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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who


Starring: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant
Distributor: BBC DVD
RRP: £61.27
Certificate: 12
Release Date: 24 June 2013

When William Hartnell decided to throw in the towel and stop playing the Doctor, the writers came up with the novel idea that he could regenerate which completely changes his appearance and allows another actor to step into the role.

Doctor Who: Regeneration is a six disc DVD set which contains all of the nine stories where the Doctor changed. The jewel in the crown of the set is the first showing of The Tenth Planet, which, coincidentally, was also the first appearance of the Cybermen. Not all of this show survived the BBC cull, with the last episode missing completely, but by using the off air audio recordings and surviving photographic evidence, the show has been created with surprisingly effective animation. The story has a lonely base under attack from the Cybermen, although it periodically cuts to other people and news reports to give the story a much needed international feel.

Hatrnell, collapses and cross fades to Troughton, who following a successful run had the ponderous The War Games, as his last story. The War Games scored another first by showing the Time Lord society as a minimalist environment and not the baroque excess which would find its fruition in Tom Baker's stories.

One interesting note is that you don’t actually see the Doctor regenerate as his replacement had yet to be hired and there is a question as to whether he, in fact, regenerates in the classic way. The Doctor usually regenerates in response to near death experiences as a way of saving his life, but here all that happens is that the Time Lords force him to change his appearance, something which, by the time of Romana, the audience is led to believe Time Lords can do at will.

Having stumbled out of the Tardis Jon Pertwee heralded a time of Earth based stories, with the heavy use of UNIT and a general move towards action stories, so it is fitting that Pertwee’s last story should be the six episode Planet of the Spiders. It wasn’t the greatest Pertwee story and the regeneration to Tom Baker is a bit rushed, which could not disguise the rubbish spiders.

Tom Baker stayed the longest in the role, which must have taken its toll. Here the transition from Tom Baker to Peter Davison is handled well, with the inclusion of the mysterious Watcher, even if the story was a little week. The Doctor and the Master fight for the very existence of the universe when the Master silences the mathematicians of Logopolis, who are using their skills to bleed entropy from the universe delaying its death. In saving the universe, the Doctor falls to his death.

Peter Davison became, until recently, the youngest actor to play the Doctor and his tenure in the role saw some uneven story telling. However this cannot be said of his last story The Caves of Androzani, which is held to be one of the best stories of all time. Here the Doctor sacrifices himself to save Perri, getting poisoned for his efforts turning into the acerbic Colin Baker.

Because the show had been temporarily cancelled and Colin Baker refused to return for his regeneration scene, this was faked and placed at the beginning of Sylvester McCoy’s first story, Time and the Rani, a perfectly dreadful story which, apart from a few minor highpoints in the series, set the tone for the show, ensuring its cancellation for good.

Time passed and Doctor Who fans went into apoplexy, hanging on any news that the show might return to their televisions, but instead of a series Who returned in the form of a TV movie. Unlike his predecessor, Sylvester McCoy returned to complete his regeneration in Doctor Who: The Movie, having fallen fowl of an Earth surgeon who thought he needed a bit of cutting and poking having been shot a number of times. The movie never went to a series, so Paul McGann never got to have a regeneration scene.

We skip forward to 2005 and the renaissance of the show, with Christopher Eccleston in the role. This discontinuity meant that it was just presumed that he had regenerated from Paul McGann, but the 2013 Christmas Special looks to make a mockery out of that idea.

With the show back on track Christopher Eccleston stayed for only one year before he is forced to suck the time vortex out of Rose after she had wiped the Daleks from history in The Parting of the Ways, putting a massive smile on her face and killing his present body, to be replaced by the most popular, modern, incarnation David Tennant.

Up to this point the Doctor had always gone quietly, with the regenerations being little more than one actor handing over the baton to the next. Some had been handled well, some not and although the show let you know that the process meant a form of death of personality, so when David Tennant came to change into Matt Smith, something different was tried.

The End of Time sees the Doctor trying to save the universe from the Master and the whole of creation from the Time Lords, labouring, all the time, under the prophesy that he would die in the attempt. When his time comes to regenerate Tennant’s Doctor behaves as many of us would, with both anger and great sadness making his passing all the more heart breaking.

Reviewers are sent check discs and not the final product. I can tell you that the stories have no extras with them, Tenth Planet will be released later in the year with extras, but it does come with a limited edition, numbered, coffee table style book, full of pictures and accounts of the Doctor’s regenerations, it says here. You can see where I’m going with this already. Nope, I didn’t get a copy so I have no idea if it adds any value to the package. So, possibly, if you’re an ardent collector, you’re going to buy five stories you already own, with the sixth being released later. Or the final package will be a thing of beauty and take pride of place in your collection. Me, well I get suckered in pretty easily, so will be saving my pennies for the eventual release.


Charles Packer

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