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So clear: on earth you can see them scream!,
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This review is from: Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space (Special Edition) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
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?
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Aug 2013 16:47:23 BDT
Luke Foord says:
Clearly you're unaware this is the only classic era story that could ever be produced to have an HD image, as it was the only one filmed on film camera. I'm afraid none of the others will make their way to blu-ray. Which personally I'm happy with as I already own all the ones out at the moment! Otherwise great review.
In reply to an earlier post on 19 Aug 2013 12:23:40 BDT
Luke thanks for your kind words re the review. Re the query about '1st' in my review, I was questionning the way this Blu-ray has been marketed -both in official reviews and on the packaging -as the first HD release for the classic series. My understanding is the only other episode that could be given a Blu-ray release is the TV Movie of 1996, having been shot on 35mm film. However, such a release would require all the special effects to be recreated, something that has been ruled out on the grounds of costs. Recent comments from the restoration team suggest that the MPEG codec used for DVD transfers is poorer than that used for Blu-ray, and therefore other titles may benefit from a Blu-ray release (despite having been shot on SD videotape). Time will tell!
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