…A review-type thing.
(NOTE: This post started life as a few words about the new Doctor Who boxset. It somehow mutated into a full-blown review, where I get ideas above my station and try to sound professional. Just warning you.)
I was lucky enough for my pre-ordered set to arrive on Saturday morning, a couple of days before the release date of 8th September. Frustratingly, it being a Formula One weekend, and my flat being the only one with satellite TV, my brother had hijacked my flat to watch the qualifying on Sky Sports F1.
My flat is also where my Blu-ray player lives, so I had to wait a bit. But:
It looks beautiful. A box styled as The Moment, with content details on a black strap sleeve. The menus look great, too, a vast improvement on the lacklustre screen on The Time of The Doctor‘s previous release.
The main features are The Name of The Doctor (Disc One), The Day of The Doctor (Disc Two), The Time of The Doctor (Disc Three) and An Adventure in Space and Time (Disc Four), which have a combined running time of 266 minutes (almost four and a half hours). A tempting reason to purchase the set in itself, but, with the total running times of all the bonus features (of which there are many) giving us over seven and a half hours of extras, there’s a combined grand total of twelve hours and eight minutes of content across the four discs.
For me, while seeming petty and ungrateful, there were some omissions/disappointments: first of all, why no collector’s booklet? All the effort put into the design of the box, and beautifully designed sleeves featuring the Eleventh, Tenth, War and Eighth Doctors, yet no accompanying booklet.
Content lists on the sleeves and The outer strap apart, there are no further details. No episode synopses, no cast details, no broadcast details. A 50th Anniversary booklet to compliment the collection would prove most helpful; Details of the recording of the Doctor Who at the Proms extra perhaps? A piece about The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot could have some detail of the concept and context of the feature. Recollections of the excitement surrounding The Night of The Doctor‘s surprise appearance online and on the Red Button. Or the story surrounding the idea of An Adventure in Space and Time: all would have made ideal inclusions.
Instead, there is nothing; not even, that I can see, credits for the designers of the boxset.
Other omissions are minor: while Disc One features The Name of The Doctor, its prequel, Clarence and The Whispermen isn’t included in this set. Name‘s accompanying Behind The Lens extra appears, as does BBC Three’s The Ultimate Guide, a nicely put together two hour rundown of the last fifty years, narrated by Russell Tovey (something else which would have made a nice inclusion in a booklet…)
Night of The Doctor is also here on the first disc, whereas one would expect to find it on the second disc with the other 50th Anniversary material; Day of The Doctor, accompanying prequel The Last Day and Behind The Lens feature, as well as the specially shot cinema intros from The Doctors and Strax, and the ’50 Years’ trailer shown in the run-up to the Anniversary (although, as with the earlier Day individual release, the ’23-11-13′ is omitted from the end), and the ‘Early Trailer’ which was also included on the previous release [this is obviously an international version; it features the caption “This Fall” as opposed to the “This November” we saw on TV].
Trailers, sadly, are a rarity on this set. There was a time when boxsets like this would do their best to cater for completists, including almost every second of on-screen promotion. For example, I have home recordings of various stings and teasers from late last year. The inclusion, for example, of the BBC One ident interruptions from November would have been a nice touch. Trailers for the other anniversary shows in this set would have been nice to see, as well.
Another item which not included is this Deleted Scene from The Day of The Doctor. While readily available online, one would think a DVD inclusion a certainty.
Disc Two includes Script to Screen – 50th Anniversary Readthrough, a feature which, when reading the initial description a couple of months ago, intrigued me, telling of a specially put together recording of the first readthrough of Day of The Doctor. I was hoping we’d be seeing a fascinating look at the cast’s primary interpretation of the script, but this is more of a 15 minute behind the scenes piece, showing a few lines being read, followed by the appropriate clip, combined with chats with cast members and Steven Moffat, some of which can be/have been seen in other features. Slightly disappointing.
The second disc concludes with Tales from the TARDIS, part of a nice series of retrospectives made by BBC America, with a large number of credible talking heads, including David Tennant and Steven Moffat. [This can also be found on the individual release of The Time of The Doctor , and is actually the twelfth of thirteen shows produced by BBC America for the anniversary year, preceded by The Doctors Revisited, eleven specials celebrating each Doctor in turn (which were shown weekly on satellite channel Watch in the run-in to the anniversary), and followed by Doctor Who Explained, which concludes the series, and can be found on the individual release of The Day of The Doctor.]
Disc Three features the Regeneration episode, The Time of The Doctor, with extras including the accompanying Behind The Lens feature, and a Deleted Scene from near the beginning of the episode involving Clara and The Doctor.
Other extras on this disc are BBC2’s The Science of Doctor Who (here given the full, grander, title of A Night with the Stars: The Science if Doctor Who) and the Alex Kingston-narrated Farewell to Matt Smith, looking back at the Eleventh Doctor’s tenure in the TARDIS.
Disc Four showcases Mark Gatiss’ ‘Genesis of Doctor Who’ docu-drama, An Adventure in Space and Time. The menu changes from the template of the previous three discs; I don’t own the previous DVD release of AAiSaT, so for all I know, it could just be exactly the same.
Bonus features include William Hartnell: The Original , the five minute tribute shown immediately after the original television screening of AAiSaT; and behind-the-scenes feature The Making of An Adventure, presented by Carole Ann Ford.
There are seven and a half minutes of Reconstructions, recreating familiar scenes from the Hartnell years; and two short deleted scenes.
The bonus material added for this release really is a bonus. The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot is already a firm favourite, and if this collection hadn’t been put together, would be perfectly deserving of a release of its own. And final extra, Doctor Who at The Proms 2013 is a 75 minute celebration of the music of Doctor Who, recorded Live at the Royal Albert Hall.
All in all, a boxset that is great value for money (this BluRay set cost me £31.99 from BBC Shop, RRP £44.99), but doesn’t quite fulfil its potential; this could have been absolute heaven for completists, but the fact that it includes so much material also makes you realise what’s missing.
Aside from missing my much longed-for booklet, and all the trailers for The Science of Doctor Who and An Adventure in Space and Time which could have been included, the lack of any commentaries is a big disappointment.
Commentaries have become thinner on the ground in recent years, but this is a set that really deserved one, and the inclusion of at least one would have been a prized asset. How great would a David Tennant/Matt Smith commentary have sounded on The Day of The Doctor? Or Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman talking us through The Time of The Doctor? Mark Gatiss and David Bradley telling us about An Adventure in Space and Time perhaps? It just seems such a wasted opportunity.
An 8/10 from me; a very good boxset that could have been great.