The Infinite Quest

Doctor WhoAfter capturing the notorious galactic criminal Baltazar, the Doctor and his companion Martha learn that he has escaped from prison and is seeking data tapes that will lead to the location of the age-old space ship The Infinite. On the ship, Baltazar will supposedly find his “heart’s desire”. In an effort to head him off, the Doctor and Martha seek out the items themselves, coming up against a space pirate, in the middle of an interplanetary war and even to the prison planet Volag-Noc, which had once held Baltazar. But all is not as it seems and the Doctor must make sure that this time, someone else doesn’t run an end game around him.

written by Alan Barnes
directed by Gary Russell
music by Murray Gold

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones), Anthony Head (Baltazar), Toby Longworth (Caw / Squawk), Liza Tarbuck (Captain Kaliko), Tom Farrelly (Swabb), Lizzie Hopley (The Mantasphid Queen), Paul Clayton (Mergreass), Steven Meo (Pilot Kelvin), Barney Harwood (Voice of Control), Stephen Greif (Gurney), Dan Morgan (Locke / Warders)

Broadcast from April 2 through June 30, 2007 (parts 1-12 shown during Totally Doctor Who; part 13 shown in omnibus airing only)

Notes: Anthony Head previously appeared in the 10th Doctor story School Reunion and several Doctor Who audio dramas, and narrates the weekly behind-the-scenes series Doctor Who Confidential. The Infinite Quest takes place in an undisclosed period during series 3.

LogBook entry & review by Philip R. Frey

Review: The Infinite Quest is Doctor Who’s second fully animated story, following the web series The Scream of the Shalka (and two animated segments of The Invasion). The animation this time was handled by Firestep Animation, a company formed by two ex-members of animation studio Cosgrove Hall, who had handled previous Doctor Who animation projects. As such, the look and feel of The Infinite Quest doesn’t stray too far from what has come before. This is both a good thing and a bad thing.

The good part is that it is consistent with previous animations. If you’ve seen Shalka or the animated portions of The Invasion, there’s nothing here that’s going to throw you. While Firestep has ramped up the details and they utilize more 3D effects (especially on spaceships and such), the character animations still consist for the most part of one or two key images, with slight variations thereof. That’s where the bad comes in. As nice as the work is, it still doesn’t advance things very far beyond what we saw in Shalka. Sure, the frame rate is better, but there’s still a lot of head tilting and people standing terribly still. It beats what we saw on Star Trek: The Animated Series, but more effective animation was going on in the Boba Fett sequence in the Star Wars Holiday Special. I refuse to believe that they can’t do better than this in this day and age. They may be using Flash, but it should’t look like they’re using it.

The Infinite QuestLuckily, The Infinite Quest is saved by a pretty decent, if formulaic, story. The “quest” is an old story type (Doctor Who himself has been doing it as far back as The Keys Of Marinus), and its goal-oriented nature allows for visiting a variety of locations. If there’s anything wrong with the way it’s handled here, it’s that they don’t do enough exploring; only four locations, really. But those locations are varied and are rendered pretty darn well, so it’s not really a big problem.

The characters are another place where The Infinite Quest does a decent job. The Doctor and Martha are obviously comfortable with each other (with nary a romantic angle in sight) and they lend themselves well to animation. Baltazar makes for a decent villain and the questionable loyalties of Caw make him a properly complex minor Doctor Who character. In fact, the only character I really didn’t like was Captain Kaliko. Nothing irritates me more than a highly stylized futuristic character. I just can’t buy any person in the far future talking with an exaggerated pirate accent, even if she is a pirate. It betrays the story’s origins as kids’ entertainment.

I watched the story in its original form, that of 13 approximately 3 minute episodes. Each one is really separate, with full-blown cliffhangers on many of the episodes. Apparently there is also an omnibus edition and I can’t say how much that would change the flow, but it worked in its original configuration.

So, while The Infinite Quest doesn’t break any new ground or even up the ante visually too much, it is every bit as good a piece of Doctor Who as anything from the main series and is a bit better than its animated predecessor. It was received very well and is receiving am individual DVD release in the UK, so that’s a good sign that there may be more on the way. If this one is any indication, that can only be a good thing.