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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What the future used to look like, 10 Oct 2009
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This review is from: Doctor Who: Dalek War (Frontier in Space / Planet of the Daleks) [DVD] [1973] (DVD)
This 4-disc set of two consecutive stories from 1973 is great. Frontier in Space, the first story (2 hrs 23 mins), is a complex tale of interplanetary intrigue and diplomacy, in which the Master is engineering a war between to powerful empires, Earth and the proud, honourable Draconians, who face each other distrustully across the eponymous boundary. If this sounds like Star Trek, it is - it was written a month after the first UK broadcast of the similarly-themed "Balance of Terror". You wouldn't get away with that nowadays! This story is probably best remembered for its aliens du jour, the Draconians, who are both well-written and well-realised, with even close-ups bearing close scrutiny. It's a high point of science fiction alien makeup. Another high point is Roger Delgado, in his final appearance as the Master. Here he is almost jovial as he schemes to destroy Earth's empire, apparently solely to humiliate the Doctor. It's a playful interpretation of the role we get from Delgado here, and he has a great rapport with both the principals. Sadly, after five and a half excellent episodes, the ending is a real botch job. It's hard to work out what's actually happening. The various extras explain what went wrong, and what should have happened. That aside, Frontier in Space was always one of my favourites, and this release confirms its place in my Who top ten.

Planet of the Daleks (2 hrs 20 mins) is a different kettle of fish, despite segueing directly from the previous story. Written by Dalek creator Terry Nation, it's basically a rehash of two of his previous stories - "The Daleks" (1963-4) and "The Daleks' Master Plan" (1965-6). Longtime Who fans may experience deja vu while watching. However, there's still much worth seeing. Where Frontier in Space explores the broad sweep of interplanetary diplomacy, Planet of the Daleks emphasises the personal struggles of survival in a hostile environment and the search for courage and leadership, as a small group of people attempt to prevent the Daleks from learning the secret of invisibility. It's slightly let down by some cheap-looking production values, but the story mostly gets away with it due to the conviction of the cast (Jon Pertwee and Bernard Horsfall especially, and even Prentis Hancock is much better here than his lacklustre performance in Planet of Evil). While nowhere near as good as either Frontier in Space, or Nation's later Genesis of the Daleks, Planet of the Daleks is still a thoroughly entertaining adventure.

Extras (3 hours)
Frontier in Space:

Commentary with Katy Manning, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks, moderated by Clayton Hickman. A Thoroughly entertaining and informative soundtrack. *****

Perfect Scenario: Lost Frontier (30 mins) - This is an attempt to show how Frontier in Space drew on current affairs for inspiration. While there is much interesting material to illustrate the point, it's bizarrely framed in a pointless, distracting Matrix-themed science-fiction story where a future computer and student discuss the information. I'm going to sound like a Grumpy Old Woman here, but do we really need a documentary to be jazzed up with a back-of-envelope framing story and look-what-i-can-do effects? No more please. **

The Space War (18 mins) - cast and crew recollect the making of the serial. Quite interesting. ****

Roger Delgado: The Master (33 mins) - a biography of actor Roger Delgado. An excellent tribute to one of the show's best regular actors, with many clips from his appearances in everything from Quatermass to a documentary. There are also many fond reminiscences from his colleagues, and a moving description by his widow Kismet in which she describes hearing the news of his death in a car accident. A worthy tribute to a fine actor. *****

Stripped for Action: The Third Doctor (16 mins) - The third Doctor's adventures in comics appear to have been an artistic high point, and this is well worth watching for the beautiful illustrations. *****

Photo Gallery ****
Production subtitles - all the production trivia, alternate scripts, trivia and asides you'll ever need. ****

There's meant to be an easter egg, but I'm blowed if I can find it.

Planet of the Daleks:

Commentary wth actors Katy Manning, Prentis Hancock and Tim Preece, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks. A good-natured and lively commentary track. ****

Perfect Scenario: The End of Dreams (30mins) - the second part of this effort loses its way, as Planet of the Daleks had less current-events context to make this feasible. This idea hasn't worked and I hope all involved are sent to bed without supper. *

The Rumble in the Jungle (17 mins) - cast and crew look back at the making of the story. Quite good but nothing amazing. ***

Multi-colourisation (11 mins) - How episode 3 had its colour restored. The highlight for me was that some of the software for this highly technical and complex process was written in BBC BASIC! Fascinating exploration of the restoration, which incidentally is now indistinguishable from the other episodes, it's a first-class job. ****

Stripped for Action: The Daleks (14 mins) - a reasonable exploration of the Daleks' appearances in comics, concentrating on the early seventies. ***

Blue Peter (13 mins) - two items from the childrens' magazine programme, featuring an appeal for any information on the theft of two Daleks from the BBC, and their subsequent return. OK but a bit too long, especially as some of this was on the Genesis of the Daleks DVD. ***

Photo gallery ****
Production subtitles ****

TL;DR - Frontier in Space is a classic of TV sci-fi, Planet of the Daleks is good entertainment, the extras are variable but plentiful. Buy it.
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Showing 1-10 of 15 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Nov 2009 19:32:35 GMT
Paul Tapner says:
for the easter egg watch the disc on a computer [havent got them to hand at the moment so i cant remember if it's disc one or two] and go to the audio options screen and move the pointer over it till a hidden doctor who logo lights up. but it's nothing special it's just the title sequence with a rendition of the theme they were going to use for the tenth season but then decided against. probably because it's not very good.

theres a much better one on planet of the daleks disc two which can be found also by moving the pointer round till a logo lights up, this time on the menu screen. this is an alternate take on the commentary for the start of part three recorded when they thought they'd have to release it in black and white

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Nov 2009 19:52:33 GMT
Sophie says:
Thanks Paul!

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Dec 2009 17:08:21 GMT
Paul Smith says:
i agree totally with you about the "look what i can do filming" , you are not a grumpy old man, you are like me, just not needing to be distracted from what you are watching... great review mate.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Dec 2009 22:29:57 GMT
Sophie says:
Thanks! I'm slightly surprised to have my review top of the "most helpful" rankings. I keep worrying that my reviews are long-winded but evidently they are not.

Posted on 16 Dec 2010 05:48:40 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Dec 2010 05:59:44 GMT
S. Poppitt says:
With regard to 'Genesis of the Daleks', the reason it was so much better than Terry Nation's other Dalek serials of the 1970s was that Nation didn't write it!

His follow-on script to 'Death to the Daleks' (1973) was rejected by the new production team in 1975, and in-coming script editor Bob Holmes wrote a brilliant new story in place of it, complete with Nazis, Davros, and an entirely new origin for the Daleks - a script which really came sparklingly to life in the hands of Tom Baker and a superb supporting cast.

I don't dislike any aspect of 'Planet of the Daleks', but Terry Nation keeps being given credit, wrongly, for the script Bob Holmes wrote for 'Genesis'. Terry, it should be remembered, produced such horrors as 1979's 'Destiny of the Daleks' (which finally got him banned from ever writing for the series again!) and the 1973 travesty, 'Death to the Daleks'. Those were hopeless runarounds, without any plot, in which nothing actually happened.

His entire reputation in 'Doctor Who' was based on a great script for the 1963 origin serial, 'The Daleks', which was actually 90% written by script editor David Whittaker! Terry ought to be remembered today only for such feeble efforts as 'Keys of Marinus' and 'Destiny of the Daleks'!

But to give him credit where it's due, 'Planet of the Daleks' is rather good. It's slightly derivative, owing bits and pieces to earlier Dalek stories; and it's not nearly as good as the lost Patrick Troughton Dalek serial 'Evil of the Daleks', another great story which was written by David Whittaker; but 'Planet of the Daleks' is miles ahead of Nation's final two Dalek offerings, 'Death to the Daleks' and 'Destiny of the Daleks'.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Dec 2010 02:26:04 GMT
Hmm. I believe Bob Holmes may have done some script-editing on Genesis of the Daleks - but I'm convinced I've heard the true story on commentaries a couple of times - as I understand it, when Nation submitted the script for his dalek story for the new doctor Terry Dicks told him "it's a great story, Terry, but you've already sold it to us twice before" and sent him away to think again. Dicks was still script editor when the story outlines were being submitted (Barry Letts produced Robot, and the stories or at least the outlines were already in place by the time the Hinchcliffe/Holmes team came in)

I'm sure I've also heard comment from Barry Letts that whereas himself and Dicks might have toned down some of the violence in Nation's script, Hinchcliffe and Holmes were more likely to egg him on to make it scarier - and then of course they got a director and a lighting engineer that wanted to make the whole thing look dark and creepy. But Nation definitely wrote it AFAIK.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jan 2011 14:14:03 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Jan 2011 15:17:32 GMT
S. Poppitt says:
Indeed every time he's talked about the genesis of 'Genesis', Terry Dicks has used that line about Nation having already sold them the same story twice before, in order to get a big laugh.

He was being kind, of course, the implication being that the other Terry (Nation) was offering them a re-write of the diabolically bad 'Death to the Daleks'! Could the man who went on to write the abysmal 'Destiny of the Daleks' really have written the blindly brilliant 'Genesis of the Daleks'?

You'll be saying next that Bob Holmes didn't salvage the appalling first draft script for the following story, 'Revenge of the Cybermen'. The high quality of Tom Baker's first two seasons didn't come about through chance, but rather through the exceptional talents of Robert Holmes and producer Phillip Hinchcliffe, who turned a bunch of average or poor scripts into brilliant ones. Please remember that Terry Dicks complained so strongly about the heavyweight changes made to his 'Brain of Morbius' scripts that he made them take his name off that serial altogether - as none of his own dialogue remained!

Posted on 14 Apr 2012 13:08:28 BDT
100101 says:
nice review very comprehensive, your not a bbc journalist by any chance? very helpful information is it a tad on the genesis of the daleks my favourite by a golden mile,nyler was the star for me in that one.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Apr 2012 14:01:43 BDT
Sophie says:
Thanks for the praise, but I'm not any kind of journalist! I just write the kind of review I'd like to read, that gives a considered opinion on the whole product.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2012 14:14:40 BDT
100101 says:
you're welcome,i think they should have updated the planet of the daleks with some cgi and frontier too,just needs tweeking here and there getting rid of those number counters and install something cgi there as it looks antiquated,did you purchase the dalek collection?
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