Part two focuses on the technical aspects of this classic collection…
Video and Audio
By 1989 Doctor Who was on a high again and the picture quality is also suitable enough considering its origins on 1” videotape. It should be noted that Ghost Light has never looked especially great on home media due to the nature of the low lighting on set and the cameras being used to film it.
Despite the limitations of the source material the BBC Restoration Team continue to impress in their ability to improve upon their work on the DVD range and offer these four stories in their best possible quality visually and audibly.
The sound mixing by Mark Ayres continues to impress as we are provided with 5.1 Surround Sound options on all 14 TV versions of the episodes and the different edits of Battlefield and The Curse of Fenric, which Ayres initially wrote the score for alongside Ghost Light this season.
Season 26 maintains the established packaging as a stylised fold-out book with a compartment for the booklet and a stack of disc trays. The exterior artwork remains consistent thanks to Lee Binding’s wonderful art and the booklet by Pete McTighe is, once again, well-penned and insightful.
The Special Features
The idea that these sets would offer the most comprehensive versions of each season is duly fulfilled here as the boxset contains not just the four stories and special features but also the extended and VHS versions of Battlefield and The Curse of Fenric alongside a new Workprint edition of Ghost Light which reinstates deleted scenes, albeit not upscaled to HD due to the quality of the footage.
These alternative versions contain scenes that weren’t initially present, with The Curse of Fenric being changed the most significantly and more to the director’s vision of the story.
Alongside the existing documentaries, commentaries and other archival material from the previous DVD releases, The Collection: Season 26 also features several new staples of the range. These include the now-signature behind-the-sofa segments and another “In Conversation” piece by Matthew Sweet, this time with actress Sophie Aldred (Ace).
A real highlight is the feature-length documentary Showman: The Life of John Nathan-Turner which is found in the bonus disc. This Chris Chapman-directed documentary focuses on the life and career of Doctor Who’s longest-serving showrunner and their eccentric personality and lifestyle.
Like A Weekend with Waterhouse from Season 18 and Looking For Lennie on Season 10 it is a wonderful piece that puts a spotlight on specific individuals who have a place in the history of Doctor Who, whether actor, director or showrunner.
Looking to the future of the range Season 14 is due in April and rumours are currently circulating that a Season 20 release isn’t too far off into the future. A possible Black and White entry from the 1960s (2 or 6) is also theorised though if and when announcements are made we’ll be sure to report it-keep an eye out for any future updates!
Season 26 sees Doctor Who finish on a high, cut prematurely just as Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor and Script Editor Andrew Cartmel had hit their stride with great characterisation and storylines, complete with one of the series’ best companions in Ace. Despite only having four stories each one offers something unique- the action-packed Battlefield, the oblique and enigmatic Ghost Light, the game-changing classic Curse of Fenric and the swansong Survival. I look forward to seeing more of McCoy’s era in the future-even Season 24!
4.5/5 – Season 26 is of the best seasons of the 1980s and a real treat to see this early into the range, even if it is often poignant to revisit.
Look back at Part 1 of the review for more detail on the stories included.
By HW Reynolds
Images provided by BBC