The Series (5/5)
I remember a few years back when the BBC announced David Tennant was leaving Doctor Who, I was shocked. I was sort of hoping he would go for the Tom Baker longevity award, I liked him as the Doctor that much. When they announced Matt Smith, and issued a picture with gothic overtones featuring Smith with a very Flock of Seagulls haircut, I was dismayed. I figured that Doctor Who which was sort of going into an emo-like direction during the Tennant era would be going all the way with Smith. I knew in the end I would watch his first few episodes, but did not expect them to be any good.
I would find out that I was wrong, very very wrong. Matt Smith is not only a great Doctor Who, he is one of the best. Doctor Who Series 5 (31) is the best full series of Doctor Who since the shows revival. The writing courtesy of new show runner Steven Moffat is strong, and he has a good sense of narrative control, and the relationship between Matt Smith's Eleven Doctor and new companions Amy Pond and Rory are among the best in the shows nearly 50 year history. I would rate The Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond as highly as I would Jo Grant and the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) or Sarah Jane Smith with the Third and Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker).
Series 5 attempts to do tell an entire story over the course of the entire series. This has been attempted a few times in the past including the infamous Key to Time story arc during the Tom Baker (4th Doctor) era, The Trial of a Time Lord during Colin Baker's (6th Doctor), and most recently with the Bad Wolf arc during Christopher Eccleston's (9th Doctor) short tenure on the show. And while those attempts attempts ran the gamut from good (Key to Time/Bad Wolf) to abysmal (Trial of a Time Lord). The series 5 narrative featuring Cracks in Time and Space is an absolute success. Also, this season, more than any other season since the Philip Hinchcliffe era carries with it a great sense of horror, and atmospheric dread. This series is the show that would keep kids hiding behind their couches, from the Weeping Angel's 2 parter, to the Vampires from Vampires in Venice, to the long awaited return of the Silurians.
I started watching Series 5 while they aired on BBC America, and managed to see the first 6 episodes in that form. Unfortunately, right before Amy's Choice I moved cross-country, and ended up missing out on the rest of the season until the blu-ray hit. Being an absolute Who-Junkie I read the reviews (including spoiler filed synopsis' from DenofGeek.com) to keep up what was going on, however, even with the remaining episodes spoiled I was on the absolute edge of my seat watching the remaining 7 episodes on this Blu-ray set. In the reviews for the series a few low points are mentioned, most notably Victory of the Daleks, and Vampires in Venice. I, however, did not notice a single low point in this entire series. Every series of Doctor Who since the show returned had some definite low points, this one just felt consistent. Even if an episode wasn't over the top amazing (yes, Victory of the Daleks), it was still very very good.
The series opens with the newly regenerated 11th Doctor crashing his TARDIS in the yard of Young Amelia Pond. Amelia prior to his crash landing, was praying for help with a crack in her wall that is speaking to her. She assumes that the Doctor was the help she was praying for, and that assumption was correct. The Doctor investigates the crack, and seals it for her, and then offers to take her on as his companion in the TARDIS, but first we will have to work out some kinks in it that were caused by the crash. He promises to return in 5 minutes, unfortunately for Amy, those 5 minutes turn into 12 years by which time Amy is a grown adult. It turns out that Prisoner Zero a shape-shifting alien had escaped through the crack prior to the Doctor sealing it back up, and has been hiding in her house the entire time, and just as the Doctor arrives, so do the aliens in charge of keeping him prisoner, who threaten to destroy the Earth in 20 minutes if Prisoner Zero is not captured. The Doctor will eventually save the day, and after another short trip in the TARDIS will come back to pick up Amy (2 years later), and finally take her on as his companion, on the eve of her wedding to Rory, a male nurse who appears throughout the episode.
The pair, and later trio (When Rory finally joins the TARDIS crew will end up unraveling the mysteries aboard the Starship U.K., during the episode "The Beast Below," which works as an indirect spin off of 1974's Ark in Space, face off against the Daleks in World War II era London (Victory of the Daleks), meet up with River Song and the Weeping Angels in the excellent 2 parter The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone, which sort of works as Aliens to the Series 4 episode Blink's Alien. This is followed up by the B-Movie horror of The Vampires in Venice, and the reality bending narrative Amy's Choice. We then come to the Hungry Earth and Cold Blood, which compromise the second of three 2 part episodes in this series. The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood feature the first appearance of the Silurian's since 1985's derided Peter Davision (5th Doctor) vehicle Warriors of the Deep. This 2 part episode is one of the series highlights for me, and more than makes up for the whole Warriors... debacle.
Cold Blood is followed by what I will call my absolute favorite episode of the series Vincent and the Doctor, which has the Doctor and Amy traveling back in time to meet the painter Vincent Van Gogh. Everything about this episode is perfect, the monster is both scary, and fun. The casting of Van Gogh is impeccable, and the way his art is utilized in various ways throughout the episode is fantastic. There is a scene with the Doctor, Amy, and Vincent holding hands and staring at the stars, where Vincent is discussing his thoughts on life, and as he describes it the sky slowly begins forming his famous painting Starry Night. If you are to only watch one episode of this series, this would be the one to watch, however, after watching it if you do not want to immediately watch the rest I sort of feel bad for you.
We then have one of the more lighter episodes of the series with the Lodger. The Doctor is stranded on Earth with the TARDIS and Amy trapped in a materialization loop. He realizes that the source of this loop comes from a rented flat in the upstarts of a house owned by Gavin and Stacey's James Corden. This episode has the Doctor renting a room in his flat, and offers some great comedic moments, and is the funniest episode of the series. There is even a short bit with the Doctor playing football (soccer), which marks the first time the Doctor has played any sport on screen since 1982's Black Orchid starring Peter Davision.
So far the series has been great, but the last 2 episodes the Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang really hammer home, how simply amazing this series is. I am not going to talk to much about it in case you haven't seen them yet, however, I must say that these 2 episodes really ties together everything that happened thus far in the series, while leaving room to leave you curious for the upcoming series 6. And while some of the prior series long arcs felt like after thoughts, and additions to what they were going to do anyway, watching these 2 episodes you realize that this storyline was an after thought, but the whole reason for the series.
Growing up with classic Doctor Who, it's hard not to look at this series in 1080i HD in absolute awe. Doctor Who was never what anyone would call a visually stunning series until the revival of the show, when production values shot up, and now with the addition of HD cameras it really has never looked better.
This Blu-ray box set presents all 13 episodes of Doctor Who Series 5 in 1080i Widescreen. The level of detail shown in these transfers are amazing, colors absolutely pop, black levels are quite deep, and flesh tones are largely accurate. The only minor issue is some ghosting in various spots throughout.
The audio is presented in an English 5.1 audio track. The track is solid, everything is mixed well, and dialogue is completely audible throughout. I did not notice any instances of background noise or distortion on the track.
Doctor Who Series 5 has a nice slate of extras spread out amongst the 6 disc in the collection. There are a couple of in-vision commentaries (picture in picture commentaries) featuring assorted members of the cast and crew. These can be found on the 11th Hour, Victory of the Daleks, Time of the Angels, Vampires in Venice, Cold Blood, and the Big Bang. There is also a few Monster Files which are short featurettes where members of the cast and crew chatting about a specific villain which include The Daleks, Weeping Angels, The Silurians, and the Alliance. There are also 3 video diaries from the set of series 5, trailers for other BBC shows like the fantastic Sherlock, Torchwood, and David Tennant in Hamlet. There are also additional scenes included, that are meant to bridge the gap between certain episodes. The disc also features 13 episodes of Doctor Who Confidential, one for each episode collected on the final disc, 7 minutes of outtakes, and 3 really awesome Doctor Who Art Cards.
Doctor Who is my all-time favorite TV series. Since I got my first Doctor Who DVD's 4 years ago, I have been devouring them. I have also gotten married in that time, and my wife never quite understood my obsession with Doctor Who. This series changed that, she was as hooked as I was, and I mention that for a very important reason. This series is a great jumping on point for newcomers to the series.
It contains a fantastic self-contained narrative, that flows through each of the episodes either directly or indirectly. Also, this is the first series of a new Doctor, and these are the best ones to introduce non-fans to, as it is new to everyone. That being said it does not eschew the past, many of the Doctors older villains make appearances, and references are made throughout to his prior incarnations.
The audio/video work on this set is absolutely fantastic, and the extras offer equal amounts entertainment, and information for fans hungry for more. Not to mention the added scenes that add just a bit more to an already near perfect series. This Blu-ray set is very highly recommended.