Doctor Who: Series 5
If a television series manages to stay on the air for more than a few years it is considered a success. ‘Law & Order: Prime’, ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Gunsmoke’ all made it to two full decades of original episodes but that pales in comparison to a science fiction series emanating from Great Brittan; ‘Doctor Who’. Although there have been interruptions along the way the series is still a continuation of the show and characters that began way back in 1963. Of course the underlying premise and method of presentation was ideally suited to permit such longevity. While ‘Gunsmoke’ retained the same location and characters for all twenty years ‘Law & Order: Prime’ was able to stay fresh by changing up the cast on a fairly regular basis by having characters dir off or retire as needed to reflect changes in the cast. In the case of ‘Doctor Who’ there was a plot device that was absolutely perfect for keeping the series going no matter what was going on in the cast. When the writers were faced with the departure of a principle actor, that is the one currently playing the Doctor the story line will conclude with his death. The genius lies in the ability of the Time Lords; the alien race the Doctor belongs to is they have the very convenient ability to regenerate into a new body. Not only did this permit a seamless transition to a new actor taking over the part but this transformation extends to altering the personality of the new incarnation of the Doctor. This allowed the writers to shake things out by providing a new slant on a familiar character. Each actor is encouraged to add their own unique flavor to the make personalizing it. One Doctor may come across as old and wise while the next is younger in appearance and playful. The foundation remains constant, extended year after year but like the character of the Doctor the series is able to change and grow with the times. The fifth season of the most recent incarnation is here in the States not only on DVD but now on Blu-ray.
The current ‘Doctor Who’ is administered under the watchful eye of a man who grew up as a fan of the show, Russell T. Davies. He also has worked on the darker, more mature spin-off ‘Torchwood’ set in the same fictional universe. In many ways he is responsible for ushering this iconic science fiction character into the new millennium. The versions of the Doctor created under his watch have for the most part left the camp, frequently silly personas behind in favor of personalities that are still entertaining and inquisitive but with a darkness lurking just below the surface. Much of this is attributed in the current overall story line by the Doctor facing the realization that with the destruction of his home planet of Gallifrey he is the surviving member of his race. In this incarnation this simultaneously is liberating and an oppressive responsibility; a dichotomy that emotionally tears at the Doctor. The Doctor travels the untold vastness of time and space in an alien device called the TARDIS, a time/space transport that looks like a Blue, English police call box. The Doctor traditionally travels on his adventures with a human companion or two. This season the role of the doctor went to the young such team in the history of the show. The 11th variation of the Doctor is portrayed by Matt Smith while the youngest companion to date, Amy Pond is presented by Karen Gillan.
The general format in use in the modern series is to have a general theme that pervades the entire season. This plot line is advanced slowly over the season intermixed by shorter interwoven story arcs and a few stand alone episodes often used to provide a little comic relief or change up in the spacing of the season. In this season the central theme revolves around a sinister crack that keeps showing up; a crack in the very fabric of time and space. It is initially noticed by a pre-teen Amy who befriends a mysterious stranger. She encounters him again years later but he has not aged a day; he is the Doctor. Amy decides to take a break from her life working as a ‘kissing gram’ and travels with the Doctor before settling down to marry Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) who through the course of the season eventually becomes a companion himself. The mystery of the crack would take awhile to unravel but in typical fashion the journey is incredible. One of the most fascinating characters not only here but in the entire Doctor Who universe; River Song (Alex Kingston) plays a major part in elucidating the overall story of the season. It is unclear as to exactly what part she plays in the long, diverse life of the Doctor since their time lines are asynchronous; intersecting each other at what initially seems to be random times. It is established that she possesses a Time Lord’s principle device, a sonic screwdriver and knows how to pilot the TARDIS indicating a closer than normal relationship with the Time Lord.
This fifth series, using United Kingdom terminology, represents a major transition point for the series. Not only do the cast call out to a younger demographic but many changes and updates have been made behind the scenes. One of the major forces behind these alterations is the BBC moving up to the vivid world of high definition. This migration affected most English Sci-Fi shows including the spin off ‘Torchwood’. The changes were necessary in order to make the special effects more realistic; even though part of the appeal here has been the campy effects. With high definition the TARDIS, logo and general set design are now far more detail oriented. This new slicker format and look was as drastic a transformation as when the Doctor undergoes one of his regenerations. BBC has previously released a set of the previous ‘Doctors’ special extended episodes on Blu-ray but this release of series five marks the first time a season of the series on Blu-ray. The technical specifications are incredible. The video and audio are now up to modern reference quality. The persistent Doctor is now set to continue in high definition but although the campy days are gone the sheer entertainment factor is still growing strong.