New on DVD/Blu-ray: Doctor Who — Series 6, Part 1

Doctor Who finally comes to America — literally — in Series 6, which finds the good Doctor’s BBC overlords deciding that yes, there were enough fans in the States to justify not only bringing the Doctor and his companions over here for a media blitz to promote the show’s new season, but also bring the production itself to American soil. Series 6 also marked another first: the show aired in the UK and in the States at the same time, thus taking away the need for American fans to pirate the show online, a major thorn in the BBC’s side over the years. Series 6, Part 1 of “Doctor Who” now arrives on DVD and Blu-ray July 19th from Warner Home Video.

The Doctor returns, alongside newly weds Amy and Rory, to face monsters and mysteries and adventures all across time and space, in a thrilling new series of Doctor Who. Together they’ll find themselves in sixties America, battling the invasion the world forgot, then journey on the high seas of 1696 aboard a pirate ship, to solve the mystery of the Siren. In a bubble universe at the very edge of reality, the Doctor will meet an old friend with a new face, and in a monastery on a remote island in the near future, an industrial accident will take on a terrible human shape. And waiting for them, at the end of all this, is the battle of Demon’s Run, and the Doctor’s darkest hour. Can even the truth about River Song save the Time Lord’s soul? Only two things are certain. Silence will fall. And a good man is going to die…

Seven episodes, one big ol Stetson, and a slam-bang opening premiere all marks the return of Doctor Who (Matt Smith) and his companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) back to the airwaves. (And oh yeah, that Rory guy (Arthur Darvill) is back, too.)

Series 6 opens in fine style, with a two-part episode (“The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon”) written by Steven Moffat and directed by Toby Haynes. The episode finds the Doctor, Amy Pond, River Song, and Amy’s hubby Rory in America, circa 1969, with Nixon in the White House and strange alien shenanigans afoot. The show has gotten a boost in production value, but it’s also noticeably a bit darker in terms of storyline and tone. Or at least, it seems to have gotten a bit more serious (though not at the expense of the show’s usual charms, mind you) since the previous series.

Highlights include some of the more creepier villains since those weeping angels that made the hairs on my arms stand up. There’s just something so very disturbing about creatures that can show up right next to you when you’re not … looking. Notable from the two-parter include a guest-starring spot by TV veteran Mark Sheppard as the improbably named Canton Delaware, an FBI agent, and Stuart Milligan as (surprise!) a not-at-all cartoonishly evil Nixon.

After the Doctor saves the day in “Day of the Moon”, it’s off to the 17th century in “The Curse of the Black Spot”, which finds the gang battling a killer siren onboard a pirate ship. This is a fun, but ultimately filler episode, and fills like it. Lily Cole as the killer siren somewhat makes up for it, though. Things pick up with “The Doctor’s Wife”, which finds the Doctor responding to a distress signal that may or may not be coming from another Time Lord. Comic book and fantasy fans take note: the award-winning Neil Gaiman penned this episode. Suranne Jones co-stars.

“The Doctor’s Wife” is followed by another stand-out two-parter episode written by Matthew Graham and directed by Julian Simpson called “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People”, which explores ethics, morality, and what it means to be alive in on a “work factory” island in 22nd century Earth where clones are anything but synthetic. Surprise revelations come to light and not everyone’s identity is confirmed. It’s hard to say too much about the two episodes without spoiling things, so I’ll leave it there. Suffice to say, this is classic Who at its best — smart, exciting, and complex.

Series 6’s mid-season finale “A Good Man Goes to War” is the episode River Song fans have been waiting for. We finally know more about the mysterious time traveler than we’ve ever known before — though of course, we don’t learn everything, since what would be the fun of that? When one of their own is taken, the Doctor goes to war and calls in favors from some old friends to battle Madame Kovarian (Frances Barber) and the fearsome Order of the Headless Monks. “War” is a thrilling episode and a great way to close out the first half of Series 6 that has it all — action, suspense, and answers.

The second half of “Doctor Who” Series 6 returns September 3rd with the awesome sounding title, “Let’s Kill Hitler”. Can’t wait.

The Blu-ray comes in unspectacular packaging that holds two Blu-ray discs. Disc 1 contains the first four episodes, and Disc 2 contains the final three. Special features include two “Monster Files”, for The Silence (from the first two episodes) and the Gangers (from “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People”). I’m not the biggest fan of buying “half” of a show’s season, but I suppose if you’re one of those Whovians who must have everything, the Blu-ray is the way to go. I personally would wait for the entire season myself, but maybe that’s just me.

Buy “Doctor Who: Series 6, Part 1” on DVD or Blu-ray from Warner Home Video July 19th, 2011.