If you’re the kind of Doctor Who DVD buyer who eschews the box set at the end of the year in favour of picking and choosing your favourite episodes among the single disc releases across the year, then volume three of the fourth series is one you want to have on your list. This release contains three episodes, and marks the point where the quality of series four took a significant jump forwards.
Firstly, there’s the Steven Moffat two-parter, consisting of the stories Silence In The Library and Forest Of The Dead. We’ve written quite a lot about this pair on the site already, and they continue to generate some debate. For the sake of a quick recap, this is the story set in the midst of the biggest library in the Universe, a planet entirely dedicated to books. Only when the Doctor and Donna get there, it’s deserted, with not a soul in sight. After receiving a warning to “count the shadows”, the apparent reason for this becomes clear, as Moffat gives kids nightmares all over again with his creation of shadow monsters. It’s a very, very effective enemy for the Doctor to face, and Euros Lynn behind the camera does a smashing job of maximising the threat.
Thrown into the mix then is River Song, who we’re almost certain to meet at some point in the future of the show, and she certainly knows all about the Doctor. Then there’s Colin Salmon’s mysterious Doctor Moon, and a little girl who holds dreams of the library in her head.
Moffat glues all of this together exceptionally well, although – in spite of the strength of the two-parter – there’s nonetheless an argument that it’s his weakest Doctor Who story to date, with a concluding episode that doesn’t match the intensity and tightness of the first. That said, Moffat off his very best is still the finest writer that the show has got, and there’s ample evidence throughout the two episodes here.
The disc’s third episode switches from the most praised writer to one of its most-maligned, Russell T Davies himself. He penned the last four episodes of Doctor Who’s fourth series, and Midnight is the first of those. What’s more, it’s excellent, and some of the very best writing he’s done for the show. Ironically, one of its major strengths is something that Moffat played on well in his aforementioned two parter, that you never see the monster that’s causing the threat. Davies, though, takes it one stage further, and with Midnight he offers no easy resolution, no big set piece at the end. Instead, he spends an episode confined on a cruise-liner, dragging the Doctor to the edge. And then he rolls the credits.
Midnight was one of the most unexpected surprises of the series, and it holds up very well to repeat viewings. It’s certainly far better too than the tepid trailer the week before had led us to believe, and it rounds off here a disc without a duff episode on it.
On the downside, there’s the usual lack of any kind of supplemental materials, which is all being held back for the full season boxset at the end of the year. But if you’ve no plans to get that, then there’s little reason to hold back on this.
The Extras: n/a
Doctor Who series 4 volume 3 is released 4th of August.