To get this out of the way first. I don't think Christopher Eccleston will ever be regarded as a great Doctor Who -- nowhere near the Tom Baker or Jon Pertwee league. Eccleston just doesn't seem to believe he's our Doctor -- he's just an actor who's landed a pretty good gig.
But he, and his companion Rose (Billie Piper) are only minor ingredients in this new series. The 'Doctor Who' series never really depended on who was playing the role at the time -- the strength was the story-telling.
And this time around, the story-telling is particularly strong. On this disc are the first three episodes from the latest series. First off, we're in present-day times as the Doctor meets his latest companion Rose and is threatened by plastic dummies who come to life (a nice reference to early Doctor Who monsters, the Autons, battled back then by Jon Pertwee).
Then it's off to the unforeseeable (for us) future, five billion years from now, for a ringside seat as our Sun explodes and devours the Earth. Fellow spectators include intelligent trees in humanoid form, and the very last pure Earth-being left in the Universe -- apart from Rose of course, who is really an interloper in this era. Most of the participants are here to see the end of our world. But one is there to kill.......
Finally, we're whizzed back to the near-past, to Christmas 1869. It's dark and creepy and the dead are walking. In an episode written by Mark Gattis from The League of Gentlemen, this is impeccable BBC costume-drama -- a ghost story of the best Doctor Who sort, as the good Doctor and Rose team up with Charles Dickens (Simon Callow) to find out what is going bump in the night.
Yes, the storytelling is up to the best Doctor Who standard. What isn't the same though are the special effects. They're simply in a league of their own. The old Doctor Who production teams could not have imagined creating universes and effects as real and as detailed as these -- in this series, Doctor Who has taken a mighty leap forward into the 21st Century.
Good thing though is that the new-found technical mastery hasn't overwhelmed the basic sound storytelling and acting, which was always the key to the Doctor's success -- along with the constant implicit humour, which is here too at just the right measure.
Yes, we have him back, but with more added. This is the new super-Doctor Who, with added value. Can't wait for the next volumes in this present series -- and to find out who, in good time, will be the face of the next Doctor Who series.
The sound is your conventional two-channel Stereo, but strong and beautifully delivered for all that.
The last of the old Doctor Who series presented updated theme music in a twee, watered-down tinkly electronic form which pretty well destroyed the strength of the radiophonic workshop original. Fans will rejoice to know that the latest version, while updated yet again, is terrific -- it's a powerful and persuasive new version of the old theme, with the new material seeming to be playing alongside the old, in a scintillating counterpoint. Great stuff.
It's a shame the new series is being released only one disc and three episodes at a time; we should have been given the option of collecting the complete set in a special edition. But despite that quibble, and despite the lack of any extra features of any kind, it's still a quality edition -- this series is definitely worth collecting.
QUICK UPDATEJust a few hours after writing this, and thanks to reader David Gascoigne, I can report that if you're willing to wait, you may well find that a special complete set, in Tardis-shaped packaging and replete with extra features (maybe a Dalek or two) will be marketed towards the end of the year.