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Doctor Who: Ace Adventures - Dragonfire / The Happiness Patrol [DVD] [1987]
Doctor Who: Ace Adventures - Dragonfire / The Happiness Patrol [DVD] [1987]
Dvd ~ Sylvester McCoy
Price: £16.82

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two great stories., 26 April 2012
Two stories from the late 1980s starring Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred.

"Dragonfire" sees the Doctor and Mel arrive on Iceworld where they soon become entangled in a hunt of the fabled treasure guarded by a mysterious dragon. They also meet Ace, explosives expert and gung-ho adventurer. This is a fine tale, holds the attention all the way through. Yes, so it contains what may be the silliest cliffhanger in Dr Who history (unless you count the bath-mat in "Death to the Daleks") and if you haven't seen "Aliens" then the in-jokes involving the little girl will go completely over your head. But it's well-written, looks and sounds great, the dialogue sparkles and Kane is one of the most memorable original villains of the McCoy years. It's nice to see Glitz again as well. It's certainly a credit to the production team that the "melting face" scene (despite the low budget) manages to look much better than the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" version which inspired it.

"The Happiness Patrol" is one of those stories which works on two levels. On the one hand it's a colourful adventure full of outlandish characters and monsters. On the other, it's a sharp and astute political/social satire on all things bland, phoney and shallow (including Thatcherism). I'm sure many will shed a tear during Susan Q's 'meaningless smile' speech in the first episode, or when Helen A (a memorable villain) ultimately discovers she is human after all. Whether they should have stuck to the original Kandyman design is something that's open to debate, but he is without doubt unlike anything ever seen in Dr Who and is certainly the best and most hilariously obnoxious "grotesque" in the show since Sil.

Overall, this is well worth the money. The imagination and creativity of the McCoy era in the face of tight budgets and a hostile BBC really comes over in these stories.

Doctor Who - Arc Of Infinity [1983] [VHS]
Doctor Who - Arc Of Infinity [1983] [VHS]

2.0 out of 5 stars Dull., 22 April 2012
In an interview Peter Davison claimed his second season of Dr Who was what caused him to hand in his notice and only stay for one more season. Given stories like this one, I can't say I blame him.

The worst excesses of the early 1980s are all too obvious here. We have "real science" which is in fact nonsense used to cover the holes in a daft plot. Gallifrey is reduced to what looks like the inside of an office block, the Matrix is turned from a nightmare world into a bad special effect (the Doctor spends half an episode sitting there 'wobbling'). Omega has none of the presence he had in his earlier story. In fact this tale could have been written for any villain. Omega happened to be flavour of the month at the time because "The Three Doctors" had recently been repeated. This story is partially set in Amsterdam, even though there's no real reason for it to be. Why spend half the year's budget going to Amsterdam just so Peter Davison can walk around with Rice Crispies glued to his face? There's also a monster which looks like a very low-budget attempt to re-create "Alien" and Tegan turns up again. Whether that's a good thing or not is really open for debate.

On the plus side Nyssa is finally given something useful to do, Peter Davison does a good job in his two roles and it's interesting to see Colin Baker put in a pre-Doctor appearance. But overall this is slow and mostly rather dull.

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: £13.88

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dinosaurs and tin men., 21 April 2012
I remember reading the Target novel "Dr Who and The Dinosaur Invasion" as a child and being hooked. When I saw the original TV version of the story some years later I had mixed feelings about it. The first episode of "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" is great. It has a moody deserted London and the sinister prospect of military law. In fact the story as a whole is mostly quite entertaining, if often for the wrong reasons. On the plus side, UNIT feels more like the real UNIT again and there are strong performances from the guest cast (excluding of course the Cockney medieval peasant, but he thankfully only appears briefly).

The real problem are the dinosaurs themselves. Dr Who seemed to have resorted to crowd-pleasing gimmicks in using dinosaurs as its "monsters", and the same season also resorted to the use of spiders (another over-abused horror/sci-fi icon). The production team were apparently approached by a freelance animator who claimed he could provide realistic dinosaurs, although how anyone really thought they could achieve anything remotely resembling Harryhausen-like effects on a BBC budget and with only a few months grace is perplexing. The dinosaurs are not only stiff and awkward, they are quite obviously incapable of moving fast. This is especially problematic when cliffhangers revolve around the Doctor being "cornered" by a T-Rex. You find yourself feeling he could escape by just walking leisurely away. Maybe the creatures would have been more effective if they had simply looked more believable, but they just resemble crudely-designed rubber toys. The less said about the T-Rex/Apatosaurus battle the better.

There are some good ideas, such as Sarah being trapped by a T-Rex, and she has the opportunity to use her journalistic skills. Also, her waking up on a spaceship three months out from Earth is a great cliffhanger. But episode five could have been lost without affecting the story. And we also have the Whomobile. I won't pretend I've ever been a fan of this. It just looks gimmicky and tacky. If the Doctor had to have a flying machine then something like the Skimmer in "Supergran" would be far more in keeping with his character.

Overall then a fairly entertaining story. You'll probably appreciate it more if you're a fan of rubber monster movies.

The second story on this set sees Tom Baker finding what appears to be Earth but what is in fact a duplicate created by a race of android-building rhino people. I will confess to being confused by this story's inclusion in a "UNIT" DVD set. as the Brigadier (surely the backbone of UNIT) doesn't appear, not even in android form. Something like "Terror of the Zygons", which has a similar "dulpicate" theme would have been a safer bet. "The Android Invasion" is not a great story. To be honest by this point in the series Terry Nation's "plague as weapon" ideas were becoming a bit predictable. The story doesn't make a lot of sense - why bother going to the trouble of building all those androids if you can just wipe everyone out with a virus? Especially seeing as the androids' faces fall off so easily, as demonstrated by Sarah's duplicate. Other things which come across as silly involve a man who doesn't realise he still has two good eyes (does he wear that patch in the shower and in bed?). And a man walks off a cliff for no apparent reason (other than to provide us with a mystery). But overall this four-parter entertains and never lapses into the silliness of certain later Tom Baker stories.

Doctor Who - Death to the Daleks [DVD] [1974]
Doctor Who - Death to the Daleks [DVD] [1974]
Dvd ~ Jon Pertwee
Price: £6.99

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not "bad" as such, but...., 13 April 2012
There's a rumour Dr Who writer/script editor Robert Holmes came up with the title "Death to the Daleks" hoping this would be the end of them. In fact a game devised by fans of the series involves guessing at which point in this story Jon Pertwee decided to hand in his notice.

Not that this story isn't without its good points. The first episode is great, has a real feeling of rawness, mystery and suspence, and the scenes with the religious fanatic natives are well-done and quite creepy. In a way it predates the far more gothic-feeling Hinchcliffe era of Dr Who stories. The idea of the Daleks being powerless is an interesting one, and seeing them armed with real weapons (machine-guns) as opposed to sci-fi lasers is effective. Also intriguing is the idea of a society being fragmented and driven to dark corners by a city which has become a living thing.

The problem is that this story would have been more interesting as a tale concerning the living city. The Daleks in this story are just there as a crowd-pleaser. Not only that, but they come across as feeble. One of the Daleks, upon discoverings a prisoner has escaped, has a nervous breakdown and self-destructs rather than informing its superiors or mounting a search. There is also a scene in which a Dalek explodes apparently because some natives hit it with sticks (Dalek armour has survived far worse). What makes it worse is the strange choice of theme tune accompanying the Daleks and the fact the tacky-looking bright silver casings are used rather than the far more dramatic gunmetal-grey versions. Later episodes feel padded, full as they are of all the usual Terry Nation "Daleks enslave and kill people" and the "goody" space travellers are kind of wooden (apart from Galloway, who at least has some dramatic edge).

This might be worth a look if you're a fan. It's mildly entertaining and has its moments. And let's face, the Doctor impersonating a cricket commentator whilst a Dalek battles a killer vacuum cleaner on a string is the kind of thing that makes dodgy sci-fi films worth seeing.

Doctor Who - Complete Series 6 [DVD]
Doctor Who - Complete Series 6 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Matt Smith
Offered by FLASH
Price: £24.37

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some great episodes, but others...., 2 April 2012
All thirteen episodes of Series 6 plus the Christmas special from the previous year and various extras including four commentaries and some behind-the-scenes stuff.

This series started out very promising. In the first episode we go to the US, meet President Nixon, see the Doctor apparently dying and come across some quite creepy aliens. Indeed, the episodes in this series all look and sound great, with some interesting designs and fantastic locations. But the problem is that it's all become completely wrapped up in continuity. The best episodes in Series 6 by far are the self-contained ones. For example, Night Terrors effectively turns a child's playroom into something sinister, whilst The God Complex is an interesting take on the Minotaur myth.

But I can't help feeling that all too many of these episodes are made with the trailers in mind. The writers find various things that will look good on the adverts, and then when you tune in you find they're just incidental. Adverts of Season 6 featured Hitler, Weeping Angels, Cybermen and a Dalek. But then tune in and you discover they all make only fleeting appearances. The Cybermen, when they finally appear for any length of time, are reduced to figures of fun. "Let's Kill Hitler" is a River Song vehicle which might as well have been set in modern-day Cardiff. Ah yes. River Song. Am I the only one who's sick and tired of Moffat being more interested in his own creations than he is in the Doctor? After four seasons of strong female companions, Amy seems like a return to the bad old days of "there to get the Dads watching". And whilst River Song worked with David Tennant, there's no chemistry at all between her and Matt Smith. As for Rory. If he died yet again, would we notice? The new Tardis interior design is still there. I've nothing against changing the Tardis interior, but the previous 'organic/coral' theme looked great. This new version resembles a shopping mall display.

Story arcs are okay if they're subtle (Bad Wolf, for example, and the Saxon thread in Series 3), but the arc in this series is just long-drawn-out, in-your-face, puts off the casual viewer and when you do work out what the heck it's about you find it makes no sense whatsoever. Questions go un-answered and some of it just doesn't work. For example, Amy reacts to the news she will lose her child with no emotion at all. And the finale? The Doctor marries River Song for no apparent reason, there's a blue head in a box (who would have made no sense to you if you saw it on the telly and hadn't seen an episode broadcast several months previously) and every event in history is happening at the same time. Looks great, but once again the audience are treated like idiots "because we're not clever enough to understand timey-wimey" or whatever other non-explanation is thrown in alongside the kitchen sink.

I'd also like to ask why there are so few commentaries? Most of the earlier seasons had a commentary for every episode.

Whether this DVD set is worth the money really depends on how much of a fan you are. There are some genuinely great episodes, and the take on A Christmas Carol is fun. But I can't help feeling Matt Smith (who has the potential to be a great Doctor) is just playing a supporting role.

Doctor Who - The E-Space Trilogy (Warriors' Gate / Full Circle / State of Decay) [VHS] [1963]
Doctor Who - The E-Space Trilogy (Warriors' Gate / Full Circle / State of Decay) [VHS] [1963]

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One good, two a bit dodgy, 30 Mar. 2012
Fan legend has it that Dr Who was given a new lease of life in 1980 when a new production team took over, and that the camp and pantomime that went before was replaced by a golden age. What actually happened was that Dr Who became po-faced, obsessed with continuity and full of bad science which was supposed to be clever but which just irritated the casual viewer and patronised anyone who could understand it and could see the flaws in it. Say what you like about Season 17, its stories all at least had a sense of fun. Though the 1980s did return to creative story-telling, most of Season 18 is "flawed open university modules" at its worst. The Doctor no longer wears the sort of clothes you could pick up anywhere, is now clad in a superhero's uniform complete with silly question marks. Several of his companions over the next two years would also don specially-designed costumes.

Full Circle is a 'homage' to Creature From The Black Lagoon concerning a spacecraft and a people who live in fear of the 'mists' which bring with them the dreaded marshmen. This story introduces us to new companion Adric. He was envisaged as an artful dodger. Perhaps someone should have told that to the script-writers. He comes across as arrogant, whiney and downright irritating. He is easily the least likeable of the teenaged gang, when surely he should be the one our sympathies lies with. Child genuises never work because it's impossible for the viewer to identify with them. Nice to see George Baker make a guest appearance, but otherwise this story is just a jumble of scientific twaddle and rubber spiders.

Warrior's Gate? It's the story where Romana and K9 leave. There are lion-faced aliens, pocket universes in mirrors and paper landscapes. It manages to be mildly entertaining.

By far the best of these three stories is State Of Decay, Dr Who's homage to vampires. There's an intriguing plot, some memorable villains and probably more blood than you've ever seen in Dr Who.

Nil By Mouth [1997] [DVD]
Nil By Mouth [1997] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ray Winstone
Offered by HalfpriceDVDS_FBA
Price: £11.87

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Has its moments, but mostly dull, 9 Jan. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Nil By Mouth [1997] [DVD] (DVD)
Whether or not you like this film all rather depends on the kind of thing you're looking for.

If you want constant repetative use of the f-word, then this is for you. I've nothing against f-words, but when they crop up every other sentence and are used so frequently you'd think it's doomsday they just become tedious. I'd prefer a hard-hitting film with good characters and a decent storyline. This is little more than a series of violent set-pieces held together by a very thin plot. It's true that the talented cast do the best with the material they're given, and manage to make this watchable at least once (the 'nil by mouth' scene itself, with Ray Winstone's character remembering his father, is well-written and genuinely moving). But these kinds of films should set out to entertain as well as shock, and if we're not made to care about the characters then there's no point to it all.

Free Agents [DVD]
Free Agents [DVD]
Dvd ~ Stephen Mangan
Price: £2.70

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Quite the most unfunny thing I've seen for a while, 9 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Free Agents [DVD] (DVD)
Romantic comedies with a darker edge to them have potential. But unfortunately the best thing about this one is the well-designed title sequence.

This so-called comedy quickly descends into very cheap laughs. I have no problem with bad language - to deny we all use it would be to deny reality. But when it is used constantly as an alternative to real humour it just becomes predictable and repetative. I can't believe anyone who watches these kinds of things is shocked by bad language anymore. I'm sure there are 9-year-olds who will be sniggering all the way through this at the constant f-ing and c-ing. But anyone with an IQ above 20 will feel their intelligence is being insulted by alleged writers who expect them to find buzz-words hilarious.

All in all it's just a waste of three talented actors. The three leads do the best they can, but I'd defy even the greatest actor with the best comic timing to inject humour into this petty juvenile dross.

No Title Available

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A genuine classic, 17 Nov. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A young astronomer witnesses the arrival of a flying saucer in the wilds outside his house one night. His father goes to investigate and returns a very different man. Before long it is evident people are being taken into the underground saucer and put under alien control. But who will believe this lad's fantastic story?

Forget "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". This is a masterpiece of sci-fi. It captures excellently the threatening, imposing world from the viewpoint of a small boy, combined with classic "reds under the beds" paranoia. What really holds this film above the majority of other similar films of the 1950s and 60s are the genuinely unnerving atmosphere, the superb acting (for example, witness the first victim's transformation from caring family guy to icy conspirator and the creepy little girl who tries to burn down her family home), the attention to detail, the cerebral story and of course the aliens themselves. They are voiceless and underplayed, and therefore come across as memorably sinister.

This DVD set comes with the original US and the extended British version (the one with the proper ending which strangely isn't available in Britain). There's also a collector's booklet.

LEGO Alien Conquest 7065: Alien Mothership
LEGO Alien Conquest 7065: Alien Mothership
Offered by Colorful Life Ltd
Price: £42.18

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic set, 12 Nov. 2011
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As alien spaceships go, this is up there with the best Lego designs. A very dramatic and impressive "space wheel", the central control pod of which can be detached to become a a saucer-shaped smaller UFO. There is a nice-looking alien pilot, a helpless human reporter to be snatched away and a small alien beast which can be placed on the reporter's head (in the way you would attach a Lego minifig's space helmet) in order to take over her mind and put her to work creating whatever gas the aliens need to breathe (sorry, I'm a fan of Quatermass). Included in the set is another of those "sound pieces" (which comes with battery). Rotate the wheel or the central control pod and the sound brick will make an appropriate alien-sounding noise. There is also a flexible arm under the ship for collecting unsuspecting humans.

All in all, a great set. Imaginative use of Lego pieces (including curved railways) and a first-class design. Children and adult fans of Lego will love it.

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