1-episode DVD volume
(Doctor Who animated story, starring David Tennant)
  • written by Phil Ford
  • directed by Gary Russell
  • produced by Mat Fidell & Ed Cross
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 44 minutes
Story: Looking for a precise American style bowl of chilli, the Doctor comes to New Mexico in 1958 and quickly gets caught up in a conspiracy of suppression of alien evidence. Is it the U.S. government or the aliens themselves who are really behind it all? With his new friends Cassie (Georgia Moffett) and Jimmy, the Doctor makes his way through "Area 51" and satisfies his long-standing curiosity about the legendary 1947 U.F.O. crash in Roswell.

DVD Extras feature documentaries on Seasons 27-30 of the live-action show,
covering stories up to and including "The Next Doctor":

  • Doctor Who Greatest Moments: The Doctor (56 min.)
  • Doctor Who Greatest Moments: The Companions (56 min.)
  • Doctor Who Greatest Moments: The Enemies (56 min.)
These feature interviews of David Tennant (The Doctor), Georgia Moffett (Jenny / Cassie), and many other regular and guest cast members.

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

This is a rather strange Doctor Who story, roping in some interesting subject matter and voice talent, and covering almost as much ground as a typical classic-era four-parter or modern-era two-parter, yet not really achieving much depth with its material at any point. However, if you're just looking for an interesting and/or diverting action-adventure odyssey, this might be just the thing.

3D Wood

Of course, there are some striking differences in visual style from live-action Doctor Who, since this is an animated format. It is in fact primarily 3D animation all the way through, including all the character models. But the characters aren't created with photo-realistic 3D models, but rather an imitation cartoon look. Any particular still-frame of them will look like a 2D animated cell, but in full motion they are actually 3D models.... a contrast which I found initially to be quite distracting.

Visually, this film's animation can be quite spectacular when dealing with moving vehicles and many of its camera moves with wildly shifting perspective - things that 3D CGI typically excels at in any modern film. This gives some sections a very expensive, cinematic, feature-film style look. The character animation of "Dreamland" is another matter. It's definitely not up to the "Disney standard" of movement saturated with personality and charm, which they somehow managed to uphold with very limited CGI in 1981's "Tron". Here, the voice artists are putting a lot into their performances as you would expect, while their 3D avatars remain largely wooden and inexpressive. It's particularly noticeable with David Tennant's Doctor, since we're so accustomed to this particular character, and we're able to hear another typical performance while noting how many of the typical accompanying gestures and facial expressions are either off or completely missing. In fact, only the very most basic facial expressions exist for any of the characters here, and it just doesn't seem to be enough.

But, give the film a chance, and these oddities gradually fade into the background a bit, as the story takes over. After a while, it's not hard to get invested in what's going on. It is Doctor Who after all, with all of its strong story-telling conventions helping to pull viewers in and along for the ride.

As for music and sound, you may as well be watching live-action Doctor Who, as this is equally as good. We get great voice performances, familiar sound effects, and a typically energetic and full musical sound from Murray Gold that includes many themes that have become popular during David Tennant's era. Full marks.

Humanized Zeta Reticuli

The story's subject matter pulls in a lot of the more obvious elements of popular U.F.O. mythology. In fact, this animated episode is actually doing something that the live-action show has shied away from in being first to tackle this material head-on. But though the concepts and imagery are here, it really doesn't dig in very deeply.

One thing that stuck out a bit amongst all of this was the characterization of the little grey aliens. Visually, they have all the typical looks of what actual research might term the Zeta Reticuli race - small grey bodies with large heads and big black eyes. But in terms of character, personality, and motivations, they've been pretty much completely anthropomorphized, as Star Trek has done with most species of prosthetic-foreheaded aliens over its long run. What we get here is an extrapolation of very human thinking and motivation instead, and being almost too cutesy at that. The grey Zetas could have afforded to be portrayed much more woodenly, and wound up being too emotionally expressive instead.

Oh well. I do think certain elements of the story say some good things to the collective Human psyche in terms of relating to what finally looks like a real extraterrestrial race that we have actually encountered in the real world. There may be hope for us yet. Can we do as well with the real Zetas, when we won't be able to anthropomorphize them so easily, when we may have to truly look at some more significant differences?

In the end, such thoughts about acceptance of Zeta Reticuli into our popular culture overpower the rather simplistic plot that plays out in later stages of this adventure. It's all very tinker-toy plotting at best anyway, which works okay this time around.

All in all, I have to say I did enjoy this story, and I'm glad I bought the DVD. The story is a worthwhile addition to the line-up of David Tennant stories I have in my collection, and despite having a different set of strengths and weaknesses, felt pretty much on par with a lot of the live-action episodes in balance. I'm guessing that the earlier animated adventure "The Infinite Quest" would not have had the story or casting hooks or DVD extras that helped draw me to this one, and so I'll probably pass on that. But I'd heartily recommend "Dreamland" to all Doctor Who fans. There's a lot here to thoroughly enjoy.

This story has become available on DVD.

Region 1 U.S.

Region 1 Canada

Region 2 U.K.

Animated Story:
starring David Tennant

Status: Complete

Region 1 NTSC DVD release Oct 5, 2010.

Animated adventure surrounding
the infamous "Area 51" in the U.S.,
starring David Tennant, Georgia Moffett,
David Warner, Lisa Bowerman, and Stuart Milligan.

DVD extras include exclusive documentaries
on the live action show.

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "The Next Doctor"

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