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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At last!, 17 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: Doctor Who - The Black Guardian Trilogy: Mawdryn Undead / Terminus / Enlightenment [DVD] (DVD)
Mawdryn Undead

Watch the version with the new CGIFX, it's much better; back in 1983, someone was in a tearing hurry.

Dispensing with the dating question (it could so easily have been the Royal Wedding of 1981) this is a jolly good story. The twin times work very well, and the two brigadiers and the poor eponymous guy, who just wants to die - well, it's David Collings - he would be good, wouldn't he?

Is it credible that he's a post regeneration Doctor? Well, just about, if you squint. Is it credible that the Black Guardian picks on Turlough, or that (for that matter) that he's been moved from another planet and hidden here by a very peculiar lawyer? Well, truth is often stranger than fiction. Credible that those two little girls are really Nyssa and Tegan? I wouldn't bet money on it.

But it is a good, intelligently written story. It's very well acted; Angus McKay is very good as the Head, with a nice cameo from Roger Hammond as Dr Runciman, and Mark Strickson makes a fine debut.

And Valentine Dyall is wonderfully nasty, and a real old trouper with a very fine voice (I do a credible impersonation if any casting directors are reading); his new frock looks very fine, even if he has got the remains of a dead raven on his head - it does *not* make him look like Granny Longbottom.

The new CGIFX are a *big* improvement - I'd almost forgotten how poor the original ones are - the new flame effect behind the Black Guardian especially, and the re-created spaceship in flight shots, and most especially the new 'Brigadier regains his memory' sequence, recreated with considerably thought and artistry. It really is a high point of the story. Of course there's then two episodes to go, and only Mawdryn and his rather dull chums' wish to die being all the plot has really got to keep it going, and 'we want to die' is never going to be as - literally - vital as 'We *don't* want to die'. It's a very good job that it all fits together so well, and that the denouement is so neat - well done Mr Grimwade (Timeflight best forgotten, eh?)

One little note from The Making Of, the mutants are all wearing upholstery foam, and they all have globs of string on their heads. I think I'd guessed that, but it's nice to have it confirmed. 4/5 (just)

Terminus

It's a bit like the Sisters of Plenitude, but instead of cats, there's this enormous dog.

Even in 1983 it had got off to a good start, but now the VFX have been improved, so it looks miles better, but even with Liza Goddard and Dominic Guard having such silly uniforms that it suggests the Raider captain has a Rocky Horror fetish, the last moments 'We're on a leper ship!' and Tegan getting grabbed by leper arms was quite enough for LEPRA (the charity that began its work by trying to help lepers) to protest quite loudly, and with reason, though I don't think that my own feelings regarding lepers have been particularly affected by the story.

It's an intelligent script, possibly more like a Series 3 Blake's 7 than a JNT Dr Who, and it hasn't really got a proper villain - the most negative force in this is *misunderstanding* (and apathy) - most people are trying to do the right thing, but often at cross-purposes, and with very little energy. Even the profiteering Company seems ultimately tractable.

If it weren't for the need to provide a dramatic climax, all the 'shove the switch back or cataclysm' stuff could be binned for the nonsense it is, and to be honest if the switch bends a little lever out of shape GET A BIGGER LEVER! Physics.

There's a nice Norse thing going on with names like Sigurd, Bor, Valgard, the Garm, Olvir, Kiri, and even if the Vanir armour is more Sutton Hoo than Viking it looks good - it's a shame it doesn't work!

It doesn't protect the joints - that stuff is meant to be radiation proof, but the wearer's going to get cancer of the elbows! And you can't make yourself heard with your visor down, and it makes an annoying clacking noise, and it really annoyed Andrew Burt. And the idea that Bor can use it to make a radiation shield is laughable.

And the violence is silly. There's no reason why Valgard hits people - he seems too gloomy to be credibly aggressive - but at the same time it makes no sense for him to get chinned off one of the tinsel-toed space pirates. The rest of the story does such gritty realism that the fights really do look fey (they both got trained by the same not-very-good-at-fighting NCO...)

And the Garm, well, at least we're watching it from the outside - I pity R J Bell, who had to wear the damned thing. If he comes after you, just run, one thing he ain't built for is speed. 3.5/5

Enlightenment

It was a very satisfying story back in 1983; it clearly had it's head on right, and there's some lovely acting and a tip top script.

And Lynda Baron in a corset, and Janet Fielding in black PVC. Well, there is - I was just saying.

And they've done the CGIFX with this too, and it looks even better than the first two, with proper sailing ships and everything.

It is a very good, highly improbable, well considered story (with some nods to Carnival of Monsters), the human crew are well drawn and well played, and Keith Barron and Christopher Brown do signal duty as the officers, but there's good work from the supernumeraries too - I love the guy playing the silent helmsman.

Lynda Baron is clearly having great fun, and the pirates are a jolly bloodthirsty crew - particularly when forcing those two Chinese to walk the plank - but Mansell - Leee John??? They could at least have him singing a shanty, cos he's really not an actor (though I'm sure he's very nice).

There is a very welcome sense of birds finally coming home to roost in this; when the Guardians finally arrive, the whole Deus Ex Machina story can finally be put to bed, at long last, and really not before time. It is very good that they got Cyril Luckham again, because he's very good- and a fitting match for the Man in Black.

'Enlightenment was the choice', very very well done. 4/5
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Location: London

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