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Doctor WhoDoctor Who, the Complete First Season, on DVD

It just proves you can't keep a Time Lord down.

The Doctor, long-roaming representative of the great planet Gallifrey, entertained generations of TV viewers through a variety of regenerations of Doctors. The series started in the black and white era of television and extended right to the beginnings of the digital age.

Then it went away, and fans mourned.

But, perhaps in the endless search for profitability, the BBC decided to bring the Doctor back one more time, after years in limbo. They brought in a new producer, new writers, and decided to make the series as state of the art as budgets would allow, shooting it in widescreen and using digital special effects.

BBC took a big risk resuscitating the Doctor, the same type of risk George Lucas took when he restarted his Star Wars series some 26 years after the fact.

The result? Perhaps some of the best Doctor Who ever! This is classic Doctor Who, but updated for the new century and for new generations of kids who have been raised on adult themes, high technology, disposable relationships, etc. etc. etc.



Christopher Eccleston is terrific as the new Doctor, but now instead of being merely one Time Lord he's the last of the race, since Gallifrey was destroyed in the off years. But he's all Doctor, bright and capable and witty, with a penchant for finding trouble (which is a good thing; otherwise why watch?).

His female companion this time is Rose Tyler, wonderfully played by Billie Piper, a British pop singer. She's a modern gal (oops, can't say "gal" can we?) with a boyfriend and, at the series' opening, a job in a retail store. The job lasts through about the first five minutes of the first episode, by which time the store is destroyed. She's drawn into her adventures with the Doctor by osmosis, but rises to the occasion beautifully. This is no shrinking violet, as she shows by growing into her new role over the course of the episodes.

The stories run the gamut frombringing us the classic villains the Daleks to interstellar/intertemporal con men and everything in between. And it all works, marvelously. This Doctor Who was worth the wait. Too bad it took so long, though.

Our favorite episodes included the abovementioned Dalek, which sees the last surviving "Exterminate!-or" facing off with his old nemesis thanks to an unfortunately stereotypical warmongering American. Who would have thought one could feel sorry for a Dalek?

Then there's the two part The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, a creepily intriguing tale set during the London Blitz of World War II. Watch these and you won't soon get "Are you my Mummy?" out of your head!

This episode also introduces Captain Jack, the lovable rogue who may or may not have stolen Rose's heart, and includes some wonderful humor among the angst. Perhaps the best line is when Rose questions the Doctor about his lack of a "real name" – complaining that he's just The Doctor. "Doctor Who?" she asks, eliciting guffaws from an audience that is otherwise on the edge of its seat.

The End of the World is a nifty story set on an observation platform where well-heeled spectators have gathered to witness the final fiery destruction of Earth at the hands of the sun. The villain is rather two dimensional, but that isn't meant as a criticism. Watch it and you'll get the joke.

Alas, Eccleston didn't stick around for the second season, and in this set's final episode, The Parting of the Ways, we witness the next regeneration of the Doctor. But don't worry – if the second series comes close to the quality of this one, Who fans (Doctor, not rock band, necessarily) will be in for another great roller coaster ride.

The only downside, and this isn't really a downside, is that while we love the new look and the greatly improved special effects, we kind of miss the low budget cheesiness of the old series. They gave the show a simple charm that's missing now. But that's more a nostalgia thing than a real complaint, since the new show would probably not be accepted today with such rudimentary effects.

The DVD set includes all 13 episodes from the first new season, as well as a fifth disc, Doctor Who Confidential, a behind the scenes journey through the first year of the new age. It also gives you a look at the new, new Doctor, as played by David Tennant. Will he be up to Eccleston's standard? As of this writing it's too early to tell, but we're certainly inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, such was the achievement of the first series.

The package is rather bizarrely designed, cramming the four "episode" discs onto one side (in a way that's hard to get at them), with the fifth disc the first one your hand falls to. But the episodes are presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and the picture quality is very good – though not excellent.

Audio is available in Dolby Digital 5.1, though we didn't detect a lot of surround. The music sounded best, but sometimes we thought the dialogue was a tad muffled.

Each disc also contains extras such as commentaries and/or featurettes.

Doctor Who, the Complete First Series is a rare achievement. It's an entertaining and gripping series parents can watch with their kids and both groups can enjoy.

Now bring on Season Two!

Doctor Who - The Complete First Series, from Warner Home Entertainment













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