Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on December 6th, 2011
“On every world wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact midpoint, everybody stops and turns and hugs. As if to say, “Well done! Well done, everyone! We’re halfway out of the dark.” Back on Earth, we call this Christmas, or the Winter Solstice. On this world, the first settlers called it the Crystal Feast. You know what I call it? I call it expecting something for nothing!”
In 2005 the BBC decided to bring back the gone-but-never-forgotten character. Christopher Eccleston would become the ninth Doctor, and a brand new series was started. The Doctor was revived in a more traditional hour long episodic format. Gone were the cheap f/x, and now with the use of CGI and a more respectable budget, Dr. Who could be given the high-end treatment it deserved. But would all this new slick production be able to retain the magic of the original? As it turns out, much of that charm remains, and a brand new generation has gained access to Dr. Who. Sadly, Eccleston would retain the part for only a year. In the second season David Tennant would take over the role. It is this tenth Doctor who has changed twice more to the one you’ll find in this sixth season (or series as the British like to call them). The old theme is back but far more modernized and performed by the National Orchestra of Wales.
Matt Smith grows into the Doctor role with this, his second full season as the character. This is also the second season in which Steven Moffat has the show’s reins as show running. There’s no question that he brings a more epic style to the series and you’ll find that this season the locations and stories are bigger than ever. This is also the first season in which there is a running story or puzzle that needs to be figured out. Certainly, there had been running issues and themes before, but without giving away any spoilers, this season has a very definite beginning, middle and end that are closely intertwined. I rather liked the whole idea even if it did make this season necessary to watch in order and with as much rapid succession as possible. That makes this complete season release a welcome way in which to enjoy the season. If you fell for the half-season idea when part one was released because you just couldn’t wait, you ended up having to wait for some crucial resolutions. For those of us who did wait, this release is a fine reward indeed.
I don’t like to reveal spoilers in these pages so I won’t give you a rundown of the episodes. That information is too readily available, if you really want it. I will offer a few nice highlights in the season six stories, however. Amy Pond (Gillian) and Rory Williams (Darvill) return as companions this season.
The annual Christmas episode is certainly a highlight to this season. This happens to be the best Christmas episode to date. Why on earth did it take so long to combine a little Dickens with our Doctor? This one is a wonderfully clever take on A Christmas Carol that will quickly become one of your favorite episodes ever. Other highlights include answering a call from Richard Nixon who keeps hearing from a little girl very much afraid of very real monsters. There are 17th century pirate ships along with the expected sea monsters, Hitler shows up as a bad guy (what else), a reverse Fantasy Island retreat in the form of a hotel where the rooms force you to face your greatest fears and a season-ending episode that finds the Doctor heading straight toward his own death.
Each episode of Dr. Who is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio consistent with its original broadcasts. The 1080p high-definition image is presented through an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at a good bit rate. Dr. Who certainly never looked better. The print is clean and razor-sharp. Black levels are solid. The overall tone is rather dark, so colors don’t necessarily jump from the screen, but the good detail and strong contrast allow these darker hues to retain wonderful definition throughout. When colors do pop, they pop with tremendous vibrancy. This show looks about as good as any television show in high definition I have ever seen. These releases continue to set high standards for audio and video presentations.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also pretty strong. The sound is sharp and often quite dynamic. Explosions and music cues do tend to overpower the dialog at times. The show retains the obvious stage sound that the original was known for, so words can get lost in the mix. Sometimes the music gets a bit annoying.
This set is loaded with some very nice features. Many can be found on each of the five episode discs, which include:
Audio Commentaries on select episodes
Dr. Who Confidential Features: These usually range about 15 minutes and take us behind the scenes for each of the episodes, including an hour version for the Christmas special.
Night And The Doctor: These humorous segments show us a little of the Doctor’s night antics. There are fivc of these.
Episode Prequels: These short features fill in the gaps between select episodes.
Monster Files: Again we get a look at some of the creatures of the season, including features on The Gangers, The Anti-Bodies and Cybermats.
Comic Relief Specials: There are a couple sketches from the British show Comic Relief on Doctor Who.
I’m a huge fan of the Tom Baker years, and in some ways he’ll be the only true Doctor for me. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been getting quite a kick out of the new run. The production values are actually pretty incredible. That’s not something we could boast about in the old days. This is a very different Doctor, to be sure. But for my money you just can’t beat this as some of the best science fiction on television today. How much longer will the new Doctor remain on duty? “Keep the faith.”