'Doctor Who: The Complete First Series'
And they might have paid you back by shipping you the first series of the new "Doctor Who," which landed on DVD in Canada on Valentine's Day, but was held back in America until the Fourth of July when the Sci-Fi Channel snagged the U.S. rights to the series at the last minute.
If you aren't lucky enough to have any big-hearted Canadians on your buddy list, well, happy Fourth. "Doctor Who: The Complete First Series" is now legitimately available in America, and it's a corker.
The BBC's venerable, ever-morphing Time Lord has been reinvented for 21st century by "Queer As Folk" creator Russell T. Davies, who made the brilliant choice of casting Christopher Eccleston as a particularly manic version of the Doctor. Eccleston's performance invested the character with an energy and an edge of melancholy, racing around time and space so he never has to stand still and think about being the last of his race.
The effects are slightly improved, the sets are a little more ambitious, and the guest stars are first-rate -- not surprising, since half the actors in Britain grew up watching the show, and would stomp a kitten to be part of it now. Still: Simon Callow as Charles Dickens? Genius.
Best of all, they've finally given the Doctor a companion who's an equal, rather than a sidekick -- Rose Tyler, the pragmatic Londoner played by Billie Piper, an untested pop singer who's turned out to be the show's biggest surprise. She's the real thing; just watch her performance in the genuinely moving episode "Father's Day," and you'll see some amazing emotional work to ground all the digital goings-on.
Come to think of it, just watch the whole set. And don't worry that Eccleston hands off the character to David Tennant after the first 13 episodes; Tennant does an even better job.
BBC Video has put together a magnificent five-disc boxed set, with gorgeous transfers of all 13 episodes -- presented with lively Dolby Digital soundtracks -- and a plethora of extras.
Every episode has an audio commentary, with a rotating series of participants; Simon Callow turns up on the track for the Dickens episode, and Nicholas Briggs, known to millions of British children as the voice of the Doctor's eternal adversaries the Daleks, puts in an appearance on a relevant show.
Davies and Piper each appear on two tracks, and executive producer Julie Gardner and Jack Barrowman, who joined the cast for the second half of the first series, each appear on four. The only major player who's not represented is Eccleston ... but there's plenty of him on the featurettes sprinkled across all four of the episode DVDs, including a formal sit-down interview on the "BBC Breakfast" morning show.
Spin up Disc Five, though, and you're in for a full monty of behind-the-scenes goodness, as all thirteen episodes of the making-of series "Doctor Who Confidential" -- broadcast in the UK immediately after each new episode of the series -- are collected into a two-and-three-quarter-hour celebration of the particular insanity required to rework a 1960s children's show into riveting adult entertainment.
Cast and crew are interviewed at length about each show, with peeks into the development, production and post-production of the series. There's also a look at "The Christmas Invasion," the special episode that properly introduced Tennant as the new Doctor. It's yet to air in the US, but ask your Canadian friends if they taped it when the CBC aired it last Boxing Day.
STUDIO: BBC Video
RELEASE DATE: July 4, 2006
RATING: Not rated
TIME: 585 minutes
DVD EXTRAS: English subtitles; audio commentary; production featurettes; cast and crew interviews.
INTERNET SITE: www.bbcamerica.com