If you managed to resist the BBC? quick-buck vanilla DVD releases of the first new season of DOCTOR WHO, here? where you dig out your credit card and submit to the inevitable. All 13 splendid episodes of the rejuvenated SF classic over 4 discs dotted with special features with a chunky 5th disc containing ?ut Down?versions of BBC3? behind-the-scenes DOCTOR WHO CONFIDENTIAL series and, most tantalising of all, an eight-minute special looking at the making of the forthcoming Christmas special. Yum yum.
Of course you know these stories like the back of your hand and, as you also know, this new sseries barely puts a foot wrong. Season opener ?ose?has come in for some flak since it was aired for its breakneck pace, lack of plot, underused baddies and burping wheelie bin. To me it? still one of the most endlessly-rewatchable episodes of the lot because it? literally full of the joy of actually having been made! This is DOCTOR WHO and look, it? back! On the telly! Not on a CD or in a book but actually on TV with actors and special effects and everything! It? hard to imagine how the show could have been re-introduced to an intrigued British public any other way and I love the episode more every time I see it. Which is frequently. Episode two, ?he End of the World?sees the show bravely voyaging out into the far, far future, and hi-jinks amidst a delegation aboard a huge space station positioned to watch the earth? natural heat death. Fast and colourful, this is Russell T Davies at his campest, with a story full of blue-skinned children, a bitchy trampolene and mechanical killer spiders. Glorious. The delights roll on as the series progresses, from Mark Gatiss? gorgeous and atmospheric Victorian ?host?story, ?he Unquiet Dead? ?liens of London/World War Three? the lively and ambitious two-parter which features the FX tour de force of a spaceship demolishing the Big Ben tower, Rob Shearman? powerful ?alek? Paul Cornell? emotive ?ather? Day?and Steven Moffat? big screen scary wartime romp ?he Empty Child/The Doctor Dances? Christopher Eccleston overcomes his own natural Northern dourness to create a version of the Doctor we?e not seen before; he? manic and introspective, carrying the burden of being the last of his own kind, the only survivor of a Time War which finally wiped out the Time Lords but also, he believed, the greatest power for evil in the universe. But then, in the blink of an eye, he can be witty and disarming, giving the Doctor a new romantic edge. Billie Piper is the series?greatest revelation, creating in Rose Tyler a companion with her own mind and personality, a girl quite clearly in love with the Doctor and yet not afraid to speak her mind when their very different moralities come into conflict. As the series roles on, Captain Jack Harkness (Barrowman), bi-sexual space wide boy, is thrown into the mix to create a whole new dynamic to power the second half of the series. And what a second half! ?oom Town?is an underrated character peace exploring the nature of the Doctor? own right to be judge, jury and executioner and while Davies? epic two-parter ?ad Wolf/Parting of the Ways?tries to cram in too many ideas, too much plot and a little bit too much mystical techno-babble, there? no denying the sheer visual thrill of seeing thousands of Daleks streaming across the screen as images we? only ever seen in 1960s comic strips finally come alive. Don? forget to shed a tear in those final moments as, in a typical act of self-sacrifice, the good Doctor acts to save his companion? life and does so at the cost of one of his own.
DOCTOR WHO? success confounded everyone. They said it couldn? be done, they said there was no audience for a Saturday night family drama, let alone a science-fiction drama. They were wrong. DOCTOR WHO for 2005 was a triumph in every sense of the world. Welcome back, Doctor. Stick around, why don? you?
THE DISCS: 5 discs in one well-designed but slightly cumbersome TARDIS-shaped box. Extras are numerous but the hardcore might have liked a bit more. Highlights include ?ackstage at Christmas? Billie Piper? own video diary of production, Russell T takes us through the early days of production in his own video diary, Mark Gatiss agonising over the creation of his episode and there are features on design, effects and a feature on Captain Jack where actor John Barrowman tells us he? love to see Jack get his own series. Pah. It?l never happen. Every episode is accompanied by an entertaining cast/crew commentary but it? the behind-the-scenes tracks which are the meatiest, with Davies, executive producer Julie Gardner and producer Phil Collinson providing infectiously enthusiastic chats which are only frustrating by references to deleted scenes which aren? featured on the DVD (although everyone goes to great pains to point out that ?hat?l be a great deleted scene for the DVD!? or else behind-the-scenes scandal too time-sensitive to talk about just yet – such as the ?raught?first night of filming on the streets of Cardiff. All in all, a heady collection and a marvellous souvenir of a stunning TV series.