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A Sylvester McCoy story well worth remembering,
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This review is from: Doctor Who - Remembrance Of The Daleks - Special Edition [DVD] (DVD)
After a messy and unsatisfying first season in the role, Sylvester McCoy's Doctor emerged from a bit of a rethink as a more satisfyingly enigmatic, more proactive and slightly darker figure in Remembrance of the Daleks, a really rather splendid entry celebrating the show's 25th anniversary that works both as a nostalgic look back on the series' past and a pretty good yarn on its own terms. Set in 1963, the references to the show's history come thick and fast - not only does it feature the same junkyard where the TARDIS was discovered in the very first episode as well as the school his granddaughter went to as key locations but at one point a character leaves the room just before that episode is about to start on TV. There's even a reference to Bernard Quatermass' rocket programme at one point. If you don't know the show's history or your British scifi TV they don't get in the way, but if you do they add a nice additional layer that doesn't get too obsessively self-referential that it stops the story dead in its tracks as with the homage overload in Die Another Day. Nor is the increasingly tiresome but contractually obligatory Davros allowed to dominate the proceedings for once.
It also looks like they've put enough money into the show for once: a mechanical effect of a full sized shuttle landing in a school playground is especially impressive. Focussing on a race war between black Daleks and white Daleks carried out on Earth with hidden Timelord technology the prize, the theme of racial purity is taken further with a group of human racist fascists collaborating with one faction. There's even room for one wonderfully wistful philosophical exchange about the ramifications of having sugar in your tea or not - after all, if no-one developed the taste for sugar, one minor character's grandparents would never have been sold into slavery and he'd have been an African instead of a Londoner. It's ultimately quite pertinent to the story's payoff, which even the Doctor isn't sure is a case of doing the right thing or the wrong thing (and which some fans consider the cause of the catastrophic Time War that preceded the revamped series in the 21st century). But most of all, as well as being clearly thought through, it's also highly entertaining without being patronising, which can't be said of most of the latter `Classic Who' episodes on much-loathed producer John Nathan Turner's watch. Oh yes, and this was the story that first answered the question `How do the Daleks handle stairs?'
As for the double-dip special edition DVD, the improvement in picture quality isn't that big (and at a couple of points the digital noise reduction is on the verge of being overdone and flattening out facial detail), but the new special features are an improvement over the original single-disc issue, with a good making of documentary and a nice retrospective featurette on all the script's references to past stories, though whether the 48-minute documentary on Davros quite merited a disc of its own is open to question. All the other extras from the original release have been retained.