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Doctor Who: Inferno - Special Edition [DVD]
Doctor Who: Inferno - Special Edition [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jon Pertwee
Price: £6.00

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile upgrade of a Pertwee classic., 8 Jun. 2013
Thanks to the BBC's ill-advised junking of massive numbers of programs in the 1970s,the season seven classic "Inferno" was one of a number of Pertwee adventures that, for a time, the BBC only held in black and white. Fortunately many of these were recovered from Canada in the early 1980s. However, these were adapted to the NTSC format to make them suitable for broadcast over there, and when converted back to our PAL format, suffered from a few unwelcome artifacts that tend to be an issue for these conversions - somewhat washed out colours, yellow skin tones and jagged movement. For the 2006 release, the BBC did their best to sort out these problems and improved the picture a lot. But time marches on, and technology now allows a better result than was possible in 2006. So the Restoration Team revisited the story. They used a procedure called "Vidfire" which is a computer program that smoothes out movement. Furthermore, they also used a method that had worked wonders with other stories such as "Inferno"s successor, "Terror of the Autons", synchronising the flawed colour with their high-definition monochrome recording, giving a sharper look to the colour.

Enough of the technical issues, what about the story ? This is simply a superb adventure, possibly the best of Pertwee's entire tenure. The basic premise - a drilling project unleashes doomsday upon the world - would have been difficult to sustain over seven episodes, so they came up with the imaginative idea of sending the Doctor into a parallel world (thanks to his continuing efforts to defy the Time Lords by getting the Tardis working again). In this other world we meet alternative versions of his colleagues who are not as likeable as those on "our" world.

Liz Shaw, instead of the warm, humourous, intelligent scientist we got to know during her brief tenure, is a cold, dispassionate person. The Brigadier, far from the fair UNIT commanding officer of the "real" world, is a bullying, fascistic coward. Benton is a violent thug. All of them are willing to assume that the Doctor is a spy and have him shot.

Professor Stahlman, the villain of the piece in both dimensions, is an incredibly rude and arrogant man. He is at odds with Keith Gold, the executive director, drilling consultant Greg Sutton, the Brig (whom he calls a pompous military idiot) and of course the Doctor. He simply will not listen to advice or warnings.

The production exudes an aura of impending disaster, and for once, thanks to the parallel world idea, we actually see the disaster happen rather than being averted. This could not have been done on Who too often, of course.

There are the usual features - a good commentary which was recorded some time ago and features the late Nicholas "Brigadier" Courtney and producer Barry Letts, an excellent (and longer than usual) "making of" documentary and part one of a Unit history (part two is on the Day of the Daleks DVD and we're still waiting for part three). All these were on the 2006 release, but here another feature has been added, in which Toby Hadoke reunites four members of the Havoc team who once again deliver superb stunt work here - boss Derek Ware, Stuart Fell, Roy Scammell and Derek Martin (now known to Eastenders fans as Charlie Slater) and is taught how to execute a stunt fall. An entertaining feature, but not one that on its own would justify purchase of the title for those who already have the 2006 release. What clinches it for me is the superb picture quality. Thoroughly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 1, 2014 11:11 AM GMT

Doctor Who - The Mind of Evil [DVD]
Doctor Who - The Mind of Evil [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jon Pertwee
Price: £6.00

61 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pertwee era completely in colour again at long last !!!, 3 Jun. 2013
As part of the BBC's misguided policy of destroying the master tapes of Doctor Who and many, many other programs in the 1970's, the colour masters of many Pertwee stories were junked. At one point only eight of the 24 adventures existed in full in colour in the BBC archives.

Things got better over the years. Colour copies of many of his stories were found in Canada and returned to the BBC - although these had been converted to the NTSC format and had lost some quality in the process. Other stories were recorded in the US by someone watching them on TV, and the colour signal from these was matched with the black-and-white recordings which had somehow - fortunately - escaped destruction. That left a few adventures with episodes only in black-and-white. Luckily technological innovation enabled colour versions being created of these, but the process is I believe time-consuming, expensive and requiring a lot of manual intervention.

The Mind of Evil is the last of this group of stories to receive the attention of the Recovery Team - on this occasion it was not individual episodes but all 6 that had no colour copies. And is a resounding triumph. They had to use the chroma-dot recovery technique for episodes 2-6 but for the first episode this was not possible and it had to be coloured by hand. I am pleased to say that the picture quality here is very good indeed. Episode one, surprisingly, looks the best of the lot.

As for the actual content, this is a superb example of early Pertwee. It shows the influence of James Bond, with its international political conferences, world-threatening super villain and cloak-and-dagger manoevering. Pertwee's doctor has really hit his stride by now, with his usual contempt for out-of-their-depth authority figures showing in his treatment of the ill-fated Professor Kettering. His love/hate relationship with the Brigadier is in full swing.

The other characters fare well too. Roger Delgado's Master, in only his second adventure, effortlessly exudes evil, although as usual he realises he's bitten off more than he can chew and has to get help from the Doctor. Katy Manning's Jo Grant was created when the production team concluded - wrongly in my opinion - that the character of Liz Shaw didn't work, but what we ended up with was one of the most memorable and likeable characters in the entire history of Who. Far from being the helpless airhead that detractors would have us believe, she is a brave, resourceful, intelligent, compassionate and loyal young woman - a real asset to the Unit team.

Speaking of whom - the Brigadier as usual plays a key role, marshalling his forces well and personally taking charge of the raid on the prison which turns the tables on the Master and the convicts. Yates and Benton spend the story taking criticism from the Brig, being shot at or attacked by psychic forces. Barnham, the first convict to be "treated" by the Keller machine, is a sympathetic character and I shared Jo's sadness when he dies at the end. The other major character is Harry Mailer, a tough, hard-bitten convict with little regard for the lives of those who get in his way, well played by William Marlowe, who contrary to reports elsewhere was not married to Fernanda Marlowe who played the minor character of Corporal Bell.

The commentary was, once again, recorded a few years ago, before the sad deaths of producer Barry Letts and Nick Courtney who played the Brigadier, and the former is happily part of it. So is Katy Manning, who reveals this is her favourite story, and I can't say I'm surprised at this. Script editor Terrance Dicks, director Tim Combe, Pik-Sen Lim who played the Master's accomplice Chin Lee, Fernanda Marlowe and stuntman Derek Ware (I should mention that his work and that of his Havoc team on this story is impeccable) make appearances too.

The making-of documentary "The Military Mind" features Courtney , Letts and Combe again, along with Lim and Marlowe, and director Tim Combe, but no Manning. It is interesting and entertaining but a little short. I felt sorry for Combe when he said he didn't get any more Who work after this due to the show exceeding its budget. There is a short "Now and Then" showing the many locations used, and a rather generic "Behind the Scenes" which was transmitted around the same time as the show itself.

Coming soon - Spearhead from Space on Blu-ray !!

With the release of this story on DVD, all of Pertwee's stories are represented in variable (but mostly very good) colour for the first time in decades. A true red-letter day.

I cannot recommend this one enough - I can't imagine any Who fan not liking it.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 1, 2014 11:12 AM GMT

Doctor Who: The Claws of Axos - Special Edition [DVD]
Doctor Who: The Claws of Axos - Special Edition [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jon Pertwee
Price: £7.00

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good year for Pertwee fans!, 22 Oct. 2012
2012 has been a good year for Pertwee fans in terms of Doctor Who DVD releases.

4 of the 5 stories unreleased on DVD at the start of the year now available in that format. A story with an episode unseen in colour by anyone anywhere since 1974 (Invasion of the Dinosaurs, just in case anyone didn't know (?). A story mostly only seen in black and white, or very poor colour, for decades, now painstakingly restored to DVD using the best technology available (Ambassadors). A re-restored Daemons, and a Death to the Daleks which is a massive improvement on the pretty poor VHS copy we had all got used to. A revamped Three Doctors with much more VAM than the somewhat sparse original.

And now here is the Claws of Axos, which also could have been better in terms of VAM on its original 2005 release, and also with image quality issues affecting episodes 2 and 3, of which the PAL tapes were wiped decades ago and the NTSC converted episodes had to be re-converted to PAL.

The new copy is not quite perfect - I doubt if those two middle episodes will ever match the other two in picture quality. I noticed in episode two at one point that Jon Pertwee's and Donald Hewlett's grey hair seemed to take on a blueish tinge, but we should not quibble. It's probably as good now as it will get and definitely better than the 2005 release.

The Axons are a somewhat unusual creation, having no humanoid features in their pure form, but appearing like golden humans initially. Apparently benevolent, but out to suck Earth dry. Terrance Dicks has rightly observed that most monsters seem to be coloured green - these are orange.

Characterisation is mostly good. Pertwee gets into his usual rage at another bureaucrat, in this case Mr Chinn from the MOD. However the latter is not quite as stupid as some similar characters in other stories and is a step ahead of Unit on a couple of occasions. Katy Manning's Jo Grant is a little wet and under-used in this story - although she too has a good go at Chinn at one point. She was to be much better used in future stories. The UNIT soldiers do their stuff very well as usual. The Master is in an unusual role here - a prisoner of the Axons simply trying to get out in one piece most of the time. Chinn I have already covered. Paul Grist's Filer doesn't really work for me - his transatlantic accent is so obviously fake and his role could have been taken by others in the plot. Donald Hewlett does fine as Hardiman, the boss of the complex. Fans of 70's comedy may remember he appeared as Colonel Reynolds, the commanding officer in charge of the Royal Artillery Concert Party in the sitcom It Ain't 'Alf Hot Mum alongside Windsor Davies from Evil of the Daleks who played his Sergeant Major. Bernard Holley had been in Tomb of the Cybermen but his character met an early demise and here he voices the Axons very well.

There is now a Making Of documentary, which is thoroughly enjoyable to watch - one of the best of the entire range. Katy Manning recalls with some hilarity the suggestive appearance of the open Axon spaceship, and the sight of Bernard Holley in what looked like a leotard. Paul Grist and Bernard Holley are also on hand to recall their respective appearances on the show and are engaging and entertaining raconteurs. Terrance Dicks and Paul Baker recall the latter's recruitment - along with Dave Martin - to the Who writing team and the difficulty of reconciling their fertile imaginations with the need to keep budgets tight. Director Michael Ferguson gets his second production on DVD in a month and has some interesting tales to tell as well.

I am not sure about Living with Levene, in which Toby Hadoke spends a day with John Levene, who played Sgt Benton in this and many other Who adventures in the 70's. He seems a nice, genuine guy, looking after his mother, cooking for her and Hadoke and taking the latter to play golf, but I don't think I would play this feature all that often.

The 2005 release had about half an hour of material from the raw recording tapes, featuring some extra material from the beginning, in which we see Filer introducing himself to Jo and more of Chinn's objections to Unit employing the Doctor. All this is present here, but there is much more - at least twice as much.

Remaining features were on the 2005 release. So we get - more interesting recollections from Ferguson about the directing challenges of this story, a
Now And Then featurette narrated by Katy Manning (who makes this segment less "impersonal" than usual), and a technical explanation of the challenges of optimising the picture quality from the NTSC conversion. This latter piece is an Easter Egg.

Not the best Pertwee story, but the VAM material makes up for it. 4 stars.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 1, 2014 11:13 AM GMT

Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death [DVD]
Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jon Pertwee
Price: £6.99

49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back in colour at long last !, 1 Oct. 2012
"The Ambassadors of Death" has a somewhat chequered history in more ways than one.

The credited writer, David Whitaker, had written for Doctor Who regularly during the Hartnell and Troughton eras, most recently in the latter's Cyberman tale "The Wheel in Space". However, despite his experience he was unable to present the production team with a script that satisfied them this time round and after a number of unsuccessful rewrites, they decided to cut their losses, pay him off and hand the task over to other writers.

The result was a number of writers becoming involved - Malcolm Hulke, Terrance Dicks and deputy script editor Trevor Ray. Two of these receive their overdue recognition on the sleeve of these discs.

The story shows the hand of Malcolm Hulke in some of its themes - such as xenophobia and characters who are not truly evil, but believe what they are doing is good. It also taps the then-current interest in space travel, driven by real-life contemporary events.

Characterisation is good. Pertwee's Doctor is not wholly likeable - witness the way he chews Cornish's head off in episode one. This abrasive streak was very noticeable in most of his stories, particularly early on. Liz is just fine as an assistant - brave and resourceful and not "over the heads" of the viewers as feared by producer Barry Letts. Sad Caroline John only got a year in the role, but if Letts hadn't chosen to terminate her contract she would have had to do so anyway due to her pregnancy (which he was unaware of). She was of course replaced by Katy Manning's Jo Grant, who was even more excellent albeit totally different. Nick Courtney's Brigadier is in fine form, sharing the action scenes with the "other ranks" rather than spending his time desk-bound handing out orders.

John Abineri is believable as General Carrington, who is genuinely fearful of the aliens and believes it is his moral duty to expose them and declare war on them on behalf of Earth. His main henchman, Reegan, is an impressively resourceful mercenary, who seems to be quite an athlete and also to understand rocket technology ! And despite his utter amorality, he somehow has a charm about him. Unusual, but good, that they both live at the end.

I said earlier this had a chequered history in more ways than one. Sadly, and unforgiveably, the BBC wiped the master tapes of many colour Pertwee stories. This one existed with a pristine colour episode one - one of the best of the entire Pertwee run - but the rest was represented only by black-and-white telerecordings and a rather dismal home recording made in the USA which was wrecked by long periods of bad interference throughout. Through a mixture of superimposing the colour onto the black and white for those segments of the US tape not ruined by interference, and the more recent "chroma dot" technology for the rest - along with a lot of manual tweaking by the brilliant Restoration Team - this story can now be seen in colour from start to finish. It's not perfect - as is the case with the recently-released "The Daemons" the fact that one episode is taken from the original masters shows up the shortcomings of the rest - but it's pretty damn good to these eyes. Almost like watching a new story.

The special features are a bit small in number, but good. Mary Whitehouse and others like her were beginning to turn their attention to Doctor Who at the time and some negative publicity resulted, as the Tomorrow's Times feature (well presented by former companion, and Blue Peter presenter Peter Purves) recalls.

The "making of" documentary focuses on the stunt team, appropriately so since they were featured so heavily in this show and rose superbly to the challenge. Fans of Eastenders will recognise Derek Martin on the commentary track - more recently he appeared as Charlie Slater for many years. The other thing about the commentary is that Caroline John, Nick Courtney and Peter Halliday are now sadly departed and it is poignant to listen to it and realise that.

The trailer for the story was recorded in audio at the time, by the sound of it it was done by pointing a mike at the TV speaker. This has been painstakingly synchronised to the restored picture.

Coming soon - an upgrade to the Claws of Axos, another classic Pertwee, but personally I think they should be concentrating on unreleased (on DVD) stories for now - top of my list being the story's predecessor, The Mind of Evil, which also requires the colour to be reconstituted from chroma dots (and entirely manually for episode one, which I gather Babelcolour is undertaking currently), and Terror of the Zygons from the Tom era.

Thoroughly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 1, 2014 11:10 AM GMT

Doctor Who - Death to the Daleks [DVD] [1974]
Doctor Who - Death to the Daleks [DVD] [1974]
Dvd ~ Jon Pertwee
Price: £6.00

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Pertwee's best but still worthwhile !, 24 Jun. 2012
"Death to the Daleks" has never been one of my favourite stories by my favourite Doctor. By the time it was made, Pertwee, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrence Dicks were virtually working out their notice and Dicks handed his duties on this one to Robert Holmes for the most part.

That said, there's no such thing as a bad Pertwee adventure in my book, just that some are better than others.

Characterisation is variable. Bellal is an interesting character and it's good that actor Arnold Yarrow is still able to give his view on things in the documentary (of which more later). Galloway is, shall we say, morally ambiguous, prepared to betray the surface Exxilons (who have admittedly killed two of his party by then), the Doctor and Sarah and the subterranean faction to get his hands on the parrineum. Very like the character of Avon in Blake's 7, of course a later Nation creation. Even when he redeems himself by a noble act of self-sacrifice at the end his motives are questionable. John Abineri was great in the (hopefully soon-to-be-released) Ambassadors of Death but here he has little to do and is killed off in the first half hour or so. Julian Fox and Joy Harrison are little more than cyphers. Pertwee seems to be a bit sub-par and Sarah is disappointing after her sparky performances in the two serials preceding this.

From a technical point of view the first thing to mention is how poor the picture quality was on the VHS release way back then - full of sparkle, dirt, scratches and other unwanted artifacts, but as usual the Restoration Team have worked their wonders on it and come up with a copy that is not only massively better but probably better than at the time of transmission. Superb.

Extras are good, but not spectacular. Amusing that they decided that the documentary presenter should be a Dalek voice ! They manage to get several of the crew back along with Julian Fox and Arnold Yarrow to represent the cast (the latter is in his nineties and many of his fellow-actors on this are sadly gone)
and there are some interesting stories to tell. The commentary suffers a little from the lack of the Doctor or his companion (in view of the sad demise of Caroline John recently it's good that the commentary for Ambassadors was done some time ago !) but it's the best line-up we could expect.
A long studio recording excerpt is here, and prominently features the late Chris D'Oyly John in charge of proceedings. Worth seeing.

Not perfect but still recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 24, 2012 11:50 AM BST

Doctor Who: Nightmare of Eden [DVD] [1979]
Doctor Who: Nightmare of Eden [DVD] [1979]
Dvd ~ Tom Baker
Price: £6.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag, 4 April 2012
Bit of a mixed bag all in all.

This show does have many of the problems that affected most of the Williams era. We have - poor production values (wobbly sets, the girl clutching the wrong part of her body after being shot, unconvincing monsters), hammy acting (Tryst's ridiculously fake accent means he cannot be taken seriously as a dangerous criminal and comes over as a fool instead) and misplaced, unfunny "humour" (the serial could have done without Tom Baker's ".. my everything" line in episode 4 for example).

Yet it cannot be dismissed quite so easily. David Daker's portrayal of the conscientious spaceship captain who thanks to drug addiction first becomes a giggling idiot and then into a violent, almost psychotic individual is most convincing. The scene where he confronts Romana, believing her to be able to provide him with another "fix", is quite chilling for its time, more reminiscent of past glories like "Seeds of Doom". The anti-drug message is one that I agree with and it was brave of Who to tackle such an issue.

As for the extras - I think they come across as perfunctory compared with what we have seen on other recent releases. The "making of" documentary is all over in about 13 minutes, shot against a boring plain white background and features only 3 of the main production team. All of whom believe that the whole thing was a disaster and that it was all someone else's fault. It's well-known that Alan Bromly quit the show (and his job soon after) after one heated argument with Tom too many, but the precise nature of their disagreements ? Unknown. It would have been good to have had one or two of the cast giving their tuppence worth on it, although I appreciate that Lalla and others are on the commentary. It was good to have the feature on Bob Baker going it alone, although this was short and we don't get much idea of why Dave Martin bailed out. The "strange love" feature I can take or leave - I don't dislike it strongly as others seem to.

The "coming soon" showcases the Ace boxset. I never liked the Sylvester era and nothing here is likely to make me change my mind. Michael Grade had this era of the show in mind I believe when he denounced it as rubbish on Room 101. Pity to give people like him ammunition.

Only 3 stars I think. Tom at his best was better than Pertwee or any other doctor in my opinion, but after Hinchcliffe left things were not the same for me, and Pertwee was much more consistent over his tenure of the role.

Doctor Who: The Dæmons [DVD]
Doctor Who: The Dæmons [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jon Pertwee
Price: £5.99

47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long overdue DVD now on the shelves !, 19 Mar. 2012
The Pertwee era is my favourite from Doctor Who - although the Tom era runs it close. The Daemons epitomises my first-hand memories of the show when I was a child - the Doctor/Jo pairing, the Master, Unit, but all fans of the show will know the plot.

The restoration is a step up again from the previous attempt 20 years ago - advances in technology having made this possible. For the first time, we see the raw material they had to work with and appreciate how much work has gone into this. See the decidedly mediocre picture quality on the Tomorrow's World clips, the terrible picture sparkle on the closing stages of the restoration test, and hear the wobbly sound particularly on the closing credits !.
To be picky, in general I think the location material looks a little inferior to the parts recorded in studio - just a little grainy, but nothing to worry about.

The extras are very well done. It's a pity that rights issues prevented Return to Devils End being included, but in its absense a nice "making of" story has been assembled - featuring some of the surviving cast and crew (but why no Stephen Thorne, who gave a good contribution to the recent Three Doctors rerelease ?). The tribute to Barry Letts is a fitting one to the late producer whom Who fans have much to thank for. And like the similar Hinchcliffe feature from the recently-released "Android Invasion" it prominently features his children, who knew him best. Some nice colour film from location,
the Tomorrow's World feature and colourisation test I have already mentioned and the usual photos and trailer (in this case for Nightmare of Eden) round things off.

Thoroughly recommended.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 1, 2014 11:15 AM GMT

Doctor Who Revisitations 3 (The Tomb of the Cybermen/The Three Doctors/The Robots of Death) [DVD]
Doctor Who Revisitations 3 (The Tomb of the Cybermen/The Three Doctors/The Robots of Death) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Patrick Troughton
Price: £13.99

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripe..., 14 Feb. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've not had time to watch yet (has anyone ?), but it looks as if the new features are well worth the price of admission and the picture quality is as good as it can possibly be - which is very very good indeed.

However, I do have a bit of an issue with the content. Past volumes of Revisitations (and "Mannequin Mania") have retained all the extra features of the initial editions of each story. These haven't. The
"Tomb" and "Three" upgrades have dropped the convention forums which were a part of each.

Was this done to reduce the running times of the first disc of each - and thus ensure picture quality was as good as possible ? Or because of budgetary and/or contractual considerations ? Whatever the reason it's a bit disappointing as I sold my initial versions of the three stories thinking everything on them would be duplicated on the new versions along with the admittedly excellent new material.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2012 1:55 PM BST

Doctor Who - U.N.I.T Files (Invasion of the Dinosaurs and the Android Invasion) [DVD]
Doctor Who - U.N.I.T Files (Invasion of the Dinosaurs and the Android Invasion) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jon Pertwee
Price: £11.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great colour in ep 1 !, 10 Jan. 2012
Have watched Dinosaurs episode 1 in colour - never thought I'd be doing that until a few years ago.
Very impressed with the quality - not perfect,granted, but perfectly OK. This augurs well for the future restorations of Ambassadors of Death and Mind Of Evil (they may not be able to do anything with episode 1 of the latter as the B&W recording has no chroma dots).

About to sit down and watch some of the rest. Looking forward to it.

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