Doctor Who: The Collection Season 12 Blu-ray Review

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Tom Baker, an aloof commanding presence

by Simon Crust Jul 7, 2018 at 11:48 AM

  • Movies review


    Doctor Who: The Collection Season 12 Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £49.99

    Doctor Who Season 12 Review

    Today, the Kaled race is ended, consumed in a fire of war. But from its ashes will rise a new race. The supreme creature, the ultimate conqueror of the universe, the Dalek!

    By 1974, Doctor Who had been a main staple of British Saturday evening TV for 11 years. It had had three actors in the main role, a host of talented producers, directors and creative personnel from various departments pulling together to make the best show they could despite restrictive budgets and scheduling nightmares. At the end of series 11, the entire production team was about to be replaced; stories were shifting, and the lead actor, John Pertwee, felt it was his time to go as well. This meant that the search was on for a new face. It also brought with it many logistical problems in what stories to tell and how to keep the show alive what with all the uncertainties for the new team and unknown actor.

    To help series 12 along, the outgoing team set up a story arc that brought back several well-known monsters (Sontarans, Cyber-men and Daleks), as well as introducing a couple of new ones (Wirren, Giant robot) written by well-established writers so the new producer (Philip Hinchcliffe) would have a head start. Little did the BBC know that this new team, and the new actor, would herald a golden age for Doctor Who, and some of the best stories of its entire run would be made. The stars aligned and with a darker edge looming on the horizon, hints of what were to come were lain here in series 12; nothing like it had been seen before, and we would never see its like again.

    The actor chosen to take the mantle was Tom Baker, an aloof commanding presence that dominated the show for 7 years and made the man world famous – he is my personal favourite, my Doctor, and my adoration of him far out-ways his actual talent. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Tom on several occasions, he is always kind and generous; his talk of strong beer and a good book striking a chord with me. But in 1974 it was a gamble for the BBC, and an unknown quantity for the writing staff who knew nothing about him – hence the introduction of the character Harry to play the more dynamic aspects of the Doctor, something that Tom didn’t really require.

    A host of well known monsters returned

    Story 1 centres around a giant Robot, controlled by a nefarious Think Tank hell bent on taking over the world. An auspicious start to the series and a reasonable debut for Tom – perhaps his best line giving a clue as to how he would play the part, “If I’m right, and I invariably am…”

    Story 2, The Ark in Space, is one of my favourite stories, introduces the parasitic Wirrn into a set that not only allowed the story to be set entirely in the studio, saving costs for the rest of the series, but was to be used again for another later story; ingenious!

    Story 3, The Sontaran Experiment, was shot entirely on location using Outside Broadcast videotape instead of film and is somewhat anomalous for its sadistic tone, a sign of things to come!

    Story 4, Genesis of the Daleks, is the fan favourite and number one story, and it is easy to see why, harsh, evil and cruel, Davros the Dalek creator poured his malevolence into his creation and a super monster was born.

    Story 5, Revenge of the Cybermen, sees the second fan favourite return after an absence of 7 years, the story is rather humdrum, but bringing these monsters back was another stroke of fortune.

    And through it all you have Tom’s performance, ably assisted by companions Sarah Jane (Liz Sladen) and Harry (Ian Marter), and Hinchcliffe’s producer behind the scenes guiding the series into greatness.

    Doctor Who Season 12 Blu-ray Picture

    Doctor Who Classic Series 12 Doctor Who Season 12 Blu-ray Picture
    All the discs in this set are presented in the original broadcast ratio of Fullscreen 1.33:1, encoded with the MPEG 4 compression and are up-scaled to 1080/50i resolution.

    The original clean-up of the DVDs was undertaken by The Doctor Who Restoration Team, a small group of Doctor Who fans who work within the television industry, and who originally conceived of an experimental procedure to restore The Daemons (Jon Pertwee story of series 10) from monochrome back to colour. Its success allowed the team to win the contract to restore and encode every DVD release to date.

    The original clean-up was pretty good, but this new release has a definite up-turn in every regard. Detail is noticeable sharper for skin texture, clothing weaves, edges and set dressings. Aliasing has all but been eliminated, probably a combination of greater resolution and better compressive techniques. Colour is far richer, primaries faring very well, even with 1970’s video technology. The whole image no longer suffers from noise; everything is noticeable cleaner, brighter, sharper and coloured. Black levels are deeper and stronger giving the image more punch and depth. Of course nothing can fix the inherent issues of camera glare or poor CSO, but these are part of the source and should remain intact. However the studio bound material and the location shot Outside Broadcast videotape work every well together meaning there is little jarring between the segments.

    The Ark in Space
    A studio bound story, was given a makeover in Feb 2013, and it looks that that is the base for this up-scale; detail, one again is sharper and more defined, but not quite to the same degree – skin has greater texture, as do some of the white uniforms, while the instrumentation of the Ark has finer edges. The Wirrn now looks incredibly plastic, and there is no disguising the painted bubble-wrap (a new invention in 1974). Colouring also has an up-turn, with the splashes of colour, especially, green in and around the Ark being bold and strong. Black levels are well seen, and white is clean and bright without clipping. Again issues with the source aren’t going to make this demo quality, and while it stands above the DVD in every regard the difference is not as pronounced as any other story.

    The Sontaran Experiment

    At 2006, the original clean-up for this picture was pretty good, but again the increased resolution has allowed cleaner edges and a more complete look to the image; the heather and granites of Dartmoor are far more robust, the keener edging, while the uniforms of the captives have good weaves. Skin has a good texture, while the Styre’s armour and weaponry are tight. Colouring is improved, a somewhat muted pallet, tending towards the earthy tones, but the yellow of Sarah Janes waterproofs are gorgeous, while skin colour is suitable natural. Blacks are good and the only whites that clip are due to issues from the source. Another good up-grade.

    Genesis of the Daleks
    Another 2006 release, the Blu-ray looks to have had a little clean-up, this is especially true of the filmed sequences which have never looked better. They are, again, not without issue, compounding errors in the original source (check out the mist in the first episode) but for the most part the improvements are clear. Detail is good, the Daleks are well defined and the mesh of their heads, sharp and clean, again aliasing has all but been eliminated. Both set and location edges are held very well, while model work is fine. Colours are more robust and complete, with darker hues coming off very well. Blacks are excellent, with improved shadow detail for the most part, while whites hold their own.

    Revenge of the Cybermen

    Much like the above, this disc looks to have undergone a wee bit of clean up as well, especially the location filming in Wookey Hole, where numerous instances of dirt, debris and tramlines have been reduced or eliminated while still retaining the integral grain structure. The colouring has been improved with the rainbownic colouring of the costumes being given a whole new lease of life, while the gold palette is even more vibrant, boosted, no doubt, but the increased black level which gives defiance and depth to the image. Detail remains strong with decent edges throughout, whether that is close up skin texture or the rough terrain in the caves.

    Doctor Who Season 12 Blu-ray Sound

    Doctor Who Classic Series 12 Doctor Who Season 12 Blu-ray Sound
    The disc presents a two channel mono track that is basic but functional, capturing all the information needed to portray the action. Dialogue is clean and clear, and sound good and natural. Effects are well realised, while the bass level is pretty deep considering the source.

    The Ark in Space
    The first track is a two channel mono track that is serviceable and functional. But most will probably go for the newly mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which opens up the surround stage like never before. Effects and ambience are pipped through to the surrounds, while dialogue is held to the front. Bass is excellent, with many effects benefitting from the LF channel. The score makes good use of the stereo stage, while the atmosphere is greatly enhanced by the surround field.

    The Sontaren Experiment
    It must be noted that at time of writing episode 1 on this disc has a fault where the sound is authored to the rear speakers and NOT the front; this write up therefore concentrates on episode 2. (Replacement discs can be sought by emailing [email protected] with proof of purchase.)

    The two channel mono track is, once again, serviceable and functional. Dialogue is clean and clear while the score is well layered into the mix. Effects and bass are limited but never drown out the action and keeps the track engaging.

    Genesis of the Daleks

    The original two channel mono track does what it can, remaining clean, clear and well layered. But, again, the newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track will be the one most will plump for. Wow. The surround stage really opens up here; effects are pipped through the surrounds to place you in the centre of the action, be that on the war torn battlefields, laboratories or in the melee with the Daleks exterminating everything their path. The score is well layered and benefits from all the speakers, while bass is deep and strong, adding much the effects. Dialogue remains planted to the front but sounds good and natural.

    Revenge of the Cybermen
    The two channel mono track gets its information across without thrills or spills but is well layered, clan and tidy. Dialogue is perfectly layered within the track as is the score. Effects and bass are, by necessity, limited but are held firm and effective.

    Doctor Who Season 12 Blu-ray Extras

    Doctor Who Classic Series 12 Doctor Who Season 12 Blu-ray Extras
    Disc 1
    Audio Commentary – With Tom, Liz Sladen, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks, same as appeared on the DVD, full of anecdotes and technical info, even if memories are slipping!
    Are Friends Electric? – 40 minute making of documentary that covers all the bases with plenty of interviews with cast and crew.
    Behind the Sofa – New for all the discs; Tom, Philip, Louise Jameson (leela), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) and Sadie Miller (Liz Sladen’s daughter) watch clips from the episode and comment upon it.
    Television Drama – A 30 minute feature of raw footage recorded during a script read-through, basic but interesting; new.
    The Tunnel Effect - Graphic designer Bernard Lodge explains how he created the complex 'never-ending tunnel' opening titles for Tom Baker's stories
    Blue Peter – Footage of the 23 May 1974 episode where the presenters filmed on the Robot set.
    Title Sequence footage – Opening, closing and alternative (unused) credit sequences.
    On Target – Featurette on Terrance Dicks and his contribution to the novelisations of the stores in the Target series of books.
    Location Footage – Minute of mute amateur 8mm cine film shot on location of Robot.
    Blackpool Footage
    Original BBC1 Continuity Announcements
    Photo Gallery
    2018 Production Information subtitles – Exhaustive information if you can keep up.
    Written Archive – Production documents, scripts and Radio Times listings in pdf format.
    Coming Soon – DVD trailer for Ark in Space.

    Disc 2
    Audio Commentary - With Tom, Liz and Philip Hinchcliffe, as they discuss this story, a favourite of their own.
    A New Frontier – 30 minute feature with cast and crew looking back on the making of the story.
    Behind the Sofa – As above.
    Roger Murray-Leach Interview – 10 minutes with the designer.
    Model Effects Roll – 7 minutes of the original 16mm model effects roll shot for the story.
    CGI Effects Roll – Minute and a half of the CGI effects created for this release.
    3D Technical Schematics – Minute of faux tech schematics for the space station.
    Trailer – Original BBC1 trailer for episode one.
    Alternative CGI Sequences – View the story CGI replacing original model shots.
    The Ark in Space – Omnibus Version; the 70 min compilation edit of the story transmitted in the summer of 1975, no clean up at all.
    Photo Gallery
    Written Archive – Production documents, scripts and Radio Times listings in pdf format.

    Disc 3

    Audio Commentary – Liz, Philip and Bob Baker pass comment on the story as they remember it.
    Like Nothing on Earth – Making of feature new for this release with interviews and anecdotes from cast and crew.
    Behind the Sofa – More of the same.
    Location Report – BBC4 radio coverage during the shoot on Dartmoor.
    On Target – A look at Ian Marter’s contribution to the popular Target novelisations of the series.
    Built for War – 40 minute feature on the Sontarans, plenty of contributions from all involved.
    Photo Gallary
    Production subtitles
    Written Archive – Production documents, scripts and Radio Times listings in pdf format.
    The Tom Baker Years; Parts 1 & 2 - Years before the releases of the complete stories, on VHS we were treated to Tom looking at scenes from each of his episodes and watching his reaction to them – straight VHS to Digital transfer including all the before titles and softness you remember!

    Disc 4
    Audio Commentary – With Tom, Liz, Peter Miles and David Maloney and they go into the minute of the episodes they enjoy.
    Genesis of a Classic – An awesome 62 minute feature of the making of this classic episode, interviewing just about every left who worked on the story and a few more besides – excellent stuff.
    Behind the Sofa – Here we go again.
    Continuity Announcements – Over time and repeats.
    Blue Peter – From March 1975, a 7 minute segment featuring a young viewer's Doctor Who models.
    Photo Gallery
    Written Archive – Production documents, scripts and Radio Times listings in pdf format.
    2018 Production Subtitles – Even more info!
    Live from the TVC Canteen – Audio only feature recorded by Keith Miller (from DWAS) interviewing key cast and crew members of episode 3.

    Disc 5
    Audio Commentary – This time Liz and Philip are joined by David Collings as they discuss their recollections of the production.
    The Tin Man and the Witch - Extended and re-cut version of this feature that appeared on the previous DVD.
    Behind the Sofa – For the last time.
    Location Report – Brief 5 minute interview with Tom by BBC News on location at Wookey Hole.
    Cheques, Lies and Videotape – Wonderful feature for those, like me, who would try to source complete episodes at various conventions often for extortionate sums of money.
    Photo Gallery
    Written Archive – Production documents, scripts and Radio Times listings in pdf format.
    Optional Updated GCI effects – In the same vain as The Ark in Space.

    Disc 6

    Tom Baker in Conversation – Mathew Sweet interviews the fan favourite for just over an hour; if you’ve seen Tom on stage, read any of his autobiographies or various interviews over the years, there is little new here, but it’s just glorious to see the man, one last time, even if he is getting on a bit now.
    Doctor Who Times: Season 12 – A feature looking at series 12 as it played out during the time it aired within the context of other TV around at the time.
    Genesis of the Daleks Omnibus Edition – Edited down 90 minute ‘film’ version of the series for a Christmas repeat in 1975, no clean up at all.
    Season 12 Studio Clocks – Odd and smacks of scrapping the bottom of the barrel here ….
    PDF Promotional Archive – All the other PDF material not found anywhere else, including 1976 Doctor Who Annual.

    Booklet– 23 page booklet explaining the extras and detailing some behind the scenes information about each story.

    So what is missing?
    Found on the previous DVD releases are a number of features not included on this Blu-ray set:
    Doctor Forever: Love & War – A 30 minute look at how Doctor Who was kept alive in a range of original novelisations after the end of the classic series in 1989.
    Scene Around Six – 7 minutes of compilation material of 1978 news items from BBC Belfast’s ‘Scene Around Six’ news show, featuring Tom Baker.
    The Dalek Tapes – A tragedy missing this one; a 50 minute documentary which looks at the history of the Daleks and covers all of their appearances in the original series.

    Doctor Who Season 12 Blu-ray Verdict

    Doctor Who Classic Series 12 Doctor Who Season 12 Blu-ray Verdict
    Series 12 was the beginning of what was to become the best the show had ever seen in terms of audience appreciation and viewing figures as Tom Baker and new producer Philip Hinchcliffe took the show towards gothic horror. There was only a sprinkling of such in this first outing, as it was really the outgoing production team that set the scene for the show, bringing back classic monsters for a strong start, but under Hichcliffe things really turned out well, especially with story 4, Genesis of the Daleks, which has become a firm fan favourite. A wonderful collection of stories that follow a loose arc, and are tied together by a strong heroic team led by the indomitable Tom Baker’s Doctor.

    As a set, this Blu-ray package does much to entice new viewers. The up-scaled pictures all show improvements over the old DVD’s, some much more than others, even if the original source material scarcely deserves it. The updated surround sound on some episodes is terrific, really opening up the sound field, while the two channel mono on the others is very serviceable (save the fault on disc 3). The extra features are very extensive and even include new features made especially for this release, not least a brand new interview with Tom himself. It has done enough to warrant the upgrade in my opinion.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £49.99

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