on 18 July 2013
Here is the pinnacle of the Doctor Who Restoration team's work on the classic series: the Blu-Ray version of the very first colour story of the classic series. So clear, you can see every line of terror of the earthling's screams!
Doctor Who started the 1970s as it ended them- with a production disrupted by strike action. Unlike Shada in 1979, however, here the electrician's strike bizarrely benefited the production- as it forced the studio sections of this story to have been shot on location on film (oh why didn't they think of that for Shada!?) This story remains an oddity therefore: as the only Doctor Who story of the classic series to have been shot entirely on 16mm film and therefore able to be upgraded to HD.
When I first viewed the opening credits I was bitterly disappointed - the credits look as grainy as they do on any other Pertwee DVD release. Once the action begins however, the results are breathtaking - it looks like it was filmed yesterday, not 43 years ago! You can see detail in this production that just weren't visible yesterday - there's a fine pencil drawing on the walls of the Brig's office, in which you can now see every stroke. Every line of terror on face of each terrorised earthling is clearly visible! There is only slight grain on the darker, indoor filmed sections, presumably a limitation of 16mm filming in lower light conditions. For outdoor shots there is no such grain. It goes without saying the film is devoid of any dirt or sparkle, and particular praise must go to the colour grading which is superb. There has been a tendency in recent years to ramp up the saturation of the DVD releases, but no so here. The colours are neither washed out nor over saturated- but realistic, whilst being filmic. The production benefits from being shot on location, on film, because there are simply shots they couldn't have achieved in the studio with bulky TV cameras. In that sense, the colour grading matches the filmic look of the production. I don't own the other DVD releases of this story, so I can't comment on their comparisons, but the excellent 'Restoration Comparison' shows the three different DVD/Blu-ray releases for comparison: I much prefer the colour grading of the current Blu-Ray release.
As for the story, well it's of course landmark as the first in colour and the first 3rd Doctor story. What I'd quite forgotten, however, is how it does an excellent job of introducing the concept of Doctor Who to a completely new audience. It's almost as though with the transition to colour and the 1970s, they wanted to re-introduce all the basic elements to a completely new audience. What an excellent job it does too: regeneration, time travel, the TARDIS, his alien anatomy (two hearts) are all introduced without fuss or confusion. It must have been an extremely successful formula because it was readily copied for future series relaunches: set in a hospital/ X-ray showing two hearts (TV Movie, 1996); an Auton invasion of earth after regeneration (Rose, 2005); and an incapacitated Doctor following regeneration in bed with an alien invasion of earth (The Christmas Invasion, 2005). An element of the production that must come in for particular praise is Dudley Simpson's cinematic score: it really sounds like a movie of the late 1960s and not like any of his other (highly electronic scores) of the Pertwee era. It really gives the production a polish rarely seen in the Pertwee era, and I think the use of full orchestra here is simply fantastic.
For this first (?!) HD transfer, the extras seem to have moved up a notch as well. Both the 45m 'A Dandy and a Clown' (tribute to Jon Pertwee) and 30m 'Carry on: The Life of Caroline John' are simply first class. They way these have been shot and produced (a mixture of interviews, photographs, narrative, Pertwee/ Jon's own words, archival interviews with Parkinson etc., documents, convention appearances) is simply wonderful. Both documentaries focus on their lives, not just their time on Doctor Who. As Pertwee states himself, he feels his greatest achievement as an actor was Worzel Gummidge, not Doctor Who. Each documentary is both a realistic and nostalgic look back on the lives of two wonderful actors. John's is particularly poignant as her life is recalled by her husband, Geoffrey Beevers. He recalls a story of the family enjoying getting together for last year's Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in the UK. A family simply having a great time over a national event, sadly looked on by Caroline in her final days.
A superb (1st?) foray into HD by the classic series. Will there be more to follow? If they can match this, why not?
on 13 July 2013
I have based my review on the quality of the Blu-ray presentation, I am sure everyone knows the story very well and why it is the only Dr Who story from the classic series shot on film, so I am not going to add to what others have said. I was very sceptical about the issue of any Doctor who story on Blu-ray prior to 2010 when the new series moved into that format. I was also familiar with the BBC own statement that no programme made on 16mm film would ever be considered as high definition,and only programmes recorded on super 16mm (Merlin series 5 onwards for example)would be classed as HD. So you can imagine why I was a little concerned at the release of this story, and the fact that the story was only ever designed to be shown on 625 line TV format. Well the reviews prior to the release of this story showed nothing just claimed how exciting it was without actually seeing the new version.
My copy arrived this morning, and I have to say compared with modern day Blu-ray you would think this had been filmed yesterday, I have to say all my fears washed away, the clarity of the picture is just amazing, and this is 16mm film, not the industry standard of 35mm. There are some darker scenes where the picture is a little grainy but seriously nothing you would really notice, any more than modern recordings.
Obviously this could for some people be the third time you have purchased this story and although the special Auton box set was good this is now, well breathtaking clear. The sound is still mono regardless on the stereo claim on the box, although it would be dual mono. As for the extras they are in high definition as well, with a look at Caroline John's carrier, as well as a look back at Jon Pertwee's long carrier. None of the extras from the DVD release are included on the Blu-ray. So if your feeling flush with cash, then this is a amazing purchase.
on 20 August 2013
Yet another re-release of this story? After two vhs versions, two dvd versions, audiobooks etc, surely everyone who wants to owns a copy of this story by now already does so. The big selling point this time round is the first classic series HD Blu-ray release.
The story was the first to feature Jon Pertwee's Doctor, the first in colour, and the first of the seventies. It was also the first to feature the lethal shop window dummies the Autons and the Lovecraftian Nestene Consciousness which animates them. Its a fast paced, briskly edited piece, with each episode flying by and still stands as a bold and confident show.
The HD remaster is glorious to watch with a considerable improvement on the SD remaster for the most recent DVD release. Colour quality in particular is an enormous leap and the autumn location filming now shows a gorgeous quality to the light on exterior scenes. There is some grain, particularly in some woodland and factory scenes but this is not distracting. Spearhead from Space suffered from sound recording difficulties when shooting but you wouldn't know it from the sympathetic but effective mix on this disc.
The extras do not from carry over from previous DVDs (the product team have said it is intended as a companion to the DVD rather than a replacement). Instead we have two comprehensive, personal and charming tributes to the late Jon Pertwee and Caroline John featuring archive interviews with them and more recent interviews with family and colleagues. There is brief featurette discussing the restoration process and some raw footage of the title sequence
This release represents a commendable start to the range of classic episodes on Blu-Ray. Sadly, it is also the end of the range. As all the other existing episodes were recorded on a mixture of videotape and film they cannot be enhanced to HD with the current technology. This may change one day but for now this will have to remain a very enjoyable anomaly
on 26 August 2014
Wow! I've seen 'Spearhead From Space' a few times - on Video, DVD and TV - and I can honestly say that the blu-ray version really brings this story to life. Suddenly those murky, grainy exteriors are clear and sharp. The grey skies of older versions are sunny and bright blue, and the forest in which the TARDIS crashlands is full of green shades, depth and texture. The plastics factory, the Auton Invasion of Ealing High Street, the hospital scenes and the UNIT HQ interiors all look and sound as good as new. Probably better, in fact, since household televisions in 1970 were far inferior to the current generation of 21st Century high definition multimedia goggleboxes.
The story itself has always been one of my favourites. A brand new alien threat with plans already far advanced by the time our hero arrives and comes to his senses, UNIT taking control under the leadership of the constantly hard-pressed Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart and the wonderful Caroline John giving everything as new companion Liz Shaw. But it is Jon Pertwee who dominates every scene he appears in; whether childishly clutching his shoes in a hospital bed, emerging sheepishly from a smoking, broken TARDIS after failing to make a quick exit from the confines of planet Earth, or gurning wildly with a rubber tentacle wrapped around his neck at the story's climax. Pertwee totally inhabits the character of the Doctor from the off, and although at the time it must have been strange for a loyal audience to accept this tall, grey-haired, gravel-voiced star of radio and film as the latest incarnation of the much-loved Time Lord, it is absolutely wonderful to view this story in retrospect as the first adventure of a figure who would come to define the programme and the character of the Doctor for a generation.
And, of course, it was the first Doctor Who story shot entirely on colour film. Woo-hoo!
So it's fitting that Spearhead is able to benefit from the HD treatment. Apparently it's unlikely that any other story of this era will ever be afforded this luxury; so if it only has to be one 3rd Doctor adventure that gets the HD Upgrade, then why not this one. If you've never seen Spearhead before then I envy you, you're in for a real treat.
What luck! A set of random circumstances that all converged in Space and Time, to make this one story of all classic `Doctor Who' stories suitable for a new release, in an HD Blu-Ray format that nobody in 1970 could have imagined. 5*
First things first: the picture quality is just as good as I hoped for, significantly better than the already excellent quality of the `Autons' box set edition. Remastered in 2K from the original 16mm materials and presented here in 1080i HD, it is very clear, with subtle colours and fine details. The title sequence looks almost unchanged, probably something to do with the production of that stock sequence, but as soon as the film action begins the difference is clear.
For me, the first `wow' moment was when that dodgy poacher Sam Seeley dodges the incoming Nestene sphere and prods carefully at it in the ground. Wisps of smoke stream up with a new clarity and subtlety and from then on the difference is obvious, from the general `feel' that you are watching a true feature film to details like the notice outside UNIT H.Q. and the weave on the Brigadier's well-earned braid decorations.
There's some slight film grain in the darker areas but remember this was made on 16mm film not 35mm and was never intended to be viewed above 625 line colour TV resolution, so the remastered version shown here is a triumph. It's important to get the TV settings right when you view it, use `movie mode' or similar to avoid over-sharpening the residual film grain and the result is excellent. This could be a late 1960s feature film for its colour tones and shading, only the 4:3 TV format gives it away. Derek Martinus' direction made full use of the freedom given by film with some great location shots. Channing's face seen distorted by the rippled glass door is just one example - perhaps hinting that he is only a distortion of a human being.
The sound is described as `stereo' but obviously it's dual mono as only a mono recording ever existed, but the quality is again excellent - Dudley Simpson with just the right touches of music as usual and the sound ambience from true location interiors instead of studio sets.
We must thank the striking BBC studio workers who in 1969 accidentally set `Doctor Who' producer Derrick Sherwin off to make the one and only all-location, all-film story - and what a story to pick, by pure chance. The first in colour, the first with *my* Doctor, the first true classic from Robert Holmes - best of all `Doctor Who' writers, the first of the superb `Quatermass-style' season, introducing Caroline John with that great shot in the car driving through London. Perfect.
I've copied my review of the actual plot from the `Autons' box set edition after the end of this review rather than discussing it here, as I'd guess most people already know this classic. If you don't, then how lucky you are to enjoy seeing it for the first time, on an HD TV!
NOTE: the BD sleeve insert can be removed and reversed to display a sleeve design matching the classic series DVD range, useful.
For everyone who has a previous version, this is a significant step-up on the box set edition and a huge improvement on the original standalone release. A short special feature shows side-by-side comparisons between versions and demonstrates the impressive restoration. This Blu-Ray edition has no commentary or the extras from the box set edition - it's intended to complement, not replace that edition.
What we get instead are two superb new documentaries telling the life stories of Jon Pertwee (45 minutes) and Caroline John (29 minutes) through interviews with family and friends, photographs and extensive archive footage from TV interviews and convention appearances.
Watching the documentaries as a pair, I thought how well the two actors came together from what some would say were opposite ends of the business - light entertainment and Shakespeare at the Old Vic. How amazing that some people doubted that Jon Pertwee could do a `straight acting' role, and how sad that the way Caroline John was replaced left her thinking for many years that she had somehow failed in the show.
In fact they and the excellent writers had created a season of `Doctor Who' that was voted the third best of all time by fans, only topped by the two legendary `Gothic' Holmes/Hinchcliffe seasons. The Third Doctor had three wonderful yet very different companions, and in this season the dashing Doctor and his super-intelligent assistant are a great combination, a refreshingly equal and enjoyable partnership.
And now we can enjoy the `spearhead' of this new era, uniquely, in HD. Thanks for reading. 5*
`Spearhead From Space' : Story Review
Strange glowing `meteorites` land in rural England, containing an alien intelligence looking for new homes - anywhere will do, as long as it's made of plastic. Also landing is another alien intelligence looking for a new home, with a new face and in colour for the first time. Jon Pertwee was the Doctor I grew up watching, so for me he *was* the Doctor - a fabulous, elegant Regency superhero from space who (for some reason I didn't understand) spent most of his time on earth. Robert Holmes introduces him in a story that is aimed at adults as much as children - the deliberate new style for this season which has worn very well.
The UNIT stories benefit from great action scenes and most of all from Nicholas Courtney's splendid Brigadier. Here he's wearing a different uniform ("chocolate soldier" as he put it!) and isn't too sure about the new chap who's turned up claiming to be his friend the Doctor, but as ever he's ready to defend the earth and his growing friendship with the Doctor is a pleasure to follow. Joining UNIT in this story is Dr. Elizabeth `Liz' Shaw (the excellent Caroline John), understandably annoyed at being requisitioned from Cambridge like a piece of laboratory equipment! A brilliant scientist in her own right, she starts off being very sceptical about the Brig's tales of alien invasion, but events and the Doctor soon convince her.
The story runs along two parallel strands; the Doctor, dazed from regeneration and trying to come to terms with being in exile, and the growing threat from the Nestenes who recognise his importance even before the Brigadier does. There's some enjoyable action comedy as the Doctor escapes from Autons in a wheelchair then `escapes' from hospital in a consultant's dressy outfit (pity he lost the hat in later stories!) and `borrows' his car. Watch for the moment when he is `caught' by Liz and the Brig trying to escape in the TARDIS - for that scene Jon Pertwee is clearly playing Patrick Troughton playing the Doctor, clever acting and a nice nod to his popular predecessor.
The Autons and their leader, the wonderfully sinister Channing (Hugh Burden), are bubbling into plastic life in the factory once run by Mr. Hibbert (John Woodnutt, years later a Zygon warlord!) who is now under Channing's mind control but always struggling to free himself. It's a great, tense tale of dummies, doubles and duplicity where even your boss might be a Nestene Replica and if you go window shopping the tailor's mannequin might be the last thing you ever see ...
`Spearhead' looks fantastic and totally different from any other `Doctor Who', made all on film and all on location thanks to a studio workers' strike at the BBC. What a very 1970s reason, but what a great result! According to the (DVD box set edition) commentary and features, what should have been the studio scenes were filmed at the BBC training centre at Wood Norton in Worcestershire. It featured in the invasion defence plans of World War II and had a bunker for use in the event of a future war, how appropriate for this story! Using film throughout gives a unique `big-screen' feel.
It has to be said the plot partly bears a resemblance to one of the earlier `Quatermass' serials, which perhaps inspired the style of this whole season. It's not a replica, but I saw the 1950s film `Quatermass 2' by chance a few years ago and had a major déjà vu moment! Déjà vu does *not* apply to all the people who "saw" Autons "smashing out of shop windows" - it's referred to again and again in interviews and on web sites but (for budget reasons) breaking glass is heard but not seen, then the Autons appear in the street; good direction making the most of a small budget and creating an "iconic moment" in memory that never actually happened on screen in the classic series!
The scenes of Autons attacking that really do happen (filmed in early morning Ealing) are iconic in themselves. Listen very carefully to the soundtrack just before the Autons emerge to break the peace (if not the windows!) and you will hear another iconic sound of the time - clinking glass and a gentle hum - younger viewers may not recognise it, but that's the sound of milk in glass bottles being delivered to the doorstep and the (unseen) milkman driving off in an electric milk float. They were once defining sounds of early morning, a nice touch and an illustration of the care that went into this production.
This is a great, one-off creation, in part carefully moulded and part shaped by events but never replicated in its all-film style; a splendid colour spearhead to lead the Third Doctor's time on earth. 5*
on 23 March 2015
Great Blu ray quality and great transfer! Blu ray is great improve over DVD version!
The picture quality now full restore in over DVD version!
The picture quality look like yesterday! The first version of DVD the content was very poor (some of part of clip and where brain machine in room look like cheap made) so Blu ray version now fixed the content quality!
Also great extra of Blu ray and also review of video in compare three version video transfer it one 1st version DVD and 2nd version DVD and HD restore Blu ray version it note will huge different compare first version of DVD!
on 29 December 2013
For anybody contemplating this in addition to the DVD version it is well worth it. There is even a special feature on the disc which shows the outstanding picture quality differences between the DVD and Blu-ray versions. This release is simply beautiful, features a reversible cover so it can match the style of the rest of the DVD range to look nice on a shelf, and the Blu-ray menu is a welcome change from the usual DVD menus. The picture quality is amazing and looks just as good as modern Doctor Who. The special features are also exemplary. As mentioned earlier there is a restoration comparison, which is interesting to watch, as well as HD material from the 1970 title sequence, and two beautiful documentaries about the lives of Jon Pertwee and Caroline John, also in HD and are interesting and entertaining to watch, and are a fitting tribute to the actors. There is also a coming soon trailer for the special edition of the Green Death, in SD. Quite simply, this is a wonderful release and I would fully recommend purchasing this great story in addition to the DVD as it does not contain the previously released special features, and is intended to accompany the DVD according to the range producers.
on 15 September 2014
Wow. Jon Pertwee's first story and in stunning HD. Thankfully they did for whatever reason chose to film this on entirely on 16mm film meaning it was perfect for HD conversion and the result is brilliant. If only they had done this for all classic Who.
on 21 July 2014
What a treasure that the BBC had a strike and decided to film on 16mm. Although the HD is not by anymeans what HD is today (most notably the visible graining) it is still worth the buy. Bonus feature on Jon P was a pleasure to watch.
on 30 October 2014
The great and much missed Jon Pertwee as the Doctor on Blueray. it looks great on Blueray and Jon's first story as the Doctor and also the first Doctor Who story that was in colour too. an Essential purchase for any Doctor Who fan.