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“Doctor Who: The Complete First Series”
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: BBC/ Warner
Genre: TV - Series
Release:
7/4/06
Special Features: Commentary on every episode; Interview with Christopher Eccleston on BBC Breakfast, Destroying the Lair, Making Doctor Who with Russell T. Davies, Waking the Dead: Mark Gatiss Video Diary, Laying Ghosts: The Origin of the Unquiet Dead, Deconstructing Big Ben, On Set with Billie Piper, Mike Tucker’s Mocks of Balloons, Designing Doctor Who, The Adventures of Captain jack, Doctor Who Confidential, Backstage at Christmas, Storyboard of Opening, Launch Trailers
Review:

The first series of the new Doctor Who arrives on DVD in the U.S. with plenty of bells and whistles. We get the 13 episodes from the first series in an excellent transfer along with a commentary track on every single episode of the show. Christopher Eccelston is excellent as the Doctor in a series of witty, fun adventures. Writer Russell T. Davies (“Queer as Folk”, “Touching Evil”) has recreated the Doctor by capturing the best elements of previous incarnations and putting his own spin on the material.

The first episode of the series takes off at a breakneck pace as we meet Rose (Billie Piper) a department store worker who discovers an invasion by the department store dummies (possibly the Autons although they are never called that in the episode). The sixth episode involves the return of the Daleks. Actually it’s a single Dalek as the Doctor mentions during the show that all of the Time Lords and the Daleks were destroyed with the Doctor believing he’s the only survivor of their conflict. Needless to say this isn’t a happy reunion between these two lone survivors bound by hatred and fear of each other. This single survivor has fallen into the hands of a greedy American who collects alien technology in order to backwards engineer it and sell it. There are plenty more besides that terrific episode.. The two part "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Danc es" also stands up well with a moving an powerful story. We also meet Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) another time traveler who shows up mysteriously during World War II in London. ***

The show is nicely packaged with a see through outer sleeve with the Doctor and Rose. The outside of the package is designed to look like the Tardis. It folds out to reveal all five discs as well as a booklet with an introduction by Russell T. Davies. We also get a synopsis of each episode and special features.

Image & Sound:

Overall the show looks extremely good. The contrast is solid throughout and the color is bright and vivid where it’s supposed to be (the look and color of the show varies a bit depending upon the episode, setting, etc.). Detail is extremely sharp. Audio is active and imaginatively used throughout the set. Dialogue is exceptionally clear except for one or two sequences in a couple of episodes but it’s clear that the barrage of sound was what the mixer and director intended. My only complaint is about the menu design. It’s cool as we’re taken into the Tardis and have to select the episode we want to watch from a screen but the chapters aren’t accessible via the individual episodes. You must scroll through each episode as they are all bundled together.

Special Features:

Let’s start with commentary tracks. There are 13 of them. Yep, one for every episode ranging from writer-producer Russell Davies to actors Billie Piper and John Barrowman. The only person MIA is Christopher Eccelston which is too bad I’d be interested in hearing his input on the various episodes. Perhaps he felt that the acting and episodes should speak for themselves. He does appear, however, in a TV interview for the program “BBC Breakfast”. ***

The first disc has the interview with Christopher Eccleston from BBC Breakfast where he discusses his memories of watching Doctor Who (not very many) and what attracted him to the project (writer Russell T. Davies). "Making Doctor Who with Russell T. Davies" features the writer in a video diary providing us behind-the-scenes footage from before the first read through of the show through to production. "Waking the Dead" also provides us with a video diary on the making of this episode (which features a terrific performance by Simon Callow). "Laying Ghost: The Origin of the Unquiet Dead" is also on the first disc along with trailers for the show and a storyboard of the trailers accompanied by the theme. We also get an interview with Scottish/American actor (he was born in Scotland but raised in the U.S.) John Barrowman (who plays Captain Jack Harkness). ***

The best extra here is “Doctor Who Confidential” a 3 hour documentary presented in different sections that covers the entire making of the series from conception to final execution. We also get the “Doctor Who Christmas Invasion” special as well. I’ve heard many fans complain about the price of this set (justified) but with all the extras included it’s understandable. I suspect in the future that if the set doesn’t sell well fans will get bare bones episodes. Contributing to the cost of the show is also the licensing that Warner Home Video had to pay to the BBC. No doubt a studio like Anchor Bay could have offered it for less (and so could Warner) but the set would have been lacking all the extras included here. ---

Final Words:

A terrific first “season” for the new Doctor, “Doctor Who” soars in most of the 13 episodes included here. Sure there are a couple of episodes that don’t quite measure up to the best ones (“Rose”, “Dalek”, the spooky two part “Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” and a scary and moving episode involving Charles Dickens) but this is on the whole a marvelous return to form updated for a 21st century audience. I’d highly recommend this set.

 

 
 
 
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