight-minute series of prequels for the episodes "The Impossible Astronaut", "The Curse of the Black Spot", "A Good Man Goes to War", "Let's Kill Hitler" and "The Wedding of River Song". Another 14-minutes worth of comedy shorts, "Night and The Doctor", starring the three leads is also included, as well as another one starring James Corden entitled "Up All Night". Leaving no stone unturned, even the "Nights" shorts have their own short Confidential episode included. The combined prequels and shorts are well worth you time, and at about a total running time of 25-minutes will give you plenty of Who goodness in a smaller size. Finally, the set is rounded out by a series of standard definition trailers for parts one and two of the series. Overall the features included are exhaustive, informative and well worth the time.

 Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series
Overall
Though it's not quite as strong overall as the previous year's outing, Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series still represents one of the best science fiction programs currently running on television. The main cast remain pleasant and a joy to watch throughout and with the introduction of The Silence the series also delivers its most promising original villain in years. The stand alone episodes vary in quality--though even average Who is better than most of what's on television--and the main storyline is dribbled out too little and thin, but it still makes for great television. BBC Home Video's Blu-ray release of the series is outstanding with great audio and video and a boatload of substantial extras are included. Those new to Who will either want to start with the initial 2005 series and get caught up from there, or at the very least begin with last year's fifth series, but those already along for the ride will definitely want to pick up this collection.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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