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"Somewhere on this planet there are TEN THOUSAND Daleks!",
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This review is from: Doctor Who: Dalek War (Frontier in Space / Planet of the Daleks) [DVD]  (DVD)
There has been a lot of revisionist opinion spouted in recent times criticising Jon Pertwee's time on DOCTOR WHO, a great deal of it from people who weren't even born at the time, and that's a bit of a shame because when I was an eight year old, Jon Pertwee as DOCTOR WHO was, quite simply, the best thing ever. Many of the elements that still influence the modern version of the show came to prominence during this era - The Master, the Brigadier and UNIT, to name just a few. Also, there were some of my earliest televisual memories; Sea Devils, Giant Maggots and lovely old Bessie. UNIT was at the peak of its popularity and the feisty and foxy Jo Grant (played by Katy Manning) was the big sister you really wished you had.
So the arrival of the DALEK WAR BOX SET on DVD to bolster this sadly under-represented era of the series is an absolute joy and it completes the releases from 1973's Series 10, following directly on from CARNIVAL OF MONSTERS. Twelve episodes spread over 2 linked stories which show the series sometimes at its very best (the make up - especially on both the Draconians and the Ogrons - and some of the model work being as good as any seen in the show), sometimes at its most derivative (the dalek story riffing at length on its own mythology) and sometimes absolutely awful (stand up the monster on the Ogron's home planet - oh, you can't...). There are also lots of quarries on display, but then, well, it is DOCTOR WHO, isn't it?
FRONTIER IN SPACE is Malcolm Hulke's six part space opera which introduces the rather striking samurai-like Draconians who are being manipulated into a war with the human race by a "mysterious" third party - see the name of this box set for a bit of a clue - who are working in association with the Doctor's "best enemy" The Master, played here for the final time by Roger Delgado who died shortly after filming this story. As ever with Malcolm Hulke's scripts there's a bit of an underlying political theme going on which can make it a little slow going at times, but all in all there's a lot to like.
The story ends on a (fairly) thumping great cliffhanger which leads directly into the next story, which - happily enough - is also included in the set. PLANET OF THE DALEKS sees Terry Nation providing his first script for the series since his epic contribution to THE DALEK MASTER PLAN back in the William Hartnell era and in many ways the elements of this are a "greatest hits" package of his previous contributions - a deadly jungle, invisible monsters, caves of ice, super viruses, bonkers escape plans and the return of the Thals - but there's enough of a spin on these well used themes to keep things interesting and the underlying threat of the hidden army of Daleks being "somewhere" is effective enough to keep the plot moving along. Sometimes the budget doesn't quite stretch far enough - the TARDIS wardrobe and the miraculous cassette box being good examples here - but sometimes it's frankly brilliant (the jungle, the fungus) in an altogether bonkers way and Jo really does get to have her finest (half) hour...
The production team of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks are now regarded as some of the "high priests" of classic Who and yet their era seems to be less than loved in certain quarters, which is rather a shame really, as the Pertwee years really do have a lot to offer if you give them the chance. Certainly the moral stance that the Doctor takes during the coda to the Dalek story is enough to make the viewer stop and think - something this era attempts a lot - and that's something to be truly admired in a TV show aimed at a family audience.
4 discs means that there's a pretty hefty set of extras provided for both stories. Alongside the now obligatory PDF and photo collections, and an entertaining set of commentaries from members of the cast and production teams, there's a bumper crop of documentaries that range from the frankly wonderful (a marvelous tribute to Roger Delgado) to the utterly annoying (the "Zed's quest" pieces). Actually the "Zed" things are an attempt to put the televised stories in a contemporary social context and as an idea it's pretty sound, but the format chosen just irritates. There are two more comic strip documentaries of which the Dalek one is the pick and a bizarre couple of sequences about Dalek theft from BLUE PETER that have to be seen to be believed. The 2 "making of" pieces are hardly comprehensive, being little more than interview pieces and mostly had me wondering if Katy Manning is channeling TERRAHAWKS these days...
There is, of course, also the opportunity to see the rather splendid colour restoration job that's been done on episode 3 of PLANET - THE big selling point of this collection - and there's also a 10 minute documentary looking at how that was achieved.
The following story THE GREEN DEATH would see the departure of Jo Grant and the release of these two tales completes the tenth season releases of DOCTOR WHO on DVD, ironically meaning that Jon Pertwee now has a complete season available (which is more than some Doctors do) despite the relative rarity of releases from his era.
All-in-all then, a pretty good set. Not perfect, by any means, and if you don't love 1970's DOCTOR WHO, it's unlikely to change your mind, but it is certainly amongst the best releases in the range so far.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Oct 2009 05:45:06 BDT
I raise a virtual glass tonight in memory of the always erudite and honest Mr Barry Letts, whose sad passing was announced after this was submitted. Here's to you, "Uncle Bazzer" with many thanks. M.
Posted on 11 Oct 2009 14:36:20 BDT
Barry Letts will feature on the commentaries on the next box set release comprising of The Curse of Peladon/The Monster of Peladon that will now replace The Kings Demons/Planet of fire in January 2010, delayed due to clearance issues.
In reply to an earlier post on 11 Oct 2009 20:50:37 BDT
Nice to hear that Luke - always had a soft spot for Peladon myself - thought it suited Jon's character - being trapped on earth really brought out the Doctor's wanderlust and his eagerness to meet new alien peoples which Peladon seemed to be a fulfillment of.
So I'm glad we get that early after having waiting so long for this one - should be a fitting tribute to Barry for his enormous and continued contribution to the Who legacy.
Posted on 14 Oct 2009 16:44:52 BDT
Tehlia Wright says:
Great review, thats sad about Barry, He did just as much to WHO as Dicks did, Iv'e always loved 'Frontier' for some reason, it's got the old Flash Gordon feel about it and Jon is in top form, 'Planet' I think drags abit too long like the old b&W episodes,but it's still great to have and watch. Iv'e always been a big fan of Pertwee's Dr, His version of the Dr was just as alien as Tom's but in another way, my list of favorite Dr's is Pertwee,Tom,Tennent,Troughton,Colin...yes that's Colin, I just think with a different outfit and better stories his Dr wouldv'e been great just like the 'other' Baker we know, Davidson's Dr was good but way too human-like, especially right after Jon & Tom's. now lets have a Delgado 'MASTER' boxset!!!
In reply to an earlier post on 19 Oct 2009 09:08:52 BDT
Last edited by the author on 19 Oct 2009 09:09:45 BDT
Yep, have to agree with you regarding Colin. The gusto in his first performance as the doctor is pretty commendable! We need to blame JNT's penchant for '80s tacky Top of the Pops culture for Colin's costume & the general day-glo look of the show. If only the production team were more into something more sober and stylish and yes, those attributes DID exist in the 1980s!
In reply to an earlier post on 29 Oct 2009 16:46:18 GMT
Last edited by the author on 1 Nov 2009 11:27:11 GMT
If you changed the outfit and stories for CB you would still be left with an unpleasant characterisation - that would need to be addressed as well. Thank goodness all his stories are out of the way and we have lots of splendid JP to look forward to !
(Additional - Not just my view - CB was 2nd from the bottom in the Dr Who Mag survey and quite tellingly when rated by how popular their actual stories were CB was bottom, SMC was second from bottom [the JNT-no-longer-having-enough-opposition-to
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