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Doctor Who: The Complete First Series (DVD Review)

9 Mar, 2006 By: John Latchem

Doctor Who 1

Prebook 5/30/06; Street 7/4/06
BBC Video
$99.98 five-DVD set
Not rated.
Stars Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper.

Cult franchises may wane, but they never seem to go away forever. America has “Star Trek.” England has “Doctor Who.”

The time-travel adventures of The Doctor and his companions ran on the BBC from 1963 to 1989 before ending because of declining production values and low ratings. One of the quirks of the series was The Doctor's ability to regenerate himself into a new body following death, which let producers recast the role when an actor grew tired of playing it.

This 2005 series is the second attempt to restart the show, following a 1996 TV movie. Eccleston stars as the ninth incarnation of The Doctor, who has resumed his exploration of history and the future following an off-screen galactic cataclysm that has left him as the last Time Lord. As he bounces through time in his TARDIS vehicle, he joins forces with a young woman and saves Earth several times.

The latest batch of 13 episodes moves the series to a contemporary setting with computer-generated special effects. Like much British science fiction, the stories have a whimsical absurdity to them, but the interpersonal relationships are taken very seriously.

Some of the depictions of the future could use some more imagination — a human empire 200,000 years in the future doesn't seem too different than today — but the stories work because they're driven by strong characters.

Special features include interviews with the cast and crew, video diaries and behind-the-scenes featurettes. The fifth disc collects episodes of “Doctor Who Confidential,” which goes behind the scenes of each episode and previews the next season. While some of these featurettes mention previous Doctors, it would have been nice to see a more complete examination of the history of “Doctor Who” and how this new show fits in.

“Doctor Who” is a cult favorite around the world, and this set will appeal to those fans. Sci Fi Channel will air the series beginning March 17.

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