Doctor Who

The Complete Fifth Series


Doctor Who ~ Series Five

Lead Writer: Steven Moffat

Executive Producer: Steven Moffat

Originally aired on BBC (UK)  April 3 – June 26, 2010

Release date on Blu-ray: November 9, 2010


Matt Smith  - The Doctor

Karen Gillan - Amy Pond

Alex Kingston - River Song

Arthur Darvill – Rory Wiliams

Ian McNeice – Winston Churchill

Bill Paterson - Bracewell

Meera Syal – Nasreen Chaudry

Caitlin Blackwood – Amelia


Television: BBC

Video: BBC 2|entertain


Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080i

Codec: VC-1

Region: 1 (2, 3 & 4 untested, but presumed free)

Disc Size: 39.79 GB (disc 3)

Feature Size: 36.00 GB (disc 3)

Bit Rate: 31.44 Mbps (disc 3)

Series Runtime: approx 570 minutes

Episodes: 13

Chapters: 12 per episode


English DTS-HD 5.1

English DTS Express 2.0


English SDH


6 In-Vision Commentaries

2 “Meanwhile in the TARDIS” Additional Scenes

4 “The Monster Files” - in HD (approx. 40 minutes)

3-Part Video Diary - in SD (approx. 25 minutes)

20+ Teasers & Trailers - in SD

Dr. Who Confidential - in HD (13 episodes: 179 min)


Blu-ray Case w/ plastic pages: BRD x 6

Street Date: November 9, 2010


Doctor Who first saw the light of a cathode ray tube way back in 1963 in black and white and with the cheapest production values unimaginable.  The show has since gone on through some 26 seasons of regular programming and seven Doctors before coming to a dead stop in 1989.  But fans would not be satisfied with reruns and, after a poor showing in 1996 in a TV movie starring Paul McGann as the eighth Doctor.  In 2005 the franchise was regenerated by Russell T. Davies, with Christopher Eccleston and the very popular David Tennant as the ninth and tenth Doctors before turning over the key to the TARDIS to Matt Smith for the fifth season.


The Movie: 8~9

The fifth season (or “series” as they are often called to distinguish them from the 26 seasons that ended twenty-five years earlier) found itself with a new producer, RTD having moved on along with Tennant and other producers.  Steven Moffat has been with Dr. Who since it restarted in 2005, mostly as writer. Moffat had previous executive producer experience with the short-lived, but well-received 2007 TV series, “Jekyll.”  He continues here as principle writer as well.

As you must already know if you watch television at all, Doctor Who, besides being a fantasy show, is also a buddy series.  The Doctor, who is definitely not from these parts and a bit over 900 years old, teams up with a young Earthling, usually a game young woman.  The interplay between them as they battle the forces of Evil across the galaxy and across time (Did I mention that the Doctor is the last surviving Time Lord!), trading functions as rescuer and rescueee, is much of what the show is about.


The Doctor is more or less immortal, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say he is invulnerable in the same way as, say, Superman.  He does, however, have this uncanny ability to regenerate himself just before death and as the actor who currently plays him moves on to other projects.  One of the show’s delights is that each Doctor, in turn, has a quite different personality, though in common with all of them is an outsized ego, which is a considerable part of their charm. 

Matt Smith is the eleventh Doctor, the youngest and most effervescent, dashing about the scene like Don Quixote, orchestrating his thoughts as he goes.  Mindful, but just a wee bit careless, the personification of improvisation.  He enjoys engaging or shutting up whoever is nearby into his line of thought, a thinly but effectively described ploy to bring the viewing audience into his peculiar style of processing in times of crisis, which is pretty much all the time, or nearly.


Karen Gillan plays his companion in the Fifth Series, who first meets him as a child of seven after the TARDIS has crashed into her backyard.  Oh, yes: the TARDIS!  Let’s not forget this all important character.  The TARDIS is the Doctor’s time machine.  From the outside it looks like a 1950s London public access police call box.  But once inside, the TARDIS blossoms into a small space ship of sorts.  A neat trick.  P.S.: TARDIS is always properly written in all caps.

Back to Ms Gillan, a clear-eyed Scottish actress with a face, while not remarkably pretty, is positively awash in an intense and scarcely suppressed sexuality, a fact which seems to be lost on the good Doctor.  She is a Life Force that draws everyone near her into it.  What he responds to is Amy’s curiosity and sense of adventure - that, and the nagging question of the crack in her bedroom wall that seems to follow them from one episode to the next and that eventually ties space and time together and blows it apart again.


The casting of Amy and the Doctor so close in age (she 23 and he 27) does bring the question of sex into our minds if not theirs - well, not his anyway.  After all, while not spoken in so many words, it is as clear as can be that the older Amy is in love with her childhood sweetheart - a cross between Peter Pan and her father.  The fact that he may have been imaginary while she “waits” his promised return is an exquisite factor in her enthusiasm for adventure and desire to please him, that is, to face danger more willingly than is prudent.

For his part, the Doctor, who has always had a special fondness for Earth and goes out of his way to protect it against all alien invaders, sees his various companions as stand-ins for the human inhabitants he has chosen to defend.  Rarely in the thirty seasons of the franchise has this relationship been so lovingly and distressingly manifest as with Amy.  After all, Doctor Who (the title, not the name of its title character, who is known simply as “the Doctor”) is first and foremost a fairy tale - even more importantly than as an exercise in science fiction - and, as such, the protagonist’s relationship to humanity in general is what draws us into the story time and again, regardless of who plays who.


While Doctor Who’s fifth series is episodic, in that each one- or two-part segment has its particular crisis and alien monster to confront and overcome, as well as the occasional historical figure such as Winston Churchill and Vincent van Gogh to massage, there are ongoing character developments and dramatic arcs to consider, such as Amy’s relationship with her fiance and the recurring and persistent crack in time that allows her to become a fascinating subject/object on the relationship of imagination to memory.  Amy herself evolves into the Doctor’s most reliable access into human thoughts, attitudes and feelings, while the Doctor’s initial excitement for his newly regenerated self gives way to a darker, more complex and more worried concern for his favorite species.

A few characters and monsters from previous seasons quite naturally show up (Daleks, of course), others (Weeping Angels, River Song) make their entrances unexpectedly. We’re all sure to have our favorites.  Mine, beyond the obvious (Alex Kingston’s River Song) is Bracewell, the bionic engineer who devises laser weapons for the defense of WWII London.  There is a tangible melancholy that Bill Paterson brings to his character as he discovers how it is he is able to build such devices decades ahead of their time.


There is not a single weak episode in the lot, and at least one, the two-part “Hungry Earth/Cold Blood,” achieves a kind of greatness: updating and expanding upon the human truths found in Star Trek’s subterranean fable “Devil in the Dark.”  Affect and mood changes abound in its mere thirteen episodes: there’s one out and out comedy: “The Lodger.”  One tragedy: “Cold Blood.”  One head-turning, bi-lateral dream episode.  And a two-parter that brings everyone and everything back for one explosive finale.  Homages abound in this series, but I am sure you would rather discover them yourself.

Finally, a word about Matt Smith and Karen Gillan.  As noted earlier, one of the delights of Doctor Who over the many years is the ever-changing persona of its title character (My personal favorites from the old series were Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker).  Age aside, Matt could hardly be more different from the Doctor’s earliest incarnations, a couple of whom were more serious than earnest.  As for these last few years, it’s been jolly good entertainment.  Matt, I think, is particularly good at engaging the youngsters in his audience.  And Karen has the requisite energy, stamina, and boundless enthusiasm to counter and complement Matt’s driven, excitable Doctor.  (An aside: Caitlin Blackwood, who plays the young Amy Pond is Karen’s cousin in real life, in case you’re wondering how they found a kid who looks so much like her.)


Image: 8~9/9

You shouldn’t be too concerned about this series being presented in 1080i.  By the time it was projected on my 104-inch screen via OPPO and JVC/DILA, the image, especially in the opening and closing episodes, is stunning.  Never lacking in dashing color and superb contrast control, the image generally sports what appears to a barely perceptible veneer of fine dust - the first episode, not so much. Close-ups - staggering when the camera holds on a still face, a little too revealing for Matt Smith, perhaps - are faithful to natural skin tones and textures, fabrics, leathers and metallic surfaces.  The new Doctor Who and high definition seem made for each other.

Bit rates are very high: about 30 whether two episodes per disc or three.  I found no compression artifacts or transfer issues of concern, and, as we should expect, they are clean as can be.


Audio & Music: 7/7

The audio mix for this Blu-ray of Doctor Who is DTS-HD 48 kHz / 2046 kbps / 16-bit, not in the same league as a major release such as Apocalypse Now at 48 kHz / 4404 kbps / 24-bit.  Still, it adequately fills the bill for a television-based fantasy program.  That said, I found the dialogue, often delivered rapid fire by Matt Smith’s Doctor, is a trifle lacking in crispness, made all the more difficult by its being in a foreign language, despite Ms. Gillen’s softened Scottish accent – foreign to a Yank such as myself.

Music and the many effects – new, traditional and emblematic – are solid (except for the regenerated title theme, which is not so good), if, like the dialogue, just a little wooly and lacking in dynamic nuance and tautness.  Even the bass, which can be come on ripe and fat at times, lacks the punch of a lossless rendering.  The surrounds come into play enthusiastically whenever the situation called for it though precise placement is not always carried out with care.


Operations: 3

The reason for the middling score here lies primarily in the fact there is no way to attend to the commentary without engaging the PIP function. And, while there is an option to watch the two “Meanwhile in the TARDIS” extended scenes with the relevant episode, for some reason it was decided not to connect them seamlessly. Instead there is a pause with a Doctor Who logo between.  Weird.  Other than these puzzling oversights, menu functions are easy to use and sensibly laid out. I did have intermittent trouble accessing the In-Vision features with my OPPO.  No problem with computer access, however.  On the other hand, the case avoids the hated flippages and opts instead for a more booklike presentation with one clunky plastic disc for page.  Ah, the Time Lord giveth and taketh away.  Alas, there are no subtitles other than English.  Finally, I can confirm Region 1, but presume this is a Region Free release as are other Blu-ray titles from Warner’s BBC America.


Extras: 7

Since the expectation is that the earlier seasons since the 2005 retake will someday find their way onto Blu-ray, so as a producer you would want to maintain a modicum of consistency without reinventing the wheel already in place with the DVD sets now in print.  The easiest thing would be to duplicate that format here, and that’s roughly what BBC America has opted for.

First up are the six In-Vision Commentaries (the DVD sets had audio only for every episode).  You would think that PIP commentaries affords creative opportunities for the medium, especially for a fantasy series such as this new Doctor Who. But you’d think wrong.  “Static” hardly does these PIP frames justice.  The commentators sit there, hardly moving, earphones over their heads (a most distracting idea), staring at their TV monitor just at the edge of or outside of the frame. The good news is that the six commentaries are differently composed of two or three actors, writers, directors, producers and crewmen (a nice mix, actually) – some more lively and/or less goof-off than others.


The four “Monster Files” are 10-minute behind the scenes bits related to Daleks, Weeping Angels, Silurians and The Alliance, along with a show & tell by those involved with bringing them to life, so to speak.  Very much worth your time.  The piece on the Weeping Angels, which also references Series Three’s critically acclaimed episode “Blink,” is brilliant (a term that our new Doctor overuses to the point of dulling the idea.) 

There are two “Meanwhile in the TARDIS” extended scenes, brief but recommendable. In terms of character development, the second, - following the end of “Flesh and Stone” - is more essential than optional.  There are three raw footage Video Diary clips that follow Matt and others through the preparation and  filming of various scenes.  A bit jittery for my taste.


The sixth disc is devoted entirely to the three-hour “Dr Who Confidential” (in hi-def, by the way) plus a Tardisful of “BBC Idents” and Trailers. “Doctor Who Confidential” is a documentary series created and aired by the BBC to complement the regenerated series that began in 2005. Each segment (originally running about 30 minutes or more, but later shown in “cut-down” versions of about fifteen minutes that found their way onto DVD Bonus Features.)  The narrator for each series’ Confidential episodes usually appears as a supporting character in that series (the first was none other Simon Pegg, who played the Editor in “The Long Game”), but, except for a single segment from the first series, has never been one of the leads.  This time it’s Alex Price (Francesco in “The Vampires of Venice”) who guides us in rapid fire succession through interviews, promotional and feature clips and especially all manner of production questions - an excellent and relentless resource for bits of tid.


Recommendation: 8

Doctor Who comes to Blu-ray for the first time in Series Five (2010) from BBC America.  Despite that the show has been running for some 26 seasons until 1989, regenerated in 2005, and with its fifth season (or “series”) the eleventh Doctor is reborn as Matt Smith, you can feel entirely comfortable with jumping in at this point.  I find this season simply smashing, and its rendering in Blu-ray very good indeed, more along the lies of Bones than Lost or Rome.  If you’re new to Who you might feel inclined to catch the series from its restart in 2005 once you watch this new one, equally and differently excellent also.  But you might want to rent them since they just might show up in Blu-ray themselves someday.

Leonard Norwitz                                                                                      Coming Soon on Blu-ray

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November 14, 2010                                                                                                 Return to Top




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