on 23 June 2008
Invisible Enemy is no classic but many aspects have fared the last 3 decades quite well. Sentient viruses, mayfly clones and a Fantastic Voyage ripoff are all imaginative concepts even if they probably stand up to no scientific scrutiny.
There are some lapses in logic such as how the clones acquired their "parent's" memories (how they got their clothes cloned also is easy to explain-this is a family show!)but they tend not to get in the way of the fun.
Uncle Tom gets to vary his performance as he fights infection and does a very doolally turn when 1st infected and Leela gets to play the hunter/fighter in an environment very alien to her.
The guest cast offers 2 decent turns from Dr Who Repetory actors Michael Sheard and Frederick Jaeger. And of course it's K9's debut and a strong 1 where he's at his best-in a hi tech environment.
Sets and modelwork are on the whole very good and the effects were not so bad for their time. Of course you can upgrade these to some improved CGI. A very nice touch is signs in phonetic English (Isolayshun Ward) and the fibrous hairs etc. to show infection work okay.
Why is this story held in such low regard? it probably is due to the Nucleus of the swarm. Unsuccesfully building up to its 1st full appearance by being a tentacle in a box, it's soon seen in its full inglory as an undernourished prawn which needs to be pushed about and has such shaky tentacles it must have OD'd on caffeine!
1 of the worst monsters of the entire decade & it's a shame because otherwise it's a fun story.
K9 & Company was better than I remembered (except for the execrable Hart to Hart on a pocket stylophone theme tune), but will only ever be knockabout Xmas fare. This tale of black magic is done so gently it's like a pre-school edition of the Whicker Man. I kid you not, Mary Whitehouse would have approved!
Amongst the guest cast Colin Jeavons and Linda Polan (Mrs Ploppy from Blackadder 2) are the most memorable making a great deal out of thinly sketched characters.
Elisabeth Sladen shows that she could have carried a series even then, and makes the most of the scripts opportunities. An interesting moment is when she retorts to Brendan that she has no desire to become a "surrogate mum". Hard to imagine that in her current incarnation!
Brendan is Adric mark 2 as Ian Sears tackles a thankless role as another boy genius. he brays like a donkey at K9's name, no wonder Sarah snaps "Stop honking!"
K9 is in a setting where he doesn't belong and it's so obvious that once they find the coven he's going to be able to stun them all, the story's left resting on the hunt itself. Even with its red herrings it just isn't interesting enough.
There's a good documentary about the making of Invisible Enemy with several key players. 2 things jar. 1: If you're going to show the sory to today's audience then please give them a chance to tell us what they think instead of just showing them sitting there and 2: Why do we hear nothing on the rationale behind the prawn? the only mention is Louise Jamieson's witty observation that being menaced by a prawn is like doing a love scene with someone you don't fancy-very Swiss Toni!
The commentary is a chummy and matey one like for Invasion of Time but more entertaining. Louise, John Leeson, Mat Irvine and writer Bob Baker are all fun-Leeson noting that he based his virus voice on a Christmas pudding!
We see K9 on Blue Peter& larry Grayson's Generation Game (that's the easter egg)plus there;s a featurette on FX and some intriguing production studio footage. A good package.
The inadequate documentary on K9 and Company covers the story on 6 minutes plus a further 4-5 on the K9 books and proposed animated series (but without footage or photo of the new look K9)and it's all punctuated by the K9 & Company theme!
K9 telling his own story is another failed attempt at Earth humour and there's a contemporary appearance on Pebble Mill.
The saving grace is the commentary where Eric Saward, Linda Polan, John Leeson and of course Lis Sladen really tell us the story behind K9 & Company & offer their opinions on it.
A good story with good extras and a mediocre story with miserly extras. Big fans only
on 14 June 2008
As a fan of the series and K9, I was looking forward to this release. I won't be buying it though as a huge fault on the authoring means that episode 3 is out of sequence.
2Entertain knew about the fault before the release date of 16th June, but it seems have decided to go ahead with the release of the faulty DVD anyway.... and I will keep my money well away from this release until they fix it...(even if it means "The Invisible Enemy" remains invisible in my collection!
AMAZON - PLease stop selling a faulty product, and remove this item from your site UNTIL you can confirm you have received corrected discs.
"We're always having trouble with K9... we always seem to be repairing him". Why can't 2Entertain do the same?
Firstly before I review the dvd set my copy was faulty like so many others. If you have a faulty Invisible Enemy dvd you need to post just the dvd to DVD Support, 2 Entertain, 33 Foley Street, London, W1W 7TL and a corrected disk will be sent.
To be honist neither The Invisible Enemy and K9 Tales are very good stories. The Invisible Enemy is greatly improved by new CGI effects which improve the dreadfull original ones. I mean how scary can a giant shrimp be? The story is basically Fantastic Voyage done on a very low budget. Even worse is K9 And Company. It starts with an awful theme some which has you reaching for the fast forward button. It is badly shot (rather like a stage play) and very very boaring. Normally I love the audio commentary tracks but the people on this one sound as board speaking about it as I was watching it.
This year has not been a great year for decent Doctor Who releases. With any luck next year will see some of the great stories released - Terror Of The Autons, The Seeds Of Doom or The War Games would be nice.
back in the 1970's doctor who gained a new companion. a robotic dog called K9. The combination of a good character design and an appealing voice made him a big hit, and the popularity of the character has never gone away.
This latest doctor who, which contains two dvds in their own packaging, all together in a relatively sturdy cardboard box, contains two tales featuring him.
The first 'the invisible enemy' was his debut. made in 1977 it's set out in the far reaches of the solar system and involves the doctor coming into contact with the nucleus, a nasty creature lurking at the middle of a swam in space. the nucleus takes control of people, and wants to take over the universe.
Running for four twenty five minute long episodes this is a homage to the film fantastic voyage as miniaturised clone versions of the doctor and his companion leela are sent into the doctor to destroy the creature. a lot of the story is also set in space, and this is realised via some excellent model work.
unfortunately budget constraints, and constraints from the bbc to pull back on the levels of violence and horror the show had been doing for the past few years rather hurt this one, and the result is a very cheap and tacky and quite silly at times run around. but taken in the right mood, it can be quite fun.
the extras on this disc:
a commentary from actors louise jameson [leela] john leeson [voice of k9] bob baker [one of the writers] and mat irvine [visual effects designer]
dreams and fantasy. a twenty minute long documentary about the story. not a bad documentary but not the best they've ever done as it rather lacks focus. whilst it conducts the interesting experiment of showing us present day tv viewers see the story for the first time, and shows some of their reaction, it doesn't show us much more, so this idea doesn't entirely work.
studio sweepings. footage of the story being made. a lengthy extra and quite odd to watch as there's lots of visual trickery in the recording, but an interesting look at the tv recording process
visual effects: visual effects designer mat irvine talks to model maker ian scoones about his work on the show. interesting stuff and the craftsmanship on display is to be admired, although ian scoones does have trouble getting a word in edgeways at points
blue peter: a clip from the bbc children's show showing presenter of the time john noakes and his dog shep meeting K9. Quite funny for most of it, and very funny when Shep comes on and reacts to the robot.
Optional CGI effects: these allow you to make some of the effects in the story replaced with CGI ones. some of these clear away big problems but some aren't really necessary, as the model sequences are good enough as they stand.
trailers: various trailers from the bbc of the time for the story. these are always quite interesting as a way of being reminded how the bbc did these things at the time
production information subtitles. these bring up information about the story whilst you watch in the form of subtitles, and are always quite itneresting.
english language subtitles.
a photo gallery of the story and it's making.
the radio times listings of the story as PDF files [accessible by looking at the disc on a computer]
a trailer for the impending dvd: doctor who the brain of morbius. these trailers are getting very good at giving epic feel to the stories.
and for an easter egg watch this on a PC, and on the first special features screen move the pointer around the left side of the screen till you light up a hidden doctor who logo. click on this to see a clip from the game show the generation game, with presenter larry grayson meeting K9. A nice little item. especially for dog lovers as there are some cute puppies in it.
IMPORTANT NOTE RE THIS DISC: the release was initially faulty, and near the end of episode three the disc skips a scene. you can hear it make an audible skipping noise.should you have this problem [although corrected versions have now been issued so with any luck you shouldnt] send the disc [not the box just the disc on it's own] to:
33 Foley St
with a covering letter explaining the problem and they will send out a replacement.
the other story in the box is K9 and company. This is a one off fifty minute programme from 1981, featuring K9 and the doctor's former companion sarah jane smith. intended as a pilot episode for a possible series. which never came to pass.
the story involves sarah and K9 investigating a black magic cult in a small village, and it has it's moments but it never quite clicks. although it does manage one excellent surprise reveal near the end that you probably won't see coming. despite excellent work from elisabeth sladen as sarah jane this remains an interesting curio, nothing much more. be wary of the strange and quite cringeworthy title sequence, which tried to copy the style of the american detective show hart to hart in showing lots of clips of the leads doing glamorous things. it doesnt really work and is funny for the wrong reasons.
the disc contains:
a commentary from elisabeth sladen and john leeson, script editor eric saward and cast member linda polan.
the k9 files: a documentary about the story and the character. running about fifteen minutes this is rather cursory and doesnt go into nearly enough depth.
K9: A dog's tale: a spoof interview with K9. about half of the jokes in this are quite funny but the rest fall very flat.
pebble mill at one: a short clip from a bbc news show of the time with a presenter talking to K9 about the story. much like the interview above half of it is okay and half is not funny.
trailers: the bbc trailers for the story shown at the time
a photo gallery of it and it's production
english language subtitles and production information subtitles
the same trailer for the brain of morbius as is on the invisible enemy
and as PDF Files:
the radio times listing for the story
the adventures of K9: four short books for young children about the character
the 1983 K9 annual
the box for this does come with a reversible sleeve, so if you want it to look almost like the other doctor who dvds so they fit together nicely on your shelf flip it over and it will.
both of these stories have been digitally remastered and the sound and picture quality are very good indeed as a result.
so: two stories that are not essential purchases, and in packages that are very good rather than great, but they have their moments all in all
on 17 June 2008
First up, if you phone 2Entertain on 020 7612 3186 they give you the address to send your faulty disc to. They'll send out a replacement copy. I can't vouch for their efficiency yet as I only sent off my dud to them today, but at least they're trying to sort it out as practically as possible.
The defect in the disc is that two short scenes at the very end of episode 3 are the wrong way round, the nucleus being reduced to a pile of lumps coming after the 'cliffhanger' of the slavering giant prawn's first appearance. Not the end of the world, but of course irritating after all the careful restoration work that aims to make the dvd 'perfect'.
Now that's out of the way, what else can be said? I've always been fond of this tatty story tho I don't really know why. It has things in common with The Macra Terror - chiefly crustaceous aliens that are called viruses or bacteria but really don't seem to be - & are intelligent for no apparent reason (viruses & bacteria do fine with no brains at all). Why a 'swarm' should have a 'nucleus' that turns into a giant, rather masculine prawn, that then has to instantly 'spawn' in tanks on Titan isn't exactly clear. And the cloning stuff is cobblers. Yet somehow the whole thing charms me. Unlike everyone else I rather like the design of the nucleus and the prawn. And a space station where you get views out of the windows. And the cute model work. Leela & the Doctor are charming, (& Leela's intuitive huntress attributes are well-used), the story clips along, K9 is fun, & professor Marius, tho he has the hideous last line of the show, 'I hope he's Tardis-trained' (ugh!) is good value too.
Sometimes drama is thrown away through Tom Baker's bits of business (blowing the duck-quacker when he arrives on Titan prior to noticing the dead body he & 'intuitive' Leela have almost stumbled over, for instance), & sometimes it's hobbled by lack of time. For example the Doctor, supposedly in a coma, has to keep not only coming out of the coma to deliver lines, but sitting right up to say his dialogue because (it seems to me) there wasn't time to do the camera set-ups for him to say his lines lying down. Weirdly for such an unreal sort of show the bodies pile up, which must by why this entirely fantastical yarn has a '12' rating.
What it is, though, I think, is fun. Graham Williams managed to get pace & charm & wit into his productions. I can't help comparing them with a good many of the later Nathan-Turner productions, which often feel painfully slow & inert (Arc of Infinity, say, or Time-Flight).
I watched this with the new CGI effects, & they make the 'infection' rays rather good, & make the fairly poor shoot-outs work about a hundred times better. The CGI replaces a lot of the model-work & for the first time I almost regretted that they'd overlaid quite so much. But as always it is done very much in keeping with the style of the story & oomphs it up.
The extras - interviews with cast & crew - are mildly interesting (tho often have rather boomy sound, for some reason), & affectionate, as are the commentaries, (with one of the writers, the special effects guy [rather a bore, alas], Louise Jameson & John Leeson). There's also quite interesting footage of the recording of the actual show, & it's salutary to watch how the effects were done 'live in camera' then - blue-screening & glass-painting & a rock-bottom minimum of post-production: really it's amazing that the effects looked as good as they did!
And then there's K9 & Company. 2Entertain are milking it a bit, I think, having it as a separate dvd in a separate box. As a bonus extra on the Invisible Enemy it would have been cute. In its own right it's very slight & only just passable. Liz Sladen is good, of course, but the whole set-up is a mess & one can see why it was never taken up as a series. The theme tune is singularly hideous, & you can hear Liz & Eric Saward wilting on the commentary track as it bleeps away discotastically. Or, as John Nathan-Turner described it, 'I want it to be like the theme from Hart to Hart.' It's nice that 30 years down the line Sarah Jane now has her own series, & Liz Sladen doesn't have to tag along behind K9 to be appreciated.
The various extras on the creation of K9 are mildly interesting but hardly revelatory, & (perhaps because Tom Baker is absent from them) downplay how annoyed he got with his extremely popular mechanical rival as it hobbled take after take & forced him to play scene after scene lying on the floor.
So how can one rate this box-set? If you get it fairly cheap - hardly more than you would pay for just a single dvd - it's pretty good (bar the defect in the mastering). The story is so much a matter of personal taste that again it's hard to rate. The extras are to the usual decent standard, and the CGI effects are nicely done. A nostalgia piece, more than anything else.
on 6 April 2015
The Invisible Enemy is good, even though one of its episodes is clearly based on Fantastic Voyage. K9 and Company is not quite of the same quality, though it's not down to the fault of the actors. Sean Chapman and Colin Jeavons steal the show. As for the title sequence and music...
As far as I know, this is the only way to own The Invisible Enemy on DVD, so as a completist, I had to bite the bullet.