New Doctor Who mini-episodes reviewed

The Doctor Who series six box set includes five short “Night And The Doctor” adventures written by Steven Moffat, and we’ve seen ‘em! (Minor spoilers ahead)

The UK Doctor Who season six box set is released by 2entertain on 21 November, and we’ve just got our hands on a set of review discs.

The most exciting bonus on there is a series of five short “mini-episodes”. Written by Steven Moffat and collectively referred to as “Night And The Doctor”, they feature Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Alex Kingston, with brief appearances by Arthur Darvill and James Corden too. WARNING: there are some spoilers ahead, but we’ve kept the big reveals under wraps, okay?

The first four episodes are all connected, and set pretty much entirely in the TARDIS. Totalling fourteen minutes, they collectively address the question: what does the Doctor get up to while Rory and Amy are asleep? Well, given that he doesn’t need as much sleep as we humans, he has adventures, of course – adventures with a certain flame-haired lady friend…

“Night And The Doctor” kicks things off in madcap fashion, as Amy answers a phone call from a British royal, and the Doctor dashes in from a party, dressed in top hat and tails, carrying a goldfish in a bowl – a very important goldfish. Well, so he thinks, anyway… It’s inconsequential fare, but good fun. Arthur Darvill also pops up briefly in this segment, after the Doctor wakes him with a cry of “Rory, she’s having an emotion!”

“Good Night” is this reviewer’s favourite of the bunch (and, at nearly five minutes, the longest). A rather touching two-hander between Smith and Gillan, it sees Amy trying to talk to the Doctor about the fact that “her life makes no sense” (about time too!), and the Doctor taking her to “the saddest moment in her life” to meet… well, that would be telling. One neat idea expressed here is that our misremembered memories and feelings of déjà vu are actually side-effects of time being rewritten.

In “First Night” the Doctor lands in River’s cell during her first night in jail, to take her out for an adventure. Ending on a cliffhanger, it’s really the first part of a two-parter, which concludes in “Last Night”.

This tale sees Moffat making characteristic use of the possibilities of time travel, and putting them to the services of a timey-wimey miniature farce: at one point, there are three River Songs in the TARDIS… One interesting revelation is that it was the Doctor who suggested that River keep a diary of their adventures together, and who introduced her to the term “spoilers”. As for the meaning of that title? Well, we won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say it has a rather poignant significance…

Finally, “Up All Night” is stuck on a separate disc from the other mini-episodes, which is initially rather mystifying. All becomes clear when you watch it, as it has absolutely no connection to them. Only a minute long, it was clearly written with the intention of using it as one of the “episode prequels” used to promote the series online. Featuring Craig, Sophie and, er, Stormageddon, it’s set shortly before the events of “Closing Time” and basically establishes the set-up for the episode. Viewed after you’ve seen Gareth Roberts’s episode it is, to be honest, pretty pointless.

The other extras?

  • Episode commentaries on five episodes (not four, as the publicity materials would have you believe). Steven Moffat features on only one of these: the track for “The Wedding Of River Song”. Arthur Darvill is on two, while Matt Smith and Karen Gillan are nowhere to be found; a solo outing by Neil Gaiman is the highlight.
  • Four “Monster Files” featurettes on The Silence, the Gangers, the Tessalecta’s “antibodies” and the Cybermat (between nine and 13 minutes long).
  • Five short episode prequels.
  • Cut-down versions of Doctor Who Confidential.
  • Trailers for the two halves of the season.
  • 2010′s Christmas special is also described as “bonus material”.

Ian Berriman

We’ll have a full review of the box set in SFX issue 216. In the meantime, why not check out our Doctor Who series six episode reviews?