Click here to return to the main site.

DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
Series 7: Part 1


Starring: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill
RRP: £25.52 (standard edition), £28.59 (Weeping Angels Limited Edition)
BBCDVD3697 (standard edition), BBCDVD3756 (Weeping Angels Limited Edition)
Certificate: 12
Available 29 October 2012


Kidnapped by his oldest foes, the Doctor is forced on an impossible mission, to a place even the Daleks are too terrified to enter - a planetary prison confining the most terrifying and insane of their kind. With Amy and Rory’s relationship in meltdown, and an army of mad Daleks closing in, it is up to the Doctor to save their lives, and the Ponds’ marriage...

You’ll have to excuse the fact that I have written more about Asylum of the Daleks than any of the other four episodes in this collection - but then Steven Moffat’s season opener is an exceedingly rich confection. Even at fifty minutes long, it struggles to cram in all its story elements, which clamour for the viewer’s attention.

The opening few minutes are especially high on blockbusting spectacle, from the desolate vistas of Skaro, including a neat visual nod to the very first Dalek serial, to the massed ranks of menacing Daleks, including a transparent leader that is a neat visual nod to the novelisation of the first Dalek serial. Several exciting moments that would in themselves have made excellent teasers - including the kidnapping of the Doctor (Matt Smith) and his companions (Karen Gillan as Amy and Arthur Darvill as Rory), their arrival aboard a vast spacecraft, and the Doctor’s irresistible line, “On a scale of one to ten... eleven” - come and go before the opening credits actually kick in.

Following the title sequence, we get a surprise appearance by Jenna-Louise Coleman - easily Series 7’s best-kept secret prior to its transmission. I usually get nervous when a new regular cast member joins the show. Will they be any good? Will I like them? By springing her upon me like this, the production team ensured that I never really had a chance to worry. Not that I needed to be concerned, of course, because Coleman’s performance is splendid - whether she’s swapping witty and flirtatious banter with the Doctor and Rory or delivering more emotional moments. However, what connection Oswin Oswald, the character she plays here, has with new companion Clara, who makes her debut in the Christmas episode The Snowmen, remains to be seen...

The poignant revelation about Oswin is a masterstroke of scriptwriting, which becomes obvious only in hindsight. The writer cunningly foreshadows the question of Oswin’s nature while simultaneously distracting attention away from it by presenting it as a funny line: the Doctor’s repeated question about where she gets the ingredients for her soufflés. Moffat pulls off a similar trick a few episodes later, in The Angels Take Manhattan, in which the Doctor’s removal of the final page of his book - because the Time Lord doesn’t like endings - seems like nothing more than dramatic irony about the departure that we all know is to come.

With all this - and some Dalek-style body horror - going on, perhaps it’s not surprising that a couple of plot elements remain underdeveloped. Firstly, the Ponds’ marriage problems are introduced so swiftly that they barely get a chance to register. I initially thought this development was going to last for a few episodes, but it is resolved by the end of this one. Thank goodness for the five mini-episodes of Pond Life, which can be found on the second disc of this release. They at least help to establish the separation.

Secondly, the publicised inclusion of every kind of Dalek ever seen in the show proved to be somewhat over-hyped, as all the classic series versions remained firmly in the background. Even the inmates of the intensive care unit had Time War casings, despite supposedly being veterans of classic-era encounters with the Doctor on Aridius, Kembel, Vulcan, Spiridon and Exxilon. Maybe they needed repairs and got overhauled. The 2005 model Daleks make an unremarked-upon reappearance alongside their New Paradigm cousins, having seemingly reconciled their differences.

It is also rather strange that the Daleks do not attempt to exterminate the Doctor at the end of the episode. Even though he is now a stranger to them, he is still an intruder aboard their ship and he presents an easy target. Perhaps the Doctor extends the TARDIS force field and the Daleks detect this.

Those quibbles aside, you’d be mad not to love Asylum of the Daleks.



An unmanned spaceship hurtles towards disaster - unless the Doctor can stop it. By his side are a ragtag gang of adventurers: a big-game hunter, an Egyptian queen and a surprised member of the Pond family. Little does the Doctor know that there is someone else on board who will stop at nothing to keep hold of his precious, impossible cargo - of dinosaurs...

Like Asylum of the Daleks, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship really packs in its ingredients. Here the Doctor has a gang (something he tried before in A Good Man Goes to War), comprising Queen Nefertiti (Riann Steele), big-game hunter Riddell (Rupert Graves), Amy, Rory, and Rory’s dad Brian (the marvellous Mark Williams). The latter is brought along by accident when the Doctor materialises the TARDIS around the Ponds in their home. They all arrive aboard a space vessel, the occupants of which include pair of prissy robots (voiced by David Mitchell and Robert Webb) and a whole load of - yes, you guessed it from the title - dinosaurs! Actually, I could have done with a few more dinosaurs, but we also get a nice mention of the Silurians.

Writer Chris Chibnall was hitherto best known for predominantly grim and gritty storylines, such as 42, The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood and several episodes of Torchwood. In his Series 7 episodes Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and The Power of Three (and also Pond Life), one can almost hear him declaring, “Hey, I can do lighter stuff too! I can do wacky and whimsical! Get a load of this!”

There are darker moments, though, especially the fate of the villain, Solomon (David Bradley), which raises eyebrows but neatly sets things up the Doctor’s behaviour in the next episode, A Town Called Mercy.

Talking of the Doctor’s arc (as opposed to the Silurians’ ark), the apparent recognition of him by Solomon is a neat twist. I was initially disappointed that Chibnall had seemingly disregarded the ongoing plotline of the Time Lord becoming a man of mystery, but this was just a cunning ruse. In fact, Solomon wants a doctor rather than the Doctor.

All in all, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship does what it says on the tin... and quite a bit more.



The Doctor gets a Stetson (and a gun) and finds himself the reluctant marshal of a Western town under siege by a relentless cyborg. This creature goes by the name of the Gunslinger, but who is he and what does he want? The answer seems to lie with the mysterious Kahler-Jex, an alien doctor (yes, another one) whose initial appearance hides a dark secret...

A Town Called Mercy is very much an episode of two halves.

However, whereas some reviewers prefer the second half, in which the Doctor becomes the marshal of Mercy, a plot element publicised in synopses for this story, I find that the first half has more going for it. It has the excellent Ben Browder as Isaac, who is sadly absent from the latter half. It has the mystery of Kahler-Jex (Adrian Scarborough), which is later replaced by the question of what to do with this character. It has the threat posed by the Gunslinger (Andrew Brooke), which becomes slightly undone by his continued inefficacy during the second half of the show. In common with Solomon in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, at first we think that the Gunslinger already knows about the Doctor, but in fact he is after someone else.

The Time Lord gets some great comedic lines, too, before he turns all angry and anguished, including, “I see ‘Keep Out’ signs as suggestions more than actual orders - like ‘Dry Clean Only’”, “Anachronistic electricity, ‘Keep Out’ signs, aggressive stares. Has someone been peeking at my Christmas list?” and “I speak horse. His name is Susan, and he wants you to respect his life choices.”

What remains consistent throughout, though, is the way in which writer Toby Whithouse and the rest of the production team successfully incorporate classic tropes of the Western genre, including a pious priest, a busy undertaker, a vengeful gunslinger, a man who’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, and a showdown at high noon. The location work, which took place in the desert region of Almeria in Spain, where many Spaghetti Westerns were filmed, adds the same kind of high-value gloss that the wilderness of Utah brought to The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon.

I have to say that I’m not a particular fan of Westerns, but nevertheless I feel merciful towards A Town Called Mercy.



The Doctor and the Ponds puzzle an unlikely invasion of Earth, as millions of sinister black cubes appear overnight, almost like presents falling from the sky. What are they, what’s inside them and, most importantly, who sent them? With the international community - including UNIT - at a loss, it is left to the Doctor to unearth who is behind the mystery...

Like the Craig Owens episodes (The Lodger and Closing Time), The Power of Three has a cosy, domestic feel to it, which makes for a nice change of pace following the previous three action-driven adventures. Of course, there is still a problem to be solved by our heroes, but the “slow invasion” by the enigmatic cubes provides a more sedate mystery than usual. The Doctor gets amusingly frustrated about having to wait around (“I hate being patient! Patience is for wimps!”), though Brian (a welcome return appearance by Mark Williams) seems to relish the prospect (“Doesn’t time fly when you’re alone with your thoughts?”). There are a few quick trips in the TARDIS for the Doctor and the Ponds, but the companions keep coming back to the question of which life they should choose: “Doctor life” or real life?

The imminent and permanent departure of Amy and Rory is alluded to - a recurring theme this season. In a poignant scene, Brian asks the Doctor about the fates of his previous companions, a few of whom, the Time Lord admits, died. Nevertheless, Brian decides that it is worth the risk if it makes his son and daughter-in-law happy, and he gives his blessing for their travels to continue.

Adding to the familial feel is the fan-friendly return of UNIT, now headed up by scientist Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), the daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Redgrave is perfectly cast as the sometimes confident, sometimes less certain leader with big shoes to fill. The character previously appeared in a couple of direct-to-video productions, Downtime and Dæmos Rising, then played by Beverley Cressman. Whether by accident or design, the production team have cast a well-known actress who convincingly resembles an older version of Cressman. Kate provides a touching reminder of the much-missed Nicholas Courtney, who died last year, and a worthy successor to his character, the Brigadier. Kate’s references to her father in the past tense (“he guided me, even to the end”) will be taken by many as an allusion to his death, but novel fans can interpret this as a reference to the Brigadier’s relocation to the planet Avalon in The Shadows of Avalon, which is set in 2012 (in the books, the Brig is rejuvenated in 2010 and doesn’t pass away until the early 2050s).

Of course, even the most sedate story requires some sort of resolution, and this one involves a trip to a spaceship and an encounter with the Shakri (a splendidly sinister Steven Berkoff). The climax is unfortunately the weakest part of the narrative, with the Doctor magically solving everything in seconds - including, most incredibly of all, restoring several heart-attack victims who had been reported dead a few minutes earlier - with a wave of his sonic screwdriver.

Even so, there is still plenty of energy in The Power of Three.



The Doctor’s heart-breaking farewell to Amy and Rory involves a race against time through the streets of Manhattan, as New York’s statues come to life around them. With Rory’s life in danger, the Doctor and Amy must locate him before it’s too late. Rory has died before, of course, but could this be the final time? Luckily, an old friend is there to help guide the way...

Rather like he does with the Daleks in the season opener, Moffat restores the old adversaries in The Angels Take Manhattan to their former selves. In contrast to the wanton killings they carried out in The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone, here the Weeping Angels use the time-displacing methods they previously exploited in their debut episode, Blink. Partly thanks to the setting, they also take on a number of interesting new guises, from creepy little cherubs to the Statue of Liberty!

As well as doing justice to the Weeping Angels and the New York location, the writer also had to do justice to Amy and Rory, by giving them a fitting send-off. The trouble is, as Moffat himself has acknowledged, the Ponds have already been through all the various ways in which companions have been written out in the past (by being left behind by the Doctor, by getting married, by losing their memories, by getting killed) and yet have managed to stick around. Unfortunately, I can see a number of ways around Moffat’s “final solution”, the Ponds’ supposedly irrevocable separation from the Doctor:

It is established that the Time Lord cannot return to New York City in 1938 because of the temporal disruption there, but what’s to stop him from visiting the Ponds a few years after that? Even if the disruption extends beyond the date of their death, he could still see Amy and Rory again if they were to travel geographically outside of the disruption’s influence. Alternatively, the Doctor could arrive in another country or state and then travel by more conventional means. Presumably the TARDIS can still access other areas of Earth in the past - indeed, it will do so in the very next episode, The Snowmen. The only aspect of the Ponds’ fate that is set in stone (literally) is that they will die in New York at some point prior to 2012.

Moffat’s use of his monsters is also fraught with logical difficulties. Characters are often seen to take their eyes off the Weeping Angels, which is never a good idea. The Angels sometimes appear to be facing each other, which in Blink froze them permanently into stone. Should the baby that blows out Rory’s match really be able to exhale while being observed? It must be difficult for the Statue of Liberty Angel to move about when it can be seen from miles around. It should only be able to move when absolutely no one else is looking in its direction - not easy in a “city that never sleeps”.

Despite all these flaws, the episode’s ending still managed to work its magic on me. One feels such sorrow for and anger from the Doctor (I thought for a moment he was going to sonic that Angel to pieces), and yet contentment for Amy and Rory, who get to live out their lives together. They are “killed nicely”, to paraphrase the Tenth Doctor in Blink.

It won’t just be the Angels who are weeping by the end of this storyline.



Perhaps because there are only five episodes in this collection, the second disc contains a few special features, including the aforementioned Pond Life. There are also a couple of extra scenes that were previously released exclusively via iTunes as preludes to the first and third episodes: Asylum of the Daleks Prequel and The Making of the Gunslinger. These features should have been put on the first disc in my opinion. The latter is not strictly a prequel, since if viewed before A Town Called Mercy it does rather give away the nature of Kahler-Jex. I would place it during the scene in which the Doctor plays back the recordings in the Kahler space capsule.

The Weeping Angels Limited Edition of this release also includes The Science of Doctor Who, a 45-minute programme originally produced and broadcast by BBC America. In this, various scientists and minor celebrities (maybe they are better known in the States) discuss the plausibility of time travel, alien life, regeneration, robots and cyborgs. It is fairly light on the science, but there are some exciting clips from the show. The Limited Edition also contains an A3 “augmented reality” poster, which “comes to life” when you aim a smartphone or tablet computer at it, though this item was not available for review.

This is just what you need to keep you going until the Christmas episode arrives.

Richard McGinlay

Review image

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£18.04 (
Standard Edition
£17.99 (
Weeping Angels Limited Edition
£17.00 (
Standard Edition
£17.99 (
Weeping Angels Limited Edition
£20.00 (
Standard Edition
£23.00 (
Weeping Angels Limited Edition

All prices correct at time of going to press.