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Doctor Who - Myths And Legends Box Set: The Time Monster / Underworld / The Horns of Nimon [DVD]
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A collection of classic Doctor Who episodes featuring Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee in the role of the Doctor. In the four-parter 'The Horns of Nimon', the Skonnon ships have returned to the skies of Aneth, demanding tribute. But as the final consignment is being taken to Skonnos, an accident forces the ship off course. In the six-parter 'The Time Monster', a new invention to transport matter through time creates a number of disturbing distortions in the temporal fabric. The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) investigates, and soon finds himself up against his nemesis, The Master, in a battle to control a powerful sacred crystal. In the four-parter 'Underworld', the TARDIS lands the Doctor (Tom Baker) in a Minyan spaceship that is on a quest to find the Minyan race banks stored in a missing ship known as the P7E. They eventually find what they are looking for in a cave system at the centre of a newly-formed planet. But the P7E's computer has ideas of its own, and doesn't look kindly upon its new visitors.
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Answer: Put them in an attractive looking box-set & hope for the best!
But seriously, if you're a fan of Nu-Who & are unfamiliar with the classic series but curious to dip your toes into its rich history, DON'T BUY THIS! Believe me, this is not the place for a first timer to start! Try Inferno or The Seeds of Doom or anything else from the 70's! Only when you've watched all that, should you come back to this! Here's why:-
The Time Monster - Probably the most padded story in Dr. Who!.. For four episodes nothing happens & when something does in the last two episodes, it's not remotely interesting. There's also a bloke with a bucket on his head flapping around!
Underworld - Uninspired, lethargic & poorly acted! Even Tom Baker looks disinterested. It also suffers from CSO overkill.
The Horns Of Nimon - A badly produced pantomime which really tries the patience!
In short, these are the kind of stories that give the programme a bad reputation with non-fans! So why the the 2 stars?.. Well, there are still nuggets of quality amongst the dross but it requires an experienced hand to bring them to light. So, for completists, masochists & those of questionable taste only!.. Enjoy!
THE TIME MONSTER from 1972 brings to a close Jon Pertwee's third series playing the role of the Time Lord and is a mish-mash of ideas that starts with a nightmare and ends with a gag that might have been written for a "Carry On" film. Along the way there are some dodgy scientific shenanigans afoot as the Doctor and Jo Grant (as played by Katy Manning) have their final Earthbound battle with Roger Delgado's original (and rather splendid) Master and take a trip to ancient Atlantis where Ingrid Pitt (amongst others) is plotting a downfall or two. The next broadcast story, THE THREE DOCTORS, would see the Doctor's exile ended, so this is one last "proper" outing for the era's UNIT "family" and at times it makes for a gloriously colourful and mad romp whilst occasionally looking rather underwhelming.
THE TIME MONSTER has comparatively few extras, really, although the DOCTOR WHO range does generally give you more than most and all these three stories have the usual PDF materials and photo galleries, etc. This story has a longish background piece that concentrates on the bonkers science and a commentary track that uses various styles across the 6 episodes. John Levene (Sgt. Benton) commentates all alone on parts two and four with limited effect, Toby Hadoke mediates the late Barry Letts and others on three more, and some professional fans have a ball with episode three.
UNDERWORLD is the second to last story of Tom Baker's fourth series playing the part, alongside Louise Jameson as Leela, and is a four parter that dates from 1978. This was the first series with Graham Williams as Producer and is most kindly described as where the money ran out. Actually part one is a cracker, and is very visually impressive in many ways, but the production values rather fall apart after that. However the script for the whole story isn't half bad at all despite its JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (amongst others) roots showing, and there are still many moments when it manages to shine, before the Doctor and Leela save the day and head off to combat THE INVASION OF TIME.
Tom Baker and Louise Jameson have great fun on commentary duties alongside Bob Baker, the surviving half of the scriptwriting duo. Other extras include fairly extensive "behind the scenes" items which prove very interesting on the whole and go a long way towards explaining the production problems.
THE HORNS OF NIMON dates from the cusp of 1979 and 1980 and is Graham Williams' last broadcast story as Producer before John Nathan-Turner's "new broom" would introduce wholesale changes to the programme with THE LEISURE HIVE. Tom Baker is in his penultimate year in the part, this time alongside a rather foxy Lalla Ward as Romana in a script overseen by Douglas Adams and everyone seems to be having an awful lot of fun with this mad old science fiction take on THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR whilst the budget has once again been stretched well beyond breaking point. Actually, there's quite a lot to like in this four-part story, but there's also quite a lot of silliness too.
Commentary this time is from actors Lalla Ward, Janet Ellis, Graham Crowden alongside writer Anthony Read and fairly bubbles along. The pick of the other extras is a lengthy piece looking at the long connection between DOCTOR WHO and BLUE PETER which is fairly interesting if you like that sort of thing.
All-in-all a loosely linked collection of stories like this is never going to be to everyone's taste, as you have to buy all three to get the one(s) you like, but with the number of potential new releases ever diminishing, you're bound to get the odd story that is less popular being put out, and all of these stories do at least have something to offer, if you're in the right frame of mind to enjoy them.
Firstly, The Time Monster. I don't see why this always gets a bad press from fans. Yes it's a 6 parter and so there is some padding, but it's brimming full of fun ideas about time (which had been sorely missing from three years of UNIT stories by this point). There's plenty of different things to see throughout - Atlantis itself doesn't even appear until Episode 5 - and the idea of Kronos is a tantalising one. Admittedly the effect of a man in white with wings on wires doesn't always work, but at times it's quite striking. Plus at least it's a visually interesting story and quite experimental in places.
As is Underworld, at least in production. Sadly, story-wise it is a bit dull. A mysterious first episode sets the scene for adventure and even expands on Time Lord history, but it does degenerate into a bit of a runaround quite quickly which is a shame. However, production-wise this was quite revolutionary - 1970s inflation meant massive budget cuts vthe only way the cave scenes could be filmed was against a blue screen with CSO, which had not been done before to such a huge extent on any programme before. And surprisingly, it holds up well for the most part. Add to this the best spaceship modelwork in classic-Who, a nice spaceship set, cool weapons and decently thrilling lasergun battles, and it's not all bad. This is a DVD release that really benefits from the extras, making you marvel that it was made at all, and admiring it's pioneer spirit.
And so to The Horns of Nimon, a story once held up to ridicule as the worst of Who, but which has been reassessed in recent years. Where once it was declaimed as 'pantomime', now it is recognised as a lighthearted romp, and there's much fun here, once you get past the Nimon's silly arm gestures. Romana gets loads to do here, and while there are very silly moments, Lalla Ward and Tom Baker play the galactic menace in deadly earnest. This was the end of an era - last story produced by Graham Williams, last with the old theme tune arrangement - when Who returned for a new series it would be the glossy, serious The Leisure Hive, under the helm of John Nathan-Turner.
So, as with all of the old stories, there is something to admire and enjoy in all of these stories. Recommended for fans, but that's no bad thing.
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