Best DOCTOR WHO DVD release ever? Undoubtedly. Best archive TV DVD release ever? Very probably. If the worlds of ?lassic?DOCTOR WHO and modern DOCTOR WHO are ever going to collide, this is where the collision is likely to occur. New converts to the adventures of the apparently-indestructible Time Lord may well have been entranced by the glitzy exploits of Christopher Eccleston/David Tennant and his companion Billie Piper. But were they entranced enough to want to go back to 1963, right back to where it all began ?in creaky black-and-white and with a ?,000 an episode budget? Will today? fans, all high and heady on Slitheen and Sycorax and the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Whatsit Empire be able to cope with the slightly-less hi-tech adventures of an irascible white-haired old geezer in a frock coat and a couple of stuffy post-war school teachers?

It? a damn shame if the newbies don? avail themselves of the chance to relive DOCTOR WHO? glorious origins, especially now they?e available, freshly-scrubbed and looking like they were filmed yesterday, in this exceptionally well-presented three DVD collection. These thirteen episodes may have a more languid pace than we?e used to today ?some scenes go on so long it? hard to remember when they started ?but the drama has lost none of its punch over the intervening forty-odd years. These three serials now look so good it? not difficult to transport yourself back to those cold, austere winter nights in 1963 and imagine what it must have been like for the audience as they tuned in to this off-beat, weird new family serial, a show which was quite unlike anything they? ever seen before or, let? be honest, they ever saw afterwards.

Although the second story, Terry Nation? ?he Daleks? is the story which sealed DOCTOR WHO? place in television history forever, there? much to recommend in the first adventure, ?n Unearthly Child? The first episode is particularly outstanding ?its story needs no repeating here, I? sure ?and the performances by Russell and Hill as the two bewildered teachers investigating a mystery which will change their lives, Ford as the titular schoolgirl, all weird hand-gestures, speed-reading and big oval eyes, and, of course, Hartnell as the man himself, the template the rest of them have all worked from, are astonishingly convincing. When the TARDIS hurriedly leaves the 1960s at the end of the episode and then pitches up in a windswept, desolate prehistoric landscape, it? clear that we?e off on the trip of a lifetime ?a trip which doesn? look likely to end anytime soon. The rest of the story, whilst not as captivating, has its moments, although many of them are characterised by grunting caveman squabbling over the secret of fire. But there are some notable moments, including a brutal fight between cavemen and some early instances of ruthlessness from the Doctor, moments which were rarely to be repeated as the character softened and became more ?randfatherly?

The legend of DOCTOR WHO really begins in the fifth episode ?or rather, the sixth ?when the Daleks appear for the very first time. It? a tribute to Ray Cusick? design that the Daleks look much the same now as they did then and they?e rarely been better than they are here, in their debut. Trapped in the confines of their city on the planet Skaro, the mutated Dalek creatures, locked in their claustrophobic travel machines, are terrified of anything which doesn? look like them and will stop at nothing to erase all other humanoid life from their post-apocalyptic planet. The first three or four episodes are absolutely enthralling, depicting a thoroughly alien and unrelentingly hostile world as the Doctor and his reluctant companions are trapped in the clinical confines of the Dalek city, suffering from radiation poisoning. The story flags a bit thereafter, degenerating into a more routine ?ebels-versus-baddies?scenario and the show? budget can? stretch to the climactic finale the story clearly demands (see the 1965 Peter Cushing reimagining for that!) but the story remains a powerful one and the Daleks have lost none of their early impact despite the subsequent over-exposure they suffered after this early success. It? sobering, too, to imagine the impact this story made back in 1964 ?aliens struggling for survival on a strange world. New series mastermind Russell T Davies once baulked at the idea of a modern audience buying into the drama of the Zog people of the planet Zog under attack by the Zog Monster. Where? the human interest, he demanded? Well, it didn? seem to bother the 1960s audience when they got caught up in the turmoil of the planet Skaro?n

The final two episodes presented here are the weakest but are interesting as a cheesy diversion. Written as a cost-saving filler (with only the TARDIS interior set and the regular cast required), ?dge of Destruction?is a bit of nonsense about the TARDIS apparently out of control, causing the travellers to behave a bit oddly. The story has a childishly-inept denouement but it allows us to get to know them all, and the TARDIS too, just a little better.

DOCTOR WHO ?THE BEGINNING is pretty much an essential purchase whether you?e a long-time fan or somebody who only climbed aboard the TARDIS for the first times a few months ago. Hugely enjoyable.

THE DISCS: The episodes are beautifully restored and cleaned-up but it? the special features which make this release such a stand-out. Simply put, it? packed to the gills. The 53-minute documentary ?rigins? on disc three, is the best retelling of the beginning of the series I?e ever come across in any media. Intelligently put together with talking head interviews, contemporary footage, behind-the-scenes memos etc, it? pretty much the finest documentary I?e ever seen on a DVD. Briefer, but no less enjoyable, are similar features on the interior of the TARDIS, the creation of the Daleks and the making of ?dge of Destruction? The first episode is presented in its pilot form and re-edited pilot, there are a smattering of commentaries, a fascinating photo-only reconstruction of the missing fourth story ?arco Polo?which boils a sprawling seven-part story down into an easily-digestible thirty minute audio with pictures. Photo galleries and a title sequence test reel with the original DOCTOR WHO theme behind it completes an exhaustive, generous package. Just brilliant.]]>

More to explorer