After the annoying goofball that was Matt Smith, the BBC could’ve hired almost anyone to play the titular character on Doctor Who and it would’ve been an improvement. But as you’ll see from watching the dozen episodes and the extras included on the Doctor Who The Complete Eighth Series Blu-ray and DVD, they didn’t just pick anyone, they picked someone whose portrayal of the good Doctor harkens back to this show’s golden years.
From the very first episode, “Deep Breath,” it’s clear that the new doctor, Peter Capaldi, is going to be very different than the always upbeat Smith. Cranky and arrogant, his portrayal of the sci-fi shamus harkens back to the early days of the character, especially William Hartnell (the first doctor, 1963-1966) and Tom Baker (the fourth doctor, 1974-1981). Though what really injects new life into this series is the way Capaldi’s Doc interacts with his sidekick, Clara (Jenna Coleman). Not only do the two get on each other’s nerves a lot of more than she and Smith’s did (which made me think they were setting up her departure), but in giving her a love interest and a job, both of which are on modern day Earth, her adventures with the Doctor took on a different role in her life, as they became more of distraction than the focus.
Not that Capaldi makes every episode great. In “Robot Of Sherwood,” he meets Robin Hood, and it’s a bit too silly. But it’s also the lone low-point in an otherwise strong season.
The thing is, even if you watched these episodes when they aired on TV in the U.S., you’ll want to watch them again on the Doctor Who The Complete Eighth Series Blu-ray and DVD. When shown on BBC America, these episodes were broken up to allow for commercial breaks. But since they don’t have such pauses when they air in England, the episodes aren’t written, directed, or edited to allow for ads. Which is why those commercial breaks often seem arbitrary at best and poorly timed as worst. Thankfully, the versions on the Doctor Who The Complete Eighth Series Blu-ray and DVD are uncut and not only commercial free, but commercial break free as well.
Along with the dozen episodes, Doctor Who The Complete Eighth Series Blu-ray and DVD also has a ton of cool extras.
For starters, there’s the “Live Pre-Show” and “After Who Live,” which accompanied the airing of “Deep Breath” on BBC America. But while there’s some fun moments with such Whovians as Will Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Natalie Morales (Parks And Recreation), and host Chris Hardwick, neither are as interesting as “London Post-Premiere Q&A,” which has footage of the British fan event with Capaldi, Coleman, and executive producer/lead writer Steven Moffat that was conducted at a live showing of the first episode. There’s even “Earth Conquest: The World Tour,” a forty-eight might long featurette on the promotional tour that Capaldi, Coleman, and executive producer/lead writer Steven Moffat took to introduce the man to the fans.
The Doctor Who The Complete Eighth Series Blu-ray and DVD also has commentaries on four episodes: “Into The Dalek” has co-writer Phil Ford and director Ben Wheatley; “Robot Of Sherwood” features director Paul Murphy; “The Caretaker” has Murphy joined by prosthetic effects producer Kate Welshe and animatronic engineer Peter Hawkins; while “Kill The Moon” boasts director Paul Wilmhurst and first assistant director Paul Bates. But while they’re informative, none are as entertaining as they could’ve been had they included some of the actors and, in the case of “Robot Of Sherwood,” more than just one person.
As if the commentaries weren’t enough, the Doctor Who The Complete Eighth Series Blu-ray and DVD also has numerous making-of featurettes. Along with the self-explanatory “Tour Of The T.A.R.D.I.S.” (which, like the Doc, also got a makeover), but it also has “Doctor Who Exclusive,” four short bits on the Capaldi’s casting and other aspects of the new series.
But you’ll learn far more from the episode-specific making-featurettes, which pair behind-the-scenes footage with on-set interviews. The only problem with these — aside from the overly enthused narrator — is that they’re collected on the last disc of this collection, not presented on the discs with their respective episodes.
Also included on the Doctor Who The Complete Eighth Series Blu-ray and DVD are a pair of informative TV specials hosted by Peter Davidson, who was the fifth doctor (1981 to 1984). In “The Ultimate Time Lord,” he talks to Capaldi and many of the other actors who’ve played the role, as he tries to figure out what makes the character unique. Then, in “The Ultimate Companion,” he does the same to Coleman and other people who’ve accompanied the Doctor over the years to see what it takes to be a good sidekick to the Doc.
Last, and least, there’s a music video for the fey jazz cover Foxes did of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” for the episode “Mummy On The Orient Express.” Which is fine, if you like this sort of thing, but as someone who thought it was awkward how much of the song was included in the episode….
The tune is, basically, the only downside of the whole collection (though I do wish they had included the episode in which Smith regenerated into Capaldi, or at least the end of the episode when they regeneration took place). But as is, the Doctor Who The Complete Eighth Series Blu-ray and DVD are a great way to watch the new Doc at work. Long may he reign.