Destiny of the Daleks Review

Watching Romana in comedy regeneration mode, Daleks with their side panels clearly falling off, and a cut-price Davros with a head which doesn’t quite fit, my first thought was “Come back Mrs Noah!”, the Mollie Sugden vehicle from 1977. Partially this is because I was looking for a copy of the sole series of Mrs Noah the other day, but equally I think I saw a resemblance because a resemblance was there.

Don’t get me wrong – I like the single episode I’ve seen of Mrs Noah but it looks like it cost about seven and six to film and even its most ardent fan couldn’t claim it as an example of careful and considered scripting. Instead it’s a quick knock-up, utilising a name with a degree of cachet in a genre with equal, if potentially equally transitory, status as the in-thing.

For the BBC combining Mollie Sugden and Star Wars-generated sf fever, read an alt-universe ITV squeezing Doctor Who into a Buck Rogers in the 25th Century shaped hole.

Hence the Movellans’ camp as a row of caravans uniforms, complete with silver disco wigs and groin enhancing tight white trousers. Add their fabulously trashy pink guns, the Dalek bombs which look like nothing so much as giant antibiotic tablets and Romana wearing a cerise version of the Doctor’s long coat and you have a story which costs sod all, plays up to the campy attraction of a major ITV import success and where story and plot are of far less importance than the aliens looking cool and with it.

Having said all that there are things to like in Destiny even if you ignore the camp.

There’s a nice (I suspect, scripted) touch where the fluttering of Davros’ hand as he first awakens is mirrored by that of a Movellan crushed under rubble, highlighting the similarity between the species before the reveal that the Space Disco Queens are robots.

Suzanne Danielle is quiet lovely as Agella, the fit Movellan.

The shots of the Daleks gliding about the sand and rubble strewn hills of Skaro are very effective, especially in those scenes where the Doctor hides at the bottom of an escarpment along which the Daleks are hunting. In fact, the location filming in general is excellent.

It’s just a shame that the interior filming is less successful. As with the Dalek scenes in the Pertwee serial, Day of the Daleks, the set designers have obviously decided that evil alien mutants in state of the art travel machines would, for preference, choose to live in a city largely composed of plywood painted black and illuminated by the sort of free standing lamps only otherwise seen in…well, TV studios. There’s a definite air of ‘good enough I suppose’ about the construction of the Dalek city. The fact it has none of the quality of the same city as seen in Genesis of the Daleks isn’t terribly surprising given budgetary constraints, but they could at least have tried to make it look the similar.

Now that we’re back to complaining, this might be a good time to enquire – what happened to the dangerous radiation? In episode 1 the Doctor warns Romana that the radiation on the planet could be deadly and gives her a beeper to tell her when to take radiation tablets. He then (a) doesn’t give her a supply of tablets, rendering the beeper just a cruel, sick joke and (b) never mentions it again, except at one point later in the same episode when his beeper goes off and he scoffs a couple of tablets. Romana feels a little ill in the mines later on, but that too passes as writer Terry Nation entirely forgets what’s going on.

Or maybe the radiation continues but shows itself in unexpected manner? How else to explain the stoned looking willingness of various prisoners to be shot by the Daleks in a scene only a little while after those same prisoners were shown actively shifting rocks and trying to protect Romana from herself? Or indeed the exact same prisoners in the exact same scene doing weird mugging and grinning when told they could leave so long as they take their recently murdered friends of theirs with them.

In the end though none of this really matters, nor does David Gooderson’s sub-standard Davros or the fact that Nation certainly implies that the Daleks have wholly eradicated their organic element. Having sat down to watch part one on a Monday, intending to watch one part an evening over the week I ended up watching three parts that night and the last part (and the two decent extras – check out how pissed Ken Grieve acts in his interview) the following evening – it may be loosely plotted, dodgily acted and seemingly cast from Saturday’s crowd at Fire Island, but it keeps the attention and – as with most Nation scripts – careens along at such a clip that you do always want to know what happened next.

If only ITV’s actual science fiction output had been half as good…

Doctor Who: The Eternal Summer

Fans of the Doctor Who comic will be happy to see Max make his transition from print to audio. Mark Williams gives an enjoyable performance that captures the characters quirkiness and enthusiasm for all things alien. He works as an excellent foil for Peter Davison and Sara Sutton; who are both again on top form. Bernad Cribbins character Wilf is often said to be inspired by Max but this performance takes the character in a different direction; and its a very enjoyable listen. Its also nice to have his backstory referenced by the Doctor; making Max feel like an existing part of the who universe.

The rest of the cast are also good and it captures the small village feel. There is a lot of emotion crammed into this episode; due partly to the time distortions that are causing all the villages to live their lives again and again in a single day. Its a lot to convey in a short space of time but its well handled. The only minor disappointment was the Lord and Ladys voices. Its not a big complaint but they felt like they could have benefited from some extra effects being applied to them. Its impossible to go into detail why without spoiling a plot point however.

The plot is good with plenty of twists and turns though its hard to say to much about it due to its nature. The sound effects are good, as is the sound track which doesn’t overpower the story. Well worth a listen.

8/10

Available now from Big Finish

Doctor Who: The Dalek Collection

Dalek, by Rob Shearman, is one of the best Dalek stories of all time. Reminiscent of Power of the Daleks, and based on his own Big Finish Sixth Doctor story Jubilee, Dalek sees a lone and damaged Dalek being tortured by Henry Van Statten, an odd mix of Richard Branson and Bill Gates in a story reminicent of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s The Most Toys. When the Doctor and Rose arrive, events escalate, and the Dalek, predictably, escapes. But something is wrong with it, and, as it creates carnage on its way to the surface of the underground base, it begins to change, a change it seems for the worse…

Everything in this story works. Nicholas Briggs is in turns chilling and sympathetic as the Dalek, Billie Piper is vulnerable and determined as Rose and Christopher Eccleston shows a visciousness and terror unseen in any Doctor in the past. A great story, and as good as you remember.

Series One ended with Russell T Davies’s Bad Wolf/A Parting of the Ways and ties up a lot of loose ends left dangling throughout the season with the Daleks in a plot to reinvent themselves under the tutelage of a bonkers Emperor who considers himself a God. Bad Wolf shouldn’t really work, but does due to the conviction of the main cast. Deadly games of Big Brother, The Weakest Link and other contemporary gameshows are played on the Games Station – which turns out to be The Long Games Satellite Five. Behind a plot to destabilise the Human Empire and create a new breed of Daleks, the Dalek Emperor appears for the first time, properly, since Evil of the Daleks, completing the Second Doctor echoes in this series. This is all about motives rather than plots, and in A Parting of the Ways, little happens plot wise as the chaacters are all put through the mill or killed. Or both. With Jack abandoned and the Doctor regenerating, again this is a thrilling, heart racing adventure and one which merits a second look.

Skipping, it seems, Doomsday, the action moves to Helen Raynor’s Daleks In Manhatten/Evolution of the Daleks. As David says in his intro, Daleks In Manhatten does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s the weakest of all the stories in this boxset and a story full of holes and “best of” scenes and if it wasn’t for David and Freema this could have been actually bad. It’s not though. The Dalek’s plot is suitably mental again, the fact that they DO evolve and change with every adventure is refreshing and some of the concepts almost work. Dalek Sec’s Human Dalek however, is and was a bad idea. Daleks are Daleks. That’s the point. Carnage ensues, but one gets the feeling that the Daleks could have been substituted for another alien race to greater effect. And “Daleks In Manhatten” is absolutely the worst title for a Doctor Who adventure ever! Sounds like a provisional title someone forgot to rethink.

On to the end of series four now with The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End with the Doctor having to bring all his companions from the new series together fighting a Dalek Empire which has been rebuilt (again) from the body of Davros, pulled out of the Time War from Caan, from the Cult of Skaro from Doomsday after he escaped at the end of Evolution of the Daleks… phew! This has got to be the most convoluted Doctor Who adventure ever. Russell T Davies talks about wiping away the “baggage” of classic Who for his new series, but goes on in this story to create a continuity which goes away back two series. It’s a fan thrill to see all the companions again, the story again is a mad Dalek one, and echoes The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and it ties up a few loose ends from series four (lost bees, lost planets, etc…) but, in my opinion, there is just too much going on, and for a casual viewer it must have been a mystery. Some things don’t work at all. Another Doctor/Rose reunion wastes a perfect ending in Doomsday, and the way Rose swaps to a “human” Doctor is jarring and uncomfortable. It is an adventure, which Terrance Dicks alludes to in the commentary for Planet of the Daleks, which goes for “the moment” as apposed to the story. Just don’t think too hard about it. Triumphs are, of course, Julian Bleach’s Davros, although, again, I think this is recasting for recastings sake – not only would Terry Molloy have been able to be Davros exactly like this behind the mask – it would have given a further gravitas and continuity thread that only he could. Another triumph is the parting of Donna and the tragic way she becomes what she was before she met the Doctor. A tour de force by a wonderful Catherine Tate. The scene with everyone flying the TARDIS is heartwarming too, if the reason they have to – towing the Earth back into position – is suitably bonkers.

All in all, this is a set of varying quality – Dalek is the best, by far, Daleks In Manhatten the worst – but none of the stories are bad, and all are full of fan thrills and fabulous moments. But then, you know that, because everyone already has these…

Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles – Night’s Black Agents review

Its a fast past tale this month and its very atmospheric. We lurch from powerful physical battles with a giant Kelpie down to dark and eerie banter with a reverend who has something of the night about him. The tale goes at a brisk pace and even in its slow moments it keeps you hooked. You never quite know how things will pan out although you know its only a matter of time before it all goes to hell.

Frazer Hines doesn’t do the voice of Doc 6 as well as Doc 2 but its passable. And he tells a captivating tale; knowing how and when to ramp up the tension. Opposite him this month is Hugh Ross, who is a delight as the plotting priest who’s domain the Doctor and Jamie end up trapped within. The story gradually teases out more and more of the ministers back story and builds to satisfying climax that didn’t disappoint. The dark dealings here were both more convincing and scary than last months Missing Adventure: Point of Entry.

Well worth a listen to; the companion chronicles have been consistently good of late and this was no exception. Its also a nice touch it overlapping with the monthly series.

8/10

Available now from Big Finish

Doctor Who: The Black Guardian Trilogy

After a very unnatural and forced conversation in which shouty Tegan might as well have turned to the camera and gone “Previously, on Doctor Who…”, Peter Davison, looking as though he’s thinking “right, home by half ten, don’t think too hard about this” speaks some technobabble and the TARDIS is caught in between two opposing Time Zones – neither of which make much sense. 1983, clearly because well, contemporary works, doesn’t it, and, em, 1977, just before the Brigadier joined UNIT, sees him retired from, er, UNIT, and working in a, um, School For Boys as a Maths teacher. Meanwhile a group of aliens with Welsh names (or maybe Latin, it’s hard to tell) have managed to evade Capitol Guards, break through the Transduction Barriers and swipe some regeneration technology from the Time Lords. Ok then. You keeping up… so, we have, a school boy – who’s really an alien trapped on Earth, employed by the Black Guardian to off the Doctor with a rock or something, TWO versions of a confused looking Brigadier wandering around the set for Every Second Counts and the TARDIS crew caught in the middle. Add to this the alien crew, who regenerate into paper-chain wearing, spag-bol headed floaty likes and you have an absolute mess of a story.

It doesn’t hold up in the slightest. The plot is pointless and makes no sense, the Time Zones are off by so much it’s criminal that any of the production team didn’t clock it, Turlough – played by Mark Strickson who goes on to have a jolly old laugh about it all – is OTT, hammy and thoroughly unbelievable and Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding look like their characters have suddenly taken stupid pills. Add to this a Nicholas Courtney who really does himself, or the Brigadier no favours with lots of “pondering” and this is a difficult story to recommend. It’s good for curiousity value, if nothing else, and Peter Davison is always very good value, but don’t expect a coherent story. Direction is flat and all a bit meh, lighting is awful – but curiously shows how it COULD have been – and the cast are clearly going through the motions, with the exception of Strickson who is really trying a bit too hard. Mawdryn Undead, for that is what it is called, is not a classic Who tale by any means, in fact the whole thing comes across as a production crew going “Ach, that’ll do…”

Following this is Terminus and this is, to be fair, an adventure with more a coherent thread that the previous one. Sets though look like they’ve been dragged out from A Nightmare on Eden and again the lighting department and costume lets it down. “Space Pirates” with blown up condoms for helmets and the “terrifying” Garm clearly aren’t what was in Stephen Gallaghers mind when writing it and, of course, there’s what to do with murderous Turlough. Em, look him under the floor… This is a better story that Mawdryn Undead, but is bonkers at times too – slow motion fighting, the Garm, Nyssa’s sudden cleavage-showing and shedding-of-clothes and sudden decision to stay. Modern Who is criticised a lot for its “soapy” way of ridding the Doctor of a companion, but I’d rather have the emotions of Donna or Rose than the bland “last minute” decisions of the older companions.

Completing the trilogy is Enlightenment, and it is the best of the bunch. A wonderful concept – Eternals, bored and listless in a race through the stars – and some fabulous design, it makes one frustrated as to why the previous two stories weren’t given so much attention to detail. With the exception Leee John and Lynda Baron as the pirates, ooo aaaar, the cast is uniformly good, and the denouemnent makes perfect sense for once. In a story where costume is everything, however, the Black and White Guardians bird-headpieces are just plain daft.

The boxset itself is excellent value. Packed with commentaries, little featurettes and three substantial documentaries, it shows the cast and crew were really up against it during the filming of these stories, both under the constant interference (?) of JNT, budget, time and a script editor who’d clearly gone “fuck it, that’ll do…”. Another rewrite or two, some discussion with the lighting and costume designerrs and these stories might have worked better. The cast make a wonderfully witty and self-afacing commentary too, and show that, like us, it helps not to take this too seriously. My only gripe is the narrator of the documentaries – kids favourite and SJA guest star Floella Benjamin OBE – who seems to be speaking with a constant smile on her face, puts weird emphasis on certain words, punctuates oddly and who, as my own personal bugbear, pronounces “Dalek” and “Dalik” and Cyberman and “Cybermn” as though they were Jewish.

Despite my moaning, this is a decent boxset and worth it for Enlightenment – and an oddity of a Special Edition re-edited/new effects version too – and the extras alone. Just, when you watch Mawdryn Undead, just don’t pay too much attention…

Doctor Who: The Architects of History- Review

I won’t go further into the story here, as it would ruin it, but I will say that this is a play of epic proportions, equal to that found in BF’s Dalek Empire story The Apocalypse Element. Anyone expecting to see a remorseful Klein will be suprised by how her predicament is resolved, but I think listeners will also possibly feel quite saddened. I never thought I’d feel sympathy for any Nazi character, yet for Klein I do. She is a victim of the Doctor’s deeds and it’s clear she really believes in what she is doing. But under all that, there is a underlying saddness to the character as she knows she can never really return home.

The only criticism I have of this play has to be the Selachians who are quite generic: it would have possibly worked better if the Daleks were to replace them. (The Daleks do get a name drop in the play however). This is not really important, however, as they are mainly used as a device to move on the plot.

What really drives this epic is the quality of the characters and wonderful acting/music. This has certainly been the best Big Finish play of 2010. I’m sorry if this review is somewhat rambling but the fact is there is so much going on in this play it is really quite hard to condense it. This is just one of those plays that works on so many levels, has something for everybody and offers a damn good ending to what has been a wonderful “trilogy of four parts”.

10/10

Available now at Big Finish

Doctor Who: Plague of the Daleks- Review

Plague-of-the-Daleks-coverThe final part of the Big Finish Stockbridge trilogy finishes the pattern set by the first two; we’ve had past and present so now its the turn of the future.

The story initially feels like the Android invasion. The locals are present but something’s not quite right and finding out that Stockbridge is actually a historically themed tourist attraction isn’t a major surprise. But the attraction isn’t that successful and years of underfunding and a lack of staff see the place falling to pieces. But something else is lurking in Stockbridge, something nasty and alien and its not to long before the tourists are wondering if this vacation may be their last.

The Doctor and Nyssa spend much of the adventure separated which is a shame as they play off each other very well. The new characters, the staff running the place and the tourists, are nice enough but never seem to be as well developed as the characters in the previous two stories. There are some nice twists with the Daleks and they behave in the usual manner; with tactics from past stories being reused in interesting ways.

The story moves along at a fair pace but even with the Daleks it takes a while to build up a sense of real danger. Davidson is on top form and has some interesting material to work with; Nyssa doesn’t get as much to do as previous stories. The rest of the cast provides adequate performances but none off them really blew me away. Nic Briggs as always delivers great Dalek voices but given his high quality this is something thats now expected. Its very much a run of the mill Dalekstory. If you like the pepper pots you’ll enjoy it but its much more a Dalek tale than a Stockbridge one despite the setting. It does however give Stockbridge a nice send off and if you’ve listened to the first two stories it ends things in a satisfying way.

3/5

Available now From Big FInish

Doctor who: Peladon Tales Boxset

Yep, it really is that dull. This story is a none-too-subtle allegory for Britain joining the EU and it holds all the dynamics of a discussion on that. There is little action and the four episodes consist mostly of lots of people standing around talking. The enemies, of course, are not the Ice Warriors, but it won’t come as a surprise who is.

Having said this is a dull premise, it’s actually a very watchable adventure. By no means up there with its neighbour The Sea Devils it is strangely compelling. I’m not sure whether this is because it’s any good, or whether the Peladon tales are some of my first memories of Who and therefore can do no harm. Everything is very slow, however, and the tale flip flops from the Doctor being believed, and sentenced to death, then believed again. Add to this some odd character traits, some leaps of faiths and more holes than a holey thing, and this shouldn’t really work.

I enjoyed it though. David Troughton’s King Peladon is earnest and true and the best thing in it, if you don’t count Alpha Centuri, and Katy Manning manages to make Jo the cutest thing ever. This is quite a departure for the format of the time, with no UNIT or secondary cast like the Master, and it’s curious to see that, really, this is the first time that Doctor/One Female Companion template which works even today was tested. Jon Pertwee sails through the whole thing slightly too comfortable in the role, but nonetheless a commanding figure. The Ice Warriors are clunky and slow, and with only two of them they really aren’t much of a threat. Despite all the things that should be wrong with this, it definitely is worth watching. The lighting is particularly noticeable, as is the model work. Just don’t think too hard about Aggedor!

Two years later, The Monster of Peladon is basically a rehash and reverse of what has come before, the same talky scenes interspersed with a bit of action. This time Brian Hayles decides to allegory the miners strike and to this end a lower cast is developed in the form of the Northern speaking miners. Try not to be offended, there was none intended. Again a mix and match of alien creatures make an appearance, including the infamous Alpha Centuri and again the Ice Warriors, and now Peladon has been replaced by his daughter, Thalira. The switch in gender of monarch basically sign posts every other surprise in the whole thing. It’s curious that the co-star Donald Gee, the devious Eckersley, looks very like Tom Baker!

This story is slightly longer with six episodes, but merits it, as the miners plight makes more sense than the constant debating about Federation membership – and you thought George Lucas thought of it first! There is more action too, and more people, which makes the place look a little more populated, and there are a few more characters, each with a decent motivation. The Ice Warriors of course return, this time as proper enemies and with some very brutal methods. However, the outfits are awful and some of them look really bad. And they insist on dubbing on voices to mouths we can see aren’t moving. Pertwee seems more awake this time round and throws himself into it, maybe a renewed vigour now he knows he’s leaving. Sadly, Lis Sladen’s Sarah is a bit unlikeable, agressive, balshy and a little too “womens lib” to work properly. But, all in all, this is another very watchable adventure, and the faults are outweighed by sheer nostalgia.

The extras are a fine bunch too. Both commentaries, as is becoming the norm, feature Uncle Terrance and the late Barry Letts and both continue to amaze with well recounted tales and anecdotes and memories. Katy Manning joins them in Curse, again being outrageously lovey, doing brilliant voices and, I imagine, lying her arse off! Fabulous. Also joining is the ever modest Chris D’Oyly-John, who’s insight is fascinating. When he get’s a word in. Monster is voiced by Terrance and Barry, along with “body of Alpha” Stuart Fell, Donald Gee, Nina Thomas, Ralph Watson and coralled by Toby Hadoke and makes for a busy commentary, but not everyone is there at the same time. However, it does come across as very crowded at times. Still interesting stuff.

Also on the extras are a touching short “Jon And Katy”, a potted history of the Ice Warriors, story boards, photo gallery, all the usual, as well as a two part documentary on the making of both serials, which, in my opinion, hold the funniest line ever muttered on a DVD, especially by Uncle Terrance, as he does an impression of director Lenny Mayne and his immediate impression of the original Alpha Centuri. “It’s a giant dick!” Uncle Terrance says. I almost spat my coffee out. Genuinely funny.

This boxset is out on the 18th January, and is retailing at £29.99. Definitely worth it.

Doctor Who: Legend of the cybermen review

The Land of Fiction, a quirky and fluid place created and controlled by imagination. Filled with whatever fantastical creatures the controller can think off. Contrast this with the logic driven Cybermen, devoid of emotion and incapable of flights of fantasy. Its an interesting contrast and it gives the story a great starting place. But what happens next was a swerve ball I just didn’t see coming. Once the Cybermen realize they can take advantage of the fantastical nature of the Land of Fiction the story just gets strange and stranger. From the vast variety of Cyber-conversions, whales, mermaids, trolls and Valkyries to name but a few, to the Cybermens tinkering with the fabric of the Land reality. Its a strange story.

Normally with the Cybermen you get a tale of them low in numbers; being cunning and slinking about. Here its war; full on war with maximum conversion. They act like they should and their logical interactions with the world are chillingly efficient and to the point. Having the cybermen fighting against the inhabitants of the land of fiction allows some really odd battles to happen. I’d never have expected to see Count Dracula trying to sink his fangs into the Cybermen. But it works.

The story gets even odder still. Having the Cybermen alter the Lands narrative causing people to start narrating their own actions and environment. This does make the story rather confusing but hell its a lot of fun and its really innovative.

The ending; well its not as wacky or original as the rest of the tale but it gives a satisfying conclusion. Its a nice book end for the trilogy; and now the first 2 tales make a lot more sense. There are a few moments of sadness when you find out whats really going on but they just make the ending more poignant.

Its great seeing the Doctor team up with both Jamie and Zoe. Both actors slip back into their parts with ease. Though its a little odd as Frazer Hines is playing a much older version of Jamie and he acts quite fatherly to Zoe. That aside they are both great foils for Colin Bakers 6th Doctor. Having them with him diminishes his worst qualities and brings his often hidden softer side to the fore.

Its an odd tale this. The music and sound effects combine to produce what feels like the audio equivalent of an acid trip. It will not be to every bodies taste as its far from your regular Dr Who. But for anyone willing to take a chance its one heck of a ride. Just strap yourself in and trust the story and you’ll find yourself taken to places you didn’t expect.

8/10

Available now from Big Finish

Doctor who: Dalek War Boxset

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Frontier In Space is a cracking yarn. The story is straight forward – two mighty empires – Earth and Draconia – are pushed to the edge of war by the Master who is using a hypnotic device to convince each side they are being attacked by the other when, in reality, they are being attacked by Ogron assault troops controlled by the Master. Dropped into the middle of this the Third Doctor and Jo try to convince each side what is going on, whilst trying to stop the Master – but he has secret allies, and they’re heading his way…

Nothing in this story should work. The action is mostly off screen, the model work is a bit ropey and the story consists of constantly locking up the Doctor and Jo for episodes at a time. However, it’s a testiment to Malcolm Hulke’s script that the narrative pulls the viewer along with gusto. The dialogue is, with the exception of a couple of clunkers, very good,the characters well developed and Jon Pertwee, who at first seems to have phoned in the performance, proves what a laid back and fabulous Doctor he was with some wonderful one liners and a sparkling relationship with a feisty and resourceful Jo Grant. His attempt to escape from Jail No. One – only to be foiled by an approaching guard – is met with a “Oh, how very embarrassing!”. Wonderful!

Although the model work is what you’d expect from 1973, it somehow managed to create a suspension of belief – probably due to the cast playing it absolutely straight – and even a space battle worthy of Battlestar Galactica feels real as the Master attacks an approaching Earth ship. And there is some very good space walking too. Much better than some ten years later.

The triumph though, is the design of the Draconians. Why these aliens haven’t returned to Doctor Who is a mystery. A rich, diverse and realistic culture, they are fabulously brought to life by some wonderful prosthetics, which rival anything done today. A tour de force.

And of course no mention of Frontier In Space would be complete without a mention of Roger Delgado’s final performance as the Master. A bit of a incongruous ending for this incarnation – due to the tragic death of the actor soon after – it’s a real shame he didn’t get a proper send off. However, in this story he’s witty, cool, charming and utterly spinechilling. He talks to the Dctor and Jo as friends, and indeed saves their life occasionally, but has no compunction when throwing Jo into an airlock, or disengaging a ship that’s still attached to an open airlock of another. Genius, from start to finish.

There extras too are fantastic in this boxset. A rather odd, but interesting, pseudo-documentary/fiction discussing the socio-political influences of the serial featuring real interviews, fictional ones from futuristic characters and a narrative, is a weird mix, but fun, and very interesting, and a documentary about Roger Delgado is fitting and very, very touching. Add to that a lively commentary featuring Clayton Hickman refereeing old hands Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks, abley assisted by Katy Manning lying her head off, and it makes for an entertaining and infortmative commentary. All in all, well worth the money on its own. However, we also get…

…Planet of the Daleks. In this story, an injured Doctor sends a message to the Time Lords who send him and Jo to Spirridon, an inhospitable, jungle planet with an ice core, where a Dalek army is experimenting with invisibility and a couple of Thal assault teams are trying to stop them.

This is typical Terry Nation fare, but it’s not bad for it. Nation uses high concepts drive a thin plot, but, hell, he’s Terry Nation! There’s a lot packed into the six episodes, but, like Frontier In Space, one wonders how much better it could have been with todays brutal editing. That’s not to say it’s bad, far from it. The characters are given time to breath, are well drawn and have proper motives. The Daleks too have a typically bonkers and grand ambition, and Jon and Katy sail through with chemistry and aplomb. Episode three, recently recoloured by the restoration team, fits in seemlessly. It really is a wonderful job.

This story has been derided in the past, but I urge people to watch it with an open mind. There is much to recommend it.

The extras too are extensive and fun, with another crazy fiction/fact documentary and a great piece on the recolouring of Episode Three. My favourite though was a hystercially funny collection of Blue Peter articles featuring friend of Skaro Peter Purves, on the trail for two Dalek props that someone had nicked from outside Studio Eight. With a twinkle in his eye, Peter turns roving reporter, aksing a policeman, a witness and a small boy on the where abouts of these Daleks, and, when they are recovered, in earnest, reports on their discovery. The ending, with Peter, John Noakes and Lesley Judd trying to push John Scott Martin up a ramp into a transit van is cryingly funny.

The commentary this time, mistakingly in my opinion, drops Clay for Katy, Barry and Terrance to be accompanied by Prentice Hancock and Tim Preece and, although again it’s a lively and informative discussion (including Terrance being a little unkind to the new series…) it seems to lack the structure of the first.

All in all this is a wonderful boxset with plenty to recommend it.

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