The rebooted Doctor Who just keeps going from strength to strength. (If you’ve managed to avoid seeing a single episode of Doctor Who since it started airing in 1963, the show features an enigmatic time traveller, the Doctor, who foils various nefarious schemes, usually with the aid of at least one companion.) Since being revived in 2005, the show has already cycled through a number of major cast changes, with two incarnations of the Doctor and three primary companions. Each combination of Doctor and companion usually produces a very different chemistry, and Season Four is no exception, with David Tennant playing the role of the Doctor and Catherine Tate playing Donna Noble.
Donna and the Doctor’s relationship is like that between adult siblings or very old friends, and it’s a nice change of pace from the romantic overtones that played out with the previous two companions. The dynamic is enhanced by the fact that Tate/Noble is older than the typical early-twenty-something female companion, and so perhaps a little less susceptible to looking at the adventurous Doctor with a starry-eyed gaze. Donna is perfectly willing cut the Doctor down to size if she thinks he’s getting a little too pleased with himself. This leads to some of the most memorable exchanges of the show to date, and Tate plays the part with impeccable comic timing and gusto. Tennant is, well, still the best Doctor ever (with Tom Baker in a more than honorable second place.)
The Doctor and Donna’s friendship plays out across a season of ambitious stories. The fall of Pompeii, a factory of alien slaves, a library the size of a planet that plays host to some of the scariest monsters ever, and the intensely claustrophobic confines of a damaged shuttle all form the background to some thrilling (and sometimes genuinely moving) plots. The season builds to a no-holds-barred climax which acts as a reunion show of sorts: A group of the Doctor’s former companions (including Torchwood’s Captain Jack and Sarah Jane Smith) band together to stop a dark threat from the past. Some Who watchers objected to the second half of the finale, feeling that the conclusion tried too hard to make fans happy in some respects. But I think the show stayed true to the darker and more ambiguous nature of the show, with an ending that really packed a punch.
The DVD’s also include the standalone 2006 Christmas Special, in which the Doctor teams up with Astrid Peth, played by none other than Kylie Minogue. (The real scene stealers are The Hosts, angelic robot concierges that go very, very bad.) There’s also a set of making-of features, one for each episode, deleted scenes (including a slightly, but significantly, alternate ending to the Season Four finale), and a bunch of other extras. If you decide to only ever own one season of Doctor Who, make it this one.