Doctor Who: Peter Davison: Complete Season One Blu-ray Review

A marvelous collection that Whovians should be happy to have on their shelf.
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The BBC has released Doctor Who: Peter Davison - Complete Season One, the second in its series of classic Doctor Who seasons on Blu-ray and the first featuring Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor. This season, also known as the 19th season of the classic run, aired from January 4 to March 30, 1982 and contains the stories: Castrovalva, Four to Doomsday, Kinda, The Visitation, Black Orchid, Earthshock, and Time-Flight. In addition to Special Features from previously released DVDs, there are also brand new special features throughout the eight-disc set.

Peter Davison had no easy task, following the very popular Tom Baker, who still holds the record for longest tenure playing the character on TV at seven seasons. His doctor dressed as a cricketer with a celery on his lapel. While still a likable, heroic figure, the character wasn't as brash or comedic in his new iteration. He kept his emotions in check, such as not grieving much when a companion died, but was easily frustrated when they disagreed with him.

His companions this season had all started their TARDIS tenure with the Fourth Doctor: (listed in chronological order) Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), a young man knowledgeable about mathematics from the planet Alzarius, which exists in the parallel universe known as E-Space; Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) from the planet Traken, who was gifted in dealing with technology; and Tegan (Janet Fielding), an Australian airline stewardess who mistakenly thought she was using a police box when first entered the TARDIS. I enjoyed the different characters, but the writers didn't know how to handle three companions within a story. This is why Nyssa fell ill and stayed on the TARDIS during Kinda and why Adric got stuck aboard the doomed spaceship in Earthshock.

Castrovalva: The Fifth Doctor made his first appearance in the previous storyline, Logopolis, as The Watcher, a figure in white who was just biding his time until the regeneration. After the Fourth Doctor dies from injuries sustained in a fall, the Watcher/Fifth Doctor appears to merge with the body, though that doesn't really seem like a regeneration. Castrovalva begins with scenes from the previous episode to catch viewers up.

The Doctor needs time to sort himself out after regeneration and heads to the Zero Room to recuperate. Somehow, Adric has been captured by the Master, and under his control, sets the TARDIS coordinates for the moment of the Big Bang, which is so hot it almost overwhelms the TARDIS. Searching the TARDIS data banks, Nyssa and Tegan learn of the planet Castrolava, which will help in the Doctor's recovery, but something's not right about the planet, which at times seems like they are in an Escher painting. This was a very good introduction of the Fifth Doctor, who seems stable by Part Four's end. Having companions and a villain that the audience already knew helped the transition. The Master presented some nice surprises even though his plans are more convoluted then they need to be in order to kill the Doctor.

All episodes have dual mono audio, a commentary track with cast and crew members, and info text, which presents informative trivia on screen throughout and is well worth having on. This story also has an isolated music soundtrack and can be watched with Updated Special Effects.

The Bonus Material offers items that will appeal to the casual fan and the completist. Some of the information and the footage is repeated. The “Making-Of Documentary” (39 min) finds the main cast and Mark Strickson (Turlough) reminiscing as they walk through locations, There are also interviews and archival material. “Behind the Sofa” (40 min) finds the main cast in one setting and Strickson and Sophie Aldred (Ace) in another, each watching and commenting. And neither group is shy about sharing their opinions. “BBC1 Continuity” (5 min) are the channel's ads and bumpers related to these episodes, and the Photo Gallery is a video of production stills. All these features appear for each story.

There are two “Deleted Scenes” (2 min), and “Studio Footage Part One” (49 min), “Part Two” (52 min), and “Part Three” (23 min), interesting for those curious about how a show is made, but could just as easily be found boring. “Being Doctor Who” (14 min) has Davison talking about his tenure. “Directing Castrovalva” (11 min) is as interview with director Fiona Cumming. “The Crowded TARDIS” (11 min) covers the three companions. There are also “Clean Opening & Closing Titles” (4 min), Theme Music Video” (4 min) with Tom Baker and Davison's faces, Coming Soon to DVD: Four to Doomsday .

There are a number of segments from UK shows. Blue Peter (9 min) is a children's show with clips from past Doctors to explain the series. Davison has been announced but hasn't started production. Pebble Mill at One (12 min) is an afternoon chat show after Davison had taken the role but before appearing in it. Saturday Night at the Mill (14 min) is a chat show appearance from 12/26/80. “Lord Mayor's Show Parade” (1 min) finds Davison and others on a float. Swap Shop (21 min) is a live UK children's show with Davison as a guest on 1/9/82 and he takes calls from children.

Four to Doomsday: Intending to return Tegan home so she can catch her flight, the TARDIS lands on a spaceship. There, they meet its captain, an Urbankian who goes by “Monarch”. They also encounter Earthlings from the past: an ancient Grecian garb, an Aborigine, a Mayan, and a Chinese man. When the Monarch's two ministers take on the appearance of drawings Tegan sketched, it's clear something odd is going on. Supposedly three billion Urbankian are on board after their sun collapsed into a black hole and plan to resettle on Earth but Monarch plans to destroy human life and use its resources. Adric seemed a little to gullible and willing to go along with the Monarch, and Tegan was a bit hysterical, slamming him to the ground. The Doctor shows his ingenuity when attempting to travel in zero-g gravity by what he has in his pockets.

The bonus material contains “Making-Of Documentary” (35 min), “Behind the Sofa” (30 min), Studio Footage Highlights (27 min) and Unedited (62 min), and Audio Archive (15 min) featuring an interview from 1994 of Stratford Johns, who played the Monarch.

Kinda: On the planet Deva Loka, an Earth survey team has been losing members as they study the primitives, who aren't as simple as they seem. Hindle is second in command but he soon takes over. As his paranoia grows, he plans to blow up the jungle where the Kinda reside. Tegan is possessed by the Mara, a creature from another dimension who taps into her mind through her dreams. When a body is controlled by the Mara, a snake appears on the arm. Although he had no idea what would happen, it still seemed odd that the Doctor wanders off after Adric, leaving a sleeping Tegan behind. Nyssa is laid up on the TARDIS because she wasn't planned for when the scripts were first being developed. There are interesting concepts in the story, which writer Christopher Bailey explains in the extras were watered down.

The bonus material contains “Making-Of Documentary” (34 min) and it's interesting to hear them disagree about different aspects of the show. “Behind the Sofa” (33 min), “Deleted and Extra Scenes” (14 min), “Directing with Attitude” (23 min) talks about Peter Grimwade, and Coming Soon, The Visitation (1 min). Audio is also available in 5.1 Surround and an Isolated Music Soundtrack. There is an “Effects Comparison” (2 min), which might sway one to watch the Updated Special Effects.

The Visitation: The Doctor gets Tegan back to Heathrow 300 years to early. Villagers come after them, but they are assisted by highwayman/actor Richard Mace (Michael Robbins), who informs them of a comet that had landed recently, but the Doctor knows better. As they search a home for answers, a bejeweled android captures Tegan and Adric. When the Doctor meets the Terileptil leader, he offers to help them return home, but being a fugitive, the leader can't return. Instead, he wants to use the TARDIS to kill all of humanity and takeover the planet.

This story is a highlight of the season. Mace is a very funny character and it's a shame he didn't get to go on further adventures. I like that the sonic screwdriver is blown up. It kept the crew and the writers from using it as a magic wand. It wouldn't return until the Eighth Doctor's TV-movie and regularly gets abused during the modern era. The story ends with the fun revelation that the Doctor was involved with the Great Fire of London.

The bonus material contains “Making-Of Documentary” (45 min) with another location walkabout minus Waterhouse. “Behind the Sofa” (28 min), “Film Trims & Studio Footage” (8 min), “Writing The Visitation” (13 min) with script editor Eric Saward, “Scoring The Visitation” (16 min) with Paddy Kingsland. “Directing Who” (26 min) focuses on Peter Moffat, who worked with producer John Nathan-Turner and Davison on All Creatures Great and Small, and directed six stories: Tom Baker's State of Decay; Davison's The Visitation, Mawdryn Undead, and The Five Doctors; and Colin Baker's The Twin Dilemma and The Two Doctors. Coming Soon: Black Orchid (1 min). There is a Isolated Music Soundtrack.

Black Orchid: This two-parter is like an Agatha Christie mystery as the only aliens are TARDIS crew members. Set in 1925, the Doctor is mistaken for another doctor and they are taken to a country estate. The Doctor gets to put his cricket outfit to use, and Nyssa meets Ann, her look-alike double. A costume ball is held for charity and a murder takes place where the Doctor becomes a suspect. This is fun throwback to when the series told historical stories and a refreshing change of pace.

The bonus material contains “Making-Of Documentary” (37 min) where Davison gets to give it go on the cricket pitch once again. “Behind the Sofa” (26 min),Deleted Scenes” (7 min), and Blue Peter (9 min) where viewers get a trip to the costume shop that supplied the costumes from this episode. “Points of View” (2 min) is a “Letters to the Editor” program with folks complaining about the time change and other issues. “Now & Then” (9 min) is a look at locations in 2008. There is “DVD Film Restoration” (3 min) and “Audio Archive” (24 min) is an interview with production designer Tony Burrough. There's an Extended Part One that is 2.5 minutes longer.

Earthshock: The TARDIS crew finds themselves on Earth of the 26th Century. The story opens with Adric wanting to go home but the Doctor telling him they can't plot the negative co-ordinates. On the planet, they find dinosaur fossils and the Doctor explains they died out due to colliding with something from space, which is a nice bit of foreshadowing. After encountering some soldiers, the Doctor discovers the Cybermen are attempting to blow up the planet.

The episodes have a good amount of action and fighting, although a continuity error occurs when weapons are used aboard the TARDIS. There's also an effects error as the ship explodes in space but is said to have crashed into the Earth, not an asteroid as had been speculated. But viewers might overlook it as the explosion means the death of Adric, a tragic yet heroic death for a companion.

The bonus material contains “Making-Of Documentary” (41 min),Behind the Sofa” (36 min), “Location Film Sequences” (9 min), and Studio Footage” (63 min). “Putting the 'Shock' into Earthshock (32 min) is a look at the show from crew and fans. “The Boy with the Gold Star” (20 min) is an interview with Waterhouse. Did You See...? (10 min) from 3/13/82 is a look at different monsters through series, Pebble Mill at One (9 min) from 3/16/82, and Claymation Short (1 min) is a very funny epilogue to the episode. The disc offers 5.1 Surround, an Isolated Music Soundtrack, and Updated Special Effects.

Time-Flight: The TARDIS finally gets to Heathrow but another adventure takes place as the Concorde has disappeared, but it's not where but when it has gotten to. Using his UNIT credentials, the Doctor is able to get another Concorde to recreate the incident. They seem to land back at Heathrow, but it turns out they also went back 140 million years ago. Kalid, a humanoid man doing a Far East accent, is watching them through a magic device of some sort, and has the passengers from the first flight working for him under hypnosis to steal the TARDIS.

Khalid is actually The Master, but there's no explanation how he escaped from Castrolava and ended up in Earth's past nor why he pretends to be Kalid when no one is around (other than to fool the viewer). The Master plans to uses the Xeraphin, aliens who crash landed on the planet and have taken the form of energy, to power his TARDIS. Due to some skulduggery on both sides, the Doctor and Master must work together to ger both their TARDISes working. While the effects are poor and it feels like there's some dead weight to the story, it's fun to see the Doctor and Master try and outfox each other.

The bonus material contains “Making-Of Documentary” (34 min), Behind the Sofa” (27 min),Deleted & Extended Scenes” (4 min), “Studio Footage (Highlights)” (20 min), “Studio Footage (Part 1)” (121 min [not a typo. Over two hours!]), “Studio Footage (Part 2)” (4 min), “Out-Takes” (14 min), [this story's writer] “Peter Grimwade Interview” (4 min), and “Audio Archive” (28 min), an interview with Grimwade.

As if there wasn't enough, there's another disc just of Special Features. “Peter Davison in Conversation” (68 min) was recorded for this collection. The Fifth and Tenth Doctor meet in Time Crash (8 min), a telethon special for the children's charity Children in Need. “Jovanka Airlines Trailer” (2 min) has Fielding promoting this set as a flight attendant's welcome. “The Panopticon Archive” (37 min) Fielding and Waterhouse at a convention on 9/5/93 in Hammersmith. They are later joined by Nicholas Courtney, who played Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Interesting to here Janet complain about the frustrating nature of how limiting the companion role is. Nicholas posits about the Doctor being a woman back then and also complains about not wanting 50 channels. Questions from the audience are hard to here.

“Take Two” (4 min) finds kids offering their thoughts on the show. Audio Archive (33 min) is interview with director Ron Jones. Mara Tales DVD Trailer (1 min) is a release of the two Mara stories, Kinda and Snakedance. Tegan Tales DVD Trailer (1 min) is a release that collects Time-Flight and Arc of Infinity.Lastly, Studio Clocks (2 min) is video countdowns for different episodes.

Doctor Who: Peter Davison - Complete Season One is a marvelous collection that Whovians should be happy to have on their shelf. It's a good introduction to the Fifth Doctor for those new to the character and a great scrapbook of the season for long-time fans, considering the quality of most the stories and the overwhelming amount of bonus material. The Blu-ray's image is as good as it can get from the limitations of the source. The location shoots were shot on film while the studio shoots were done on video, so the former understandably looks better while some of the effects dodgier than usual with high definition. It all looks clean and free from dirt or wear. For those who want some music and ambiance in the surrounds, the 5.1 option on some episodes makes that possible. I highly recommend this set and can't wait to explore future releases.

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