Doctor Who, the Complete First Season, on DVD
It just proves you can't keep a Time Lord down.
The Doctor, long-roaming representative of the great planet Gallifrey, entertained
generations of TV viewers through a variety of regenerations of Doctors.
The series started in the black and white era of television and extended
right to the beginnings of the digital age.
Then it went away, and fans mourned.
But, perhaps in the endless search for profitability, the BBC decided to
bring the Doctor back one more time, after years in limbo. They brought in
a new producer, new writers, and decided to make the series as state of the
art as budgets would allow, shooting it in widescreen and using digital special
BBC took a big risk resuscitating the Doctor, the same type of risk George
Lucas took when he restarted his Star Wars series some 26 years after the
The result? Perhaps some of the best Doctor Who ever! This is classic Doctor
Who, but updated for the new century and for new generations of kids who
have been raised on adult themes, high technology, disposable relationships,
etc. etc. etc.
Christopher Eccleston is terrific as the new Doctor, but now instead of being
merely one Time Lord he's the last of the race, since Gallifrey was destroyed
in the off years. But he's all Doctor, bright and capable and witty, with
a penchant for finding trouble (which is a good thing; otherwise why watch?).
His female companion this time is Rose Tyler, wonderfully played by
Billie Piper, a British pop singer. She's a modern gal (oops, can't
say "gal" can
we?) with a boyfriend and, at the series' opening, a job in a retail store.
The job lasts through about the first five minutes of the first episode,
time the store is destroyed. She's drawn into her adventures with the Doctor
by osmosis, but rises to the occasion beautifully. This is no shrinking
violet, as she shows by growing into her new role over the course
of the episodes.
The stories run the gamut frombringing us the classic villains the
Daleks to interstellar/intertemporal con men and everything in between.
And it all works, marvelously. This Doctor
Who was worth the wait. Too bad it took so long, though.
Our favorite episodes included the abovementioned Dalek, which sees
the last surviving "Exterminate!-or" facing off with his old nemesis
thanks to an unfortunately
stereotypical warmongering American. Who would have thought one could feel
sorry for a Dalek?
Then there's the two part The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, a creepily intriguing
tale set during the London Blitz of World War II. Watch these and you won't
soon get "Are you my Mummy?" out of your head!
This episode also introduces Captain Jack, the lovable rogue who may
or may not have stolen Rose's heart, and includes some wonderful
the angst. Perhaps the best line is when Rose questions the Doctor about
his lack of a "real name" – complaining that he's just The
Who?" she asks, eliciting guffaws from an audience that is otherwise
on the edge of its seat.
The End of the World is a nifty story set on an observation platform
where well-heeled spectators have gathered to witness the final fiery
of Earth at the hands of the sun. The villain is rather two dimensional,
but that isn't meant as a criticism. Watch it and you'll get the
Alas, Eccleston didn't stick around for the second season, and in this
set's final episode, The Parting of the Ways, we witness the next
of the Doctor. But don't worry – if the second series comes close to
the quality of this one, Who fans (Doctor, not rock
will be in for another great roller coaster ride.
The only downside, and this isn't really a downside, is that while
we love the new look and the greatly improved special effects, we
kind of miss the low budget cheesiness of the old series. They gave the show a simple charm
that's missing now. But that's more a nostalgia thing than a real
complaint, since the new show would probably not be accepted today
with such rudimentary effects.
The DVD set includes all 13 episodes from the first new season, as
well as a fifth disc, Doctor Who Confidential, a behind the scenes
the first year of the new age. It also gives you a look at the new, new
Doctor, as played by David Tennant. Will he be up to Eccleston's
standard? As of
this writing it's too early to tell, but we're certainly inclined to give
benefit of the doubt, such was the achievement of the first series.
The package is rather bizarrely designed, cramming the four "episode" discs
onto one side (in a way that's hard to get at them), with the fifth disc
the first one your hand falls to. But the episodes are presented in
widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and the
picture quality is very good – though not excellent.
Audio is available in Dolby Digital 5.1, though we didn't detect a lot of
surround. The music sounded best, but sometimes we thought the dialogue was
a tad muffled.
Each disc also contains extras such as commentaries and/or featurettes.
Doctor Who, the Complete First Series is a rare achievement. It's an
entertaining and gripping series parents can watch with their kids
and both groups can
Now bring on Season Two!
Doctor Who - The Complete First Series, from Warner Home Entertainment