06/24 of Tim Bradley's Amazon Advent Calendar 2014
This is one of my favourite trilogies from the Peter Davison era of `Doctor Who'!
I have fond memories watching this trilogy for the first time in the summer of 2009. It contains three exciting stories from the Fifth Doctor's second season and is the first three to feature Mark Strickson as new companion Turlough. It also features the main villain of the trilogy - the Black Guardian (played by Valentine Dyall)). `The Black Guardian Trilogy' has for me the happiest and saddest of times in `Doctor Who', especially as the second story includes the departure of Nyssa - my all-time favourite and much loved companion in `Doctor Who' - played by lovely Sarah Sutton!
I've recently seen Sarah at a convention in Brighton and have had all DVD covers of the three stories in the trilogy signed by her (the third I'll talk about later).
I enjoyed this first story in the trilogy very much. It's the first to feature Turlough and it's also the first to feature the return of the Black Guardian. It also features the return of an old favourite from the series - Nicholas Courtney reprising his role as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.
The Doctor is traveling in the TARDIS with his companions Nyssa and Tegan. They find themselves on an abandoned space ship going in a loop on an endless voyage. They discover a mystery connected to Earth in two time zones - 1977 and 1983 and meet up with Turlough an alien schoolboy from the planet Earth who's working as an agent for the Black Guardian. Separated from Nyssa and Tegan, the Doctor has to find a way to get his TARDIS back. He meets up with an old friend, the Brigadier, who is now a teacher at Turlough's school. Will the Doctor be able to survive the menace of Mawdryn?
`Mawdryn Undead' is a four-part story written by Peter Grimwade, who directed many `Doctor Who' stories including 'Earthshock'
. Grimwade previously wrote 'Time-Flight'
but felt he had done a bad job on it. Script Editor Eric Saward gave Grimwade another chance and he came up with `Mawdryn Undead' inspired by the Flying Dutchman legend. This story predates the fiddly timey-wimey stories by current show-runner Steven Moffat and is well directed by Peter Moffatt and has inspired me to write my own timey-wimey stories of `Doctor Who'.
This story features the return of the Brigadier. Nick Courtney returns to `Doctor Who' like he's never been away. He doesn't remember the Doctor when he meets him in 1983 and with prompting from the Doctor, an exciting flashback sequence with the Brigadier remembering occurs. I really like how Nick Courtney plays the Brigadier in this as he gets to play two versions of the character - from 1977 and 1983. I watched this story to commemorate the memory of Nick Courtney when he sadly passed away in 2011. This story features one of his best performances in the series.
Mark Strickson appears as Turlough for the first time in the series. I've had the pleasure of meeting Mark at a convention recently in Weston-super-Mare. Turlough is an alien public schoolboy who works for the Black Guardian as an assassin to kill the Doctor. Turlough is pretty devious, selfish and manipulative when introduced. He works for the Black Guardian so that he can get home. But he can't bring himself to kill the Doctor and is easily scared. He uses a crystal to communicate with the Black Guardian and can't seem to get rid of him. Tegan doesn't trust Turlough when she meets him.
The Black Guardian returns (played by Valentine Dyall)! He previously appeared in the `Doctor Who' story `The Armageddon Factor' at the end of 'The Key to Time'
series. The Black Guardian seeks revenge on the Doctor and employs Turlough to kill him. Valentine Dyall delivers a menacing, booming performance as the Black Guardian. His voice is so deep and rich and you really feel the power from him. I like his interaction with Turlough both on screen and off. The Black Guardian wears dark clothes and has a dead black crow on his head when appearing in the trilogy.
Mawdryn is played by David Collings. David has appeared twice before in `Doctor Who' and has played Legolas in the radio version of `The Lord of the Rings'. Mawdryn is a pretty tragic character, who is trapped aboard the spaceship with other aliens. He and his brothers tried to become Time Lords, and the result is they can never die. Mawdryn dupes his way to convince Nyssa, Tegan and the 1977 Brigadier that he is the Doctor. Mawdryn and his brothers want to die and plan to steal the Doctor's eight remaining regenerations to do that.
Peter Davison is brilliant in this! I really like how Peter's innocence as the Doctor. I like those scenes where the Doctor is with Nyssa and Tegan exploring the spaceship. He seems to accept Turlough quickly and is delighted when reuniting with his old friend - the Brigadier. I like Peter's Doctor and the Brigadier working together in this. I like how the Doctor works thing out with the connection between 1977 and 1983. Peter's Doctor is about to make a noble sacrifice to save Nyssa and Tegan.
Sarah Sutton is a joy to watch as Nyssa. She seems side-lined I'm afraid but I love her screen time in this story. I love Nyssa's costume in this story as it's a blue-grey jacket and skirt. She looks so lovely and glamorous in her new costume. I like her scenes where she's waiting around in the TARDIS looking after Mawdryn and waiting for Tegan. Nyssa gets to show her caring side in this story, especially when showing sympathy for Mawdryn. I love Sarah's performance as Nyssa in this story.
Something really horrible happens to Nyssa and Tegan. When the Doctor tries to escape in the TARDIS with the girls and the Brigadier, Nyssa and Tegan are infected and start to deform and decay like corpses, which is pretty horrible to watch and really scared me. Nyssa and Tegan also age younger and become children when the Doctor tries to escape again. The children versions of Nyssa and Tegan are really unconvincing as they don't look like Sarah or Janet Fielding as children at all.
The story ends with Mawdryn and his people dead and their ship blows up, and the Brigadier is restored to normal both in 1977 and 1983 and the timelines restored. The Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan return to find Turlough at the console in the TARDIS. Turlough asks the Doctor if he can join them. "I think you already have," says the Doctor. Nyssa and Tegan don't seem happy about Turlough being on board with them in the TARDIS, whilst the Doctor readily welcomes him.
`Mawdryn Undead' is a great story to kick off the trilogy. It's a great introduction to Turlough and features a superb return for the Brigadier and the Black Guardian. It's cleverly written by Peter Grimwade and well directed by Peter Moffatt. I enjoyed the timey-wimeyness of it as well as the school setting and the luxury of Mawdryn's spaceship. I was looking forward to seeing the next story of the trilogy, knowing it would be the sad departure of my favourite `Doctor Who' companion...
The special features on this DVD for `Mawdryn Undead' are as follows.
There are `audio options' including an enjoyable, entertaining commentary with Peter Davison, Mark Strickson, Nicholas Courtney and script editor Eric Saward. There's also an isolated music only option by Paddy Kingsland as well as `info-text' commentary option to enjoy featuring some lovely comments by Sarah Sutton about `Mawdryn Undead' from her interview in 'Doctor Who Magazine - Issue 110'
There's a making-of documentary on `Mawdryn Undead' called `Who Wants To Live Forever?', featuring interviews Peter Davison, Mark Strickson, Nicholas Courtney, David Collings; director Peter Moffatt; script editor Eric Saward; etc and is narrated by Floella Benjamin (from `The Sarah Jane Adventures').
There's a lovely special short drama called `Liberty Hall' that stars Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier with Simon Ockenden as journalist Phillip Clarke talking about his time at Brendon School. There's an impressive `CGI effects' option to watch as you watch `Mawdryn Undead' completely afresh with brand new CGI effects replacing the original video effects of the story.
There are some `deleted and extended scenes'; `film trims' and `out-takes' from the story's location filming. There are PDFs file including the `Radio Times Listings' of the story and some `CGI storyboards and Studio Floor Plans' which can be accessed via a PC or laptop. There are `continuity' announcements'; a `photo gallery' and `set photo gallery' from the story. There are two Easter Eggs found on the DVD special features menu to find and enjoy too.
Here's my first review of `Terminus' published in the `Galaxy Forum' of `Doctor Who Magazine, Issue 413', September 2009.
"I've just watched `Terminus', part of `The Black Guardian Trilogy' DVD, and the thing that stood out for me in that story was Nyssa. She's my favourite `Doctor Who' companion. I felt heartbroken when she made the decision to stay on `Terminus'.
I love Nyssa! I've listened to the Big Finish dramas starring Sarah Sutton and Peter Davison, and Nyssa for me has become a well-developed character. Her gentleness and compassionate nature is what, for me, makes a `Doctor Who' companion."
TIM BRADLEY, CARDIFF
I was delighted to find my letter in DWM. My name was print as well as my appreciation for Nyssa. I was in tears from watching `Terminus'. I didn't want Nyssa to go. It made me realise Nyssa was my favourite `Who' companion and made me want to write a letter to her and see Sarah at conventions. When I asked Sarah to sign the DVD cover of `Terminus' for me in Brighton, I showed my DWM letter to her. She read it and thanked me saying it was really sweet of me. I've seen Sarah at lots of conventions over the years and have become her biggest fan.
`Terminus' is the second of the trilogy and a four-part adventure by Steve Gallagher. Steve wrote `Warriors' Gate' before this and here he delivers an intriguing sci-fi tale and one that I could follow about a bleak society in the future and depicting the heart-breaking departure of Nyssa.
The story continues with Turlough working for the Black Guardian and trying to kill the Doctor. He sabotages the TARDIS and puts Nyssa into danger when working in her bedroom. Nyssa escapes through a door and finds herself on a spaceship. She's soon joined by the Doctor as the spaceship gets boarded by space pirates. They are on their way to Terminus where all the Lazars come to die!
The futuristic setting is pretty bleak and depressing. Terminus is supposed to be a hospital to cure those with Lazar's disease. But the Lazars are stored and left to rot. It's a pretty run-down place and the company that owns Terminus is only interested in money. The concept of Lazar's disease is pretty frightening as it's a form of leprosy, which was pretty contagious during Biblical times. The idea of a futuristic society still heavily infected with the leprosy disease is chilling to contemplate.
It turns out that Terminus is at the centre of the universe and caused the Big Bang to happen. Whether you believe this or not is up to you (I personally don't). In the story, the threat is that Terminus could destroy the universe with another `big bang', and the Doctor and Kari have to stop a great big lever from destroying the universe.
This story suffered a troubled production as it was heavily affected by industrial action. It was a stressful time for director Mary Ridge who made this her first and only contribution to the series. Delays and production problems occurred that caused stress for everyone, and it didn't make things easier for Sarah Sutton's departure story as Nyssa which is a real shame.
The guardians of Terminus are the Vanir, who are a group of humanoids running the space station. They wear skeletal armour that protects them from radiation. The Vanir depend on a drug called hydromel which is meant to keep them alive. Some of the Vanir are very unsympathetic including their leader Eirak (played by Martin Potter). The rest of the Vanir include Valgard (Andrew Burt); Sigurd (Tim Munro) and Bor (Peter Benson from `Heartbeat').
There is a hulking dog-like beast on Terminus called the Garm (played by R.J. Bell). The Garm looks pretty impractical with its oversized dog head, but I found it frightening to look at. The Garm is meant to save the Lazars from their leprosy and is summoned by the Vanir through a signal box to do their bidding. The Doctor and Kari enlist the Garm's help to save the universe as he has `the strength of a giant'. I found that scene exciting and intense with the Garm pulling that red lever.
The story guest stars Liza Goddard and Dominic Guard as space pirates Kari and Olvir. Both Kari and Olvir meet the Doctor and Nyssa when they board the spaceship. They split up as Kari joins the Doctor and Olvir joins Nyssa. Kari helps the Doctor to save the universe, whilst Olvir rescues Nyssa captured by the Vanir and to be sacrificed for the Garm
Sarah's lovely as Nyssa in this. It's a shame this happens to be Nyssa's last story. It wasn't Sarah's decision to leave as it was made for her, and the problems making this story didn't help. I have sympathy for Sarah. I really love her performance in this and enjoyed the scenes she shared with Peter's Doctor. I felt for Nyssa when she was with Lazar's disease and being chained up to be sacrificed for the Garm. I wanted to be Olvir and rescue Nyssa when she calls for help.
I won't say much about Nyssa taking her skirt off. All I will say is I found her really sexy in this story.
Nyssa's farewell scene was heart-breaking to watch. She decides to stay on Terminus to help the people with Lazar's disease and to use her to make it a better hospital. Tegan begs Nyssa not to go and the Doctor is clearly saddened. But Nyssa is `adamant' in her decision and shares a tearful farewell with Tegan and the Doctor. I really was in tears when I saw this first time. Nyssa has had this life in Big Finish audios that have greatly developed her character, which I'm very happy about.
`Terminus' is a deeply gut-wrenching and heart-breaking story for me to feature Nyssa's exit from the series. I was so sad to see how Nyssa left and as the Doctor says, she's `a very brave person'. I didn't want Nyssa to go and Sarah is a lovely actress and person. I will always be grateful to this story as it started for me to go to conventions and share my fondness of Nyssa with Sarah. It was so heart-breaking watching this story, as the trilogy was coming to an end...
The special features on this DVD for `Terminus' are as follows.
There are `audio options' including an enjoyable commentary with Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Mark Strickson (Turlough) and writer Stephen Gallagher. There's also an isolated music only option composed by Roger Limb and an `info-text' commentary option to watch.
There's a making-of documentary on `Terminus' called `Breaking Point' and features interviews with Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Mark Strickson, writer Stephen Gallagher, etc. The documentary is narrated by Flloella Benjamin.
There's a short featurette called `Origins of the Universe' which I found a little boring. There are some `original storyboards' and `unused model shots' from the story. There's a `CGI Effects' option to watch that replaces the original dodgy video effects with new ones.
There's a `Radio Times' listings PDF document of the story that can be accessed via a PC or laptop. There are some `continuity' announcements as well as a `photo gallery' to enjoy. There also some Easter Eggs to look out for the special features menu of the DVD.
Find out what happens to Nyssa in 'The Darkening Eye'
that takes place after `Terminus'.
`Enlightenment' is the third and final story in `The Black Guardian Trilogy' and is considered to be the most imaginative and creative out of the three stories.
This is a 2-disc DVD edition with Disc 1 containing the standard four-part story and Disc 2 containing a special edition version of the story.
I must admit I found it hard watching `Enlightenment' as I was upset with Nyssa leaving in `Terminus'. I couldn't enjoy this one since she wasn't it and there wasn't even a reference to her. I wish Nyssa was in `Enlightenment' as I'm sure Sarah would enjoy doing this story with the nice period costume style of drama and would have looked lovely wearing a ball gown like Janet Fielding did as Tegan. This story came after Sarah left the series and it all seems unfair somehow.
But after watching `Enlightenment' a number of times, I really enjoyed this story by Barbara Clegg. The concepts and ideas are well conceived and realised and Barbara delivers a fascinating and invigorating story with sailing ships in space on a race for Enlightenment. The story is also well directed by Fiona Cumming who puts her heart and soul into making this adventure and it's beautifully made in terms of pace and drama.
`Enlightenment' is a story about the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough receiving a message from the White Guardian who tells them to stop something terrible from happening. The TARDIS team arrive on an Edwardian sailing ship that is in space along with more sailing ships from other time periods. They meet the Eternals who are in a race in space against each other for the prize of Enlightenment. Will Turlough kill the Doctor or endure agony from the menace of the Black Guardian?
I really like the intriguing concepts running through the story, especially with the Eternals who are a race of beings from the void. They play on the minds of humans and use them to exist in our reality. They kidnap the human crews of the various sailing ships that take part in the race. They are selfish and easily bored when playing on the minds of humans. The concept of Enlightenment is mind-boggling as the prize could mean anything and how easily corrupt one can be to obtain it.
I like some of the historical aspects of the story. Fiona Cumming has realised the familiar feel of the Edwardian and Jacobean ships really well. The party sequence (which feels Christmassy) has the floating incidental music in the background and seeing all those Eternals in various period costumes from human history is a real treat. Seeing the sailing ships racing through space is pretty exciting to watch and you wonder who's going to win Enlightenment.
Peter Davison's extremely good as the Doctor in this. His Edwardian manner and cricketing appearance blends in well aboard the Edwardian ship. I like the Doctor's relationship with the Eternals and how he challenges them with the likes of Captain Striker calling them parasites. I also like the Doctor's relationship with his companions as he shows concern for Tegan when troubled by the Eternals and observes Turlough on the choices he makes.
Janet Fielding as Tegan gets to have her own story as she's troubled by the Eternals reading her thoughts. She's anxious about first mate Marriner showing an interest in her and I like their relationship is played out as he keeps on reading her thoughts and she doesn't like it. The character development's really good and you wonder if Marriner's in love with Tegan. When Tegan puts the question to him, it turns out he doesn't know what `love' is and only wants Tegan in order to exist.
Mark Strickson as Turlough has come a long way since the trilogy began. He's got to know the Doctor more and can't bring himself to kill him. He's tormented by the Black Guardian and attempts to commit suicide by throwing himself overboard in order to be free from his agreement. There's a tense moment when Turlough's locked in a chamber with a vacuum shield and he cries out begging for the Doctor to save him, to which he eventually turns up to find him.
The individual Eternal characters are pretty interesting and well performed by the actors. There's Keith Baron who plays Captain Striker of the Edwardian ship and delivers a `strikingly eternal' performance. There's Christopher Brown who plays Marriner, the first mate aboard the Edwardian ship and finds Tegan very fascinating. There's Lynda Baron who plays Captain Wrack of the Jacobean pirate ship, the Buccaneer, who's pretty ruthless in the race for Enlightenment. And there's Leee John who plays Mansell, Wrack's first mate aboard the Buccaneer who's ruthless with a sword.
The story concludes with the White and Black Guardian appearing at the finishing line. The White Guardian is played again by Cyril Luckham (who appeared in `The Ribos Operation' of `The Key To Time' series). The White Guardian wears a dove on his head, compared to the Black Guardian who wears a crow. I like the confrontation between these two and seeing the two actors Cyril Luckham and Valentine Dyall opposite each other was spell-binding to watch.
I also liked it when the Doctor meets the two Guardians at the end and especially confronts the Black Guardian. The White Guardian soon sends the Eternall back to the void, before offering a share of Enlightenment to Turlough. Turlough makes a choice as to whether to choose Enlightenment over the Doctor. It's a defining moment for Turlough's character. Will Turlough accept Enlightenment and sacrifice Doctor or will he refuse it and end his contract with the Black Guardian?
`Enlightenment' is a great story to watch concluding `The Black Guardian Trilogy'. It's a great story for Turlough that concludes his eventful journey over twelve episodes with the Doctor and the Black Guardian. It's an imaginative tale with and creative ideas in terms of writing by Barbara Clegg and direction by Fiona Cumming. It definitely is the strongest story and ends the trilogy on a high. Just remember though, "Enlightenment is not the diamond, enlightenment is the choice'.
The special features on the 2-disc edition of the DVD for `Enlightenment' are as follows.
On Disc 1, as well as the standard four-part version of the story, there are some `audio options' including an enjoyable commentary with Peter Davison, Mark Strickson, writer Barbara Clegg and director Fiona Cumming. There's also an isolated music only option composed by Malcolm Clarke as well as an info-text commentary option to watch during the story.
There's a making-of documentary on `Enlightenment' called `Winner Takes All' and features interviews with Peter Davison, Mark Strickson, Janet Fielding, director Fiona Cumming, writer Barbara Clegg, etc. The documentary is narrated by Floella Benjamin. There's `Casting Off!', which is an additional feature looking into the cast of `Enlightenment' featuring interviews with Peter, Janet, Mark and director Fiona Cumming as well as Keith Barron, Christopher Brown and Leee John.
There's `Single Write Female' which features an interview with Barbara Clegg looking back on her writing career as well as her work on `Enlightenment'. There's `The Story of the Guardians' which looks into the White and Black Guardians in `Doctor Who' played by Cyril Luckham and Valentine Dyall and includes interviews with Robert Luckham (Cyril Luckham's son) and Sarah Leppard (Valentine Dyall's daughter), Shame they didn't mention the recent Big Finish stories with the Guardians including `The Key 2 Time' season.
There are `storyboards', a multi-angle feature narrated by visual effects supervisor Mike Kelt who explains how he did storyboarded the model shots for Enlightenment. On this disc there's a PDF document that includes the `Radio Times Listings' of the story that can be accessed via PC or laptop. There's also a photo gallery of the story, and two Easter Eggs to look for on the special features menu of the disc.
On Disc 2, there's a very special treat. There's a brand-new feature-length version of `Enlightenment' made especially for this DVD by director Fiona Cumming. It is a 75-minute version of the story and contains brand new CGI effects and a new Dolby Digital 5.1. surround sound option to enjoy. I enjoyed watching this new version of `Enlightenment' by Fiona Cumming. I was expecting it to be a longer version of the story with new additional scenes in it. It feels more like a new series episode or a Christmas special since it lasts for 75 minutes. But it's enjoyable all the same and I like how Fiona Cumming's reshaped the story with new CGI effects; incidental music and tightening it in terms of editing. There's a short introduction by Fiona Cumming at the start before the episode begins.
The rest of the special features include `Re-Enlightenment', which is a behind-the-scenes look into how Fiona Cumming discusses with her production team on making the special edition of `Enlightenment'. There's also an `original edit comparison' focusing on the opening of `Part Three' of `Enlightenment' as well as some `film trims' taken from the filming sequences of the story.
There are two very special interviews of two `Doctor Who' companions who look back over their acting careers that are called `Finding Mark Strickson' and `Finding Sarah Sutton'. I enjoyed Mark Strickson's interview very much and found him an interesting person especially since he's recently become a producer of wild life and nature films being made in his current home of New Zealand.
The highlight of this DVD for me is the `Finding Sarah Sutton' interview. I asked Sarah to sign the DVD cover of `Enlightenment' for me at Brighton recently. I know Sarah's not in `Enlightenment', but I wanted to sign the DVD cover because her interview was on it. To be honest, her interview shouldn't be on the `Enlightenment' DVD. It should really be on the `Terminus' one. Sarah however was very happy and signed the back of the `Enlightenment' DVD cover where the `Finding Sarah Sutton' interview was displayed. It's a lovely interview with Sarah who talks about her acting career from being in ballet school to `The Moon Stallion' and `Doctor Who'. I liked it when Sarah talks about the Big Finish audios at the end and they showed 'The Land of the Dead'
and 'Circular Time'
(my favourite) during her interview. Adding to what Sarah said at the end of her interview, I'll always have fond memories of her being Nyssa in and being a lovely lady to meet at conventions.
There's also `Russell Harty's Christmas Party' that is except from the Christmas show which has Peter Davison and his then wife Sandra Dickinson performing a song and dance routine from a pantomime production of `Cinderella' that they did together. There are also `continuity' announcements from the story as some PDF materials including `The Radio Times Doctor Who 20th Anniversary Special' (which I got as a physical collector's item) and the `Doctor Who office Production Bible' which can be accessed via PC or a laptop.
There's an Easter Egg on this disc, which is a photo gallery showing the making of `The Black Guardian Trilogy' DVD Box Set. This contains behind-the-scenes photos of the making of `Liberty Hall' (from `Mawdryn Undead') and photos of the `Re-Enlightenment' documentary with Fiona Cumming (from Disc 2 of `Enlightenment'). There are also photos of the cast and crew being interviewed for the `making-of documentaries' of the three stories in the trilogy. There are some lovely shots of Sarah being interviewed for `The Black Guardian Trilogy' DVD which were a joy to see for me.
`The Black Guardian Trilogy' is definitely one of my favourite box set trilogies from `Doctor Who'. From the cleverness of `Mawdryn Undead'; to the heart-breaking departure of Nyssa in `Terminus' to the imaginativeness of `Enlightenment' (including the special edition), I hold fond memories of this trilogy. It prompted me to see Sarah Sutton at conventions and I've enjoyed going to them. I'm glad Sarah's signed all three of the DVD covers for me.
All three stories have a `Coming Soon' trailer for the next `Doctor Who' DVD - `The Twin Dilemma'.
The next story for the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough is 'Freakshow'