PictureAcross the board, the image on this volume is excellent. The picture is absolutely ravishing to behold, with Tooth And Claw and The Girl In The Fireplace taking the visual honours for this series so far. School Reunion lacks a little bit of the sharpness and suffers a very small amount of haziness on backgrounds and some softening. But, when the disc gets it right, it really shines.
Tooth And Claw offers an astonishingly vivid image. The opening scenes out on the windswept heather deliver a terrific sense of scale, detail and colour. Look at the ominous clouds filling the sky and the stark reds of the soldiers' tunics. Mind you, if want to see reds, just have a gander at the robes of the staff-wielding mad monks! Look at the faces of Tennant, Rose and Collins, or anyone else for that matter - every line, crag, freckle or pockmark is clearly rendered. Tennant looks much swarthier and stubblier than usual, too - a touch of the wolf about him, perhaps? Colours for The Girl In The Fireplace are equally warm and inviting, literally engulfing the screen with cosy glows and a rich palette and not a hint of smearing, bleed or shift.
Black levels throughout all three episodes are very strong and deep, offering a wonderful sense of depth and stability and great contrast. Again, Tooth And Claw wins the day in this department, gaining an incredible amount of atmosphere from the cellar sequences, the long dark corridors and exterior shots of the Torchwood Estate at night.
Edges have been enhanced but, in this case, it actually doesn't detract from the imagery. Detail, such as on the silverware on the dining table and the intricacies of the telescope in Tooth And Claw, or the embroidery and furnishings in The Girl In The Fireplace, are exquisite and do this release a sterling job. In fact, it is nice to re-watch these two shows in particular, just to explore the diverse settings they depict, as you will find more to discover around the frame each time.
An excellent transfer, folks, with nothing to complain about at all.
SoundThe Dolby Stereo track is workmanlike and delivers a very forceful frontal assault when required. Murray Gold's action music for Tooth And Claw and School Reunion is fast, pulsating and dynamic. Voices and effects are clear and sharp, the Doctor's weaving in and out of his Scottish accent in Tooth And Claw is particularly discernable and the many gunshots and werewolf snarls, growls and howls sound nicely deep and guttural. In this episode, especially, there is a moment when you will long for the eventual 5.1 surround track on the full boxset - the scene when the beast pads around the library-cum-sanctuary in which the main characters have barricaded themselves. This has full-speaker usage stamped all over it, as the wolf probes the four walls for weaknesses and our helpless heroes can do nothing but listen on.
But, to be fair, the audio track does a fine enough job of creating atmosphere for all three episodes, and has no discernable problems that I came across.
ExtrasAs usual, with the vanilla releases, we get nothing extra.
VerdictThe tenth Doctor comes of age in this selection, with David Tennant making the role his own and helping to steer the show in a bold new direction. Verbally aggressive, witty and gung-ho, he brings to the table that irresistible air of unpredictability that keeps us from noticing the often poor writing. Tooth And Claw is simply awesome - but I am a biased werewolf lover! School Reunion managed the unthinkable and made K-9 an interesting and likeable character, but will be forever remembered as the one that brought Sarah Jane Smith back ... and introduced a far more emotional and reality-based Doctor than we'd seen before. The Girl In The Fireplace, as I've said, is the clunker of the bunch which is only saved by Tennant's soul-crushingly poignant performance during the finale.
The AV quality is very good, and two of the episodes are destined to become classics, but the lack of 5.1 surround and any extras really make this release redundant in the eyes of the fans, who will obviously hold out for the full Second Season boxset.
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