While everyone loves Doctor Who these days, not everyone loved the episode “The Time Of The Doctor,” which aired last Christmas and heralded the end of Matt Smith’s time as the sci-fi shamus. So does that mean that, aside from people who liked the episode, or who have to own every single thing that has the words “Doctor” and “Who” on it, there’s no reason to get Doctor Who: The Time Of The Doctor on DVD or Blu-ray?
In the episode, the good Doctor defends a planet from an armada of aliens who are just as stubborn as he is. As a result, the stand-off lasts for hundreds of years, and would probably have gone on longer if Doctor Who wasn’t just an hour-long show. In the end, though, the time lord ends up sacrificing his current body, only to regenerate as a whole new self.
Why this episode doesn’t work is something fans have debated since it aired last Christmas. Personally, I just found it dull, and lacking the spark of imagination that has made this show iconic for so many years. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of Smith — always found him a bit too intentionally goofy — but he usually doesn’t ruin things, and that’s the case here as well.
No, the real problem with this episode is how it not only ignores established facts about the Doc and how he regenerates, but it does so — as well as undoing some other things — in ways that seem cheap and easy, not at all smart or creative.
That said, if you do like this episode, you’ll like it slightly more here, if only because it doesn’t have all the commercial breaks or the mid-show promos for other BBC America programs. It also looks and sounds a lot better, especially on Blu-ray, than if you streamed or downloaded the episode, even legally. Of course, this doesn’t change the quality of the episode itself, but if you’re a fan who likes to watch TV shows as they were meant to be seen and heard, getting Doctor Who: The Time Of The Doctor on DVD or Blu-ray is your best option.
Of course, if you haven’t seen this episode, and are a fan of the current Doctor Who series or Mr. Smith, then you should see this, if only so you know what happened. And so you won’t be slightly lost when the new season starts later this year.
Along with this misfiring episode, both the DVD and Blu-ray versions of Doctor Who: The Time Of The Doctor include a trio of extras that slightly redeem this collection.
First, for those who didn’t hate the episode, “The Time Of The Doctor: Behind The Lens” spends a dozen minutes explaining how it was made (though not how it went awry) in a rather informative and entertaining away. Besides making-of footage, it also has interview clips with Smith, his co-star Jenna Coleman, show runner Steven Moffat, and other members of the cast and crew.
Then there’s “Farewell To Matt Smith,” an hour-long look back at his tenure as the Time Lord that, again, includes interviews with his co-stars and co-workers. For fans of Smith, it’s quite an interesting look at how he portrayed the Doctor, and the fans reaction to it. But for someone like me, who was never won over by his silliness, this won’t convince you that you’ve been wrong all these years and have to go back and rewatch every single episode he was in.
Finally there’s the somewhat mis-titled “Tales From The T.A.R.D.I.S.,” which isn’t so much about the Doctor’s time machine as it is a forty-five minute-long look back at the actors who’ve played the role, the character choices they made, their friends and foes, and how the idea that the Doctor regenerates first came about. Which isn’t to say it isn’t entertaining, it is, though if you’ve been a fan since before last Christmas, this isn’t anything you haven’t seen before.
In the end, the DVD and Blu-ray Doctor Who: The Time Of The Doctor is only worth buying if you like the episode (obviously) and want it to look and sound like it should, or if you’ve bought every other Doctor Who DVD or Blu-ray and don’t want there to be any gaps in your collection. Otherwise, this might be one best lost in time.