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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Underrated Stories, 17 Dec 2011
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This review is from: Doctor Who - U.N.I.T Files (Invasion of the Dinosaurs and the Android Invasion) [DVD] (DVD)
Unlike most of the other boxed sets - 'Beneath the Surface', 'Peladon Tales' etc - the link between these two DVDs is more tenuous. Yes, both stories feature U.N.I.T, but whilst they play a central role in the Jon Pertwee story, their contribution seems marginal, almost superfluous in 'The Android Invasion' (this is a pity, as the latter story effectively marked the end of the U.N.I.T years and it would've been nice to see them go with a bang rather than a whimper).

The one thing that both stories have in common is that they have been unjustly underrated.

'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' has been berated for its ropey special effects and whilst it's no 'Jurassic Park', I've seen worse. It's a shame that this issue has been allowed to obscure the merits of what is, in many ways, a very effective story.

The story begins with the Doctor and his new assistant Sarah Jane Smith returning to present day Britain after their first encounter with the Sontarans, only to find that London is deserted. It transpires that the city has been plagued by dinosaurs and that the Government have evacuated the city, declaring martial law. The majority of Londoners have willingly left, but some looters remain and the army have the authority to shoot anyone on sight.

This is a very dark, dystopian tale with echoes of 'Inferno'. Like many stories from the Pertwee era, the Doctor finds himself up against corrupt politicians and mad scientists, but the atmosphere here is far more paranoid and even U.N.I.T no longer seems a completely safe haven. When the Doctor discovers that one of his most trusted associates has betrayed him, it comes as a real shock.

The dinosaurs are almost incidental. The real threat comes from human beings, whether they're trigger-happy soldiers, desperate looters or psychopathic scientists. Watching the story today, it's easy to see how the grim political and economic conditions in Britain during 1973 inspired this tale.

Like many six-parters, 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' flags a little in the middle, with too many captures, escapes and recaptures, but overall it is a very watchable story, crammed full of ideas, that gives a fascinating glimpse of British society during the Heath era.

'The Android Invasion', written by Terry Nation, is ultimately a disappointing story that never lives up to the promise of its exciting, fast-paced first episode, but it is still very enjoyable. The story begins with the fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane arriving at what appears to be an idyllic English village. Of course it isn't, and the counterpoint between this traditional setting and the growing sense of unease is reminiscent of 'The Avengers'.

Unlike many Doctor Who stories, where the illusion of rural tranquility would be gradually undermined during the course of the first episode, the action begins almost immediately. The result is gripping, but it is hard to sustain that level of tension for four whole episodes and the story loses its momentum at times. Also, as Philip Hinchcliffe acknowledges in the special features documentary, the Kraals fail to impress.

Like 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs', the atmosphere becomes increasingly paranoid and the Doctor finds himself more and more isolated, unsure of who he can trust. Unlike the Pertwee story, the narrative hits a peak too early and the remaining episodes fail to fulfill the promise of the beginning.

I was also disappointed that a story which is effectively U.N.I.T's swansong (for many years, at least) doesn't really seem to know what to do with them. There are no goodbyes and after 'The Android Invasion', U.N.I.T just seem to vanish into thin air (two months later, when the Doctor is fighting to stop the Krynoids taking over 1970s Britain, he is assisted by the regular army and there is no mention of U.N.I.T).

However, for all its faults, 'The Android Invasion' is still highly enjoyable. The chemistry between Tom Baker's Doctor and Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane works really well and I also enjoyed the novelty (for those days, at least) of seeing a story shot during the summer, in the beautiful village of East Hagbourne.

In the past, 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' has been derided whilst 'The Android Invasion' has been largely ignored. Neither story deserves derision or neglect and I welcome the opportunity to watch them again.

The special features are up to their usual high standard. Disc 2 of the 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' includes a first-rate documentary which reassesses the merits of this story and addresses the problem of the "dodgy dinosaurs". However, my favourite was the first of a two-part interview with Elisabeth Sladen, in which she candidly discusses her working relationship with Jon Pertwee and his reluctant departure from the show. She also mentions a moment when she and Tom Baker sneaked off to spy on a rehearsal for 'The Brothers'. Watching the actors, Baker turned to her and said "Look. All they can do is lift a glass of whisky and put it down. We get to save the universe!"

The special features of 'The Android Invasion' include another excellent documentary, filmed in original locations, plus a very touching interview with Philip Hinchcliffe by his daughter Celina, which looks at his career after Doctor Who. Although Hinchcliffe diplomatically describes Doctor Who as the highlight of his career, this interview reminds us that his CV also includes Shoestring, The Charmer, Private Schultz and many other television highlights of the 80s and 90s.

PS - Thanks to the person who corrected me. The Seeds of Doom actually DOES feature U.N.I.T, but none of the regulars are like the Brigadier and Benton are present.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 21 Dec 2011 19:51:25 GMT
Sophie says:
"when the Doctor is fighting to stop the Krynoids taking over 1970s Britain, he is assisted by the regular army and there is no mention of U.N.I.T" - Er, what? UNIT are in Seeds of Doom, all the soldiers in the final couple of episodes are in UNIT. However, there's no Brigadier, who's in Geneva, and Benton doesn't even get a mention.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Dec 2011 22:16:56 GMT
I stand corrected. I've checked and you're absolutely right. It's years since I watched 'The Seeds of Doom'.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Dec 2011 16:01:57 GMT
Sophie says:
just by chance I watched it a couple of weeks ago!

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Dec 2011 09:57:19 GMT
Last edited by the author on 28 Dec 2011 17:03:18 GMT
Richard says:
Is anyone else shocked how expensive this box set still is at this stage? Normally when 2-story sets are first available for pre-order they start off at around this price, but then go down to £17.99 just before release. Is the reason that this set is still this expensive because one of the stories - 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' is a 2-disc affair, so 2 Entertain can fleece us for another fiver?

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Dec 2011 16:48:36 GMT
I suppose that's why, and there are lots of extras. If you hang on for a few weeks the price will come down further.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Dec 2011 01:04:29 GMT
Last edited by the author on 29 Dec 2011 10:53:09 GMT
Its probably Due to The tax loophole closing in april richard and amazon is adapting their pricing policy early.

Btw all 2 story box sets reguardless of discs have an rrp of 29.99 so its more down to amazon for charging less for a box set in the past than 2e charging more than usual in the present.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Dec 2011 10:09:25 GMT
Last edited by the author on 30 Dec 2011 09:59:52 GMT
Richard says:
Thanks for the link Gordan. Very interesting! Whether it's down to the tax loophole or 2 Entertain, there is something going on with the pricing policy.

The Man from the Ministry: a very good review by the way. I think I'll wait a few months. Obviously I can afford it - it's just that I'm not prepared to pay the current asking price. Mind you, perhaps there is still a chance that this will go down in price before the release date.

Posted on 9 Jan 2012 14:54:05 GMT
You pays your money you takes your choice, if you think its too much dont buy it, or do what i do buy it, watch it, sell it and buy it again later once its cheaper, ive already ordered mine for £19.50 elsewhere!

In reply to an earlier post on 29 May 2012 09:49:19 BDT
Sophie says:
Napolean, you're as organised as your historic namesake! I leave 'em for a year until they come down to a price I can justify. Austerity prevails chez moi :(
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