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Overall, ... `special edition' DVD is a minor disappointment
on 10 July 2013
NOTE TO READER: (10 July 2013) This review is based upon the official BBC Press Review copy provided by BBC DVD.
When a DOCTOR WHO story impinges itself onto the psyche of the (British) public and becomes simply known as "The One with the Maggots" then you truly know that you are in for a treat, even if you - as a loyal fan of the drama series - have watched it so many times that you've lost count.
The 1973 politicised six-parter DOCTOR WHO - THE GREEN DEATH is one of handful of stories that are `signposts' for general viewers to appreciate without knowing the (frequently) over-complicated backstory and canon history that threaten to deflect them from being consumed by a `jolly good story'. It's linear (none of the patronising timey-wimey convolutions of recent series re: NEW SERIES), acted with conviction, professionally realised and, even in 2013, stands-up to scrutiny.
Surprisingly, the co-penned (Robert Sloman with an uncredited contribution by series producer, Barry Letts) and Michael Briant directed `environmental essay' delivers an astute perspective of how mankind is blinkered in its own economic growth whilst exploiting its resources exponentially only to realise, and all too late in this instance, that irrevocable damage cannot be remedied in neither the short or long term. If nothing else, DOCTOR WHO - THE GREEN DEATH was as insightful in the early 1970's as it is in the 21st century. Who ever said the DOCTOR WHO was only a children's show with wobble sets and monsters crafted from egg cartons?
In this `special edition', building upon the 2004 single-disc DVD release, delivers the same balance between entertainment and informative yet, and this is an issue with the majority of BBC DVDs `special editions', fails in delivering a substantive new message that fans/viewers would have expected and craved. In effect, specifically in relation to DOCTOR WHO - THE GREEN DEATH itself, there is only two new `value added material' (i.e. Extras) [with a fresh commentary for four episodes] and, clearly, that does not warrant a re-visit of the story. And, honestly, I don't like saying that.
Sometimes, I believe - and I'm not alone in this assertion - that BBC WORLDWIDE has unashamedly reached into my back pocket, retrieved my wallet, extricated a few crisp `notes' and then deposited a hastily scrawled letter saying "Thanks, sucker!" My Granddad used to say, " if you've got nowt new to say, keep your gob shut" and, at times, I wish BBC WORLDWIDE would do the same and leave the CLASSIC SERIES DVD releases untouched until there's something truly magnificent to say.
So, where's your hard-earned cash going to with this new `special edition' ( you can read the review of the 2004 DVD release at eyeofhorus.org.uk/content/classicseries/03-pertwee/greendeath )?
In THE ONE WITH THE MAGGOTS, the cast and crew recall the genesis and filming perils (no more so than witnessing hundreds of pupating maggots resulting in errant `blue-bottles') in bringing DOCTOR WHO - THE GREEN DEATH to the screen. Speaking affectionately of his close-colleague, Terrance Dicks recounts that the series producer (and co-writer of the story), Barry Letts was "...always a worrier. A streak of pessimism. But he did worry about the state of the planet. "We're doomed, Terrance. We're doomed", whilst its director (Michael Briant) confirms, as we all know as we squint through the mist of time, that along with Pertwee that "...the other superstar in this were real maggots..." Departing-companion actress, Katy Manning discusses how the series both warrants and requires change on a regular basis in order to keep it fresh and to develop the character of the Doctor ("...the girl needs to change so the Doctor can change..."
The Doctor: The fledging leaves the coup.
The maturity of the story's ecological plotting seeped across to character significant development - probably, the first that the series has seen since the romance of Vicki and Troilus (see 1965's THE MYTH MAKERS) - as Jo Grant falls head over heels for fungus-loving scientist, Cliff Jones (actor, Stuart Bevan) spurning - or should that be "spawning"? - the only other man (the Doctor) that she loved;
Katy Manning: I don't know if people know both Stuart and I were `boyfriend & girlfriend'.
Stuart Bevan: We were the `Posh & Becks' of the time.
In recalling his most arduous filming day as his character is affected by the `green death' infection and forcing him to his bed, Bevan cheekily nudges the BBFC's DVD PG rating to a potential 15 rating as he declares that he "...was throbbing all over..." but is hastily deflected in expanding on the subject by her former partner ("...we shouldn't go there. It's a bit naughty...").
Of course, DOCTOR WHO - THE GREEN DEATH could be affectionately known as `The One when Jo Grant leaves' such is the impact felt not only by the characters but by the viewers alike. And by all accounts the cast and production team were equally affected with the Grant/Manning departure for jungles new (Michael Briant: I heard Terrance Dicks sniffle - and it wasn't a cold...).
In WHAT KATY DID NEXT we are treated to Manning's solo television presentation for an `arts and crafts' series, SERENDIPITY. Basically, rather than a chronicle of the actress's career post-DOCTOR WHO, it's a montage of clips that equates to a restaurant's unappetising & limp salad left on the side of your plate after devouring a juicy steak; if it wasn't there you wouldn't miss it.
The only other new story-related content is a studio commentary for episodes three to six (the final episode is hosted by Manning and, armed with his dog-eared, yellowing but well-read TARGET novel of DOCTOR WHO - THE GREEN DEATH, NEW SERIES show-runner, Russell T Davies).
Under the perennial genial stewardship of Toby Hadoke, Richard Franklin (Capt. Yates), Nancy (Mitzi McKenzie) and Colin Mapson (Visual Effects Designer) thoroughly entertain and inform as they vividly revisit and focus on the memories of forty years since.
Richard Franklin on Stevens (Jerome Willis): ...convincingly very unpleasant...
Candidly, Richard Franklin on his acting career and personal life: I have scrubbed floors, Chauffeured, sold carpets as we (actors) all have to. I think that's a very important aspect of being an actor. (a) To turn your hand to other things and also (b) you find a real world out there and you can bring the real world back into your acting work.
Richard Franklin on Jon Pertwee: Tremendous charismatic.
FACT: DOCTOR WHO - THE GREEN DEATH had a prominent `product placement' for a window cleaning product, WINDOWLENE.
Richard Franklin on the NEW SERIES: A very clever update but (too) crammed in to 50-minutes. Matt Smith; a very good Doctor.
And for episode six, both Manning and T Davies revel like pigs in a puddle of Swarfega that delivers an energetic, intelligent and insightful diversion.
Russell T Davies on recording the commentary: I'm honoured to be talking over this episode. Beautifully sad, you (Katy Manning) were brilliant in it and Jon Pertwee utterly magnificent in it. These moments are a vital part of your life. Not ephemera. Not trivial.
The COMING SOON trailer features Patrick Trough ton's six-parter, DOCTOR WHO - THE ICE WARRIORS but, sadly, does not feature any of the `animation' restoration.
In the penultimate chapter of DOCTOR WHO FOREVER (titled THE UNQUIET DEAD), along with Russell T Davies is joined by former Head of BBC Drama, Jane Tranter, to detail the second DOCTOR WHO `genesis' (2001 to 2005) as they stride through the treacle-like BBC to develop the series, assaulting the sceptical Corporation's Executives with enthusiasm and passion and verve that (some) fans may regard as false but without it the `project' would have not have been ratified.
Russell T Davies: BBC Controller of Drama, Mal Young always wanted DOCTOR WHO to come back, and Jane (Tranter) was the biggest champion. The rule is `keep nagging'. Am I allowed to say `p*ssed off'?
Jane Tranter: I nearly gave birth when someone said, "Russell wants to talk about DOCTOR WHO". Eventually, BBC Director General, Mark Thompson said, "Stop making it (DOCTOR WHO)."
Overall, DOCTOR WHO - THE GREEN DEATH `special edition' DVD is a minor disappointment. I love this story and wanted to love this release but a couple of story related Extras, a new commentary track and a previously released THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES - DEATH OF THE DOCTOR two-parter hardly contributes `special' as (some) fans may not want to BBC WORDLWIDE to deftly dip into their wallet (or TARDIS moneybox) again whilst their back is turned and, quite frankly, I wouldn't blame them.
Regrettably, this is one `special edition' that will be only purchased in two or three years' time when AMAZON.CO.UK has reduced the price to below £7.00.