Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series
November 19, 2010

Or the one where the gangly, floppy-haired Matt Smith debuts. (Matt? I suppose it’s no worse than Tom.) Almost everyone is new, actually, with Steven Moffat taking over from Russell T. Davies as head writer and executive producer. I can’t blame them for wanting a change — four successful seasons plus a whole bunch of specials has got to be a lot of work. However, I’m still coming to terms with it all. Smith doesn’t create the same kind of fan passion for me that David Tennant did. Instead of being an “I can’t wait to watch the next episode” series, now it’s just one I merely enjoy. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Good consistent entertainment should be appreciated.)

Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series cover
Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series
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The feel of this series is rather different as a result of these changes, with domestic humor — the new Doctor isn’t sure what he likes to eat and so spits up various things in the first episode, “The Eleventh Hour” — and a bit more slap-dash ramshackle goofy professor feel. Also, if you think too hard about some of the episodes, they don’t really hang together as tightly in plot or logic as one might like. Instead, the high points are emotional. On the other hand, this series as a jumping-on place got my husband watching the show for the first time in three decades, so there is that. Plus, maybe the Doctor should be a bit more mad and alien in feel.

My favorite parts are the strongest female roles in the series yet, with both the feisty Scot Amy Pond (Karen Gillan — although she’s got a bit of wacky dream girl in the character makeup) and more significantly, River Song (Alex Kingston), a woman (not a girl) who knows more than this Doctor does, a futuristic female Bond with a stunning sense of humor and adventure first introduced in the last series. (In supporting characters, there’s future monarch Liz 10 in “The Beast Below”.) Song returns in “The Time of Angels”, as do the much-loved (because they’re so wonderfully creepy) Weeping Angels, which were created by Moffat in the third series episode “Blink”. Sadly, they aren’t nearly as cool as they were in their previous appearance, as their abilities and weaknesses have been revised.

Karen Gillan (Amy) and Matt Smith (The Doctor)

Karen Gillan (Amy) and Matt Smith (The Doctor)

The Blu-ray set, physically, is impressive, a compact brick that opens to reveal six discs, each in their own plastic page, plus a fold-out episode listing. Five discs hold 2-3 episodes each, a total of 13, with an extra disc for Doctor Who Confidential. That has an additional 13 15-minute behind-the-scenes episodes, plus a whole set of trailers. Special features include

  • Video commentaries for “The Eleventh Hour”, “Victory of the Daleks”, “The Time of Angels”, “The Vampires of Venice”, “Cold Blood”, and “The Big Bang”. That’s many of the best episodes this season covered — although I would have liked to have heard one on “Vincent and the Doctor” as well. The historical figure appearances are some of my favorite episodes of the modern series, and that one, with Vincent Van Gogh, was heart-breaking. (Plus, it guest-starred my fave Bill Nighy.) These “In-Vision Commentaries” feature various writers or staffers or the occasional actor talking picture-in-picture over the episodes.
  • An additional scene for The Eleventh Hour called “Meanwhile in the TARDIS”, mostly banter and the characters getting to know each other, plus one for “Flesh and Stone” that’s very self-aware about having pretty girls as companions (with a brief historical survey).
  • Video diaries on three of the discs. Nine minutes each show hand-held set footage interspersed with Smith or Gillan or Arthur Darvill (Rory) talking to the camera.
  • A Monster File for the Daleks. That’s 10 minutes explaining the changes made (colour!) and their iconic status.
  • A Monster File for the Weeping Angels, which does much the same thing for these new classics, showing how they create the statue costumes and effects. (This was my favorite extra.)
  • Plus one each for the Silurians, the reptilian humanoids that attack the mining operations in “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood”, and the Alliance (a conglomeration of all the Doctor’s enemies, from the final two Pandorica episodes).
  • Out-takes, which are the usual blooper-y things and silliness for seven and a half minutes.

All the special features are also listed as present on the standard DVD set. Either way, this is the kind of set that has lots of bonus but not too much, no overkill, and it was nice navigating the simple menu organization without getting lost in too many options. It would be wonderful to dive into over a long weekend or days off during the holidays, rewatching all the episodes, especially appreciating the work and effects that went into them. (The studio provided a review copy.)

15 Responses  
Sarah writes:  

Eleven looked awfully bland at first, but I must admit he won me over by the end of the series. I don’t know that either he or Amy is that well-developed as a character, yet in the finale I totally bought that they would run around doing mad self-sacrificial stuff because they adore each other.

Lori Henderson writes:  

I was won over by Matt Smith by the end of his first episode. I like him better than David Tennant, but then, I have a problem with RTD’s portrayl of the Doctor in general.

I agree with you that the episodes aren’t as tight as they could be, and I wasn’t thrilled with the retconning of the Weeping Angels. They were scary-fine in Blink. They didn’t need anything changed or added.

Amy has turned out to be a good companion, and I love the idea that we’ll have a multi-companion TARDIS again. Moffatt can’t kill off Rory again. Not if he wants to keep my respect. I really didn’t care for River. She younger in her time line, and I liked the older, more mellow River of Silence in the Library.

James Schee writes:  

I’m with you on Tennant Johanna. I’ve only really followed Who when Christopher Eccleston was the lead, and I really liked him. When I first saw Tennant my first impression was ‘Who is this David Copperfield looking weirdo?” but not too long into his first episode I was wowed.

Smith, I gave him two episodes and just couldn’t get into him. Part of this may just be my appreciation of Tennant and the fact that his last episodes were so heart wrenching with him not wanting to change.

I just know that I’m not watching the show anymore, and don’t know if I’ll ever go back to doing so. (would likely take either a return of the Doctor’s daughter, or Tennant playing the other Doctor who went to live with Rose)

Chris G writes:  

As someone who greatly enjoyed, and was generally mystified by the criticisms of, the RTD-era Who, the thing I liked best about this season was how different it wasn’t. In a lot of ways it felt like a continuation with a slightly different approach, and I am pretty sure Moffat did just about every single thing RTD had (rhetorical) bricks thrown at him for.

Grant writes:  

I’ve been watching Who since the late 70s. Eccleston blew me away and Tennant was fun but quickly wore on my nerves and with the exception of Waters Of Mars, I thought Tennants last year was practically unbearable.

What I like about the Matt Smith stuff is that it’s much more “longtime fan friendly”. The final confrontation with the Atraxy at the end of 11th Hour and the return of the “primary color” Daleks showed me that this new team “got it”.

The two parter Cold Blood/Hungry Earth (the long awaited return of the Silurians) was a classic Who fan’s dream episode and sealed the deal for me. That’s one of the best episodes in Dr. Who history.

William George writes:  

Being an old school Who fan who that came in with Tom Baker, to me the Doctor is supposed to be your weird uncle instead of your university classmate who keeps getting all of the girls despite being a complete boob.

The fact that Tennant is such a good actor is pretty much what kept me coming back for RTD’s elaborate fan-fic. Rose leaving and being replaced by less annoying companions was another one.

That Smith has brought the character back to “Weird uncle” territory is a plus for me. Sadly, it seems to be working against the show as far as ratings are concerned, and the BBC slashing the budget hasn’t helped either.

I was glad to see a gravel quarry again, mind you…

James Schee writes:  

I wonder if that’s why I can’t get into Smith or Moffat (despite loving his Coupling and the little I saw of Sherlock) is that I’m not a long time Who fan. I’ve seen a handful of episodes of Baker and Davidson and thought they were quaint fun,but not something I’d invest in.

Grant writes:  

I think people are turned off by the older Who stuff because the stories are stretched out much longer, less compact and of course, the bare bones budget with props falling down. If those older episodes were rewritten and trimmed to 45 minutes with the present day budget and effects, I’d wager the new generation of who fans would eat them up.

Johanna writes:  

That’s a good point. One of my most favorite Who episodes (first time around) was Black Orchid, a two-parter, and when I recently watched The Sontaran Experiment, another two-parter, I enjoyed that too despite some of the silliness. Old TV had very different pacing expectations (I saw one episode of I Love Lucy where it took half the episode for her to get locked in the meat refrigerator, as we all knew was coming), and tighter work plays better to today’s viewers.

Prankster writes:  

I was perfectly alright with Tennant as an actor, but I found his Doctor, as written, to be a horrible, whiny douchebag who spent far too much of his time moping (usually over Rose) and having everyone tell him how great he was. The person above who called RTD’s run “fanfic” more or less nailed it for me. It didn’t help that Tennant’s run was filled with plot holes and illogic, and seemed to use the same three or four story points and ideas over and over again. I find it strange that people are nitpicking the Smith/Moffatt run in that regard when practically every Tennant/Davies episode had a moment of head-slapping stupidity.

The current season still has plenty of flaws, but I consider it to be a pretty big step up from Davies’ run, narrative-wise. The universe feels more coherent and original, and the foreshadowing pays off more interestingly than just having the characters say “Bad Wolf” a lot and then revealing what that means in the finale. And Amy Pond and Rory are far, far more interesting companions than the Davies girls, who seemed to exist mostly to moon over the Doctor (thank God for Donna Noble in that regard).

Grant writes:  

Right. Another good example would be the old Dark Shadows, which took forever for even the simplest subplot to play out. If you compare it to the 80s Dark Shadows series, the pilot episode is probably worth 60 episodes of the old series.

Thad writes:  

I prefer Tennant to Smith but Moffat to Davies. While I missed Tennant, I think this may have been the most consistently-good season of Who I’ve ever seen — what were the low points, Victory of the Daleks and the one with the Star Whale? And they were still both pretty decent.

Smith’s not bad by any stretch, it’s just that Tennant was the best Who since Tom Baker — and Eccleston, for my money, is number 3. Smith didn’t just have a tough act to follow, he had 2.

Johanna writes:  

“I prefer Tennant to Smith but Moffat to Davies.” I like that way of putting it.

Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] Time” follows up with a character from the Doctor Who Fifth Series episode “The Lodger”, where the Doctor shared a flat with Craig (James Corden). Now, […]

James Schee writes:  

Oddly am now hooked more on this Who than the RTD version. Which when I think of it now I hadn’t watched most of the last season, because I found Donna too annoying.

I actually bought this and season 6 on DVD, and am currently watching 11th Hour with video commentary on. I feel sort of bad for the woman who chose to wore a short skirt/dress and is spending the entire ep talking with her legs crossed.

Love Amy and River, though it makes me sad when I think of the Tennant episode where he meets River on the library world.


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