Friday, December 27, 2013

Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor

You know that maxim that says the third movie in a trilogy will suck? It’s not a hard and fast rule, as there are plenty of movies that buck it, but likewise there are enough failures to justify the coining of the rule in the first place. I thought of that rule often while watching “The Time of the Doctor,” which, after the exhilarating one-two punch of “The Name of the Doctor” and “The Day of the Doctor,” was a letdown of, I dare suggest, epic proportions. Ambitious to a fault, it never achieves the grandeur of the previous two “… of the Doctor” episodes, though it appears hell bent on outdoing both as hard as it possibly can. And you know what they say about trying hard — actually, I’m not sure, but it must be something awful. I’ll stop short of describing the episode as just that, because there was some nice stuff nestled in between all the loud, incomprehensible bits, which were countless.

Read the rest of this recap/commentary by clicking here and visiting Vulture.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD review

Surely the one thing that every Doctor Who fan will want this Christmas, “The Day of the Doctor” on DVD or Blu-ray is the perfect stocking stuffer for fans of all things Time Lord, TARDIS, and Tennant. On the weekend of the 50th, I only had a night and a morning to collect and figure out my thoughts in order to craft a recap for Vulture, but I’ve had plenty of time to ponder it since. Further, I saw it theatrically in 3D (as transcendent and religious an experience as an atheist Whovian can have, I imagine), and numerous times on the DVR and now this disc. I can’t recall the last time I wanted to watch an episode of new Who so many times, which must surely speak to the quality of the anniversary episode.

What gets me about this anniversary story is how it’s so much better by leaps and bounds than its predecessors. It’s often said that new Who isn’t as good as old Who, but then even back when the classic series was still on, people were saying “it isn’t as a good as it used to be.” But “The Day of the Doctor” is such a vastly superior anniversary offering than either of its multi-Doc predecessors (I’m not bringing “The Two Doctors” into the equation since it was a slightly different animal), that it’s a clear instance of an area where the new series blows away the classic – how the complexities of today’s storytelling trumps the days of old. No, new Who isn’t always better than classic, but nor is it always inferior, and here we have a sterling example of new trumping old. “The Day of the Doctor” is proof of how much life is left in this beast called Doctor Who, and it appears to be vast quantities.

I can’t recall if I shared this with Morgue readers before, but it’s a lengthy quote from Steven Moffat that I got from a conference call I was on with him. This was from back before the second half of season seven had kicked off, and someone asked a question about the upcoming anniversary special. Moffat's reply?

“The show must never feel old. It must always feel brand new, and a 50th anniversary can play against that. The show must be seen to be going forward. It's all about the next 50 years, not about the last 50 years. If you start putting a full stop on it, if you start thinking it's all about nostalgia, then you're finished. It's about moving forward. So, you know, the Doctor is moving forward as he always does…he's not thinking about all his previous incarnations and his previous adventures, he's thinking about the future. And that, for me, is important.”

And it was so refreshing to see that philosophy he espoused so many months ago finally play out onscreen, almost to the letter. The show that is seemingly more ancient than any other, once again feels fresh, and the load the Doctor has carried since the start of the new series has been lifted. It will hopefully be fascinating to see how this all plays out in the coming years.

As far as the Blu-ray goes, it’s difficult to imagine anyone being disappointed with the DTS-HD 5.1 sound or the 1080p video, though I don’t have a 3D capable TV, so I wasn’t able to explore that avenue of the disc; there’s so much more to this story than its 3D draw anyway. It seems unlikely that “The Day of the Doctor” will end up on any sort of season box set anytime soon, so whereas I might normally suggest that you could always wait a few months for the eventual season box set release, that seems less of an option for this title. Who knows? It may not even end up on the eventual season eight box set (which likely wont even be released until 2015). So this is an easy recommendation: Your collection craves this set. 

Blu-ray/DVD Extras: Normally minisodes are fun but ultimately a little forgettable. With this disc, however, we get one that’s downright imperative viewing, and that’s “The Night of the Doctor,” which was released a week and a half prior to “Day.” Featuring the return of Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, and showing his regeneration into John Hurt’s War Doctor, “Night” is the sort of thing Who dreams are made of, and it’s a brilliant prequel to “Day,” and its inclusion on this set, while not necessary, is surely the most welcome extra. I imagine some people will buy this disc especially for it, in fact. The other minisode, “The Last Day,” got sort of lost in much of the celebratory shuffle, but it’s set on Gallifrey in the midst of the Time War, and provides a bit of extra shading for the main feature. Indeed, watching both of these minis in order prior to the special proper is the way to do it.

Additionally, there’s the 45-minute “Doctor Who Explained” talking heads documentary produced by and shown on BBC America, and the 14-minute “Behind the Scenes” [of “The Day of the Doctor”] narrated by Colin Baker, which was shown theatrically, after the anniversary special (though the disc has neither of the pre-show featurette bits with Strax and Smith & Tennant). Lastly, there’s the “Day” trailer that was first screened at Comic-Con this summer, as well as that awesome collage teaser trailer that seemingly dragged us all the way through the Doctors many lives in just one minute, and ended with Smith pointing his screwdriver at the heavens.

Finally, this early edition contains a deck of twelve trading cards – one for each Doctor, including Hurt - that assemble together to make one large collage.

The only thing this set is missing – and its inclusion would’ve taken it right up over the top - is “The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot,” written and directed by Peter Davison. Let's hope that makes its way onto home video in some form or fashion, as it was integral to the anniversary celebrations.

Note: All of the above extras are included on both the Blu-ray and the DVD inside the set.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited - Ninth to Eleventh DVD review

After two volumes of “The Doctors Revisited,” featuring classic stories with classic Doctors, we reach the third and presumably final volume of this series, which features the three modern Doctors who’ve so dominated the landscape of Doctor Who since the show was resuscitated back in 2005. This is also the toughest of the three to recommend, simply because most people either have these on DVD or Blu-ray, or have access to these stories already via Netflix, Hulu Plus, or Amazon Prime. Further, these episodes frequently play on BBC America. So it would be very easy to view this set as redundant to your collection, and yet it had to be released.

If I know Doctor Who fans, those who picked up the first two volumes will look down at them and feel something’s missing if they don’t buy the third. After all, there are three half-hour talking head documentaries on here, covering the eras of Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith, which are part of the tapestry of “The Doctors Revisited” series. And there are also the fridge magnets – we mustn’t forget the fridge magnets! Indeed, the other eight magnets are going to look mighty incomplete without the final four - the last of which is a collage of all eleven Doctors (see pics below).

The storylines featured in this set are: “Bad Wolf” / “The Parting of the Ways” which closed out Season One; “The Stolen Earth” / “Journey’s End” which closed out Season Four; and “The Impossible Astronaut” / “Day of the Moon” which kicked off Season Six – all presented here in movie length edits as well as in their original two-part versions.

Fridge Magnets, 9-11
Also, it’s worth mentioning, even though it seems obvious to me, that all of the aspect ratio and quality issues I had with portions of the previous two collections do not apply to this set. In fact, these might look even better than some of the older DVDs (in particular the Eccleston two-parter – though admittedly I didn’t do any comparisons.) And the feature length movie versions have seamlessly married the two episodes together, which I was sort of skeptical about them being able to pull off, so basically you get what feels very much like three Doctor Who movies.  

There’s not too much to complain about here, except that since this set is comprised of three discs rather than four, the retail price point really shouldn’t be the same as the previous collections, though it is. Surely $34.95 or even $29.95 would have been a better move? Especially given that with this set, people are likely being asked to double dip. Well, we’ll leave that to you and your wallet or purse to figure out.

Check out the previous “The Doctors Revisited DVD reviews by clicking here and here.

The entire collection of "The Doctors Revisited" fridge magnets on my hideous yellow filing cabinet