BLU-RAY REVIEW: DOCTOR WHO – 50TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTOR’S EDITION / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: SAUL METZSTIEN, NICK HURRAN, JAMIE PAYNE, TERRY MCDONOUGH / SCREENPLAY: STEVEN MOFFAT, MARK GATISS / STARRING: MATT SMITH, DAVID TENNANT, JOHN HURT / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
As Doctor Who powers into its new era with Peter Capaldi making his mark as the new Doctor, here’s a lavishly presented new 4 DVD/Blu-ray set which mops up the various episodes and assorted bits’n’pieces which celebrated the show’s momentous 50th anniversary and ushered in the end of the Matt Smith era last year. Although there’s little here that’s new even to the most casual fan, it’s undeniably an attractive package which brings together a motley collection of stories, documentaries, spin-off minisodes and Mark Gatiss’ delightful ‘origins of Doctor Who’ drama which makes its Blu-ray debut here.
The Doctor Who episodes really need little further introduction or analysis. It’s excusable for the show to become self-obsessed in its anniversary year and the three ‘Doctor’ episodes which comprise the core of the set are, hopefully, as navel-gazing as the series is ever going to get. Series 7 finale ‘Name of the Doctor’ sees the resolution of companion Clara’s ‘impossible girl’ arc and then teases the arrival of John Hurt’s War Doctor. Alarmingly, the anniversary special ‘Day of the Doctor,’ which united Matt Smith and his predecessor David Tennant, loses much of its lustre in rewatching and the less said about Smith’s boring dog’s dinner swansong ‘Time of the Doctor’ the better.
But An Adventure in Space and Time is the jewel in the crown here. Gatiss’ economical and lovingly crafted script dramatises Doctor Who’s genesis back in 1963 and it’s a beautiful and often wistful piece of work, a love-letter to a TV phenomenon. In truth there was probably little more drama in the creation of Doctor Who than in most other TV shows. Personality clashes, temperamental stars, unsympathetic outside influences putting their fingers in the pie - most TV series could tell a similar tale. Space and Time hangs its hat on the ebullience of creator Sidney Newman, the mild furore caused by the appointment of 28-year-old Verity Lambert as its producer (and a woman!) and William Hartnell’s notorious irascibility and the eventual ill-health which forced him out of the show he adored. It’s gorgeously and sympathetically mounted and its final scene can’t help but bring a tear to even the most jaded eye.
Beyond the episodes and Space and Time itself, it’s all about the special features, and nearly everything you might want from the anniversary year is here. Eighth Doctor Paul McGann’s shock return in minisode ‘Night of the Doctor' appears alongside ‘The Last Day’, another brief dramatic ‘online only’ interlude. Episode ‘behind the scenes’ features abound, joined by BBC2’s Science of Doctor Who and BBC3’s Ultimate Guide and the 2013 Doctor Who Prom. Also making its debut here is one of the greatest highlights of the anniversary year as Peter Davison’s brilliant ‘The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot’ arrives on shiny disc at last. This chronicles the attempts of Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and, briefly, Paul McGann, to inveigle themselves onto the Cardiff set of the anniversary special after having been apparently ignored by the production team. Warm-hearted, good-natured, hilarious and occasionally caustic, ‘The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot’ alone makes the 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition a must-have.
Some might be frustrated that Matthew Sweet’s excellent BBC2 Culture Show special ‘Me, You and Doctor Who’ hasn’t made the cut (but then neither, thankfully, have Blue Peter’s excitable contributions) but the comprehensive collection of deleted scenes, special trailers, documentaries and even previously unseen footage from the anniversary special cast read-through makes its omission considerably more palatable. It’s a package which neatly and finally wraps up not only the anniversary celebrations but also the era of Smith‘s eleventh Doctor.