Season 12 of Doctor Who was released on High Definition Blu-Ray a few weeks ago. Tom Baker’s debut season as the Fourth Doctor was the perfect choice to kick off this new range. It has certainly proved popular too, rising to Number 2, the highest new entry, in the sales charts. Unfortunately, the release was delayed twice, but has it been worth the wait?
Firstly, as a physical piece of merchandise this release of Season 12 is a thing of beauty. The artwork is lovely with Tom Baker accompanied by the villains of the series, setting a standard format for future releases to follow. Opening up the box set reveals more artwork of the TARDIS console of that era, although not seen on screen. Artist Lee Binding has delivered some exquisite work.
The stories themselves are generally very highly regarded. ‘Robot’ provides a bridge between eras. UNIT had already taken a backseat during Jon Pertwee’s final Season and this story bids them adieu for a time. ‘The Ark in Space’ has Producer Philip Hinchcliffe’s stamp on the show being firmly planted. More science fiction and with an incredible set. ‘The Sontaran Experiment’ provides an enjoyable deviation down to the scorched surface of planet Earth. The Sontaran, created the previous year, proved a hit.
‘Genesis of the Daleks’ is a bona fide classic. One of the greatest stories ever produced and introducing the extraordinary Davros into Dalek history. Whilst ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ has some flaws. Very few seasons feature the show’s two top returning villains and the popular Sontarans. Only Season 22 springs to my mind. Additionally, the K1 Robot and Wirrn add to the monster roster of Season 12.
Whilst I am no technical expert, I was a little disappointed to have the episodes in the 4:3 picture format. Of course this is how these episodes would’ve been broadcast back in 1974/5 but on my 16:9 widescreen it is a tad distracting. Aside from the dimensions however, the picture and sound have never been better and that is a credit to the sterling work of several individuals. Peter Crocker and SVS have restored the pictures with Mark Ayres handling the sound. Congratulations also to Gavin Rymill for the gorgeous menus on the discs.
Included in the boxset are all the features from the previous DVD releases plus some exciting new additions. ‘The Sontaran Experiment’ was not given a traditional ‘making of’ documentary but this has now been corrected. Also added is the footage from The Tom Baker Years, a blast from the past for those of the VHS generation. This saw Baker rewatching clips from throughout his tenure as the Fourth Doctor. Such a great idea was this that it has been revisited with ‘Behind the Sofa‘. This sees Baker, Producer Philip Hinchcliffe and Sadie Miller, daughter of Elisabeth Sladen, watching the episodes. Also partaking of a ‘Gogglebox’ style watch-along are Lousie Jameson, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton. In addition to passing comment on the onscreen action, behind the scenes tales are also shared.
The jewel in the crown however is unquestionably ‘Tom Baker: In Conversation’. A fantastic hour long interview with the iconic Fourth Doctor conducted by Matthew Sweet. Whilst the stories may have been recanted elsewhere over the decades, the depth and the detail is astonishing. It is at times solemn but constantly engaging and reflective. Each disc is also packed with other great features. For instance, new CGI effects have been created for ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ which are particularly excellent. Similarly, the updated effects for ‘The Ark in Space’ are also flawless.
Although perhaps not the ultimate way of watching episodes of Doctor Who, particularly with a widescreen television, the special features are worth the investment alone. Add in the updated CGI effects and these stories have never looked or sounded better. An extremely high standard has been set with this boxset. The hope is that this quality is maintained and continued. I wonder which Season will be selected next for release!