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    Oct 2001
    Fredericksburg, VA

    BLU-RAY REVIEW: Doctor Who Series Seven Part One

    Relive The Recent Half Season Just In Time For Christmas...

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    We here at are big fans of Doctor Who, but that’s not very unique any more now that the show has hit record popularity here in the United States. The British science-fiction juggernaut began all the way back in 1963, and it’s never been more mainstream around the world than it is now. Right now we’re halfway through “Series Seven” (the current numbering starts with the 2005 season), a season split across 2012 and 2013. Just in time for fans to catch up on the latest adventures of the Doctor and his companions is Series Seven Part One on Blu-ray and DVD, a perfectly timed release just weeks ahead of the new Christmas special now airing on the same day internationally!

    If you’re still unfamiliar with Doctor Who (seriously, do you live in a cave?), 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” or two, 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). The current Doctor is the eleventh, portrayed by actor Matt Smith, and after a couple of seasons under his belt he’s really grown into the role and made it his.

    The Series Seven Part One Blu-ray collection has relatively simple packaging, somewhat stripped down from what we’re used to seeing for the full seasons (of course, after the release of Part Two next year expect a full Series Seven set somewhere down the line). The standard-sized Blu-ray case features the striking press image from “Asylum of the Daleks” on its cover, and the back has a variety of stills from the first six episodes surrounding a brief description and breakdown of the set’s contents. The series’ episodes thus far are distributed on two discs, each emblazoned with another still.

    2012’s segment of Series Seven included five episodes, and they pack quite a rollercoaster into just a few hours. It started off big with the long-awaited return of the Daleks, who didn’t appear at all in Series Six! “Asylum of the Daleks” not only featured the perennial Who favorite, but saw them seeking out the Doctor for help in a bizarre turnabout. Needless to say, not everything is as it seems and what the Doctor finds on the planet Skaro sets the stage for what’s sure to be their next encounter. “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” delivers exactly what it promises with a fun romp that includes lots of silliness and even a 2001 reference. This episode also notably introduces Rory’s father Brian who we’ll see again. The Doctor and Ponds return to America in “A Town Called Mercy,” discovering the awful secret behind the cyborg Gunslinger’s attack on a small Wild West town. Small black cubes appear out of nowhere all over the Earth in “The Power of Three,” and of course it’s up to the Doctor to uncover their purpose and halt the plot behind them. Finally, “The Angels Take Manhattan” brings back none other than the Weeping Angels in another story set in the city that never sleeps. This tear-jerker also brings back River Song and presents the Doctor’s farewell to the Ponds before he gets a new companion in the upcoming Christmas special (spoilers!).

    In only five episodes the first part of series seven really takes the viewers to a lot of places, both literally and figuratively. It’s interesting that the Doctor continues to visit the United States as much as he does, with two out of these five episodes taking place here (“Mercy” was filmed in Spain while parts of “Angels” were shot in Manhattan). The comedy of “Dinosaurs” and the first half of “Three” balances nicely with the gravitas of the first and last episodes, and among Who fans there won’t be a dry eye in the house at the mid-season finale. Some interesting faces pop up in series seven, notably Jenna-Louise Coleman as Oswin in “Daleks” (she’s playing the Doctor’s next companion), Rupert Graves (“Sherlock”) as John Riddell in “Dinosaurs,” Ben Browder (“Farscape,” “Stargate SG-1”) as Isaac in “Mercy,” and Michael McShane in “Angels.”

    For only half a season, this Blu-ray actually has some pretty fun extras, several of them representing additional in-universe stories. A series of “Pond Life” shorts gives you snippets of life between episodes from Amy and Rory’s point of view, and they’re quite funny (especially the one with the Ood butler). “The Making of the Gunslinger” takes you behind the scenes of the alien science division responsible for the titular character in the episode “A Town Called Mercy,” and “Asylum of the Daleks Prequel” sets the stage for the season’s premiere and how the Doctor first became involved in the plot. “The Science of Doctor Who” feature discusses just that, how science is portrayed in the show and how much of it is based on reality, while “Doctor Who at Comic Con” follows the actors and creators of the show during their visit to the pop culture extravaganza this year.

    With BBC spreading out the production and airing of this season, owning the Blu-ray or DVD is going to come in very handy once the second part starts up. It’s also nice to catch up on the episodes leading up to the Christmas special in which we’ll finally meet the Eleventh Doctor’s first new companion since his first episode! Series Seven, Part One is currently available everywhere, and I highly recommend going with the Blu-ray set as it looks amazing (even better than the HD presentation on BBC America). Get it now and prepare for new Who in just a couple weeks!

    Review by Scott Rubin

    Review Sample Courtesy of BBC America

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