We’re back again with another box set for Doctor Who: The Collection. This time we return to Tom Baker’s era and a significant period during the Fourth Doctor’s tenure; Season 14. But have these sets run out of steam or can they keep the momentum going?
It may have been Star Wars Day yesterday (May the Fourth etc.) but Doctor Who fans were eagerly anticipating the arrival of the postman. A new edition of Doctor Who: The Collection was due for delivery. Opening the package to reveal another stunning box set remains a thrilling moment. Lee Binding’s wonderful cover artwork is supported inside with more stunning recreations of TARDIS exterior and interiors. Peter Crocker/SVS and Mark Ayres return once more to handle picture and sound restoration. These episodes have never looked or sounded better.
Season 14 was a time of change for Doctor Who. The Fourth Doctor starts this particular run of episodes with one companion only to end it with a very different one. Most importantly, Season 14 includes some of the most highly regarded stories in the programme’s history.
Opening the season was ‘The Masque of Madragora‘, often overshadowed by stories that followed. However, the location work in particular looks stunning in high definition and it’s a story worthy of reevaluation. ‘The Hand of Fear‘ provides another memorable and emotional companion departure, just like ‘The Green Death’. ‘The Deadly Assassin‘ was a controversial story but now pales in comparison to ‘The Timeless Children‘. Portraying the Time Lords less as omnipotent gods and more as sniping politicians certainly made for an interesting story.
‘The Face of Evil‘ introduced viewers to new companion Leela. ‘The Robots of Death‘ and ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang‘ are unquestionable classics. The first is an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery but with stunning robots in the future. BBC production teams always manage to deliver something special when doing period drama and ‘Talons‘ is no exception. Excitingly new updated special effects have been created for this story. The only flaw with the original giant rat was that it was a bit too cuddly. That has now been corrected, plus some other edits.
As much as Doctor Who is often ridiculed for dodgy production values Season 14 disproves that. The stories are strong. Effects are convincing. We are treated to memorable costumes, monsters and moments throughout. This is superb Doctor Who that you can’t fail to enjoy watching.
Our Sarah Jane
A recent edition of The Quiz of Rassilon saw quizzers lucky enough to get a brief preview of the ‘Our Sarah Jane‘ feature. Watching that intro to this brand-new tribute to Elisabeth Sladen had me in tears so more weeping was inevitable when presented with the full tribute. It is a superb feature, totalling over 75 minutes, in a similar mould to ‘Showman: The Life of John Nathan-Turner‘ on the Season 26 release. Watching Tom Baker tear up when remembering Lis is absolutely heartbreaking. One moment where he softly touches the screen whilst watching Elisabeth in close up was incredibly poignant.
Several other Doctor Who alumni take part including David Tennant and Phil Collinson. These two had the joy of being fans of Elisabeth Sladen and then bringing her back to the show. ‘School Reunion‘ led onto ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures‘ and both are rightly celebrated here. As with ‘Showman‘ the camera work is superb, gently moving through important locations during the life of Elisabeth Sladen. Appropriately, it is not just her work on Doctor Who that is celebrated with Lis’ lovely daughter Sadie Miller sharing tales of her life and work on other productions such as Some Mother’s Do ‘ave ’em. Overall, it really is a beautiful tribute to a greatly missed legend of Doctor Who and the television industry.
Whose Doctor Who
For those of a certain vintage the Whose Doctor Who documentary will stand out in the memory. If not, you can watch it on this set. For the first time ever fans of the show saw some of the work that went into creating Doctor Who. There were script discussions, footage of rehearsals and the general production process. Viewers had never been treated to such an insight. The programme featured families and schoolchildren but also doctors and psychologists discuss the show. Characters like young schoolboy Casper Hewett stood out. Thankfully this documentary ensured that a lengthy clip from Galaxy 4 still exists. The original tape was destroyed shortly afterwards. Therefore, Whose Doctor Who was memorable for a variety of reasons.
So Toby Hadoke revisits this memorable Doctor Who documentary. Yep. We have a documentary about a documentary. However, with Hadoke’s wonderfully personable manner and knowledgeable enthusiasm Whose Doctor Who Revisited works brilliantly. Thrillingly Casper Hewett, such a character in the original documentary, meets up with Hadoke and still exudes a wonderful energy. Hadoke also reunites crew and other young contributors.
Sadly, Tony Cash, Producer on the original documentary and heavily involved in this feature, passed away recently. Happily however the positive impact that the filming had on the contributors makes for some touching moments. Producer Cash probably wouldn’t have appreciated it at the time but being involved with television filming can mean a lot to people. Whose Doctor Who Revisited is another lovely feature, full of warmth.
Behind the Sofa returns once again with Tom Baker, Louise Jameson and Producer Philip Hinchcliffe watching their work. Contrasting opinions are this time provided by other Doctor Who companions Sophie Aldred and Peter Purves. Both come from different eras that are in turn different to the period of the show they’re watching. As a result, they make for a perfect combination to provide an interesting perspective. Matthew Sweet returns once again and is In Conversation with producer Philip Hinchcliffe. Season 14 proved to be Hinchcliffe’s swansong as producer and he admits it was his favourite of the three years. Hinchcliffe makes for a thoroughly engaging interviewee with Sweet an ideal interviewer.
There are of course lots of commentaries, with some new additions, PDFs and other archive material. Previous material is presented with clear picture and sound quality with ‘The Robots of Death‘ and ‘The Deadly Assassin‘ were particularly well served on DVD. There is plenty to pass the time across eight packed discs.
With Season 20 the rumoured next cab off the rank, Doctor Who: The Collection shows no sign of slowing. Season 11 which saw Elisabeth Sladen debut as Sarah Jane Smith, would perhaps make a logical choice following this set. Questions remain unanswered regarding the six seasons of the 1960’s littered with missing episodes. How will those be presented? Animation? Telesnap recreations? Audio only?
In the meantime, Doctor Who’s colour era will continue to be presented in these boxsets. These releases remain hotly anticipated and it is no wonder with such high standards. Season 14 is an outstanding succession of stories, complement by some wonderful bonus features. The new additions make this another unmissable box set.