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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back in colour at long last !
"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...
Published 18 months ago by pertweefan

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great!
I first saw this in the early 90s on UK Gold in what was then very poor black and white, with sound that was barely audible in places. I recall the announcer apologising prior to one of the episodes, stating that the sound in particular hadn't travelled as well in time as the good Doctor himself! There are still some parts where the sound is notably distorted but this is...
Published 16 months ago by Andy


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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back in colour at long last !, 1 Oct 2012
This review is from: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death [DVD] (DVD)
"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 zenophobia and characters who are not truly evil, but believe what they are doing is good. It also taps the current interest in space travel, driven by real-life current 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, who was also excellent in different ways. Nick Courtney's Brigadier is in fine form, sharing the action scenes with the "other ranks" - no desk-bound issuer of 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 Xygons from the Tom era.

Thoroughly recommended.
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62 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mars Probe 7 {In Full COLOUR}, 7 July 2012
This review is from: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death [DVD] (DVD)
1970's often overlooked 7 parter "The Ambassadors of Death" is a classic Jon Pertwee UNIT serial with some great sets and convincing aliens thrown in to boot! When I first watched this story some time back, I was very impressed with how well it stands up today, the sets and the costumes are very "real" and one can actually imagine that the Martians were threatening to destroy the Earth in the early 1970's. Jon Pertwee, on only his third outing as the 3rd Doctor is sublime, his penchant for leadership and intelligence shines through wonderfully here, especially the scenes aboard the Martian craft. As with all other stories of the 7th series, UNIT is largely involved with events. Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart is on hand to assist the newly regenerated Time Lord. I always adored the love / hate relationship that the Brig and the Doctor had, they always played off one another brilliantly. Jon Pertwee and Nic Courtney had by now figured out how they were going to play both respective characters and I am certainly glad that they figured it out so well.

Series 7 companion Liz Shaw as played by the ever-lovely Caroline John is another factor to the success of this mammoth story, she certainly is as much a part of this escapade as Jon and her acting is electric throughout. I always felt it a shame when series 8 opened and Liz was nowhere to be seen, having departed the Doctor's company and run off back to Cambridge, still, the softener to this upsetting knowledge was the effervescent Katy Manning's new companion Jo Grant.

In the end then, I have nothing bad to say about this story, I know at 7 episodes some people might be put off, but I must say that after expecting to be disappointed with this unknown giant, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I now love it, The BBC DVD release of this tale is to follow in a few weeks with Digitally Remastered FULL COLOUR episodes 1,2,3,4,5,6 + 7. Thank god the money is there these days. 10/10.

Many thanks to all of you who read my reviews. Its greatly appreciated.

M.B.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Release, 24 Oct 2012
By 
John Heaton - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death [DVD] (DVD)
This completes the DVD releases of the classic 1970 Series 7, Jon Pertwee's first. Quite possibly the best in the entire season's history, no less. This is worth the money for the colour restoration alone. For some reason, this important fact is not mentioned on the cover but, as fans know, this is a major enhancement. Like the recently colourised versions of 'Planet Of The Daleks' and 'Invasion Of The Dinosaurs' (Episode 1) and the upcoming we hope 'The Mind of Evil'. I thought the colourisation was well done, meaning I didn't notice any fake colour (not that i was looking too closely). The story is strong, and in general under-rated outside the writings of Doctor Who Magazine. These ambassadors would look great as figurines, though it is quite comical that they are referred to the ambassadors Of Death, when they turn out to have come in peace. But I guess the title 'The Ambassadors Of Peace' wouldn't have been too enticing!

Great characterisation (General Carrington in particular), strong performances from Pertwee, Caroline John and the UNIT crew. And some great fight sequences which apparently blew the budget before (thank God) they could be stopped. Seven episodes do not drag. And only two of the episode endings are less than satisfactory: Episode 5, alien vessel approaching...my kids laughed at its crapness :- ) and the final episode with The Doctor casually walking off the set (one might have wished for one of the funny ending lines that Tom Baker was so famous for, e.g. Seeds of Doom, Terror Of The Zygons). But this is fairly minor criticism, the other cliff hangers are memorable and this story I think is the first to use that classic screeching sound to signal the end of the episode. The extras are pretty good, not brilliant (I think the recent 'Day Of The Daleks' wins my vote on that score, along with the hilarious Sutekh sketch from 'Pyramids Of Mars'. I have yet to listen to the commentary but expect it to be quite moving given three of the commentators are no longer with us.

Maybe the Pertwee era gained something with the introduction of the masterful (:- ) Roger Delgado but this first season has no weak links. And this story, sandwiched between The Silurians (the originals, not their recent more human counterparts) and Inferno, is true Classic Doctor Who. And to quote Carrington, 'it's my moral duty' to write this review :- )
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still good after all these years, 5 Dec 2012
By 
Adie Barrett (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death [DVD] (DVD)
I have some faint memories of Patrick Troughton's Doctor, including one recurring nightmare that originated from one long-lost serials that was explained many years later ("Power Of The Daleks" actually). However Jon Pertwee's cracking start to his tenure with shop display dummies breaking through windows in "Spearhed Ferom Space" left a deep impression and his fixing them meant I adopted him immediately to become "my" Doctor. I've long since believed that after going over to colour. the idea of three seven-parters after "Spearhead" in the 1970 series was meant to reduce the total number of sets required - a 25-week series could stretch to six different stories after all.

A bit of filler here and there is inevitable - as others note particular script difficulties with "Ambassadors" may have contributed to that - but to this fan of DW it isn't overly apparent. It's only much later I found out its turbulent history. David Whitaker first developed this story well into the future for the Second Doctor, plus of course his then-companions Jamie and Zoe, but when they all departed Whitaker re-wrote it for the new-start colour series. And again, then some more until, fed-up and unable to do it justice he was paid-off in full and effectively 'written-out' of DW in every sense of the term. Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke and Trevor Ray contributed to the finished article, but whitaker's name was left as sole credit, considering his being mucked about as he was. It might have worked better with an episode or two less but as ever time was not on their side back then. Despite that, the result is a testament to his original idea and the persistence of the subsequent writers to realise it into a full adventure.

Knowing all this now, I wondered if this new DVD outing would retain much of an impact, especially having bought and played the VHS three times since purchase. Well, it does, and shows how David Whitaker's original idea was worked into a good story essentially by committee without us viewers noticing. I watched it all in one evening! It was helped no end by the picture quality being very good in the main, and being in colour all the way was an unparalleled joy. The first storyline twist is that it is non-volatile aliens who are taken prisoner by an ex-astronaut-mow-army-general, the genius move though is that they are used sparingly in this adventure and it's a real case of 'less is more'. The very brief unmasking of one when it comes was genuinely horrifying, and still could unnerve young children today who buy into watching it. Other tense scenes make up for any perceived languishing of the story here and there. A critical friend of mine and fellow DW enthusiast watchied this story for the first time thisn year and after prevous negative reports found it surprisingly enjoyable.

Caroline John is excellent as Liz Shaw and action stunt team Havoc bring some grit to fight sequences, especially in the opening episode once they have located where the signal transmissions to the aliens are coming from. UNIT are getting into their stride in this adventure. After two serials with different recruits in the UNIT ranks, recently-promoted Sergeant Benton's re-appearance heralds his becoming a core family team member that would characterise the Pertwee years which, in conjuction with more earth-based stories, greatly appealed to me. Nothing scares more than bringing danger and fear to your own doorstep, rather than alien worlds artificially-created on a budget - Nigel Kneale, the creator of Professor Quatermass to whom this period of Doctor Who owes a debt understood this very well. The resultant 1970 series of Doctor Who to my mind achieved an edge of realism that would be watered-down in later years and "The Ambassadors Of Death" bringing a slightly-futuristic Space Age in on the deal - if you suspend the disbelief - was ambitious and very credible to the young audience hooked on the "Apollo" missions at the time.

The viewing experience was slightly marred on the few softer, less detailed sections where recovered colour is of a poor-quality and has been cleaned up and amplified within an inch of its life by the Restoration Team. I put any disappointment I initially felt down to my incredibly high expectations bestowed upon it with such excellent restorations of "The Daemons" and "Terror Of The Autons" still fresh in my mind. And it's entirely forgiveable considering the RT's efforts in developing the Colour Recovery technique, an amazing achievement. By the way, the cost is probably one reason CR hasn't been used on much outside of "classic Doctor Who" (yet). Then again, the ITV engineers in the 1970's appear to have consistently used the chroma dot filter when telerecording colour series to achieve a leave a slightly cleaner picture. That the BBC's engineers didn't bother as much is all to our benefit forty years later! The audio deserves a mention too, taken from the domestic colour tape it is very clear, far superior to the telerecordings' optical tracks. Another RT result.

It was therefore a shame to find all seven episodes squeezed onto on disk - this wouldn't have helped the MPEG2 compression which is less tolerant of interlaced television pictures compared to the steady progressive frame-by-frame of film or filmised video. The second disk containng the extras was therefore rather underused - two episodes of the serial should have been put onto this second disk, the distribution of items would have made for a sharper picture overall. Only my opinion of course, but having fought MPEG2 myself in making my own DVD's it is rather obvious to me. Ah well.

If you haven't seen this story before, or have been put off by its seven parts, give it a go. And watch out for a copuple of history moments, such as the quirky, shortened, opening titles and theme, then the teaser from last week, then on the cliffhanger appears the remiaining opening titles sequence with an added sting on the serial name appearing - totally unique to this serial. episode 1 also features the first appearance of the electronic "scream" preceding the end title theme over the end credit sequence.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An okay script produced very well, 25 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death [DVD] (DVD)
It is long, it does have some problems with the colour, and the script did pass through too many hands in an effort to get it up onto the screen; however, it is played with a great deal of conviction by the cast, and the director really pulled out the stops despite Who's limited budget.

There is a lot of the Brigadier, UNIT, the always intelligent Liz Shaw, and gun-battles; there isn't any Tardis or alien worlds. Always having heard that this was a boring, overlong adventure, I was surprised to find myself really enjoying it.

If you like your Doctor Who camp and imaginative, this probably isn't going to be your cup of tea; if you like it played seriously and thoughtful, along the lines of Doctor Who and the Silurians, and Inferno, then this might well end up in your top ten.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Underrated Pertwee story, 30 Oct 2012
By 
Mr. R. W. Graham (Lincoln, U.K.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death [DVD] (DVD)
Good to see a release of The Ambassadors Of Death at long last! Now in full colour, the reason for the long delay has been the problem with the black and white footage but now at last fully restored in full colour, this is a good fun if slightly long Pertwee story about a Mars probe that brings something alien back from space. It's tense and a good example of the UNIT years of the show with the regular cast many of who are now sadly no longer with us. The UNIT years always reminded me of a cross between a James Bond movie and scifi alien invasion movie and this clearly demonstrates that. The story itself might have been better off as a 4 or 5 part story rather than the 7 parts here but still highly reccommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Invaders from Mars, 25 Oct 2012
By 
Paul Tapner (poole dorset england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death [DVD] (DVD)
Broadcast on the bbc back in 1970, the third story from Jon Pertwee's first year as Doctor Who comes to DVD. All seven episodes on one disc. With some extras on the next.

The original colour version of the story has long since been wiped by the bbc. But this dvd release has seen the story recoloured. Into a better state than the vhs partial colour version of roughly ten years back. The recolouring is a very good job all things considered and nobody should have any problems with the picture quality.

The story sees a spaceprobe go missing. A rescue mission finds something. But it's not the crew. It's alien. Whilst the Doctor hunts for the crew he and UNIT also have to stop mysterious villains from turning a first contact between two species into a disaster.

In the realistic style of this season, it features lots of action sequences that are very well done. And did stretch the budget somewhat. This story has always suffered by comparison to those around it because it doesn't have great monsters. It has okay ones. But it's not quite as padded as it could be at seven episodes. And it is very involving. Also offering a few moral lessons that don't go over the top.

Never quite a classic, but a solid story, and great to have it on dvd at last.

The dvd has the following language and subtitle options:

Languages: English.

Subtitles: English.

It's also English audio captioned.

There's a commentary on the story from various members of cast and crew. Three of the former, Caroline John [Liz Shaw] Nicholas Courtney [the Brigadier] and Peter Halliday [alien voices] are no longer with us.

It has the usual:

Photo gallery of stills from the story and it's production.

A trailer for the next release in this dvd range.

Production information subtitles.

Radio Times listings for the story as PDF Files.

The making of documentary runs for just under twenty five minutes and strings various anecdotes together. But it's very watchable and offers an interesting insight into how stunt work was done in the days before health and safety regulations. And just why the latter aren't such a bad idea.

There's also the original bbc trailer for the story.

Plus Tomorrow's times. Another in the series that looks at how the eras of the show were perceived by the press, this sees the Third Doctor's era discussed in a show presented by Peter Purves. As with the rest of these the length of it, a mere twelve minutes, does mean it's a rather cursory gallop through the era. But it does offer interesting insights into the dawn of 'Doctor Who is too violent and scary for children' brigade. And Peter Purves' affable and skilled presentation means it's never obvious he's reading from an autocue and a result it's quite an affable watch.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great!, 27 Dec 2012
This review is from: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death [DVD] (DVD)
I first saw this in the early 90s on UK Gold in what was then very poor black and white, with sound that was barely audible in places. I recall the announcer apologising prior to one of the episodes, stating that the sound in particular hadn't travelled as well in time as the good Doctor himself! There are still some parts where the sound is notably distorted but this is a world away from the broadcast I saw around 1992!

For comparison purposes I would have loved to have seen some more detail surrounding the restoration of these episodes on the 2 disc DVD, for the Daemons they included a whole episode to demonstrate the advances made in technology since their first attempts in the 90s.

Pertwee is my favourite era and I especially love all the techy stuff that goes into these restorations. I was amazed when I first saw the Daemons restored and couldn't wait to get my hands on the DVD version. After seeing the amazing job done on Terror of the Autons I had high hopes for the Daemons, and for this release.

The biggest irritation with the Daemons is also very noticeable with this story - colour bleeding. In some scenes it's really distracting, episode one is of course taken directly from the surviving videotapes (the earliest known surviving story in this format) it looks like it was recorded only weeks ago thanks to some marvellous restoration work, move onto episode two and there is a significant drop in quality. Whilst the restoration work on this story is still impressive, considering the source material they had to work with and having to use multiple techniques to get back to full colour, I have to wonder if more could have been done to control the amount of colour bleed.

Anyone who owns the Daemons DVD will no doubt have seen the Tomorrow's World report on the original restoration. During this, they explain the issues with the different size and shapes of the colour NTSC video compared with the black and white images, and how they overcame the problem by warping the pictures electronically. When I watched (and recorded) the original restorations these colour problems were nowhere near as noticeable as they are now, so what's changed since then?!

As a story it's long - very long, lots of padding in places which is common in many of the older, longer episodes of this era but aside from all it's faults it's quite amazing to have all seven episodes in watchable colour again.

If you've watched previous colour restorations and you're expecting more of the same, if not better, then you will be disappointed with this release. If however you've longed to see the only remaining story from season seven that was still lost in its colour form, you will be chuffed to see what they've managed to produce, with such dodgy material!
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The final title from a unique season, 23 Sep 2012
This review is from: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death [DVD] (DVD)
Season 7 is a remarkable year of Doctor Who, and although it's hard to pick a favourite, this probably comes closest for me. Exceptionally atmospheric in places, with some of the creepiest music (i.e. the alien's theme) to grace the series. It might be an odd choice, but the quarry scenes of the cranes burying the thugs in gravel I find really affecting.
And now the story is available in full colour for the first time since broadcast. Really, this is one worth every penny.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Tremendous Bit of Telly, 2 Jun 2013
By 
R. Foster "Square" (Northumberland, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death [DVD] (DVD)
The Ambassadors of Death is one of those great examples of what Doctor Who can do well - action packed, relevant and morally strong science fiction. If it has a flaw it's that it slows slightly in the middle to pad out the story a bit, but otherwise it's absolutely riveting.

The Cowboys and Indians style action sequences are wonderfully performed and edited with a sense of real momentum. The first shoot out in this story blew me away - I can say with utmost sincerity it was one of the best TV action set pieces I've ever seen and I've watched a lot of great TV.

This would be great for anyone who loves a good Doctor Who story or anyone wanting to get a feel of what the Pertwee era of Doctor Who was all about. Wonderful actors, wonderfully rendered characters, dramatic storytelling and a tasty sprinking of location shooting - all without breaking the laws of physics.
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Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death [DVD]
Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death [DVD] by Jon Pertwee (DVD - 2012)
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