I got this DVD set for my birthday recently, and like any good internet fan, I thought I’d gripe about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I was glad to see a successful revamp of the character, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the episodes when I first saw them. That was part of the problem, though — I’d already seen these episodes, some of them twice (original airing, and again on SciFi). Too much of my enjoyment, it seems, depended on plot points and surprises, and once I knew what was going to happen, I didn’t feel like I particularly wanted to see them again. (Especially when it meant hearing “weakest link” over and over; some of the gags were dated as soon as they aired. Although if they hadn’t chickened out and had kept Jack’s butt shot in that episode, I might be much more favorably inclined to it.)
This contrasts greatly with how I’m handling the second new Doctor’s run so far. I’ve only seen five of those episodes, and only once each. Even when I’ve wanted to, I’ve kept myself from re-watching them so I’ll enjoy the DVD set more when I get it in January.
Plus, this set brought home to me how much more I enjoy David Tennant’s portrayal. I think Christopher Eccleston did a fabulous job creating a Doctor for a new generation, but he’s just not as much fun to watch. He’s too tormented and moody. Tennant is sexier because of his playfulness. Plus, the writers seemed to have settled down to telling stories instead of needing to reestablish the mythos and similar high-toned aims.
Anyway, I was looking forward to this set because of the extras. I wanted the disc of Confidential episodes … but I was severely disappointed to see that they were the cut-down 15-minute versions. I’m darned glad I saved my 30-minute version discs, because those episodes have the older actors and historical context maintained, which was the best part, comparing then and now.
Most of the extras seem like cutting-room-floor sweepings, “video diaries” and the like. I found two of the extras worthwhile. The first was the morning show interview with Christopher Eccleston, because it’s the first time I’ve ever learned anything about his views on the character and the show. It’s particularly interesting watching it considering that he knew he was only on for one season, but the viewers and interviewer didn’t.
The other one was the too-short interview with John Barrowman, whom I adore as Captain Jack. He’s very articulate and seems to carry through the devil-may-care attitude of his character that makes him so attractive.
The trailers, of which there are several bunches, made me wonder if British video design was really that much behind the US — some of the color choices and techniques looked like high school video class to me instead of the creation of a professional, nationwide network.
It took me a while to find the commentaries (one per every episode). They’re under Set Up instead of Special Features, which isn’t where I’d expect them. Most of them are with producers, directors, effects creators, and the odd supporting cast member. Billie Piper participates on “Father’s Day” and “The Parting of the Ways”, both times stating that she hasn’t ever seen the completed episodes before.
The commentaries really picked up for me starting with “The Empty Child”, the introduction of Captain Jack. John Barrowman participates on those episodes he appears in, and he’s really entertaining. (I suspect his theater and musical background makes him well-suited to provide audio entertainment.) Steven Moffat, the writer, and he play well against each other, especially when they’re joking about gay officers’ clubs and the like.
Russell T. Davies (Head Writer, I think) and Julie Gardner (Executive Producer), in contrast, mutter on too much about things that seem obvious or I somehow already knew. They also have a bad habit about joking about cut-out footage that should show up on the DVD, only it isn’t there. The only thing that Davies said that will stay with me is when he called the haunting wordless female voice singing (used as mysterious background in many episodes and over the DVD menus) the voice of Counselor Flavia, an old Who reference.
On the bright side, my tuning out so much of the commentaries means I can approach them fresh when I rewatch this in a few years. Whether I recommend this is a tough question, because for me, there was no question of not getting it. I’m looking forward a lot more to the next set, though.
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