In 1978, the first four seasons of Tom Baker’s Doctor Who episodes were sold to PBS stations across the United States. This was not the first time The Doctor had come to America. Several years prior, Time Life bought up some of Jon Pertwee’s episodes and syndicated it to commercial stations in the U.S. However, none of the stations seemed to understand the nature of the serialized show and were constantly shuffling it about in their schedule keeping audiences from getting it. PBS hired Howard Da Silva to read voiceover recaps before each episode and teasers at the end, allowing audiences to keep up with its long story arcs. It immediately became a cult hit in the States.
I have vague memories of watching the Fourth Doctor and his long scarf battling Daleks and antagonizing his little robot dog. I wasn’t really a fan of the series back then. It came on too late and was too frightening for little boy me to watch regularly, but I was at least culturally aware of the series. It wasn’t until the new series came out that I really became a fan (and I was late coming on board even then, not starting the series until Matt Smith’s run as The Doctor). Once I had caught up with NuWho, I started picking up random episode of Classic Who. I immediately turned to Tom Baker’s turn as the titular character as he was most familiar to me. I now alternate between him and Jon Pertwee as my favorite incarnation but there is no doubt that for a great many people Tom Baker is the face of Doctor Who.
Up until now, most Classic Who episodes have been released on DVD in single-story format. As a serialized show, each story consists of anywhere from two to seven episodes with several stories then taking up a single season. It makes a certain sense for them to bundle each story into a single DVD and for the most part, the packaging of these stories has been good. But it does make it more difficult to collect everything. With each story costing about $30 here in the States, it gets quite expensive too. Many stories have gone out of print as well, shooting the price up from private collectors to sometimes exorbitant amounts.
Which is to say I’m pretty excited to see them releasing an entire season of Tom Baker’s run in the Blu-ray format with lots of extras. Truth be told, I already own three of the five stories included in this set and I’n not convinced the Blu-ray format can do all that much to improve the video quality of a "shot for UK TV in the 1970s" show so I’m probably not gonna lay down my cash for this until it maybe goes on sale around Christmas. But I’m pretty excited to see it nonetheless. Hopefully, if this one sells well they will continue releasing the classic series in a season format at a reasonable price and we’ll all be able to fill out our collections together.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
Unsane: Steven Soderbergh’s film is about a woman involuntarily committed to a mental institution where she is confronted by her greatest fear, but she (and presumably the audience) is never quite sure if it's real or a delusion. I’m always down to see what Soderbergh can do with a genre picture.
The Woman in the Window: Kino Lorber has spiffed up this classic Fritz Lang noir about Edward G. Robinson running into trouble with the law over Joan Bennett. You can read my full review here.
Pacific Rim: Uprising: Sequel to Guillermo Del Toro’s "giant robots fighting sea monsters" movie promises to have bigger giant robots fight bigger sea monsters.
El Sur (Criterion Collection): Spanish film about a young girl with a big imagination dreaming of the life her mysterious father must lead.
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris: Imaginative concert film of the late, great French singer.