I have been a fan of DOCTOR WHO since I was a kid and the episodes of the Tom Baker era aired on a local New York television station. By the time I had made my initial acquaintance with the series, DOCTOR WHO had been on the air for more than a decade in Britain and Tom Baker was already the fourth actor to portray the series title role. Since Baker was my first "Doctor" he has remained my favorite, that is, until the latest incarnation David Tennant. Tennant has a lot of the quirkiness that made Baker so popular, but it’s a different type of quirkiness. Also Tennant exudes a lot of emotional depth in the role, although he tries to mask it with a sense of absent minded professor detachment, making for one of the most interesting interpretations of the role.
For those unfamiliar with DOCTOR WHO, it is Britain’s (and the world’s) most long-lived science fiction series, initially running from 1963 to 1969. After a false start back in the 1990’s, the BBC finally resurrected DOCTOR WHO in 2005. DOCTOR WHO is the story of a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, who goes by the moniker "The Doctor" and has traveled through time and space with various companions from the planet Earth. Although they appear human, Time Lords are a long-lived species, which have the ability to regenerate (i.e. transform), when their current physical form becomes irreparably damaged (this usually happens when the current lead actor tires of the role). By the time DOCTOR WHO came back to the airwaves, The Doctor was believed to be the last of his race- the only survivor of a war with the Daleks, a highly xenophobic race intent on exterminating every other species in the universe.
DOCTOR WHO: THE COMPLETE THIRD SERIES ($100) comes to DVD in a six-disc set that features the following thirteen episodes, as well as the Christmas special that lead into series three: The Runaway Bride, Smith And Jones, The Shakespeare Code, Gridlock, Daleks In Manhattan, Evolution Of The Daleks, The Lazarus Experiment, 42, Human Nature, The Family Of Blood, Blink, Utopia, The Sound Of Drums, Last Of The Time Lords. Along with David Tennant in the role of The Doctor, Freema Agyeman portrays his lovely new companion Martha Jones, who appears with him in the thirteen episodes that comprise the third series, while Catherine Tate is Donna Noble- the title character of The Runaway Bride. Look for Derek Jacobi to make an important guest appearance during the third series, while John Simm portrays The Doctor’s long time nemesis.
BBC Home Video (via Warner) has made all the episodes that comprise DOCTOR WHO: THE COMPLETE THIRD SERIES available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. As presented here, the episodes look very good on DVD, although not as good as the best American Television productions that start out in the HD realm. Image sharpness and detail is solid. Colors are vibrant and rendered without flaws. Blacks appear accurate, whites are stable and contrast is somewhat beyond the typical TV production. Digital compression artifacts are never a concern.
All the episodes featured in DOCTOR WHO: THE COMPLETE THIRD SERIES come with Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtracks. For the most part, the soundtracks are very good, although dialogue seems a fraction low in comparison to the music. As expected, the forward soundstage dominates the sound design, with the rear channels providing occasional active effects, ambient sounds, and some musical fill. The bass channel gets by, but could be a little punchier, when the effects sequences require. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is easy to understand, when the volume is properly adjusted. No other language tracks have been included on the DVD, but English subtitles are provided.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard episode/scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials. Running Audio Commentaries are provided for all of the episodes, which is exactly how it should be for this type of sci-fi series with a large cult following. Disc six features the next major supplement- the thirteen Dr. Who Confidential episodes, which chronicle the show’s production. Other supplements include a Freema Agyeman Studio Tour, Outtakes, David Tennant Video Diaries, Deleted Scenes, and various Teasers and Trailers for DOCTOR WHO and other BBC productions.
If you are a long time fan, DOCTOR WHO: THE COMPLETE THIRD SERIES is a blast. Highly recommended.
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