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Enter Turlough, Exit Nyssa,
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This review is from: Doctor Who - The Black Guardian Trilogy: Mawdryn Undead / Terminus / Enlightenment [DVD] (DVD)
This box set consists of the three stories in Doctor Who's 20th series that featured the Black Guardian, who first appeared at the end of the Key to time series (series 16). These three stories were undeniably eventful: Turlough was introduced as the Black Guardian enlisted him to kill the Doctor, Nyssa departed, the Brigadier returned as did both the Black and White Guardians.
Peter Davison is on top form throughout, Mark Strickson shines as the tormented Turlough and Valentine Dyall is wonderfully malevolent as the Black Guardian.
In the first story of the trilogy, 'Mawdryn Undead', Peter Grimwade proves that he is a decent writer after all, redeeming himself after the catastrophic 'Time Flight' from the previous series. 'Mawdryn Undead' is a good script although it is a bit technobabble heavy in places which is frustrating.
Nicholas Courtney's performance is outstanding, he does a fantastic job of playing two Brigadiers from different times and the make up and costume departments really help to make the two look different.
David Collings is superb as the villain Mawdryn. Mawdryn is a very interesting villain since, refreshingly, his motivation is purely that he wants to be allowed to die and he is not interested in killing or conquest. On the downside Mawdryn and the other mutants' appearance with part of their brains exposed is a bit comical and their bright multi-coloured outfits don't exactly help.
There's a lovely scene where the Brigadier regains his memories of UNIT and the Doctor, aided by some stock footage.
There is also the infamous 'UNIT dating controversy', the Brigadier is stated as having started work at the school in 1977 when, according to previous stories, he was still a member of UNIT. This has been described as the worst continuity error in Doctor Who, but really it's just an insignificant mistake.
The extras for 'Mawdryn' include 'Who wants to live forever?' which is the 'making of' documentary. 'Liberty Hall' is a 7 minute long interview with the Brigadier about his time with UNIT and his career as a Maths teacher. There's also a handful of deleted scenes and outtakes. There is the option to watch the story with some new CGI effects some of which are good.
'Terminus' was written by Stephen Gallagher whose only other Doctor Who writing assignment was the glorious 'Warrior's Gate' from 1981. 'Terminus' fails to reach those standards but it is nowhere near as bad as some would have you believe.
Admittedly, the story is quite visually dull and the script is rather depressing; plague, drug addiction, the end of the universe. This is grim stuff.
The Vanir costumes look impressive and imposing but Olvir and Kari's costumes look ridiculous, at least they quickly dispose of the goldfish bowls they were wearing over their heads. The Garm would have been more of a success if, as the script intended, he had stayed in the shadows and only his red eyes had been visible.
The 'Turlough tries to kill the Doctor' plot isn't really advanced in this story. Indeed, Turlough spends the whole story separated from the Doctor. He and Tegan spend the whole thing crawling through ventilation shafts. Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson work very well together with the characters' antagonistic, tense relationship.
There is a lot to like about 'Terminus'. Peter Benson is the star of the guest cast with a portrayal of madness to rival that of Simon Rouse's in 'Kinda'. The story moves along at a nice pace and there are some interesting characters. There is also virtually no annoying technobabble, the plot is explained in simple, comprehensible terms.
The plot twist that the explosion of Terminus caused the Big Bang is either genius or utterly ludicrous. Why does the Valgard spend the whole story getting beaten up by everyone (The Doctor, Olvir, Nyssa)?
The story has a fairly upbeat conclusion and Nyssa's departure is quite touching.
The extras for 'Terminus' include 'Breaking Point', the making of documentary. They explain the troubled production of the story, they lost an entire studio day, they lost another two hours due to power failure and there was further trouble when one of the sets was erected in the wrong position. 'Origins of the Universe' features interview footage of Sir Patrick Moore and Dr John Mason explaining the 'Big Bang' theory. It's six minutes long and fairly interesting. There are some original storyboards and unused model shots.
As with 'Mawdryn Undead' there is the option to watch the story with new CGI effects, there's a lot of new model work much of which is impressive. There's also an Easter Egg which provides a few pieces of trivia about the story.
'Enlightenment' is easily the finest story of the trilogy, it is perfect in almost every way. It is truly one of the glittering diamonds in Doctor Who's crown.
Right from the very start, with the opening shot of the chess board and the first notes of delightful incidental music, it just seems so magical. Even the TARDIS set is better lit here than in all other classic Doctor Who stories. The story seems especially fresh after the grimness of 'Terminus'.
The idea of sailing ships in space does seem too ambitious and doomed to failure but they manage to pull it off. The model work for the ships is rather good. The sets and costumes look wonderful. Director Fiona Cumming, one of Doctor Who's best directors, does an excellent job here.
The first episode is a great exploring episode ending with a stunning plot twist cliffhanger (shades of 'Carnival of Monsters').
The Eternals are a wonderful creation and the actors playing them manage to provide interesting performances while showing no emotion. Keith Barron is the star of the show, with a creepy, cold, emotionless performance as Edwardian ship captain Striker. Although Lynda Baron also excels as the brilliantly over the top Pirate ship captain Wrack.
All three regulars get great material and give strong performances; the subplot of Marriner's fascination with Tegan is engrossing, it certainly isn't the filler you get in a lot of Doctor Who stories. Mark Strickson is superb at portraying Turlough's conscience and torment and his suicide attempt makes for a memorable cliffhanger.
'Enlightenment' also sees the return of the White Guardian, who had last been seen in the opening episode of 'The Ribos Operation' in 1978. This return was a good idea since the end of 'the Key to Time' season didn't even make it clear if the White Guardian really existed or not.
It's hard to fault 'Enlightenment', the only poor performance is Leee John as Mansell and he isn't in it much, other than that the story is pretty much faultless.
There is 'Winner takes all' a very thorough 23 minute 'making of' documentary. 'Single Write Female' is an interview with write Barbara Clegg about her life and career. 'Casting off' is about the guest actors on 'Enlightenment'. 'The Story of the Guardians' goes into the Guardians' history in Doctor Who and into the live and careers of Cyril Luckham and Valentine Dyall.
This box set includes a special edition of 'Enlightenment', introduced by director Fiona Cumming. A lot has been edited out and new CGI effects have been added. The new CGI isn't all that good. You may wish to watch this once, but thereafter I'd stick with the original four part version, it's better.
Extras on the special edition disc include 'Original edit comparison' which shows 33 seconds of extra footage from the start of part three that was cut from the broadcast version. There are two interview features in which Mark Strickson and Sarah Sutton talk about their lives and careers. 'Re-enlightenment' features Fiona Cumming talking to various people about what she wants in the special edition. 'Russell Harty Christmas Party' is a mildly amusing pantomime clip featuring Peter Davison and his then wife Sandra Dickinson.
After watching these three stories I was once again left wondering why 1980's Doctor Who is regarded so poorly by so many.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Oct 2014 11:17:03 GMT
You crammed a lot of detail in this review well done mate & great reviewing,
Posted on 9 Feb 2015 15:48:53 GMT
Tim Bradley says:
Enjoyed reading your review, Benjamin. One of my favourite trilogies. Well done. Tim.
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