Part two focuses on the technical aspects of this classic collection…
Video and Audio
Season 2 isn’t the first time Black and White Doctor Who has been released in HD but is certainly a labour of love for the team behind these sets, having to cover 37 episodes, 11 of which have received all-new transfers from the existing tapes (The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Crusade episode 1 “The Lion” & The Time Meddler).
The Lion especially bodes well from its restoration despite the damaged nature of the only known copy of the episode (there is a line going through the middle of the film print and other blemishes to the print), whilst TDIOE & TTM benefit nicely from these new restorations.
The rest of the stories in the set also look cleaned up compared to their DVD releases – naturally there are imperfections and blemishes throughout and there’s a limit to how crisp these early stories can look, but I was left rather impressed overall and look forward to seeing how other 60s season fare.
The audio, which is handled wonderfully by Mark Ayres, cleans up nicely and though we don’t get any new 5.1 Surround Sound mixes, there is an enhanced soundtrack for TDIOE.
Season 2 continues to integrate the fold-out book styled packaging, with a compartment for the booklet and a stack of disc trays. Unfortunately, owing to the extra disc the trays have become rather top-heavy, resulting in some people’s sets arriving with the trays disconnected from the glue dots holding them to the packaging.
The exterior artwork by Lee Binding was perhaps initially one of my least favourites owing to the likeness of Hartnell used. I have since come to like it a bit more but would have liked to see Nero on the front.
We also get another detailed booklet with retrospective content by Pete McTighe which packs in the little details for these stories that makes it an essential element of the set.
This boxset collates most of the previous DVD special features from Season 2’s previous releases, though is missing the Spanish audio track for The Web Planet Episode 6 “The Centre”. Compared to previous box sets this release is perhaps lighter overall on special features, owing both to the budget needing to stretch for 37 episodes but also due to the lesser number of actors and behind the scenes personnel for interviews, leading to alternative features being produced when these serials initially got DVD releases, like the recreation of the original episode 3 & 4 for Planet of Giants.
Probably the biggest special feature here comes from the presentation of The Crusade, presented via telesnaps with optional on-screen subtitles for the missing episodes – these are very well done, living up to the great telesnap reconstructions done for the animations.
Established recurring features like the Behind the Sofa segments and Matthew Sweet’s In Conversation pieces also make a return here. On the sofas this time are Maureen O’Brien, Peter Purves & Carole Ann Ford, who feature alongside Janet Fielding, Wendy Padbury & Sarah Sutton, plus Bonnie Langford and Sophie Aldred.
Not every story gets covered this time around as Planet of Giants and The Space Museum are missed – perhaps the latter as the viewers may have fallen asleep during the latter episodes otherwise. These segments were generally watchable though it’s a shame that there wasn’t a lot of love for The Romans.
For the In Conversation features, William Russell and Maureen O’ Brien are the interviewees this time around. William Russell’s interview, recorded way back in 2018, is endearing to watch, though the actor does appear to struggle with Sweet’s technique of questioning at times. It does give us some nice little tidbits about his time in the series though, and it was wonderful having any new presence from the actor on the set at all.
There’s even some clips from the first season that looked noticeably restored like the rest of this season – perhaps the team behind this series is banking some work on Season 1 for later? Maureen O’Brien’s interview was also insightful, giving a closer look into her upbringing and storied career, including her range of novels and arguably the most honest look at Hartnell’s personality and insecurities at the time.
The Chris Chapman directed Looking for David Whitaker sees Toby Hadoke exploring the life of Doctor Who’s first script editor and what happened following his departure from the series. It’s quite a poignant watch but I won’t spoil anything here.
We also get a documentary on collectibles from the 1960s wherein presenter Emily Cook interviews fans who have very impressive memorabilia collections. Sadly, this documentary didn’t do much for me as I didn’t quite gel with the presentation, but I’m open for more entries in the future.
Unlike previous sets, no new making-of documentaries have been produced for stories that didn’t previously receive them, nor do we get any extended versions of stories, owing to the nature of 60s Who just existing being a bonus. We instead get a Season 2 retrospective Flights Through Eternity, which is a frank and insightful look at this period in Doctor Who history, and features great interviews, both new and archival.
As of writing this review there have been no further sets announced but comments from Doctor Who actors have suggested that Season’s 9 and 20 could be on the cards for 2023, and having had only two sets in 2022 I’m hoping for at least three – with one hopefully being a Patrick Troughton season, though I’m expecting another Tom Baker season soon as well.
4/5 – Season 2 is the most consistent of William Hartnell’s tenure in the role, and holds some very ambitious storylines that though mixed in execution pushed Doctor Who towards bigger and better stories, whilst maintaining a strong ensemble cast.
Look back at Part One of the review for more detail on the stories included.
By HW Reynolds
Images Courtesy of the BBC