The season's DVD box sets hit the spot
Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth SeriesBBC Warner, $79.98
It took nearly five decades, but it appears Doctor Who has finally arrived. In America, that is: The good Doctor was already a national obsession in his native UK, but only lately has he made a serious dent in the American pop-culture consciousness. How serious? Well, that tony mag The Atlantic not too long ago devoted 1,600 words to say, essentially, that Doctor Who is terrific stuff and, by the by, Matt Smith, the 11th actor to portray the time-traveling Doctor, may be the best yet.
A year ago, that notion might have sounded like blasphemy, back when David Tennant's increasingly brooding Tenth Doctor seemed inextricably linked to the reboot's success. (Yes, former show-runner Russell T. Davies, who masterminded Doctor Who's return to air after a 16-year dormancy, cast Christopher Eccleston first for a season, but it wasn't until Tennant's tenancy that the show's blend of sci-fi, drama, comedy, and unrequited romance found its rhythm.) But Smith is a natural. With his barely there brows and a baby face complicated by hard angles, he's certainly the most genuinely alien-looking of all the actors to keep time, so to speak, in the TARDIS. (That's Time and Relative Dimension[s] in Space, for newbies; less technically speaking, it's a flying machine fronting as a battered blue police box.) Smith is also the youngest actor yet to take a pass at the iconic character, and it works: He brings a boundless energy and lightly daffy joie de vivre to the part of the Doctor, the last man standing of an extinct race who skips across time and space, endlessly stumbling into sticky jams, typically with a comely female companion at his side. (Here, the companion is Karen Gillan's spitfire Amy Pond, who's always angling for a snog; apparently Pond didn't get the instruction manual explaining that the sexless Doctor is all foreplay and no follow-through.)
This 6-disc set collates the 13 episodes of season five, with its temporally elegant story arc that circles back in the finale (appropriately titled "The Big Bang") to where it started in episode one. The set also includes the making-of docs, Doctor Who Confidential, that aired with the original shows, and "The Monster Files," behind-the-scenes looks at the series' signature baddies, the Daleks, the Silurians, and the newly minted Weeping Angels. The latter debuted in last season's standout episode, "Blink," scripted by Steven Moffat, and, as the new show-runner, Moffat smartly brought those supremely creepy stone statues back to life in two-parter "The Time of Angels" and "Flesh and Stone."
Moffat instigated a few other changes – he spearheaded 2.0 remodels of the TARDIS and the Daleks and zinged the opening credits and theme, all to very good effect – but nothing too earth-shattering: a spit-polish, really, that's restored the series' giddy gleam.
Also Recommended in British TV: Sherlock: Season One (BBC Warner, $34.98), Luther (BBC Warner, $34.98)