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Series
After his explosive regeneration, the fifth series finds the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) awakening to discover his TARDIS is about to crash! After falling from the sky, he pulls himself out of the wreckage to come face-to-face with young Amy Pond. The Doctor promises to take Amy to the stars. But first they must divert an alien plot that could destroy the Earth.

Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series
The Doctor makes good his promise, and Amy (much older and now played by Karen Gillan) boards the regenerated TARDIS, ready to take to the stars on a series of wild adventures that will change her life. As always, wherever the Doctor goes, his oldest enemies, the Daleks, are never far behind. They are hatching a new master plan from the heart of war-torn London in the 1940s. But they are not the only strange creatures the Doctor and Amy must face--there are also alien vampires, humanoid reptiles, the Weeping Angels, and a silent menace that follows Amy and the Doctor around wherever they go.

Our own resident Doctor Who experts, The Wilson Bros, recently wrote up an excellent and extensive review of the fifth series and I'm not about to try and compete, so I'll just offer a few of my own points about the series and leave the rest to them. I haven't always followed Doctor Who, and outside of seeing it on PBS here and there never really watched it in earnest until the relaunch in 2005. Since then I've never missed an airing on The Sci-Fi Channel (I still refuse to refer to it as SyFy) and BBC America. I've also managed to watch several of the older series on DVD and have a good enough handle on the show's universe that I can spot most of the references to the older series that pop up in the current incarnation.

While I didn't find this fifth series quite as enjoyable overall as the second and David Tennant's first as The Doctor, it's not far behind and better than both the third and fourth series. New Executive Producer Steven Moffat has ensured that each episode ties nicely to the others and the overall arc of the season is satisfying, even if all answers are not given by the end. For example: there thankfully isn't any magical, worldwide singing of Kumbaya that pops out of nowhere to save the planet as there is at the end of the third series.

Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series
I enjoyed the fact that the Daleks have been brought back from the brink of being pathetic and once again seem to be pure evil and that they weren't overused. It was also nice to see them get one up on The Doctor in one of the series finer episodes, "Victory of The Daleks", proving that this new Doctor might not be as infallible as previous incarnations. It was also nice to see the Silurians make an appearance in a two-part story ("The Hungry Earth" & "Cold Blood"), and the Weeping Angels make a very Aliens-esque return with River Song (Alex Kingston) in tow in what is the series standout two-part story ("Time of the Angels" & Flesh & Stone") as well.

And what of The Doctor's new companion, Amy Pond? Well, let's just say that Karen Gillan may be the fittest of The Doctor's fellows time travelers since Ms. Sarah Jane Smith, though I have to admit an odd fascination with Ace. Gillan obviously has fun with the role and projects an acting range able to bring a certain weight and believability that none of the previous modern companions have been required to or able to pull off, especially in the mind-bending episode "Amy's Choice".

Finally there is the new, Eleventh Doctor as played by Matt Smith, who is replacing my favorite actor in the role, David Tennant. I think Joe Pesci's speech from Lethal Weapon 4 best describes my feelings over Smith's replacement of Tennant:

"I had this pet frog, his name was Froggy. He was my best friend in the whole world. I didn't have a lot of friends--as a matter of fact, okay, I had no friends--and I used to kiss the frog too. I thought maybe that it would turn into a princess since I was a boy, and it could be my mother. They told me that she left or something, and my father was no bargain, and so just the frog, Froggy, was my friend and I really loved him and I took him everywhere with me. I was riding on my bike one day and he jumped out of the box, and I ran him over with the back tire. I killed him. I was really heartbroken, really, he was my best friend in the whole world. The only thing I ever loved. And then I met you (Riggs) and Roger, and you guys really looked after me a lot more then you had to. You're not better friends then Froggy, you're just different, and eh, I just thought that maybe that might be relevant."

And if you're now picturing The Doctor as played by Joe Pesci, you're welcome.

Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series
Video
Warner Home Video and 2Entertain present Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series on Blu-ray with a 1080i VC-1 encoded video transfer and the results are everything I was hoping for. I missed watching last year's David Tennant specials in high definition, and if the quality of those shows are anything like what is presented here I may have to revisit them soon. I'm not sure if it's just me, but this series struck me as especially colorful, and the video transfer really pulls it off with vibrant, rich colors that leap from the screen. Not to be outdone are black levels which are deep and inky, and skin tones and textures that are lifelike. The best overall example of the transfer's range is the "The Hungry Earth" & "Cold Blood" two-parter with it's green pastural backdrop above ground and underground kingdom of the Silurians below. The only drawback I could find was one that I found with the recently reviewed V: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray in that the special effects are a bit diminished with the upgrade in resolution. But still, I'm sometimes amazed at some of the effects work that is pulled off for the budget of this show.

Audio
So far so good from the technical perspective, and so now it comes down to the audio which I'm happy to report is every bit the video transfer's equal. Warner and 2Entertain have provided the series with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio track that is easily able to handle everything from the soft to the bombastic. I've always found the series' sound effects to be far above average, and here you can truly hear them in all their glory--every TARDIS landing, laser shot and whirligig is reproduced without a flaw. Murray Gold's compositions for the show have been some of my favorite examples of a musical score for television on a grand scale and here the track doesn't disappoint either. Dialogue is clear and there's plenty of use of the surrounds in the mix while the robust LFE channel is gravy on top of gravy. This is definitely one of the better--if not the best--audio tracks I've heard for a television series.

Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series
Extras
So then...we've so far got a great show, video and audio, but are the special features in the set up to the standard set by the rest of the six-disc set? Warner and 2Entertain have packed it with a great selection of extras spanning every disc--with the final disc devoted entirely to special features--so in a word, yes...for the most part.

First up are a series of 'In-Vision Commentaries', which is really just a fancy way of saying video commentaries. Episodes containing this feature include the premiere episode "The Eleventh Hour", "Victory of The Daleks", "Time of the Angels", the series' weakest episode "Vampires in Venice", "Cold Blood", and the series finale, "The Big Bang". While Matt Smith isn't included in any of the commentaries, they do include the participation of a number of crew and cast members, including but not limited to Executive Producer Steven Moffat, Dalek Voice Artist Nicholas Briggs, and actors Karen Gillan and Alex Price. I'm generally a commentary whore and there's a lot of interesting information here, but I'm not so hot for video commentaries. I like to follow both the commentators and the story simultaneously and the video of people talking in the corner of screen takes me out of the experience. If all you are going to do is put a camera on the participants and not include any other sort of multimedia experience why bother? Standard audio commentaries would have been preferable, but alas they aren't included as an option.

Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series
The other major extras included on the sixth disc of the set are truncated versions of each episode's Doctor Who Confidential in high definition. While these are enjoyable and more often times than not contain the beefier bits of the full on Confidential episodes I really wish the expanded versions were available here. Still, at just under three-hours combined these featurettes make for an above average making-of presentation and is really above and beyond what most television series receive.

Also included are two additional scenes in the TARDIS between Amy and The Doctor that answer the questions as to why Amy was floating in space at the beginning of "The Beast Below" and how The Doctor handled a flirtatious Amy later in the series. The scenes are a good additional showcase for the chemistry that the two actors have and reveal a little more about their characters.

In addition to these there are three video diaries scattered about the set with the one featuring Karen Gillan standing out as a favorite. 'The Monster Files' featurettes focus on the Daleks, Weeping Angels, Silurians, and a fourth antagonist I won't spoil here. The footage for these are really just repurposed from Doctor Who Confidential, but they might be of interest to newcomers of the series. The rest of the features are rounded out with teasers and trailers for each episode and some outtakes. Overall this selection of extras is decent enough, but some more participation from the man of the hour, Matt Smith, would have been nice. Oh well, maybe next time.

Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series
Overall
Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series is one of the best television on Blu-ray sets of the year. The fifth series is as enjoyable as television gets, and not just for a genre show either. Even though nearly everything about the series has changed, it looks as if we're in some capable hands both in front of and behind the camera for the foreseeable future. I can't wait for this year's Christmas episode or for the next series in the spring. I'm looking forward to what's in store for our heroes, even if I'm not crazy about the whole proposed split series concept they're shooting for. Warner Home Video and 2Entertain have put together a stellar package here with excellent video and audio and a decent batch of entertaining and informative extras. Fans will obviously be picking this up posthaste, and for those new to The Doctor this isn't a bad place to start either.

*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.


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