Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Doctor Who: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition

2013 saw the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, the much-loved BBC science fiction adventure that is now considered a worldwide phenomenon. It all began in November 1963 with its first episode “An Unearthly Child”. William Hartnell played the Doctor in his first incarnation, but since then, thanks to the fact that the Doctor can regenerate his body upon death, the character has been played by a number of actors, as he has regenerated 12 times so far. Then again, I'm sure some Whovian can school me on that number, as I'm not counting the “Meta-crisis Doctor”. But there's been a long list of actors portraying the Doctor, with the likes of Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann and David Tennant, just to name a few. But before this years Doctor, in the form of Peter Capaldi, last year the Doctor had his biggest challenge to date, one that was worthy of the 50-year anniversary.


Out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes the Doctor Who: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition. It's jammed packed full of content, and while some of it may vary in quality, it's a must-own for any Whovian or science fiction fan out there. Here's what's in the box set:

Episodes:

The Name of the Doctor: Written by Steven Moffat, this is the first episode out of the 2013 TV specials that deals with the planet of Trenzalore, the location that has been foreseen as to where the Eleventh Doctor will die. After his friends are kidnapped by The Great Intelligence (a floating digital face played by the always great Richard E. Grant) and deliberately brought to Trenzalore, the Doctor has no other choice but to follow. Featuring some great performances all round, the first appearance by the super creepy “Whisper Men” and some great imagery of the Doctor's future tomb on Trenzalore, this is a fantastic episode that brings a lot of story threads together.

The Day of the Doctor: This is it. This is the reason for the entire box-set. This episode, which is actually feature length, brings together 3 incarnations of the Doctor; the Eleventh Doctor played by Matt Smith, the Tenth Doctor played by David Tennant, and finally the fabled War Doctor; a forgotten past version of the Doctor played by film legend John Hurt. This episode focuses on “The Moment”, the point in which the War Doctor destroyed both the Daleks and Gallifrey in order to stop the Time War. Since Doctor Who's revival in 2005, much of the Doctors personality has been shaped by his actions in the Time War, and his choice to commit genocide on both sides for the greater good. A lot of episodes have been leading up to this, and it doesn't disappoint.


The Time of the Doctor: This is the Eleventh Doctor’s final adventure, and I must admit that I found it lacking in many areas. After such a fantastic adventure in The Day of the Doctor, the entire plot of this episode comes across as clunky and tired. Though I appreciate how it ties up some of the various story threads started since Matt Smith took over the role as the Doctor, casual viewers will just be confused. I've watched every episode of the series since its revival, and even I was pretty stumped at times. Still, its brilliance comes in the form of the various emotional moments in the episode, especially the entire scene that leads up to the Eleventh Doctors regeneration.

Mini-episodes:

The Night of the Doctor: Though Paul McGann only played the Doctor once on screen in the 1996 TV movie of Doctor Who, he is actually the most prolific Doctor thus far. He has played the Eighth Doctor in 70 official BBC audio dramas since 2006, so while some viewers may have forgotten about his involvement in the series, McGann has been there the whole time. The audio drama is pretty fantastic, but there has been one missing piece puzzle in the Doctor's timeline – the Eighth Doctor regenerating into the Ninth Doctor. While he technically regenerates into the War Doctor rather than the Ninth Doctor, it's good to finally see BBC give the Eight Doctor a proper send off, even if it only amounts to a 7-minute runtime. Here's to the best Doctor of them all!

The Last Day: This Doctor-less mini-episode takes place from the point-of-view of a Gallifreyan soldier protecting Arcadia, a place that is considered “the safest place of Gallifrey”. Of course, as expected that may not be the case as Arcadia eventually fell, much like the rest of Galifrey.

Documentaries:

The Ultimate Guide: A two-hour documentary that gives a broad overview of Doctor Who's long history. Through interviewing most of the previous actors who have played the Doctor, as well as current head writer Steven Moffat, this is a must-see for any Whovian or non-fan out there.

Tales from the Tardis: Essentially the same type of documentary as The Ultimate Guide, but this time from BBC America.

Farewell to Matt Smith: Another BBC America documentary that looks back on Matt Smith's 4 years as the Eleventh Doctor.

The Science of Doctor Who: Hosted by baby-faced boffin Brian Cox, this documentary delver into the real world science behind Doctor Who. It's pretty interesting stuff, and it's quite a nice change in pace compared to everything else in the box-set.


Special: 

An Adventure in Space & Time: This is probably my favourite aspect of the box-set, as it's the ultimate celebration of all things Doctor Who. Written by Doctor Who and Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss, this feature length drama focuses on the creation of Doctor Who back in the 1960's, as well as the First Doctor, William Hartnell. David Bradley (Game of Thrones, Broadchurch) plays Hartnell magnificently with both a performance that is truly authentic and incredibly touching. Visually it's also a treat too, as not only will you see classic Doctor Who villains crop up, but also a recreation of the original Tardis interior, as well as scenes from An Unearthly Child.

The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot: This half hour comedy spoof focuses on Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy and Colin Baker, three past Doctors who never got a look in for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. It's filled with other cameos; it's corny but pretty fun. Though they didn't turn up in any canonical episode over the 50th anniversary, it's nice to see these three Doctors partake in the celebrations. 

BBC Proms 2013: Last July Doctor Who made it to the Proms, the BBC's concert series of orchestral music. Blending wonderful music by series composer Murray Gold and even cameos by the stars of Doctor Who, I was overjoyed that this made into the box-set. The best part of the Proms is when "The Rings of Akhaten" is performed, which amounts to one of the best Doctor Who tributes on offer. Wonderful stuff!


Other:

Other extra content includes deleted scenes, Behind-the-scenes-footage, The Day of the Doctor cinema intros, The Day of the Doctor trailers.

Overall this box-set is a must-buy for any Doctor Who fan out there, whether they consider themselves a hardcore or casual viewer. Packed full of humour, adventure, romance and intrigue, this is certainly an adventure worth taking.

Doctor Who: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition is literally perfect and gets a time-bending 5/5.

[★★★★★]

Denis Murphy


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