Aired 21 November – 26 November 2009
Following the rather interesting animated experiment of ‘The Infinite Quest,’ Doctor Who explores the animated realm once more with ‘Dreamland,’ as David Tennant’s time as the Doctor nears its close. ‘Dreamland’ initially aired as one twelve-minute episode followed by five daily six-minute episodes, but despite that brief episodic format similar to its predecessor, it is a much more fluid and traditional tale that works just as well together as separately.
Roswell, New Mexico is perhaps the most well-trodden setting for science fiction stories on all of Earth, and so it seems inevitable that the Doctor would finally end up there at some point. Little time is wasted in setting up the story as, before the opening credits even roll, an alien spaceship is seen crashing on 13 June 1947. The Doctor arrives some eleven years later, allowing for all of the initial hysteria to die down and subsequent years of mystery and folklore to be built off-screen. In grand Doctor Who fashion, it takes little time for the Doctor and his companions of the piece, a local waitress named Cassie and her boyfriend Jimmy Stalkingwolf, to be thrown into the middle of a story full of aliens and both military and government intrigue as the insect-like Viperox’s deal with the military is revealed.
In many ways, ‘Dreamland’ improves upon everything that ‘The Infinite Quest’ attempted. The speech mannerisms of the Tenth Doctor are captured perfectly, although obviously the frenetic motions simply cannot be duplicated. The pacing is also much more measured and tempered, the majority of its running time spent in essentially one location, and the story flows much more fluidly as a result. Unlike ‘The Infinite Quest’ where scenery and characters changed every few minutes, ‘Dreamland’ affords viewers the time to get to know the supporting cast, and the performances are all generally quite strong. Georgia Moffett’s Cassie and Tim Howar’s Jimmy are brought to life very well as the inquisitive companions of the piece, Jonathan Milligan brings a suitable air of of stern authority as Colonel Stark, and David Warner is fittingly over the top as Lord Azlok.
The one downfall of ‘Dreamland’ is the animation itself, not only because the Tenth Doctor’s manic action can’t be reproduced but because any movement is somewhat unnaturally jerky and all faces seem to lack any expressive abilities. Still, the animation itself is in a quasi-3D style that is uniquely enjoyable, and it really helps brings the backgrounds to life. The adventure mystery itself regarding the stereotypical gray Roswell aliens and the Viperox is wonderfully done, and David Tennant is unsurprisingly on top form, but the stilted motions of the characters take away from the realism that the script and performances otherwise portray. With some tweaks, ‘Dreamland’ could easily work as a live-action adventure; as it is, it’s perfectly suitable for a one-off animated special that fits in with the overall stylings and tone of the proper series perfectly, one last adventure for David Tennant before his final farewell without having to tie into the despair of the impending regeneration story arc.