Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 2 Review

    Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary is fast approaching. With this in mind, it’s the perfect time to look back to the past and see how far we’ve come. This time, Doctor Who: The Collection is back with Season 2. This marks the first Hartnell series released, and follows the season 22 collection earlier last year.

    William Hartnell as The First Doctor. Courtesy CultBox.

    Always Packaged For The Occasion

    Doctor Who: The Collection, as a series of releases, are known for their gorgeous artworks by Lee Binding. This one doesn’t disappoint, with Binding delivering on-form as usual. A lovely colourised portrait of William Hartnell (a composite of multiple pictures), alongside some of the season’s most iconic characters. Menoptra and Zarbi! The Web Planet fans will certainly be having fun. And it wouldn’t be a cover for the season without Peter Butterworth as that time-meddling Monk. The colour choices really do give it life too. The blues, greens and yellows blend together beautifully.

    And the packaging interior is quite the treat too. The fold-over flaps inside – which set the TARDIS in its spot under the bridge from The Dalek Invasion of Earth – are a lovely touch. (Of course, perhaps you prefer a Dalek invasion of the Cushing variety) They hold the accompanying booklet for the set, which is equally beautiful & insightful.

    Doctor Who The Collection Season Two boxset. Courtesy CultBox

    Bigger on the Inside Bonus

    With nine discs, covering each story of the season there’s an awful lot of content to get through. Aside from the episodes themselves, there’s tons of documentaries, interviews, continuity, scripts* and audio commentaries. The perfectly curated content is more than any fan could ever wish for. It all makes these boxsets the absolute definitive must have for all fans. This edition contains original documentaries and features from the DVD collections.

    [*A Ed’s Note: You all can hear me screaming excitedly about script headers and dialogue amendments from here, can’t you?]

    In addition to all that – we, of course, have more episodes of “Behind the Sofa.” The popular series revisits old stories with various notable personalities from Doctor Who’s history. With so much to get through, it’s hard to know where to start when you first open this set up…

    Doctor Who: The Collection Discs One – Two

    Ian and Susan find a giant Ant in Planet of Giants. Courtesy Will Brooks

    Disc One: Planet of Giants 

    On this disc, we get the previously-created reconstructions of the scripted episodes three and four. Really nice to have them included here. There’s also a new edition of the In Conversation series with interviewer Matthew Sweet. This time it’s with William Russell who played Ian Chesterton, one of the Doctor’s first companions.

    Recorded a few years ago, it’s a nice insight into William’s life and career. (We’d never want to jinx anyone into an interview being their last, but if this does become William’s last major memory-lane trip before retirement… then it’s a beautifully fitting one. Especially given his appearance since in The Power of the Doctor.) And we suspect the photo gallery of pictures have had a few new additions from the old DVD, showing off the detailed sets used in the story.

    The Daleks take over London in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Courtesy BBC.

    Disc Two: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

    Script to Screen gives us a fascinating insight into the making of the program. With a studio map, camera locations and overlaid images of the scenes and text from the script, we can see how it all comes together to give us the final product. And the Now and Then from the DVD range pairs up nicely with this & the newly-added production documentation… to show us some locations in the episode as they appeared during filming – and how they’ve all changed since.

    And there’s rehearsal footage courtesy of a short reel of colour film. Carole Ann Ford shot this behind the scenes during production, as she was nearing her departure. Though, as the story goes, the film was accidentally used twice leading to ‘double-exposure’… the moment in history is visible enough.

    Speaking of, the 2003 archival Carole Ann Ford interview explores her experiences of being Susan. If you’ve not seen it before, she gives some nice insight into her relationships with co-workers and some of her frustrations with the way things worked out for her character. (We can only hope Big Finish has somewhat softened the blow since!)

    Maureen O’Brien as Vicki in “The Storyteller” trailer for the Season 2 Collection release. Courtesy BBC.

    Doctor Who: The Collection Discs Three – Five

    Disc Three: The Rescue

    Another edition of In Conversation, which centred on Maureen O’Brien (who played Vicki). We think this will be quite a nice piece, even for those who have seen Maureen at one of her convention appearances. Interesting tales told…

    Speaking of tales; The Storyteller – as the tradition, the short story-based trailer to announce the reveal has been included. These have come to be an exciting reveal of what happens to people after they leave the Doctor. We’ve seen multiple characters like Jo Grant, Mel Bush, Ace and Peri return in these story trailers, which are mostly written by Pete McTighe.

    Disc Four: The Romans

    On this disc, there’s a Model featurette which shows us the detailed models created to plan the sets used in the show. Quite a highlight to us, because it details how the director used these models to be able to plan shots and work out the running order of sequences. Honestly, if you’re not all that familiar with 60’s TV production & want an idea of it – this feels like a nice way into understanding bits of the directing thought process.

    The Web Planet. Courtesy BBC.

    Disc Five: The Web Planet

    On Disc Five, we find photo galleries showing off the sets and costume designs of The Web Planet. Some would say memorable, but others would say iconic.

    There’s a documentary about the making of the serial – and an audio drama too? The story about the Doctor’s return to Vortis is taken from the first ever Doctor Who annual and is read by William Russell.

    It’s a fascinating dive into one of the most unusual stories in early Classic Who. We can’t say they didn’t try with this one, because at least we got some unique aliens.

    The Doctor and Richard the Lionheart in The Crusade Courtesy BBC

    Doctor Who: The Collection Discs Six – Seven

    Disc Six: The Crusade

    There are galleries and… well, reconstructions of the second and fourth episodes of the story which have been lost. Yes, we know that’s a sore spot for some but it is a tricky situation. Even if the budget had somehow allowed for the stretch of animating the two episodes (it doesn’t – Richard Bignell’s been clear enough about that.), The Crusade is a story caught in the ways of the time. That is to say – the inclusion of white actors playing non-white roles. A hard conundrum to handle in any satisfactory and entirely comfortable way.

    [A. Ed.’s Note: It must be given credit that The Abominable Snowmen did handle this by ‘recasting’ the looks of the non-white characters with new faces as opposed to those of the original actors… but even then, it is still a divisive approach for a variety of reasons. I, for one, was a non-white person made much more comfortable by it… but not everyone will agree with me on that.] 

    More on This Disc…

    The real highlight of this disc is Looking for David – a brand new documentary that digs deep, researching and unearthing details about the life and career of the show’s first script editor. David Whitaker has long been shrouded in relative mystery… and this has allowed for light to be shed upon him.

    Panopticon Archive – footage from a convention panel in 1985, featuring cast from the Hartnell Era, is another notable highlight… particularly where individuals are no longer with us.

    The First Doctor in The Space Museum

    Disc Seven: The Space Museum

    Robert Shearman discusses The Space Museum and discusses why it is a fun story in a feature that defends it against the typical fan ‘consensus’.

    Collectibles Documentary: Emily Cook presents a 20 minute mini-documentary where she meets collector-fans. These fans have some of the biggest, rarest collections of Doctor Who memorabilia from the show’s past. And well, you may be a tiny bit jealous about some of their items…

    Doctor Who: The Collection Discs Eight – Nine

    Daleks and Mechanics. Courtesy Warped Factor.

    Disc Eight: The Chase 

    We get a featurette celebrating Ian and Barbara & the Mechanoids… though, all involved in the latter are admittedly pretty brutal in their description of the robotic creatures. 

    Daleks Beyond the Screen delves into the Dalek merchandise of the early 60’s and making a fascinating examination of how the villains became one of the most iconic creatures of Doctor Who. As well as how they exploded across the realms of popular culture in the form of toys, comics, films and stage shows. Featuring Verity Lambert & Ray Cusick (original creator of the Daleks) too. And that’s before we get to their second piece: Daleks Conquer and Destroy.

    Give-A-Show Slides: The Give-A-Show set featured 112 slides over 16 stories that played out like short comic strips. They’re lovely and colourful, but admittedly, one should temper oneself for these. The stories are very simple and dull by a modern standard…but would have been absolutely amazing for children back in the 60’s. It’s an odd addition to some, but in truth, it beautifully preserves a niche part of Doctor Who history.

    The Doctor and The Monk. Courtesy OldDoctorWho

    Disc Nine: The Time Meddler

    Season 2 Documentary – As a nice end-cap, the cast and crew relive their experiences of creating the show during its second season.

    And there’s the featurette on the restoration of the story, which compares original footage with all its flaws and then the fully restored version which looks much cleaner. However, the only issue with this feature is that it would be nice to learn more about the process in more detail. It only shows off a few clips as example.

    Oh, and the missing few seconds from Episode Four? They’ve been rather craftily filled in an unexpected but seamless way… All of which is leaving out our one remaining thought – can we have the Monk back, please?

    The First Doctor. Courtesy Entertainment Weekly.

    Doctor Who: The Collection Conclusion

    Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 2 is an absolute must-have for any fan. Whether you’re new to the show or a long-time Whovian, this is a perfect dive into Hartnell’s era of the show. The First Doctor is often overlooked because the era is distinctively different from modern viewing. To watch for a modern audience… Well, with the big anniversary around the corner and work on Series 14 continuing at pace – now is the perfect time to give it a go. And having so much background information from the features and documentaries makes it even more fascinating a trip for even the fans who can recite all the noises of the Zarbi. Backwards. In their sleep.

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