Some like to buy new Doctor Who releases as soon as they come out, but for those who have bypassed the last few, releases the wait was well worth it. Brand new from the BBC is Doctor Who – The Complete Seventh Series, which includes not only the13-episode seventh series, but also two Christmas specials and a wealth of bonus features, some of them never seen before, in a four-disc set.
First up is “The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe.” The Doctor (Matt Smith) visits a woman named Madge (Claire Skinner, Outnumbered) who once helped him out. It’s 1941 and her husband has gone missing. Madge takes her children, Lily (Holly Earl, Casualty) and Cyril (Maurice Cole), to a relative’s house for Christmas, but soon they travel through a portal to a planet being destroyed by a mining company. It’s a fluff episode, just a good, old-fashioned, heart-warming holiday tale, sure to bring a smile to the viewers’ faces.
Then, we jump into series seven the final five episodes featuring Amy (Karen Gillian) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) as the Doctor’s companions. They have been traveling with him a long time, on and off for about a decade from their perspective, or three years in our minds. Each and every one of this quintet of adventures is incredibly special, made with care, knowing their end is near. They find “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” visit “A Town Called Mercy” in what appears to be the Old West, are forced to go to an old foe’s planet in “Asylum of the Daleks,” where they meet an odd souffle chef, and learn about “The Power of Three” in an epic story that unfolds over the course of a year and culminates in Amy and Rory making an important life decision.
Of course, the best of the batch is the last, “The Angels Take Manhattan.” Amy, Rory, the Doctor, and River Song (Alex Kingston) are pulled into New York City in the past by the Angels, those creepy living statues that can steal time from you. This is the moment where love must be proven, and values are assessed, ending with a very teary finale.
Next is “The Snowmen,” the first Doctor Who special that ditches the stand-alone format in favor of a bridge to the titular character’s arc this year. The Doctor is moping about in old England, watched over by his loyal pals Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), her wife, Jenny (Catrin Stewart), and Strax (Dan Starkey). Strange snowmen, created by the Great Intelligence (Ian McKellan / Richard E. Grant), begin killing people, and the dead souffle chef we met with the Daleks returns as a totally different person. Is all of this enough to pull the Doctor out of his moping?
It turns out the answer is yes, and this kicks off the eight-episode second leg of the season. Starting with “The Bells of Saint John,” in which the Doctor is searching for the twice-dead girl, Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman), the two soon find each other and set of on a number of adventures together. The Doctor and Clara see the remarkable “Rings of Akhaten,” go into a Russian submarine during the “Cold War” and find an Ice Warrior, “Hide” from ghosts stuck in time, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS,” which does not care for Clara, help Vastra (Neve McIntosh), Jenny (Catrin Stewart), and Strax (Dan Starkey) investigate “The Crimson Horror,” and find a “Nightmare in Silver,” a.k.a. the Cyberman, in an abandoned amusement park.
These episodes, on the whole, aren’t as good as the first half of series seven, but then, they are the beginning of something new, finding a dynamic between friends just forming their bond, rather than the reward at the end of a long time spent traveling together, so they don’t have the built-in weight and meaning. They serve to introduce the new companion, and that’s the goal here, not starting a new major arc. In this, they work.
The series ends with “The Name of the Doctor,” a mind-blowing showdown at the Doctor’s tomb, with all his pals in attendance, and a glimpse of every incarnation of our hero up ’til now. This is where we learn Clara’s secret, and meet a new version of the Doctor who is not the Doctor (John Hurt). It’s not only a huge episode in of itself, it also beautifully sets up this fall’s 50th anniversary special.
In all, these are great episodes, well worthy of the Doctor Who series, with many memorable moments and people.
Of course, the Doctor Who set would not be complete without a ton of bonus features. There are behind-the-scenes bits for each and every episode, interviews with Smith and Coleman, full-length specials discussing the show, prequels to a number of installments, webisodes, and a few audio commentaries, which were not part of previous releases. There also fresh featurettes about Clara, the TARDIS, Rain Gods, Inforarium, and more. This is definitely a treasure trove.
As usual, the high definition presentation on the Blu-ray is everything you could ask for. Doctor Who has a number of different settings, so that are lots of opportunity to explore fantastical, special effects-heavy worlds, as well as varying color schemes. All of this comes across as rich and detailed. An at-times-stellar score mixes perfectly with the crisp dialogue, and there are never any complaints of static or graininess. Considering some of the spectacular visuals, Blu-ray is the recommended format to view it in. And yes, I realize if you regularly follow my Doctor Who reviews, this paragraph sounds awfully familiar, but what else is there to say? It looks awesome.
Doctor Who – The Complete Seventh Series is a truly excellent release, and is available now.