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"Nostalgia, 1963 and the Daleks",
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This review is from: Doctor Who - Remembrance Of The Daleks [DVD]  (DVD)
`Remembrance of the Daleks' is very much one of my favourite Dalek stories in `Doctor Who' on TV. I'm very fond of this story when I first saw it. It was the first time I encountered Sylvester McCoy's Doctor and his companion Ace (played by Sophie Aldred) and it was a story that kept my interest all the way throughout without any problems or convulsions understanding it.
This story is set in 1963 and is actually a return to the place where `Doctor Who' all started - at Coal Hill School, Shoreditch, London. Back in 1963, the first Doctor Who episode was transmitted - `An Unearthly Child' and it's where we met Susan (the Doctor's granddaughter), who took off with the First Doctor along with Ian and Barbara in a police box in 76 Totter's Lane to go off on adventures through time and space. We return to that same 76 Totter's Lane in this story, where the Daleks are waiting.
There are lots of references in this story to that particular episode of `Doctor Who' such as the French Revolution book that Ace found which Susan read and the undertaker mentioning the Doctor being a `white-haired old man'. There are also references to other Dalek stories such as `The Dalek Invasion of Earth', `Planet of the Daleks' and `Revelation of the Daleks'. There's also a reference to `The Web of Fear' with the Yeti and also `Terror of the Zygons' with the Zygons'. Omega is also mentioned, or his `hand' as a matter of fact, which becomes a pivotal plot device in this story
The Seventh Doctor has come back to Earth in 1963 for a spot of unfinished business. To pick up and retrieve the legendary 'Hand of Omega', which is a 'remote stellar manipulator of Time Lord society'. But he also wants to sort out the Daleks who also are intent on getting the Hand of Omega for themselves. And it's in London, 1963 where the Doctor sets his agenda into operation and has his battleground and showdown with the Daleks.
I had the original DVD cover signed by Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred who I first met at a convention in Earl's Court, London, and most recently by Terry Molloy who plays the Emperor Dalek (guess who that is then?).
Sylvester McCoy's Doctor certainly interests me. When I first encountered him in this story, he seemed quite a whimsical character who seemed to be hanging in the background. But as I watched his stories on TV as well as listening to the Big Finish audio, it turns out he's got a secret agenda and tends to be more proactive than some of the other Doctors have been. He also seems to hint about him being more than just being a Time Lord (as indicated in one of the deleted scenes of the story). I really liked the scene the Doctor has with that African worker at the café at night where he's contemplating about making decisions on saving the universe. Half of that scene's in the actual transmitted story, but it's really sweet and seems to define Sylvester's Doctor really clearly.
I've had the pleasure of meeting Sylvester twice at conventions, and seems to be a really nice chap. Recently he's been in `The Hobbit' film series as Radagast the Brown and I got the chance to talk to him about his work on that. I'm hoping to meet him again soon to talk more about his work as the Doctor.
This story also features the Doctor's companion - Sophie Aldred as Ace. I immediately liked Ace when I first saw her. She seemed cool and a really feisty and compassionate character. I liked the scenes where she plays her huge tape recorder (out of time) in 1963, and when she's fighting the Daleks with her powerful baseball bat. I liked how she gets on well with the Doctor in how she protects him and wants to know about the Hand of Omega and the Daleks. I found that scene really funny when the Doctor and Ace are bickering in that van trying to get somewhere, the Doctor not liking her driving, and they immediately switch places when going under a bridge. It was really funny. I found Ace's character development really interesting, particularly her anti-racist views when she discovers a `no coloureds' sign in the window of Sergeant Mike's house. Also when she falls in love (or fancies) Mike for the first time, and eventually when she's let down/betrayed by him when she discovers he's been working for the Daleks.
I met Sophie at the same convention in London back in 2011, and she was really nice when I met her. She told me this was her first story as a proper companion, and the story certainly demonstrates her true potential and being able to move the story forward. I met Sophie again at two more conventions later in the year and hoping to see her again at two more conventions this year. I've already written for Ace in one of my own Doctor Who stories and am currently writing one at the moment with Ace and Sylvester's Doctor.
Terry Molloy appears in this story as the Emperor Dalek of the Imperial Dalek faction. You probably guess who the Emperor Dalek actually is, but it took me by surprise when the actual reveal of him happened. He told me recently at a convention in Chiswick about working in the Dalek suit with the dome over his head, and found it interesting him telling me the challenges of working in that Emperor Dalek casing.
This story also featured the Counter-Measures team, led by Group-Captain `Chunky' Gilmore (Simon Williams), Rachel (Pamela Salem - who I know from `Ever Decreasing Circles' and also in the Doctor Who story `The Robots of Death') and Allison (Karen Gledhill). The Doctor utilises this team's support, even when Gilmore becomes sceptical (more like the Brigadier's character, especially when the Doctor mistakes him for one), and when scientist Rachel challenges the Doctor's scientific knowledge about Daleks and the gadgets he uses. The Counter-Measures team have recently had adventures of their own in Big Finish and it's clear that the success of this Dalek story made that team possible.
This story has a feeling of 1960s nostalgia about it, and I like how writer Ben Aaronvitch depicts that in this story, particularly with the scenes at the café, the school and with music in the background. Watching scenes in 1963 makes me want to go back in time and visit that particular period of history, since it seems so relaxing and straight-forward - I'm thinking probably wanting to have a cup of tea and four bacon sandwiches like Ace does.
Aaronvitch also depicts the racism and political themes in this story, not just of the Daleks but also of the humans such as characters like Radcliffe and Mike with their bigotry.
The Daleks were impressive in this story. There's big gun battles and explosions between two Dalek factions - the Imperials (white Daleks) and Renegades (black Daleks). The Special Weapons Dalek was incredibly terrifying, with its big armoured canon on its casing when it rolled about London and blew with Daleks up with heavy explosions. This story is also the first time we have Daleks levitating and getting over stairs since that had been a problem mentioned in `Destiny of the Daleks'. It would be a while before we would get Daleks levitating in the series again when it came back in 2005 with `Dalek'. But certainly `Remembrance of the Daleks' did it first with levitating Daleks.
The special features of the original DVD release back in 2000 are very limited, but if you want more extras try out the 'Special Edition' version of this story which was released in 2007.
The original 2000 DVD has the aforementioned `deleted and extended scenes' compilation which adds more to the story. There are trailers for the first two episodes of the story. An entertaining audio commentary track with Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred, as well as an isolated music track. There's also outtakes/blooper of the story between Sylvester, Sophie and other members of the cast during the story's recording. A multi-angle demonstration of Ace's fight with a Dalek. And there's a photo gallery and an info text option throughout the story.
The `Special Edition' is a 2-disc DVD set. The special features from the 2000 DVD are also included in the `Special Edition', with the photo gallery updated a bit and a lot better and having more trailers and continuity announcements. The `deleted and extended scenes' are also given introductions by Sylvester and Sophie. There's also on the Special Edition release a flagship documentary looking at the making of `Remembrance of the Daleks' called `Back to School' with cast and crew interviews such as Sylvester, Sophie, writer Ben Aaronvitch, script editor Andrew Cartmel, Simon Williams (Gilmore) and Karen Gledhill (Allison). There's also a rather nostalgic feature with cast and crew about their first memories of Doctor Who and referencing the past called `Remembrances'.
On Disc 2 of the Special Edition, there's special documentary chronicling the history of Davros called `Davros Connections', with includes connections between the TV stories and also Big Finish stories that Davros was in such as the `I, Davros' mini-series; `Davros' and `The Juggernauts' with Colin Baker; and `Terror Firma' with Paul McGann. Terry Molloy and David Gooderson (who played Davros in `Destiny of the Daleks') are interviewed, which is very exciting.
To sum up then, `Remembrance of the Daleks' is a really good strong Dalek story with a good strong setting in London, 1963. It's a good story for the Doctor and Ace and is a terrific way to celebrate (as it was then back in 1988) 25 years of the show's history along with `Silver Nemesis' in the 25th anniversary season. It's even terrific to celebrate 50 years of the show now. I will always have fond memories of this story in years to come.
Just on a final note, I did find that little school girl really scary.