DOC­TOR WHO Sea­son Nine

Gui­tar Man

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews -

re­leased OUT NOW! 2015 | 12 | Blu- ray/ DVD

Showrun­ner Steven Mof­fat

Cast Peter Ca­paldi, Jenna Cole­man,

Maisie Wil­liams, Alex Kingston

Christ­mas episodes book­end this box set. One’s great, the other’s not; such is the lot­tery of fes­tive Who.

“Last Christ­mas” kicks things off in fine style. A hy­brid of The Thing, Alien and Mir­a­cle On 34th Street, it’s the best sea­sonal spe­cial since “A Christ­mas Carol” and marks an im­por­tant tran­si­tional phase for Ca­paldi’s Doc­tor.

Yes, this was the year that Twelve learned to kick back, re­lax and play his gui­tar. His showy en­trance in “The Ma­gi­cian’s Ap­pren­tice” is a star­tling con­trast to the dis­tant fig­ure he cut through­out sea­son eight, but Mof­fat and Ca­paldi make it seem like a nat­u­ral evo­lu­tion.

A shame, then, that the first half of the sea­son feels oddly flat, with a vague arc, a con­fus­ing opener and Clara of­ten side­lined. Peter Har­ness’s Zy­gon two- parter gets things back on track, how­ever, set­ting up a su­pe­rior se­cond half, of which the as­ton­ish­ing “Heaven Sent” is the clear high­light. A show­case for Ca­paldi, it’s like noth­ing Doc­tor Who has ever at­tempted be­fore.

Fi­nally, there’s “The Hus­bands Of River Song”. Com­edy is ex­actly what was needed at this point, but this falls very flat. Alex Kingston shines in the poignant fi­nal act, but with Greg Davies lum­ber­ing around in a ro­bot suit and Matt Lu­cas gurn­ing, it’s hard work get­ting to that point.

Ex­tras A well- stocked set, though there’s lit­tle truly es­sen­tial. The 25 min­utes of deleted scenes slip in a few more jokes for the Doc­tor and some wel­come call- backs to Danny Pink ( RIP). We see more of Ashildr’s tragic his­tory in the years be­tween “The Girl Who Died” and “The Woman Who Lived” and – hold onto your hat – some short shots of Kate Ste­wart walk­ing.

On the doc­u­men­tary front, there’s 14 episodes of Doc­tor Who Ex­tra; a brief and breezy watch, light on in­sight but good fun. The longer fea­tures are bet­ter. “Writ­ing Who” fol­lows “Face The Raven” scribe Sarah Dol­lard as she takes us through the process of get­ting her episode from ini­tial pitch to the screen; “Clara’s Jour­ney” gives Jenna Cole­man the chance to look back on her four years on the show, while “The Ad­ven­tures Of River Song” ex­plains the his­tory of, well, take a guess. “Sub­lime On­line” pulls to­gether videos orig­i­nally pub­lished on the Who web­site, “The Fan Show’s Finest” is a best bits pack­age from the YouTube se­ries and “Dalek De­vo­tion” finds Ca­paldi and Mof­fat nerd­ing out about the Skarosian pep­per­pots.

You also get com­men­taries on four episodes ( the Reece Shear­smith and Mark Gatiss track on “Sleep No More” be­ing the most en­gag­ing), a Comic- Con panel, episode pro­logues and trail­ers. But the most worth­while ex­tra here is an hour- long chat be­tween Wil Wheaton, Ca­paldi and Cole­man; Wheaton gets amus­ingly flus­tered at one point and Ca­paldi is charm per­son­i­fied. Will Salmon

“Sleep No More” was orig­i­nally in­tended to be a two- part story; Mark Gatiss still hopes to pen a se­quel.

‘ Heaven Sent’ is the clear high­light

Elvis pa­tiently waited his turn.

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