Doctor Who: The Collection Blu-Ray boxsets continue with a new release! Exciting! Oh, wait. It’s Season 24…
There is no getting around the fact that Season 24 is, to put it politely, not the most highly regarded eras of Doctor Who. The leading man was sacked, hence the hastily concocted regeneration to open the season. The script editor had quit. Still in place however was producer John Nathan-Turner. A new Doctor and script editor had been sourced and Doctor Who was ready to stride confidently into a new era. But it was a rocky start to say the least…
Kicking us off is ‘Time and the Rani‘. Let’s be honest; it’s a pretty poor story. However, there is still plenty to admire. The Tetraps for instance are a fantastic piece of design. The Lakertyans also don’t look too bad. There’s also cutting edge bubble effects which still hold up very well today. Yes the Rani impersonating Mel is not great but it is a fun. Similarly, Sylvester McCoy hasn’t found his version of the Doctor yet. Falling about comedically does not make for an appealing Time Lord.
Slight improvements are found in the next story; ‘Paradise Towers‘. Unfortunately it is not a wholly original idea with J. G. Ballard’s novel High-Rise being given a science fiction twist. The Kangs, the Rezzies and Pex are however wonderful characters, shaped by the environment they find themselves in. Unfortunately, Richard Briers performance, especially once possessed by Kroagnon, and his moustache ushers the serial into the doldrums.
‘Delta and the Bannermen‘ suffers a similar fate with any positives of the story tarnished by an unconvincing villain. At least Gavrok didn’t have a moustache that widened as the story progressed! The setup for ‘Delta‘ is nonsense and a Welsh holiday camp in 1959 is not the obvious place to set a Doctor Who story. However, the rock and roll period element makes the story fun, if a bit bonkers.
Much like Season 24 as a whole, ‘Dragonfire‘ feels very much like a transition story, setting up the new direction for Doctor Who. Mel (Bonnie Langford) leaves the TARDIS and Ace (Sophie Aldred) joins. Kane is perhaps the most menacing of the villains this season but meets a pretty graphic demise. The Seventh Doctor has found his feet, although he was still falling over!
Leave the girl. It’s the VAM I want! (Bonus Features)
Maybe the four stories don’t appeal. However, there is the option to watch extended versions which may improve the experience. Perhaps not. Never fear, there is a wide selection of VAM (Value Added Material). In fact, these eight discs are packed full of material. There are hours and hours AND HOURS of studio and location footage. For anyone interested in television production it makes for fascinating viewing. One particular addition is a new ‘making of’ documentary for ‘Delta and the Bannermen‘. It is an excellent and enlightening piece. For example, I hadn’t realised that Lynn Gardener was cast as Ray but was injured and couldn’t take on the role so Sara Griffiths came in.
Season 24 has the usual mix of recurring bonus features. The Doctor’s Table returns with Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford, Sophie Aldred and Clive Merrison (Deputy Chief Caretaker) answering completely random questions over a posh lunch. Largely entertaining, there are some anecdotical gems and some appropriate Doctor Who related tales. Behind the Sofa is also back and makes for a interesting watch. Appropriately, Sylvester McCoy is joined by Bonnie Langford and Sophie Aldred to provide insight into Season 24 having lived it. Providing alternative perspectives are Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton, and Colin Baker with Michael Jayston. Another recurring feature is In Conversation with Matthew Sweet, this time opposite Sylvester McCoy. Another excellent new documentary is Here’s to the Future which neatly summarises Season 24, going into detail with the key players. The chronological approach works particularly brilliantly.
There are of course Audio Commentaries, Photo Galleries and PDF materials galore plus so much more! This set truly is packed full of so much material it will take days, if not weeks, to enjoy it all.
Admittedly Season 24 is not going to be high on people’s most wanted lists. But I would encourage you to revisit this era. There are many flaws to be found but also a lot of positives. Once again, the physical presentation of the boxset is flawless. Lee Binding has delivered some wonderful artwork yet again. Picture and sound restoration comes courtesy of Peter Crocker/SVS and Mark Ayres. CGI and Disc Menus come from Jonathan Picard and Gavin Rymill. They, and many others, have contributed to another terrific set.
Extended versions of the stories offer an opportunity to re-evaluate Season 24. If any season deserves re-evaluating it is this one! It was a time of change but there are some wild ideas with a lot of fun and creativity. For all the light touches there’s some real darkness which would become more apparent by the time that Season 26 rolled around. That groundwork is set here. Even if the four stories don’t appeal there is so much else to enjoy. The hours of footage, the detailed ‘making of’ features and various interviews provide plenty of entertainment. Some of the flaws are not avoided but there is a lot of positivity. Rightly so too!