Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Doctor Who: "The Snowmen" & "Series Seven, Part Two" Blu-ray reviews

Having written recent extensive recaps of over a thousand words apiece on each of the episodes contained within these Blu-rays (you can find them at Vulture by clicking here), I’m not going to rehash that dialogue once again. Indeed, in rewatching all nine of these episodes, I found my opinions haven’t changed much at all. The Christmas special, “The Snowmen,” is flawed, but ultimately saved by a group of enjoyable protagonists (Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Victorian Clara remains a major high point). The eight episodes contained within the “Series Seven, Part Two” set remain – for me anyway – a largely strong run of stories, several of which rank among the very best of the Moffat era. Clearly, fan opinion is divided on that assertion, and you probably already know whether or not you agree with me. Having said that, if you’re a fan and you didn’t care for what you viewed over the past couple months, perhaps it wouldn’t be an entirely bad idea to give them another go, with the heavy burden of expectation divorced from the viewing experience.

Originally, all nine of these episodes were announced for release in a single set. That quickly changed when, I guess, the bean counters realized that could make a few more bucks by releasing “The Snowmen” separately as they have some of the previous Christmas specials. Only problem is, “The Christmas Carol” disc offered up an entire Proms concert as an extra, and “The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe” included three, 45-minute talking head docs. In both cases, they were nice extras that went quite a way toward justifying entirely separate releases. Not so with “The Snowmen,” which offers up less than 10 minutes of bonus material. There’s a brief making-of entitled “Clara’s White Christmas,” and two prequels to the episode: “Vastra Investigates,” which premiered online; and “The Great Detective,” which debuted on Children in Need. Absent and very much missed is the online short “Demon’s Run: Two Days Later” which explains how the Sontaran Strax was brought back to life (or rather how he wasn’t actually killed in the first place).

Further, “The Snowmen” should have been included in the “Series Seven, Part Two” set because narratively it’s a big part of that story arc, whereas the previous Moffat holiday offerings were very much standalone tales. Bad, bad BBC Worldwide - I wag my finger at you! The “Series Seven, Part Two” set is equally lean on extras, offering up only two shorts: the arguably lame “The Bells of Saint John” prequel, which features the Doctor running into a young Clara on a playground; and a prequel that’s making its debut on this collection - “Clarence and The Whispermen,” which spells out a relationship between the psychopath and the creepy villains that was only hinted at in the season finale. Frankly, I’m not surprised it was ultimately decided to not play it on the interwebs. By Doctor Who standards it is quite unnerving and feels more like something to come from the mind of Clive Barker rather than Steven Moffat. Perhaps more importantly, though, it would’ve taken something away from the shock of the Whispermen in the episode proper to have already been introduced to them. Once again, though, a prequel is M.I.A. here, and that’s the “She Said, He Said” piece that debuted a few days before the finale. I imagine both it and the “Demons Run” bit will show up on the Complete Series Seven collection which will hit later this year.

As always, these discs are nice and sparkling crystal clear, with fantastic 5.1 audio tracks. There’s no better way to experience these episodes than on Blu-ray, which certainly trumps viewing them on BBC America with commercials. Though a DVR can alleviate that problem to a degree, one still ends up with tiny little breaks in places where they don’t belong. Doctor Who simply isn’t designed to be cut up in that manner. Obviously we’ve all been down this road many times before – you can either buy these now, or you can wait six months for the full Season Seven collection, which, as I understand it, will also include “The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe.” Personally, I’m extremely happy to have these for summer viewing, and would hate to be without high def versions of these episodes as I wait patiently for the 50th anniversary special.