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Customer Review

on 20 October 2009
Valentine Dyall returns as The Black Guardian in 3 very different stories. Mawdryn Undead has him in devil-like fashion, tempting stranded alien Turlough into killing the Doctor in return for his passage home. A good debut for Mark Strickson as Turlough, but you can already see that once the Kill Doc storyline is resolved, it will be a problem using the character.
MU also marks the return of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, now retired from UNIT and teaching maths. In the story, much stronger than Peter Grimwade's previous effort (Timeflight) there are 2 time periods giving us 2 Brigs, a recently retired 1977 vintage & a more broken 1983 one. Nicholas Courtney lives up to the challenge and gives 2 very different portrayals.
The title character Mawdryn is well played by Who Rep actor David Collings, who is assisted by some grotesque makeup. His race are not evil but ruthless in acheiving their aims. they are let down with costumes which touch the floor giving them a cone shape. They glide on at 1 point like daleks about to do a Gilbert and Sullivan number. The Doctor's reaction to their plight is contemptuous, giving us a strangely callous 5th Doctor.
There are a lot of ideas here and it is muddled in some places, slow in some too but very enjoyable on the whole. watch for a cameo from Tom Baker's coat and the revelation that UNIT's Benton is now selling used cars, oh the spinoff there might have been Only Fools and Warrant Officers(Retired)!
I'm afraid I must run with the pack on Terminus. There are some great ideas and this is a much more accessible script than Steve Gallagher's previous (Warrior's Gate). We have medieval & Norse mythology imagery e.g. the skeletal vanir costumes (which in true Blake's 7 style protect against radaition without being airtight), the way the lepers or lazars (a middle Engish word for lepers) are treated and there's a time paradox. Despite some strong performances from Andrew Burt, Peter Benson and Christopher Guard (I won't mention Liza Goddard if you don't), it just never quite catches fire and has an awful giant Scottie dog costume.
As a farewell to Nyssa it's not bad. she is used more than normal and makes a mature choice to stay where she might make a difference. It's a shame they waited until Sarah Sutton's last story to give her a better role. A bad deal for Tegan and Turlough who crawl around ducting, I know they're supposed to be learning to trust each other but it's not well developed enough.
Enlightenment by Barbara Clegg is a classic. There's an irresistable idea here, immortals racing through space to compete for enlightenment. With Lynda Baron's wonderfully lusty evil as Wrack counterbalanced by the reserved performance of Keith Barron as Striker, it's almost like the Navy vs Pirates.
There's a lovely creepy love interest for Tegan as she fends off immortal Marriner's obsession with her. A good story for the Doctor too as he attacks the Eternals' callous disregard for life.
After being reduced mostly to voice overs urging Turlough to be naughty in Terminus, the Black Guardian is back fully here. He meets with Cyril Luckham's White Guardian and they get a good scene, a kind of philosphical discussion at the OK Corral which works better than snarling at each other would. Both actors give good peformances let down by pantomimic(*1) costumes. The Black Guardian's is marred by a soft toy crow on his head and just when you thnk no one could look worse up pops the White guardian in Widow Twankey's cast offs. The costumes give both men the gravitas of Les Dawson's gossiping old ladies Cissy & Ada.
The Guardian of special features has smiled upon us here. There are great commentaries for each story, sadly no Janet Fielding but Peter Davison forms another good double act with Mark Strickson. Nicholas Courtney dicusses his vanity over bald patches and how residents of Cockfosters (*2) pronounce it as "Coasters", Peter remarks on Janet losing & finding her Australianness, Steve Gallagher reveals why Nyssa drops her skirt for no apparent reason in Terminus and Peter suggests how lighting in the Tardis could have been better.
There's also a good documentary for each story covering Turlough's debut, the Brig and Guardians' return, the very troubled conditions under which terminus was made and the strike that caused recasting on Enlightemment. A godo range of interviewees with the usual suspects and surprises like archive footage of Peter Moffat, Fiona Cumming representing late director Mary Ridge's view on Enlightemment and Eastenders' Lucy Benjamin on her cameo as a younger version of a companion.
Casting Off is assembled from offcuts of the Enlightemment doc and is not specifically about anyting but at least has funny stories like what a saucy old boy Cyril Luckham was.
Tale of the Guardians offers brief but enjoyable potted histories of the actors who played them, Dyall's daughter is very funny about how inadvertantly scary he could be.
There's an interbiew with Barbara Clegg plus ones with Sarah Sutton & Mark Strickson. Strickson's is especially good as he recalls working with the late Steve Irwin "We knew we had either a nutter or a star"
There are model shots, deleted scenes and a number of easter egg e.g how to trick Janet Fielding out of her boob tube, a photo gallery of making the boxset and some tardis data bank factoids.
There's also a special edition of Enlightenment which despite a number of stunning new CGI shots especially the ships, I didn't find improved the story. (It's relentlessly plugged in the Enlightemment commentary by Fiona Cumming!) There's also film of the planning meetings for this.

(*1) Pantomimic is an adjective I made up especially for those costumes

(*2) Cockfosters is at the end of the Piccadilly Line on London's underground.
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