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Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series(TV) (2010)
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a time-travelling humanoid alien known as the Doctor who explores the universe in a sentient time machine called the TARDIS. Along with a series of companions, he faces a variety of foes while working to save civilizations, help people and right wrongs.
For more about Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series and the Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series Blu-ray release, see Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 18, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston, David Tennant, Christopher Eccleston
Narrators: Nicholas Briggs, Marnix Van Den Broeke
Directors: Adam Smith, Ben Wheatley, Jeremy Webb, Toby Haynes, Graeme Harper, Euros Lyn
» See full cast & crew
Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series Blu-ray Review
Taking names and craving apples, one beautiful Blu universe at a time...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 18, 2010
There are fixed points throughout time where things must stay exactly the way they are. This is not one of them, this is an opportunity. Whatever happens here will create its own timeline, its own reality... a temporal tipping point. The future revolves around you. Here, now. So do good!
Doctor Who has long been the pinnacle of ingeniously contrived plot devices. Series star ducking out? No problem. The Time Lords are capable of regeneration, appearing in different forms each time they're resurrected. Limited special effects budget? No worries. The TARDIS time machine is cursed with a faulty chameleon circuit and always appears as an ordinary police callbox (at least on the outside, when a more elaborate set simply isn't practical). Ambiguous alien races? Have no fear. The good Doctor learns more about the cheesy monstrosities he encounters as Who's cheeky showrunners come up with reasons for him to intervene in their civilizations and histories. Don't get me wrong, these aren't cheap jabs aimed at a beloved series -- especially one that's thrived for decades (in one form or another) in spite of its inherent limitations -- but it does help identify Doctor Who's chief charm. Before Lost wrapped its spindly fingers into the brains of every TV junkie with an appetite for episodic enigmas, serialized science fiction rarely relied on drawn-out mysteries or densely plotted adventure to attract new viewers and satisfy series regulars. Such elements were employed to a lesser degree, sure, but fans didn't have to wait very long to get answers. But Doctor Who has always been ahead of its time, so much so that Fifth Series showrunner Steven Moffat's continuation of Russell T. Davies' immensely successful Who reboot actually works, often in spite of the saga's homespun roots.
In the beginning was William Hartnell, and Hartnell was with Who, and Hartnell was Who. Since his departure from the series in 1966, ten different actors have stepped into the Doctor's time-seared shoes: Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and, the most recent Brit to tackle the role, twenty-eight-year old stage actor Matt Smith. Needless to say, Smith had some tough acts to follow, particularly Tennant, whose five-year turn as the quirky Time Lord redefined and re-energized the immortal as readily as Davies had rejuvenated the mythos. And really, any review of Doctor Who begins and ends with whichever actor is stationed at the helm. Smith's gangly frame and angular features lend the Doctor a more alien appearance than his predecessors, but his transition into the series is incredibly natural. With tempered physical comedy, a masterful control of his expressions and lanky extremities, and enough innate intensity and charisma to carry the weight of Who's drama, Smith does what some considered impossible: helping fanatics shrug off the sting of Tennant's exit. The Doctor is dead; long live the Doctor.
But Smith isn't the extent of Moffat's casting coups. The Doctor's latest companions -- kiss-o-gram messenger Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and her fiancé, Rory (Arthur Darvill) -- are just as crucial to the fifth series as Smith. More and more attention has been paid to the Doctor over the decades, but his emotional conflicts, compassion, humanity and struggles continue to be defined by the company he keeps. Amy and Rory are organic, revealing windows into the Doc's soul, and his adjustment to his newly regenerated body is more compelling as a result. Likewise, the interstellar and interdimensional threats Smith, Gillan and Darvill face this season, be they old favorites or fresh creations, are as menacing, comically toothy and blatantly bizarre as ever, and the showrunners' embrace of Who's cardboard roots leads to plenty of memorable invasions, witty lines and battles-to-the-death. Over-eager galactic police, shape-shifting beasties, the ever-dastardly Daleks, vampiric creatures, inescapable prisons, the uber-creepy Weeping Angels, cracks in time and space, underground upstarts and a terrifying alliance of the Doctor's greatest foes wreak havoc on reality, and Moffat's faithful heroes skirt certain destruction again and again. (Well, for the most part. Who has never been a stranger to death and finality.)
Be that as it may, many of the off-putting issues that have plagued the series since its inception are alive and well. Doctor Who's practical and visual effects are playful at their best, distracting deal-breakers at their worst. While Torchwood -- Davies' mesmerizing, critically hailed Who spinoff -- dwells in darker corners of the Doctor's universe, the mother series remains an inconsistent mishmash of glossy '90s-esque CG, cornball prosthetics, tacky sets, bargain-bin props and oddball production design. Intentional as Moffat's throwbacks are though, they hinder the show's creative potential. Whereas Torchwood represents a riveting evolution of an aging mythology, Doctor Who is more akin to a crafty homage; endearingly quaint and kooky at times, but maddeningly low-rent throughout. Other drawbacks? Exposition is dense, subplots either rocket past or inch along, dialogue is occasionally so chewy that some of the supporting actors choke, final-second solutions and other tired genre conventions lurk around every turn, and some episodes feature too much filler to resonate as effectively as Moffat's standouts. Even so, the same issues haunted Davies and Tennant's five seasons, and numerous Who devotees have showered each one with endless affection nonetheless.
Make no mistake: Doctor Who remains an acquired taste. The Complete Fifth Series will delight and entertain longtime followers, thrill those who've celebrated Davies' reboot from the beginning, continue to enchant fans with the show's patented genre humor, and assuage any fears Tennant loyalists have about Smith's tenure. But that doesn't mean its thirteen episodes are going to convert anyone who doesn't already live, breathe and bleed Doctor Who. Moffat's take on the series is strikingly similar to Davies' approach, and detractors aren't going to suddenly see the light. Moffat walks a tightrope between drama and comedy, but doesn't eliminate any prevailing problems; Smith is as eccentric, likable and talented as Tennant, but the Doctor is still the Doctor; and the series' effects are as charming and chintzy as ever, but earn more unintentional chuckles than genuine laughs. Long story short, if you adore all things Who, The Complete Fifth Series isn't going to disappoint. If you've never warmed up to its wares, Moffat and Smith aren't going to spark new love. But you already know if this one will appeal to you. It all comes down to the quality of the Blu-ray release itself, and you'll pleased to learn it's an impressive six-disc set.
Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series Blu-ray, Video Quality
I have to admit, Doctor Who's dazzling 1080i/VC-1 encode took me by complete surprise. Compared to Sherlock's bleak (but beautiful) presentation, watching The Complete Fifth Series is like being slapped in the face with a rainbow; a blazing, razor-sharp rainbow hellbent on doing whatever weird and wonderful things it wishes to your eyes. Primaries are punchy yet convincing, perfectly saturated skintones deftly weather the most colorful CG storms, blacks are absorbing on the whole, and contrast is nice and vibrant throughout. Yes, every special-effects seam is more apparent than ever -- all hail the Great Green Screen -- but the technical image is sound. I didn't notice any significant artifacting or banding, aliasing and ringing are kept to a negligible minimum, and the series' grainy disposition only succumbs to a few annoying bursts of noise per episode (each of which are inherent to the source). And detail? I wasn't expecting anything like this. Fine textures are exquisitely resolved (in all but the most VFX-slathered shots), fabrics and textiles are almost tangible enough to touch, delineation rarely falters, edges are exceedingly crisp and clean (again, barring the softer CG elements that appear), and closeups reveal every scratch, pore and misplaced hair that adorns the actors' faces. Interlaced though it may be, the Blu-ray edition of Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series looks fantastic. Jaws will be dropped.
Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Complete Fifth Series also features a brawny DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 surround track (at 2.0Mbps) that complements its video presentation nicely. Dialogue, though a tad thin at times, is generally warm, well-prioritized and crystal clear. Even when the action heats up and the Doctor finds himself in danger, voices (human or alien) aren't overwhelmed by the ensuing cosmic shenanigans. Moreover, robust LFE support grants explosions and implosions deafening power, crashing spacecraft and invading starships serious oomph, and alien assaults weighty malice and menace. The soundscape drifts over the top quite often, sure, but the vast majority of these over-reaching sonic flourishes trace back to Moffat, not BBC Video. Through it all, clinks, clunks, whirs, whizzes, bleeps, boops and a variety of impish effects dart about the soundfield before attacking the listener from every direction. If anything, the series' score -- enveloping as it can be -- sometimes bullies other elements in the soundfield, every now and then to the track's detriment. It isn't a debilitating issue by any means, but it made its way into my notes on more than one occasion. Still, BBC Video's DTS-HD HR mix adds even more value to a value-packed release.
Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Six video commentaries, three-hours of behind-the-scenes featurettes and more than an hour of additional bonus features. Not too shabby for a somewhat obscure BBC series being released on Blu-ray. Spread generously across six BD-50 discs, the largely high definition supplemental package leaves plenty of room for the episodes and their AV presentations without leaving much room for complaints.
Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Doctor Who will never appeal to the masses at large. If it did, it would cease to be Doctor Who. Thankfully, Moffat and Smith's turn at the TARDIS controls is as funny, exciting and entertaining as Davies and Tennant's five-year run. Whether that sends you to Amazon or leaves you shaking your head is entirely dependent on how much you love or loathe all things Who. BBC Video's Blu-ray release of The Complete Fifth Series isn't divisive at all though, and its stunning video transfer, rousing DTS-HD HR audio mix and bounty of special features will draw cheers from fans. Chances are, you already know if this six-disc set belongs in your cart, so dive in and enjoy.
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