I think this is about as far away from the tone of The Waters of Mars as you can get – but I suppose being an animated episode for younger viewers that’s probably a good thing. Just like with The Infinite Quest, I believe this story was originally broadcast in a handful of bitesize chunks before being strung together to make an episode around the 45 minute mark. Yet again we have the Doctor travelling by himself, coming across temporary companions for each story. There may not be an awful lot to say about this adventure so bear with me.
We get Cassie who is a waitress in a diner, played by Georgia Moffett, having played the Doctor’s daughter in the last series. Moffett does a decent job of an American accent and sounds different enough from her last appearance to be unrecognisable. Then there’s Jimmy who….eats at diners? The point is that we really don’t find out anything about either of these characters. In fact we learn more about the invading aliens than we do about the companions, and in that respect it put me in mind of classic Doctor Who stories. The guy who plays Jimmy, Tim Howar is unfortunately rather monotonous and rather uninteresting to listen to. It doesn’t exactly make his character leap off the screen.
Established actor David Warner provides the voice for the main antagonist, Lord Azlok. He is probably the best voice actor in the entire production, but then he has likely recorded a lot more audio dramas than his co-stars. Lord Azlok belongs to a race known as the Viperox, large outer space insect humanoids – apparently one of the most vicious killers in the cosmos. They are gifted with very sensitive hearing which is basically ignored for most of the episode, as Cassie is able to rescue Jimmy when they are right behind a couple of Viperox, as well as them not being able to hear when characters are ‘whispering’ pretty loudly. Their appearance is fairly generic but I suppose it’s not necessarily a bad design, although for an animated adventure, you would think that they might push the limits of humanoid aliens.
Talking of the nature of the animated format, there are several sequences that may not have been easily produced in live action. For example there is a chase scene with aircraft flying after a spaceship through the desert, a huge Viperox Queen, and a fair number of interesting locations. As I may have mentioned in my thoughts on The Infinite Quest, it’s exactly what you want from an animated version of the show – stuff that isn’t otherwise achieveable in live action. The animation style itself differs from the aforementioned episode, in that it is 3D rendered as opposed to the rather 2D appearance of The Infinite Quest. That has is pros and cons, but overall I think it is more visually interesting, especially for those younger viewers. One of those down sides though, is that all of the characters look a bit like scarecrows, and most of it looks like it was produced on Sims 3 or something. The issue is that although the Doctor is very well written hear, full of quips and funny remarks, most of the Doctor Who charm has somehow been lost in the translation from live action to animated.
The story as a whole is also very action orientated, jumping from one mini set piece to another. Once again that’s presumably for the younger viewers, but it does make it feel a little all over the place, just as the previous animated episode had. Having said that, the part of the episode where the Doctor travels with the female alien to the warehouse and gets chased around by a placeholder threat just felt like complete filler – like an unnecessary side quest in a video game. They don’t even defeat that floating swarm thing, it just gets left in the warehouse to presumably pick off further victims. While it feels slightly more contained than that last animated adventure, that’s mostly because we aren’t zipping around different planets this time – we get to spend time in just a few locations.
Taking the whole production into consideration, there is no reason why it couldn’t be considered as canon, although that is down to personal preference. It contains a nod to the Tenth Doctor’s impending doom, as well as the elements of this story returning in episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures further down the line. I think that in general it achieves what it set out to do, by being an entertaining little adventure for younger fans of the show – and while it isn’t anything groundbreaking – it’s more original than the last animated episode. Therefore I’ll be awarding Dreamland with three of the alienest looking aliens ever out of ten.