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DVD “Who”sday, 5 June 2012

by on June 5, 2012


Well friends, it’s that time of the month again… Doctor Who DVD time, of course. What did you think I meant?

For June, North America is playing catch-up, getting two titles the UK got a year ago. Both were part of the “Revisitations 2” box set, which consisted of three previously-released stories in Special Editions with more extras and a generally-better transfer. One of these, “Carnival of Monsters” Special Edition, was released back in April along with “The Daemons” for a Third Doctor-themed month. This time around, we get the other two parts of that set and, aside from both being two-disc special editions, they have nothing at all in common.


THE SEEDS OF DEATH – SPECIAL EDITION
This six-part story from 1969 is the pen-penultimate Patrick Troughton adventure and sees the Second Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe up against the Ice Warriors. Most of the action takes place between London and a base on the moon which can be fairly easily traversed via the amazing T-Mat system, which basically teleports people to various destinations.  When the Ice Warriors, reptiles from Mars, take over the moon, the Doctor and co. have to fly a disused rocket to try and liberate it. However, the moon is not the Ice Warriors’ end game, as they plan to use the T-Mat to send seed pods containing poisonous gas to all corners of the globe in order to kill off the human population of Earth.

So few Patrick Troughton stories exist that it’s always nice to be able to enjoy the ones we do have. I’d seen this story a few years ago and thought it was all right, but I certainly liked it a lot more this time. A lot of that, I’m sure, is due to my growing love and enjoyment of the Second Doctor stories. He had this amazing ability to appear frightened and brave at the same time. The cliffhanger to episode 5 sees Troughton being nearly engulfed by toxic fungus (really, just frothy soap bubbles), and while it is more than a bit silly by today’s standards, Troughton’s reaction to it, of real terror, completely sells it.  The story also contains one of my favorite lines ever, when the Doctor is cornered by Ice Warriors prepared to shoot him. He says, “You’ll only be angry if you kill me! I’m a genius.” And that works. Classic.

When this story was first released on DVD in ’03 and ’04, it was given a two-disc release even though it really didn’t have a whole lot of extras to fill up the second disc. The transfer of the story itself was also not the best, so here for the Special Edition, the picture quality was cleaned up and a slew of new extras were included to pad-out the extras from the initial release.

EXTRAS
“Lords of the Red Planet” is a fairly interesting, if unremarkable, making-of which discusses the origins of the Ice Warriors as created by writer Brian Hayles as well as the usual anecdotal stuff from the serial’s production. There’s a very short (3 minutes) interview with director Michael Ferguson called “Monster Masterclass” in which he talks about directing monsters. Speaking of monsters, there’s a fun feature called “Monsters Who Came Back For More!,” in which Dalek voice actor Nicholas Briggs and Doctor Who Magazine editor Peter Ware talk about their favorite recurring alien threats from the series. I always love these kinds of featurettes in which people basically just geek out about their love of the show. These go along with the original extras, one called “Sssowing the Ssseedsss,” which are behind-the-scenes interviews with two of the actors who played Ice Warriors and makeup designer Sylvia James. And there’s the commentary, which is fun, lively, and informative, featuring actors Wendy Padbury (Zoe) and Frazer Hines (Jamie), director Michael Ferguson, and script editor Terrance Dicks.

The extras are fine, but the real reason to buy this one is the story itself. It’s Troughton; he’s genius.


RESURRECTION OF THE DALEKS – SPECIAL EDITION
I’ve just discovered the theme to these two releases: they were both the respective Doctors’ next-to-next-to-last story and both feature an alien threat trying to invade Earth. In this one, Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor and his crew, Tegan and Turlough, are caught in a time corridor and end up landing on present-day Earth where future soldiers are preparing for something. That “something” turns out to be the Daleks, who, in space, are attempting to free their imprisoned creator, Davros, in order to develop a cure to the deadly Movellan virus which has nearly wiped out the hate-filled squid tanks once and for all. This story sets up the first in a series of three R-named Dalek stories wherein Davros is at odds with the Dalek Supreme. The story features the last regular appearance of Janet Fielding as Tegan and the first of Terry Malloy as Davros, who is the third actor to play the role after Michael Wisher and David Gooderson.

This story has the dubious honor of having the most onscreen deaths of any classic Doctor Who story ever. It was written by script editor Eric Saward, who is well-known for upping the violence of the series by a large margin. The Doctor himself fires a pistol at a slithering Dalek mutant and nearly assassinates Davros.  This is quite a good story, with excellent direction from Matthew Robinson. The only real downfall is that some of the guest cast are hamming it up like nobody’s business.

When originally released in 2002, this story was released in the four-part version in which it was shot, however when the show went out in 1984, it was shown in two 45-minute episodes in order to accommodate for the Winter Olympics. This Special Edition includes both cuts, one on each disc, as well as several added extras.

EXTRAS
The main selling-point for this set is an hour-long retrospective documentary entitled “Come In Number Five.” Presented by David Tennant himself, this doc gives a full overview of the entirety of Peter Davison’s tenure as the Doctor, from his casting all the way until his departure, and discusses the various tonal shifts, story ups and downs, and behind-the-scenes stuff that occurred during the three seasons. This is quite an excellent documentary, though the tone is generally somber as I don’t think it’s possible for Janet Fielding to say anything nice about the show and Eric Saward generally isn’t the most jovial person.  Steven Moffat is also featured prominently as the Fifth Doctor period is said to be his favorite (hence, “Time Crash”).

Also on the disc is another installment of “Tomorrow’s Times,” which is essentially people reading print reviews from the time. A 30-minute featurette called “Casting Far and Wide” sees Doctor Who fan and usual contributor to these DVDs Toby Hadoke interviewing five character actors who appeared in “Resurrection” about their careers. This is fairly interesting, if a little sad, as some of the actors don’t think too highly of their own careers.  Interestingly, this release contains “The Last Dalek,” an 8-minute film showing behind-the-scenes footage shot during the now-lost Second Doctor adventure “The Evil of the Daleks,” which was originally released on the first “Seeds of Death” DVD in the early 2000s.

This release has two commentary tracks. On disc one, there is a newly recorded commentary on the two-episode version and has Terry Malloy, Eric Saward, and special effects supervisor Peter Wragg, moderated by new series Dalek operator Nicholas Pegg. This is a pleasant, if somewhat dry, commentary, as the participants all have interesting things to say, whether about this story or just their time on Doctor Who in general, but it’s not especially entertaining.  The second track on disc two features the original 2002 commentary on the four-episode version with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, and director Matthew Robinson, who does an excellent job of moving things along and is clearly still very enthusiastic about this story.  I have to say I enjoyed the older commentary a lot more, despite Fielding’s usual piss-taking.

While the story maybe didn’t need a special edition, the extras on it are fantastic and should be picked up for the Fifth Doctor documentary alone.


BONUS
Also released today is the fifth and final series of The Sarah Jane Adventures.  This series contains six episodes comprising three stories and was meant to simply be the first half of the year, but was sadly never finished due to star Elisabeth Sladen’s declining health and very sad passing.  This is a children’s show, but the stories are always lively and watching Sladen act in her final screen appearances is a bittersweet joy. The lone special feature on this disc is called “Goodbye Bannerman Road – Remembering Elisabeth Sladen” which is a lovely series of remembrances of the actress from people who knew her, including SJA series regulars Daniel Anthony (Clyde) and Anji Mohindra (Ronnie), script editor and friend Gary Russell, and the Eleventh Doctor himself, Matt Smith. This is a really nice tribute to Sladen and her history with the Doctor Who universe, and I defy anyone to watch it without getting a little misty-eyed.

So there’s that, friends; three worthy additions to your ever-growing DW libraries.

-Kanderson. TWITTER. PODCAST.