7 March 2013

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: John Lucarotti

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 11th March 2013

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 7th March 2013

The TARDIS arrives in fifteenth century Mexico inside the tomb of Aztec High Priest Yetaxa. The travellers become cut off from the ship after the tomb door closes behind them and Barbara is proclaimed as Yetaxa's divine reincarnation.

However, she incurs the enmity of the High Priest of Sacrifice, when - against the Doctor's advice - she attempts to use her new-found authority to put an end to the Aztec practice of human sacrifice.

* * *

It's time for a history lesson, courtesy of a time travelling Police Box and her crew. However, you may also get a strong feeling of "deja-Who"; that strange feeling that you've seen this DVD before. This is another of the BBC's 'Special Edition' releases, aka the same release with an extra disc of new stuff tacked onto the end. In the case of The Aztecs: Special Edition, it's that second disc that provides the excitement... However, here's a rundown of the extras on Disc One - the original release:

Disc One

Commentary - William Russell (Ian), Carole Ann Ford (Susan) and original series showrunner Verity Lambert (now sadly in the great hereafter) come together to discuss their memories of the story, with many anecdotes and stories along the way.

Arabic Soundtrack - Episode Four only features an alternate audio experience that can be selected via the Audio Options section, with the soundtrack dubbed into Arabic.  An interesting curio!

Remembering The Aztecs - The making of the story, with Ian Cullen, John Ringham and Walter Randall (all Aztecs in the serial itself) discuss the early days of television, and changing from theatre to television. William Hartnell's moods are discussed in somewhat less than glowing terms by Ringham and Randall.  Mostly it seems to be a somewhat vitriolic wander down memory lane for them, but thankfully Ian Cullen keeps the featurette light.

Designing The AztecsBarry Newbery (who's name is now ever associated with the second TARDIS prop, called "The Newbery Box") talks about how he designed the story; with a glorious wealth of production drawings and photographs - most of which have never been seen as they're from Barry's personal collection.  Newbery is very interesting to listen to, and it's obvious frm the outset that this man knows his craft inside out.  An informative and gentle look back, and suitably entertaining.

Cortez and Montezuma - It's Blue Peter! A wonderfully vintage and aged piece of BBC educational children's programming. Valerie Singleton narrates the story of the fall of the Aztec Empire. It's actually really rather good, and explained very nicely for kids - although Singleton mentioning on more than one occasion about cannons "blowing people to bits" is perhaps more gruesomely amusing than it should be!

Restoring The Aztecs - A regeneration that a Time Lord would be proud of. The restoration and cleaning up of the original film, shown in several before and after examples, that makes the antique material suitable for release onto DVD.  Short, and with no voiceover or real explanations, but still fascinating. It's not just The Aztecs on display here, Jo Grant and the Third Doctor put in a brief cameo appearance too, from 'Terror of the Autons', and The Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe turn up in a clip from The Krotons. Oh, and there's a web address for more information in the end titles!

Making Cocoa - A woeful sub-par South Park rip-off on how to make cocoa the Aztec way. Simply dire.

TARDIS Cam 3 - Another brief look at the TARDIS, this time sitting in the middle of a sandstorm on an alien planet.  Again, from the 2002 BBC Fictionlab team. Short, but pretty.

Intro Sequences - A random selection of introductions to the story via the three actors playing the main Aztec roles in the story. There are six in total, and it plays a random message when "Play All" is selected from the main menu. Fairly pointless.

Adding on the Photo Gallery, Subtitles, Audio Description and new Info Text rounds off the original release - and that's just disc one!

Disc Two

Galaxy Four - Or to be more accurate: Galaxy Four the telesnap archive and episode three. Using a little CGI, remaining video footage, lots of telesnaps and the audio recordings of the original transmissions, here's a rather fabulous tale from later on in the Hartnell era. We've got Steven Taylor (Peter Purves), Vicki (Maureen O'Brien) and the wonderful William Hartnell as The Doctor.

Episode Three was recently discovered and recovered, and that's the main reason for this condensed version of the story. It is, however, completely wonderful to see any part of this Classic adventure. It's a very strong and well told story, and a complete joy to watch. Worth the re-release by itself!

ChronicleThe BBC Radiophonic Workshop lends its expertise to this 1969 telling of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico. It's rather dated, and to be completely honest, the Blue Peter version was much more interesting and accessible. It's very pretty to look at, the filming is really rather exquisite, but it's very old school BBC. It is amusing however that the presenter, John Julius Norwich bears more than a passing resemblance to George Reeves' portrayal of Clark Kent in the 1950s Adventures of Suprerman TV series in the US. Norwich's voice though is pure 1950s BBC, with perfect ennunciation and a very plummy tone.

Doctor Forever: The Celestial Toyroom - The series continues with a look at Doctor Who toys over the last 50 years. From the birth of BBC Licensing. From Daleks in the 1960s to Tom Baker dollies to Dapol and onwards into the present day. Presented in a very flippant and jokey manner, this really doesn't take itself seriously, but is presented with enough love and affection to keep it funny and the right side of ridicule. Rather brilliant, very silly indeed, and insane fun.

It's A Square World - A very brief glimpse of the first ever Doctor Who skit during the farewell to BBC TV Centre programme in 2012, gave the world a clue that this little gem still existed. Clive Dunn is Doctor Fortheringown (Doctor Who?) in a full Hartnell outfit, talking to Michael Bentine here. With cameos from Patrick Moore and er... Albert Steptoe... The Doctor's newest invention goes a tad wrong and takes the BBC TV Centre for a spin in space.

A Whole Scene Going - An excerpt from the 1960s magazine show featuring some cranky dustbins from the second movie, and a brief interview with the director of Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD, Gordon Flemyng. Short and very dated, but Gordon's an interesting man, and certainly knew his stuff.

Coming Soon Trailer - SPOILER WARNING!!! In a release that's not at all an obvious tie in to a forthcoming reappearance, Patrick Troughton's Doctor faces off with some reptilian Martians. Also features the *other* instance of the Police Box TARDIS doors opening outwards. The Ice Warriors are coming soon to DVD.

As with disc one, all the features come with Subtitles and Audio Description, and Disc Two features the Radio Times cuttings in the usual PDF format for viewing on a computer.

This is all about disc two, really. The first release of The Aztecs (and a fine Hartnell story it is) was fairly packed with extras already, so I'm not sure we needed another release of it with one or two additional references, to justify the inclusion of Galaxy Four.

However it's that condensed story that's now the undeniable star of this special edition. It's such a rare treat to see a rediscovered Classic episode of the show, especially from the Hartnell era, that it completely negates any misgivings about most of the release being money for stuff we've already seen. Therefore this very special Special Edition can only really have one rating, even if it is almost entirely for Galaxy Four.

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