Revisiting Classic DOCTOR WHO: DOCTORS FIVE THROUGH EIGHT

Doctors-Revisited-5-8-3D-247x300(Special thanks to BBC Home Entertainment for providing a complimentary DVD for review)

Many fans of new Doctor Who often find themselves a bit confused about how to engage the classic series. Thankfully, BBC America has been showing The Doctors Revisited once a month. Like the early companion DVD set for the first four Doctors, Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited 5 – 8 serves as a much stronger entry point, with three flat-out classics and one movie that provide an excellent method for new fans to transition into the classic series.

For the Fifth Doctor, you cannot go wrong with Earthshock, which (thanks to Peter Grimwade’s direction) feels much more like current Who than classic Who. Featuring the return of the Cybermen after a seven-year absence, this story contains some great moments (including clips from previous Doctor Who stories and an edge that had not been seen in the classic series. (Think of this – and the Sixth Doctor story – as a cracking two-part episode of the new series and you won’t be disappointed)

Vengeance of Varos is probably the best-written story for the Sixth Doctor, a Doctor who was later better served in audio than on television. Vengeance is one of the few classic Who stories that is structured like new Who (45 minute episodes rather than 25 minute ones), and has a particularly sharp satirical edge (focusing on both rampant capitalism, violence in media, and what would later be called “reality tv”). It’s one of the few classic era stories that resonates with the present day, and that really deserves a wider audience.

As the launch of the show’s 25th anniversary, Remembrance of the Daleks with the Seventh Doctor has many nods to the past (especially An Unearthly Child), but the script’s approach to the Doctor (as a darker, seemingly more cosmic figure) and compaion (Ace is much more proactive and assertive) make this a great touchstone. Much like Earthshock and Vengeance, Remembrance is a must-watch for fans of new Who, if only to see some of the influences on the series’ return.

Now, admittedly I am not a big fan of the 1996 TV Movie, but it does serve a couple of really good purposes. Created as a backdoor pilot, there are many concepts which would make their way into the new series, including a more romantic Doctor, a stronger emphasis on action, and a focus on real-world relationships. However, the TV Movie also betrays its nature as a co-production, with a wildly erratic script, an extremely over-the-top performance by Eric Roberts, and a feel that it’s not quite Who-ish enough. However, the TV Movie is worth seeing at least once, and over time, I have warmed up to it after initially disliking it….but as a transition piece for the new series, it’s worth a view.

The Doctors Revisited: Five Through Eight is well worth having on your DVD shelf, and was recently released by BBC Home Entertainment. For other recommendations, please feel free to visit the Doctor Who DIY DVD Guide. In short, this video release contains not just three great (and one OK) classic episodes, but serves as a great lead-in to enjoying both the classic and the new series.

One Response to Revisiting Classic DOCTOR WHO: DOCTORS FIVE THROUGH EIGHT

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