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Another great Who DVD
on 27 August 2003
Peter Davison is turning out to be the best represented Doctor on DVD with yet another classic story, this time from the beginning of his tenure. Yes, this is the infamous tale that not only brings the Cybermen back better than they ever were before, but also kills off a companion, whilst also finding time to account for the extinction of the dinosaurs.
This story starts off in the gravel pits and then leads us into the papier mache caves. So far, so ordinary. However, then the Cybermen show up, the action suddenly shifts to a deep space freighter on a course for Earth, and most of the characters die (which, as Peter Davison notes in the commentary, happens a lot in his stories).
This is a dark and exciting story, tautly written and directed. Compared to preceding Tom Baker stories, it injects a new lease of life into the stale old formula, but on its own, it works even better. I'd never seen an episode with the companion Adric in before, I just knew he was widely despised. You don't need to have seen any Doctor Who to understand the relationships going on here. The Doctor is very clearly a frustrated father figure dealing with a frustrated teenage son. The pair of them share this character arc across the four episodes that just adds to the poignant finale (though I'm not too sure about the Coronation Street-style silent credits at the end).
The extras on the DVD aren't particularly notable. There's the par-for-the-course CGI effects, which I would seriously recommend watching instead of the dire original effects in the last episode particularly. Also worth a look is the brief claymation fifth episode, which works as an alternative ending aimed clearly at Adric haters.
The documentary about this particular story is quite good, featuring the writer, the actors, and numerous science fiction commentators (most funny of which is the Tory MP blaming the Labour Government for the direness of the 1970s Cybermen stories). All in all, though, it's a great package.