Judge Eric Profancik once tried to use the Timescoop, but he was thwarted by the mindprobe.
"One day I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine."
If this DVD set contained any other television series (or even movie), then my first comment would be that is the greatest rip-off of all time. But because it contains Doctor Who and because it has a unique history, then this set is actually a very clever compilation for the serious Whovian. As the first Doctor rightfully predicted, he did come back one day.
Facts of the Case
This set is a touch more complicated than most Doctor Who sets, for there aren't any "complete" stories included. Let's recap the history of The Doctor, which will allow me to explain the unique nature of this release.
Doctor Who was first aired by the BBC in November 1963. Unlike American TV, which airs a complete story at a time, all Doctor Who stories are serialized. They are written and produced with distinct breaks within each story. Thus, one story is made up of three or more episodes (or parts) and to watch the entirety of the first Doctor's story "An Unearthly Child," you'd have to tune in for all four parts. (Or, even more remarkably, if you wanted to watch the entirety of "The Daleks' Master Plan," you'd have to tune in for all 12 parts!) When the series was shipped to America, most PBS stations showed the stories in their entirety—not broken down by parts.
By the end of the 1960s, 253 episodes (parts) had been filmed for Doctor Who, but then an awful incident occurred. In the 1970s, the BBC did an archive purge and threw away many episodes of the Doctor. In some cases only parts of stories were destroyed; in other cases, entire stories were lost. Over the years, as the show grew in popularity, a worldwide hunt began to track down copies of the missing episodes. With great effort, episodes began to turn up in PBS stations and other stations around the world. As the years went on, the odd episode would be found in a flea market or some hidden closet. To date, 144 episodes have been recovered, leaving 109 episodes still missing.
This set brings together some of those found "lost" episodes, many of which will be seen for the first time. Presented here are stories for which less than 50% of the episodes survive or that contain episodes of historic significance. Therefore, there are no "complete" stories to view on this disc, just bits and pieces. But, in a few clever instances, audio-only portions are available so you can watch the found half of the episode and then listen to the lost half.
Let's first talk about the specific contents of this three-disc set. As it's filled with a ton of materials, I think it's best to map it out here so you have some idea of what you'll find. Since each disc is self-contained, I won't be separating bonus features into its own category.
Disc One—William Hartnell
Disc Two—Patrick Troughton
Disc Three—Patrick Troughton
In a word, "wow," that's a lot of Doctor Who. It should be clear now what you'd be getting if you pick up this disc: lost episodes. There aren't any complete stories to watch from start to finish—though the inclusion of some audio-only portions is a clever way to give you a small sense of completion. What you do get are bits and pieces of early episodes from the Hartnell and Troughton years. When you think about it, is there any other show or movie where you'd be satisfied to see such a DVD release? I can't think of any, yet this set is a wonderful idea. I don't think it's a gimmick to make some extra money, but an honest attempt to give hardcore fans a bit of history. Largely unavailable, Lost in Time gives you a chance to see something that is mostly lost. Though they may have read synopses of the stories, Whovians finally have an opportunity to see what was done for these episodes. No longer do they simply have to imagine what the episode looked like; they can finally see for themselves.
I must admit that I have seen very few Hartnell stories and even fewer Troughton stories, so I was pretty lost while watching most of the set. Regardless, I couldn't help wishing I could see the rest of it, even though that's impossible. It made me long for more, for it was great to see new snippets of the Doctor. And beyond that, it also helped flesh out the Doctor a bit more for me. In some instances, I could see things relating to stories that would come much later in the series.
But, as happy as I am to see these clips, I'm also a touch disappointed. The episodes felt a bit too disjointed at times. I missed the cohesiveness of one full story, the flow from start to finish, and the completion of another of the Doctor's adventures. Additionally, while I have said it's clever to have added the audio-only episodes, I didn't completely enjoy them. I like the concept but I've never been an "audio book" person. I, quite simply, missed the video. But that could have been mitigated if there was something to do during these audio-only episodes. When you play one from the disc, you get one static picture for the episode. If possible, it would have been nice to have some type of relevant slideshow for the episode. (I know—you can never satisfy some people.)
As for the video and audio transfers, once again hats off to the magicians at The Restoration Team. If you haven't visited their website yet, please click on the link provided in this review. You'll find a bevy of wonderful, technical information about everything they did to the various episodes. It's a marvel of modern technology. And, as a result, I believe these episodes are as good as they'll ever be. They've balanced out the blacks and whites, cleaned up dirt, removed scratches, and so much more. You'll never mistake these story snippets for reference quality, but you'll be impressed by what can be done these days. As much as I wanted to refrain from nitpicking any aspect of the video or audio (because of the history of this disc), I feel I do have to give the potential viewer some warning about exactly what to expect. These episodes, for the most part, do look forty years old. The prints are still soft; details are lacking; dirt, speckles, and scratches pop up; and there is a bit of artifacting tossed in for good measure. Again, don't mistake this as placing blame because, considering these episodes' histories, the Restoration Team did a fine job. Just be prepared, even though I know that you want the set because you are a serious Whovian who relishes the chance to see these episodes and isn't going to be unduly influenced by the transfers.
What about all that extra, bonus material? Again, as a Whovian, you can instantly size up how much is on these discs, and you might be inclined to call it a bounty, but it's not as much as you might think. While you'll eagerly lap up all the commentaries, clips, trailers, and behind-the-scenes footage—with some of the items stronger than others—you may find yourself exclaiming "That's it?" at the end of some items. The most egregious example is the use of the phrase "surviving clips." When they used the word "clip," they were not joking. In some cases, these clips are just seconds long and you get no idea of what's going on in the story. They may have been setup snippets or trimmings from a country's censor board, so these clips are a touch disappointing. My other major disappointment is with the updated "The Missing Years" documentary. As this is near the end of the features, if you've watched everything else, this piece is nearly 100% repetition. There's some light interview/setup material, but it's mostly a rehash of the clips included elsewhere on the discs. I can see the sense of completion by including this, but its exclusion wouldn't have lessened the set. Still, when it's all balanced out, it's a Whovian's dream to get his or her hands on all of this stuff.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
My major quibble is still the lack of any "complete" stories that you can watch. I just wish I had the chance to see the entirety of "The Daleks' Master Plan." They don't make them like that anymore.
If you are a Whovian and love the show, then you will adore this set. Filled with an incredible array of material, Lost in Time will make a proud addition to your Doctor Who DVD collection. But be warned that if you're a little fuzzy on your first two Doctors, you may be a bit lost during some of the stories. And, even worse, these discs will make you want more. If you can handle that, then go out and buy this. You won't regret it. It's a fantastic effort that gives you as extensive an experience as possible. The only thing better than owning this set would be to have seen the episodes when they originally aired on the BBC.
Lord President, the court hereby tosses the case. You are free to return to your Type 40.
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Studio: BBC Video
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