1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Meddling in the unknown tends to be a deadly practice in the Dr. Who stories, and "Doctor Who: Inferno (Story 54)" brings on a fresh disaster from below the Earth's crust. The sci-fi threat is never really explained, but the rest of the serial is absolutely brilliant -- harrowing, intense, and featuring a brief glimpse of an alternate reality.
UNIT is overseeing security for a special drilling project, which is planning to release energy-rich Stahlman's Gas from under the Earth's crust. But then a strange green goop oozes out of the pipes, causing anyone who touches it to turn into a savage greeny-gray creature -- and anyone who touches THEM will also be infected.
The project's leader, Professor Stahlman, refuses to acknowledge that anything might be wrong, claiming that everybody is conspiring to stop the drilling -- and even sabotaging the computer when it predicts failure. And the Doctor may be the only person who can stop the disaster.
Unfortunately, the Doctor's attempts to fix the Tardis have transported him into a parallel universe, where Britain is a fascist state and the Brigadier is a controlling little tyrant. Unfortunately, the drilling project is going on in this world as well -- and though the Doctor soon learns that it spells doom for the Earth, he may not be able to get back in time to save our reality.
The biggest problem with "Inferno" is the green goop, which is... never really explained. I would have preferred a little more explanation for why it turns people into manged gray-skinned freaks. B
ut aside from that quibble, this particular serial is a powerful, intense sci-fi story, especially since the Doctor is rendered helpless through most of it. In fact, it's kind of nightmarish when he's trapped in the fascist Other-Britain, unable to get home, stop the drilling, or do much of anything.
And the most terrifying part of the story is that the exact same events are unfurling in our own world, only slightly more slowly (probably due to that pesky free speech). The Other-Britain is swarmed by gray ape-people and faced with... well, the whole planet blowing up due to improbable science, and the Doctor can't really deal with it.
Jon Pertwee gives his best Dr. Who performance thus far, mostly relying on the Third Doctor's sharp-eyed, acerbic charm and short temper, but also showing his more charismatic side. Nicholas Courtney also has a wonderful turn as both the usual Brigadier and the cruel, power-hungry Brigade Leader, which gives a glimpse of what the stuffy, bossy soldier would have turned into in a different world.
"Doctor Who: Inferno (Story 54)" is a strong, lean story with lots of suspense -- and a particularly good subplot set in a parallel world. Definitely a must-see for fans of Who.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 April 2011
Jon Pertwee had just begun to settle into the role of The Doctor when this epic 7 part serial was transmitted. The key elements that were to define the show's early 70s period were in place - The Doctor's Edwardian Roadster 'Bessie'; UNIT, the army's extra terrestrial investigation arm, led by the ramrod straight moustachioed Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart; and Liz Shaw, Cambridge physicist and egghead, and unofficial 'assistant' to The Doctor, himself working as UNIT's unpaid scientific adviser while he figures out how to escape his current exile on the Earth, imposed on him by his own people, The Timelords for interfering in other planets' affairs. This was however to be Liz Shaw's final story, and she was subsequently replaced by the airheaded and kooky Jo Grant.
The thrust of this story is that The Doctor is transported to an alternative/parallel universe where all of his friends have a double. However, in this universe The Brigadier is an eye-patch wearing nasty piece of work, Liz is his henchwoman, and UNIT is an altogether more sinister organization. Professor Stahlman is trying to penetrate the Earth's crust, in order to gain access to an endless supply of energy that lies therein. Unfortunately, they encounter a toxic green sludge that escapes from a drill pipe, and which turns those who come into contact with it into feral man beasts. The Doctor, who is attempting to use the nuclear energy that is a by-product of Stahlman's experiment, to power his TARDIS, disappears, and finds himself in the aforementioned parallel world; 'The Republic of Great Britain'...
The story is a little thin spread over 7 episodes, but the parallel world idea gives for some great performances from the cast, and the feral creatures are made-up pretty well - for 1970.
The DVD extras are what lift this from four to five stars:
Commentary with script editor Terrance Dicks, producer/director Barry Letts, Nicholas Courtney (The Brigadier) and John Levene (Sgt. Benton).
Can You Hear the Earth Scream? 'Making-of' documentary.
The UNIT Family (Part One) 36 minute documentary looking at the first half of the 'UNIT family' that characterised the Third Doctor's Earth-bound stories.
Visual Effects Promo Film.
The Pertwee Years Intro.
Deleted scene - John Pertwee radio announcement.
The 1971 Doctor Who Annual as PDF, Radio Times billings, Photo Gallery, Subtitled Production Notes.
Given the recent sad death of the incomparable Nick Courtney, this serial is a further reminder of just how could he was as the Brigadier - and his evil doppelganger!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Having just watched this serial, sitting back and reflecting, it is clear Inferno represents some of the best Doctor Who as a series has to offer. Pertwee is in his element here, playing up the Doctor as the dashing gentleman action hero in a desperate attempt to stop the misguided plans of Professor Stahlman to tap into the power of the Earth's core.
The exterior shots of the drilling project - with all its machinery and silos is suitably grim and while the Primords may at time look cheap, their threat is undeniable, their tortured cries even more distressing. Despite it's 7 part length, the pace never lets up in this serial with the acting being of an exceptionally high standard on all fronts - special mention must indeed go to Liz, the Brigadier and Greg Sutton who are brilliant in this story - in both their normal and parallel world selves. The Brigadier in particular is particularly sinister in his parallel world form, arrogant, selfish and complete with scar and eye-patch.
And it is with the idea of the parallel world that we are presented with the crucial element of the serial. Whilst the Primords present a simple visual threat, the truly chilling aspect of this story comes from the dictatorial `alternate reality' where the slick formality and brutality of the Republican Security Forces is deeply unsettling. As the story progresses the moral of the story becomes evident, the Doctor learning from the mistakes made in the alternate world, must now use this knowledge to save his own reality before it's too late.
With the apocalyptic scenario of world-wide destruction presented to us, the stakes are high as the world begins to overheat, the yellowy overlay used, although simple, is somehow deeply unsettling as it presents a world in it's last few moments of life. Playing into fears about global warming, and nuclear energy, this story has added impact.
Stahlman as the story's `villain' is suitably despicable in his uncaring attitude towards the safety of his fellow humans, his only concern being for the completion of his project as quickly as possible. Summing up, this story has everything - the scientific elements, the threat against the Earth's safety and plenty of action sprinkled in too. A must-see for Who fans.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 9 December 2006
I've recently watched a lot of Jon Pertwee stories and Inferno definitely stands out as being the best. From the eerie background music and the droning of the drill to the excellent writing. It's a long story but unlike a lot of stories this length, it isn't padded and there's no dodgy effects. In episode 3 the doctor is transported to a parallel world where he meets an evil brigade leader and Liz Shaw. Nick Courtney is excellent as the brigade leader. From here the story really kicks off. The Doctor is locked in a cell next to a sick man who transforms into a monster. He escapes but is too late from stopping them and disaster strikes when they hit the earth's crust. The brigade leader helps the Doctor restore power to his tardis console but only so he can force the Doctor to take him back with him. The Doctor refuses and escapes just in time before lava arrupts and presumably engulfs everyone. It's a shame that the people in the parallel world had to die, but when he gets back to the real world he manages to stop the drilling in the nick of time and the characters have a happy ending. This story is loads better than anything from the new series, however I can see why they don't make 7 parters now, as i doubt anyone would have the patience to sit through a story for 7 weeks! I also have to say the restoration team have done a great job cleaning up the picture. The colour is great and not a crackle in sight.
The extras on the DVD are good as usual. There's an interesting programme on the making of Inferno, which includes interviews with Barry Letts, Caroline John and Nick Courtney. My how Nick Courtney has aged! There's also a programme called The UNIT Family Part 1 about UNIT from their debut in the 60s through to their first Jon Pertwee season up to Inferno. I presume there will be a Part 2 once more Pertwee stories are finally released.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 29 June 2006
I always thought that the first Pertwee season was the best of the five years he did, as the stories in it were pitched at a higher, more intelligent level. Caroline John as Liz Shaw made a great companion, not only for the fact that she was nice to look at (!) but as a sidekick to the Doctor and a member of Unit she was quite rightly very intelligent, and this made for an intelligent show with grown up dialogue, serious stories, and acting and a 'proper' approach to science fiction.
Why they ever replaced her with the awful Jo Grant in the following season is beyond me, as Doctor Who then started to appear that little bit cheesy....
However, here, all is well.
The plot revolves around a scientific experiment to drill through the Earths core, and involves a parallel world where things are familiar but not quite the same.
The regulars are on good form as themselves, and Nicholas Courtney is excellent as the Brigadier and his alter ego, the sadistic braggart Brigade Leader Lethbridge Stewart who leads by fear and intimidation. Tyhe contrast between the two Lethbridge Stewarts could not be more pronounced and for the viewer, is great fun.
Caroline John is convincing as ever as Liz Shaw, and also as her counterpart Elizabeth Shaw, and Jon Pertwee excels himself here as the Doctor desperately trying to save not one, but two worlds. The power of his acting is pronounced and you can tell that he is throwing himself into the part, not just coasting as was apparrent toward the end of his time as the Doctor.
For my money, one of the best performances has to be that of Derek Newark as the heroic Greg Sutton, who in both worlds tries to do his best to be a good guy. His acting is brilliant and helps to convince the audience that there is a real sense of drama evoked here; a real sense of horror at what is happening is transmitted to the viewer.
The argumnets with Professor Stahlman (Olaf Pooley)are particularly notable for realism.
The traditional Doctor Who monster is here too in the form of the Primords, and as people dehumanised by the side effects of technology they are all the scarier, added to by some clever direction.
This story could teach the production team of the new series exactly how great Doctor Who should be made, so they don't repeat the disaster of episodes like the Peter Kay one....
To sum up, the best Pertwee story ever made, and should probably rank in the all time top ten best Who stories ever made, due to realism, a serious approach to the sci-fi, a mature attitude to the stroytelling, higher than average production values, vibrant direction, and just the sheer ability this story has of invloving the viewer in it, possibly because of the ecological message that is rammed home here.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Inferno is a solid story from Jon Pertwee's first season, like many of his highlighting ecological issues and very heavy on the physical action as the Doctor finds himself cast into a parallel universe where the Brigadier is a one-eyed fascist and both worlds are threatened by a drilling project to find a new energy source beneath the Earth's crust. The story's intriguing - the parallel word plotline allows it to have its Apocalyptic cake and eat it - if a little overstretched at seven episodes, while Douglas Camfield's direction manages to make more of it despite the occasional budget limitations than many directors on the show.
Unfortunately the picture quality is the worst of any of the Who DVDs to date, but acceptable if you don't mind the odd spot of yellow jaundice on parts of people's faces or soft definition. Good extras, though fewer than you'd expect for a 2-disc set.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2006
One of the finest Pertwee stories finally comes to DVD. The only story where you get to see the regular cast in a parrallel universe [that is until 'Rise of the Cybermen], this makes for an exciting adventure as there are two [count 'em] end of the world scenarios. Nicholas Courtney does a fine job as the alternative Brigadier with eye patch. Some of these earlier stories are padded but Inferno avoids this with it's clever plotting, an essential purchase if you like serious, scientific Who.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 22 April 2007
"Inferno", by Don Houghton, is another popular candidate for "best Doctor Who story ever made". It would certainly appear to be the best entry in the "gritty realism" phase that characterised the show's seventh season, and features Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor at his proud, judgemental and occasionally petulant best.
The initial premise of "Inferno" - that of a dangerous drilling project delving deep into the Earth's primal core at great risk, driven by the determined and egotistical Professor Stahlman (Olaf Pooley) who is determined to accelerate the drilling process to the greatest extent possible despite the concerns of the project's computer and, subsequently, the dire warnings of the bolshy oil rig man Greg Sutton (Derek Newark) and the Doctor - sounds interesting enough: but where "Inferno" really becomes an inspired piece of work is in the introduction of a parallel universe storyline (clichéd now, perhaps, but much less so in 1970). In the parallel Earth that the Doctor is catapulted into after an accident involving the TARDIS console, England is a fascist state and the Inferno project is a prison labour camp, where drilling is much more advanced. In the parallel word, the Doctor is even less able to make his fears heard (even his companion Liz Shaw is now a hard-nosed security officer), and must watch as Stahlman's project accelerates and unleashes forces that threaten to tear the planet apart. In both universes, what nobody realises is that Stahlman has been contaminated by the toxic fluids escaping from the drill head and is suffering rapid and physical mental degeneration, and his survival depends upon the completion of the drilling at the earliest moment possible. The Doctor, against steep odds and bearing witness to the disaster that threatens to engulf the parallel earth, must convince the people of the alternative Earth to help him return to his own universe and save the lifes of their compatriots.
Although "Inferno", as a seven-parter, is not fast-paced, the plot still never loses momentum due to the meatiness of the parallel universe storyline. Aided in a large part by the creepy incidental "music", the atmospheric industrial location where much of the story is filmed and the omnipresent sound of the ever-accelerating drill, the action and dialogue of "Inferno" brings with it a sense of ever-increasing danger and desparation, culminating in the shocking ending to episode six. The cast clearly enjoy playing the horrible alternate universe versions of themselves, and it shows both on-screen and in the DVD's special features (the well-equipped package includes a commentary with actor Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart), producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks, with interludes from actor John Levene (Sergeant Benton), plus an hour's worth of excellent newly produced documentary material and several excerpts from the archives), helping "Inferno" to live well and truly up to its reputation as the best story of an era, if not the whole series.
on 8 August 2013
With controversy over fracking and shale gas back in the news, I thought it would be appropriate to review this Doctor Who DVD, the plot of which centres on an equally controversial drilling operation, code-named Inferno.
They are drilling for Stahlman Gas, named after the arrogant Professor Stahlman. The gas could provide cheap energy for the entire country, but it lies beneath the Earth's crust, and many on the project have doubts about the entire operation. And well they might; a mysterious green substance starts to leak from an overflow pipe, and trouble really begins as those who come into contact with it are transformed into mindless killer zombies.
The Doctor is using nuclear power from Inferno to boost the TARDIS console, and thus hopefully free it from the Time Lord's control. But on a test run he is thrown sideways into a parallel world where Britain is now a tightly controlled totalitarian state.
The drilling operation is also going on there but at a more advanced stage, and those who were zombies are now fully changed into brutal werewolf type creatures called Primords. When the Earth's crust is finally penetrated, that world is totally destroyed. Can the Doctor get back to the real world and stop the drilling before the same thing happens again?
This seven episode story marked many endings; it was the final story in Jon Pertwee's first season as the Doctor, and the final seven parter. From now on all stories would be either four or six episodes.
It also marked the departure of Caroline John as Liz Shaw, and also the last appearance of the original TARDIS console, which had been in use since 1963, and was reportedly falling apart!
As usual there are a generous amount of bonus features. The commentaries on these DVD's are always great value; there is just so much love and affection for the show from all concerned, and they make for wonderful listening.
There are two main documentaries, a 35-minute making of, and the first part of the UNIT Family, which traces the history of this defence force from its first appearance in `The Web Of Fear' through to `Inferno'. A two minute deleted scene, Jon Pertwee's original introduction to part seven taken from a previously released VHS video, and a short film on the BBC visual effects department complete the extras.
Also included alongside the usual PDF files for the Radio Times billings is the complete `Doctor Who Annual 1971'. Truth be told if I had got that for Christmas 1970, I would have been very disappointed. There is not a single photo in the book; it's all just artist illustrations, and the only Who connections are eight original stories where the Doctor is constantly referred to as Doctor Who! The remainder of the annual is made up of trivia and quizzes about famous travellers and outer space. There is nothing about the TV programme what so ever. Very disappointing indeed.
But of course it's really all about the programme, and along with the opener, `Spearhead From Space', `Inferno' is definitely the best story of that first season, with plenty of action, wonderfully directed by Who stalwart Douglas Camfield to fill it's seven episodes.
on 11 June 2012
I could recommend Inferno to anyone. The only things wrong with it are the obvious padding in episode five (the conversations between Liz, Benton, Stahlmann, the Brigadier etc in the real world) and the rather anticlimactic scenes in which the parallel Earth is destroyed, with the Doctor still struggling to operate the TARDIS console in one scene, while the lava threatens to engulf the hut, and waking up back in his lab on "our" world in the next. However it does still look as if the COMPLEX has been or is being obliterated, and that quite effectively. The creepy, brooding music maintains the serious and gritty atmosphere.
It's probably the second best Who story ever after Caves of Androzani, because of the way it serves as adult drama, in the sense of conveying moods credibly and evocatively. Episode five, where the characters realise the consequence of their foolish actions and that they are probably doomed, is particularly good. Then there's the way it uplifts the human spirit by demonstrating that we do have free will, and so to some extent can control our destiny. The Primords' make-up shows how much you can achieve by putting a bit of effort into what might otherwise look ridiculous.