Today, BBC Home Entertainment is releasing the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special "The Day Of The Doctor" on DVD and Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack. The special aired only a few weeks ago, live across the globe on TV and in theaters, and is a great celebration of fifty years of adventuring in time and space.
In addition to the special itself, there is a lot to like from this release. The "mini-sodes" that premiered before the anniversary special -- including the excellent "Night Of The Doctor" starring Paul McGann -- are included, as are behind the scenes featurettes and a "Doctor Who Explained" special that covers the show's 50 year history. The very well put together trailers for the special are also included within.
The big highlight, of course, is "The Day of the Doctor" -- the hour-plus special that teams up current Doctor Matt Smith with previous Doctor David Tennant and "War Doctor" John Hurt. It doesn't pick up exactly where the last episode, "The Name of the Doctor," left off, but that's fine -- it's a good jumping on point for lapsed fans or maybe even those who aren't familiar with the show or the concept at all. I know I saw "The Day of the Doctor" with someone who hadn't really been all that familiar with Doctor Who, and he was able to follow it just fine.
Warning: some spoilers follow.
I was glad that Billie Piper wasn't exactly playing Rose, because her character continuity could have and would have been a bit confusing to shoehorn in. I really loved John Hurt's performance as the war-worn Doctor of the Time War, and most especially, I like the notion that the special left me with, that The Doctor is a hero; a good guy who saves people. David Tennant fell right back in to playing The Doctor to the point that it felt like he wasn't gone at all. Compare that to previous Doctor Who anniversary team-ups like "The Five Doctors" where some of the cast has clearly aged a lot and doesn't feel like they quite fit in. The Tennant scenes felt like they were from his era, and the show didn't hesitate to poke fun at its current status or the habits of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. Tennant and Smith have such chemistry it's a shame we won't get to see them together again any time soon, because I already want more.
There are elements of classic Doctor Who that I'd like to think would be there if real life didn't get in the way. For example, Nicholas Courtney, who played Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, has sadly passed away, but it was a fantastic tribute to have his character's daughter, Kate, filling that role. Her assistant, Osgood, having her Tom Baker-like scarf was also a nice touch -- I wonder if a museum curator gave it to her. The "I. Chesterton" note and original opening titles at the very beginning were a fantastic touch, as was the Totter's Lane sign... but boy, a William Russell cameo of an old Ian next to a young Doctor would have been amazing. (Of course, if the Sarah Jane Adventures story "Death of the Doctor" is to be believed, Ian and Barbara never aged, so it wouldn't fit.)
Even though I warned of spoilers, I'm not going to be specific when I say the resolution the Doctors have to try and save Gallifrey made me so happy. I would have loved pop-up trivia like the classic series releases do so newcomers can follow who everyone is. There were a few moments when watching this, the first time specifically, where I got happy tears. Now that I have the DVD, there are certain scenes that I have watched over and over again. The final minutes are certainly on that list of things, especially with that surprise appearance.
As happy as this DVD set makes me, though, there are some things I wish had been present: The introductions before the movie, as seen in theaters, with Strax and then the two Doctors, would have been a lot of fun to have had for posterity. "An Adventure In Time And Space" would have been a fun extra, but I'd imagine it will also be getting its own separate release, and one can't fault them for wanting to make more money from that, as it'd be worth buying on its own. I also wish the "Five(ish) Doctors Reboot" special was included, as it was a part of my day on November 23, as I'm sure it was for many others. But, hey. This is still a fantastic package with a lot of good material. I definitely recommend it. I don't think it would have even been possible to have a more fitting 50th anniversary special -- Steven Moffat and his crew really out-did themselves.
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