STUDIO: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
MSRP: $99.98
RUNNING TIME: 545 minutes
• Interview with Christopher Eccleston
• Interview with Billie Piper
• "Destroying the Lair" featurette
• "Making Doctor Who" with writer/creator Russell T. Davies
• "Waking the Dead" video diary
• "Laying Ghosts" featurette on episode "The Unquiet Dead"
• "Deconstructing Big Ben" effects featurette
• VFX featurettes
• "Designing Doctor Who" featurette
• "The Adventures of Captain Jack" featurette for episode "Boom Town"
• Feature-length documentary "Doctor Who Confidential"
• Behind-the-scenes featurette for "Doctor Who Christmas Invasion" special
• Trailers

The Pitch

all of space and time meet clever Brits!"

The Humans

Eccleston (who was a bastard in 28 Days Later), Billie Piper (geek
crush material).

The Nutshell

(Piper) is a normal, working-class girl in
London with modest prospects for her
life. Enter one quick-witted doctor (Eccleston) with an electric screwdriver, a
disappearing police box, and a horde of aliens. It’s like some gods said:
"I wonder what happens if…" As it turns out, Rose rises to the
occasion and sets out with the doctor to explore space and time in convenient,
easily packaged episodes of adventure.

Why is it called the TARDIS?
Because no one could think of what PEQUOD might stand for.

The Lowdown

incarnation of Doctor Who isn’t far removed from those of geek legend. It
maintains the monster-of-the-week plotting, the humor, the pulpy fun, and the
modest (for its time) budget for special effects. What sets this version apart
from its peers is that those qualities don’t feature so much in popular
television. Other modern MOW shows try to throw in a season-wide arc, or have
pretensions toward weighty philosophy. Doctor Who is deliberate fun, a
successful combination of the sensibilities that you loved as a kid and new
stories of alien adventure.

There’s a
palpable difference between entertainments created to divert an audience’s
attention, and those weighted by a literary agenda. The adventures in Doctor
are couch-potato popcorn fare. The plots are reminiscent of a
somewhat unrevised brainstorming session, imaginations flying off into the
cosmos. There’s a real sense of "Wouldn’t It Be Cool If…"
throughout the series, which can’t help but make the whole thing feel
child-like and bright-eyed.

a-wandering, though, the imagination inevitably runs up against patches of
darkness. If the show is a throwback to simple childhood pleasures, that also
has to include the brushes with evil that define a child’s character. Though
most episodes are full of crossed motivations, plots with momentum, danger, and
mystery, there are surprising moments of wickedness. In an early episode, for
example, the doctor stands by in passive anger while an alien dies, though he
could have saved her if he chose. Later, in the wonderful episode
"Dalek," the doctor comes up against his one of his old enemies
(brilliantly reproduced by the current production designers,) the single-minded
titular robots who kill indiscriminately and often.

Commence glazing on my mark.

occasional high body-counts and bubbling anti-hero traits contribute a
reasonable measure of tension to the show, but it’s important to note that they
do not overwhelm. Any given episode, or two-parter, resolves neatly, and with
little or no lasting consequence for our heroes. The tropes of the adventure
genre remain undisturbed. Characters grow only very little, with the lion’s
share of screen-time given to catching the audience up in energetic fun. The evil
exists only to provide antagonism, not to drown the tone of the episode.

I don’t
see those as negative traits, personally. The characters of the doctor and Rose
are enthralling from word one, and they’re the ones that elevate the show from
less inspired MOW offerings to the level of guilty pleasure, or just plain old
pleasure. Christopher Eccleston has a delightful humor throughout, the sort of
wisdom that manifests in comedy, as if the more he’s seen of the universe the
closer he is to reaching the punchline. Billie Piper as Rose embodies the
wide-eyed fascination of imagination surpassed which is what rings so nostalgic
for me. You can play outside at guns and starships all you like, but here is what it looks like, and you
never pictured it so clearly. That she has a ready grin and a perpetual
curiosity only adds to her role as audience surrogate.

With such
a successful return to a legendary show, I have little doubt that this Doctor
will go down in geek canon, but it deserves to be included in a
broader scope of popular entertainment. Very rarely have I encountered a show
that so well recalls everything that made watching TV as a child fun, and at
the same time appeals to the adult desire for complications, layered conflict,
and resolution. In that way, it’s a lot like Raiders of the Lost Ark. Children
can obsess over it and the simple morality, while adults can find that their
childish opinions weren’t so far out of line or taste as all that.

"Nah, Buff. Spike and I have got this one. She’s a hell-bitch,
and we have to get that brain-penis out of her. Yeah?"

The Package

discs. Four of them contain episodes plus bonus features, while the fifth is used
up by two extensive featurettes.

The four
discs contain wonderful and informative segments such as an interview from with
Eccleston from a BBC morning show, special effects explanations,
behind-the-scenes on the creative process behind individual episodes, video
diaries, trailers, and featurettes on production design. Every disc has at
least one bonus that’s worth your time, and most have more than that. It’s all
fan service, like the bonuses on Peter Jackson’s Extended Editions, but it
also serves as a great education into the Time Lord’s past and present for the
uninitiated (e.g., my wife.)

Every episode also contains full-length commentary, with a variety of people at the mics. Guest stars, directors, writers, effects producers, voice actors, Billie Piper, Russell T. Davies, and more cats. And, damn, these are good commentaries. Packed full of information, and of love for the source material. They’re an absolute joy to listen to, just on terms of their being complete explorations of any given episode.

"The undigested green travels through the duodenum on its way
out of the system. Believe me, it’s not made from people by the time
it comes out the other end, if you know what I’m saying."

The fifth
disc contains a glorious behind-the-scenes documentary called "Doctor Who
Confidential," narrated by Simon Pegg of Spaced and Shaun
of the Dead
fame. The fiml is lengthy, and humorous, and concerned
mainly with the earlier phases of the project of getting the doctor back to the
small screen after his long hiatus. It continues on through production, and
covers more territory, with a broader scope, than the individual episode

The other
half of disc five is called "Backstage at Christmas," and deals with
an upcoming BBC Christmas special featuring the new doctor, David Tennant, who
takes over for Eccleston in the next series. If this brief glimpse, it seems
that Tennant will be right as home in Eccleston’s vacated space, and this might
be the rare Christmas special worth obtaining.

8.3 out of 10