Doctor Who episode 770: Dreamland (5/12/2009)

‘What? You mean Area 51? Dreamland? Oh, I’ve always wanted to go there.’ Unlike subsequent “gap years”, 2009 definitely doesn’t feel short of Doctor Who material. This animated episode fills a gap between The Waters of Mars and the Christmas Special. Like the previous animation, The Infinite Quest, it was originally broadcast in segments (this time on various streaming services), but this full-length version made it to TV.

The animation is less effective than The Infinite Quest – that looked like a cartoon, this has the floaty and ethereal look of 3D CGI animation, as though someone’s edited together a load of cutscenes. It works well for the alien Viperox and spaceships, much less so for the human characters.

Like a lot of the gap year material, it also misses a regular companion. Here, the Doctor sort of has three – Cassie and Jimmy, American teenagers, and Saruba, a grey alien. They’re all pleasant enough, but none of them has much character to speak of, and with Georgia Moffett’s performance reduced to her voice and a weird-looking 3D avatar it’s hard to get invested in her relationship with the Doctor. Oddly, Lisa Bowerman as Saruba is easier to accept, partly because the grey aliens don’t have the same uncanny valley appearance, but largely because Big Finish listeners have got used to Bowerman playing the Doctor’s long-time companion Bernice Summerfield and so she fits this quasi-companion role like a glove.

Dreamland

Phil Ford was everywhere in the gap year, writing this, The Waters of Mars and half a dozen Sarah Jane Adventures. There are a few hints of Sarah Jane in this: the Roswell spaceship is the same as in Prisoner of the Judoon, and more generally the story feels like the kind of thing Sarah Jane might get involved in, rescuing friendly aliens and helping them get home while running away from the nasties.

Similarly, the bloodless climax, as the Doctor finds another way and avoids a Viperox massacre, is very CBBC. Which isn’t a bad thing – you can easily imagine a version where the Doctor is forced to use Rivesh’s Viperox-killer with much anguish and gnashing of teeth, but it’s always nice when the Saward ending is averted.

That’s about it. It’s a pleasant enough bonus Tennant story, without the light and shade in either the animation or story to especially reward rewatching. The Doctor’s defence of Russia has not aged well.

Next Time: The End of Time

2 comments

  1. Pingback: The Sarah Jane Adventures episode 35: The Gift – Part Two (20/11/2009) | Next Time...
  2. Pingback: Doctor Who episode 769: The Waters of Mars (15/11/2009) | Next Time...

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