BBC Studios’ first Doctor Who: The Collection Blu-ray boxset – Season 12 – hit shelves in July 2018…and then very quickly vanished, never to be seen again! Or so many fans thought, anyway. Fan speculation suggests that Season 12’s Blu-ray run was considerably smaller than later releases, and as such BBC Studios are now re-releasing the set, to allow fans who missed out first-time to add it to their collections.
Season 12 was legendary actor Tom Baker‘s first season as the iconic Fourth Doctor, alongside beloved companions Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter). Across five serials, the new Doctor fought a giant robot with the help of U.N.I.T, investigated an infestation of Wirrn on an ark in space, prevented a Sontaran invasion on a desolate Earth, met Davros – the creator of the Daleks – and thwarted the plans of the dastardly Cybermen. Baker’s first year as the Time Lord is one of the most iconic in Doctor Who‘s long history, so it’s no surprise that the team at BBC Studios decided to release this as the first in a long line of Blu-ray boxsets.
The episodes themselves are all memorable classics, even if Robot and Revenge of the Cybermen are noticeable weaker serials (at least in my opinion). That being said, both have their merits – if nothing else, our three leads are a joy to watch on-screen, and the monsters are fab – and the rest of the season more than makes up for their faults. The Ark in Space is quintessential Who, and scared me at five years old so much that it took me a good few years to revisit the story; The Sontaran Experiment is a lovely, low-key adventure with a great baddie in Styre; and Genesis of the Daleks is one of the best Doctor Who adventures ever to grace our screens. In this release, you even get to watch a condensed, 90-minute TV Movie edit, not seen since Christmas 1975. It picks the pace up a bit, and whilst it does miss some lovely moments, its nice to watch an alternate version of such a beloved story.
All of the extras (bar one or two, presumably saved for a future release) are transferred from the original DVDs onto this Blu-ray set, including commentaries, updated CGI effects and an omnibus edit for The Ark in Space, and the terrific Sontaran-focused documentary Built For War (which has seen a few adjustments since its 2006 release), to name but a few. New to this set are wonderful Making-Of documentaries for The Sontaran Experiment and Revenge of the Cybermen (the latter of which now features optional updated effects), which give great insights into the production. The latter of which also features the brilliant footage of Tom Baker going off to the pub with the Cybermen, taken from a BBC News report (which itself is included in the set for viewing pleasure). The Behind the Sofa features – now a mainstay in these The Collection sets – are also included for every serial; we get 5.1 surround-sound mixes (courtesy of Who sound legend Mark Ayres) for The Ark in Space and Genesis of the Daleks; and Matthew Sweet conducts an hour-long interview with Tom Baker himself on a bonus disc.
A hesitation many fans had with The Collection – Season 12 when it first came out was whether or not there would be a difference in picture quality, and whilst it isn’t as major a step-up as the Spearhead From Space Blu-ray, there is a notable improvement, at least to my eyes. It’s worth noting that Spearhead‘s Blu-ray transfer came from its original 16mm film reels (as it was entirely shot on film, unlike most Doctor Who), whilst The Collection – Season 12 is working from lower-quality videotape recordings. As the Blu-ray discs are not as compressed as DVDs, the High-Definition remaster looks much better than it would on DVD, so even if it’s not a night-and-day difference, and it’s not *technically* true HD, it’s still worth the upgrade – at least in my opinion.
Overall, if you missed it the first time, I’d definitely recommend purchasing this re-release of Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 12 on Blu-ray. There’s some cracking episodes in there, a nice new picture transfer, and a wealth of bonus features. Whilst I feel later sets may have improved on some aspects, including higher-quality picture transfers, more 5.1 sound mixes and even more new and exciting Making-Of documentaries (mainly due to having a wealth of material to work from in the later seasons of the show), this release is nevertheless a must-have for any Doctor Who fan.