1970's Inferno is yet another classic Jon Pertwee serial, it concerns a certain Professor Stahlman penetrating the crust of the earth and unleashing the natural gas that is located there. Unfortunately for the good prof, his plans are hampered somewhat by the Doctor and UNIT, as well as the primitive primords that have been created through exposure to some kind of green super gunk. Overall, the 7 part story holds itself together rather well and does not drag in places like other serials of said length. I would even go so far as to say that this story could do with an extra couple of episodes to pan out events further.
Jon Pertwee is as ever on fine form here, playing the Doctor with such ferocious seriousness that he upstages everyone surrounding him. The story's villain, Professor Stahlman is wonderfully brought to life by actor Olaf Pooley, his scenes with Jon Pertwee's Doctor are priceless and some of the more genuinely funny moments of the series. Nick Courtney's Brigadier is also a charming aspect to this classic yarn, by now the Doctor and the Brig have settled in to their roles wonderfully and bounce off each other beautifully. Also of note is Caroline John, this being her final adventure in Doctor Who. Liz brings a much needed woman's touch to the concrete and steel setting of this cold story. It was a shame that she never got to appear in another series alongside Pertwee as the two of them work wonderfully on screen together and right from the start she was portrayed as a strong and intelligent woman. Barry Letts felt that the character did not work alongside the Third Doctor and so for the start of season 8, Katy Manning assumed the role of the dolly bird and dependent Jo Grant. I can see now this was the right choice. How could you not love Katy.
The bleak setting for this adventure is the main reason why it works so well, the cold atmosphere of 1970's commercial manufacturing is a brilliant setting for such a serious adventure. Some of the best scenes are set up on top of the cooling towers, the Doctor fighting with the infected humans / Primords makes for some thrilling viewing. As for the design work done for the story, its very apt, the creepy studio sets are just as enthralling as the sublime location work. Director Douglas Camfield is no newby to the demands that as show like Doctor Who requires to sustain its imaginative flow, having been associated with the show as far back as the early Hartnell years he was no doubt one of the greatest directors the programme ever boasted in its arsenal. His flair with the camerawork is unique, as is the performances he gets out of his actors. A man with every little detail explored and no stone unturned. Needless to say this is some of his finest work on the series. When Barry Letts took over in episode 3, there was a distinct change in direction, no worst at all as I love Barry's direction, but the two men were different in their approach.
The BBC DVD release of this classic story boasts the 7 part serial in fully remastered and restored fashion, having been "cleaned up" by the Doctor Who Restoration Team, its never looked better. The documentaries are informing but more importantly entertaining, special note must go to the UNIT family doco. Lovely stuff.
All in all then, this masterpiece of the 1970's is a sure enough welcome to the ever expanding range of Doctor Who DVD's that we are currently drowning in. Highly recommended.
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