16 April 2011

Manufacturer: BBC DVD / 2|Entertain

Written By: Robert Holmes

RRP: £30.63

Release Date: 9th May 2011

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 16th April 2011

The Classic Series Auton stories get a paired release in this two disc set from the BBC / 2|Entertain.

Spearhead from Space: Special Edition

Starting off the Third Doctor's era is Spearhead From Space; and with the show now in colour and set on Earth in contemporary Britain, the whole feel of the programme changes radically.

As with previous older releases, it looks like the recording has been cleaned up considerably, and the print is fresh, sharp, and looking and sounding first class.  Spearhead from Space also benefits from being on location and film, as opposed to the studio based scenes and with the usual videotape recordings.  The story looks more expensive and runs more smoothly as a result.

A swarm of meteorites land on Earth drawing attention from UNIT and a new and deadly alien menace emerges; and at the same time an old blue Police Box lands in the middle of Oxley Woods, and a strange man with an odd metabolism emerges and passes out...

Featuring an amazing debut from the unstoppably charismatic Jon Pertwee, a perfectly pitched and suitably sceptical Liz Shaw arriving on the scene with Hugh Burden being amazingly creepy as the not-quite-what-he-seems Channing.  Also missing shoes, overly sticky blood platelets, and a Hoover 913 Commercial...

The Spearhead from Space Special Features focus, understandably, on the changes that Doctor Who as a programme was going through.

Special Features:

Down To Earth - A clever look at the problems facing the show at the end of the Troughton era, how it narrowly avoided being cancelled, and how a new team in front of and behind the camera and the advent of colour television turned the show's fortunes around.  It's easy to see the level on love and passion for Doctor Who here, especially from Terrance Dicks and the late - and much missed - Barry Letts.  A smart set up to keep the narrative flowing, Down To Earth works very well indeed.

Regenerations - A closer look at the introduction of colour and how it affected Doctor Who.  From colour test transmissions to getting round the tricky problem that colour cameras didn't replicate the show's "howlaround" title sequence effects, this enlightening little documentary demonstrates all the changes behind the scenes that the entertained Who viewer never knew anything about.  

UNIT Recruitment Film - Serving as a timely, if unintended tribute to the recently deceased Nicholas Courtney, this spoof film about the life of a soldier in UNIT now mixes the humour with a twinge of sadness.  Narrated by Adam Woodyatt (EastEnders' Ian Beale) and the aforementioned Brigadier himself, it's a short, warm tribute to the Earth-bound Pertwee years with the UNIT family.

Trailers - The BBC Two trails for the mid 1990s repeats for Spearhead From Space, and one for BBC Two's Doctor Who Night; the latter featuring a traumatised child on the sofa and evil possessed goldfish.  Fun fluff, if nothing else, good for raising a smile.

Commentaries - With this release there are two commentaries available, one with Caroline John (Liz Shaw, who debuts in this story) and Nicholas Courtney, and one with story producer Derrick Sherwin and script editor Terrance Dicks

Trailer - The TARDIS, with the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough on board, is heading for a rather bumpy arrival on the planet Frontios.

Terror of the Autons:

It's the return of the Plastic People!  In a story with another few firsts, smart and sassy Liz Shaw has been replaced by small and screaming Jo Grant (Katy Manning), as Terror of the Autons heralds the debut of one of Doctor Who's major player villains; the only person who's managed to cause the Doctor to regenerate not once but twice... fellow Time Lord and all round bad egg; The Master.  Here played by the absolutely glorious Roger Delgado, this incarnation was impeccably mannered, unstoppably suave... and as black hearted as they come.  UNIT has also expanded with Mike Yates (Richard Franklin) on the crew, and there's some memorably monstrous moments from the Nestenes causing pandemonium once more.

Doctor Who stalwart (and later to be Davros), Michael Wisher puts in a great performance alongside the major cast members, but the scenes are stolen by the ingenious ways in which the writers came up with to kill people... notably scarily faceless Policemen and murderous clammy black plastic sofas…

In a step beyond its coloured VHS release, the BBC / 2|Entertain release has been fully restored so the colour looks a lot more natural this time around.  Again the restoration looks pin sharp, with top quality sound and visuals.  The story justifies the amount of love and attention given to the release, and it's all top quality entertainment paired with its earlier Auton outing.

Special Features:

Life On Earth - Another, wider look at Doctor Who being set on Earth and its implications.  This time around there's talk around the newer, post-2005 Doctor Who as well as the influences and origins of the Russell T. Davies era Autons.  It's a very interesting and entertaining documentary, with a really clever visual style, some really honest interviews, and again, it all goes to show the level of commitment shown to Doctor Who past and present.

The Doctor's Moriarty - A look at The Master, who turns up to meddle in the Doctor's affairs for the very first time in this story.  Quite naturally this little retrospective focusses mostly on Roger Delgado's era of The Master, but mention is made of the Master's later incarnations as well, right up to John Simm's recent outings as the character.  A decent featurette looking at the origins of the character, uses and overuses, and what made Roger Delgado so good as the Doctor's Nemesis.

Plastic Fantastic - A short look at the Autons, their creation, uses and the society they were unleashed upon, with writers and historians shedding some light on the Nestenes' favourite substance to inhabit. 

With a highly entertaining Commentary from Barry Letts, Nicholas Courtney and Katy Manning, the usual info text option to divulge trivia, audience figures and bloopers and the same Coming Soon Trailer for Frontios, this rounds off an appallingly titled, but absolutely stunning Auton double feature that should feature in anyone's collection.  Brilliant.

just remember DVDs are made of plastic... 

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