It’s about time! Jodie Whittaker’s first series of Doctor Who blasts onto DVD and Blu-Ray for your home viewing pleasure. But is this box set worth a buy?
2018 was a year of big change for Doctor Who. It marked the start of a whole new era, with a whole new Doctor, and a whole new showrunner. Gone were the days of timey-wimey Steven Moffat and Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi. In was the brand new vision of Broadchurch boss Chris Chibnall, and the Whoniverse’s first ever female lead: Jodie Whittaker. Across ten brand new 50(ish)-minute episodes, we followed her from a crash-landing in Sheffield, to a climactic showdown with Tim Shaw on Ranskoor Av Kolos. It was an interesting ride, with plenty of ups and downs along the way.
Please note that this review isn’t going to be a review of Series 11 itself. (We’ve already written reviews for each individual episode, in case you’re curious what we think). Generally though, it’s fair to say that opinions on Jodie Whittaker’s first year in the TARDIS were fairly mixed. Some loved it. Some loathed it. Others could take it or leave it. For better or worse, Series 11 was a marked departure from what had come directly before it. Whether this new direction was something that aligned with your own expectations of the show – well, that’s something only you can truly decide for yourself.
Bigger on the Outside
Instead, we’ll be reviewing The Complete Eleventh Series as a product and a package. Compared to previous releases – and of course, on its own merits – is it worth your hard-earned time and money? Let’s start by saying that there’s no real difference between the DVD and Blu-Ray versions (aside from picture quality). That’s hardly a surprise, as it was exactly the same for previous seasons – however, in today’s world of special editions and extra incentives, it’s something we thought was worth noting. The closest thing to a ‘deluxe’ version is the Blu-Ray steelbook, which comes in a beautiful case emblazoned with Shaun Dooley’s now-iconic image of Jodie Whittaker’s hillside silhouette. It’ll set you back an extra tenner or so, but it’ll certainly makes for a lovely addition to your collection if you’re willing to splash the cash.
Every copy (whether DVD or Blu-Ray) also comes with a collection of art cards, featuring the Doctor and her ‘fam’. They’re nothing special, but still a nice bonus that helps add some value to your purchase. Inside, there are a total of four discs, and they take the Complete Eleventh Series title very literally. Considering how festive specials were often included in previous box sets, the 2019 New Year’s Day episode is notable by its absence. It’s a real shame too, as Resolution is widely regarded as one of the best Thirteenth Doctor episodes so far. Instead, it’s being released separately next month. We know it’s not technically part of Series 11, but it’s hard to not to feel disappointed and cheated by its exclusion.
An Inside Look
So, what is on the discs? Of course, there’s every episode from The Woman Who Fell to Earth to The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos. Then there’s a selection of bonus features which, much like the series itself, is a bit of a mixed bag. Every episode is accompanied by a ‘closer look’, containing behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew. They’re about 5 minutes long and all fairly interesting, honing in on one particular aspect of each episode. For example, Episode 1 focuses on the new sonic screwdriver. Episode 2 looks at the opening spaceship crash. Episode 5 is all about the pregnant man and his baby Avocado. (As you do). In short, these features are like a box of Doctor Who themed chocolates – you never really know what you’re going to get until you press ‘play’.
Four episodes – The Woman Who Fell to Earth, Rosa, The Tsuranga Conundrum and Demons of the Punjab – also receive audio commentaries. Each one has different cast and crew members talking over it, which helps to make them all feel uniquely distinct. Participants include actors Jodie Whittaker and Mandip Gill, writer Malorie Blackman, director Jamie Childs, series producer Nikki Wilson, and more. It’s a strong line-up of names, although it’s disappointing that Jodie and Mandip never participate in the same commentary together. It’s also a shame that Chris Chibnall, Tosin Cole, and Bradley Walsh do not take part at all.
Thankfully, that’s not it, with the bulk of the special features all found on Disc 4. There’s a varied selection on offer, ranging from video diaries, to mini-documentaries narrated by Shaun Dooley, to a pick ‘n’ mix of supplementary content. The highlights are definitely the mini-documentaries: Becoming the Doctor, Regenerating Doctor Who and Directing Doctor Who. They all do exactly what you’d expect, spotlighting Jodie Whittaker, Chris Chibnall, and Jamie Childs respectively. Jodie’s feature is arguably the best, covering everything from her audition, to the reveal, to an in-depth explanation of her costume choices. It may not contain a lot of ‘new’ information that fans didn’t already know, but it’s still a well-made piece that makes for enlightening (if unessential) viewing.
It’s no coincidence that these three extras are also the longest on the disc, at about 8 to 10 minutes apiece. As ironic as it sounds, time is what makes and breaks Series 11’s special features. The other (comparatively) longer extras, like a tour of the new TARDIS and an interview with composer Segun Akinola, feel like worthwhile additions. Unfortunately, the rest are made up of extremely bite-size content (the video diaries and Friends of the Doctor are a mere 1 minute each). Even the 5 minute long Best of Social is just a collection of short throwaway videos you’ll already have seen on Twitter or Instagram. Audio commentaries aside, you’re only getting about 90 minutes worth of special features. It’s better than nothing at all, but undeniably sparse compared to how things could have been.
In conclusion, it’s hard not to think of The Complete Eleventh Series as a missed opportunity. The lack of Resolution and better/longer bonuses doesn’t completely derail the experience, but it undeniably makes it an underwhelming one. As it stands, this box set does just enough – and only slightly more than the bare minimum – to justify its existence on the shelves. But with all ten episodes (plus Resolution) still available on BBC iPlayer for free, it’s genuinely difficult to recommend this as a £30+ purchase. Whether or not you should buy The Complete Eleventh Series will come down to your own personal preferences. If you loved Series 11, or just want it for your collection, then you’ve probably already bought it anyway. But if you’re on the fence? Well, you might want to hold onto your wallet for the time being and wait for a price drop.
Still, love it or hate it, Series 11 is a milestone in Doctor Who history, and arguably worth owning in the long run for that reason alone. Purely as a box set though, The Complete Eleventh Series is not quite the must-buy that it could (or should) have been. Don’t get us wrong: it gives you everything you’d expect, and delivers some half-decent bonus content, which is more than can be said for some other DVD and Blu-Ray releases nowadays. But it’s overall a fairly basic, bland, and by-the-numbers collection that’s merely good – and only rarely great.
Doctor Who: The Complete Eleventh Series is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray.