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"Listen to that! That's the sound of this planet screaming out its rage!"
on 23 May 2013
Professor Eric Stahlman has a dream. He believes that large pockets of natural gas lie underneath the Earth's crust. The British government, convinced that cheap, unlimited power is close at hand, instigate a massive drilling project - nicknamed "Inferno".
With UNIT providing security, it's no surprise that the Doctor tags along. He isn't convinced about Stahlman's ideas, but is more than happy to tap the Inferno's nuclear power generator. The Doctor believes that this power will enable him to repair the TARDIS and break free from his exile on Earth.
The Doctor does manage to escape, but only sideways - into a parallel universe. There he finds an alternative Earth where his friends are now his enemies, and when the Inferno project penetrates the Earth's crust it has devastating consequences. The parallel Earth is doomed - but can the Doctor return to "his" Earth in time to prevent a similar catastrophe?
Originally transmitted in 1970, Inferno is a 24-carat Doctor Who classic. Series regulars Jon Pertwee, Caroline John and Nicholas Courtney are all on top form and there's a quality guest cast with the likes of Olaf Pooley, Christopher Benjamin and Derek Newark.
Pertwee's wonderful in this story, managing to balance the more arrogant side of his Doctor with flashes of humour. Courtney has a great role in the parallel world as the Brigade-Leader, complete with dueling scar and he relishes the chance to play the part of a baddy for a change. Barring a brief return in The Five Doctors, this was Caroline John's last appearance in the series as Liz Shaw. Throughout this season she gave rock solid support to Jon Pertwee, and Inferno is a good final story for her. It's just a shame she never had a proper leaving scene.
The idea of a parallel Earth is one that's been used surprisingly little in the series, which may be why it's so effective here. Although it's a long story, clocking in at just under three hours, it never feels particularly padded - thanks to the directorial talents of Douglas Camfield and an uncredited Barry Letts on some of the studio sessions.
With the majority of these Doctor Who re-releases, any improvements in the picture quality is usually nice, but it's not a major selling point. Here it is. Originally these episodes were recorded on 625 line PAL videotape. For overseas sales they were converted to 525 line NTSC. The original release took the surviving NTSC tapes which were then treated with a process called RSC in order to restore some of the original fluid look of the 625 PAL VT. It's watchable, but has many drawbacks, not least the jagged effect when there's any sudden movement.
This release uses B&W film prints and overlays the colour from the NTSC tapes. As the B&W prints have first been restored and VIDfired this has resulted in a major improvement in picture quality. Whilst it's still variable, episode 5 for example does look slightly worse than the others, in general it's far better than the original release. In places, you could be mistaken for thinking that you were watching an original 625 PAL VT.
The original DVD had a very good selection of special features, all of which have been ported over onto this Special Edition. The original commentary track is worth a listen, particularly the episodes that feature a solo commentary from John Levene. If you've seen the documentary on the Claws of Axos SE then you might know what you're in for, but it's still comedy gold.
There's a couple of new documentaries - the first is Doctor Forever - Lost in the Dark Dimension. This looks at some of the attempts to return the series to the screen between the end of the original series in 1989 and the relaunch in 2005. It's an entertaining watch and there's a lot of interest here - particularly the story behind the proposed straight-to-video 30th anniversary special "The Dark Dimension".
The other new documentary is Hadoke vs Havoc in which Toby Hadoke attempts to reunite the Havoc team for one last stunt. It's great to see the guys back together again, and also to see Toby attempt a classic Havoc stunt.
Oh, and there's a trailer for Mind of Evil in colour. That's rather exciting.
Given the major increase in picture quality, and the fact that Inferno is one of the greats of this era of Doctor Who, this special edition is well worth picking up.