The success of Doctor Who: The Collection, following Season 12 and Season 19, continues. This time we are revisiting an end. Season 18 is an inspired selection to be the next taxi off the rank. It preceded the previous release and marks the endpoint for the first release. The year was 1980. Season 18 was a time of great change in Doctor Who and that is reflected in this release.
The high standard of the physical boxset continues once again. Artist Lee Binding delivers more exquisite work with the cover artwork following the established format but with a much changed Tom Baker in a new costume for Season 18. Opening up the set reveals the Fourth Doctor from ‘The Leisure Hive’ and then inside the TARDIS with a TARDIS exterior as seen in ‘Logopolis’. Gavin Rymill‘s wonderful TARDIS interior menus are present and also recreate the TARDIS scenes from ‘Logopolis’. Further superb work from Peter Crocker and SVS delivers the restored HD pictures with Mark Ayres cleaning up the sound. The overall product is flawless, making these releases so sort after by fans. If you don’t pick up a copy quickly the likelihood is you won’t get one!
Season 18 comprises an intriguing run of stories all of which are presented in pristine condition. After the tortuously long pan across Brighton beach ‘The Leisure Hive‘ ushers in a new era full of colour and vibrancy. Tom Baker’s new rich red costume, following a starry new title sequence and re-imagined theme tune from Peter Howell were the obvious changes. Under new Producer John Nathan-Turner and Script Editor Christopher H Bidmead, the stories saw more science added to the science fiction. The ultimate evidence of this was in the season finale ‘Logopolis’ which Bidmead wrote himself.
Before reaching the end, the TARDIS had to navigate the planet of Tigella and through E-space. ‘Meglos’ follows the same vein as ‘The Leisure Hive’ with colourful characters a plenty. The trip into E-space takes us back to more simpler Doctor Who storytelling. The Marshmen rise from the water in ‘Full Circle’ like Sea Devils had before. Next up Terrance Dicks tells a chilling vampire tale in ‘State of Decay’ with the surreal ‘Warrior’s Gate’ concluding the trilogy.
‘The Keeper of Traken‘ saw the return of the Master, beginning another trilogy that would also introduce two new companions alongside Adric. All of this was done in preparation for the regeneration from Tom Baker into Peter Davison which occurs in ‘Logopolis’. New CGI effects are also available for this closing story. A particularly nice addition is a brief shot of the Doctor plummeting to Earth from the radio telescope!
All of these stories were very well served with special features for their DVD release leaving little need for new material. However building upon the solid material already provided on DVD are some excellent new additions. Perhaps the most high profile of these new features is a brand new making of documentary for ‘Logopolis’. During the near hour long feature Janet Fielding reveals how “tense” things were on set whilst still remaining tactful and holding back the details of what made the experience so uncomfortable. Instead of a formal on-camera interview Matthew Sweet moderates new audio commentaries for ‘The Leisure Hive’ with Tom Baker, and ‘State of Decay’ with Lalla Ward and Rachel Davies (Camilla).
The Behind the Sofa setup returns again with the Gogglebox-style format. Disappointingly the monsters in the background are again images rather than full props as seen on the Season 12 boxset. However, watching Tom Baker, John Leeson and costume designer June Hudson sat together discussing Doctor Who is a delight. Meanwhile, new companions Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding are joined on the sofa by 60’s sensation Wendy Padbury.
Weekend with Waterhouse is another new feature as Toby Hadoke visits Matthew Waterhouse. The young actor played the much derided Adric and is quite open and honest about his experiences. Being thrust into the frosty atmosphere between Tom Baker and Lalla Ward must’ve been very difficult. Toby Hadoke is a natural presenter and like every good guest he heads straight for the bookcases and DVD collection. It’s a great new feature with Waterhouse providing fascinating opinions and some traumatic recollections.
Also included is even more fascinating behind the scenes footage, photo galleries, PDF production paperwork and so much more. Plenty to keep the viewer occupied!
K9 and Company
The eighth and final disc in the set has the bonus of ‘K9 and Company’. This quirky pilot didn’t quite generate enough interest in a full series but it stands now as a thoroughly enjoyable oddity in the Whoniverse. New to this set is Brendan and Company, a new interview with Ian Sears accompanied by a wonderful parody of the K9 and Company title sequence. Given his location in the USA it is refreshing to hear a fresh voice and perspective on this unique episode.
Of course, K9 and Company also gets a Behind the Sofa instalment. Joining John Leeson to watch the story are Gillian Martell (Lily Gregson) and Sean Chapman (Peter Tracey). Comparisons with Hammer Horror and long scenes akin to a theatre production are very accurate. The three actors offer a very insightful viewpoint on the show, casting and how it was filmed. Appropriately the lovely and much missed Elisabeth Sladen also proves a popular topic of conversation.
Also on this disc is a feature called The Writers Room featuring four of the Season 18 writers in conversation. Christopher H Bidmead, John Flanagan, Andrew Smith and Stephen Gallagher gather in a pub and talk Doctor Who over a few pints. The set up is ideal and it makes for a great watch. This new, hopefully recurring feature, works particularly well for Season 18 given the move to including more science and tone down the comedy. The discussion and critiquing of ‘Meglos‘ and ‘Warrior’s Gate‘ in particular are very honest. Andrew Smith’s recollections of getting commissioned to write ‘Full Circle‘ and other stories are also interesting to hear. Revelations about JNT’s attitude towards a female Doctor are also unexpected. Altogether it makes for my personal highlight of this new set.
The latest edition of Doctor Who: The Collection is another triumph. Season 18 continues the high standard of the previous releases. Although the stories were well served by bonus features on DVD, new additions make it well worth the investment. Chock full of interviews, documentaries and bonus features to provide hours and hours of great viewing. Add in the ultimate versions of some intriguing stories in terms of picture and sound quality, Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 18 is another essential purchase.