Time Lord Tees

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18 July 2013
 Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks, Robert Sloman, Christopher H. Bidmead, Robert Holmes, Pip and Jane Baker, Matthew Jacobs, Russell T. Davies

RRP: £61.27

Release Date: 24th June 2013

Reviewed By: Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 18th July 2013

“The Time Lords have this little trick. It’s sort of a way of cheating death. Except, it means I’m gonna change.” - The Ninth Doctor, The Parting Of The Ways

This beautifully-packaged and limited edition coffee table book-styled collectors’ album is every Doctor Who fan’s dream possession.

Individually numbered and boasting six DVDs with over 1000 minutes of Doctor Who footage, it brings together every Doctor’s regeneration episode: from the first Doctor, exhausted from battling the Cyberman, to Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor suffering from radiation unleashed by the Great One (a giant spider); and from the spectacular transformation of the Ninth Doctor to David Tennant’s emotional farewell as the Tenth.

The album is adorned with superb photography from across the era and features detailed and informative accounts of every regeneration. And if that wasn’t enough, new to DVD is The Tenth Planet featuring the Doctor’s first regeneration – beautifully restored with the missing fourth episode now brought to life with stunning animation. Utilising the original soundtrack, off-screen photographs and a short surviving sequence of the Doctor’s regeneration the episode has been now reconstructed in animated form, incorporating the restored version of the surviving sequence.

* * *
As a special release to celebrate Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, the Regeneration Box-set may seem something of an odd choice. While it highlights the process which has allowed the show to survive for all this time, it also means that the Doctor’s aren’t all given a fair crack of the whip. Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor bows out at the end of the 10-part epic The War Games, while Colin Baker and the Sixth Doctor are relegated to just two short scenes - hardly the best example of his Doctor - and Matt Smith only gets the final few minutes of The End of Time while we wait for his impending departure from the programme. 

Six of the nine stories presented here (The War Games, Planet Of The Spiders, Logopolis, The Caves of Androzani, Time and the Rani, and The TV Movie) have previously seen release as stand-alone DVDs, each packed with a bumper crop of special features, all of which have been removed for this release, allowing the stories to be spread across fewer discs. Bad Wolf / The Parting Of The Ways and The End of Time have also seen prior release in a couple of different forms.  

The versions of these stories used for the set are the same as those seen in their last DVD release, meaning that The Caves of Androzani and The TV Movie are both the higher-quality prints previously seen as part of the Revisitations box sets, as opposed to their earlier release.

For many fans whose interest has been raised by this release, though, it’s not those later regenerations that they’re keen to see again - it’s the very first one, in the form of The Tenth Planet, available here for the first time on DVD, complete with animated Episode Four, several months before it’s standalone release in November. The restoration of the three surviving episodes is up to the high standard that we’ve come to expect from the Restoration Team’s work, presenting the story in the best quality that could be hoped for.  

 Episode Four, newly animated to complete the story, builds on the success of the team’s earlier efforts on The Reign of Terror, and rectifies some of the complaints that the earlier release generated. Here, the shots chosen are far closer in style to the surviving episodes, and while there is still the occasional extreme close up of a character, it’s a device used far less on this occasion. The atmosphere of the story holds firm throughout this new version, and it’s a great way to experience this story as close to ‘complete’ as possible. You can see some examples from the animation in the sidebar to the right. 

With all nine stories spread across just six discs, there’s some unusual choices of how to split them, meaning that picture quality on the stories can be compromised in some instances. Disc One is home to the entirety of The Tenth Planet, alongside the first half of The War Games, with that story’s remaining episodes given Disc Two all to themselves. Planet of the Spiders occupies Disc Three while Disc Four holds Logopolis and The Caves of Androzani. Time and the Rani sits alongside The TV Movie for Disc Five, with the two new series stories - Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways and The End of Time filling up Disc Six. 

The discs are housed in a gorgeous presentation book, giving each of the Doctors their own double page spread, alongside information about both that specific incarnation and the story that represents them in the set. The book really is a work of art, and certainly one of the nicest pieces of 50th anniversary merchandise produced this year. It will no doubt take pride of place on many fan’s shelves before November hits. You can see some examples of pages for the First, Fourth, and Ninth Doctors throughout this review.

In all, the Regeneration Box-set achieves its aims - it provides a lovely collectable (each set is a numbered limited edition), and serves as a great introduction to the older Doctors on DVD. While many fans of the series are likely already own at least some of the stories contained within, this set would make a brilliant gift for a casual fan, or someone looking to take their first steps into the classic series.

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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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13 February 2013

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Robert Holmes

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 25th February 2013

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 13th February 2013

The TARDIS arrives on an apparently deserted and deactivated space station Nerva, otherwise known as the Ark, orbiting Earth in the far future.

There the Doctor, Sarah and Harry discover the last survivors of the human race held in suspended animation, Earth having been evacuated thousands of years earlier when solar flares threatened to destroy all life.

* * *

It's another re-release; this time on the tale of the Wirrn and Nerva Beacon. The picture and sound quality have been remastered again, and are as sharp as you're going to get.

Disc One is the original release, complete with two Easter Eggs, and optional CGI effects, and goes as follows.

Disc One:

Commentary - A feature commentary, with Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), and Philip Hinchcliffe, discussing the story with many memories and anecdotes.

A New Frontier - From ideas, via many rewrites, to screen; the making of The Ark In Space. Philip Hinchcliffe, Rodney Bennett, and various cast members come together to discuss the serial. Wendy Williams (Vira in the story) is especially entertaining looking back at her role.

It's fairly obvious that the cast and crew loved the story, from the warm and glowing way they relate their experiences. From popping bubblewrap to a lack of slime, it's all covered in this entertaining little featurette.

Roger Murray-Leach Interview - The set designed sits on a white sofa and discusses how to make an Ark for Who out of "two and sixpence". Construction of ingenious corridors, multi-level sets, and how to take The Doctor to hospital. Roger's tenure on Doctor Who consists of The Ark In Space, The Sontaran Experiment, The Deadly Assassin, Planet of Evil and The Talons of Weng-Chiang. There's also Blake's Seven, but he doesn't want to talk abut that...

Model Effects Roll - A model of Nerva Beacon, and a particularly troublesome scout ship that simply will NOT take off properly! A short-ish extra, featuring the many tries and takes recorded for the blast off. Seems oddly reminiscent of Button Moon in some parts...

CGI Effects Roll - An altogether more impressive view of the Beacon, courtesy of some computer wizardry from the first release of this story. Beautiful graphics and a very different rocket ship departure from the Model version. It's glorious to look at, but slightly jarring when viewed in the story, which is an option available on this disc.

3D Technical Schematics - More CGI gloriousness, this time showing the layout and specs of Nerva Beacon. Again, beautiful graphics, and a few in-jokes in the names of the devices. Short, but very pretty.

Trail - A proper old school BBC1 trailer for Doctor Who, with Ark's first episode. A short clip, a *huge* lime green logo and a remind that the episode will be on at "5.35, tomorrow, on BBC1."  Wonderful nostalgia trip.  So very different from how it's done these days...

Alternate titles - A few different slide and tunnel effects, and a dreadful version of the TARDIS  leading into a slight variant of the first Tom Baker era title sequence.  

Alternate CGI sequences - Choose between the original model sequences, or the updated, beautiful CGI created for the release.  As previously noted, it might jar a little seeing it in the story but it's only a momentary thing, it never detracts from the story or makes you lose where you were.

TARDIS Cam No.1 - From the "BBC Fictionlab" back in 2002 comes the TARDIS Cam, odd little snippets of footage of the trusty old Police Box in various locations. A lovely model TARDIS, very similar to the ones later sold by ARC models in a limited run.

Photo Gallery - It's time for the usual mix of behind the scenes and publicity stills from the show, set to a variety of weird background FX noises. Particularly enjoyable are the stills with the look of disgust on Sarah's face and she's holding bits of Wirrn innards.

...and that's disc one wrapped up. No "Coming Soon Trailer" on this disc, which is slightly unusual. However that's only half of the story, as there's a helping of new extras on Disc Two!

Disc Two:

TV Movie version - A revised repeat from 1975, cut down to seventy minutes. The BBC used to screen these when live sporting fixtures went awry, due to bad weather or industrial action; or as "Christmas treats" - where this particular edit comes in. Those were the days, when there'd be an unscheduled Doctor Who story on a Saturday afternoon!!

Doctor Forever: Love & War - The story of Doctor Who books from Virgin's New Adventures onwards. When Doctor Who went off-screen in 1989 the books continued to take the TARDIS into new territory, with a new adult take on the Time Lord and his adventures. Talking heads contributing to this history of the New Adventures include Gary Russell, Paul Cornell, and Russell T. Davies. Mark Gatiss reads an excerpt from his book "Nightshade", and reminds us of just why he's SO good at writing Doctor Who and Sherlock; and RTD gives us a glimpse of "Damaged Goods", and then examines how it's inter-related to post 2005 Doctor Who.

The series didn't end terribly happily, and that too is looked at in this featurette. It's an honest look and a worthy new extra. Brilliant.

Scene Around Six - Footage from what happens when a Time Lord is let loose in Ireland. Tom Baker on both sides of the then divide, lighting Christmas trees, bewitching primary schools, and being treated like an absolute hero by hordes of kids. The power of Doctor Who. Tom Baker obviously adores it all, and it's all very light, fun, and heartwarming. Awesome footage of an awesome Time Lord.

Robot 8mm Location Footage - Silent film of behind the scenes filming for Tom Baker's first story. There's Bessie, and UNIT, and rather brilliantly there's the Brigadier in sunglasses. Short, but raises a smile.

Coming soon Trailer - It's another special edition - this time with the original TARDIS crew. When the time travellers arrive in the temple of Yetaxa, Barbara is mistaken for a reincarnation of the Aztec deity; and that's where there troubles really begin. William Hartnell stars in The Aztecs: Special Edition is out soon!

There are, as always, the usual Info Text and PDF Radio Times options, and Subtitles and Audio Navigation are included as standard.

There's a lot to love about The Ark In Space: Special Edition, however most of it was covered on the original release. This special edition re-release doesn't have masses from the era in which it was made added to it, so they've bulked it out with various miscellania (such as the featurette on the New Adventures). The footage of Tom Baker in Ireland is excellent though, and almost justifies the revamp by itself. It's not a stellar DVD release, but a good one all the same.

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13 January 2013

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Dennis Spooner

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 28th January 2013

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 13th January 2013

When The Doctor lands the TARDIS back on Earth with the express intention of putting Barbara and Ian off the Ship, the original crew find themselves caught up in the tail end of the infamously bloody and grisly French Revolution. In 1794 Paris, crawling with ne'er-do-wells, jumped up "citizens" and people who'd sell their own grandmother, the time travellers must not only reach the safety of the TARDIS once more, they must avoid losing their own heads to the guillotine. Separated from each other, stranded in a different time, and heading for the chop, things are looking bleak for the team...

Episodes Four and Five of The Reign of Terror are missing from the archive; however using the same ingenuity previously shown in The Invasion release with Patrick Troughton, the missing episodes have been animated, and then matched to the extant soundtrack to complete the story for release. The animated instalments may not have the polish of the Cosgrove Hall episodes from the Troughton release, but the work here is top notch, intricately detailed, and doesn't detract at all from the story being told. The artwork for the characters and sets is beautiful - and showcased later in the DVD.

So without any further ado, let's Carry On...

Don't Lose Your Head - The de rigeur "making of" featurette. Carol Ann Ford, still with that mischievous twinkle in her eye, and William Russell lead the talking heads discussing green directors, walking to France, buckets to catch rain in, and the curse of Lime Grove studios.

The documentary touches on some less than happy subjects - such as nervous breakdowns on set - and it's sadly here where the featurette gets bogged down and somewhat less than glowing in review. Thankfully, however, eventually it all has a happy ending; mostly down to TV Centre, and people recovering from illness. An honest look back, warts and all, as it were.

Robespierre's Domain Set Tour - An animated extra, no less!  It's basically a look around the set design of the Prison from the story, set to lots of really annoyingly echo and reverbed sound bites.

It's all beautifully done, and very short; and if you can tune out the mucked-around-with sound, a stunning, brief look at what's basically some lovely artwork.

Commentary - Toby Hadoke chairs the discussion once more; in attendance are Tim Combe (Production Assistant), Carol Ann Ford (Susan), and various guest cast members take the third seat in each episode. Toby and guests have a lot more issues when it comes to talking about the animated episodes; they hadn't been done when the commentary was recorded, so full marks to them from trooping bravely onwards! Lots of gentle behind the scenes nattering with nothing new or earth-shattering to impart, but it's nice to hear anecdotes from people who filmed this story nearly fifty years ago, and are still happy to talk about the time they spent on Doctor Who.

Photo Gallery/Animation Gallery - Yup, there's two of 'em! The first is the usual stills gallery of publicity and behind the scenes shots; with some rather nice candid snaps in there. The second gallery however is much more interesting, showing the design schematics for animating the main cast members - and they look superb. From William Hartnell and his walking stick and ring, to an incredible shot of Barbara going from photo to artwork, this is a little gem of a library.

Info Text - Four episodes only of the fun facts and trivial tales this time. From the historic first time the full sized TARDIS prop had been filmed landing onwards, the usual array of information and career information on the stars meanders happily on until we reach the end of episode three, at which point it states it will return in episode six. There's no info text for the two animated episodes at all.

Coming Soon Trailer - It's another special edition release: Tom Baker's second story gets another look in, as The Ark In Space gets a makeover edition. It's Time Lord versus Wirrn, and an amazing story to boot. One thing though: if the adult Wirrn have six legs, why do they all shuffle/hop about on their bum?

With the usual Subtitles and Audio Navigation available, and the PDF Radio Times clippings should you view the DVD on your computer, The Reign Of Terror is a wonderful treat for fans who never thought they'd see this story released. The quality and sound are optimal as always, and the animation is sublime. The extras  aren't huge in quantity, but are certainly of outstanding quality. A real treat of a DVD, with a strong story, Hartnell on perfect form, and a rare quality historical piece that all too quickly vanished from Doctor Who.

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28 December 2012

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Douglas Adams

RRP: £30.63

Release Date: 7th January 2013

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 28th December 2012

Never aired on television due to a strike in 1979, and never fully completed, the six-part adventure 'Shada' traces the chase to recover a powerful book, the Artifacts of Gallifrey, stolen from retired timelord Professor Chronotis (Denis Carey).

Skagra (Christopher Neame) is the evil despot responsible for this foul jiggery pokery.

* * * * *

Disc One:


Very few Doctor Who stories have what can be described as a quasi-mythical status, and all of the handful that do are missing from the BBC archives. Stories such as The Tenth Planet and Power of the Daleks, and Shada.  

Shada is the oddity in the mix, as it's the missing story that's not missing; a paradoxical status which is quite appropriate, given it was penned by the late, great Douglas Adams. This was his last story for Doctor Who, and although it was never finished, at least one of the characters in the story found new life in other of Adams' works.  

Shada here is presented in two forms - one viewable on a DVD player, the other needing a DVD-ROM drive on your computer. More on that version in a moment...

The television story was never transmitted, as the filming was never completed due to industrial action at the BBC. The linking narration for those missing scenes, first recorded for the BBC Video release of this story, were recorded with Tom Baker in the 1990s at London's Museum Of The Moving Image (MOMI), and was set in their "Behind The Sofa" Doctor Who exhibition. It is that BBC Video release that is presented here, with only the player format changed - from VHS to DVD.

Special Features:

Info Text - There's a wealth of information to impart here, so there's six episodes of trivia packed info text to accompany the story. From robot dogs at very strange angles (it's a very funny moment when you see what they're talking about) to what the cast and crew did next, there's a lot of entertaining, and quite jokily written text here.

Shada (BBCi) - Move forward in time to the early 2000's, and the BBC's Doctor Who website did a number of "webcasts" in co-operation with Big Finish; and Shada was one of the stories they remounted. Tom Baker was unavailable to reprise his role as The Fourth Doctor, so with a little wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey trickery Paul McGann takes the lead as The Eighth Doctor; again featuring the lovely Lalla Ward, and with K-9's original voice, John Leeson, on board. It's a brave move, and surprisingly it works very well indeed for McGann's Doctor, successfully mixing the old with the new a good few years before School Reunion did the same thing on television. That webcast is also presented here, but only if you put the disc in your computer, as the animation plays through your web browser.

Coming Soon Trailer - The original TARDIS crew land outside Paris during the French Revolution, and soon get caught up in established events. With scores of people heading for the infamous guillotine, can The Doctor (William Hartnell) "head off" a grisly fate for his travelling companions, whist keeping his own? The Reign Of Terror - complete with two animated episodes to replace missing footage, is out at the end of January.  

The disc also has Subtitles and Audio Navigation available for those who may wish to use them.

Disc Two:

Special Features:

Taken Out Of Time - A retrospective look at Shada, featuring some wonderful contributions from Tom Baker, the production crew, and other cast members such as Daniel Hill (Chris Parsons in the story). There's a very positive and nostalgic air to the extra, with many happy memories. Stories of near-misses on bicycles, people falling in love, and lots of alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. Industrial action upset the apple cart of course, and the origin of the St. John's singers and their train song cameo are all brought up and discussed. There's obviously still a lot of love for the story in the hearts of the cast and crew, and it really shows.  A nice, honest piece, that despite bringing up some grim subjects and with a none too happy ending, never loses its charm.

Now And Then - This instalment takes us to Cambridge with locations then and now. One of the better things about historic locations such as this is that very little changes; but it doesn't make for the most interesting extra. This time it seems to be more of a "this is what we filmed here", rather than "what's changed since we filmed it". Rather bizarrely, the disembodied voice that fills us in on the minutiae of filming isn't credited at the end, leaving you to wonder whom was talking to you for ten minutes!

Strike! Strike! Strike! - Bet you can't guess what this one's about... Shaun Ley, on the TARDIS control room set, gives us the back-story of the unions at the BBC. Various talking heads contribute to this featurette, with many stories of offended dressers, ten o'clock deadlines, and of course Shada being shelved, stalled, and then cancelled. It works for and against Who at various junctures, and it's all dissected and examined here. Included is the famous footage of Blue Peter being presented from the set of Robot, and there are a wealth of Classic Series clips used to illustrate points with humour and simplicity.  An informative and entertaining extra.

Being A GirlLouise Jameson narrates this look at the women in front of, and behind, the camera in the worlds of Doctor Who. From the BBC's first female producer Verity Lambert, via Susan Foreman, Liz and Leela, to Rose and Donna.

It's basically a look at "How sexist was Doctor Who?", but it's impossible to dislike this. It's an honest and entertaining look at a show that really has changed in its view of the female companion - from the liberation of the writing of Ace, for example, to the sexualisation of the modern day companion such as Rose. Then there's the unstoppable River Song, and Amy Pond who got married and carried on travelling regardless. There's a somewhat worrying look at the male companions who are either not the strongest characters - or they're Captain Jack. Oh alright, Rory had his badass moments as well...

Clips galore, goodies, baddies, Classic and New Who, and some truly decent insights about casting roles and villainous women all contribute to the story being told. There's also a valid question about if you should "fancy The Doctor", and the consequences thereof.

Photo GalleryShada in front of the camera and behind. Publicity shots and planned stills, sets, stars and scarves, all set to some charming incidental music. Features a great set of cameo appearances by a toasting fork, and that tin dog thing.

Subtitles are available on the DVD for those who may need them as is the usual Audio Navigation.

But wait! It's not all Shada on The Legacy Collection Box-Set, and things are about to get a whole lot more nostalgic...

Disc Three:

More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS

The extended VHS release of the televised Thirty Years In The TARDIS is transferred to DVD, with a host of new extras to pad out the disc, and some of those extras outshine the main programme. One in particular will cause many a tear and sniff in remembrance, but we'll get to that one shortly.

The programme itself is a retrospective consisting of a wealth of clips and interviews, voice-overs and specially shot footage, including an early version of a particular special effect that was not fully realised until the 2012 Christmas special The Snowmen... bonus points if you know what that effect is - and if you don't, I'll tell you right at the end of the review.

There's nothing new here - they're all things we've seen before and recovering concepts we're all familiar with, but at least with this production it's not like all the recent coverage that only concentrate on the new series since 2005. It still propagates several myths that have since been unmasked - such as William Hartnell "deciding" to leave as opposed to him having to be replaced due to his severely failing health.

There's adverts, skits, spoofs, cereals, cars, and more monsters than you shake a sonic screwdriver at. If you like retropsective clip shows then you'll love this. Do be aware, however, that the picture quality is, at times, pretty atrocious due to the archive material used.

Remembering Nicholas Courtney - Tissues at the ready. Michael McManus (Nicholas' friend and biographer) takes us through the real life of The Brigadier, largely via a recorded interview from 2010. Even in the taped interview Nick looks frail, but his spirit is indomitable and shines brightly throughout. The extra is well paced and well done, and McManus' interview is a delight to watch as he prompts very little and lets Nick tell his own story; and his linking narration is very simple and easy to take in. It's such a nice piece - and all the harder to watch accordingly. It's still a wrench to the heart that this great man - a legitimate Doctor Who legend - is no longer around. The featurette also includes footage from 2003's The Story Of Doctor Who, and possibly one of the single best gatecrashing's of an interview ever captured on film. Entirely staged, obviously, but enormously entertaining when you see Who's peering in the conservatory window.

A diamond of an extra, and guaranteed to bring a lump to the throat. Also featuring clips of Nicholas' roles in other TV shows, like The Two Ronnies and Theatre 625, and mention is made of Courtney's other roles and jobs away from stage and screen. Great, great stuff.

Doctor Who Stories: Peter Purves - Yes, it's Steven Taylor's turn in the spotlight - or perhaps Morton Dill, if you prefer. Entirely taken from 2003's The Story Of Doctor Who, Peter Purves spills the beans on his time in the TARDIS... a ship he defends beautifully, during the course of the interview.

From Daleks to Doctors, and Monoids to Meddling Monks, Purves recalls his Who time with a great deal of humour - it's impossible to dislike a man who describes his own character in one particular story as being "a bit more butch in that one."

With excerpts from Blue Peter as well as the Hartnell era of Doctor Who - a short, entertaining, if slightly pedestrian, extra.

The Lambert Tapes: Part One - Yet more wheeled out 2003 footage from The Story of Doctor Who. Verity Lambert, the first producer of Doctor Who - and the BBC's only female producer at the time - recalls the genesis of the series, the introduction of Waris Hussein, and the rather famous tale of everyone's famous epitome of bug-eyed monsters and their arrival on the show. 

Again, many clips illustrate part one of this potted history, and Lambert holds the attention easily and is very honest about the beginnings of the show. Features sixties fashion, and the backing track for the original Doctor Who theme, without the melody line, as background music.

Those Deadly Divas - More powerful women in Doctor Who - with Kate O'Mara, Camille Coduri, Tracy Ann Oberman, and er... Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman, discuss the powerful villainesses in Who; from The Rani to Yvonne Hartman.  O'Mara in particular had some incredibly dour, fun lines in the show as the Time Lady, and a spectacularly dismal view of the Time Lord's she was put against.

It's not a particularly riveting topic, and the level of villainy veers wildly, but the wonderful ladies on camera talking about themselves lift this above the mundane. It almost rescues this extra - but not quite. It will however make you realise how much you miss Camille Coduri on the show.

Photo Gallery - Behind the scenes and publicity shots from the BBC special, set this time to slightly less charming incidental music than the Shada one. Lots of shots of Jon Pertwee, and Daleks on Westminster Bridge, but these photos have an added bonus in that lots of them have not been seen before, which makes this a genuinely interesting gallery. Autons, Sontarans, the glorious and much missed Lis Sladen and Nick Courtney, and quite a few shots of the "Thirty Years" TARDIS prop. Such a great collection of photos.

With PDF Radio Times Listings, and Subtitles for those who might need them, that rounds off a very unusual set of DVDs.

It's not the greatest release in the DVD range, even given the wealth of material available here, but the two versions of Shada work well, and the Nicholas Courtney tribute almost justifies the release alone. It's certainly an eccentric set, with wildly veering content, but as a collection of standalone oddities in the worlds of Doctor Who, it succeeds well enough at being diverting and entertaining.

Oh, and the special effect shot from "Thirty Years" that made a full debut in The Snowmen? A single shot camera track from the outside of the TARDIS, through the Police Box doors, and into the control room, with no changes in angle, perspective, or scenery.

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28 October 2012

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Bob Baker & Dave Martin

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 22nd October 2012

Reviewed By: Sebastian J. Brook for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 28th October 2012

When a damaged spaceship containing beautiful humanoid creatures called Axons lands on Earth, The Doctor, Jo and UNIT are sent to investigate. In return for their help, the Axons offer the gift of Axonite, which would end world famine.

It all appears too good to be true - so what secrets are the Axons hiding on board their ship? And why is The Doctor's old enemy The Master involved?

* * * * *

This is a story that breaks new ground in a number of ways, but perhaps chiefly in some of the technological wizardry discovered and used at the time. The Claws of Axos is very much a product of its time, with the psychedelic nature of some of the FX and, ahem, costumes, but rather than leave the story behind in the 1970's, it carries through and is still as enjoyable today. 

When one hears the words 'Special Edition' attributed to a previously released Doctor Who DVD, you can't help wondering just how much more 'special' it can be.

The picture and audio quality is sharper and cleaner, perhaps not as noticeable as some of the recent restorations, but still worthy of note - especially considering the sheer amount of work that goes into them. But it is the extras, however, that make this edition particularly 'special'. As well as having the special features included on the previous release (CommentaryDeleted and Extended ScenesNow And Then & Easter Egg) we are treated to over an hour of bonus material, with one being among the finest ever produced for the range. More on that later.

Disc 1

Special Features:

Commentary - Featuring Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates) and Barry Letts (Producer). There's great atmosphere between the trio, with Barry's soft, almost Mr.Kipling-esque tones, Katy's boundless energy, and Richard's gentlemanly manner. The pace doesn't really drop, and Letts takes the mantle of directing the commentary successfully.

Deleted and Extended Scenes - The original but annotated version of the studio recording which is included on this release in it's entirety. Text commentary is an optional extra. This is particularly special owing to the fact it includes the only surviving behind-the-scenes footage of Roger Delgado.

Disc 2

Special Features:

Axon Stations! - The feature kicks off with a great CGI sequence that literally pulls you into the process of how The Claws of Axos was made. Featuring interviews with Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Bob Baker (Co-Writer), Terrance Dicks (Script Editor), Michael Ferguson (Director), Derek Ware (Pigbin Josh), Paul Grist (Agent Bill Filer) & Bernard Holley (Axon Man). An insightful and amusing documentary - look out for Katy Manning's priceless description of the Axon ship! Kudos to the Director of the piece, Chris Chapman, who can add another string to his bow of inventive, engaging and ultimately successful additions to the Doctor Who DVD range.

Now and Then - Richard Bignell provides us with another of his location comparisons, contrasting the original footage from 1971 with that of modern day. In most cases, it's surprising at how little has changed in the 41 years since the story was filmed. Warmfully narrated by Katy Manning, we're taken through the chronological order of shooting locations.

Directing Who: Michael Ferguson on The Claws of Axos - A more focused insight into Michael Ferguson's role as Director for the story. Michael recalls some of the technical advantages and disadvantages with The Claws of Axos, as well as opinions of his fellow colleagues. There is some repetition of recollections, previously featured in the 'Axon Stations!' extra, but as a whole it's great to see and hear a more linear collection of Michael's memories on the show.

Studio Recording - A surviving example of how BBC studio drama's used to be made, featuring the complete unedited recording, with studio chatter, VT run-ups and recording breaks. This is definitely a feature for the hardcore fans, or those with an interest in media production. We just so happen to be both, so naturally loved it!

Living With Levene - As the opening line explains, Toby Hadoke spends the weekend with one of the most unusual figures in Doctor Who; John Levene (Sergeant Benton in the Classic Series). We're introduced to John's early work on the show as a Cyberman extra in 'The Moonbase' and then as a Yeti in 'The Web of Fear'. We're then incorrectly informed his next appearance was as Sergeant Benton in 'The Invasion' - [that should have been Corporal Benton] - but minor factual niggle aside, it covers Levene's life quite thoroughly and entertainingly. Hadoke, as always, helps guide the feature smoothly coupled with his knowledge of Doctor Who and obvious love for the show.

But this feature, which is a little out of the ordinary for a Doctor Who DVD extra, sets itself as the jewel in the Claws of Axos: Special Edition release. Whether deliberately or by accident, Living with Levene doesn't just tell the story of one man's brush with Doctor Who, but how that brush affected his entire life, and in doing so, creates a warm, touching and very real documentary, blanketed by the beautiful surrounding of Levene's hometown of Salisbury.

There's no denying that some of John's stories and recollections seem fantastical, but the irony here is that through Hadoke's numerous attempts to unmask the 'real' John Levene, one can't help feel that, akin to the movie 'Big Fish', what we have here is a larger than life man, who has truly lived a life larger than himself. One can't help being captivated by his infectious personality and obvious love for the life he has lived and lives.

This extra is well worth the price of the DVD itself, and could easily be enjoyed by a non-Doctor Who loving audience. It's wonderfully constructed and is arguably the finest extra ever produced for the Doctor Who DVD range. The production is of the quality of some of the BBC's renowned 'Wonderland' series, and sets a new bar for the (few remaining) future releases.

Coming Soon Trailer - 'The Legacy Box' is the subject of the trailer, and features both 'Shada' and the 'More than 30 years in the TARDIS' documentary.

Easter Egg - There's a rather informative Easter Egg on this release that has a rather amusing connection to The Claws of Axos.

As with previous releases there is the usual Photo Gallery, PDF Marerials, Subtitles and Info Text for those who want or need them.

The Claws of Axos: Special Edition ticks all the boxes for any fan of this story. The restoration, quality of extras and overall value for money definitely warrant the purchase - even if you bought the non-Special Edition first time round. With a few more Special Editions on the horizon as the end of the Doctor Who DVD range is in sight, this release sets a new standard that will have us double-dipping with no questions asked.

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18 August 2012

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Louis Marks

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 20th August 2012

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 18th August 2012

When the TARDIS doors open as the Ship is landing, The Doctor (William Hartnell), with Susan (Carole Ann Ford), Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and Ian (William Russell) find themselves reduced to an inch in size. Faced with a whole new world of dangers - from insects to cats, pesticides to homicides, there's a lot standing between the tiny travellers and a very, very small blue Police Box...

Planet Of Giants is a wonderfully imagined three part story featuring the original TARDIS crew. It's a very different idea for this early stage of Doctor Who (although Irwin Allen's Land Of The Giants made a much longer story of the same subject matter on US television a little later on) but works very well indeed, with some brilliant props on the show, some wonderful back projection shots set at Ealing Film Studios, and some stellar performances from both the main and supporting cast.

The audio and visual properties are top notch as usual in this single-disc release, with the restoration showing the vintage material in the best possible light. The release is also bolstered by some great extras... and a truly baffling one.

Special Features:

Episodes 3 & 4 Reconstruction - Back in the day, Sydney Newman ordered the editing and rejigging of episodes three and four into one instalment, as they dragged, lacked tension and took too long to resolve the story. It works very well as a result and the story moves along at a cracking pace. So why in the name of sanity would you now get the half-completed scenes and reusing existing footage and photographs undo that editing to provide two episodes where the story drags along, instead of the finished article? Frankly it's a mystery, however it's here if you want to put yourself through it. Not a bad extra per se, but certainly a puzzling one, as it's completely unnecessary.

Rediscovering The Urge To LiveIan Levine, William Russell and Carole Ann Ford reminisce about Planet Of Giants almost 50 years on from the original story, whilst Ed Stradling talks about why they decided to remake the cut scenes for this release. Ford looks bored, although her coaching of the Hartnell "soundalike" is a moment of sheer wonder. A very short piece, but it amuses me no end that Ian Levine wants us to see if we can tell the difference between his scenes and the original filmed ones. Promoting an unnecessary extra with another unnecessary extra at the expense of a proper look back at the serial seems to verge on the ridiculous.

Suddenly SusanCarole Ann Ford talks Susan Foreman and her role in Doctor Who; her clothes and hair, her co-stars, and shooting schedules. Ford seems to remember her time on the show very clearly, both the good and the bad of the series, and she's certainly honest about it all. There's a warmth and humour to Carole Ann Ford, and her views show this effortlessly. An often overlooked character in Doctor Who, Susan Foreman really did go through a great deal during her time in the TARDIS, and it's refreshing to hear Ford reminisce. The whole interview, as with so many on recent DVD releases, is culled from The Story Of Doctor Who.

The Lambert Tapes: The Doctor - The late, and exceptionally great Verity Lambert talks about the genesis of the characters from the very earliest days of Doctor Who and where the programme has gone since then. Lambert, who was never less than entertaining and informative in any interviews, covers many subjects in this archive footage and makes some perfectly valid points when it comes to things like whether children found the show too frightening. With some fantastic name checks and recognition for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's finest (step forward Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson). Culled footage from 2003 (again) it may be, but this above any other recent DVD interview is required viewing. Verity Lambert was a genius, and her views hold as true today as they were back in 1963, or 2003. Simply wonderful.

Coming Soon Trailer - When the TARDIS suffers the failure of its transpower systems, The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) make an emergency trip to Varos. With cannibals, public executions and the odious Sil (Nabil Shaban on amazing form), the Time Lord has to fight for his continued existence – all screened on public television to keep the populace entertained… Vengeance On Varos: Special Edition is next up for release!

As always with the Classic Series DVDs Audio Description is available, should it be wanted or needed, and there’s a Photo Gallery of stills from in front of, and behind the camera. There’s also the Radio Times segments from the story in PDF format, for which you’ll need to be viewing on a computer. There’s the obligatory Info Text to give you facts and figures on screen as you watch the unfolding story, and as already mentioned, the DVD has been remastered for optimal visual and audio quality.

Planet Of Giants is an odd tale in itself – the idea may not lend itself to Doctor Who mythos easily, but the execution and production of the story proves what a versatile format the show is. The tale itself entertains effortlessly, and most of the extras are great; with the exception of the main one. The reconstructed parts offer little value and the usual “making of” documentary could have been a lot better. Balancing this are the two interviews with Ford and Lambert, which are both wonderful, insightful and worth the price of the DVD on their own. A must have, certainly; but not for the reconstruction.

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3 August 2012

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Stephen Wyatt

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 30th July 2012

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 3rd August 2012

When the TARDIS is invaded by the intergalactic equivalent of junk mail, The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) are drawn to the world of Segonax, and the Psychic Circus. With sinister clowns in hearses, intergalactic explorers and a very strange family who don't ever seem to be entertained, something's not right; and it's down to the Time Lord to set things back on course.

Coming towards the end of the Classic series, there's still some rather famous faces doing their star turn (Dame Peggy Mount, for example, and T P McKenna), and popular TV personalities of the time Jessica Martin and Gian Sammarco as Mags and Whizzkid respectively.

The story is not great. Most of the series is looking very tired at this stage, and although the main cast do a stellar job with what they're given, it all looks very cheap and lacklustre. The cliffhanger to episode one is non-existant and the other episodes don't fare much better; the story is fairly dismal and seems to drag along - although Sophie Aldred in particular shines as the rebellious teenager who's got a dislike of clowns with a valid reason.

The supporting cast - with the exception of Dame Peggy Mount and Jessica Martin - are mostly unlikable and stilted; Flowerchild and Bellboy are pleasant enough characters, (and Bellboy is very pretty to look at) but the clowns, Deadbeat, Nordand especially mickey-take-of-Whovians Whizzkid are lame pastiches of cliches that have no place in what should be a decent drama. The incidental music is too electronic and late 1980s synth, and is tinny and doesn't work at evoking moods; it's all just rather bland and boring, sadly - much like the majority of the story. After the brilliance of Dragonfire, and the masterpiece that was Remembrance of the Daleks, this story seems a real let down; albeit one with an explosive finale...

The Greatest Show In The Galaxy is a single disc release from the BBC Consumer Products label and as always with the DVD releases, the sound and vision are optimal, and there are a raft of extras on the disc to support thie story.

Special Feautres:

Commentary - This time we've got main cast member Sophie Aldred (Ace) and guest cast Jessica Martin (Mags) and Christopher Guard (Bellboy the eyecandy) along with crew members Stephen Wyatt (writer), Andrew Cartmel (script editor) and musical maestro Mark Ayres. Moderated as always by Toby Hadoke, there's some interesting snippets about the show's limitations and the problems the production went through.

The Show Must Go On - The expected behind the scenes documentary on the making of Greatest Show, which sheds a lot of new light on the serial. From the appalling title for the story, via clowns and their sinister aura, the story and the making of the show are deconstructed and examined, and it does let the viewer understand where a great many of the show's problems came from.  It's very interesting and fascinating to watch, and the information imparted really does give a very different view of the circus and the drama. There's a lot of love that comes across for the story from the cast and crew alike, and happily their enthusiasm is infectious. Ian Reddington looks like he really needs a decent shower, unfortunately, but the rest of the contributors are top notch.  First rate featurette.

Deleted And Extended Scenes - From model shots of the TARDIS and the junkbot to Captain Cook driving his little jeep, there's a plethora of things that were edited out of the aired show for timing or editorial reasons. It's about the same as the story though; a little dowdy and down at the heel, and the interest isn't held for too long when the main cast aren't on screen.

Lost In The Darkness - A short look at the unused model shots for The Greatest Show in the Galaxy. There's some lovely model shots of the TARDIS spinning away in space, with her lamp gently flashing away.  An amazing little sequence that never made it  air because it was "too dark".

The Psychic Circus - A music video. No, really. A horrible piece of tat made of stuttering visuals from the show, with the vocals provided by the guest cast. Would have suited the mid 1990s era Top of the Pops, in the era of dreadful noise masquerading as music tracks.  With inane lyrics such as "There is no escaping us / We are the Psychic Circus!", the one redeeming factor is it's mercifully short and eminently forgettable.

Remembrance "Demo" - More of Mark's Melodies, this time Ayres' demo work for the soundtrack of Remembrance of the Daleks. Whilst it still sounds very clunky and electronic, it's a whole load better than the Greatest Show soundtrack, and this brief set of clips from earlier in the season shows just how good some of the stories really are - to the current release's detriment. Mildly interesting rather than engrossing, and diverting enough because Remebrance of the Daleks was such a good story.

Tomorrow's Times: The Seventh DoctorAnneke Wills hosts this episode of the series looking at the press reaction to the seventh Doctor Who, Sylvester McCoy, and his stories.  It's a dark piece, sadly, showing just how badly the show was being received and reviewed by both the press and the fans alike. Anneke is a breath of fresh air and always lovely to watch, and the Points Of View style voiceovers are wonderfully pointed and cliche, to great effect.  However the whole piece is painful to watch for the mauling Who receives constantly from the British Press of the age.

Victoria Wood SketchJim Broadbent IS The Doctor!   The Doctor and Fiona run into old enemy Crayola in this witty and suprisingly accurate Doctor Who sketch from Victoroia Wood As Seen On TV.  The effects and the technobabble are spot on for the era, and Broadbent's Doctor has a costume comprising parts of Tom Baker, Peter Davison and Colin Baker's wardrobes. Short but very funny!

Coming Soon Trailer - Oh dear, the TARDIS is playing up and the doors open as the Ship lands, reducing the Police Box and it's occupants to around an inch tall. Join the first Doctor, Susan, Barbara and Ian as they make small steps in a very big world, where domestic cats can be lethal and everything looks very, very large... Planet Of Giants is the next DVD release.

With the usual audio navigation available, a photo gallery of still from both in front of and behnd the camera, four episodes worth of Info Text to give you factoid and figures onscreen during the main story, and the PDF versions of the Radio Times Listings - and possibly the most boring Easter Egg in history (repeated elsewhere in a major extra, so what was the point?), The Greatest Show In The Galaxy is very much divided in two as a disc.  Whilst the story is somewhat uninspiring, the thought and love behind the show liven up the extras to the degree where your view of the story is almost improved as a result. Almost. It doesn't quite work, but it's certainly a valiant attempt.

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31 July 2012

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Robert Holmes

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 2nd July 2012

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 31st July 2012

The Doctor (Patrick Troughton, on top form) steps from the TARDIS into a planet inhabited by not very bright people. These people - The Gonds - are bred and taught to be two-legged cattle, no more and no less. They mill around and get on with their lives, quite happy with the fact that they've been feeding their best and brightest (a bit of an oxymoron considering) to a machine for the past couple of generations; in the mistaken belief that they will be "companions to the Krotons". What they've actually beeing doing is providing target practice for the inbuilt system that gets rid of thickies.

Together with Zoe (Wendy Padbury) and Jamie (Frazer Hines), The Doctor must pit his wits against the owners of the machine, The Krotons themselves; strangely accented giant vacuum cleaners with ideas above their station. The task they face is huge: defeat The Krotons, teach The Gonds how to fight back effectively, and reverse the conditioning and stupidity that the learning machines (another oxymoron) instil into the populace.

This four-part story, release as a single disc from BBC Worldwide, showcases Patrick Troughton's Doctor perfectly. From the moment he emerges from the Police Box exterior of the TARDIS he's obviously completely in his element. He takes charge of situations with ease, and you get the feeling that this is a very easy day for him; almost a distraction to stop him from getting bored. Zoe manages to cause a lot of trouble and needs rescuing, and Jamie... isn't given a great deal to do.

Notable for the only appearance to date of the TARDIS' H.A.D.S - a very clever idea; The Krotons is a fairly fast moving tale that entertains effortlessly, even if a few of the effects are somewhat less than special.

The usual magic has been woven on the story's audio and visual properties and is pin sharp as a result, and as happens with some of the older Who stories the black and white print works really well for the story, and lends a credence to the alien world and the Krotons themselves.

Special Features:

CommentaryToby Hadoke talks over the credits again to introduce the people around the table for The Krotons. On this occasion, they are: cast wise, the late, great Philip Madoc (Eelek in this story, and so many other roles in Doctor Who), Richard Ireson (Axus), and Gilbert Wynne (Thara). From the technical and behind the scenes department are Richard Tilley (assistant floor manager), Sylvia James (make up designer), Bobi Bartlett (costume designer) and Brian Hodgson (special sound guru, and the man who invented the TARDIS demat noise!)

Informative as ever and gently entertaining, and always kept in good humour by Hadoke, the commentary doesn't stand out as one of the most memorable in the DVD series, but it's certainly not bad. It might have possibly been helped by having one of the main cast - either Padbury or Hines, present to lend it some more humour and a different perspective for some parts.

Second Time Around - A look at the reinvention of Doctor Who into the Troughton era; both in direction and and portrayal. This behind the scenes look at the show's renewal has contributions from Anneke Wills (Polly to the First and Second Doctors), Frazer Hines (Jamie), Deborah Watling (Victoria), Wendy Padbury (Zoe), Christopher Barry and modern era Doctor Who writers Rob Shearman and Gary Russell.  

An honest look that finally lays to rest the myth that William Hartnell chose to leave, and the ins and outs of the companions' entrances and exits and the transition from the historical adventure to the monster era of Doctor Who. It also covers the episode junkings of the 1960s, when the archive started being wiped for the sake of space. Informative, if a little talky, but entertaining and the narrative flows very easily.

Doctor Who Stories - Frazer Hines: Part One - With the usual animated beginnIng (albeit tailored to his run on the programme) Frazer Hines talks us through his time on Who. The footage used is not new, it's culled from 2003 and The Story of Doctor Who. It's fast and not terribly in-depth, but Frazer is always engaging and entertaining, so there's no chance of boredom creeping in.

For a short piece, the gentleness and informality of the extra turn it into something wonderful, and you can tell from first glance that Frazer still holds a great deal of affection for Jamie McCrimmon.

The Doctor's Strange Love: The Krotons - Oh. They're back. "Simon Gond" and "Joe Gond" (this time without "Josie Gond") are back in Sarah Jane's attic to discuss The Krotons. Unlike the other instalments of this extra series, this one's not actually bad at all; the duo seem to be a lot more positive about the story, and a decent discussion about the best elements of The Krotons ensues. A huge, quantum leap of an improvement on the previous editions as the sillyness and the constant barbing has been removed.

There's a lot to like in this little extra, and with the removal of the sneering tone, and a look at what's good, great, and works well in the televised story, this Doctor's Strange Love manages to go a long way towards redeeming itself.

Coming Soon Trailer - Do you like the circus? The Psychic Circus is certainly different to most others you might have visited: The Doctor, Ace, a robot from Rentaghost, a werewolf and the gods of Ragnarock. Robot ticket inspectors and sinister clowns. All coming soon to a DVD near you, as The Greatest Show In The Galaxy is the next release off the starting blocks.

There's Audio Navigation for those who many want or need it, and the usual helping of Info Text to give you facts and figures on-screen during the story included too. Add in the Radio Times Listings available in PDF format if you're viewing the content on a computer; and a Photo Gallery of publicity and behind the scenes stills of the story, and you have The Krotons on DVD.

Whilst the story itself may not be an all-conquering fan favourite, this DVD has plenty going for it. It's one of the few complete Troughton stories, and shows perfectly just what an amazing Doctor Patrick was. The Krotons, although hardly terrifying, are a decently realised adversary, and the story keeps a cracking pace through it's four episodes. The extras put on the disc, whilst hardly numerous, are some of the best produced (especially "Second Time Around") and with Mssrs. Guerrier and Lidster upping their game considerably this is a well rounded, great value release.

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25 June 2012

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Terry Nation

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 18th June 2012

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 25th June 2012

The TARDIS suffers a mains power loss, and materialises in a foggy gravel pit on the planet Exxilon. The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) must leave the stricken craft and investigate their surroundings if they hope to repair the TARDIS, but the planet is teeming with hostile life forms and the odd duplicitous Human. However when The Doctor's worst enmies arrive on the scene, affected by the same power problem, it's up to the Time Lord to defeat The Daleks, an intelligent city and an assortment of locals intent on sacrificing everyone possible to their indigenous deity... or a metal snaky root. This single disc BBC release boasts the usual cleaned up and sparkling audiovisual experience, backed up by a decent set of extras and even an Easter Egg hidden away on one of the screens.

Special Features:

CommentaryToby Hadoke hosts the all-male guest list for this commentary, with Julian Fox (Hamilton), Richard Leyland (Assistant Floor Manager), Michael Briant (Director), L Rowland Warne (Costume Designer), and Dick Millks (Special Sound Maestro) all gathered to discuss the story and its plusses and minuses. Although it can seem to lack the humour of some of the more recent commentary tracks, it is packed full of information and little-known facts, and the featurette runs effortlessly along through the story.

Isolated Score - Are you a fan of saxophones?  Repetitive saxophones playing the same theme for The Daleks over and over and over, with the occasional use of someone with a metal thimble over a metal board to provide more annoying noises, somehow meant to represent Exxilons attacking. It's all a bit bizarre and surreal, but it's all available in the Audio Options section, next to the Commentary.

Beneath The City Of The Exxilons - A rather upset Dalek introduces and narrates this behind-the-scenes look at the serial. Noting creator Terry Nation's parallels with current events of the time, the story's cast crew and current Dalek supremo Nicholas Briggs discuss the origins, locations and power issues with the production. On a majorly positive note, the extra has started using backdrops again as opposed to the dismal stark white background of other recent releases, and the Dalek that trundles across the bottom of the screen introducing guests is just marvellously diverting and amusing. A great use of graphics and "Dalek technology" to illustrate points and segueway scenes add to the brilliance of this extra. A real gem of an feature.

Studio Recording - One of the studio blocks of recording, with The Doctor, the Earth party, and some truly brilliant CSO trickery (yes, that's sarcasm) join the Daleks in this extra - from a time when stories were mostly recorder in order, not as later years when it was done with all relevant scenes on each set in turn. Some rather fun subtitles to illustrate the more visual points - such as appalling mattresses - enhance the amusement, and although not a great deal happens, it's a fascinating look at how old school Who was produced.

On The Set Of Dr. Who And The Daleks - Here's something rather special. Jason Flemyng (he of Primeval, and offspring of director Gordon Flemyng) talks us through - with the aid of Marcus Hearn - the mute film trims from the first big screen version of Doctor Who in 1965. Lots of fascinating clips of Peter Cushing's first outing with The Daleks, and some very nice snippets from Dalek operators and crew fill out the story nicely. Jason Flemyng is eminently likable from the off, and it's nice to feel that he's got a new look at his Father's career as well. A real rarity, a truly wonderful look into the past and an entertaining and thoroughly wonderful extra. A must see, and would make the DVD worth buying alone.

Doctor Who Stories: Dalek Men - The operators of the ever cranky alien dustbins get their moment to shine. John Scott Martin and Nicholas Evans, (footage for both being culled from an interview back in 2003) talk about how to operate a Dalek, how they got the jobs, and Dalek salaries!  Another fun and interesting diversion that even manages to cover how Daleks go to the toilet. Not exactly anything new, as we all know from old VHS releases like "Daleks: The Early Years" how the perambulating pepperpots work, but extra stories about the Slyther, and William Hartnell hold the interest.

Coming Soon Trailer - The Doctor-Gond (Patrick Troughton), Zo-Gond (Wendy Padbury) and Jamie-Gond (Frazer Hines) take on some oversized vacuum cleaners with delusions of grandeur, whilst Philip Madoc attempts to wreck some early internet terminals and start a very badly thought out revolution, and the TARDIS shows off a flashy new trick. The next scheduled release is The Krotons, coming soon!

There's also a Photo Gallery of behind-the-scenes and publicity shots from the serial, the Radio Times listings for Death To The Daleks (available in PDF format), Info Text giving extra information as the adventure unfolds on-screen, as well as Audio Navigation and Subtitles for those who many need or want them.

Death To The Daleks hasn't dated terribly well in the effects department, and the bright silver Daleks aren't really looking their best, but they still manage to convey a chilling dose of xenophobia with their trigger happy machine guns firing in all directions. The story stands up very well however, and cast and crew hold the attention effortlessly. The host of extras on this single disc release are equally impressive, with some absolute treasures, and everything is bang on target at holding the attention and providing quality entertainment. Can't fault the DVD, and with its superb clean-up of the archive footage, it's a must-have.

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2 May 2012

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Ian Briggs & Graeme Curry

RRP: £30.63

Release Date: 7th May 2012

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Disc One: Dragonfire

We're off to the dark side of the planet Svartos with The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Mel (Bonnie Langford) on this single story release as part of the Ace Adventures set. Sophie Aldred's inaugural story pits the seventh incarnation of the Time Lord reuniting with Glitz (Tony Selby) to fight against the cold hearted Kane (Edward Peel) and his deep frozen band of mercenaries, and the somewhat violent staff of an intergalactic branch of Iceland...

This story from 1987, is spectacular and memorable for many reasons, and the wonderful Belazs (Patricia Quinn, of The Rocky Horror Picture Show fame) steals every scene she's in with effortless ease. Ace is the wonderfully explosive-obsessed teenage tearaway who joins the TARDIS crew, Mel gets a really amazing leaving scene, and Kane gets possibly the most gloriously gruesome and gory death scene in the history of Classic Doctor Who... and an extra ten points if you can spot the cameo by Batman!

Special Features:

Commentary - Toby Hadoke presides over a full house of commentators: Sophie Aldred (Ace), Edward Peel (Kane), Ian Briggs (writer), Andrew Cartmel (script editor), and Mark Ayres (musical genius!). The pace is calm and quite informative, and it's very evident that Aldred and Peel enjoyed this story and the making of it. Good humoured and entertaining, it doesn't drag or have to try too hard, as the people assembled all know their trade and craft very well indeed. There's also an isolated score feature in the audio options section, if you like the music.

Fire And Ice - The obligatory retrospective of Dragonfire. Like the recent Nightmare Of Eden release, it's all filmed against a stark white background - and again it's too harsh to have as a background. Unlike the previous release, this is a great, positive look back at the show, with contributions from most of the cast and crew, including Sylvester McCoy (archive footage culled from The Story of Doctor Who), director Chris Clough, and Sophie Aldred who seems to have a thing for red and snoods.

There's a great look at Mel's departure and how that scene came together, which has some great footage of McCoy's audition for the role of The Doctor. Like the commentary, the pace and feel of the look back at the story is very calm and sedate, but no less enjoyable for that; in fact it lends a very confident and positive air to the extra. Great stuff!

Deleted & Extended Scenes - A "does what it says on the tin" reasonably short extra; including a great alternative to Belazs' first run in with Glitz, and various trims and edits from the story. Including some fun one liners, and some truly dreadful polystyrene ice shards threatening Tony Selby... a rather entertaining collection of clips that sometimes puts an entirely different spin on the scenes they were culled from.

The Doctor's Strange Love - Oh Lord, it's them again! Simon Guerrier, Josie Long and Joe Lidster on camping chairs, sitting in the current TARDIS control room to discuss Dragonfire. Complete with dreadful "comedy" moment of Sylvester McCoy falling off the titles, this trio witter on aimlessly, much like they did in their previous outing on the Nightmare of Eden release, although thankfully this time they're a lot less sneering about the show. Josie comes to the somewhat astounding conclusion that she's based her life on Ace, and again the scenery is much more entertaining than this 'talking heads' trio's aimless witterings.

The Big Bang Theory - Our whole Universe was in a hot dense state, then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started... wait... hold on half a millisecond (as Glitz would say), that's the other Big Bang Theory! In one of those extras that will have you wondering why someone thought this was a good idea for a DVD extra, Doctor Who special (physical) effects pyrotechnics expert Danny Hargreaves sits in the TARDIS looking at some Classic Series explosions and big bangs on a laptop and talks about them.

Odd thing is, Hargreaves is so wonderfully unassuming and genial he manages to hold the attention very well, and it's very easy to get engrossed in this short extra. From The Daleks in 1964 to The Parting of the Ways in 2005, Danny shows he's a master of his profession, and there's a wonderful nod of respect to Jack Kine, BBC FX supremo in the the early days of Doctor Who. Utilising a lot of clips from old and new Who, this piece holds the attention effortlessly and turns out to be highly entertaining.

Coming Soon Trailer - "Doctor, should that red light be flashing?" - no, it's just the TARDIS playing up again. Sarah and the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) come up against some overly silver cranky dustbins on the planet Exxilon; that is, if he can get past hostile natives and weird snaky robotic roots that kill. Death To The Daleks is out soon!

The sound and picture quality, as usual with the Classic series releases, is optimal, and the disc has the usual standard included special features: a Photo Gallery of publicity and behind the scenes shots, the Radio Times PDF segments for the serial, and the on-screen Info Text, which in this story seems to be all about cut lines and rearranged scenes. There's also Audio Navigation and Subtitles as standard for those who may want or need them.  

Dragonfire is a great punchy three part story, and is happily backed up by a series of decent, positive extras that enhance the good memories the story leaves you with. Even the chronic witterering threesome are more positive. From iconic icemen to the argumentative Ace, this release has masses of appeal and is a great addition to the range.

Disc Two: The Happiness Patrol

What happens when you cross a time travelling television series about a killjoy Time Lord who battles evil, and a parody of the happy, lovely Margaret Thatcher led Conservative government? You get The Happiness Patrol, in which the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) arrive on Terra Alpha on the trail of something sinister. Soon they're up to their necks in sweets, lies, fake Tories and Bertie Bassett's evil doppelganger. Helen A (Sheila Hancock) rules the roost in this single disc story from BBC Worldwide as part of the Ace Adventures Box-set; and we hope you're very happy about it.

An overlooked gem of a story, The Happiness Patrol is obviously political and satirical, and it's OTT performances and tacky sweetie sets simply add to the artificial feel of the story, an unsettling and creepy place where enforced happiness is the norm. The Kandy Man - often maligned - is perfectly wonderful as the needed maniacal villain, and then there's the infamous pink TARDIS that's caused many a fan debate! It's rare that a lack of budget actually works for a story, but the whole fake feel of the place seems to fit perfectly, I'm happy to say.

Special Features:

Commentary - Toby's talking over the credits again. Gathered round the table this time are Sophie Aldred (Ace), Graeme Curry (writer), Andrew Cartmel (script editor) and Dominic Glynn (composer). It's another sedate and pedestrian one, but again it's a welcome piece that builds up and promotes the story. There's also, in a terribly modern and technical move, the results of a Twitter competition! As with the other story in the Ace Adventures Box-set, there's also an isolated music option so you can listen to Dominic Glynn's glorious blues based score.

Happiness Will Prevail - That white background's back again for this retrospective of the story. Andrew Cartmel and Graeme Curry discuss the origins of this serial and how there's a lot of truth in the ideas in the tale. The whole "Thatcher" influence comes up again, and the design of The Kandy Man is explored. Sophie's back in the red snood and praise is heaped upon the wonderful portrayal of Helen A from Sheila Hancock.  

A somewhat neutral piece that seems to be happy (I'm glad you're happy) to stick to the details, but the surprise of the piece is actually seeing what David John Pope (The Kandy Man) actually looks like, and happily it's nothing like a giant liqorice allsort. Nicely understated, and although this featurette is remarkably neutral, there's a gentle positive vibe that lingers from it. 

Deleted & Extended Scenes - A plethora of extended and deleted snippets from the production, including some great scenes between the Doctor and Ace, and the wonderful Gilbert M upsets the Kandy Man yet again. Great stuff. Helen A's televised broadcast is uncut, and Evil Bertie Bassett cuts his thumb off. As with all the extras of this nature, it's got some real hidden gems that never made it to air, and holds the attention effortlessly. This collection, therefore, should be enough to keep you very happy.

When Worlds Collide - The politics of Doctor Who is explored, using archive footage from both Classic and New Who. Shaun Ley presents this featurette looking at The Doctor's battles with the status quo (that's the environment of the time, not the rock band you understand).

An interesting look at how politics seeps into all our lives, whether it happens through Doctor Who or not, with contributions from such Doctor Who luminaries as Terrance Dicks, Gareth Roberts, and of course Andrew Cartmel himself, whose mis-quote made the BBC news in 2010 and ended up with said writer on the BBC's flagship news programme "Newsnight".

A well thought out and very entertaining extra; interesting and enlightening, and the presentation and approach of the piece gives it a great deal of weight and a lot of credence.

Coming Soon Trailer - "Doctor, should that red light be flashing?" - no, it's just the TARDIS playing up again. Sarah and the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) come up against some overly silver cranky dustbins on the planet Exxilon; that is, if he can get past hostile natives and weird snaky robotic roots that kill. Death To The Daleks is out soon!

As always with the Classic Series releases, the disc comes with the usual additions of a Photo Gallery of happy shots behind the scenes and jolly publicity stills. There's the info text, which of course is all positive, and the Radio Times joyous announcements of the story's airing, in PDF format. There's also Audio Navigation and Subtitles as standard for those who may want or need them.  

Overall the sound and vision are at their tweaked and superbly enhanced best, matched by the anarchic imagination that came up with the Kandy Man (possibly the most wonderfully eloquent and funny villain of eighties Doctor Who, and certainly better than dustbins with attitude problems), and for a team of "ratbags with guns", The Happiness Patrol really does have an enjoyable flavour - it's strawberry. Remember when you watch the DVD that above all else, happiness WILL prevail!

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30 March 2012

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Bob Baker

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 2nd April 2012

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 30th March 2012

It's a well known fact in science fiction programmes that some stories work better than others. In the case of Classic Doctor Who, there are some that are held up as being deserving of fan worship, whilst others are often looked down upon as being somewhat less than successful. Nightmare Of Eden sadly falls into the latter camp for many people. Derided over the years for it's studio-bound action and it's rather lovable monsters, this release should be a perfect opportunity to redress the balance and defend what's both a fine story and, for a meagrely budgeted television show in 1979, a determined, spirited, damn good try at getting that story on-screen.

In a move that's saddening and infuriating in equal measure, that's not how it's treated. It's derided still further, and talked about so negatively, someone should have thrown the supposedly "special" features into the bin and started again. Please remove all sharp objects from your vicinity and if possible have a great deal of chocolate or tea to try and improve your mood whilst sitting through the extras.

When the commercial starliner Empress rematerialses from warp speed and collides with the Hecate, the passengers and crews of both craft are put in mortal peril. Drug smuggling, unstable projection devices and huge marauding monsters are all in the mix. When the TARDIS materialises in the vicinity, it's up to The Doctor (Tom Baker), with Romana (Lalla Ward) and robot superdog K-9 (voiced here by David Brierly) to save the day. Can The Doctor seperate the ships, stop the smugglers, recapture the menacing Mandrels, and fix the shonky CET machine?

This single disc release from BBC Worldwide has done the usual magic with sound and picture quality so they're both amazing, and has audio navigation and subtitles available. Also included on the release are the Info Text and Radio Times PDF extras and a Photo Gallery of behind the scenes and publicity shots from the serial.

Special Features:

Commentary - Firstly, someone needs to tell Toby Hadoke you do not talk over the episode one titles of a Doctor Who story, you need to let the programme start before you do. In this commentary he is joined by Lalla Ward (Romana), Colin Mapson (visual effects designer) and story writer Bob Baker. It lacks the wit and warmth of many of the commentaries, and although Lalla somewhat defends the show and its budget, it does seem the only person who seems to remember what it's like to actually enjoy Doctor Who is host Hadoke himself.

The Nightmare of Television Centre - A negative, and disparaging piece, starting with severely lacking titles and everyone being filmed against a stark white background. Colin Mapson, the visual effects designer, does nothing but moan about the whole story from start to finish, calling it "a disaster" - apart from his models of course which were apparently the best things ever made. AJ "Mitch" Mitchell, video effects designer, gives a very half hearted defence of some of the technology used and million pound slow-motion video machines belonging to BBC Sport being available for twenty minutes, and Assistant Floor Manager Val McCrimmon tells of stroppy directors getting fired, Tom Baker being loud and mouthy, and Lalla being over picky and playing up. The cast and crew and the sets and monsters are mocked, laughed at, and spoken badly of. Honesty is fine, and of course necessary, but this crosses the line into a complete hatchet job of what's not the worst story in history, even with the hystrionics in the studio, despite what these people would have you believe.

Going Solo - More unimaginative white titles, followed by Bob Baker also being filmed against a white background.  aker will probably be best remembered for his work with two dogs: Gromit, of Wallace and Gromit fame, and as co-creator of K-9, one of the most endearing/irritating (depending on your view!) science fiction robots in TV history. Here, he's talking about his first solo writing task for Doctor Who, his ideas and research for the CET machine. You can tell he's less than enthusiastic about The Mandrels and a certain Germanic accent, but he's got the right attitude about these things ("What can you do?") and Bob easily comes across to the viewer as the best advocate of the story. Hardly surprising considering he wrote it, but at least he's positive and defends it very well indeed.

The Doctor's Strange LoveSimon Guerrier presents this piece from Sarah Jane's attic.  Mister Smith is out and all lit up, and the set looks glorious, which causes a small flutter of love lost in the heart. Joining him in this piece to mock and laugh at Nightmare Of Eden are Josie Long and Joseph Lidster. It starts off quite nicely... but in under two minutes it's poking fun and being generally unpleasant about it all. It's all far too fannish and jokey, and seems like we're watching a group of fans just laughing at things in their own private mocking party. A few funny lines from the pair on the chaise longue lighten it up a little, but mostly it's a case of very few valid points being made, against far too much "look at this, it's rubbish" and "let's laugh at this bit now". By far the most intelligent input in the whole extra comes from Mister Smith himself, who wisely opts to remain silent the whole time. Another negatively slanted mess that could have reinforced the story's many good qualities rather than just poking fun at the show.

Ask Aspel - A 1979 edition of the children's show in which the wonderfully calm and affable Michael Aspel asks viewers' questions to his guest; in this case the second Romana - Lalla Ward. The questions from the youngsters who've written in are entertaining enough in this light and fluffy piece, and there's a rather fabulous clip from The Creature From The Pit. Lalla is honest and open and rambles on at great speed with much laughter and smiling. It also showcases Lalla's artwork for two books from that era, and there's one or two clips of Ms. Ward in other TV appearances, followed by another lengthy Doctor Who clip, this time from The Horns of Nimon. A lovely little piece, and would have benefitted greatly from being put on a disc with much better support from the other extras. A hidden gem.

Coming Soon Trailer - Nitro-9 at the ready, Doctor Who's next box-set is all about the teenage tearway from Perivale! Featuring her introduction into the series in the story Dragonfire and further adventures on Terra Alpha in The Happiness Patrol, the next DVD releases can truly be described as Ace Adventures!

Nightmare of Eden is not a bad story. It's not in the same league as Terror of the Zygons, but it doesn't deserve the unending scorn poured on it in this release. With the exception of Bob Baker there's very little done to defend the tale from any of it's critics, mostly of whom seem to have an axe to grind against the tale. The extras filmed for this disc seem designed to make you take a real dislike to the story, and although we can all agree that it's not exactly at the top of its game, it really deserves a lot better than the sorry back-up features its given here, which are both limited and woeful.

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29 February 2012

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Guy Leopold

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 26th March 2012

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 29th February 2012

It's not often in Doctor Who's long history that a story is great, then great again, and then great for a third time, but this is very much the case with The Daemons. The original story was a triumph, but due to the infamous BBC junkings and burnings, only a black and white print of this tale existed... until a terrible quality NTSC (that's American Television) copy turned up courtesy of a fan. In 1993 BBC Video made a valiant attempt to restore the episodes, as featured in an extra on this release - more of that later. Now it's all been re-restored again, and beautiful it looks too.

The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Jo (Katy Manning) must battle to save the Earth from the alien Daemons, aided, abetted and very badly controlled by The Master (Roger Delgado), in the quaint little village of Devil's End. With BBC Three on location and UNIT stuck behind a heat barrier, time is running out for the Time Lord...

This double disc release from BBC Worldwide has superb restoration of the picture and sound quality - in fact the five-part story takes up all of Disc One (bar the Info Text and Commentary options) with all the Special Features on Disc Two. There are of course both Subtitles and Audio Navigation available on both discs, and the previously mentioned Info Text joins the Radio Times PDF Listings, and the Photo Gallery as standard included extras. 

Special Features - Disc One:

Commentary - Sitting around the table to discuss The Daemons this time are Christopher Barry, Katy Manning, Damaris Hayman, and Richard Franklin. The conversation is fun, loose and friendly, with plenty of laughs and lots of interesting and amusing reminiscences about the making of the story. Tales of theme tunes, Margaret Rutherford's cape, and warm fuzzy feelings abound. Great to listen to and thoroughly entertaining.

Special Features - Disc Two:

The Devil Rides Out - A look back at the making of The Daemons, with Christopher Barry and Katy Manning joining Terrance Dicks, some previously recorded footage of Barry Letts, and many more faces to look back at Aldbourne's finest hour. Discussed are the story's origins, Damaris Hayman's white witch being very switched on, and one or two displays of impatience from leading man; Jon Pertwee. It's an honest look at the show, but not a negative one, and it's clear that both cast and crew thought (and still think) the story is special and deserving of the 'Classic' status that The Daemons holds. They are, of course, absolutely right.

Remembering Barry Letts - Barry's sons, Dominic and Crispin Letts, discuss their late father's long career in film and television as an actor, director and producer. A fascinating glimpse at the life, outside of Doctor Who, of a man who is held in very high regard by family, friends and colleagues. Not cloying, or over-sentimental, this is a lovely piece giving a much more complete picture of Barry, who may be best known for producing the Pertwee era of Doctor Who; but who also had a lot more strings to his bow than Time Lords and Daleks. Featuring everything from green issues, to Zen Buddhism and The Navy, to BBC directing courses, right through to his final years. Truly a wonderful look back at an amazing man, who is much missed by friends, family and fans alike. A great, great piece.

Location Film - A reasonably short piece, but suitably nostalgic for this release. This is simply dome, mute, 8mm camera footage of Aldbourne, filmed during the location shooting of The Daemons. Not a great deal to say about it, because there's not a lot of it, but it holds the attention and isn't long enough to get boring. Very nice indeed.

Colourisation Test - The first attempt to recolour episode one in it's entirety. The slipping Doctor Who theme is enough to make you wince, but the recolourising is rather great if not of the quality that we now get as standard on these Classic Who releases. Interesting and holds the attention easily, and the colour looks great - even if it's a little brighter than it possibly should be.  

Tomorrow's World - A Doctor Who themed segment from 1993 looking at the first restoration of The Daemons, and how it was produced. Tomorrow's World was always very good at presenting these sort of explanations in an accessible and friendly way. Judith Hann introduces, and Howard Stableford walks us through how the first restoration was brought together via some spiffy TV technology. It's nice to see the TARDIS and the console turn up from an era when Doctor Who had already been off the air for four years, and it's a great look at how the restoration came to life.

Coming Soon Trailer - Silver cagouls!  Of course we should interfere; always do what you're best at!  Good boy K-9! Vraxoin! Name and date of birth! It's inexplicable! My arms, my legs, my everything! A veritable symphony of silliness, The Nightmare of Eden is the next release. it's time to play the music, it's time to light the lights...

It's hard to beat a Classic story, but a Classic story restored twice over and then given a great set of extras as an accompaniment wins hands down. The restoration is top notch and with the retrospective of The Daemons ticking all the right boxes, a look at how the first restoration was achieved, and a perfectly pitched look back at Barry Letts' life and career - this release is an absolute must for fans!

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28 February 2012

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Chris Boucher

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 5th March 2012

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 28th February 2012

The TARDIS lands in Hyde Park... oh wait. That's not Hyde Park. Could be a nexial discontinuity. Anyway, The Doctor (Tom Baker) walks into trouble between the tribes of the Tesh and the Sevateem in the latest single disc release from BBC Worldwide. Teaming up with local friendly savage Leela (Louise Jameson), the Time Lord must pit his wits against local mad deity Xoanon; a demented creature with a very familiar appearance.

Special Features:

Feature Commentary - This time, the title music leads us into Toby Hadoke presiding over Louise Jameson, Leslie Schofield (Caleb), David Garfield, (Neeva), Harry H. Fielder (bloke who gets shot whilst trying to kill Leela) and John McGlashan (cameraman) round the table. Lots of talking here this time in a very busy commentary, but it's never too much, and Toby moderates very well, as usual. Entertaining, and informative, but Louise rightly steals the show.

Into The Wild - A look at the making of The Face Of Evil.  A remarkably strange opening using the mountain model of Tom Baker's head and some remarkably fun 3D text, leading into Philip Hinchcliffe talking into what led into the story's origins. Taking in the departure of Elisabeth Sladen, and Tom's desire to be assistant-less in the show.

Louise Jameson and Pennant Roberts talk abouth their long, intermeshed careers (see "Tenko"). Also covered are *that* costume, Mat Irvine's first run as Visual FX Designer, and how to make an impressive jungle out of ventilation hoses. An informative, calm but fun retropsective, with a rather fun cameo by Anthony Frieze; who, you may ask, is he? Watch and find out!! There's also a very touching and deserving tribute to the late Pennant Roberts, director extraordinaire, who died in 2010.

From The Cutting Room Floor - A short series of film trims from the story, very cleverly shown in context using the episodes themselves. The film itself and the camera angles used are archive in nature so somewhat scratchy and jumpy, but it's a nice chance to see how things were filmed and trimmed to make the episodes work in the best possible way. A couple of filming clangers make it onto the screen as well; and the music in the background is wonderfully epic, and really makes the piece fly.

Tomorrow's Times: The Fourth Doctor - The occasional series returns for a look at Tom Baker's Doctor. Starting with the tones of the late great, Nicholas Courtney, the Points of View style show is this time hosted by the lovely, and very calm Wendy Padbury (Zoe Herriot from the Patrick Troughton era of Doctor Who). The wonderfully cliched and hackneyed accents paraded out are hilarious. It does show just how ridiculous and venomous some of the tabloid press have been over the years to Tom Baker's Doctor. A very interesting look at the show's coverage in the press; notably for the press' negative reactions when audience figures were on the rise.

Doctor Who Stories: Louise Jameson - Taken from the 2003 documentary "The Story of Doctor Who", Louise Jameson talks about her casting as Leela. As laways, Louise is witty and very switched on as to her time on Who and is always lovely to listen to and watch, and her memories are fun-filled and thoroughly entertaining. To be completely honest, some of this is covered in the Into The Wild retrospective elsewhere on the disc, but Louise is so terribly sweet and enchanting you won't mind. This woman could read the phonebook aloud and it'd be a hit! Thankfully, this is a great deal more entertaining than the phone book! Robert Homes, Tom Baker, and as always, the costume, get mentions, and a glorious defence of robot superdog K-9.  

Swap Shop - The other perennial Saturday programme from the BBC in the mid 1970s was Multi Coloured Swap Shop. A three hour mix of cartoons, interviews and pop music helmed by Noel Edmonds, ably assisted by Posh Paws the dinosaur. Here, Louise Jameson joins Noel on the sofa to discuss energy levels, life with the Royal Theatre Company, and possibly the best fan letter I've ever seen from a young girl called Catherine. Great stuff, if very, very dated.  

Denys Fisher Toys Advert - Oh good Lord.  From an era when you could buy a large toy for £5.99 (that being "the famous TARDIS") comes this advert for the Denys Fisher range of Doctor Who toys. Ranging from an excellent Giant Robot to a dreadful Cyberman, complete with nose; and whilst Doctor Who leaves Leela in the lurch  by disappearing in the TARDIS in the face on an impending Dalek attack. Great stuff!

Coming Soon Trailer BBC Three! As thy will so mote it be! Miss Hawthorn! The Cloven Hoof! "Jenkins, chap with the wings there; five rounds rapid!" - The Daemons is out on the 19th March, re-re-mastered and on a double disc release!

As always with the Classic Series releases, the sound and vision are spot on thanks to digital remastering, and comes complete with the usual regular features of Audio Navigation and Subtitles for those who may want or need them, and the usual Radio Times PDF listings. Also included as standard are a Photo Gallery of behind the scenes and publicity shots, and the Info Text option to bring up on-screen facts, figures and trivia  during the programme's run.

Thirty five years after its original airing on television, The Face Of Evil stands up incredibly well as a good solid story, and with some great moments from Tom Baker and Louise Jameson stealing the show. The DVD showcases the story perfectly with a great remastering, and the extras on the disc expand very nicely on the story, rightly focussing on the introduction of Leela; and giving the firm fan favourite a great chance to shine and enchant us all over again.

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2 February 2012

Manufacturer: BBC DVD / 2|Entertain

Written By: Kit Pedler, Gerry Davis, Bob Baker, Dave Martin & Chris Boucher

RRP: £35.75

Release Date: 13th February 2012

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 2nd February 2012

The Tomb of the Cybermen: Special Edition

Disc One:

Looking pin-sharp and sounding rich and vibrant on this two-disc BBC / 2|entertain release, as part of the Revisitations Box 3 set, Patrick Troughton's incarnation of The Doctor lands the TARDIS on Telos. He and his companions Jamie (Frazer Hines) and new arrival Victoria (Deborah Watling) run into an archaeological expedition and a lot of deep frozen, large silver chaps with handles on their heads with an arsenal of Cyberguns and robotic pets. However, even when the dreaded Cybermen start to awaken there's more danger to come, when the Cyber Controller arrives on the scene. Can the Doctor and his friends overcome the Telosian menaces and the hostile intentions of Kaftan and Klieg? Or will the Cyber Controller have his way and be able to put a converted Time Lord into his deep freeze Tomb?

Special Features:

Commentary 1 Deborah Watling and Frazer Hines give a gentle, calm and yet engrossing and enthralling voice-over to the story. It's all very calm and understated, and the two stars are entertaining, informative and give a unique perspective on the story. Simply lovely, and from the original release of this story.

Commentary 2 - The new commentary for this disc features Toby Hadoke in the captain's chair, with Victor Pemberton (Script Editor) and Bernard Holley (Peter Haydon) for episode one only, and then replaces them with Shirley Cooklin (Kaftan), Deborah Watling (Victoria) and Frazer Hines (Jamie) to discuss the story, behind the scenes, Cybermat chases and short skirts. A great new addition to the story, and filled with fun, laughter and insights into the production of The Tomb of the Cybermen.  

Morris Barry IntroductionMorris Barry (Director) talks about the trials of casting Cyber Controllers with no lines and explicit foam effects that upset the bosses. A short piece to camera that does exactly what it says on the tin, set in the middle of a Cyber head display.

Title Sequence Tests - Another 'does exactly what it says on the tin' piece. This time, test logos, howl-around sequences and photos of Patrick Troughton being messed around with to produce the second glorious opening to the world's longest running science fiction series. Simple (relatively!), but oh-so-effective, and set to the full original theme tune. Who needs CGI, hmm?

Late Night Line Up - The BBC2 magazine show takes a brief look a look at the visual effects department's output. With a very young Joan Bakewell looking at "children's science fiction" show Doctor Who - as opposed to "adult" science fiction and horror. Featuring Cyber Controllers and Cybermats, and a very familiar looking fly that was later repainted for The Green Death! Head of department Jack Kine shows us around in a short but fun piece.

The Final End - The Daleks manage to get a look-in here too, as the model and FX shots of the epic battle at the climax of The Evil of the Daleks get another airing. Featuring a lot of Louis Marx "Tricky Action" toy Daleks milling around, and some full size Dalek props - and the Emperor Dalek - meeting a large amount of explosives, and losing convincingly. Set to the original soundtrack taken from the story. Another short, fun piece taken from the original DVD release.

Info Text - Production notes, facts, figures and trivia along with actor biographies and behind the scenes snippets stream on-screen whilst the drama plays, and adds more fun to the story.  

Coming Soon Trailer - Not Hyde Park. Leela. Horda. Lots of men wearing very little indeed, and a mad computer called Xoanon. The next release is The Face of Evil, starring Tom Baker's Doctor and introducing Louise Jameson as the 'savage' Leela. Jelly babies and janis thorns not included.

Easter Egg - A little hidden gem hiding behind an emerald green Doctor Who logo on one of the menus that's guaranteed to raise a smile. Short but very, very sweet. 

As always. there's the usual Radio Times PDFs, and an extensive Photo Gallery of publicity and behind the scenes shots on the disc as well; with Subtitles and Audio Navigation for those who may want or need it.

But wait!! That's JUST disc one - and while that alone would be a top notch release with the amount crammed onto the DVD, there's a whole second disc to contend with!

Disc Two:

The Lost Giants - The making of Tomb is explored in this retrospective, with clips, and talking heads galore including Shirley Cooklin and Victor Pemberton. A fascinating look at where the story's origins lie, the direction and energy from Morris Barry, his methods of conducting people and much more. Covered in this half hour featurette are the production crew, the casting on the story, the evolution and the look of the 'Tomb' Cybermen and why the imagery has endured so well.

The backdrops used in the interviews - animated CGI from Rob Semenoff - are terribly clever and well done, with the Cyber energising room and the main control chamber being recreated very faithfully and cleverly... and then they start moving and doing little unexpected things that make you stop and stare.

This look back at how the Tomb was created and put together is both enterrtaining and informative, and a great new extra for this story.

The Curse of the Cybermen's Tomb - A look at the story's parallels with Egyptology and King Tut's tomb being discovered. It's very telling at just how close The Tomb of the Cybermen and the Tomb of King Tut are, design wise. Cybermats are scarab beetles, and of course the mummies (who would star in their own right much later on with the Pyramids of Mars) are the Cybermen. And then there's George Pastell who stars in the Hammer Horror Mummy films.

An interesting look at the origins of the story, curses of Pharoahs that may or may not exist, and where the Cybermen fit in, presented by two Egyptology experts who are engaging and affable.

Cybermen Extended Edition - With an opening shot that looks like it was taken straight out of the BBC's Sherlock, that then morphs into The Invasion's Cyber invasion in London. Matthew Sweet writes, narrates and presents this look at how the Cybermen evolved from humans to Cyber form in both Classic and New Who.  

Some very nice CGI work and what looks like the predecssor to Mister Smith from The Sarah Jane Adventures, help demonstrate the process graphically, which really [and possibly inadvertently] look like they could be taken from the old 1970s BBC version of The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy.

Utilising clips from The Tenth Planet right through to the Pandorica's Cybermen and all inbetween, this should be a fun and interesting look at the Cybermen.. but there's a weak link here, and sadly, it's presenter Sweet himself and his supposedly clever and witty script. It's not great it has to be said. His narration is somewhat condescending and too self indulgent, and takes away from the true greatness and horror of these metallic giants. It pokes fun at, instead of being suitably reverential to Doctor Who's second most-memorable baddies. Perhaps if someone Cyber converted the presenter it would be rather more entertaining. Can't fault the clips, the graphics or the history, but the sardonic tone really lets this piece down.

As always. there's the usual Radio Times PDFs, and an extensive Photo Gallery of publicity and behind the scenes shots on the disc as well; with Subtitles and Audio Navigation for those who may want or need it.

The Tomb of the Cybermen: Special Edition is great, with excellent restoration and some amazing extras to back up the release. The story is strong and all but one of the extras are perfectly pitched and set out; it's just a real shame that the one piece that should have been the jewel in it's crown is let down by ridiculing rather than lauding these iconic men of steel, and as it's the last item on the disc, it may leave a slightly bitter taste to what is otherwise a perfect release.

The Three Doctors: Special Edition

Disc One:

Something large and sinister is hunting The Doctor whilst threatening Gallifrey and the rest of the Universe in this two-disc release as part of the Revisitatons Box 3 set from the BBC / 2|entertain stable. With Gallifrey unable to assist the Time Lord, they organise a time stream merger so the Time Lord can help himself...several times over. Can three Doctors overcome the greatest threat they've ever faced?

Special Features:

Commentary - Oh, this one will tug at the heart strings as well and amusing and entertaining. Two dearly departed voices and one very much alive and kicking voice; Barry Letts, Nicholas Courtney and the ever fun Katy Manning discuss locations, trivia and filming of the story. It's light, fun, and not afraid to point out the somewhat less successful aspects of the production...like the Gel Guards movement. Thoroughly entertaining and informative, and a great remembrance for both Barry and Nick. Makes you very grateful Katy's still around, with that infectious laugh of hers!

Pebble Mill At OneBernard Wilkie is the guest on this BBC lunchtime magazine show to talk about props, monsters and costumes, and brings with him a Death to the Daleks-style Dalek, a Cyberman, Spiridons, Gel Guards, a Draconian and various other rubber uglies from that era. An oft screened piece that shows the level of work that goes into the monsters, and showcases them rather well.

Blue PeterPeter Purves (one Steven Taylor from the Hartnell era) introduces Jon Pertwee and his Whomobile in this 1973 edition of the children's show. Once Pertwee's been and gone in that insane car, there's a retrospective look back at ten years of Doctor Who with the previous Doctors, companions, monsters, and gadgets. Now infamous in Who fandom, as this was supposedly when The Tenth Planet episode four was lost, having been loaned to the Blue Peter office for use in clips.

BSB Highlights - 31 Who - The long since defunct Galaxy Channel of BSB (shortly after this it was taken over by the Murdoch empire) did a weekend-long marathon of Doctor Who, and here's the section relating to The Three Doctors. There's nothing new here, really, old facts recycled, and a taped interview with Jon Pertwee. Bob Baker and Dave Martin are there with their most famous creation, K-9, although it's not the original prop - it's the same one that's now in the Doctor Who Experience. They briefly discuss writing The Three Doctors, and the late John Nathan-Turner fills us in on the details. 31 Who's linking material has really not dated well...

The Five Faces Of Doctor Who Trailer - Fraud!  It's four faces and a team-up story!! The BBC2 season of repeats is plugged, almost to death, with this insanely overlong and boring trail. Running at around five minutes, the trail seems to pick the oddest moments to use as showcases for the stories themselves, and by the time it's gotten back to The Krotons you're losing the will to live.

BBC1 trailer - Unusual trailer in that it uses the Delaware version of the Doctor Who theme as the background music. A brief trailer for Episode One of The Three Doctors (at 5:45pm, after The Basil Brush Show at 5:15pm!).

40th Anniversary Promo Trail - Oh joy, another trailer. And in this case an entirely pointless one. Over-long, competely self-indulgent tosh made to advertise the DW40 video releases in 2003. Set to a rather badly edited version of Orbital's Doctor Who tribute (which, when not cut up and mucked around with, is a great piece). Frankly dreadful.

Into Text - More trivia and factoids, biographies and interesting tidbits served up onscreen during the story.

As always. there's the usual Radio Times PDFs, with Subtitles and Audio Navigation for those who may want or need it.

Disc Two:

Happy Birthday to Who - A 25 minute, new retrospctive of the anniversary adventure that reunited Doctors One, Two and Three. Terrance Dicks and the late, great Barry Letts discuss the problems faced with getting William Hartnell's performance, and what happen when the Doctor that was a stickler for lines and cues met the Doctor that liked things a little more free and flexible. Entertaining and despite the obvious negative elements that need to be addressed in the show, it never dwells or lets itself get too maudlin. 

Was Doctor Who Rubbish? - [sarcasm] Yes, of course it was. That's why we're buying the DVDs and still watching it almost fifty years later [/sarcasm]. Possibly the single most pointless extra ever to materialise on a Doctor Who DVD. In one of the worst cases witnessed of preaching to the converted, some fans of the show defend it against the criticism it has faced over the years relating to bad monsters, bad acting and wobbly sets; whilst shooting itself in the foot by running the footage of The Myrka from Warriors of the Deep being spectacularly awful. Doctor Who is not awful, but this lamentable fifteen minute list of 'things that don't suck about Doctor Who' (if you'll pardon the modern vernacular) most definitely is rubbish. Really, really rubbish.

Girls, Girls, Girls - the 1970s - And from the worst extra ever to one of the absolute best. The 1970s episode of this occasional series (started elsewhere on another DVD with the 1980s edition) has the scientist, the spy and the savage sitting together to discuss feminism, outfits, casting and Doctors. Caroline John (Liz Shaw), Katy Manning (Jo Grant) and Louise Jameson (Leela) provide a quality discussion that's always fun and light-hearted but clever, insightful and raises some valid points about not just Doctor Who, but acting in general. As with the 1980s edition, the simple format is magical in it's results, and shows that those lovely ladies who tagged along with The Doctor are far, far more than just a pretty woman to keep the Dads watching after Grandstand. Easily the best extra of the release. Nothing short of outstanding.

Photo Gallery - It's big, it's pretty, and it's been shunted to disc two this time. The promos, publicity and private shots of the tenth anniversary story. Plenty of shots of the Time Lords, those wonderfully daft Gel Guards, and the Doctors. Set to lots of lovely sound effects that will set your teeth on edge.

As always. there's the usual Radio Times PDFs, with Subtitles and Audio Navigation for those who may want or need it.

The Three Doctors works well as a story, however there's not as much that's new to watch on this release. Whilst it has one of the very best extras available, it also has one of the very worst, and you'll need to be a real trailer afficionado to work your way through some parts of this re-release. Honestly, however, it would be worth getting even if it was simply the story, the commentary and the 'Girls, Girls, Girls' segment. Less impressive than the other two stories in this set, but still a good release, rather than a great one.

The Robots Of Death: Special Edition

The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Leela (Louise Jameson) arrive on a Sandminer - a trundling behemoth of a vehicle designed to extract minerals from the surface of any given planet. However, something sinister is going on inside the miner, and the human crew are being killed one at a time, whilst their robot cohabitants carry on calmly with their duties of extracting minerals and being reprogrammed by an on-board traitor. This single disc release from the BBC / 2|Entertain, forms part of the Revisitations Box 3 set, with a raft of new and fun extras guaranteed to delight anyone (providing they're not a Voc).

Special Features:

Commentary 1Philip Hinchcliffe (Producer) and Chris Boucher (Writer) provide quite a serious voice-over track for this tale, taken from the original release of this DVD. Not much larking around in this commentary, it's all very calm and professional; however...

Commentary 2Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Pamela Salem (Toos) and Michael Briant (Director) have a lot more fun in the second commentary; newly recorded for this special edition re-release. There's laughs and love a-plenty, and the warmth for the story shows through easily. Entertaining and slightly less informative than the first commentary, but it doesn't matter due to the wonderful atmosphere created, you can help but get lost in the mood. It's also evident that the cast hold Michael Briant in high esteem, from their recollections here and elsewhre on the disc.

The Sandmine Murders - A new retrospective of The Robots of Death, using many clips - very nicely framed on the TARDIS scanner of the time, with Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Philip Hinchcliffe and a whole slew of other faces queue up to discuss the ups and downs of filming. The story's roots in Agatha Christie are also explored, as well as how the Sandminer came about.

There's an evident amount of affection for this story from all involved, both at the time and retrospectively. Costumes and set design, robot manufacturing and how to mollycoddle difficult leading men all come up in the course of this half hour featurette, but it's all kept very light and happy and holds the attention very well indeed.

RobophobiaToby Hadoke presents a ridiculously funny look at the robot, as he puts it, "more specifically the Doctor Who variety". Unlike the attempts at humour on The Tomb of the Cybermen DVD, which came across as snide, this is a fun and affectionate look at the robot menaces in Doctor Who - mentioning, of course, the goodies too (who's a good dog?) as a balance. It's only a short piece at ten minutes or so, but it proves that some extras can be insanely funny when done properly, and Toby Hadoke pitches this one perfectly.

Hadoke's reverential yet very precisely silly humour is bang on target, and you get to see why it is that Hadoke's Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf is such an ongoing favourite wth fans, cast and crew alike; for Toby has a great line in comedy and an obvious love for the subject matter.  

Studio Sound - A short, interesting comparison of the sound as recorded in studio, with the original voice of SV7 as recorded on set from the actor inside the mask. The level in sound quality between the segment and the finished product is remarkable, as is the reduction in the background noise and things like doors shutting noisily before the sound effects are added. A very short piece at around two minutes, but it gives a rare insight into just how much work goes into making the most mundane everyday noises sound clear and crisp for television.

Model Shots - Unused model footage from The Robots of Death, including mute footage of the Sandminer in various views and zooms. The footage, being vintage itself, isn't of the best quality any more, but it's interesting to see various planetary views and shots of the mining vessel we didn't get to see on-screen. It's also very apparent that someone liked to be very liberal and generous with the dry ice machine...although as it creeps and rolls forward in one scene it's eerily reminiscent of the 1980 movie version of James Herbert's The Fog! There's around five or six minutes of this silent timecoded footage to sit through, but it's not too painful to endure.

Studio Floor Plan - A weird one, this. The studio floor plan that tells you what was where (for example the TARDIS control room set) and then lets you zoom into it for a closer look. Certainly something never done on these DVDs before, but really not that enthralling unless you're heavily into your sets and placing of consoles. An interesting curio however, and yet more information to the wealth already on the DVD.

Continuity - The 1970s BBC1 globe with voice over announces the start of a new four part adventure (this one!) and a caption slide as used for Season Fourteen of the show. Entertaining in showing the technology the spinning globe employed at the time in vivid blue and yellow. Short and wonderfully dated.

Photo Library - The usual range of publicity and behind the scenes stills from the story, shedding some light and some new angles on what was a very clever and novel design for the interiors of the Sandminer and the crew living quarters, and the robots themselves.  Nicely presented as always.

With the usual Radio Times PDFs and Audio Navigation and Subtitles for those who may need them, this repackaged and re-released DVD works really well on its own but as part of the Revisitations Box 3 set, slots very nicely into a growing range of exceptionally well-covered Doctor Who stories.

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26 January 2012

Manufacturer: BBC DVD / 2|Entertain

Written By: Peter R. Newman

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 23rd January 2012

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 26th January 2012

The original TARDIS crew land aboard a spaceship in this latest single disc release from the BBC / 2|Entertain stable.  The Doctor (William Hartnell), his granddaughter (Carole Ann Ford) and that remarkably cool pair of school teachers Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and Ian (William Russell) walk into a mystery of reanimatng corpses and strange atmospheres. Prevented from leaving by the theft of the entire TARDIS lock mechanism, the travellers must join forces with an Earth crew to do very quiet battle with a species that really don't like it when you shout...

As always, the print is fresh and sharp, and the audio quality excellent, and this often overlooked and undervalued story is a tight, claustrophobic and clever tale that's highly enjoyable - and is now backed up by a series of great extras.

Special Features:

Commentary - Toby Hadoke is once more in the Captain's Chair for this commentary with William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman) and designer and Dalek co-creator Ray Cusick as they gather together to discuss the story, the sets and the atmosphere. There's many giggles and laughs from Carole and William, with a little more serious talk from Mr Cusick. Always interesting, and informative - a really well brought together team enrich the release with ease. Very nicely done.

Looking For Peter - The always engaging Toby Hadoke (yes, him again!) embarks upon a hunt for the Doctor Who writer Peter R Newman. Not going to be easy, considering there's not a lot written online - or aywhere else about the man. Calling in everyone from Rob Shearman (Dalek) to the mighty Doctor Who Magazine, Toby turns detective to look at this enigma in the Doctor Who world... Their results... well, you'll have to watch it and find out!  Little visual treats include a few Daleks and the occasional TARDIS in Toby's place, a split second glimpse of the Doctor Who scarf (sans moths) from his one-man show, and visual proof that he needs to clean his DVD remote control...

Vision On: Clive Doig - he of Jigsaw, and the aforenamed Vision On, talks about his time as a vision mixer on Doctor Who in the 1960s. With mentions on fluffed lines and things that didn't work (we're looking at you, TARDIS doors!) and producers' quirks to discussing Who's successes with the late, great Verity Lambert. A fun little piece on early Doctor Who, with possibly the best title music available. If you ever sent in a piece of artwork to The Gallery from Vision On or Take Hart; or if you remember Morph or the wonderful, much-missed Tony Hart, you'll recognise the music instantly!

Secret Voices of the Sense Sphere - A very short piece on a mystery voice talking behind Susan in The Sensorites, and what caused the technical blunder that let us hear her... quite interesting for a two minute featurette, really. Also lets you know just what the equipment was like in the studio during the early years of Who. Hardly vitally important information we all need to know, but like all the best little snippets of Doctor Who infomation, it sheds light on something fromt he show's past in a fun, entertaining way.

Coming Soon Trailer - Not one story, but three!  Revisitions Box 3: The Robots of Death, The Three Doctors, and The Tomb of the Cybermen all get a refreshed release with new extras and new techniques of restoration applied to them; and from the clips shown, all three look amazing!

Info Text - The usual on-screen text during the story gives facts, figures, biographies and trivia whilst the drama plays out; including in Episode One, a breakdown of a visually stunning and unique piece of camera trickery and scene cutting in classic Doctor Who, that lends a huge amount of credence to the idea of the TARDIS' dimensional properties.

Photo Gallery - The usual selection of publicity shots and behind the scenes shots of the cast, crew and sets from The Sensorites, all looking sharp and wonderful, and sets to a variety of strange and wonderful noises from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop that sound like a mix of the TARDIS going haywire mixed with a Hoover heading for a breakdown. The pictures also show how wonderfully daft the Sensorites' costumes are...especially their feet!

The usual Subtitles and Audio Navigation for those who may want or need it, and the PDF Radio Times clippings and programme segments finish off this release nicely.

The Sensorites DVD does a lot to redress the various injustices thrown at the story over the years, giving it a smart new makeover so it looks and sounds great, and some solid backup featurettes. It may never be the huge fan favourite it deserves to be, but there's a lot of love about this story, and indeed this release. A great addition to the First Doctor stories, and a worthwhile purchase for any fan of Doctor Who and it's early years.

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8 January 2012

Manufacturer: BBC DVD / 2|Entertain

Written By: Malcolm Hulke & Terry Nation

RRP: £30.63

Release Date: 9th January 2012

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 8th January 2012

Invasion Of The Dinosaurs

Disc One:

The TARDIS arrives back in present day London, bringing The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) to a deserted capital city. However the TARDIS isn't the only time machine operating in the area; and it's up to the Time Lord and his companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) to work out who's responsible for the rather large stegasaurus in the middle of Pall Mall in this two disc release from the BBC 2|Entertain stable; forming one of the two stories making up the U.N.I.T Files Box-set.

Special Features:

Disc One is almost entirely devoted to the six part story, but there are a few little buttons to press that do things...

Episode One in Colour - Episode one is now presented in both formats - both the black and white version that existed in the archives, and now, a re-coloured version.  It's a very nice feeling being able to see the story entirely in colour, and even though the restoration can be a little patchy in parts, it serves well as an option for viewing. Having said that, the black and white version does lend a touch more credibility to the programme's dinosaur shaped co-stars.

Commentary - One of the highlights of recent Doctor Who DVDs is listening to the very smooth tones of Toby Hadoke introducing the commentary; and this time we hear more of him, as well as Paddy Russell; the director of this six part story. The pair work very well together, and Paddy is never less than entertainingly honest and forthright. A welcome addition to the story as it diverts the attention from some of the less successful elements featured, and a great extra.

Coming Soon Trailer - The original TARDIS crew have to keep their cool, their wits, and their voices down when the Sensorites steal the lock of the time machine. Can the Doctor save the Humans, broker peace, and get the TARDIS restored? The Sensorites DVD is the next release.

Production Notes - Behind the scenes information, actors careers and of course those all-conquering dinosaurs are discussed in the on-screen trivia text featured on the disc. As usual with these notes, they're informative, entertaining and always good for raising a smile or two.

Easter Egg - The Doctor vs the Floor Manager in an entirely boring ten second extra... find the hidden light up green Doctor Who logo!

Disc Two:

Special Featres:

Power, People and Puppetry - A half hour look back at the people and production of the story, featuring both cast and crew. Particularly entertaining are Barry Letts and Paddy Russell - especially when it comes to the introduction of the Whomobile. Also with previously taped interview excerpts of interviews with the late, great Jon Pertwee, including a riotously funny account of the Police vs Doctor Who in his super space car.

The featurette, for all it's great interviews, isn't presented that well, and you're really never sure whether the host of the piece is for or against the story - if he's for, then his choice of launguage used to describe the story is lacking. One of the major plusses however is that it doesn't dwell on the dinosaurs too long - we all know they weren't the greatest models ever used in Doctor Who, and it's good that the documentary doesn't linger unnecessarily over this fact. It's touched upon honestly and with humour, but it never overshadows the rest of the featurette.

Doctor Who Stories: Elisabeth Sladen: Part One - Culled from "The Story Of Doctor Who", this featurette does two things: it makes you remember just how great Sarah Jane Smith was, and it breaks your heart when you think that Lis Sladen is no longer with us to reprise that great character. Featured in part one are her experiences with the Third Doctor, from her meeting with Barry Letts and Jon Pertwee, through her memories of Daleks, Exxilons and Whomobiles. It's hardly new material, or in most cases new stories and anecdotes, but it's just great to see such a wonderful Doctor Who legend on screen looking so full of life, even if knowing there'll be no more new stories adds a piquancy to the featurette.

Now And Then - A guide to the various London shooting locations used in the story as they appeared in 1973, and as they are now. Some very nice footage comparison via picture in picture and some great clips used from the show, but with a voice over that sounds like the narrator would rather be elsewhere... and he can't say the word "nuclear", opting instead for "new-kew-lar".

John Levene Commentary - A ten minute featurette of Sergeant Benton's alter ego - John Levene - giving his thoughts on this story. Not terribly long, but if you're a fan of Levene you'll probably enjoy this short piece.

Billy Smart's Circus - There are very few programmes in television history where the star's minute long cameo could send thousands of children into paroxysms of delight. Doctor Who is definitely one of those programmes, as this brief clip of Jon Pertwee [turning up in the Whomobile at this televised circus extravaganza] shows. Jon is clearly amused by his child hosts and their inability to remember their lines or stage directions; but there are few things quite as memorable to a child as hearing the Doctor Who theme start up and the Doctor himself arriving a few feet away from you. Great little piece of telly trivia and nostalgia. Nice of the BBC to caption Jon as "Dr. Who" onscreen, too...

On Disc Two the usual Photo Gallery of cast and production stills and the PDF Radio Times listings are included, and on Disc One there are Subtitles and Audio Description Facilities for those who may want or need them for the main story.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs, whilst not being the most obvious choice for a UNIT story is nonetheless very entertaining, and the recolourisation of episode one is especially welcome. The extras are for the most part well thought out and devised. It's a great DVD release overall, and works well when twinned with the other story in this set, The Android Invasion starring Tom Baker's Doctor.

The Android invasion

In the second part of this two story set, the errant Time Lord (this time Tom Baker in the title role) lands the TARDIS in Devesham, not far away from the Space Defence Station. However as the Doctor and Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen) explore their surroundings, it becomes increasingly obvious that all is not what it seems; with fake trees, people and a set of grumpy space rhinos out to conquer the Earth.

Long before the Judoon, there were the Kraals. The original grumpy space rhino in a manic string vest/1960s dress combo - no wonder they were so annoyed! In a story that borrows rather a lot from Invasion of the Bodysnatchers there's a lot of tension and drama that plays out well. It's a great story, well-plotted, paced and acted, and the extras on this release really support that theme well.

Special Features:

Life After Who: Philip Hinchcliffe - Presented and perfectly pitched by BBC News presenter and daughter of the interviewee Celina Hinchcliffe; this featurette shows just what a versatile producer Philip Hinchcliffe was, and showcases some of the work that kept us glued to our screens away from the TARDIS. A very well paced segment that's interesting and convivial, Life After Who showcases the career of a talented witty man who, although mostly remembered for working on Doctor Who, had a hand in many other memorable programmes. Great piece!

CommentaryToby Hadoke is in the command chair once more, this time with Philip Hinchcliffe (producer), Milton Johns (Guy Crayford in the story) and Marion McDougall, the Production Assistant on this story. Quite a gentle commentary but always interesting and amusing to listen to. Hadoke is, as always, a very engaging host and the commentary on this story is never forced and strung out. Very nicely done.

Weetabix Advert - John Scott Martin inside what looks like a repainted Supreme Dalek from Planet of the Daleks, and sounding like the voice is his too! Made to promote the range of cut out and keep figures, this entertaining short piece of televisual fluff from the 1970's diverts the attention for a minute or so, and leaves you wondering where a Dalek found a red plunger...

The Village That Came To Life Nick Briggs; the voice of everything these days - presents this behind the scenes look at the origins, filming and story behind The Android Invasion. Some locals in a pub are interviewed (one of whom has a worryingly prophetic name...) and Hinchcliffe et al provide their thoughts and opinions on what worked, what didn't, and... Tom Baker.  There's a very nice bit in this retrospective from Hinchcliffe about a lacklustre episode ending he spiced up into one of the Classic Series' most frightening and remembered cliffhangers. Very well put together and a lot of interesting talking heads.

Photo Gallery - Set to a bizarre mix of incidental music and weird Kraal noises, the sets, actors and locations for The Android Invasion captured in photographs. Black and white and colour photos, publicity shots, and a particularly charming picture of the late Lis Sladen, signing autographs for kids on location, with Tom Baker behind her doing the same. Lis looks very happy and content, and it's a lovely picture to remember her with.

Info Text - The usual on-screen subtitle trivia section. Facts, figures, audience shares and suchlike are paraded across your screen in a friendly and accessible format. As always, the trivia text even comes up with what the Radio Times was saying about each episode. Frivolous fun that holds the attention well.

Easter Egg - Yes, there's another one on this disc, and it's marginally more interesting than the one on the Invasion of the Dinosaurs disc...Marginally.

With the usual Subtitles for those who may want or need them, and the PDF Radio Times excerpts included on this disc, The Android Invasion is a fantasitc story and the disc can still easily engross the viewer, many years later from the original showing.

The U.N.I.T Files Box-set as a whole works well, even if the stories chosen (especially The Android Invasion) aren't what you'd usually expect for a set about the Doctor's friends and allies in the Armed Forces. However, on a different level, the stories do work very well as tributes for two of the Whoniverse's most-loved and much-missed actors, who passed away in 2011. Nick Courtney and the glorious Elisabeth Sladen are both showcased by this set, and that alone would be reason enough for buying it - even if the rest wasn't up to scratch. Happily, the extras on U.N.I.T Files do both stories proud, and make a great addition to the explanding Doctor Who library available on DVD.

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17 October 2011

Manufacturer: BBC DVD / 2|Entertain

Written By: Malcolm Hulke

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 3rd October 2011

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 17th October 2011

The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) manages to get the TARDIS working... almost, and he and his companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) arrive on the planet Uxarieus in the middle of a feud between a band of Colonists and a division of the Interplanetary Mining Corporation. En route to sort out the dispute is an Adjudicator from Earth, who may not be all he seems either. Can The Doctor overcome killer robots, giant lizards, primitive tribesmen, prune headed priests and Gail from Coronation Street, save the day and get Miss Grant safely back to Earth, or will an old adversary win the day?  You can find out on this new single disc DVD release from BBC DVD / 2|Entertain, out now.  With all six episodes looking sharp and sounding great and some entertaining and fun extras to compliment the story, it's time to step inside the TARDIS for her first flight of the Pertwee era...

Commentary - It's a very busy commentary this time round as Toby Hadoke guides his six guests through the story. Katy Manning (Jo), Bernard Kay (Caldwell), and Morris Perry (Captain Dent and no relation to Arthur Dent) join up with script editor Terrance Dicks, director Michael Briant and assistant floor manager Graeme Harper to relive their memories of the adventure.  Vey enertaining, and Katy is always very entertaining to listen to.

From The Cutting Room Floor - Annotated edits and trims from the filming of the story; location filming and model filming trims are used.  You do get the idea of just how appalling some of the conditions on locations actually were.  Mud, anyone?  There's almost thirteen mintes of trims and edits and shots, and it does tend to drag on somewhat, unless you're a real fan of these things.

IMC Needs You! - As an extra, this deserves prizes for keeping you entertained and giggling at the behind the scenes view. From seas of clay in freezing temperatures, via very unusual TARDIS landings and a spectacular and funny animation inviting you to grow a moustache. Most of the same crew as in the commentary are here on-screen giving life to the trials and tribulations of IMC robots and the problems of getting them through an average doorway...

By far the funniest revelation from director Michael Briant is why the TARDIS behaves so oddly when she materialises; an effect that has sparked many a fan debate over the decades. Was the landing due to the Time Lords controlling the TARDIS, or because of the shaky rebuilt dematerialisation circuit the Doctor's put together? Nope. To find out what it is... you'll have to watch.

A very light, fun, and well handled twenty five minute look back at Colony In Space, and it tackles the problems of the shoot without crossing over into regret or bitterness. Great stuff. And kust when you think it can't get any better, Briant re-appears on screen to talk about realising the diminutive alien hidden inside the wall, and the poor actor trying to give a performance with his neck almost breaking...

Photo Gallery - A selection of stills in colour and black and white, featuring the story's production, design and some well known publicity shots set to some background music/atmospheres, and the noise of that battered old blue box arriving.  Some very interesting pictures in there, no mater how much you know about the serial!

Coming Soon Trailer - Dinosaurs! Styggron! More dinosaurs! Dopplegangers and replica pubs! Two Doctors, one amazing assistant (tip of the hat to the glorious, and much much missed Lis Sladen), an irreplaceable and also greatly missed Brigadier (another hat tip to the wonderful Nicholas Courtney) and UNIT soldiers. Lots of UNIT soldiers. But then this is... The UNIT Box Set. Out in January! Oh, and there's dinosaurs. Did I mention there's dinosaurs? And UNIT soldiers.

With the usual production notes filling you in on trivia and factoids via their onscreen subtitles, subtitles for anyone who many want or need them, and the Radio Times listings for the story presented in PDF format for those on computers to peruse, Colony is a slightly long, but very rewarding story with a wealth of great performances, and the ever watchable Roger Delgado as the first incarnation of The Master. The characters are well rounded, and The Doctor, Jo, and a TARDIS exterior that had definitely seen better days have a blast. Well worth buying.

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31 August 2011

Manufacturer: BBC DVD / 2|Entertain

Written By: Louis Marks

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 12th September 2011

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 31st August 2011

The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) is called on by UNIT to investigate a particularly murderous ghost; and from there he and his assistant Jo Grant (Katy Manning) are drawn into a web of time paradoxes, guerilla warfare and history changing events, all sponsored by those persistent perambulating pests...The Daleks! Can our intrepid hero, aided by UNIT, save Earth from World War Three and invasion by the cantankerous Kaleds?

Every now and again, something very special comes along on a Doctor Who DVD that stops you in your tracks and leaves you slack-jawed as to it's brilliance. This is one of those instances. This story has one of the most ambitious, well-done and ridiculously brilliant extras you could ever wish for...more of that in a moment.

The two disc set, from the BBC2|Entertain stable has the usual hallmarks of Classic Who as it is now presented; the original programme has been cleaned up and looks pin sharp and sounds clear and crisp, and there's a raft load of extras that really should not be missed. Incidentally, for those of you who like inane trivia, the original version of the story is the only one in Who history that keeps the sting (that's the electronic howl from the cliffhanger into the Who theme) on the recaps of episodes two and three.

Disc One:

Commentary - Anna Barry and Jimmy Winston (Anat and Shura respectively) talk us through the story with the late, great Barry Letts, and script editor Terrance Dicks. Also on hand to talk technicalities is vision mixer Mike Catherwood. The whole commentary is nicely paced, fun, and very entertaining to listen to.

Blasting the Past - Cast and crew old and new look back at the original story, it's strengths and weaknesses and what made it so successful. On hand are Katy Manning, Anna Barry and Jimmy Winston who were there at the time, being menaced by Rick Newby, who was inside one of the Daleks. Also contributing to this look back are Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks, John Friedlander (maker of monsters), and with further commentary from Dave Owen from DWM, new series writer Paul Cornell, Classic Series writer Ben Aaronovitch, and voice of pretty much everything these days Nicholas Briggs. Again, this half hour documentary has been handled with a lightness of touch that makes it flow very easily, and is very enjoyable to watch. It happily wallows in nostalgia without getting bogged down in it.

A View From The Gallery - Mike Catherwood and Barry Letts talk about the changing way Doctor Who was filmed and vision mixed over the years, as well as the technology then compared with now. This twenty minute piece shows just how well the two men know their craft, and can talk about it without getting monotonous. An illuminating little feature, that gives a clue into just how much technical expertise went into producing television in the 1970s.

Nationwide - A short piece from the BBC's flagship magazine programme of the time about a junior school that made the silly, silly mistake of winning the Radio Times writing competition...first prize: one working, crabby, angry Dalek. This report shows the somewhat smaller than expected pepperpot arriving at the school and the kids' reactions to it. Amusing nostalgia...you'll see the Dalek and nearly die laughing.

Blue Peter - Peter Purves is joined in the BP studio by the original TARDIS prop (looking in an absolutely terrible state!) and three Daleks to look back on his time during Doctor Who. Again, it's all amusing nostalgia, and a rare glimpse of how BBC Children's TV communicated to their audience over thirty years ago. Do wear sunglasses whilst watching this, as some of the fashions on display could easily burn out your eyes.

Coming Soon Trailer - Courtesy of the Time Lords remotely steering the TARDIS, The Doctor and Jo pitch up on the planet Uxarieus to face off with Reverend Magister, a walking prune, a rather violent IMC robot and some terribly unhappy miners. Colony In Space is next month's Classic Doctor Who release!

With the usual Info Text (which this month tells you where to spot edits and bloopers and gives an exhaustive rundown of Dudley Simpson's score for the show), a Photo Gallery and Subtitles for those who may want or need them, it's a great DVD...but wait...that's JUST Disc One!

Disc Two:

Day of the Daleks: Special Edition - New FX! New scenes! New Music! More Daleks! More Ogrons! More UNIT troops! New Dalek Voices! It's Doctor Who, Jim, but not as we know it!

Now although it's obviously the same story, it really doesn't feel like it. The team have done a stunning job in fixing things that could have been done better with more time and money (e.g: the Daleks' floating monitor has been stabilised, so it no longer looks like the start of "Victoria Wood As Seen On TV"), and they've tackled the big issues people have had with the show over the years - they've also addressed in the extras on the second disc.

The Making of Day of the Daleks: Special Edition - The producer of this Special Edition shows us what prompted the upgrade, what's been done, and how. Very entertaining and clever, this documentary showcases the level of love and interest that's gone into the package - even to the extent of making a brand new Day-era Dalek for help with filming some scenes! With contributions from all those involved, this is a must see, and gives a great insight into the level of dedication given to this revamp of a Classic story.

Now And Then - The latest in the series of "How much has it changed since we filmed Doctor Who there?" gives us an overview of what became Auderly House, and the tunnel, to see what, if anything, has changed. Toby Hadoke narrates the short piece.

The UNIT Family: Part Two - In the second part of this series, we get to see the strong "family" that was UNIT. Featuring contributions from the three UNIT regulars (including the much missed Nicholas Courtney), as well as Barry Letts, Katy Manning, and Derek Ware amongst others, this goes a long way to explaining the logic and thought into giving the Third Doctor a decent backup team. It also has some rather entertaining admissions and anecdotes from the cast and crew, which endears it no end to the viewer - Richard Franklin in particular being remarkably entertaining and witty.

The UNIT Dating Conundrum - Apparently, there are some people in fandom who want to know the dates/time frame of UNIT's involvement in Doctor Who. Why they would want to know such a thing is a matter for discussion somewhere else, but in case you are one of those people, Toby Hadoke tries to piece it all together using the very few dates there are to go on. Terrance Dicks, Ben Aaronovitch, and Dave Owen don't help at all, and by the end of it poor Toby is being carted off in one of those special dinner jackets with the wrap around arms.

The Cheating Memory - Steve Broster goes on a journey to try and find out why Day of the Daleks was so different in reality from the memory of his six year old self. A fascinating extra, with input from a psychologist as well as the usual talking heads featured on this DVD; namely Nicholas Briggs and Ben Aaronovitch. It is something that most Doctor Who fans can relate to, having memories of something being insanely epic, scary, and frightening when you were little, only to watch it again and feel yourself deflate as the second viewing doesn't live up to your memories of the first. A wonderfully worthwhile piece, and very enlightening.

Day of the Daleks: Special Edition is a masterpiece. With both the original and the frankly amazing redux of the story on the release, it's bound to keep all parties happy. The new version is simply stunning, and well worth the time, money and effort spent on the release. This is a must buy, a simply-cannot-miss DVD, and bears repeated watching to find just what's been changed and updated. It's not all CGI Dalek rays, there's some very subtle tiny touches as well that make the release even more enjoyable when you discover them.

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16 July 2011

Manufacturer: BBC DVD / 2|Entertain

Written By: Robert Holmes

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 1st August 2011

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 16th July 2011

The Doctor (Tom Baker) lands the ever unreliable TARDIS on Pluto, a dwarf planet on the outermost reaches of our solar system, where he finds it isn't the cold, barren, lifeless rock he was expecting. Someone's been very busy; Pluto now has a breathable atmosphere, it's warm and very humid, and has six suns. It also has an overly efficient taxation system, oppressed work units who live underground, and public executions. Can the Time Lord, Leela (Louise Jameson), and a small robot dog free the people and bring down the sinister Collector and his Internal Retinue? This single disc release from the BBC and 2|Entertain will let you find out... all praise the Company!

The Sun Makers is an enjoyably daft romp; a satire on taxation and bureaucracy. Two characters steal the show from start to finish; Leela, as played by fan favourite Louise Jameson, and Henry Woolf's delightfully odious and fiscally-obsessed Collector. Leela has all the best heroic lines - including a beautifully withering put-down of the less than brave rebels - and The Collector has all the best villainous lines, backed up with a characterisation that's hard not to warm to. It's all small fry by Whoniverse standards, and isn't an especially memorable story for plot reasons, but it's diverting and fun. The K-9 prop is so noisy it's untrue, the TARDIS door doesn't want to lock, and The Doctor no longer knows what a jelly baby looks like.

Annoyingly, the DVD is let down by a lack of decent extras, with only a few things holding the interest for any length of time; mostly because the rest of the extras are very, very short.

Commentary - This time, the commentary boasts both main cast members sitting in as both Tom Baker and Louise Jameson join Michael Keating and The Sun Makers director Pennant Roberts to talk about the story, the production and life during and after Doctor Who. Tom is always great fun to listen to, and teamed up with Louise again, the commentary provided is both entertaining and informative.

Running From The Tax Man - Louise Jameson is one of those people you instantly adore. She's very gentle and calm, witty and warm. She's also honest - but in a nice way that doesn't tread on people's toes. She's easily the best reason to watch this retrospective of The Sun Makers, and she reveals why this story above any other is her particular favourite. Also in the mini-documentary discussing the story are Michael Keating, (best known as "Vila" from "Blake's 7"), director Pennant Roberts, and an astronomer and a historian have been drafted in as well, partially to explain about Pluto and it's new status as a dwarf planet rather than a planet. It's an odd extra as it seems to repeat the same information several times, especially when it comes to the astronomy parts; but it's entertaining enough for that.

Outtakes - Citizen Cordo's gun fails to go off twice...No, really, that's it. Hardly an interesting or justifiable extra in itself, but would have been better used hidden away as an Easter Egg on the DVD, perhaps.

Trailer - The original BBC1 trailer for The Sun Makers.  Again, nothing else, just the one trailer.

The Doctor's Composer: Part Two - The second and final part of the series on one of Doctor Who's most prolific composers, the fantastic Dudley Simpson. This segment concentrates on his Doctor Who work from the seventies with the man himself talking us through much of his work and utilising many examples of his famous compositions through a wealth of clips. It's a delight to watch, as you try and figure out which music came from what story. A nice piece, with a genuine affection for one of Doctor Who's often unsung but most deserving behind the scenes heroes. This brilliant featurette gives a warm nostalgic glow and it's hard not to be drawn down memory lane for an enjoyably exciting jaunt.

Coming Soon Trailer - This one will blow your socks off. The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and his assistant Jo Grant (Katy Manning) team up with UNIT to help save a peace conference being hosted by Sir Reginald Styles. However, those tinpot terrors The Daleks have other ideas... With new Dalek voices, and a wealth of new special effects and CGI, the Day of the Daleks Special Edition is out in September.

With the usual Photo Gallery of production and publicity stills, the Radio Times Listings in PDF format, and Subtitles available for those who might need them, and the usual information text on hand with trivia and viewing figures, The Sun Makers is a worthy enough story, rather badly supported by the extras available on the disc, and it all feels a bit empty as a result.

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23 June 2011

Manufacturer: BBC DVD / 2|Entertain

Written By: Stephen Wyatt

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 18th July 2011

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 23rd June 2011

Mel, as played by Bonnie Langford, wants to go for a 453 appendix 1 subsection 6 swim. If this were everyday drama, she would, and that would be that. However this is Doctor Who and things rarely go according to any sort of plan the main characters have, in this 1987 story, remastered and released on this single disc DVD from the BBC / 2|Entertain team of Caretakers.

The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) pilots the TARDIS to Paradise Towers - a "remarkable architectural achievment" promising a clean, lovely, comfortable living experience, and with a swimming pool on the roof.  Accordingly, Mel can paddle whilst the Time Lord can have a (512 appendix 2 subsection 9) look around and investigate things. However upon exiting the now materialised time machine they discover a much different world of uncared for spaces, unexplained disappearances, and unfriendly inhabitants in all shapes and sizes… and something truly horrific in the basement.

Paradise Towers is one of those stories that you may remember as being not terribly good; but happily it's not the case at all. Despite a few cases of acting so wooden it puts the section 9/41, subsection 12c props to shame, it's a clever tale of high-rise horror and society meltdown in a confined area. It manages to feel tight and claustrophobic, and the script and wordplay used are first rate. Cleaned up and remastered in a way the Towers never were, this first season McCoy story manages to succeed on many levels - probably due to the Kangs pressing the buttons for all the floors on the alleviator again..

The special features on this release are well thought out and worthy of a 178 appendix 13 subsection 7 round of applause:

Horror on the High Rise - Mark Ayres takes a look at the making of the story, with contributions from writer Stephen Wyatt, script editor Andrew Cartmel, incidental music composers Keff McCulloch and David Snell, and actors Richard Briers, Catherine Cusack, and Howard Cooke. Clever, insightful and revealing, it shows the story's roots, along with the strengths and weaknesses of the tale.  Entertaining and informative, with some accurate and amusing views on the way some of the actors chose to protray their characters.

Girls! Girls! Girls!: The Eighties - Presented by Doctor Who stalwart Peter Purves, this riotously funny and entertaining featurette has Sophie Aldred, Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding discussing the highs and lows, the trials and tribulations, and the ins and outs of being a Doctor Who assistant. Fielding especially is brilliantly funny, her acidic humour never crossing the line into nastiness, but still demonstrating some of the slightly less eviable things the 80s female companions were expected to put up with, from high fabshion disasters to stereotyping after leaving the show. Defintely a winner, and a team that should be assembled again to discuss all things Who.

Deleted and Extended Scenes - From the first edit of the story, some trims and edited sequences that never made the transmitted version of the show; and there are some very good scenes in there too.

Audio Options - Not only does this DVD have the usual available 304 subsection 12 commentary, hosted by Mark Ayres again, with Judy Cornwell, Stephen Wyatt and Dick Mills, it also has something of a rarity - an entire second incidental music score.

The original score by David Snell was vetoed by showrunner John Nathan-Turner back in the day, and Keff McCulloch was commissioned to do a very quick replacement.  Both of these versions are available on the DVD, with Snell's score in particular giving a dark, more menacing feel to the story.  

Continuity - The linking announcements for the BBC1 transmission, together with plugs for some of the Doctor Who VHS tapes avaialbe at the time.  Notable for an announcer getting the name of one story wrong, and for one link cutting off a mere second before being exposed to the "hilarity" that was "Hi-De-Hi".

Casting Sylvester - A very short piece from Clive Doig explaining his working relationshop with Sylvester McCoy and how he helped with Sylvester being chosen to play the seventh incarnation of The Doctor.

Coming Soon Trailer - The Coming Soon section itself has had a 915 appendinx 8 subsection 2 makeover. Gone is the vworping TARDIS, and in it's place is a slick little end sequence after a great trailer for the next release.

The TARDIS arrives on Pluto, to find Citizen Cordo about to take a header off the roof as he can't pay the taxes levied by Gatherer Hade and a small venomous leech called "The Collector".  Can the Fourth Doctor, Leela and K-9 lead a work unit revolution, or has the Time Lord's life expectancy overdrawn? The Sunmakers DVD is out in August.

With the usual Photo Gallery, Radio Times listings, Subtitles for those who may need them and the Production Notes and Info Text giving you facts and trivia along the way, Paradise Towers is an enjoyable Doctor Who story well worth watching again, on pain of a 327 appendix 3 subsection 9 death.

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16 June 2011

Manufacturer: BBC DVD / 2|Entertain

Written By: Donald Cotton & Eric Pringle

RRP: £30.63

Release Date: 20th June 2011

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 16th June 2011

The Gunfighters

Disc One of the EarthStory double release from the BBC and 2|Entertain is this 1966 adventure, in which the TARDIS materialises in Tombstone, Arizona; so The Doctor can find a dentist.  Unfortunately, the dentist is one Doc Holliday and not far behind him are the Clanton brothers, Wyatt Earp, and Johnny Ringo.  It's time for the gunfight at the OK Corrall...

The Gunfighters is a very difficult story to judge. The series regulars all put in smashing performances - Hartnell in particular having some great moments and lines; his constant renaming of Wyatt Earp to "Mr Werp" is guaranteed to raise a smile, and his reaction to his introduction to the Clanton brothers is simply priceless. The rest of the story is actually fairly enjoyable if a little pedestrian; and boasts some nifty camerawork and ideas, and, for a 1960s television serial, a great set with a great cast inhabiting it. Marred only by the incessant caterwauling of "The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloo n" at every given opportunity. It's a very different view of how historical events played out, with large portions of the show seemingly lifted from a number of Western films, but it's no less enjoyable for that.

As usual, the DVD version has been cleaned up considerably, and the qual ity of the presented material is top rate.  The DVD also has some great extras, although it is sadly lacking a mute function to save you from the constant high pitched wailing of Lynda Baron singing that wretched ballad.

The End of the Line - An honest, truthful and sometimes uncomfortable documentary about the end of William Hartnell's time as the First Doctor.  Fascinating to watch, it's a tale of constantly changing writers and editors, forced cast changes and Bill Hartnell's deteriorating health as ateriosclerosis took a toll.  With contributions from Donald Tosh, Maureen O'Brien, Peter Purves and Anneke Wills, "End of the Line" shows just how much of a complete slog it was getting Doctor Who out every week on an almost impossibly long production run.  

If you're a strong fan of William Hartnell it can be a tad unsettling to listen to the less than glowing remarks made of his irascibilty due to illness, but happily Maureen O'Brien and Peter Purves share the other side of the original Time Lord, a deeply passionate and caring man who was very protective of the show itself.  It also sheds a somewhat harsh, if truthful, light on Vicki and Dodo's departures from Doctor Who and just how much of an impact The Daleks had on the production of the show.

Tomorrow's Times - Mary Tamm adds a great deal of effortless glamour to the First Doctor edition of "Tomorrow's Times", which shows the the brief flirtation the British Press (notably the Daily Mail) had with Daleks and the earlier days of Doctor Who.  Very reminiscent of an episode of Points of View in styling, this fun little extra begins the story - already continued on other DVDs for other eras of the show - of the love-hate relationship between journalists and The Doctor and his trusty TARDIS.

Commentary - Toby Hadoke sits in the captain's chair once more; as Peter Purves, Shane Rimmer, David Graham, Richard Beale, and production assistant at the time Tristan de Vere Cole talk us through The Gunfighters.  Always fascinating to listen to anecdotes and gems from a production made forty five years ago, this entertaining and useful extra on the DVD serves double duty; as switching on the commentary drowns out a great deal of the Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon.

Photo Gallery - An amazing selection of vintage photographs of the set, cast, and production of The Gunfighters.  The photo's have been cleaned up amazingly and there's some glorious views of the whole, from the TARDIS sans lamp to the camera tower erected in the middle of the studio to give some innovative camera angles to the production.  Set to the full length version of The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon.  Brilliant if you know where the mute button is.

Coming Soon Trailer - The death of Caretaker 345/12 Subsection B informs us that the TARDIS will soon be arriving at Paradise Towers, home of the Kangs, the Rezzies, and Pex (who puts the world of Paradise Towers to rights...).  There's something nasty and very hungry in the basement... and on most other floors of the high rise building as well. Can The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Mel (Bonnie Langford) find their way to the swimming pool without being put to a 327 appendix 3 subsection 9 death?

The Gunfighters DVD also has the listings from the Radio Times in PDF format, subtitles available, and the usual production notes are also included.  

A great package and well worth watching for some excellent performances and moments of genuinely funny comedy in a competent and well made Who story; if you can get past the singing.

The Awakening

In the second of the 2|Entertain / BBC two disc DVD release EarthStory, the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough arrive in Little Hodcombe to visit Andrew Verney the local historian - also Tegan's grandfather. However something's affecting the locals and their re-enactment of the local War Games is getting rather too realistic...

The Awakening is a short, punchy story that's a deserved fan favourite in the history of Classic Who. The cast are superb, the locations and sets stunning, and The Malus is one of the most memorable Doctor Who monsters for several reasons; notably because it works so well and it really does look creepy. Everything from the incidental music to the costumes seem to fit together seamlessly, and make a thoroughly enjoyable two part adventure.

Stealing the show are Polly James as Jane, and Keith Jayne as Will Chandler, both of whom work so well in the story. Jane is the single voice of reason before The Doctor arrives, and Will is simply one of the most endearing and innocent supporting characters in Who's long history. And of course, The Awakening does have one of the most iconic monsters on hand in the shape of the Malus - even more remarkable when you consider it was only onscreen for a couple of minutes in total.

The DVD release also has a number of very well thought out and produced extras that seem to exude a warm, happy glow about the story; and as always, sound and vision throughout the DVD are crisp and bright.

Return to Little Hodcombe - A twenty minute look at the area, as Little Hodcombe was a gestalt of three villages, with the director Michael Owen Morris, script editor Eric Saward, and Janet Fielding (Tegan) and Keith Jayne (Will). From the outset of this piece, Morris brings senses of warmth and fondness to proceedings that are hard to ignore. He obviously enjoys his work - both on Doctor Who and his other projects - and it clearly shows.  

There's some fun snippets of locals talking about when Doctor Who came to their village, an event that still seems to be a subject of local pride, and Janet Fielding remembers the cast being quite protective of the new director on his first TV work. Keith Jayne discusses Will Chandler, and Eric Saward chimes in on how the story was re-written and whether Will would have made a good addition to the TARDIS crew. A nice sweet old lady tells us about lame horses on set, and her husband tells us how to spot Doctor Who fans on location...

Making the Malus - A fun look at the giant face in the wall, with designer Tony Harding and model-maker Richard Gregory.  A short piece on how the Malus was conceived and built, with a rare look behind the face to see how the different parts of the monster were controlled.  To finish, there's a short interview with Paul Burrows who bought the Malus at auction and what happens when utilites workmen find giant stone monsters mounted on your living room wall...  Another fun and entertaining short, and again, with some warmth and affection for the subject matter leaving you with a very positive feeling.

Commentary - Toby Hadoke once again chairs the commentary team, this time with director Michael Owen Morris and Eric Saward as their share knowledge and opinions of the serial as an audio option on the DVD. Again, Morris' obvious fondness for his work shows through easily and keeps the mood light.

Now & Then - The three villages used as locations in The Awakening are revisited to find that not a lot has changed. There's still thatched cottages and farm buildings, and there's still a ford across the road, even if it is now somewhat waterless...  clips and photographs are used effectively, and the linking narration fills in any blanks nicely.  

From the Cutting Room Floor - Some extended and deleted scenes from the story, including an appearance by Kamelion. There's also some of the film rushes from the location shoots, and some timecoded VHS sequences that were trimmed.

The Golden Egg Awards - Taken from another BBC1 staple of the time, this excerpt from The Late Late Breakfast Show hosted by Noel Edmonds shows the now infamous outtake featuring a horse, a cart, and a prop lychgate being unexpectedly demolished.  Peter Davison is on hand to collect the trophy from Noel Edmonds.

Isolated Music - The Awakening has some excellent incidental music, and this option of the DVD gives you a chance to view the story with the isolated music score. Well worth a listen if you're a fan of the somewhat under-appreciated composers on Classic Doctor Who.

As usual, the DVD also features a photo gallery of production and publicity shots, the Radio Times listings from the story in PDF format, subtitles for those that may need them, and the Production Notes Info Text available to have onscreen as the story plays out.

The Awakening is a great addition to Classic Doctor Who on DVD, and if you're a fan then the EarthStory DVD set is a must-have for your collection.

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18 April 2011

Manufacturer: BBC DVD / 2|Entertain

Written By: Christopher H. Bidmead

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 30th May 2011

Reviewed By: Dale Who for D octor Who Online

Review Posted: 18th April 2011

Let's get something straight and out in the open right from the outset...  There is a type of creature that is made scarier by making it larger.  In Doctor Who's long history, they would be giant maggots and giant spiders.  They work with an already present fear or revulsion of the creatures to produce a memorably scary Doctor Who monster.  In the not scary bracket are giant ants and butterflies (the Zarbi and Menoptera from 1965's "The Web Planet")... and woodlice.  Woodlice are not scary.  Not even remotely.

Frontios is a polarised story.  Some parts of it work brilliantly, and some parts of it really don't; and this new BBC / 2|Entertain DVD showcases both these aspects and examines them in the special features on the single disc release.

Starting with the story itself, Frontios is a fairly low budget studio bound Doctor Who, coming towards the end of Peter Davison's tenure as The Doctor.  The regular cast continue to shine, with Davison and Janet Fielding especially stealing every scene they're in; and there are some brilliant guest stars in Jeff Rawle as Plantagenet and Lesley Dunlop in the role of Norna.  There are some great lines and jokes along the way, and the Doctor is in one of those "grouchy professor" moods that suited his young persona so very well.  

Sadly for Frontios, that's about where the good ends.  The sets - although you can see an awful lot of effort and thought went into them - don't work in convincing that the studio is the surface of an alien planet, some of the performances really aren't great, and then there's the Tractators.  Giant flapping woodlice that fail in just about every way possible to be even remotely thrilling.

This story will be remembered for two main reasons; firstly this is the one where the previously indestructible TARDIS was destroyed (albeit briefly!), and secondly for the unpleasant infestation of some particularly large  and rubbish woodlice that hung around for two (and a bit) episodes.  Its failures certainly aren't for the lack of trying: the direction, the handling and the production all work well with what they've got.  However it looks cheap and rushed and all a little too hurried to carry off what still wouldn't have been a great story with a budget ten times larger.

It is also worth noting that several of the concepts shown in this story (the colonists being pulled down through the ground, and witnesses referring to this as the Earth being hungry) were re-used and utilised to much better effect in the 2010 series of Doctor Who, in the Silurian episode "The Hungry Earth"... now where did they get that title from?

Special Features:

Driven To Distractation - There are many reasons to love this half hour featurette; it has a lot of frank honesty, a lot of humour, and gives a robust defence of the story itself.  It almost succeeds in making you like the story more.  Almost.  What it definitely succeeds at is showing the rush-job that the Doctor Who cast and crew faced to get the story in the can, in the face of several tragedies and setbacks; and it shows the thought processes behind the writing of the serial.  It's nicely put together, uses relevant footage from the time and is decidedly non-judgemental and supportive in what comes across in quite a sweet way.  The writers and stars do admit where there were mistakes made, and it's very brave of them to do so, even if Christopher H. Bidmead neatly places the blame on everyone but himself.

Extra / Deleted Scenes - Minor trims and one or two scenes that play rather well but didn't make it into the final cut of the programme.  There's a brilliant bit about the Doctor's spectacles, and Tegan being an android that really should have been aired; they're funny, clever, and give Tegan and the Doctor some great lines.

Commentary - Peter Davison, Jeff Rawle, Dick Mills and Eric Saward sit around a red table and give opinions, anecdotes, memories and an overall view of how the show holds up for them twenty seven years on.  It's all quite pleasant and jovial and Rawle and Mills especially give some new angles on how the guest stars, and the "special sound" on Doctor Who were used.

Info Text - The usual trivia packed information is available on this disc as well, although most of it seems obsessed in pointing out where anything over two seconds of cuts were made to trim episodes down from over running.  It also points out a couple of continuity errors and the careers and times of the guests stars that appeared in Frontios.

Coming Soon Trailer - The next absurdly themed boxed set: Earthstory, in which William Hartnell's Doctor lands in Tombstone in search of a dentist and gets rather caught up with "The Gunfighters", and Peter Davison's Doctor lands in Little Hodcombe and discovers a centuries old evil lurking in the local church in "The Awakening".

With the usual fripperies as well, such as the Radio Times PDF files, and the Photo Gallery from Frontios, these features help buoy a story that's not as strong as it might have been; however it's certainly not for the lack of trying.

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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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20 March 2011

Manufacturer: BBC DVD / 2|Entertain

Written By: Robert Sloman and Barry Letts

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 18th April 2011

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 20th March 2011

The epic, six part conclusion to Jon Pertwee's era of Doctor Who arrives with this double disc DVD from BBC DVD / 2|Entertain.  Disc one is the episodic version of Planet of the Spiders, complete with an optional commentary from Elisabeth Sladen, Richard Franklin and the now sadly passed away and much loved and missed Nicholas Courtney. All the info usual text is available and it's a great romp; one hundred and fifty minutes of classic science fantasy television.  The giant spiders of Metebelis Three are after the blue crystal The Doctor removed from the planet back in The Green Death, and will stop at nothing to get it back in their webby little legs...

Pertwee's swansong adventure is a long, but very entertaining affair.  It features every form of transport you can think of, and even some dashing about in the TARDIS - something or a rarity for this incarnation of the Time Lord.  The UNIT family are all together one last time, and it's a celebration of the Third Doctor, and all handled in precisely the way that had made the first colour season of Doctor Who work so well.  It's fun, exciting and worth every second.  You'll never look at those big spiders in your bathroom the same way again...

On disc two there's the extras, and something quite surprising.  There's a really nicely put together look back over Pertwee's time as the Doctor, and an equally warm feature with Barry Letts looking back on his time with Doctor Who; both of which show just how much work and love went into the show from start to finish.  Both featurettes have contributions from a variety of sources, including Jon Pertwee, Terrance Dicks, and of course Barry Letts himself.  There are also some great anecdotes from people like Mat Irvine on the spider props and the lesson of telling people what you need in good time; and from John Kane, the immensely likeable and gentle Tommy in the story, on his memories of Who and what he's done since.

Then there's the longest television trailer ever for a repeat run of Planet of the Spiders shown as one long story on a Saturday afternoon in December on BBC1 - the trailer just rambles on and on and on, with clips upon clips; it looked like the BBC had a lot of time to fill that Christmas!

And then, the surprising thing is... they included the abridged story itself!  The unrestored and very long edited together version is here too for your enjoyment, which slightly mystifies me, as there's no extra material as there was with the Battlefield release for example, but if you're a completist it's all good for the collection.

The story gets 10/10 for being suitably epic and wrapping up the UNIT years with panache and style, and the extras get 10/10 for leaving you with a warm glow that Doctor Who was genuinely loved and cared for during Pertwee's tenure as the Time Lord.

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