DVD REVIEW Doctor Who, series five

Goes all the way up to Eleven

2010 • PG • 602 mins * £69.99 • 8 November 2010
Also available on Blu-ray (£79.99)
Distributor: 2entertain
Showrunner: Steven Moffat
Cast: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston and lots of monsters and that

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue…” The old saying that becomes so important in season five’s final episode  could just as well serve as a mission statement for series five of new Who.

There’s certainly no end of “something new”: new Doctor, companion, production team, logo, music, opening titles, TARDIS… Rarely has the show undergone such a radical regeneration during its run. Even with the Troughton to Pertwee handover, UNIT was there to ease things through.

As for “something old”, there’s a distinct feel of classic Who creeping back in. The Silurian two-parter is sheer Pertwee; “The Vampires Of Venice” could have been a Tom Baker story; “The Beast Below” is the mad invention of the McCoy years all over again. Even the shift from Russell T Davies’s beloved urban backdrops to the duck ponds of middle-England villages feels like a return to the old days.

“Something borrowed” is the new “dark fairytale” approach, like Tim Burton directing a Brothers Grimm adaptation. “The raggedy man”, “the girl whose life didn’t make sense”, “the boy who waited”… such phrases make the show feel more mythical than ever before.

And “something blue”? Erm, well, there were some willy gags in “Vampires” and Jeff’s porn in “The Eleventh Hour”. Okay, rubbish metaphor. But it’s got us this far.

So did Moffat, Smith and co pull it off? Largely, yes, though there was a tentative, slightly awkward feel to the series, similar to Christopher Eccleston’s year, as if the new team was feeling its way and learning lessons on the hoof. You certainly can’t accuse the show of a lack of ambition, with Moffat’s timey-wimey arc plot knitting together the season in audacious fashion. But sometimes individual stories feel like they needed a little more bite, a little more guts, a little more oomph. “Amy’s Choice” is a well-told, thoroughly entertaining tale, but also instantly forgettable, which is a shame because a story about dreams should really be able to produce some memorable weirdness. The Silurian two-parter would be equally as fast-food if not for the stunning arc plot revelations at the end.

But when the series is good it’s really good. The Weeping Angels two-parter is a tour de force, packed with great scenes; “Vincent And The Doctor” has the balls to place characters over plot (and includes some of the most gorgeous visuals ever produced for the show – if you can forget the space turkey); “The Lodger” is just stupidly fun.

Throughout, Matt Smith is just magnificent. A poltergeist-possessed tweedy deckchair of a Doctor, he has Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker’s ability to make any scene he’s in a joy to watch. And Karen Gillen’s lovely, although so far Amy‘s character has been so dictated by the requirements of the arc plot that it’s difficult to feel that we’ve really got to know her yet.

In many ways this was year one all over again, and if you look at it as the first series of a new show you have to admit, it looks very promising indeed.

Extras:

Adhering closely, but not exactly, to the format of previous new Who box sets, the series five release has some wonderful new gems and a couple of disappointments. Two new, specially-shot inter-story TARDIS scenes (one set between “The Eleventh Hour” and “The Beast Below”, the other between “Flesh And Stone” and “The Vampires Of Venice”) are a fantastic idea. The second, especially, is an enjoyable geekfest of contin-Who-ity.

You also get 29 minutes’ worth of candid and funny video diaries by Matt and Karen, a well-edited montage of bloopers and behind-the-scenes tomfoolery (capturing a great camaraderie between Matt and James Corden) and the usual batch of cut-down episodes of Doctor Who Confidential (now 10 to 15 minutes long). The “Monster Files” are much better than the superficial fluff the name might suggest: a trio of 10-minute documentaries on the new Daleks, the Silurians and the big monster mash in “The Pandorica Opens”, packed with interviews and new behind-the-scenes footage.

The main disappointments are the commentaries, because this time they’re only on six episodes, not all thirteen. The fact that they’re in-vision doesn’t compensate – it’s not like they all dress up as monks or anything. Sadly, Matt Smith doesn’t take part in any of them either, but the ones we do get are are as forthright and amusing as ever, especially when Moffat is involved – Mark Gatiss even admits he’s not fond of the new Daleks’ humps.

Dave Golder

Check out 20 things we learnt from watching the extras here.