Recently I finally got around to watching the Doctor Who Blu-ray steelbook for Series 11, featuring Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor. Of course, I first saw the latest series when it was broadcast last year, along with the Resolution special at the start of 2019 (which will be included in the series 12 set at a later date, so I won’t review it here). And I bought the Blu-ray set as soon as it was released earlier this year. But as it’s going to be some time before we get the next series on TV, I wanted to save it for a little while before watching it. And now felt like a good time to do it.
I’ve really enjoyed watching the episodes again. It still feels like Doctor Who and it’s still great fun, even though there have been a lot of changes this time around, including the new Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), new showrunner (Chris Chibnall) and the new companions (Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brien, Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair, and Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan). It’s been updated and refreshed, but it’s still true to the core values and themes of the show, I feel. There will be some that disagree, as they’re entitled to, and I appreciate there were a lot of changes to get used to. But I’m happy with how it’s turned out.
There’s been plenty of action, drama and humour, along with a variety of interesting locations and enemies, throughout this series. And it’s dealt with important issues and moments in history along the way, as the show often does, such as the great episode about Rosa Parks. The first episode gave a wonderful entrance to the new Doctor as well. There have also been a lot of good guest stars this series. As a comedy fan, I particularly enjoyed seeing Lee Mack in one episode. And it was great to have an episode featuring a blind character, played wonderfully by blind actress Ellie Wallwork.
As for the companions, I had been a bit unsure about them initially, but they’ve grown on me the more I’ve watched them, as they make a great team. It’s been fun to see Bradley Walsh in an acting role, which he’s embraced very well. And Tosin Cole’s character Ryan has dyspraxia, so there’s another disability being represented very well by the show.
The box set contains all 10 episodes from the series, and as you’d expect they look and sound fantastic in HD. There’s also audio navigation and audio description included, as has been the case on all previous releases, so I’m delighted about that.
The steelbook has a nice design on the cover, with silhouettes of the Doctor and her team on a hill looking towards the Tardis, while the discs all feature a colourful artwork of the group posing together. It is the same artwork on every disc, so a bit of variation would have been nice, but it’s still a cool image nonetheless. Another nice touch is that the steelbook set comes with 4 postcards, each featuring a colourful image of one of the team members. Those images could have been used to distinguish the 4 discs nicely as well, but that’s a minor point.
The extra features are rather limited unfortunately, but this isn’t a surprise. When Russell T Davies was in charge, we were blessed with a huge treasure trove of commentaries, extensive Confidential documentaries and other bonuses. But that was significantly reduced during Steven Moffatt’s reign, and now it feels like they’ve been stripped back further still, which is a shame.
There are 4 audio commentaries on this set, which are interesting to listen to, if only once. Jodie Whittaker appears on the commentary for the first episode (with director Jamie Childs), while the other 3 feature Mandip Gill (who plays Yasmin) with other contributors, including one or two guest stars. Showrunner Chris Chibnall was due to join the commentary for episode 1, but pulled out due to illness, so that’s a pity. He does regularly appear in the other bonus material though.
Every episode also gets a Closer Look feature, which is 5 minutes long at most and focuses on one specific aspect. Sometimes these will look at how a particular scene was made, which is very interesting. Others are simply a discussion about the overall theme of the episode, which you already know from having watched it, so it doesn’t really add much. So they’re a bit of a mixed bag, and it’s a pity they’re so short really.
Beyond this, the bulk of the bonuses are on the last disc. None of them are particularly long – as the outer card sleeve on the steelbook says, there’s over an hour of extras altogether – but they are quite interesting for the most part, and some of them have been on their Youtube channel before. Don’t get excited about the 2 cast video diaries though, because they’re less than a minute long each, so you don’t get to see much!
Finally, I’ve also downloaded the Series 11 Soundtrack Album by Segun Akinola. This is completely different in style from Murray Gold’s work, which was amazing (and we’re still waiting for his series 10 soundtrack, which I hope will come out soon). But Segun’s work is still well made, it just takes a very different approach. It works most effectively when watching the show, adding a lot of atmosphere and suspense without getting in the way, and often making you feel like you’re watching a sci-fi movie rather than a TV programme. And as a result, the soundtrack album also works better in the background really.
There are notable themes that stand out of course, including Thirteen for the Doctor, and the music for Rosa Parks, and other little snippets that occur at key moments. And his interpretation of the Doctor Who Theme is brilliant – although it’s a great shame you don’t get the full version with the middle eight on this album, which we know exists because it was used in the show. It’s a strange oversight, as Murray’s albums always included a complete mix.
Beyond that, however, most of the score isn’t memorable. It’s much more about the overall ambience and soundscape for this series, and when considered in that respect it’s fantastic. So ultimately I do prefer Murray Gold’s albums, as they work very well as suites of music, regardless of whether you’ve seen the show or not. But the series 11 album is still a nice soundtrack, because it does trigger nice memories of the episodes, which shows that the music is effective in that way.
So overall I’m very glad I’ve got the series 11 box set and the soundtrack. There may not be a lot of extra features, and the soundtrack isn’t as epic or memorable as previous seasons. But I am enjoying Jodie Whittaker in the role of the Doctor very much, along with her 3 companions, and all of the series 11 episodes were great fun. So I’m looking forward to series 12, which we’re told is due out early next year. I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait!