Reviews: Doctor Who Series 5: Volume 1 (DVD & Blu-ray)

DVD

Doctor Who Series 5: Volume 1 returns the Doctor to our screens with a whirlwind of frenzied brilliance. That’s right! Better than fish and chips, more comforting than afternoon tea, bigger than Prince Harry, the Beatles and cricket combined, the Doctor is the greatest export the UK has to offer. This is no understatement! Combine time travel, aliens, history, humour, action, and the result is, fundamentally, a standard Science Fiction. However, add to these elements the liberal sprinkling of an intergalactic genius and the result is Doctor Who.

Inevitably, the success or failure of Doctor Who has (at least recently) been tied to the Doctor himself. Considering the Doctor’s previous incarnation, played mercurially by David Tennant, the new Doctor (Matt Smith) had some very large shoes to fill. It was with some trepidation that I watched the last minutes of The End of Time (the fourth and last of the specials including Tennant in the lead) knowing that a new series, and thus a new Doctor was waiting in the wing. However, just like the Doctor himself, Doctor Who Series 5: Volume 1 is a familiar mix of old and new. Catering to long-standing fans of the show that has become an institution, Doctor Who Series 5: Volume 1 delivers the standard Doctor brilliance together with an altogether fresh and nuanced style.

Madcap scientist, slapstick puppet, Earth’s champion, enigmatic eccentric; these are the faces of Matt Smith’s Doctor and they are, in a word, fantastic. Where Tennant left us with a morose taste in our mouths, Smith gives us a taste sensation: fish custard. Forgive my confusing flippancy, but this metaphor holds true (read on and see!). Where Tennant rendered a very human face for the Doctor, Smith’s endeavour is marked by a strange dialectic of the startlingly human with the noticeably alien. In other words, he’s weird and I, for one, am loving it! Owing much to Tom Baker’s Doctor of the mid 70’s, Matt Smith delivers his lines with a hyper-activity that leaves his companions struggling to keep up and his audience held in wonder, anticipation, and (at times) laughter. In effect, Matt Smith makes the Doctor his own while playing a character that the viewers will not feel too uncomfortable with – a triumph in itself.

And where would the Doctor be without his companion? Doctor Who Series 5: Volume 1 introduces Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) as the Doctor’s new sidekick. Complimenting Smith’s vigorous Doctor, Gillan offers a determined, vivacious, and most importantly strong Amy Pond. And Amy Pond is no simple ornament to furnish the hood of the TARDIS. It is clear that time has been spent writing Pond into not just the first few episodes, but the series entire. What we get then is much more than a foil for the Doctor’s explanations, but a solid character whose story unfolds poignantly alongside extraterrestrial fire-fights and wacky temporal shenanigans.

As might be deduced, Doctor Who Series 5: Volume 1 finds great strength in its writing. With the inclusion of perennial favourite Stephen Moffat at the writing helm, dialogue is punchy, concepts are original, and even the compulsory inclusion of the incumbent Dalek is given a brand new coat of paint (literally). Including space-faring countries, conversations with Winston Churchill, cracks in time, monsters galore, Doctor Who Series 5: Volume 1 is, at once, genre friendly and refreshingly original. And while Doctor Who has been concisely episodic through the years, this series looks to offer an over-arching narrative, which, not only builds subtle tension, but gives the myriad stories a focus beyond their provincial 45 minutes.

Considering Doctor Who Series 5: Volume 1 as DVD is somewhat disappointing. While the episodes are of beautiful visual quality, possessed of a dramatic musical score and fabulously BBC-esque special effects, outside of the “show” there is little else. The special feature, ‘Monster File’ on the Dalek delivered by cast and crew is interesting but it stands alone, registering as a tiny foot-note; and the lack a director/writer/actor commentary is slightly depressing. So, while the Doctor Who universe suffers from no demystification from its production-bound creators, those wishing for a nuts-and-bolts explanation will be sadly disappointed.

In the end this is a given for the die-hard, a must for the fan, and a should for everyone else. Doctor Who Series 5: Volume 1 is a paradigm in giving the public what they want: the Doctor and lots of him.

Oh, and always remember that bow ties are cool!

4/5

review by Dan Baker


BLU-RAY

Unfortunately, nothing to add here in the way of extras. The picture and sound quality are both improved and if you want the perfect viewing experience it’s hard to go past the Blu-ray, however there are no extra incentives.


review by Ben Vernel


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