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Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series

(2012) *** 1/2 Unrated
790 min. BBC. Directors: Farren Blackburn, Saul Metzstein, Douglas Mackinnon, Nick Hurran, Colm McCarthy, Jamie Payne, Mat King, Stephen Woolfenden. Cast: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Jenna Coleman, Alex Kingston, Bill Bailey, Rupert Graves, Mark Williams, David Bradley, Ben Browder, Steven Berkoff, Jemma Redgrave, Mike McShane, Richard E. Grant, Catrin Stewart, Neve McIntosh, Dan Starkey, Celia Imrie, Liam Cunningham, David Warner, Tobias Menzies, Dougray Scott, Jessica Raine, Diana Rigg, Warwick Davis, John Hurt.

/content/films/4610/1.jpgIn the penultimate batch of episodes before Doctor Who's jubilee year, executive producer Steven Moffat continues to marvel with his ability to keep the time-and-space-travelling Doctor in ever-so-complicated trouble. The first half of the highly eventful seventh season ramps up to the exit of the Eleventh Doctor's longtime companions Amy and Rory, but Moffat surprised fans by introducing the new companion played by Jenna Louise-Coleman earlier than expected, in season-opener "Asylum of the Daleks," and bringing her back in Christmas Special "The Snowmen" (my full review here) on the way into the back half of the season.

First things first: it's never easy saying goodbye, and the rebooted Doctor Who loves to make it hurt so good with heaps of sentiment. After braving insane Daleks (what a concept!), "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" (um, what a concept?), a cybernetic Gunslinger in the Spanish-shot Western "A Town Called Mercy" (with erstwhile Farscape star Ben Browder), and mysterious Earth-invading cubes in "The Power of Three," Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) make the big goodbye to the Doctor (Matt Smith) and the series...for now, that is. No spoilers here, but both the Weeping Angels and Dr. River Song are on hand for the occasion, and all of the actors are very much on top of their collective game.

Christmas special "The Snowmen" brings back three fan favorite characters—Silurian Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), her human wife Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart), and the lovably dim, eagerly violent Sontaran Strax (Dan Starkey)—as well as the old-time villain The Great Intelligence (voiced by no less than Sir Ian McKellen, and repped by Richard E. Grant's creepy Dr. Simeon). Moffat breaks out one of his signature mysterious story arcs to introduce Coleman's Clara Oswald, a.k.a. "The Impossible Girl."

Adventures include "The Bells of Saint John," "The Rings of Akhaten," "Cold War"—a Soviet sub adventure further distinguished by its trio of cool guest stars (Liam Cunningham, David Warner, and Tobias Menzies), haunted-mansion tale "Hide" (with guest star Dougray Scott), the wild action thriller "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS," 1893-set "The Crimson Horror (again with Vastra, Jenny and Strax—along with Dame Diana Rigg!), and "Nightmare in Silver," a Cyberman story (obviously) that's also the season's Neil Gaiman-penned adventure.

It all leads up to the pre-epochal story "The Name of the Doctor," a typically clever Moffat script that answers the mystery of Clara Oswald and cements our affection for her (in no small part due to Coleman's perky work), creates a new mystery involving a climactically glimpsed guest star, and sets the stage for 50th Anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor," which will debut with a splash on November 23, 2013.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 4

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 11/5/2013

Distributor: BBC Home Video

BBC Home Video makes Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series rematerialize as a part of the Doctor Who: Complete Series 1-7 Limited Edition Blu-ray Giftset. Recently issued on Blu-ray, this new edition comes in a slimmed down Blu-ray case, with the same great A/V specs and bonus features. The picture quality doesn't get any better than this: colors are bold and true, contrast and black level well-calibrated, and details and textures magnificent, adding up to a refined and breathtaking image. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mixes are playing with power (LFE power) and can also boast exciting use of rear channels for discretely separated effects, in addition to nicely prioritized dialogue and robust music.

Disc One's bonus features include "'The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe' Prequel" (1:27, HD), the
"'Asylum of the Daleks' Prequel" (2:35, HD), and "The Making of 'The Gunslinger'" (1:46, HD), which isn't what it sounds like at all, but rather a faux commercial for a gunslinger cyborg.

Disc Two includes audio commentary on "The Snowmen" by production designer Michael Pickwoad and art director Paul Spriggs; "Pond Life" (6:12, HD), a five-part mini-adventure featuring Amy, Rory and the Doctor; the short "The Battle of Demons Run: Two Days Later" (2:59, HD), featuring Vastra, Jenny, and Strax; two prequels to "The Snowmen" featuring Vastra, Jenny and Drax and, in the second case, the Doctor: "Vastra Investigates" (2:44, HD) and "The Great Detective" (3:24, HD); "The Bells of Saint John - A Prequel" (2:43, HD); "Last Days of the Ponds" (12:14, HD) with Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Steven Moffat, Matt Smith and others reflecting on saying goodbye to the Ponds and fellow workmate; "Doctor Who at Comic Con" (11:04, HD) with Smith, Gillan and Darvill; and "Doctor Who in the U.S." (43:25, HD) with Steven Moffat, David Tennant, Smith, John Barrowman, Gillan, Darvill, and Noel Clarke, et al.

Disc Three offers audio commentaries for "Cold War" with writer Mark Gatiss, visual effects supervisor Murray Barber and visual effects producer Jenna Powell; "Hide" with director Jamie Payne and Smith; and "The Crimson Horror" with Catrin Stewart (Jenny Flint), Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra) and Dan Starkey (Strax), as well as Doctor Who on The Nerdist (15:14 with "Play All" option, HD)—comprising "Matt Smith Satellite Interview #1" (6:00, HD), "Matt Smith Satellite Interview #2" (5:00, HD), "Jenna-Louise Coleman Podcast" (4:12, HD)—all with Nerdist host Chris Hardwick; and "Creating Clara" (9:47, HD) with Moffat, Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman.

Disc Four kicks off with fourteen "Behind the Scenes" (55:09, HD) featurettes meant to pick up the slack for this season without Doctor Who Confidential: "Episode 1 - Life Cycle of a Dalek" (3:35, HD), "Episode 2 - Raptors, Robots and a Bumpy Ride" (4:14, HD), "Episode 3 - Wild, Wild Spain" (4:14, HD), "Episode 4 - A Writer's Tale" (3:12, HD), "Episode 5 - A Fall from Grace" (4:55, HD), "Clara's White Christmas" (3:23, HD), "Episode 6 - The Bells of Saint John" (4:03, HD), "Episode 7 - The Rings of Akhaten" (4:06, HD), "Episode 8 - Cold War" (3:59, HD), "Episode 9 - Hide" (3:44, HD), "Episode 10 - Journey to the Center of the TARDIS" (3:48, HD), "Episode 11 - The Crimson Horror" (4:25, HD), "Episode 12 - Nightmare in Silver" (3:04, HD) and "Episode 13 - The Name of The Doctor" (4:21, HD).

Disc Four continues with "Clarence and the Whispermen" (2:18, HD), an epilogue to the Seventh Series that serves as a lead-in to "The Name of the Doctor"; "The Science of Doctor Who" (43:52, HD), a nifty special posing questions to scientists about the likelihood of what's seen on the show; "The Companions" (45:28, HD) with Moffat, executive producer Caroline Skinner, Tennant, Smith, Coleman, Gillan, Darvill, Barrowman, and Clarke; and four more prequels: "She Said, He Said" (3:39, HD); "Inforarium" (2:02, HD); "Clara and the TARDIS" (2:14, HD); and "Rain Gods" (2:22, HD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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