Saturday, December 5, 2009

DWZ REVIEW: Dreamland

With Dreamland having just enjoyed its full airing today, it seemed a perfect time to look back at this animated event and use it to kickstart our DoctorWhoZone reviews. We have a few more reviews coming up next week, so look out for them! In the meantime - keeping looking right here. Yes that's right, keep reading. Ready for the next paragraph? Good.

Dreamland is the second animated Tennant Doctor Who adventure. The TARDIS lands in Nevada, home to the non-swinging, post-war communist fearing 1950s. Upon a chance meeting with an alien artefact on display in a local diner, the Doctor is whisked upon another exciting adventure that will take him to Area 51 - Dreamland - and the dark secrets it harbours within....

Dreamland sports a very different style to the last animated story - The Infinite Quest - taking it away from the two dimensional roots and into something a little more dynamically three dimensional. For those of you without amnesia, you will no doubt remember guest star Georgia Moffett from Series Four. Here she plays Cassie, an American waitress and one of the Doctor's sidekicks. Also in the cast is British acting legend David Warner (who has been in pretty much every sci-fi franchise known to man) and he plays the arch-alien-antagonist, Lord Azlok.

So what do we have here? Well in some respects, its Who-by-numbers; we have the Doctor immediately getting into trouble; a big monster threat; a misguided military archetype; some aliens who need defending and some sidekicks to be rescued.. the list goes on. But in a way, this isn't bad -you watch a show for certain structural expectations, and I'd say this delivers on those elements - aspects that many viewers would consider quintessentially part of the "Doctor Who formula".

So yes, the story has a good pace, the usual and necessary structural ingredients. The overall direction and visuals are impressive - and of course, Murray Gold's music gets lots of airing. But is it brilliant?

Is it? Probably. For kids - I imagine they loved every minute. For me, the one quintessential element of the "Doctor Who Formula" they missed was the really colourful script. The script isn't bad, it just never ignites. The Doctor never says anything that really catches you; nothing that you'd remember after watching this story. The story perhaps runs too fast a pace to allow the dialogue to do anything spectacular.

The other downside for "yours truly" was the model work for the main character. While aspects of Tennant come through in the Doctor's visuals, the animation never truly captures Tennant's energy or body language - that's a tall order for any animation I know - but the fact is it doesn't feel like the Doctor, even if it sounds like him. And what's up with his receding hairline there? If I was Tennant I'd be very self conscious of that!

But the cast do a good job. As a Brit, I couldn't fault Moffett's accent (but then I am a Brit), though with Sandra Dickinson as a mother, that must have been a great help. David Warner does a great job with Azlok, oozing power and commanding attention. So one cannot fault the cast.

Really, one cannot overly fault Dreamland at all. It's fast paced, its well produced and full of talent. For an adult, I just found the script a little bland compared to the main show and the model work for the Doctor a little distracting. I'd certainly recommend a watch and would definitely consider it as a future present for any nephew's birthday.

Better than the Infinite Quest for me, though not quite to the quality of the New Series. But given the standard of the live action show, I wouldn't say that's a bad place to be.

Grade: B

Laredo Lowtide

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