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Sometimes, change is good, as evidenced by Matt Smith's assumption of the mantle of Britain's beloved science-fiction hero, Doctor Who, in this stellar series. Replacing David Tennant, who was arguably the most popular incarnation of the Time Lord since Tom Baker, was an unenviable task for any actor. But relative newcomer Smith--the youngest performer to play the Doctor--makes the role his own within the first few moments of the series opener, "The Eleventh Hour," which introduces his puckish interpretation, as well as companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan). The pair, whose banter is a terrific mix of screwball humor and light sexual tension, are later joined by Amy's fiancé, Rory (Arthur Darvill), who is not quite whom he appears, as revealed in "The Pandorica Opens." Old enemies such as the Daleks ("Victory of the Daleks"), the Silurians ("The Hungry Earth"), and the formidable Weeping Angels ("The Time of the Angels") test the Eleventh Doctor's mettle, as does the series' central adventure, in which a host of the Doctor's foes, including the Cybermen and the Sontarans, unite to seal him in the fabled Pandorica, an inescapable prison located within Stonehenge. The 13 episodes of Series 5 are thrilling, thoughtful, humorous, and altogether addictive--in short, as good a series of Doctor Who as any that's been produced.
When compared to the archival Doctor Who releases, the six-disc set of the Complete Fifth Series comes up somewhat short in the supplemental feature department, but there are still a number of worthwhile extras to complement the episodes. Chief among these are the six commentary tracks, most of which feature newly minted show runner Steven Moffat (Sherlock), as well as Gillan and Darvill, and run the gamut from giggly, lightweight chats to informative looks at the production process. Less interesting are the video diaries by the three series leads, which are amusing but forgettable fluff, as are the outtakes and Doctor Who Confidential Cut-Downs. The Monster Files provides a look at the series' key villains, including the new designs for the Daleks and the monstrous Alliance, which Moffat reveals as being comprised of whatever costumes were available at the time of shooting (!). A barrage of TV spots and promos, including a US spot, round out the extras. --Paul Gaita
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