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"The End of the Beginning",
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This review is from: Doctor Who - The Tenth Planet [DVD] (DVD)
A very important story for obvious historical reasons; last Hartnell, 1st Cyberman story, the beginning of the Kit Pedler/Gerry Davis writing partnership & 1st regeneration. Is it a good debut for the Cybermen and a good finale for the Billster? To be honest; yes.. and no.
Pedler and Davis (both misspelled for an episode each in the opening credits)delivered a good script with a large flaw but many virtues. The tardis crew turn up at space tracking station at the South Pole (its icy wastes well created for studio and over 40 years ago) just before the appearance of a new planet from which the Cybermen arrive.
Davis the old school dramatist always believed the companions should get a lot to do and go off on their own away from the Doctor at significant moments in the story. This proved to be a virtue given Hartnell's health (absent for an episode) necessitating a rewrite. Polly gets to be the main moral voice of the story berating both Warhorse commander Cutler and the Cybermen as the occasion commands. Anneke Wills does all this brilliantly and really sells it.
Ben played by Michael Craze gets to work out how the Cybermen might be tackled and if you've never particularly noticed Craze's acting before then watch the excellent moment where he conveys disgust at having to kill a cyberman!
A great debut for the Cybermen are characterised here better than in any other story since. They are not belligerent do-badders but they just no longer have or understand emotion.
They are a lot more logical than in some appearances. They offer to save the humans from Earth's expected destruction by taking them back to their planet Mondas but are not going to force them. It will not affect their plans so they let the base crew converse with some doomed astronauts and as Polly berates them for not caring they retort;
"there are people dying all over your world yet you do not care for them!"
How many other scripts give the Cybermen a retort like that?
Now they may look naff in photos but they tower over everyone and are much more impressive moving about onscreen. The only downside is in an attempt to sound inhuman they are given voices that sound Swedish and do not create the menace intended!
FYI the trait associated with 80' stories-vulnerability to their own weapons, actually begins here.
The Cybermen show why Pedler was such a find for Who. He knew a lot of real science & could successfully blend it with a strong imagination e.g. the organic part of the Cybermen is stated here to be their brain which seems plausible but their planet is a twin planet to Earth which is pure SF imagination. He also had a sense of humour nodding at real scientific achievements good and bad by going to the opposite end of the aphabet e.g. Zeus missions instead of Apollo ones and a Z bomb instead of an A Bomb
A good base set looking nice & functional and a the guest cast has 2 standouts- Robert Beatty as the ultra ruthless Cutler and David Doddimead as the sensitive scientist Barclay. Watch also for the marvellous Steve Plytas making a lot out of a small role with Secretary Wigner.
For William Hartnell it's not the best of finale's for a couple of reasons. 1) the Doctor's role and that of his companions is important but not central they have to keep things from escalating as the main threat resolves itself. For spoiler's sakes I won't go into detail but the resolution is a big flaw in an otherwise enjoyable story. 2) This was no one's fault but due to his health he wasn't able to give a strong performance although he does manage a few good moments- asking where their emotions are is one.
The restoration work is again good, I'd never noticed you can just about make out the eyes of the Cybermen actors when I had it one VHS for example.
The same crew who animated 2 eps of Reign of Terror did episode 4 where they were able to be guided by the telesnaps ( check out the telesnap and soundtrack reconstruction made for the VHS release among the extras which also includes some filmed of the telly moments). As a result this is a much better reconstruction combining the facial expressions I believe added a lot to Reign with cutting more suited to the time this was originally made. It's improved the story no end.
The commentary with main contributor Anneke Wills amongst others-notably the 2 doomed astronauts is a good one. Earl Cammeron remembers how comfortable the spacesuits were and Anneke remembers the problems of trying to look cold in fur coat in a hot studio. Shame there is no commentary for ep4.
Frozen Out is a top notch making of doc. Anneke again is the star. She remembers the excitement of Kit Pedler ("A real scientist"), hiow the regeneration went and be warned makes no bones about Hartnell's irascibility and bigotry! Reg Whitehead is wonderfully proud of being the 1st Cyberman "others will say it's them but is isn't!"
Also the original vision mixer tells us how the 1st regenration was done with the help of animation from Quiros (Ice Warriors).
Companion piece is a free ranging look at the companion role with some classic who companions and Arthur Darvill plus some professional fans turned writers (they actually have the most interesting things to say!)
Boys, Boys Boys is the male version of the previous girls features with Peter Purves, Frazer Hines and by satellite Mark Strickson. They're all fun but Frazer is especially entertaining.
There's also some Blue Peter stuff which I think featured on the 3 Doctors releases.
I shamefully neglected to mention this when I first posted the review but there's also a rare interview with William Hartnell, yes a rare opportunity to hear him speak as himself not in character. This is backstage at a pantomime he did not long after leaving Who. It starts part of the way through a discussion about Daleks ( it's explained what we get is all that remains) which Hartnell admits are difficult to work with. It's clear he wasn't thrilled to be in a pantomime and the interviewer failed to make much of a rapport with him. A good insight anyway as Hartnell tactlessly distinguishes between pantomime and "legitimate" acting, makes it clear how much he values an agent ("the last thing I want to do is talk turkey"), says he was a good singer in his youth and has no interest in dancing (interesting in light of Reg Whitehead's memory of him tap dancing in "frozen out")plus had no fears of type casting. A bit of gold dust.
I also shamefully neglected Anneke Will's Doctor Who Stories interview. She recalls enjoying her time on the show and here there are several stories you may have heard before but as ever charmingly told but also less well known anecdotes like her being on a bridge over a canal as a boat passed under occupants shouting for "Polly" to join their party!
Dominic Sandbrook's Golden Age looks at whether there was any such thing as a golden age for the Police Box Show. Of course there isn't e.g., my golden age is Tom Baker's 1st 3 years but it may not be yours. The topic is quite well explored even if the feature could have been a little longer.
An enjoyable story with a packed set of extras, recommended highly.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 Dec 2013 14:45:26 GMT
Brilliant review. Which is why I come to Amazon's reviews first whenever I want to buy something. The Cybermen's bandaged face look is/was terrific; very unusual and unsettling. Achieved with the aid of a sock, I'm told!
In reply to an earlier post on 30 Dec 2013 12:37:03 GMT
Bob Marlowe says:
many thanks for your kind words. I think you're right that it was more or less a sock. I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes their debut incarnations.
In reply to an earlier post on 23 Jan 2014 16:55:18 GMT
Ca Marsh says:
With you 100% I think all subsequent cybermen were a little tame after these critters. Their voices on here still give me the shivers - far more than the ring-modulated drones of later incarnations.
In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jan 2014 12:52:00 GMT
Bob Marlowe says:
Cheers Ca, if you check Lunar Landing on the Moonbase release you'll find Anneke Wills is on our side too!
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