Review – Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series

Review – Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series

Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series

(BBC, PG)

Matt Smith’s final season as the Doctor arrived on DVD in late 2013.

It seems hard to believe that we were first introduced to the 11th and 12th Doctor’s companion Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman) in the first episode of the series which aired in 2012.

We wondered, back then, what the heck show runner Steven Moffat was playing at when he introduced the Doctor’s new companion within a Dalek travel machine and then killed her at the episode’s conclusion.

The episode was called Asylum of the Daleks and aired on the BBC on September 1, 2012.

It was as epic as the movie style poster created to advertise it, showing the Doctor carrying an unconscious Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) through the flames of a Dalek mad house.

Not everyone liked Amy, for her over impulsiveness, but I loved her relationship with the Doctor and husband Rory (Arthur Darvill) and was genuinely upset when they departed the show half way through the season.

The Angels Take Manhattan was a fitting swan song for the Ponds and, once again, Moffat showed what an excellent writer he was as he tugged on the heart strings again and again throughout this episode.

There’s so many great moments in it. The idea that the Statue of Liberty was a massive Weeping Angel was genius and obvious at the same time. The closing scenes are throat lump inducing.

In the middle of that first half of the season we finally met Rory’s dad, Brian, who has a wonderful workman moment in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. He is glimpsed with his feet hanging out of the front door of the TARDIS, packed lunch and flask of tea in hand, admiring the wonders of the universe as she flies through space. Modern Doctor Who is made of great, crazy, moments as these. I dearly wished we had seen more of his character, who shines brightly in The Power of Three.

Clara, of course, returned in 2012’s Christmas special The Snowmen and died in that before returning in The Bells of Saint John which aired on March 30. It was a long time to wait for new Who so thank the Time Lords for the BBC’s release of classic Who on DVD and Big Finish Productions’ new audio plays in the meantime.

The second half of Season 7 was more of a mixed bag than the first with some true classics like Wellington writer Neil Cross’s musical extravaganza Rings of Akhaten (Murray Gold’s brilliant score is now available on CD) and ghost (or is that love?) story Hide. There’s also a few clunkers, which is a shame, but you can’t win them all.

Because of its premise, about the adventures of an alien adventurer who travels through time and space in a police box which is bigger on the inside, Doctor Who can be set anywhere and tell any genre of story. So some are bound to work better than others and some will not appeal if they are made in genres you are not a fan of.

I found some of my favourites were loathed by others, and vice versa, but we were all agreed that the best episode of the season was the finale The Name of the Doctor which came packed with surprises. It explained how Clara could appear in so many past stories, including with all 10 of Smith’s predecessors, and was a real love letter to fans. And boy, what a cliff hanger, introducing John Hurt as the Doctor. But where, oh where, does he fit in. Spoilers.

But there’s more reasons to buy this boxed set than just having the whole season in one five disc set and that’s the extras.

There’s more than three hours, some of which are little prequel webisodes which feed into key episodes. Yes, some of them are already online, but here they are in one place in this set, and they do help set up some of the stories.

There are also three good documentaries on the Doctor’s companions, the science of the show and how the series is viewed in the US.

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Review: Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks

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The Power of the Daleks, the third story of Season Four of Doctor Who, had a lot to live up to both in its original airing between November 5 and December 10, 1966, and its animated recreation now showing in cinemas.

The six-parter, back in 1966, had to seamlessly replace one beloved Doctor with a new one for the first time if the show was to go on. What nobody knew then was whether Patrick Troughton could become as beloved to generation of British children as William Hartnell who he replaced.

That fear was even reflected in a wonderful conversation between companions Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben Jackson (Michael Craze) in the first part of the story: an is it the Doctor or isn’t it conversation which by no means ends definitely. If Troughton couldn’t win the viewers’ hearts Doctor Who would have quickly vanished from television screens and I probably wouldn’t be here now writing about it, nor you reading about it.

Cleverly, however, the powers that be at the BBC chose to make the second Doctor’s first story a Dalek one. Setting the new Doctor against a familiar foe helped the viewer quickly get a measure of the new TARDIS traveller.

The TARDIS lands on the planet Vulcan, home to a human colony where a mysterious capsule had landed. As the Doctor recovers from his regeneration the capsule is discovered to have contained three Daleks, but one is missing. Soon the Daleks are serving humans, but can the Doctor warn them before it’s too late?

At one point in the story Dalek asks a human why humans kill each other. It’s a lovely moment that serves to remind the viewer that humans can be as evil as Daleks.

From the surviving clips of this otherwise lost story, and the audio recordings made during its transmission, it’s clear that Troughton was top of his game from day one and knocked it out of the park with his stovepipe hat and bow tie wearing, and recorder playing Second Doctor. He’s an absolute enigma in the moments following his first regeneration, setting the trend for many more to come.

What wasn’t clear was how a full animation of the story would go down. Previous recreations of lost episodes have been fine given the short amount of time and money allocated for the job, but this one is a step up from those. The Power of the Daleks is a very simple animation providing a decent visual cue to what was on the screen the first time around. Although the director admits it is not a scene by scene clone – about half can be attributed to the original director Christopher Barry.

The animators have done a great job of capturing the likeness of the TARDIS crew, although the animated Daleks are the more familiar squat versions. For some reason The Power of the Daleks used a taller model of the killer Dalek travel machine.

At Hoyts Metro in Hamilton, New Zealand, where I saw it with my 10-year-old son the six parts had been edited into one long movie, extras and all, coming in at 180 minutes. Pacing was a little slow in the first 30 to 45 minutes, but the story really picked up from there and just whizzed along. My son, used to the whiz bang of films like Star Wars: The Force Awaken, was glued to the screen and less critical than me. “It’s not often you get to see something your Dad hasn’t seen,” he said with glee.

Elements of Power of the Daleks show up in other Doctor Who, most notably in the Season Five episode of the new series Victory of the Daleks. Both stories feature subservient Daleks who serve humans while plotting to rebuild the race and dominate the universe.

This will be a must for DVD when it gets its release very soon.