Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Doctor Who Regeneration Box Set (DVD) - Review

Doctor Who Regeneration Box Set
Release Date: 24th June 2013
Price: £42.99 - Order here from BBC Shop.

This beautifully-packaged individually numbered and limited edition coffee table book-styled collectors’ album is every Doctor Who fan’s dream possession. Individually numbered and boasting six DVDs with over 1000 minutes of Doctor Who footage, it brings together every Doctor’s regeneration episode: from the first Doctor, exhausted from battling the Cyberman, to Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor suffering from radiation unleashed by the Great One (a giant spider); and from the spectacular transformation of the Ninth Doctor to David Tennant’s emotional farewell as the Tenth. The album is adorned with superb photography from across the era and features detailed and informative accounts of every regeneration. And if that wasn’t enough, new to DVD is The Tenth Planet featuring the Doctor’s first regeneration – beautifully restored with the missing fourth episode now brought to life with stunning animation. Utilising the original soundtrack, off-screen photographs and a short surviving sequence of the Doctor’s regeneration the episode has been now reconstructed in animated form, incorporating the restored version of the surviving sequence.

Stories included: 
The Tenth Planet
The War Games
Planet of the Spiders
Logopolis
The Caves of Androzani
Time and the Rani
Doctor Who: The Movie                
Bad Wolf & The Parting of the Ways
The End of Time

Reviewed by Oliver Jenkins, Louis Rabinowitz, James Bullen and Sam Ingleton.

The Tenth Planet

If any regeneration story has to be extremely superb, it's the first one, because not only has it got to surprise and grip the reader by giving them a new plot device but it must also give them a good adventure that's in keeping with the themes the show already has.

I've never watched The Tenth Planet before, I've never had it on VHS and I've never listened to it. So when I was asked what stories I wanted to review I headed straight for this one, because it's one I haven't seen before.

The premise of the story itself is an extremely interesting one, with the Earth being invaded by the Cybermen from their planet Mondas. The decision to set this story in an isolated Antarctic base was a brilliant one, as there is already a certain air of danger because of the setting. Making the commanding character the father of the astronaut in peril was also a stroke of genius, and definitely tugged on my emotional heart strings.

The Tenth Planet is the first story to see the Cybermen, and so this is their most basic design. The design of the Cybermen is actually quite terrifying to some, and I think the designers for this version of the Cybermen deserve much more credit than they're given. I think it's a shame that this Cyberman design isn't used again, because it had a lot of potential for horror if writers wanted to go down that route.

The regeneration itself is superbly done, with hints of the Doctor's oncoming regeneration shown throughout the story. Hartnell's journey around the console before his eventual regeneration is a touching piece of television, and really makes you feel for the First Doctor if you approach regeneration in the way the Tenth Doctor approaches it.

Overall, the story is surprisingly entertaining for it's era, and the acting is absolutely superb. The story is the perfect send off for the First Doctor and I will definitely but it on DVD when it comes out as a separate release.

The War Games

Ten episodes is admittedly a very long time to sustain TV viewers and even harder when watching them all at once. The War Games was the last episode featuring Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor, with Jamie and Zoe as companions (excluding guest appearances for specials) and was the longest. The Doctor, Zoe and Jamie find themselves on the battlefields of WWI and are quickly separated from the TARDIS. The whole thing is based upon a sinister General with alien ties and hypnotic hipster glasses for hypnotising. This is alongside someone with a smoke and time travelling capabilities. The first episode isn’t very eventful as we are still getting introduced to what is happening, much like the second episode. We aren’t actually taken into action until about episode 3 but after that it’s a fast paced action adventure. This episode also features the Time Lords for the first time as previously (in the Time Meddler) the Doctors species was not revealed and this episode also features the first time viewers see the Doctor’s home planet, Gallifrey. He is taken to Gallifrey as the Time Lords put him on trial and found him guilty for being a time meddler. The punishment for this was being grounded and not being able to leave earth or use his time machine and having to change his face. The Time Lords originally gave him the chance to choose his next face but he took too long and was forced to look like a 70-year-old. Overall, this is an action packed, fast paced episode if you excuse the first 2 episodes with no plot holes thanks to the running time. I give it a 7/10.

Planet Of The Spiders

In 1974, along came a spider in the form of the Third Doctor’s regeneration story, Planet of the Spiders. Unlike before this marks the first celebratory feel to a regeneration story with UNIT in full form, a gift from Jo Grant, excessive use of colour separation overlay, Venusian aikido, Bessie, the Whomobile and a return to Metebelis III and Mike Yates! Unfortunately the only aspect that feel’s ultimately missing is Roger Delgado’s Master, whom tragically died in a car accident the year before, although he is paid tribute to with the main villain of the story (the Spiders) being voiced by Delgado’s wife, Kismet Delgado. This story is particularly notable for its themes of Buddhism due to writer Barry Letts. It’s one of the stronger regeneration stories in the set if a bit marred by episode five which features 25 minutes worth of chase sequences however if looked through rose-tinted eyes of the warmth of an celebration of an earthly era, it’s just good ol’ fun! You can’t discuss a regeneration story without discussing the regeneration itself; this one is a particularly harrowing affair with Jon Pertwee performing the event alike to a fully realised death which is a very tearful moment for a character you have been with for five years. However with ‘’a tear’’ comes a Tom, in a somewhat uninspiring regeneration effect but it was 1974 after all!

Logopolis

After seven long years, from Zygon’s to Nimon, the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, finally hung up his scarf for good (Dimensions in Time doesn’t count) in the Christopher H. Bidmead tale, Logopolis. By this point Sarah, Harry, the Brigadier, Leela, Romana and even K.9 had left the blue box. Thus in his last story it feels like his family is gone and the ‘’new guys’’ lot are unpacking their bags already, the ‘’new guy’’ is even there in the form of the ominous Watcher. Although the new companion’s feel more suited and associated with the Fifth Doctor, Adric works superbly in this serial with the first episode just Adric and the Doctor trying to work out a scientific puzzle, the dynamic of young apprentice and professor works with the Fourth, a lot more effectively than it does the Fifth.  The Master returns and there is some haunting characterisation with Nyssa and the Master having the face of her father, a shame this isn’t used again. But this story concentrates on the Fourth Doctors, somewhat vulnerability in his attempt to work out why he has to save the universe. This is where the story succeeds in Tom Bakers performance, in previous seasons Tom Baker could be criticised for his over excessive use of humour however his lack of humour and sombre attitude creates a more powerful image to Doctor Number four and his iconic pearly whites are only glimpsed prior to his regeneration, creating a saddening moment however ‘’it’s the end but the moment has been prepared for!’’

The Caves of Androzani

The Caves of Androzani is often billed as the best regeneration story ever, and for good reason.

I have watched The Caves of Androzani before, but it was a while ago, so I can only make a few points of interest for this review, but I suppose that's marvellous because these are supposed to be short.

Of course I naturally chose The Caves of Androzani to review because of it's billing as the best regeneration story ever, because who wouldn't?

The premise of the story keeps in keeping with most stories of the Fifth Doctor era, with something appearing as one thing to begin with, but quite the polar opposite in reality.

The setting of Androzani Minor is well represented even with the special effects of the day, with certain characters in the story being used to show its size and its relationship with its neighbouring planets.

The military force in the story reminded me very much of the Federation of Planets in Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was, however, because of their uniform design more than anything else.

The main villain in the story, Sharaz Jek, is very reminiscent of the antagonist in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical The Phantom of the Opera, and as that is one of my favourite musicals, I warmed to Jek quite a lot.

The emotional turmoil of the Fifth Doctor before his oncoming regeneration is brilliantly portrayed by Peter Davison, from the infamous shouting on the spaceship to the equally memorable curing of Peri prior to his regeneration.

Overall, The Caves of Androzani is indeed worthy of the title of the best regeneration story, with the acting throughout being impeccable, and some wonderful cliffhangers. It is, in my opinion, the perfect send off for the Fifth Doctor, and definitely a cracking story to watch.

Time and the Rani

This is the first time The Doctor has regenerated at the start of an episode and, I believe that, this makes it better as you get regeneration and see the new Doctor orientate his world. As you may know, Colin Baker didn’t actually come back for his regeneration so the writers just had to make up a reason for him to regenerate. I think, despite my hate of Colin baker, that it was a bit unfair to fire him from the job, and this is why Baker didn’t return for his regeneration.

In this episode, we see The Seventh Doctor and Mel take on the Rani, who at the start of this episode, tries to impersonate Mel. Through all episodes, there is a strange sense of an unplanned dialogue. Admittedly, the Rani is the coolest Time Lady in existence; this is due to her TARDIS, as it has a spiral in the centre of the console instead of a clear column. The Rani’s goal throughout the story is to capture highly intelligent people from throughout history to create a huge artificial brain to create a loyhargil for her.

I honestly don’t know what happened to the writers the day they decided to write this episode as on the whole, had a bad plot, clich√© dialog and was spectacularly bad and uninspired. For these reasons, I rate it a 5/10, not good, nor bad.

Doctor Who: The Movie

Well, The Movie was the only screened episode featuring the Eighth Doctor so I can’t really say it’s the best though it is good. This Movie is solely based around the Master opening the Eye Of Harmony with the help of a Chinese gangster Chang Lee. At the start, we see the Seventh Doctor as he talks about regeneration and his people. This is before he is killed and has to regenerate into the Eighth Doctor! The Eighth Doctor is probably one of the least known but I consider him as one of the best as he has a certain way of behaving under pressure though he is very unpredictable. The Episode/movie doesn’t have many plot holes through the running time though is slightly inconsistent with the new series though that is the fault of the new writers. There is only one problem with it in my mind, the actors. I have thought of Doctor Who as British with British actors and it just felt a bit out of place to me but that is just my opinion. Another thing I like about the episode is that we have a good run of adventure without having the last minute actions and then having to wait a week before we know what happens. Overall, the episode was brilliant. It had a gritty plot and had a fast paced story line to keep viewers on their toes with the uninterrupted plot. In the end I give it a 7/10.

Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways

The Ninth Doctor only had one 13-episode season to establish himself, but there's no doubt that he goes out with quite a bang in his final two episodes. Bad Wolf starts slightly weakly, with a slightly dated Big Brother/Weakest Link parody and an awful lot of forced comedy which feels a tad tonally out of line with the rest of the finale, but soon evolves into something much deeper come the 'death' of Rose and the reveal of the massive army of Daleks. It's a superb cliffhanger to the episode, and still ranks among the greatest cliffhangers of  new Who.

 The Parting of the Ways, on the other hand, is a pulse-pounding thrill ride with more than a few emotional gut punches (the Doctor sending Rose home, the death of Captain Jack), a superb conclusion to the Bad Wolf storyline and a nice regeneration scene at the end (even if it feels a tad low-key in retrospect after watching David Tennant's explosive regeneration)... which handily enough, is what this boxset is all about. The acting is also superb throughout - the underappreciated Christopher Eccleston providing an excellent performance in his final episodes, and Billie Piper finally stepping up to the plate as the Bad Wolf storyline finishes its conclusion. With some top-notch writing from former showrunner Russell T Davies and some neat direction, it's one of the very first truly cinematic episodes of Doctor Who. The Ninth Doctor may have been short-lived, but at least he got the goodbye he deserved.

The End Of Time

The Tenth Doctor had a slightly longer run than the Ninth Doctor - and with David Tennant firmly in the position of the public's favourite Doctor, his exit was always going to be huge. The End of Time features the return of the Master, the Time Lords, Wilf and Donna (plus every single companion from the revived series) - in short, it's a little bit of a Tenth Doctor-era fanfest. The general sense of nostalgia that pervades the two episodes often works in the episodes' favour, but it's generally their greatest weakness - at several points, The End of Time often becomes a little too self-indulgent and self-congratulating.

That's not to say it's a weak two-parter - The End of Time frequently thrills, with a series of clever plot twists (the twist that Wilf is the one who knocks four times was only recently bettered, in my opinion, by the end of The Name of the Doctor) and fast-paced action, blended together into a consistently entertaining story. The acting is top-notch too - David Tennant is as excellent as ever, John Simm does a rather good 'crazy' Master, Bernard Cribbins is great as Wilf - and even the minor cameos from the companions are well-acted. 

The final montage with the companions may be a nice call-back to previous episodes, but it's here where The End of Time falls into the pit of self-worship - it feels like a fifteen-minute long pat on the back for Russell T Davies, and only the excellent final scene from Rose can save it from the pit of self-indulgence. The regeneration is also the most explosive yet - and possibly the most emotional, with the Tenth Doctor declaring that he 'doesn't want to go'. But that's not quite the last we've seen of the Tenth Doctor... On Saturday 23 November, the Tenth Doctor will return.

The Doctor Who Regeneration Box Set (DVD) is available now for £42.99 from the BBC Shop.

Thanks to BBC Worldwide Consumer Products for providing this item for review.