Doctor Who: Complete First Series DVD Review
PictureWith an anamorphic widescreen transfer, this is very good but has one huge caveat. Colours are spot on, with flesh tones looking natural and black levels nice and dark. The transfer doesn't suffer from grain, is crystal clear and I didn't notice any artefacts or haloing either, which always bodes well. The image is a little soft in places however, which is unfortunate, but this isn't the caveat. The problem is, that compared to the broadcast, the image is a little too sharp, which means the CGI effects stick out considerably more than they did when first broadcast. Not suggesting the CGI is good, it's typical for British TV really, but, for example, the scene with Rose holding on to the barrage balloon looks superimposed because the transfer is very sharp and less forgiving than the transmitted program. Sounds like a minor whinge, but it is very unsettling when viewing that it is so blatantly obvious, but other than this (and the softness!), a very nice transfer.
SoundUnlike the bare bones disk, we have a proper Dolby 5.1 soundtrack and while not the best, it certainly shames the original. With surrounds utilized and LFE used for explosions, this is what we really want. Dialogue is clear but a little tame compared to the other channels sadly. However, what it lacks in this channel it makes up for in the fronts, with loud, rocking explosions and sound effect, nice ambient effects in the rears and nice panning effects when required, this isn't quite as gimmicky as the other 5.1 soundtracks in the Who collection.
ExtrasWell, compared to the original, extras-free releases, this is an improvement. To be fair, compared to a lot of box sets, this is impressive too. To start with, every episode has a commentary track. The bad news is although Ecclestone is absent, Piper isn't - she appears on the commentary track for “Father's Day”. Time constraints limit me from listening to all of them, but the couple I've listened to have been very interesting and fun - although not a patch on the Tom Baker ones in the “Key To Time” set.
Disk one starts with a BBC Breakfast interview with Christopher Ecclestone, which runs for 11.44 minutes. Watching this is interesting for all the wrong reasons, as he admits to a limited knowledge and viewing of the show, raves about Russell T. Davies being one of out greatest writers and, the best moment, how he squirms and dodges the question of coming back for a second series. Priceless. Destroying The Lair is a short feature on how the Nestene lair destruction was realised, it runs for 3.22 and to be honest, is not interesting, or at least not to me. Making Doctor Who with Russell T. Davies is a 15:30 featurette which revolves primarily on the shooting of the first episode. It's not particularly exciting - Davies is his “normal” self, there's no real anecdotal stories and it's all rather by the numbers. He certainly didn't endear himself to me during this, although his acknowledgement of it being harder to write than he thought, which based on most of his material, is very well borne out. Waking The Dead is an 18:10 featurette revolving around the third episode “The Unquiet Dead”, basically because it's an on-screen “blog” by the writer, Mark Gatiss. It's interesting to see his thought process on camera, as well as having polite requests to change things as he's writing it. Also interesting to see how he was writing an episode before the actor playing the Doctor was announced. He's clearly thrilled at the end of it though, to have written a Who story. Laying Ghosts is an 8:25 minute featurette where Gatiss elaborates more on the final story, in particular why certain things were written how they were and his happiness about having that story to write. We then have the 4 launch trailers, which run for 2.18 minutes and the storyboard for the first trailer.
Disk 2 starts with Deconstructing Big Ben, a 4:51 featurette which explains the process behind the scene where the Slitheen craft's wing slices through Big Ben, which is interesting if you're interested but not overly if you aren't bothered, although it is mercifully short.On Set with Billie Piper is a 19:04 minute featurette where Ms. Piper records her own on-set blog, Her filming of the behind the scenes as well as her in-depth commentary on this are exemplary and she should be given her own talk show. No, I'm lying and/or being heavily sarcastic. If you can imagine someone of her years managing to basically point a camera and name/identify what it is for 20 minutes then you have a huge insight into exactly what is going on here. “Chris, cameraman” “Russell, the writer” and “Scary Suki” are just some of the highlights/sentences she enlightens us with on this. You'd have got more commentary out of a stoned rabbit than you would with her and a camera, which beckons two questions - 1) How exciting were the conversations during her marriage and 2) How on earth did she get work? This is truly a car-crash type featurette, with the only thing I can say is that if I weren't reviewing this, I'd have lasted 30 seconds tops. Finally on this disk we have another minute of Who trailers.
Disk 3 has just the one extra, Mike Tucker's Mocks of Balloons which is a 5:32 featurette that explains the shots of the barrage balloons from the episode “The Empty Child”. Again, fascinating if you are into special effects, but somewhat dull if you aren't - again, it is reasonably short.
Disk 4 starts with Designing Doctor Who, a 20.52 minute featurette, which focuses on the look of the show, primarily the TARDIS, the Daleks and some of the other key elements. I have to say I found this kind of dull, possibly due to the voices being rather lifeless and monotone, but some people will love it I'm sure. The Adventures of Captain Jack is an 8.31 minute featurette which focuses on Captain Jack (shocking, I know). It basically has the actor elaborating on the character, his input and of course, the blatant sexuality of Jack. On one side of the coin, it tells you nothing much more than what we already know, on the other side, at least this actor talks in complete sentences. Watchable, but nothing new to see. Finally, we have 2.27 minutes of trailers again, which are the trailers used to promote the finale (one advert every day) as well as the trailer for the Christmas Invasion.Disk 5 contains a whopping 2hr 45 minute documentary, which is a cut down version of the Confidential series that aired on BBC3. While it is fascinating stuff and well worth watching, either in segments or as a whole, the most obvious thing that they've cut out is all the footage from the old series. A shame really, which yet again, seems that they are trying to ignore the old show and make this a kind of Dr Who:Next (Re)Generation. Even the preview of the Christmas Invasion is somewhat lacking and in fairness, they would have been better off putting the Children In Need footage on here (all 7 minutes of it), as this would have tied in nicely to the eagerly anticipated Christmas Day special. Even though I sound harsh about the extras, there's certainly a lot here and the Confidential material is superb, even with its shortcomings. Nicely done.
VerdictWell, this is a better package than the bare bones discs, not to mention it comes in a cool box. Yes, some of the episodes are average and a couple (The Slitheen 2-parter) are awfulness in screen form, but with 13 commentary tracks, a plethora of extras although some are weak, 5.1 sound over stereo and, as Peter Griffin would say, a freakin' TARDIS box, this is really a no-brainer for Who fans. While people may think I am attacking Piper, let me just say that I have nothing against her, but I can't help but feel anyone, well ok, almost anyone, may not have grated so much. Anyway, when all's said and done, there are a good 8 episodes here well worth watching and that can't be bad. Let's just hope series 2 is.....fantastic.
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