Customer Review

8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...genius...but DVD content is flawed and picture restoration shaky...", 21 Sep 2013
This review is from: Doctor Who - Terror of the Zygons [DVD] (DVD)
(NOTE: This review is based upon a Press Review copy provided by BBC DVD on 20 Sept. 2013)

In 1975, I wasn't even 10 years old when the Zygons gripped me by the throat and thrilled & chilled me to the bone in equal measure, so to have it beautifully restored and professionally assessed (by the cast & crew) in this 2013 DVD release was to be again thrilling. Sadly, it has left me chilled and unimpressed.

It's my all-time favourite DOCTOR WHO story and I feel bereft. The picture restoration is shaky, leaving incursions of 'horizontal' TV inference on screen, and the sequences on 35MM (location shots) are washed-out of colour. Now, perhaps, I've been spoilt by the SUPERB Blu-ray release of Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space (Special Edition) [Blu-ray], but, surely, restoration of this epic could have been more diligent (cost restraints, perhaps?).

However, the inherent faults are quickly dismissed just to watch-and-rewind the highlight of this two-disc release; Douglas Camfield's (superb contributor to the 50 year DOCTOR WHO legend) DIRECTOR'S CUT EPISODE ONE. This features the TARDIS materialising 'invisibly' in the forest with the time travellers appearing from nowhere (akin to DOCTOR WHO - INVASION (2 Disc Set) [DVD] [1968]). Wonderful. To watch a scene from the CLASSIC SERIES afresh for the first time is simply beguiling.

One mention for the re-mastered 5.1 Dolby Sound edit (courtesy of Mark Ayres) - exemplary.

Ironically, one of the better featurettes is non-DOCTOR WHO related in its content which is, even though it was recorded/broadcast in 1977, thoroughly informative and entertaining in equal measure. Travelling 168km off the United Kingdom mainland, Elisabeth Sladen is transported to an isolated "space station" like habitation in the middle of the North Sea, Dundee Kings North Drilling Platform as she uncovers the story of oil exploration. Recorded as part of the BBC's Schools' programming, MERRY-GO-ROUND was aimed at seven to nine year olds to supplement their classroom curriculum, I am certain that seeing the recently TARDIS departed Sladen taking their collective hands and guiding them safely across the cold, choppy sea to another alien world but this one man-made. Donning a bright yellow oilskin jacket (I wonder if she pilfered the SAME outfit from the costume van after 1975'S THE SONTARAN EXPERIMENT [1975] [DVD] [1963]..?), Sladen's gentle (scripted) humour and engaging personality ensures that the complicated process in drilling for oil in the hostile depths of the ocean is clearly explained as well expediently assessing the inherent dangers of working on the rig. It's a fascinating documentary even for this middle-aged bloke who still cannot believe that she is no longer with us.

In his enigmatic way, Tom Baker is uncharacteristically restrained in an interview with a local TV reporter during the filming of DOCTOR WHO - TERROR OF THE ZYGONS. Admittedly, SOUTH TODAY deserves credit for a rare snippet of television history that sees Baker at his most relaxed, discussing the need to be (mentally) "...fresh..." for his role as the Fourth Doctor eschewing his pre-WHO lifestyle of "...bachelor benders..." (read: drunken debauchery, it can be assumed). What is surprising, given that the interview was conducted in March 1975 and less than a year into his new job, is that Baker even then seemed wholly `affectionate' towards the character of the Time Lord that he has inherited, and a `love' that continues to this day too. The segment opens on the Sussex Beach - doubling for that remote Scottish headland onto which Oil Rig worker, Munroe, is washed ashore - and, if you look carefully, you'll catch a glimpse the story's Director, an animated Douglas Camfield.

On this disc two new DOCTOR WHO STORIES (DWS) featurettes are presented, featuring Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen edited from interviews recorded in 2003. Surely, there are more recent interviews from which DOCTOR WHO reminisces could be culled from? Indeed, initially I thought that the Tom Baker DWS was merely a repetition of his Confessional contribution to the (underrated) Doctor Who - THE FOURTH DOCTOR TIME CAPSULE[DVD], giving me time to boil the kettle, make the tea and rustle-up a dozen sultana scones. How wrong could I have been? Baker's memories are as perceptive, diligent and creative as ever even if you have heard them for the third or fourth time.

A raconteur of the `first order', Baker knows his (captive) audience and pitches his tales with garrulous precision. One prime example is his recollection of rehearsing DOCTOR WHO - GENESIS OF THE DALEKS [DVD] [1975](1975) with "...the most serious actor I have ever met...was terribly funny because he found nothing funny..." Michael Wisher (Davros) as the actor took the `Method' too far courtesy of a copious shopping paper bag and strategically cut holes.

Additionally he admits that he was "...so sorry that I was so rude to Paddy (Russell)..." during the filming of "...the best..." DOCTOR WHO - THE PYRAMIDS OF MARS, and was appreciative of Douglas Camfield's approach for both DOCTOR WHO - TERROR OF THE ZYGONS and THE SEEDS OF DOOM.

Equally as absorbing is Elisabeth Sladen's DWS compilation of recollections, delivered with an eternal effervescence that resonates through the screen and one that will be dimmed. Like Baker before her, Sladen is modestly appreciative of how being a part of the drama series had changed her life and how the memories of those formative years remain as defined as the day they were created. However, there are two incidents that will be intriguing for fans to hear. Firstly, just how did `they' do "...some rude things with that doll afterwards..." during the special visual effects filming during the making of DOCTOR WHO - ROBOT? Secondly, does the Sladen family archive still include unseen footage given to the actress following the filming in Somerset's Wookey Hole for DOCTOR WHO - REVENGE OF THE CYBERMEN as she is rescued by Terry Walsh during a self-performed stunt in the caves' waterway?

Concluding THE UNIT FAMILY - PART THREE, this linear assessment of the paramilitary organisation's contribution in aiding their Scientific Advisor is thoroughly entertaining, and like any `family' there is an inherent affection for each other. With contributions from Barry Letts & Nicholas Courtney - to whom this featurette is duly dedicated to ("...wonderful chaps..." declares the graphics slide) - in addition to John Levene, Richard Franklin, Terrance Dicks and, surprisingly, Tom Baker ("Benton was straight out of The Phil Silvers Show" - an American comedy series set within the USA Army), the documentary plots its analysis of how important UNIT was in being the glue that held the narrative together through an ever diverse series from DOCTOR WHO - THE TIME WARRIOR to DOCTOR WHO - BATTLEFIELD. Overall, the most charming and honest of contribution is from Nicholas Courtney, and will remind fans that for `us' DOCTOR WHO is a more than ordinary drama series but for its actors & crew it's a `living'. Candidly, Courtney says that his role as the Brigadier effectively "...kept the Bank Manager very happy..."

After the exquisite Jon Pertwee life-story featurette from the recent (2013) Blu-ray release of DOCTOR WHO - SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE, I was expecting a similar visual approach and journalistic depth for REMEMBERING DOUGLAS CAMFIELD.

Whilst marginally `dry' in its approach, the featurette is certainly affectionate it skims far too much over Camfield's non-DOCTOR WHO directing work in his later life.

With this DVD release, it was probably the final opportunity to truly celebrate his contribution to British broadcasting and it has been unceremoniously shrugged off. Yes, the links between his productions are discussed (say, his direction of Robert Banks Stewart's TERROR OF THE ZYGONS lead to his working with the writer on TARGET and then the superb SHOESTRING [DVD] [1979], via THE NIGHTMARE MAN [DVD][with EARTHSHOCK's James Warwick] which introduced a new actress, Celia Imrie [THE BELLS OF ST JOHN] who was later suggested to Banks Stewart for a on-going role in his new series, BERGERAC [DVD] [1981]), but I wanted to know more. Nevertheless, the featurette did have heart and substance through the amicable contributions from DOCTOR WHO colleague, Graeme Harper (recounting how a mix-up of UNIT-themed knitwear lead to a playful heated argument between Camfield and himself) and from his Son, Joss.

The main featurette, SCOTCH MIST - REMEMBERING THE TERROR OF THE ZYGONS, is, sadly, disappointing, and having to have to wait for nearly 13 years for this four-parter to be released I feel `short-changed'. For what is my `all-time favourite story', was I expecting too much from the DVD? Probably, yes.

(And I still attest that with that volume of `film recording' content that this story it should have been released on crystal-clear Blu-ray first, restored to a near perfect standard).

Nevertheless, SCOTCH MIST collates the key players of the story (originally a six-parter); its writer, Robert Banks Stewart and producer, Philip Hinchcliffe, along with contributions from John Levene (`Benton'), Nigel Curzon (Designer), Steve Bowman (Visual Effects Designer), James Acheson (Costume Designer) and, from a 1993 archive fan interview, John Woodnutt (`Broton'/'The Duke').

Robert Banks Stewart: "I'm not very good at imagining planets. I would feel much more at home with a twisting, frightening story on Earth." As a story device; "The Loch Ness Monster - was a `sitting duck' for a DOCTOR WHO."

John Woodnutt on filming in Sussex rather than in the Highlands: "Dougie (Camfield) inspired people it think that was Scottish."

John Levene on the Zygon spaceship interior control systems: "...breast fondling scenes..."

James Acheson on his design of the Zygon alien: "...wonderful exciting time... half embryo and half octopoid... (John Friedlander) sculpted the actual head..."

Sadly, missing from the DVD release is a NOW AND THEN featurette showing the village of Charlton (Sussex), any initial sketches of the Zygons, floor plans of the studio sets, or even `restoration' coverage of the only surviving Zygon costume as it prepared itself for it appearance at the DOCTOR WHO EXPERIENCE in 2012.

The COMING SOON trailer is for part-animated DVD release of DOCTOR WHO - THE MOONBASE. This is now expected to be released in the Spring of 2014.

Overall, disc two is a "Curate's Egg" topped with a grinding of sea salt and lactic fluid to make it acceptably palatable for an eager DOCTOR WHO to devour and only come back for another helping. It just didn't hit the mark.

To conclude, I'm slightly deflated by the release of my much beloved, forever watchable, breathless DOCTOR WHO - TERROR OF THE ZYGONS by the lack of care & attention by the restoration process (unless the original print was so degraded that this is the highest level of quality that digital professionals can achieve with the equipment available).

If only this DVD format can be used a 'body print' for Zygon technology to 'morph' it into a Blu-ray format.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Sep 2013 21:51:40 BDT
K9 says:
If the content is flawed and the picture quality 'shaky' as you say - why the 5*?

It is also not a fair comparison to compare this with the Blu Ray version of Spearhead - Terror of the Zygons was not entirely shot on film so a HD transfer simply isn't possible here.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Sep 2013 17:08:06 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 Sep 2013 17:14:46 BDT
Luke73 says:
I received my copy of this fantastic story. And viewed the entire dvd set. No-way!! is the picture flawed. I originally owned the BBC laserdisc edition, which is a raw master transfer without restoration and I thought the picture quality was excellent despite the grain and dust marks on the location film part of the story. This DVD edition has been cleaned up and is crispier. Well done to the restoration team. The added deleted scene has also been fantastically been restored and can also be viewed with the optional stereo soundtrack.

The second disc has A LOT of lengthy extras on and I thought the 'Making' (Scotch Mist) was brilliant as well as the absorbing educational 'Merry go round' with Elizabeth Sladen.
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