DVD Extras (box sets only) include:
The TARDIS puts in a good showing, getting a spectacular first materialization in the story, and a good demonstration of the interior/exterior relationship. Even though we don't get effects for later movements of the craft in this story, the scenes are so well put together and deliver such great character interaction that you don't really miss effects shots and wouldn't really have it any other way.
I'm not sure this is a good story for first time viewers of Doctor Who though. For maximum impact, you will want to have seen "Blink" (story no. 190) and also possibly "Silence in the Library" (story no. 200), although perhaps you can get away without them and still have a great ride.
Nicely, we get an actual alien planet in this story, along with a decent spacecraft sequence to introduce it. Good move. Bizarre that this will be the only properly featured alien planet all season, but we'll certainly take it. The beach location works wonderfully, I think. Perhaps all too forgettable is the fact that the planet has been recolonized by humans and now has a population of 6 billion. What aliens there were have been reduced to archeological curiosities. Oh well. The book that River Song digs up which offers a lot of information on the angels seems a bit too convenient, and it seems to have disappeared a little too conveniently by the second episode.
Ultimately, I'll leave a lot of details undiscussed, because, why give away too many spoilers?
Moffat does a pretty good job of escalating some of the dangers from the angels. About 3/4 of the way through though, it feels like the plot is getting stuck. Perhaps Moffat made the angels too powerful, gave them too many abilities. The goals vs. barrier structure seems to be resting on too many intangible ideas, and the protagonists are left without solid courses of action to pursue. The final struggle is still aiming for frights too much, and not delivering enough exciting action for my tastes.
A big part of the problem comes from combat soldiers PLANNING to tackle Angels with guns.... exactly what do they think they can accomplish with guns against stone angels? How did they ever expect to be able to neutralize the one angel they were going after, instead of getting themselves into trouble? My suspension of disbelief doesn't work when enemies are ridiculously made all powerful. Surely a good idea for taking an angel out could come into play at a fairly early stage here, along with a proper reason for its use to be limited or hampered in some way. As it stands, the protagonists are a little too useless in the face of an enemy they deliberately sought out.
Anyway, this only really becomes a problem when things drag a bit during the last quarter of the story. When the time for tension is up, Moffat pulls off a very clever and fairly satisfying ending, following up with many good wrap-up scenes.
There is a controversial coda scene here, and I agree with Moffat that it would be strange indeed if that sort of thing NEVER happened on the show, so here's an example, finally. I'm not as keen on the base-code of the universe clue which seems a bit silly. Thumbs up for the additional "DVD extra" scene as well, as this idea deserved a proper follow up.
I do confess the writing credits had me slightly worried at this point in the season though. Four out of five episodes written by Steven Moffat.... I feared another bout of the head writer hogging the writing position, as had happened too often with Russell T. Davies, particularly on his first year with Christopher Eccleston. But I needn't have worried. The variety of writers who should have come up with something better in place of "The Beast Below" (story no. 209), would soon balance things out for the rest of the season. Too bad they couldn't find another alien planet though.
This story has become available on DVD.
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Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes only feature the plain episodes.
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