Pluto TV Inks BBC Distribution Deal in Europe

ViacomCBS’s free ad-supported streaming platform Pluto TV has signed a distribution deal with the BBC to distribute branded channels across Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Spain. The FAST platform is launching streaming service in Italy on Oct. 28.

The BBC channels focus new and classic “Doctor Who” series episodes, in addition to dramas such as “Call the Midwife,” “War and Peace,” “Great Expectations” and “The Musketeers,” among others.

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“This new partnership with BBC allows Pluto TV to super-serve our European audiences with hundreds of hours of premium BBC drama content that fans know and love, all for free,” Olivier Jollet, SVP and GM of Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Pluto TV continuously expanding content offering is a key component of ViacomCBS’s diversified global streaming eco-system.”

Nick Coulter, director of global new business development at BBC Studios, said the deal gives the venerable broadcaster/producer new distribution channels.

“We are always looking for new ways to bring our talent and shows to audiences around the world,” Coulter said. “Pluto TV will help us reach old fans and new, with some of our best-loved dramas alongside familiar classics.”

Dr. Who and the Daleks

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Kino Lorber;
Sci-Fi;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Peter Cushing, Roy Castle, Jennie Linden, Roberta Tovey, Barrie Ingham, Michael Coles, Yvonne Antrobus, Geoffrey Toone.

Science-fiction fans who weren’t previously aware of this early big-screen treatment of the BBC’s popular “Doctor Who” series will likely find it a fascinating curio, not only for its place in the history of the series and the genre, but the very nature of the filmed entertainment industry.

Premiering in 1963, “Doctor Who” chronicled the adventures of an alien named The Doctor, a member of an alien race known as Time Lords. His traveling companions included his granddaughter, Susan, and a pair of schoolteachers. Their time machine the TARDIS, was bigger on the inside than on the outside, and disguised to resemble a blue police box, essentially a large wooden phone booth, commonplace in England at the time.

Episodes were grouped together to tell serialized stories, and the second serial was called “The Daleks,” introducing an iconic villainous race of irradiated aliens who transformed themselves into mechanized warriors using robotic armor (which is why they are often described as merely robots). Interestingly, the design of the creatures was originally assigned to Ridley Scott (yes, that Ridley Scott), who had to drop out over scheduling issues.

With “Doctor Who” and the Daleks in particular proving to be massive hits with British audiences, it wasn’t long before movie producers came sniffing around looking to cash in, and made a deal with the BBC and Dalek creator Terry Nation to acquire the option for three Dalek-based movies. The first would be an adaptation of the “Daleks” serial.

Now, this wasn’t like today, when the natural assumption would be that the movie would be a continuation of the series, using the same actors and storylines. In the mid-1960s, “Doctor Who” was virtually unknown in America, and the film’s producers wanted the film to have an international appeal (the show wouldn’t gain a solid cult status in the U.S. until PBS and syndication airings a decade later). So writer Milton Subotsky and director Gordon Flemyng essentially deconstructed the concept of the series. The result is this first of two standalone adventures that otherwise have no connection to the series.

The first major change was the casting. Instead of bringing on the relatively unknown William Hartnell, who was playing the Doctor on TV, the filmmakers cast Peter Cushing, who had international clout thanks to his association with the Hammer horror films. All the other roles were recast as well, most notably having 11-year-old Roberta Tovey playing Susan, an adult character on the series.

Nor did the main character keep his name — the show’s title is a bit of wordplay based on people’s confusion over being introduced to “The Doctor,” with their first response being “Doctor Who.”

In the movie, Cushing plays a man simply named Dr. Who. Instead of being an alien adventurer, this Dr. Who is an eccentric scientist who invents the TARDIS himself, rather than stealing it from the Time Lords as he does on the show.

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As the film begins, Dr. Who is showing off the TARDIS to his other granddaughter Barbara’s boyfriend, Ian, who accidentally activates the controls and sends them to a distant planet, where they discover the remains of a nuclear holocaust. The conflict’s two warring sides are still at odds: the Daleks, who have encased themselves in robotic suits and city-like fortresses to shield themselves from radiation, and the Thals, seemingly primitive people who live in the remnants of the planet’s forests, but who have developed a cure for the radiation that the Daleks desire. So, Dr. Who and the newcomers set about helping the Thals defeat the Daleks so they may repair the TARDIS and go home.

As a streamlined adventure, it serves as an interesting abridged version of “Doctor Who” for those who weren’t invested in following the TV show on a weekly basis. And for fans of the series it offered a couple of big incentives. First, it was the first presentation of any “Doctor Who” material in color; the series wouldn’t shoot in color until 1970. And it gave them a chance to see the iconic Daleks and TARDIS, the designs of which were consistent with their look on the TV show, on a big, wide screen.

Interestingly, the descriptive blurb on Kino’s Blu-ray packaging still takes a number of cues from the TV series, referring to Cushing’s incarnation as a Timelord (he isn’t, strictly speaking) named The Doctor, rather than his humanized name for the movie.

To those who don’t know better, though, the movie just comes across as another cheesy British sci-fi ‘B’-movie. While some of the more complicated aspects of the Doctor’s TV origins were changed, other elements, such as why the TARDIS looked like a police box, were given no explanation. Nor does the movie use the familiar console control room look of the TARDIS interior from the TV show, or the show’s famous theme music. So the appeal of the movie aside from the nostalgia of those who saw it as kids, or “Doctor Who” fans in general, might be somewhat limited.

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The Blu-ray presentation takes advantage of a restoration by StudioCanal done in 2013 for a European Blu-ray release, and the results are pretty good. The film’s colors really pop on the Blu-ray presentation, from the psychedelic lighting of the alien jungles, to the color schemes of the Dalek ranks, to the bluish-purple body paint used for the Thals.

The Blu-ray includes a seven-minute featurette about the restoration process.

Despite a lukewarm critical response, Dr. Who and the Daleks was a hit with fans when it hit screens in 1965 and spawned a sequel the next year, Daleks’ Invasion of Earth. The second film wasn’t as successful commercially, so the third film in the option was abandoned.

However, the two films on their own did develop something of a cult following apart from that of the TV series, and inspired a 57-minute documentary in 1995 called Dalekmania, which is offered as a much-welcomed extra on the Blu-ray.

Other extras include a seven-minute discussion of Dr. Who and the Daleks by author Gareth Owen.

These are all fascinating extras for “Doctor Who” fans, as is an audio commentary joined by film historians Kim Newman and Robert Shearman, with filmmaker Mark Gatiss, who wrote Dalek episodes for the 21st century iteration of the “Doctor Who” television series.

Dr. Who: Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Kino Lorber;
Sci-Fi;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Peter Cushing, Bernard Cribbins, Ray Brooks, Andrew Keir, Roberta Tovey, Jill Curzon.

The ending of Dr. Who and the Daleks hinted at a continuing adventure through time and space for Dr. Who (Peter Cushing) and his companions trying to find their way home. But, alas, in this 1966 sequel starts anew, with only Roberta Tovey joining Cushing from the previous film.

This was the second of three planned films based on the Dalek storylines from the “Doctor Who” television series, as chronicled in the review of Dr. Who and the Daleks, they were standalone adventures not related to the ongoing storylines of the TV series, and were essentially big-screen remakes of a few episodes with a new cast.

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As with the previous film, Invasion was written by Milton Subotsky and directed by Gordon Flemyng. Based on the TV serial “The Dalek Invasion of Earth,” the movie deals with the time travelers stumbling across a future Earth that has been conquered by the Daleks, the mechanized aliens encountered in the previous film.

It begins, however, with a street cop named Tom (Bernard Cribbins) in a confrontation with some thugs who robbed a jewelry shop. He seeks refuge in what he thinks is a common police box, but it turns out to be Dr. Who’s TARDIS parked on the street, an instant before it travels to a new time.

Tom replaces Ian from the previous film, while Barbara is swapped out for Louise, Dr. Who’s niece (in the original serial, Barbara and Ian are still involved).

Landing in 2150, the team discovers a bombed out London patrolled by robomen — dead humans converted by the Daleks into mindless soldiers. Joining with the local resistance, they formulate a plan to defeat the Daleks, who are trying to mine the resources of Earth’s core and convert the planet into their new homeworld.

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While it makes for a nice twin-bill with Dr. Who and the Daleks, Invasion has a bit more teeth than its predecessor as a standalone sci-fi film, taking advantage of great production design to depict the Dalek spaceship. However, the notion that the events take place nearly 200 years in the future leaves a lot to be desired, as humans don’t seem to have done much in the way of technological advancement or fashion sense beyond the 1960s. There are also posters for Sugar Puffs cereal plastered all over the city, the result of a product-placement deal that provided the film a significant portion of its budget.

The color palette is understandably more bleak than the previous film, but the more ambitious visual effects benefit from a restoration conducted by StudioCanal in 2013 for a European Blu-ray release. The model work is just the perfect amount of 1960s craftsmanship, in that the spaceship offers a nice sense of scope but the wires holding up the model are detectable in a few shots.

The Blu-ray includes a seven-minute featurette about the restoration process.

The film was ultimately considered a critical and commercial disappointment, leading producers to cancel plans for future adaptations.

Cribbins would return to “Doctor Who” more than 40 years later as a recurring character on the revised TV show during David Tennant’s run as the Doctor. A four-minute interview with Cribbins is included on the Blu-ray.

The cult fandom surrounding the two Dalek movies did inspire the 1995 documentary Dalekmania, which runs 57 minutes and is included here, as it is on the Dr. Who and the Daleks Blu-ray.

Likewise, the Invasion Blu-ray also includes a discussion of the film by author Gareth Owen, though this one runs just four minutes. And like with the previous film there’s a good audio commentary joined by film historians Kim Newman and Robert Shearman, with filmmaker Mark Gatiss, who wrote Dalek episodes for the 21st century iteration of the “Doctor Who” television series (the commentaries for both films were likely recorded at the same session).

BritBox to Distribute ‘Doctor Who Classic’ Content in the U.K.

BritBox in the United Kingdom will soon include a collection of classic “Doctor Who” content, including episodes, spin-offs, documentaries and related features. The content will be available beginning Dec. 26.

The SVOD platform from the BBC and ITV bowed in the U.K. on Nov. 7 after launching in the United States on March 7, 2017 as competition to Netflix and AMC Networks’ Acorn TV. It now has more than 650,000 subscribers in North America.

A total of 558 “Doctor Who” episodes featuring the first eight Doctors from William Hartnell to Paul McGann, form the backbone of the collection. The collection also includes four complete stories: “The Tenth Planet,” “The Moonbase,” “The Ice Warriors” and “The Invasion,” which feature a combination of original content and animation and total 22 episodes. An unaired story titled “Shada,” which was originally presented as six episodes, has been remixed into a 130-minute special.

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“BritBox becoming the first complete digital home of ‘Doctor Who Classic’ creates a special opportunity for fans and streamers across the U.K.,” Reemah Sakaan, group director ITV SVOD, said in a statement. “We are looking forward to expanding the collection even further by working with the show creators to lovingly restore lost and previously unavailable episodes in the months to come and offering a truly exclusive experience.”

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Additional content includes animated series, “The Power Of The Daleks” and “The Macra Terror”; orphaned episodes, “The Crusade” (2 parts), “Galaxy 4,” “The Space Pirates” and “The Celestial Toymaker,” Doctor Who: The Movie, “An Unearthly Child: The Pilot Episode” and “An Adventure In Space And Time” will also be available on the service, in addition to “The Underwater Menace,” “The Wheel In Space” and “The Web Of Fear.”

“It’s thrilling to partner with BritBox and see all this amazing ‘Doctor Who Classic’ content congregate in one place where subscribers can stream to their hearts’ content — some experiencing the show for the first time whilst others will simply be enjoying it all over again,” said Sally de St Croix, franchise director for “Doctor Who” at BBC Studios.

In August, WarnerMedia’s pending SVOD platform HBO Max announced securing exclusive U.S. streaming rights to “Doctor Who,” including all 11 seasons of the sci-fi hit. As part of Max’s new long-term deal with BBC Studios, the streamer will also be the exclusive domestic SVOD home for future seasons — featuring Jodie Whittaker as the “Doctor” — after they air on BBC America.

“‘Doctor Who’ is one of television’s all-time, most beloved series, on both sides of the pond, and we are happy to be the exclusive streaming stewards for this BBC gem” said Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max and president, TNT, TBS, and truTV.

 

HBO Max Gets Streaming Rights to ‘Doctor Who’ Series in New Deal with BBC Studios

Pending streaming service HBO Max has secured the exclusive streaming rights to BBC’s longest-running global franchise, “Doctor Who.” All 11 seasons of the modern version of the British sci-fi hit drama will be available on WarnerMedia’s SVOD service at launch in spring 2020.

As part of HBO Max’s new long-term deal with BBC Studios, the streamer will also be the exclusive SVOD home for future seasons after they air on BBC America.

In addition to “Doctor Who,” HBO Max has licensed 700 episodes of iconic BBC series such as “The Office,” “Top Gear,” “Luther” and “The Honorable Woman.”

“‘Doctor Who’ is one of television’s all-time, most beloved series, on both sides of the pond, and we are happy to be the exclusive streaming stewards for this BBC gem” Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max and president, TNT, TBS, and truTV. “Another series to further define the high-quality content experience consumers can expect from HBO Max.”

“As any ‘Doctor Who’ fan knows, the iconic TARDIS [fictional time machine] is ‘bigger on the inside’ — and it’s a good thing because the TARDIS is about to welcome a whole new slew of fans coming to the show through this deal with HBO Max,” said Nigel Gaines, interim president, BBC Studios — Americas. “HBO Max’s ambitious content line-up is the perfect complement to the ‘Doctor Who’ global franchise, in addition to some of our most award-winning and game-changing U.K. dramas and comedies.”

“‘Doctor Who’ is a program like no other — an incredibly rich world of stories, packed with adventure, regeneration, heart (two actually) and hope. Our audience is incredibly dedicated and engaged, and we can’t wait to work with HBO Max to tell our stories from across all of time and space,” said Sally de St Croix, “Doctor Who” global franchise director.

The BBC deal also includes original British television mockumentary “The Office,” created, written and directed by Golden Globe and Emmy winners Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. The show follows the day-to-day lives of office employees of the fictional Wernham Hogg paper company. The deal includes two seasons and two specials.

Long running car show “Top Gear” featuring several seasons with original hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May plus the most recent casts including Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris, Paddy McGuinness and Freddie Flintoff. The deal includes multiple seasons.

British crime drama “Luther” stars Idris Elba as Detective John Luther working for the Serious Crime Unit who becomes consumed by the crimes he investigates. Created and written by Neil Cross, the series has received eleven Primetime Emmy Award nominations with Elba also receiving a Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice Television Award, NAACP Image Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance.  Deal includes all five seasons.

Nine-part mini-series “The Honorable Woman” centers on Nessa Stein, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who inherits her father’s arms business and finds herself in an international maelstrom as she continues to promote the reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. It was created, written and directed by Hugo Blick.

The deal also includes new titles “Pure”, “Trigonometry”, “Stath Lets Flats”, “Home” and “Ghosts” which will all be available exclusively to HBO Max upon launch of the service.

All of these shows join HBO Max’s library, which is anticipated to boast 10,000 hours of programming at launch, including key licensed third-party programming and a rich array of content that brings the HBO service together with WarnerMedia’s portfolio of powerful brands: Warner Bros., New Line, DC, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, The CW, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Hello Sunshine, Looney Tunes and more.

In addition to HBO Max’s vast selection of beloved library titles, the service will also feature the entire HBO library of hits including fan favorites “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City,” “Veep” and “Game of Thrones,” as well as previously announced acquisitions “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Pretty Little Liars” and all 236 episodes of“Friends.”

HBO Max will also be the exclusive out-of-season streaming home to a string of new Warner Bros. produced dramas for The CW, including the highly-anticipated new DC series “Batwoman” and “Katy Keene” (a spinoff of “Riverdale”). The streamer will also be home to the critically acclaimed DC series “Doom Patrol,” with the first-season available at launch and new episodes set to debut simultaneously on DC Universe and HBO Max.

The SVOD is also developing a strong originals slate with film and television projects geared toward all audience segments in the home.

11th Season of Modern ‘Doctor Who’ on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 29

 Doctor Who: The Complete Eleventh Series, the first season of the legendary British sci-fi franchise to feature an actress in the title role, will arrive on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 29 from BBC Studios.

In taking on the 13th incarnation of the Doctor since “Doctor Who” debuted in 1963, Jodie Whittaker becomes the first female Doctor. In the 11th season since the series was restarted in 2005, The Doctor arrives on Earth to thwart an alien hunter and takes on three new companions (Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill) for more adventures through space and time.

The three-disc season 11 set will include 10 episodes.

The 2019 New Year’s Day special Doctor Who: Resolution will be released as a separate Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 19.

BBC Releasing Blu-ray of Tom Baker’s First Season on ‘Doctor Who’

BBC Studios June 19 will release Doctor Who: Tom Baker — Complete Season One on Blu-ray, featuring 20 episodes from the 1974-75 season of the classic British sci-fi series “Doctor Who.”

Comprising the show’s 12th season, the remastered episodes feature Baker’s introduction as the fourth actor to play The Doctor, a time-travelling alien who fights evil throughout the universe with the help of his human companions. The season includes the serials “Robot,” “The Ark in Space,” The Sontaran Experiment,” “Genesis of the Daleks” and “Revenge of the Cybermen.”

The marks the first time a complete season of the 1963-89 original run of the franchise is being released in a single volume. Previous DVD releases have been per serial or special compilations.

The six-disc Blu-ray includes more than 17 hours of bonus content, including:

  • “Tom Baker in Conversation,” a candid new one-hour interview with the actor.
  • “Behind the Sofa,” a selection of clips viewed by several stars of the show.
  • New making-of documentaries for “The Sontaran Experiment” and “Revenge of the Cybermen.”
  • An option to watch “Revenge of the Cybermen” with brand new, updated special effects.
  • An omnibus movie version of “Genesis of the Daleks,” unseen since its broadcast in 1975.
  • “The Tom Baker Years,” A 1991 special featuring highlights from the Fourth Doctor’s run, available on disc for the first time.
  • Immersive 5.1 surround sound mixes for “The Ark In Space” and “Genesis of the Daleks.”