BLU-RAY REVIEW: Doctor Who The Complete Fifth Series
A new doctor for a new generation...
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Doctor Who has been a staple of British science-fiction since 1963, with more than 760 episodes (and counting!). The show has had varying degrees of popularity in the U.S. over the years, but it was really the new generation of Doctor Who starting in 2005 that caught the attention of Americans on the then “Sci-Fi Channel” and subsequently BBC America. With its fifth Series (essentially British for “season”) completed and the sixth on its way next year after the usual Christmas special, Doctor Who fever has fully taken hold on this side of the pond. It’s the perfect time then for BBC’s release of Doctor Who The Complete Fifth Series on DVD and Blu-ray!
If you’re unfamiliar with Doctor Who, here’s a quick rundown. The show follows the adventures of the last of the Time Lords, an effectively immortal humanoid called simply “the Doctor.” His people, the Gallifreyans, were extinguished in the great Time War against a race of alien cyborgs called Daleks. Ever since, the Doctor has traveled the universe and time stream in his iconic vessel the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space), which due to a broken chameleon circuit resembles an old-fashioned British police box. Decidedly lonely at heart, the Doctor periodically swings by present day Earth to pick up a “companion,” someone to travel with him and share in his wild adventures. One last thing; in a stroke of absolutely brilliant writing, the Doctor regenerates when killed, coming back to full health in a new body and with a somewhat new personality. This has allowed the series to continue far beyond the lifespan of its actors (especially important for British TV in which seasons and show lifetimes are generally much shorter).
In 2005 Doctor Who started fresh with Christopher Eccleston in the lead role. His time was short at only season, and he was succeeded by David Tennant, the man most credit with the explosion of Who popularity. But even he had to move on eventually, and so it was that in the final episode of the Fourth Series he regenerated, being replaced by actor Matt Smith. It was a somewhat controversial move, casting the youngest actor as the Doctor ever. Americans especially were hesitant about a new lead actor, having only just recently (by their TV standards) come to embrace Tennant. We never should have worried though, because showrunner Steven Moffat knocked it out of the park with a fantastic Fifth Series!
The new Blu-ray set comes in a really snazzy package, with an outer cardboard box decorated with a lenticular cover showing the Doctor, companion Amy Pond, and the TARDIS. The back panel has a ton of information about the season, along with appropriately exciting stills. The interior disc packaging is patterned after the Pandoricum with that device’s graphics on the front and back, along with the new Doctor Who logo and a quote respectively. Inside is a bi-fold cover with cool art and a list of the set’s contents and a foreword by Steven Moffat. Each disc has a different character on it: Amy Pond, Winston Churchill, Rory Williams, Vincent van Gogh, River Song, and the Doctor. Also included in the package are three cards featuring cool art of the Doctor & Amy, the TARDIS, and an orange Dalek.
The Fifth Series consists of 13 episodes that span quite an adventure. It starts off with a very endearing story of the newly regenerated Doctor getting to know himself and a young girl who will later become his companion. Together they travel to the distant future when humanity survives on a spaceship with a dark secret (The Beast Below), the past of 17th Century Venice (The Vampires of Venice) and World War II London (Victory of the Daleks), and all manner of times and places in between! In keeping with Moffat’s writing and style the episodes really run the gamut of emotions from lighthearted humor in the Eleventh Doctor (especially as the Doctor learns about himself by trying various food combinations) to the really creepy and scary (the return of the Weeping Angels in a two-parter is sure to give you nightmares) to the heart-wrenchingly sad (try not to tear up at Vincent and the Doctor). Of course, there are also fantastic locales, cool aliens, exciting action, and stories that will keep you guessing.
Beyond the 13 episodes, the Complete Fifth Series on Blu-ray has a number of cool extras. In-Vision Commentaries on six episodes reveal all sorts of cool secrets, while the collected “Doctor Who Confidential” gives you inside looks into every single episode. Monster Files break down the Daleks, Weeping Angels, Silurians, and the Alliance, while out-takes and video diaries let you get to know the cast and crew even better. Finally, exclusive to the DVD and Blu-ray releases are two “Meanwhile in the TARDIS” shorts, newly filmed scenes written by Steven Moffat that fill in some blanks between episodes. It’s all pretty entertaining, especially for hardcore fans who want to see everything!
The Doctor Who Complete Fifth Series is a really fantastic set. Not only is the show excellent, but everything looks fantastic on Blu-ray! New to the franchise? You’re in luck as the Fifth Series is actually one of the most approachable in a long time; it’s only the second time since 2005 that a season starts with both a new Doctor AND a new companion. New viewers will discover the universe of the show right along with the main characters, while long-time fans will enjoy the differing perspectives they offer. Effects are top of the line for British TV, which is very good and at times approaches what you’d see on big budget films. Finally, there’s a great array of aliens in this season including both old favorites (Weeping Angels, Daleks, and more!) and new additions (the decidedly ocular Atraxi, Star Whale, Saturnynians, and more). The Complete Fifth Season on Blu-ray is available at all major outlets now (Amazon has it for about $61). Get yours today!
Review and Photos by Scott Rubin
Review Sample Courtesy of BBC America