Series Created by Sydney Newman
Written by Russell T. Davies, Mark Gatiss, Robert Shearman, Paul Cornell, & Stephen Moffat
Starring Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, John Barrowman, Noel Clarke, Camille Coduri
- All thirteen episodes of the 2005 series, including running audio commentaries on every episode by cast and crew
- Interviews with Davies, Eccleston, Piper, and Barrowman
- Thirteen episodes of Doctor Who Confidential
- FX Notes/ footage, Designer Notes, Cast and Crew Video Diaries
- Pre-series launch trailers, series finale trailers
- Making-of section with Davies
- Behind the scenes of Doctor Who Christmas Invasion
- Opening trailer storyboard
- Multiple featurettes
- Cast bios
Released by: BBC Home Video.
My Advice: Own it.
[ad#longpost]“I’m the Doctor, by the way. What’s your name?”
“Rose. Rose Tyler.”
“Nice to meet you, Rose–run for your life!”
…and we’re off. Again.
Ask anyone in the UK about Doctor Who, and chances are you’ll be regaled with tales of children hiding behind couches, rubber monsters, and wobbly sets. Tom Baker (or perhaps his scarf) will probably be mentioned at least once. And maybe, if you’re really lucky–you’d get someone with fond stories of overgrown pepperpots who sound like Johnny Rotten prattling about shouting “EXTERMINATE!” From 1963 to 1989, Doctor Who was an institution of British Television. Hell, even The Beatles appeared on it once. But as the 80s closed, the quality of the writing began to suffer–and Auntie Beeb exterminated the show (sounds familiar, don’t it?).
Meanwhile, we of the Americas had Star Trek and couldn’t be bothered. Because if you ask Americans about the show–those fond British remembrances get boiled down to Tom Baker’s scarf, rubber monsters, and wobbly sets. If you’re lucky. Flash forward a few years, and the Who faithful finally get their due, courtesy of Russell T. Davies (Queer as Folk) and his assembly of Brit TV All Stars (including Coupling creator Stephen Moffat and League of Gentlemen‘s Mark Gatiss).
The setup is essentially the same: a being, known only as The Doctor, travels around time and space in a blue police call box that’s bigger on the inside. Simple formula, really and is explained quite well from the opening episode: wherever the Doctor turns up, trouble follows. That’s all you need to know about the show’s forty year backstory coming in. Although there are several nods to the classic series (Autons, UNIT, the Cybermen, and most importantly, the Daleks) sprinkled throughout to keep the fanboys happy–this series is clearly in the here and now.
The Doctor (Eccleston) is haunted by events that occur before the series begins–which renders our leather jacket clad hero the only Timelord left standing. Over the course of the series, you learn exactly what happened as this lonely wanderer attempts comes to terms with those events, and to find redemption in himself. Christopher Eccleston brings the intensity in spades, keeping the obvious angst on a slow simmer with the occasional burst of dry wit and comic timing. This Doctor’s dangerous, funny–and yes, even sexy–all at once. It’s not an easy balancing act, but he accomplishes the task brilliantly.
We view many of the events in this series through the eyes of Rose Tyler (Piper)–a young Londoner who gets caught up in the Doctor’s chaos, and decides to hitch a ride in order to escape her dull shopgirl existence. We also get several peeks into the lives she left behind, as Rose’s mom (Corduri) and somewhat clingy boyfriend (Clarke) are added to the mix. This serves to introduce (and re-introduce) us to the Doctor’s world. Because so much of this series hangs on that viewpoint, there’s added pressure on the actress in question to deliver. Piper brings the goods as Rose–the clever girl who slowly brings the Doctor out of his post-traumatic shell. She adds a level of humanity and a dose of reality to the proceedings, and has believable chemistry (as the hint of romance looms) with Eccleston.
Along the way–the pair view the end of the world, meet up with Charles Dickens (played by Needcoffee fave Simon Callow), foil a futuristic Fox News Channel weasel (played to the hilt by Chazzie winner Simon Pegg), meet Rose’s deceased father, run into the creepiest kids in gas masks this side of The Wall at the height of the London Blitz, befriend a time traveling con man (played by Barrowman–who perfectly rounds out the regular cast for the series’ final episodes), and square off against the Doctor’s oldest ememies in the final showdown.
Davies and Company–well aware of the internet savyness of its foreign audience–came to the table with a box set you’d buy even if you downloaded the series. All the episodes are in Widescreen and Dolby 5.1 (Daleks in surround, people) and come with commentaries (including Billie Piper’s first viewing of the episodes as she comments, and Barrowman MST-ing his own performances). The set also includes BBC Indents, the countdown trailers originally posted to the show’s website, video diaries from Davies and Piper, an extended interview with Barrowman, FX and design footage, and the Confidential series.
So what’s missing? Christopher Eccleston. His sole additional appearance on this set is a pre-series launch morning TV interview where he carefully (and rather uncomfortably) dodges a question about the length of his tenure as the Doctor. You do get plenty of insight from him throughout the Confidential material, which is fair compensation for his non-appearance in the other extras.
Also, the Confidential episodes have edited from their original broadcast versions–partly due to music clearance issues, and due to space constraints. While it would have been nice to have those new interviews with all the surviving previous Doctors and assorted companions–new viewers might find it a bit off putting.
If you missed the recent run on Sci Fi, or if you’d just like to make room on your hard drive for series two, pick this one up. You won’t be sorry.