Imagine a world where Winston Churchill battles deadly machines from space intent on dominating the universe, a place where Santa is a deadly menace, and a rather eccentric fellow travels about in a police call box with a rather deceptively spacious interior. To Dr. Who fans of all ages, this is all very familiar territory. I fell in love with Dr. Who as played by Tom Baker from 1974 – 1981. He was the fourth actor to portray the Doctor and arguably the most popular. With a pocket full of jelly babies and a trusty sonic screwdriver, the Doctor rather muddled his way about with a massive wool scarf around his neck, all the while solving the mysteries of the universe. It was through PBS stations in the late 70’s that Americans were first introduced to these adventures on a regular basis. Before long the Doctor would develop a cult following of sorts, particularly at college campuses. The Doctor was an alien from the planet Gallefrey. A time lord, he traveled through space and time in his TARDIS, disguised as a police call box by a chameleon device. He was accompanied by a line of companions that would serve as the representative of the audience. These women provided a place for the Doctor to bounce his ideas off of, and from time to time they would require a bit of rescuing. The show was noted for its low budget f/x and over-the-top villains. The cardboard sets often appeared as if they would collapse at any moment. All of this created more than a little bit of campy cheese. But for some reason there was a charm to the entire play that was oddly compelling. To ensure longevity, the character was able to regenerate when faced with death. The new Doctor would not only look different, but he would sport an entire new range of mannerisms. This way the series would continue through several changes in the actor playing him. It all worked, and Dr. Who became the longest running scripted science fiction show ever in the world. Of course all good things do come to an end, and so did Dr. Who, in spite of an American television film attempt to bring the character back. But what started with Peter Cushing in a couple of films finally ended for good…
…but not so fast.
In 2005 the BBC decided to bring back the gone-but-never-forgotten character. Christopher Eccleston would become the 9th 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 10th Doctor who has changed twice more to the one you’ll find in this fifth 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 has his own quirks and appears to be one of the younger actors to play the Doctor. In this season he has quite a few memorable adventures as he deals with his own newly emerging latest personality. His new companion, Amy Pond (Gillian) has to guide the Doctor back to himself. Unfortunately, he couldn’t have changed at a worse moment, and the fate of the Earth will depend on him getting his thoughts back together. He awakens to find himself flying over 20th Century England and literally hanging out of the door to the TARDIS. Amy is only 12 years old when she first meets the Doctor and Prisoner Zero is found to have escaped. By the time adult Amy is able to help out, she will become the new companion for the season. In their adventures together they visit the far-off future where England is now as spaceship called Starship UK. Churchill faces the Daleks. The duo face the incredibly horrid Weeping Angels. These are menacing statues that only move when your back is turned. These are quite frightening indeed. Sixteenth Century Venice is the scene for yet another adventure. The city has been sealed against the plague, but someone has sinister plans for the city. They duo meet Vincent Van Gogh, who can see something no one else can see. It could spell danger. The Doctor comes face to face with an alliance of all of the man’s enemies.
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.
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 5 episode discs, which include:
Audio Commentaries on select episodes
Video Diaries: Many episodes feature a short look behind the scenes with cast members in this video-diary format which has become quite trendy. They are more amusing than informative, but that’s not a bad thing.
Deleted Scenes And Outtakes: The usual assortment of things not found in the episode and usually cut for good reason.
Monster Files: These short features give you a closer look at some of the season’s biggest enemies.
This is not the Dr. Who I remember in so many ways I won’t even attempt to list them here. Yet in some ways it is everything Dr. Who was for me. Davies has a connection to the original show, so he certainly injects a lot of that into this series. You have to blink your eyes a few times to get orientated properly, but eventually this show takes you where you were hoping to go. I don’t like Matt Smith or Tennant as much as I did Eccleston, but he’s growing on me. Like most of you I came to the new show via Sci-Fi Channels rebroadcasts and not the BBC original airings. Here in America it’s our only choice, and it presents a problem. I read so much about this stuff, and what I read is usually a year ahead of what I can view. If you’re a Who fan, give the new series a try, but start with season (series) 1. You’ll find it “fascinating and very clever”.