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Doctor Who - Revisitations 2

Review by: 
Black Gloves
Release Date: 
1969/1973/1984
Studio: 
2 Entertain
Genre: 
Sci-Fi
Format: 
DVD
Region: 
2 PAL
Aspect Ratio: 
1.33:1
Directed by: 
various
Cast: 
Patrick Troughton
Frazer Hines
Wendy Padbury
Jon Pertwee
Katy Manning
Movie: 
4
Extras: 
5
Bottom Line: 
4

This second boxed set in 2 Entertain’s Revisitations range consists of three previously released classic Doctor Who adventures, upgraded with spanking new re-mastered transfers and a whole extra disc each of brand new extras, that give us something foamy from the final days of the Patrick Troughton tenure with “The Seeds of Death”; Jon Pertwee taking his first post-exile flight in the TARDIS and jousting with grey skinned alien bureaucratic xenophobes and some garishly dressed galactic entertainers in “Carnival of Monsters”; and Peter Davison as the gentle fifth Doctor being tempted to get uncharacteristically violent with Dalek creator Davros, in the TV slaughterhouse that is “Resurrection of the Daleks”.

DISC 1: THE SEEDS OF DEATH (1969)

I was born in 1969, six months before mankind took its first small steps on the surface of the Moon in July of that year and one week before the first episode of “The Seeds of Death” was broadcast on British TV. I leave it to the reader to decide which of these three momentous events was the most important, but although writers Brian Hayles and Terrence Dicks seem to have had negligently little to say at the time about my emergence into this world, their script for “The Seeds of Death” -- the fifth story in season six of “Doctor Who” -- is visibly marked by its satirically jaundiced take on the dawning age of manned space flight, representing it from the cynical point of view of a late-sixties version of the far future in which dull executives now come to work on the Moon by teleport -- still carrying their briefcases, but dressed in stretch fabric jumpsuits with the underwear on the outside (although they haven’t solved the problem of baggy crotches yet, despite the routine use of dematerialisation).  It is so typically Doctor Who-ish for the programme in 1969 to be broadcasting a story from a futuristic perspective in which space flight by rocket – that great symbol of mankind’s hopes for glory through progress at the time -- has come to be seen as passé and inefficient -- a mere, slightly crappy, relic of the past.

On the one hand, this is a reminder that no matter how clever we might think we are, from the point of view of the future all our achievements today will come to be seen merely as historical curiosities, to be yawned over by bored space-brat school kids of the future -- no doubt from the pill-induced comfort of their virtual, pan-dimensional, telepathically downloadable thought classes.  Of course, we of the post-sixties generation can also look back and laugh at that decade’s clumsy attempt to envisage our present as ‘the future’, with its weather control stations, the Earth’s entire food supply controlled by teleport device between London and a relay station on the Moon; and yet at the same time Hyde Park still exists unchanged … although soldiers wear hair dryers on their heads and computers all speak aloud to you in staccato electronic voices while lots of lights blink on and off – after all, even the story’s attempt at satirising our own hubris ironically still ends up painting a retro-portrait of a technology-governed future society that seems wildly optimistic in comparison to where we actually are. But this is partly a story about nostalgia, about how progress can throw away valuable knowledge as well as make life-changing discoveries; in this version of the future, mankind has indeed colonised the Moon and invented a technology that solves world hunger, but life is still dominated by dull routine and bureaucracy; and furthermore, Mankind’s reliance on the particular T-Mat technology which has become central to the organisation of  society has created a new vulnerability, which eventually requires the antiquated old rocket technology of ‘yesterday’ to be dusted off, removed from the museum, and used to help save Humanity from an alien threat to destroy the world that depends on exploiting the human race’s complete reliance on this snazzy new T-Mat technology.

In other worlds, Brian Hayles’ story cleverly lauds the scale of the achievement inherent in NASA’s race to take Mankind to the Moon, while undercutting the technological triumphalism that underpins it, reminding us of the dangers of pinning one’s hopes too heavily on technologies that come to rule us rather than serve, creating new problems in the process.

The perpetrators of this dastardly scheme to destroy the World turn out to be the Ice Warriors. Returning to the show after their 1967 debut, they’ve cooked up a scheme to take over the Moon Base: the centre of T-Mat operations, where parcels of foodstuffs are distributed to all the major cities of the world – and set about first crippling the device (so that the Earth’s population is quickly plunged into chaos, starvation and food riots), and then use it to send out seedpods that explode releasing a fungus that removes the very oxygen from the atmosphere and make it more suitable for the Ice Warriors themselves when they send an invasion fleet to mop up resistance while a powerless humanity perishes. The Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and his companions Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury) and Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines), arrive in the TARDIS and at first find themselves inside a museum of spaceflight on Earth that belongs to Professor Eldred (Philip Ray), a former pioneer of rocketry who has become embittered after his rocket technology was usurped by the T-Mat device and entirely transformed society. Teleportation is now used for everything, from commuting to work to feeding the Earth. No one has any use anymore for crude, antiquated rockets, and Eldred’s museum is noticeably lacking in visitors.

Eldred’s former colleague, Commander Radnor (Ronald Leigh-Hunt), now runs T-Mat control from Earth, along with a formidable expert in the technology, who is also the only person who fully understands how T-Mat actually operates, Miss Gia Kelly (Louise Pajo). When contact is inexplicably lost with the Moon Base, the secret rocket project Eldrid has been clandestinely working on for his own amusement, becomes the only means of traveling to the Moon and finding out what is going on. Of course, it’s up to the Doctor and his two companions to blast off into space and foil the Ice Warrior plot, in what is essentially yet another base-under-siege storyline: a standard formula during the Patrick Troughton years, during which the ‘Monsters-attempt-to-invade’ template – so familiar to use today – first became the standard framework on which almost every Doctor Who story came to depend in the second half of the sixties, upon producer Innes Lloyed taking control of the programme. The Monsters Era saw popular foes returning again and again; The Cybermen were the most frequent returnees, but the Ice Warriors were also a popular choice and this, their second appearance, sees the make-up design of their lumbering armoured carapaces being refined, and the emergence of a hierarchy of different looking versions of Ice Warrior led by Slaar (Alan Bennion) -- a slinky, streamlined Ice Lord who’s in charge of the Earth invasion plot, and, later, the appearance of a funky looking Grand Marshall (Graham Leaman) whose superior rank is rather cutely delineated by his having shiny sequins dotted all over his helmet.

The six part adventure has a core of excellent guest performances from Louise Pajo (who gets to play a dominating yet sympathetic female character in an era of TV drama when such things were still rare indeed outside of the fantasy England of “The Avengers”) and Ronald Leigh-Hunt, who manages to overcome the embarrassment of having to exude an air of authority while dressed in what amounts to an unflattering space-age romper suit. The Ice Warriors themselves are exuberantly brought to life – despite there only being about three of them – as Alan Bennion hissssssessss his way through a bravura performance as the interestingly evil Slaar.  Mostly though, “The Seeds of Death” is the Patrick Troughton show all the way. After having recently announced his imminent departure at the end of the sixth series, it’s almost as if the character actor has resolved to give the viewer a Greatest Hits package of the second Doctor’s best mannerisms as a series of ‘moments to treasure’. The ‘Chaplinesque’ tag associated with his portrayal almost certainly derives from this story being, for many years, one of the few Troughton adventures that was available to the public on VHS, as it showcases the actor indulging himself in some wonderfully judged set-pieces of mercurial clowning -- pulling mocking faces and providing an array of mischievous, childlike asides. He and Frazer Hines together on screen are always a joy to watch. There’s even a fantastic sequence, beautifully directed by Michael Ferguson, of the Doctor escaping through mirror-lined corridors from a lumbering gaggle of Ice Warriors on the Moon Base, which looks for all the world like a silent comedy chase sequence, or even a madcap episode from “The Monkees” TV series (Troughton’s and Hines’ identical Beatles haircuts inevitably add immeasurably to that perception). Incidentally, although we generally tend to see the second Doctor incarnation as a whimsical old cove, he doesn’t seem to worry himself unduly about reducing numerous Ice Warriors to puddles when firing his makeshift solar blaster at them, and the same goes for the Martian invasion fleet -- which gets re-directed into the Sun at the end of the story with similarly casual insouciance by the prankish second Doctor.

At the time, the show was still being shot in the laughably small Studio D at Lime Grove Studios -- formerly a British film studio owned by Gaumont, whose equipment was already out of date by the late-forties (when the BBC first purchased it as a stop-gap until Television Centre was completed) let alone in 1969. Its cramped, enclosed spaces were hardly suitable for such ambitious attempts at creating the future of space travel, realising the bustling bureaucracy of futuristic control rooms and weather stations, and bringing to the screen technological outposts on the Moon for £2000 an episode.  Michael Ferguson compensates with inventively composed shots that try to bring visual excitement and flair to proceedings (and sometimes succeed), but the sets do occasionally visibly wobble, and there are too many pantomimic hiding-in-plain-sight-of-the-lumbering-monster moments for comfort. Dudley Simpson provides one or two exciting library cues to perk up the atmosphere, though -- many of them dominated by lively pounding kettle drums (as is the composers wont whenever he gets half a chance), and a mixture of tinkling harpsichords and organ blasts. This is one story where the ambitions of the production go so far beyond what it was actually possible to put on screen that objectively the whole enterprise should be easily laughed into oblivion: the Martian seed pods are blatantly latex balloons, and the deadly fungal infection that is set to envelop the planet turns out merely to be cause for wheeling out the dreaded foam machine from “Fury from the Deep” again; there’s a moment when, assailed with a screen dominated by lumbering barrel-shaped Ice Warriors that can barely stand and clearly have no idea which direction they should be going, an ocean of gushing foam filling up the set from all directions, and balloons popping all around as Troughton clownishly clambers through the set covered from head to foot in gunk, that one half expects David Vine, Stuart Hall or Eddie Waring to suddenly materialise with a chuckling voiceover, and for the whole thing to be revealed to be an early example of the games programme “It’s A Knockout”!

Yet there is such an evident commitment from everyone involved with bringing “The Seeds of Death” to fruition – from regular cast, guest actors and production crew alike -- that one can’t help becoming involved in the drama of the story. One of the best examples of this comes about because of the performance of guest actor Terry Scully, who plays the Moon Base traitor Fewsham, a T-Mat technician who helps the Ice Warriors to bring about their plan to destroy the human population of the Earth out of sheer (but understandable) cowardice: he’s seen all of his colleagues get pitilessly gunned down by the indomitable aliens and simply doesn’t want to go the same way. Fewsham finds himself faced with being the man responsible for possibly destroying the whole of the human race as a result of his decision to collaborate with the Ice Warriors in order to save his skin, and unfortunately for him, Ice Lord Slaar is sadistically happy to thump home this fact to him with every available opportunity, and goes out of his way to find new morally indefensible treacherous actions for this quivering wreck of a man to carry out. The way the story focuses on the human aspect of Fewsham’s plight is one of the most powerful aspects of it and, thanks to a compelling performance from Scully, really manages to eclipse the dodgy costumes, wobbly sets, and other elements that have dated since its first transmission, to leave us with an adventure which while not exactly being a classic of the sixties era, continues to be a very engaging and imaginative one at least.

Disc one of the two that are devoted to this story features the six 25 minute episodes accompanied by an audio commentary from various combinations of the following participants: Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, director Michael Ferguson and script editor Terrance Dicks. It’s a port over from the last release of “The Seeds of Death” that provides a fairly nice mix of casual on-set anecdote about the making of the story and behind-the-scenes info on the production side of things by Ferguson and Dicks. It’s a well-rounded, informative commentary over all, but to add even more information than you can humanly take in with one sitting, extensive on-screen text production notes are also included for all episodes, and there is even a BBC audio trailer from an amateur recording made by a viewer when the story originally went out in 1969 accompanying the episode menu. The rest of the goodies come on disc 2.

DISC 2

Lords of the Red Planet (28 mins, 31 secs): This is an in-depth look at the creation of the Ice Warriors, from their conception by Brian Hayles for their first appearance in December 1967 in the original story “The Ice Warriors”, to their re-emergence in “The Seeds of Death”. The behind-the-scenes story of the latter is obviously the main focus of this standard but well-made ‘making of,’ with extensive contributions from actors Wendy Padbury and Frazier Hines, director Michael Ferguson, script editor Terrence Dicks, costume designer Bobi Bartlett and TV Historian Richard Bignell, who go over more or less the same points already made in the commentary and production notes, but in a much more digestible and entertaining format.

Sssowing the Ssseedsss (24 mins, 05 secs): A look at what it felt like to play an Ice Warrior in 1969 with the help of Ice Warrior performer Sonny Caldinez, Ice Lord Alan Bennion and make-up designer Sylvia James.  This was recorded for the disc’s original release and is a really evocative reminder of the recording regime under which the programme was once made, with Caldinez and Bennion full of interesting anecdotes about their days on set and the rather difficult and uncomfortable circumstances caused by their cumbersome fibreglass Ice Warrior costumes.

Monster Masterclass (3 mins, 44 secs): A brief look by director Michael Ferguson at his experiences of directing some of Doctor Who’s most famous monster stories.

Monsters Who Came Back For More! (16 mins, 26 secs): Dalek operator Nick Briggs and Doctor Who assistant editor Peter Ware take a light-hearted look at what makes a successful returning monster, and why some great ones have never returned again.

Photo Gallery (4 mins, 30 secs): a collection of stills, production and design photos and publicity shots from “The Seeds of Death”

TARDIS Cam no. 6 (57 secs) I never could work out what the point of these things were, but here is another model ‘vignette’ created for the BBC Doctor Who website.

PDF material – Radio Times listings in PDF format.

DISC 3: CARNIVAL OF MONSTERS (1973)

“Carnival of Monsters” was the first fruit of a brief period that saw Jon Pertwee’s flamboyant incarnation of the Doctor set free once more to roam the Universe in time and space in the TARDIS, after several years in which he had been confined to Earth by the Time Lords where he dealt weekly with never-ending alien Invasion threats with the help of the much-loved UNIT team. With the Time Lords’ decision to end the Doctor’s exile at the end of the previous story, “The Three Doctors”, Writer Robert Holmes (still considered one of the best writers who ever worked for the classic series) took the opportunity to create this imaginative, playful, satirical allegory on the nature of entertainment, which also managed to lob a few mischievous pot shots at small-minded officialdom and the insularity of 1970s Immigration policy. If this makes it sound a bit heavy-handed, nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, the style and the manner in which the universally excellent cast inhabit this story provides us with a welcome forerunner to the idiosyncratic comedic style inherent in the work of Douglas Adams in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy saga -- although here it’s ensconced in the glittery Glam trappings of early-‘70s TV (as ever, Jo Grant’s ‘clobber’ is a perfect encapsulation of what the average female David Bowie fan would have been wearing in 1973) and is most forcefully expressed in a joyous collision that brings together the series’ penchant for inventively bizarre and outré alien creatures with a satirical bent that turns them into a set of dome-headed officials, forever huddled in corners conferring and ‘conferencing’. The planet of Inter Minor is a place where this race of grey-skinned, pen-pushing bureaucrats holds sway over a volatile populace, and where some gaudy carnivalesque entertainers attempt to divert the equally grey masses with populist spectacle. And let’s not forget this adventure also features producer and -- for this story -- director Barry Letts’ favourite monsters, the fearsome Drashigs: vicious, fast-moving, prickly giant caterpillars with dragons’ heads that look suspiciously like sock puppets crashing through a cardboard set until some judicious application of 1970s CSO effects. Well, alright … even after some judicious application of 1970s CSO effects!

Yes, “Carnival of Monsters” has it all: much like travelling showman Vorg’s (Leslie Dwyer) Miniscope device, in fact. The crazy, brilliant conceit behind Holmes’ mischievous story is that Vorg (a sly and extravagant entertainer who has a dress sense that’s somewhat akin to the sixth Doctor’s and a bizarre transparent bowler hat that gets more steamed up as the episodes go by) and his ‘glamorous’ assistant Shirna (Cheryl Hall) have arrived on the planet of Inter Minor (which looks appropriately like the set of a ‘70s pop music show) with their outrageous contraption, which allows the viewer to watch a selection of scenarios involving alien life-forms, viewed on a monitor screen, living out their lives in a reconstruction of their natural habitat. The loopy but genius idea here is that this alien technology works exactly like a child imagines a television set might work: the aliens and monsters are actually inside the device, shrunk to microscopic size by a compression field in which they’re living out the same short vignette from their lives on a constant repeated time loop. Certain features can be altered on the Miniscope’s controls -- to make the inhabitants more violent towards each other, for instance – and the inhabitants have no knowledge that they aren’t in their normal setting, having been kidnapped from their home planet and set inside the machine’s various compartments at some point in their past. Vorg and Shirna travel about the Galaxy presenting their audience with the chance to view this spectacle, and Inter Minor is their latest stop-off destination.

Another genius stroke of Robert Homes’ pen puts the visitors Vorg and Shirna in the midst of a debate that is going on within Inter Minorian society that, although it takes the form of an amusingly stuffy tribunal made up of three of the planet’s race of identical-looking, bald headed, fluffy eyebrowed, grey skinned ruling class (wonderfully played by the original [and the best] Davros Michael Wisher; Doctor Who regular Peter Halliday; and Terence Lodge) cogitating over whether or not to allow Vorg and Shirna to go ahead with their strange intergalactic peepshow, nevertheless soon reveals itself to be a semi-comic rehearsal of the kind of arguments that regularly engulfed the BBC in general and “Doctor Who” in particular at the time. It turns out the Minorians are irreconcilably split over the issue: aliens have only just recently been readmitted, and are once more being allowed to come to the planet after a long period of Minorian isolation from all other species; an embargo which came about after a space plague ravaged the population, leading to paranoid fears about contamination from outside. There are still those within the ruling council who are accordingly intensely suspicious of off-world interference in Inter Minor’s affairs; contamination fears run rife and extend to the metaphorical idea that the purity of Inter Minorian society itself risks being tainted by any exposure to other alien life-forms, even when simply watching their strange habits on a monitor screen. On the other hand, President Zarb sees this crude form of entertainment as a way of diverting the masses from violent uprising. Strive to keep the other strand of Inter Minor’s population -- the grunting, shuffling functionaries, who we see doing all the boring manual work while their rulers worry and fret over alien influences – entertained with such mindless distraction, so the thinking goes, and they will be pacified and diverted from the business of rebelling against their lowly position in society. “Our purpose is to amuse, simply to amuse,” reassures Vorg. “…nothing serious, nothing political.” This debate is also a small but unmistakable self-reflexive reference to “Doctor Who” itself and the ever-present media to-and-froing about whether the programme can be more than just a children’s show about monsters that become, in Vorg’s words, “a great favourite with the kiddies”, or whether there is room for something more thoughtful and adult. “Carnival of Monsters”, ironically enough, is the perfect marriage between raw, untrammelled spectacle as entertainment, allied with a story that almost incidentally manages to sum up its era with sly, witty social comment smuggled in by the backdoor.   

But what of the ‘bouffant-haired’ (description copyright of Terrence Dicks) third Doctor and his young platform-shoed companion Jo Grant? The first episode segues back and forth between scenes set on Inter Minor in which Vorg and Shirna find their livelihood (the precious Miniscope) threatened by the nervous Minorian Council’s ‘Eradiction Gun’, and an apparently unrelated storyline in which the Doctor and Jo appear to have pitched up on Earth in the Indian Ocean in the 1920s, on the vessel the SS Bernice. The Doctor soon realises something is amiss after remembering that the ship is known to have disappeared without trace on the exact date displayed currently on the ship’s calendar. After first being arrested as stowaways by ship’s Lt John Andrews (Ian Marter - in his first appearance on the show before becoming a companion to Tom Baker’s Doctor), they, along with ship’s passengers Major Daly (Tenniel Evans) and his granddaughter Claire (Jenny McCracken) are soon threatened by the incongruous appearance of a sea monster – a plesiosaurs, in fact. Even more extraordinarily, the ship’s crew and its passengers seem to end up repeating the same routines over and over again, failing to recognise Jo and the Doctor each time they meet, and rehashing the same conversations.

Of Course, the TARDIS has been caught in the Miniscope’s compression field and the Doctor and his companion are actually inside the device along with the’exhibits’. Soon the two wanderers in space and time break out of their time ‘compartment’ and wander about the circuitry and innards of the machine, although not before the TARDIS is lifted out of the ship’s hold by a giant hand, which turns out to be Vorg’s -- who dismisses the Doctor’s ship as a piece of bric-a-brac that’s been caught in the machine workings. The whole concept behind the crew and passengers of the SS Bernice living out a shadow life, unaware that they are pawns in a ridiculous cosmic peepshow to keep aliens entertained is not so far away from that of “The Matrix” -- with Holmes’ treatment of the idea ramping up the outrageous, campier aspects of the scenario while also finding time for a hint of poignancy when Claire almost but not quite realises the truth, after being prompted to think about the inconsistencies of life aboard the SS Bernice by Jo’s questioning.

The real star attraction of the story (the kiddie’s favourite, perhaps?) are the dreaded Drashigs, whom the Doctor and Jo meet when they gate-crash another alien environment inside the Miniscope. Primitive puppetry and CSO don’t exactly make for the most threatening looking creature in the series’ long history, but the combination of Brian Hodgson’s terrifying ‘screaming’ sound effects (devised by treating and distorting the sound of the squeal of rubber  tyres while a car breaks) that accompany their appearance, some high-speed camera work and the strange fact that the fanged heads of the monsters were constructed around the skulls of fox terrier skeletons, gives them a certain frisson of the macabre. The final episode of the serial sees Pertwee’s Doctor escaping the Miniscope prison and confronting Vorg, as played by comic actor Leslie Dwyer (better known for his regular role in sit-com “Hi-De-Hi”), who, thinking he’s met a fellow showman attempts to communicate with the bemused Time Lord using Carnie-speak (otherwise known as Polari). With Michael Wisher, Terrence Lodge and Peter Halliday also on top form as the conspiratorial grey officials of Inter Minor, “Carnival of Monsters” becomes a delightful, anarchic and unpredictable story, very different in tone from much of the Pertwee era but definitely one of its high spots nonetheless. 

Extras are rather thicker on the ground here than can be contained by just one disc. First of all you have a grand total of two commentary tracks, the first featuring Jo Grant herself Katy Manning and director and producer Barry Letts. This is ported over from the original release of “Carnival of Monsters” and although the partnership of the level headed and implacable Letts with the uber extrovert Manning seems to make for an unlikely paring at first, it works well enough in the end, with Letts supplying all the technical information and Manning the excitable outbursts of sudden recognition at her past on-screen antics. This story involved a lot of filming on a boat in the river Medway and the commentary features the first of an interminable list of people recounting the same anecdote over the course of the various extras included here, about Jon Pertwee ‘accidently’ stealing the ship’s Compass, believing that since the decommissioned auxiliary vessel was being sent to be scrapped after filming finished, that no one would mind. They did. The second commentary is newly recorded and is a lighter affair featuring the reminiscences of guest actors Cheryl Hall, Jenny McCracken, sound effects designer Brian Hodgson, actor Peter Halliday and script editor Terrance Dicks. The whole mixed bag is ably moderated by Toby Hadoke. Nothing earth shattering here, but it’s nice to hear the recollections of people who aren’t normally heard from on these commentaries, a few of whom have since gone on to careers that have taken them far beyond the orbit of a 1970s Saturday afternoon family entertainment programme. Cheryl Hall, for instance, has since become a Labour MP, who probably hadn’t anticipated that she would be called upon to reflect upon a time when she appeared on National TV in a spangley leotard with baubles in her hair.

Episode 2 – Early Edit (29 mins, 44 secs): A longer edit of episode 2 that features the infamous ‘Delaware’ version of the Doctor Who theme music, subsequently rejected because – to put it bluntly -- it was terrible.

Behind the Scenes ( 1 min, 48): Brief but fascinating glimpses of the making of Doctor Who circa 1973, with a look at the production from the Gallery where Barry Letts is seen directing the camera mixing, and also from the production manager’s vantage point on the studio floor. This was filmed for the BBC’s documentary ‘Looking In’.

Visual Effects Models (8 mins, 41 secs) model shots tests featuring the dreaded Drashigs in which their glove puppet workings are revealed.

‘Five Faces of Doctor Who’ Trailer (4 mins, 19 secs): back in 1981, repeats of classic Doctor who stories were a great rarity and the cause for much excitement and celebration for fans who had only read about them before the age of VHS cassettes. This lengthy trailer for the 1981 season of classic repeats includes “Carnival of Monsters” among its treasure trove of delights, then previously unseen since original transmission.

Director’s Amended Ending (1 min, 18 secs): For the ‘Five Faces …’ repeat, director Barry Letts took the opportunity to re-edit the ending to remove a shot of a very obvious ‘bald cap’ on one of the Inter Minor officials which he had always felt spoiled the show. This is the result.

CSO Demo (3 mins, 07 secs) A BBC training film in which producer Barry Letts demonstrates the possibilities afforded by the BBC’s then state-of-the-art Colour Separation Overlay technique – a special effects mainstay of 1970s Doctor Who under Barry Letts.

TARDIS Cam no. 2 ( 45 secs) another CGI model vignette created for the BBC Doctor Who website.

PDF Material – Radio Times listings in PDF format.

The usual in-depth text production notes are of course included, while over on disc four we get a great selection of brand new documentaries.

DISC 4

Destroy All Monsters! (23 mins, 11 secs): If you’ve been paying attention throughout the commentaries and text production notes, then this ‘Making Of’ documentary won’t tell you anything you don’t already know. Nevertheless, it’s entertainingly edited to look like a series of scenes on Vorg’s Miniscope with actors Katy Manning, Cheryl Hall and Peter Halliday joining director Barry Letts, script editor Terrence Dicks, assistant floor manager Karilyn Collier and visual effects assistant Colin Mapson for tales of Drashig mayhem and the origins of writer Robert Holmes’ macabre satire.

On Target with Ian Marter (16 mins, 08 secs): Emotional tribute to the memory of actor and writer Ian Marter, who more famously played Harry Sullivan opposite Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen in the fourth Doctor’s first set of adventures, but also played Lt. Andrews in “Carnival of Monsters”. He also wrote some of the most fondly regarded of Target Books’ Doctor Who novelizations, and this touching tribute includes heartfelt contributions from Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, the recently sadly departed Nicholas Courtney and Nigel Plaskitt, as well as script editors Terrance Dicks and Gary Russell.

The A-Z of Gadgets and Gizmos (11 mins, 22 secs): This featurette has been hanging around the 2 Entertain vaults since 2009 according to the end titles, finally finding a home as filler for this second disc of extras. It’s a somewhat less than essential clips show, shot in the same style as something you might expect to see on The Gadget Show or on Top Gear: a bed of brash rock music with a pumped up, over excited commentary by Paul Jones accompanies a slew of clips from classic Doctor Who adventures from the sixties to the eighties, all of which involve various ‘gadgets’ the Doctor has encountered or used over the years. It’s hard to see what the point is (it’s not particularly witty and the format quickly grates) other than to advertise the other titles available in the classic range.

Mary Celeste (18 mins, o1 secs): In “Carnival of Monsters”, the Doctor and Jo end up aboard the SS Bernice, which has been ‘abducted’ by the time-scoop and become an attraction inside Vorg’s illegal Miniscope for the entertainment of the alien masses, thus leaving behind another maritime mystery (which Jo fails to recognise) surrounding the disappearance on calm seas of the 1920s ship. This is a cue for another historical documentary in the Who range that features a trio of historians discussing real-life famous maritime disappearances, including that of the Mary Celeste (Doctor Who has long ago pinned the blame for that one on the Daleks of course, but these shipping experts generally turn to a far more prosaic set of explanatory options). Professor in Modern and contemporary History Roger Lockhurst from the University of London, curator of Maritime History from Merseyside’s Maritime Museum, Ian Murphy, and the Maritime Museum’s John McAleer run through the most famous disappearances and their most likely causes -- none of which involve mysterious forces in the Bermuda Triangle, although this famous paranormal shaggy dog story features prominently in the history of the publicising of such these tales.

Finally a Photo Gallery (2 mins, 55 secs) features the usual production stills, but also some behind-the-scenes shots of Katy Manning and Barry Letts recording their commentary track and some contemporary Radio Times illustrations by Frank Bellamy.

DISC 5: RESURRECTION OF THE DALEKS (1984)

Opening with sinuous tracking shots thorough the gloomy rain-sodden alleyways and derelict warehouses surrounding the Thames Docklands region circa 1984, “Resurrection of the Daleks” announces itself as full-bloodied, no-holds-barred space opera from the off. It’s an Eric Saward script so you can expect vein-pumping action and death on a cosmic scale, but little can prepare the unwary first-time viewer for the wholesale charnel house that this story soon turns into. Part of the Dalek plan (Whatever that is -- I can never quite tell, it seems to change every episode) involves the duplication of their human victims, replacing them with humanoid Dalek agents on Earth, which means in effect that half the cast get to be killed twice over. When people aren’t being brutally gunned down, dying screaming under hails of noisy blaster fire, they’re being grotesquely mutilated by exposure to corrosive poison gas in what are still some of the goriest sequences ever included in the programme. Even the Daleks die horribly (some of them) --  infected by a virus created by the Movellans (the Dalek’s robot foe from “Destiny of the Daleks”) which causes them to talk garbled nonsense and spout energetic globs of milky white foam in what looks like some sort of warped new genre of Dalek porn.

On one of the featurettes accompanying this release, both Saward and producer John Nathan-Turner (filmed not long before his death in 2002) claim that the series isn’t particularly violent. In fact, the story starts with a lot of random people in futuristic military fatigues getting brutally gunned down by Dalek-controlled troopers dressed as policemen in the middle of London’s Docklands, and proceeds from there to foster wholesale carnage until only a handful of cast members are left alive at the end. Even the Doctor is seen gleefully blasting Kaled mutants, hurling bombs at Daleks and at one point sets out with a big blaster to execute Davros, the Dalek creator (although he allows himself to be unconvincingly talked out of it in the end). In the last episode, Tegan (Janet Fielding), the Doctor’s lippy Australian companion, calls it a day and decides she’s had enough -- largely because what was once a fun trip around the Universe with the occasional monster or alien snake possession thrown in, has now become an excuse for blast-now-ask-questions-later diplomacy. And then there’s that uncomfortable leather skirt …

Let’s come clean at the beginning: I always enjoy “Resurrection of the Daleks”. It bumps along at a tremendous pace, has an eclectic cast of ‘big names’ (okay – Rula Lenska, Rodney Bewes, Leslie Grantham and the bloke out of “Howard’s Way”, Maurice Colbourne) and it’s often beautifully directed by Matthew Robertson, with inventive set-ups and graceful mobile tracking shots adding urgency to what could just have been a confusing blather of minor characters running around corridors shouting and eventually getting shot. That said, I still find it hard to work out what it’s all about or what it’s all for. This is one of those adventures from a period in the show’s development when it was clearly becoming increasingly influenced by the style of popular science fiction that was then being seen on cinema screens, and attempting the insane task of trying to recreate it using the over-lit, video-shot, multi-camera studio system which had been the standard way of shooting TV drama since the earliest days of the Corporation. “Alien” informs the design aesthetic of the antiquated deep space prison ship that plays so prominent a role in the story: characters have to angrily thump automatic doors to get them to open properly and the whole space station-style network of dimly lit corridors, with wire mesh and scaffolding pictured everywhere, is still an influence on the show’s design even in the present day. Then there’s the influence of “Star Wars”, which can be detected in the style of costumes, the elaborate Darth Vaderesque helmets various characters sometimes wear, and the endless scenes depicting gaggles of space troopers having blaster battles with Daleks in winding spaceship corridors.

Eric Saward’s script throws sexy-sounding ideas about like so much paint on a Jackson Pollock canvas, but after all the noise and bustle has died away and the body count taken, it doesn’t amount to all that much that is very memorable. Sure we get to see plenty of things that are cool (a Dalek exploding after being pushed out of the upper storeys of a warehouse and crashing on the cobbles below, for instance; a Kaled ‘blob’ on the rampage after being detached from its Dalek casing), but there is no real heart in any of it. In a way, the story is saved from complete emotional constipation by Janet Fielding’s decision to leave, which provides it with its only moving moment despite all the legions of innocent guest characters that get casually bumped off every few minutes. Instead the story incorporates all sorts of disparate-seeming plot elements that makes it appear quite muddled and hard to grasp on first viewing: a time corridor between the Battleship of Commander Lyton (Colbourne)and his men – the foot soldiers of the Daleks for reasons never explained -- and an alleyway in London 1984; a Dalek supreme commander ordering events from  a Dalek vessel in the far future; numerous Dalek controlled clones, and a prison ship harbouring a single prisoner that turns out to be Davros – last seen being placed in cryogenic suspended animation at the end of “Destiny of the Daleks” five years previously after his creations had unearthed him in the ruins of the Kaled city on Skaro in expectation of his helping them to end the stalemate in their war with the robot humanoid Movellans. The plot such as it is is thrown together from these elements.

In the ninety years during which Davros has been asleep in his icy chamber, the stalemate between the two races has indeed ended: but the Daleks lost the war! The Movellans created a deadly virus that attacks their tissues, and so the Dalek leadership has decided to free their megalomaniacal creator from his deep space prison in order to have him develop a cure. Davros is this time played by Terry Molloy, following in the footsteps of Michael Wisher who first brought Terry Nation’s character to life in “Genesis of the Daleks” in 1974, and David Gooderson who reprised the role for “Destiny of the Daleks”. Molloy went on from “Resurrection of the Daleks” to play the shrivelled, ranting cheerleader for Dalek superiority two more times on screen and in a great many Big Finish produced audio adventures.

Davros’s explosively splenetic reaction when he first hears that his beloved Daleks have been defeated by another race, instantly puts Molloy in the drivers’ seat of the characterisation. It is in this story that old prune face (looking even more decayed and bloated than usual here) finally attempts to gain control over his creations by engineering a breed of Dalek that will be loyal to him alone, leading to the two opposing warring factions (the originals still adhere to Davros’s unthinking specification that they are the superior life form and so should take orders from no one, not even their original creator) that we get to see in the future classic era stories. Eventually, writer Eric Saward remembers that the Doctor has to be worked into all this somehow as well, and so a further subplot about the Daleks planning on using cloned copies of the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough (Mark Strickson spends most of this story wandering around like a spare part looking for something useful to do) in order to assassinate the High Council of the Time Lords, is thrown into the mix suddenly in episode three. The result of this random walk approach to plotting is a fast-moving, well-directed, variably acted (not sure about Rodney Bewes’ affected stutter business) sequence of memorable action packed moments attached, however, to a confused story in which the demands of show-stopping spectacle lead to a veritable bloodbath of supporting characters throughout, most of whom are shown dying horribly, usually after exhaling a bloodcurdling cry for good measure. It’s all done with such commitment that it would be churlish to dismiss it completely; there are far worse stories in the “Doctor Who” cannon and more boring ones too, but the sound and fury of such in-your-face, adrenalized, gun-toting action-adventure dynamics drowns out all other considerations and one does find one’s self watching it always trying to decide which character is going to be the next to get viscously gunned down rather than with any great concern for their fates.

This was broadcast in two parts of forty-five minutes each in 1984, thanks to the Sarajevo Winter Olympics messing up the schedules. This set presents the adventure in its two-part version on this disc and in the originally intended four-part version on the following disc. The original audio is also accompanied by an isolated music score and a 5.1 audio option so that you can hear all the explosions and blaster fire echoing around your living room in surround sound. There is also a brand new commentary track featuring Davros actor Terry Molloy, writer and script editor Eric Saward and visual effects designer Peter Wagg. Moderator Nick Pegg has been a senior Dalek operator on the series since its return in 2005 and so there is plenty of banter here on the niceties of Dalek manoeuvrability among the general anecdotes about the creation and filming of the story. 

Casting Far and Wide (32 mins, 16 secs): Toby Hadoke comes out from his usual place behind the Doctor Who commentary moderation desk to present this lengthy examination of the lot of a jobbing actor in the 1980s, taking five supporting actors who were cast in “Resurrection of the Daleks” and talking to them about their subsequent experience of the business. Roger Davenport, Del Henney, Leslie Grantham, Jim Findlay, and William Sleigh are the five interviewees and a varied and unpredictable portrait emerges of an uncertain, cruel but sometimes rewarding business where no two actors’ careers seem to follow a similar path. The range of attitudes that are expressed by the participants about their having been involved in “Doctor Who” run the gamut from weary acceptance by those who had always aimed for better things, to thankful bemusement or gracious acceptance of the strange little sci-fi show that kick-started their careers. This is a tangential way of looking at the show, but an insightful one that makes a change from the standard ‘Making Of’ approach of running through the pre-production, shooting and a retrospective analysis of the story.

On Location (18 mins, 32 secs): Director Matthew Robertson revisits and recreates the scenes he shot in Shad Thames on a similarly rainy day to the one he experienced back in 1984 when “Resurrection of the Daleks” was shot here. Eric Saward joins him to reminisce about certain occurrences and producer John Nathan-Turner is seamlessly blended in to their account in footage recorded not long before his death.

Extended and Deleted Scenes (7 mins, 03 secs): early edits of certain scenes from the episodes that reveal unseen footage and extra dialogue.

Breakfast Time (7 mins, 56 secs): The insanely prissy presenters of BBC Breakfast in 1984 interview Janet Fielding and John Nathan-Turner about a BBC book of Doctor Who Companions, while a brief film featuring Brian Hodgson and Malcolm Clark, talking about sound effects on the show and dubbing the music onto an episode of “Resurrection of the Daleks” respectively, is also included.

Trailer (31 secs): A BBC 1 trailer from the original transmission

The Last Dalek (8 mins, 33 secs): some home movie footage shot by designer Tony Cornell at Ealing studios in 1967 on 8 mm film, during the filming of model shots for “The Evil of the Daleks”. BBC visual effects designers Michael John Harris and Peter Day provide the commentary.

TARDIS Cam no. 4 (41 secs): another model vignette created for the BBC’s Doctor Who website.

 

DISC 6

Although it was never broadcast as such in the UK, “Resurrection of the Daleks” was shown in its intended four-part format when sold abroad. The final disc in this collection includes that original edit of four 25 minute episodes, also accompanied with a commentary track by Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and director Matthew Robertson. The director, in particular is enthusiastic and full of informative titbits, while not being blind to the deficiencies of shooting an action-orientated (and they don’t come much more action orientated than “Resurrection of the Daleks”) show with the anachronistic multi-camera/vision mixing method still favoured by the BBC during this period. There’s plenty of good natured micky taking as well, especially at the expensive of poor old Mark Strickson, whose excellent looking-behind-me work doesn’t go uncommented upon.

Come In Number Five (56 mins, 27 secs): This, the most extensive documentary in the box set, is a detailed overview and retrospective evaluation of Peter Davison’s tenure as the fifth incarnation of the Doctor, featuring Davison himself, the actors who were the Doctor’s companions for most of the period Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson, producer John Nathan-Turner, executive producer during the first season Barry Letts, director Fiona Cumming, and script editors Christopher H Bidmead, Eric Saward and Antony Root. There are also interviews with BBC Head of Series and Serials David Read and Head Writer on the current series Steven Moffat, and the whole thing is presented by David Tennant. The documentary presents a fairly straightforward chronological account of Davison’s involvement with the show from the moment he was first cast in the role to the time he eventually decided to leave. Davison’s three years with the show stand at something of a crossroads in Who history – it’s the settling-in period of JNT’s extensive time as show producer, a period which led all the way up to the show’s eventual cancellation in the traditional form in which it had existed since it first appeared on TV screen in 1963, and a time when the battle lines seem to have been drawn between various behind-the-camera production and crew members.

There is inevitably a lot of controversy surrounding John Nathan-Turner’s time as producer, and since he’s no longer around (except in a few recorded interviews shot before his death), and ‘80s Who is probably the most controversial period of the show’s history, almost any decision taken then which is now felt to have been a mistake gets laid at his door by those who survive to tell the tale. Interestingly, director Fiona Cumming has not a bad word to say about him though, while the rest of the documentary is filled with tales of his misdoings or missteps -- from Letts and Saward in particular. On the other hand, Davison’s time is fondly remembered by a great many fans that have since gone on to play a huge role in resurrecting the show for the 21st century. David Tennant grew up with the show during his tenure and Steven Moffat loved the decision (much derided in some quarters) to fill the TARDIS with companions again rather than have just the standard single female sidekick. Davison himself humbly says he would never have cast himself in the role and concurs with those who said at the time that he was too young for it (rather ironic given the age of the current incumbent), but in retrospect it was a completely correct decision to move the character as far away as possible from the larger-than-life performance of Tom Baker, and probably one of John Nathan-Turner’s better decisions. This documentary is inevitably slanted towards an anti-JNT bias that is bound to upset some of the programme’s adherents who value the ‘80s era, but it ends up being a fitting celebration of the Doctor’s most understated and subtle of incarnations, and at nearly an hour in length it gives a fair representation of the highs and lows of his three years as the TARDIS’ then youngest Time Lord occupant. 

Tomorrow’s Times – The Fifth Doctor (12 mins, 17 secs): Frazer Hines presents an interesting overview of what the papers were saying about the show during Peter Davison’s tenure in the early eighties, with a selection of quotes from various columns and newspaper reviews. Initial scepticism about the casting (lots of quotes about Tristan Farnan battling Daleks etc.) seems to have eventually melted into acceptance of his portrayal, while good will for the show held strong right up to Davison’s eventual departure.

Walrus (1 min, 21 secs): An odd curio unearthed from the vaults of the BBC in which a Welsh woman is accosted by a Dalek who demands that she speak in a monotone accent like him or be exterminated!

Photo Gallery (5 mins, 16 secs): a selection of set design and production stills from this particular adventure.

All the usual PDF files of Radio Times listings are included and another minutely documented text-based production note commentary fills in any gaps about the production of this story you might have previously missed.

Whether you consider it worth picking up this box set of adventures -- all of which are already available in single edition copies -- depends on your hunger for exhaustive extras. Certainly, it’s hard to see anything but the slightest of improvements in the visual presentation of these re-mastered episodes. The extras themselves range from the riveting and fascinating to the utterly trivial as the team strive to provide a diverse mix of different documentary styles, but the good ones (such as the Davison career overview for which David Tennant has kindly made himself available) are definitely worthwhile. Those more interested in having all the classic Doctor Who adventures themselves in their collection, though, might want to save their pennies for forthcoming new releases rather than revisit these previously available titles.

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