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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DVD Extras for a Creepy and Suspenseful Dr. Who!
The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) is now working hand-in-hand with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and UNIT. So he's on the scene when the Brigadier investigates why the astronauts on Mars Probe 7 have not communicated with Space Control since they started the trip back to Earth seven months before. Professor Ralph Cornish, head of the program, sent a recovery space capsule to...
Published 24 months ago by Happy Reader

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story, but could have been summed up in 3 or 4 episodes
I really love this Doctor and he is one of my favorite Doctors, but this is not one of his best stories he has done. The story line of this adventure, without giving anything away, was unnecessarily drawn out into extra episodes when it truly did not need to be.

Unlike episodes that were very lengthy, such as Planet of the Spiders, which needed many episodes...
Published 14 months ago by Michael Christy


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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DVD Extras for a Creepy and Suspenseful Dr. Who!, July 12, 2012
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death (Story 53) (DVD)
The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) is now working hand-in-hand with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and UNIT. So he's on the scene when the Brigadier investigates why the astronauts on Mars Probe 7 have not communicated with Space Control since they started the trip back to Earth seven months before. Professor Ralph Cornish, head of the program, sent a recovery space capsule to investigate, and now they're having the same problem with the rescue mission.

When, finally, the rescue mission lands on Earth, the three astronauts in it are kidnapped in a daring raid. Not only that, but scientist Liz Shaw notices that the Geiger counter is showing maximum radiation. What is going on? Who has kidnapped the astronauts, if indeed, these creatures able to kill with a touch are actually our astronauts.

This episode sends delicious shivers up my spine. I think it does an excellent job of stringing the viewer along, trying to figure out what is happening and why. As the Doctor says, "I don't know what came down in Recovery 7, but it certainly wasn't human!" I appreciate the general theme of the dangers of xenophbia. I also get a kick out of Liz Shaw's white go-go boots. I had a pair myself in sixth grade.

This review is for the October, 2012, release of "Ambassadors of Death" on DVD, the first time it will be offered on DVD. There are seven 25-minute episodes. This longer format is not always appreciated - there's more time for character development and conversation, which isn't to everybody's preference.

The show first aired in March - May, 1970. It sounds like there's good reasons why it's taken this long to get out on DVD. The show was originally filmed on color videotape, but several of the seven episodes were only stored on black & white 16mm film. With new technology, they are "picking" the color out of the film. The DVD release is in full color for all episodes. I wonder if that will change the shiver factor for me. The scene where a kidnapped alien astronaut trudges out of it's room like Frankenstein, to mount the stairs while one of its captors cowers against the door, looks pretty awesome in grainy black & white. [After watching my DVD, I think it holds up pretty well in color!]

This will be a 2-disc release. The only extra on Disc 1 is the Commentary. The other extras are on Disc 2. After my DVD was received and watched, I've added to my description of these extras:

1. Commentary. Parts of it were recorded in 2009. Participants include Caroline John (who plays Liz Shaw), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Michael Ferguson (director), Peter Halliday (the voice behind multiple alien voices, though he has acted in previous Dr. Who series), Derek Ware (stunt co-ordinator and a UNIT sargeant), Roy Scammell (stuntman), Derek Martin (stuntman), Jeffrey Deavers (Private Johnson, and Caroline John's real-life husband) and Terrance Dicks (script editor and "part author"). Caroline John just passed away in June, 2012, at the age of 71. Nicholas Courtney died in February 2011.
Toby Hadoke is the Commentary moderator, and he is really growing on me. He obviously researches the series and the commentators beforehand.
At the beginning of episode 1, the Doctor and Liz disappear and re-appear as he works to fix the TARDIS time vector generator (and can escape his exile on Earth). The main purpose of this scene was to get something sci-fi into the story early on, at the request of Barry Letts, the producer. Dicks says, "Barry used to say ... 'We need something Who-ish to happen!' "
The commentators talk about Who companions. Playing second string to the Doctor wasn't always easy. Dicks explains, "The reason why Barry wanted to ... change Carrie [Caroline as Liz] was because ... the character was too intelligent! ... There was no excuse for the Doctor to explain things".
You need to listen to the commentary for Episode 2, with all the stuntmen, to find out to what "Sign the blood chit" refers!
2. "Mars Probe 7: Making The Ambassadors of Death" (27 minutes) Commentators include Terrance Dicks, Michael Ferguson, Derek Ware, Roy Scammell and Margot Hayhoe (assistant floor manager). At one point, Margot mentions how all the stuntmen were very attractive, and the videos that are shown of rehearsals, etc., certainly bear this out.
3. TV trailer for "The Ambassadors of Death" (1.5 minutes)
4. "Tomorrow's Times: The Third Doctor" (13.5 minutes) Narrated by Peter Purves, this special goes to the archives of the British Library to see what newspapers were printing about Jon Pertwee's Doctor. One columnist wrote that Pertwee "manages to look like Danny Kaye while sounding like Boris Karloff."
Pertwee started as a whole new Doctor in 1970, which also ushered in full color for Doctor Who. In addition, BBC wanted the show to have a grittier feel to it. In spite of the lack of graphic blood and gore, there were still many complaints that Pertwee's Dr. Who was too violent, especially as it's time-slot was late afternoon, when very young children were more likely to watch the show. But, as Pertwee said in an interview, "Rubbish! Our programme isn't violent, it's all just fantasy. There is no blood, no pain - it wouldn't upset an eighty-year-old maiden aunt and my young son loves it."
5. Photo Gallery
6. PDF material: Radio Times Listing
7. Coming Soon TV trailer for "Claws of Axos". This is a great one, with fading in and out in black and tight cuts, the trailer is scarier than the series itself!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Ambassadors... OF DEATH!, September 26, 2004
By 
Andrew McCaffrey (Satellite of Love, Maryland) - See all my reviews
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VHS... How quaint.

I've never really understood the bad rap that AMBASSADORS OF DEATH gets. Sure, it's in the middle of a good season, but I've never felt it was the weakest of Pertwee's first year. I'd much rather watch this again than view THE SILURIANS (I like the idea of SILURIANS much more than the actual story itself). AMBASSADORS is a straightforward romp that I found very enjoyable. When my copy arrived, I planned to watch the first tape one night, saving the second for the next evening. But I was having such a blast, I viewed the whole thing in one long sitting.

A lot of the time we fans find ourselves laughing at the show as often as we laugh with it. Time has not always been kind, and aspects of this serial show their age. Television and film were still new to the idea of portraying space travel realistically; it's amusing to see the production crew simulating weightlessness by turning the camera upside-down and running everything in slowmo. Gender equality is also something that the producers may have attempted, but, amusingly, Britain's Space Control Centre is staffed by a substantial number of pouting, miniskirted scientist-babes.

The story begins with the British Space Programme (well, it was the early 70s, and they were rather optimistic back then) mounting a rescue mission to discover what happened to their latest Mars Probe. When the capsule docks, contact is lost while a loud alien sound screams across the radio. The Doctor believes the sound is an alien message. Some time later, mysterious space-suited figures that can kill by touch are seen committing petty thefts, stealing radioactive isotopes and scientific equipment.

My review is more a series of isolated thoughts. This is an entertaining romp, and deep, serious analysis wouldn't be particularly fruitful. My initial thought is that this is probably the story where the James Bond influence on the Pertwee era is the most apparent. The Doctor pulls gadgets from nowhere. He faces an earthbound menace with access to the latest military hardware. Gun-battles and chase scenes abound. There are even jazzy musical cues to punctuate the action.

On the subject of the music, I just want to say that I really dig the incidental score, occasionally inappropriate as it is (to me, action sequences don't scream out for flute solos). Of particular note is the piece played whenever the Ambassadors initiate their raids. Dreamy and atmospheric, I loved it the first time; multiple viewings have not diminished my appreciation.

Action by Havoc! Yes, the stunt-work in this one is impressive. AMBASSADORS relies on its action sequences and the team is more than up to the challenge. The battles are smoothly executed and sharply directed. Something that I found amusing (and I'm probably alone) is that one of the stuntmen reminded me of Stan Laurel. This presented me with very entertaining imagery. Stan Laurel shooting bad guys. Stan Laurel's rifle shot from his hands. Stan Laurel thrown from a helicopter. I guess life after Hardy was rough on the little guy.

The script contains quite a number of nice little moments. Reegan is particularly villainous, casually ordering his two lackeys to their deaths and then attending to the disposal of their bodies.

Visually, the story is strong. The blank faces of the space-suited aliens are as chilling as any other villain Doctor Who would produce. It's an effective way of highlighting the alien's fundamental otherness by placing the unfamiliar inside the familiar. Removing the face completely dehumanizes the aliens. It's a much more effective way of displaying their unsettling nature than if they had relied on cheap makeup.

The film sequences are fantastic -- a world of difference from the rather static studio portions. The shot of the Ambassador slowing walking towards the UNIT guard with the sun behind him would look at home in a smooth, atmospheric movie. Even the chase-scenes are inspired; note that stylish shot where Reegan races through metal walkways. He steps briefly into a puddle and the camera focuses on the reflection in the water as the ripples soften, allowing us to continue to see his progress. Cool stuff and not what one expects in a three-decade-old television production.

Towards the end, I was struck by the thought that the cliffhangers seemed unimaginative. Rather than having the episode build towards them, they just seemed to happen at whatever point in the story was up after twenty-five minutes. Wouldn't it have made more sense to move the episode five cliffhanger a few minutes so that it occurred as the alien spacecraft appears to smash the two capsules, rather than when the ship has merely appeared on the scanner?

In the later episodes, the story begins dragging. Liz gets very little to do, and her escape attempt adds nothing but time. The aliens are poorly realized outside their spacesuits. When the Ambassador removes his helmet, the director very wisely keeps the shots to a minimum, only showing the face either for a few moments, or from behind foggy glass. Unfortunately, he doesn't employ the same subtlety for the leader on the mothership, so we're treated to the sight of an alien made of oatmeal waving oven mitts at Jon Pertwee from behind a Venetian blind.

The restoration on the video is excellent. It's a pity that there was no alternative to fading between monochrome and color footage, but the transitions aren't especially jarring. The demonstration placed at the end of the second VHS tape really drives home how superior the cleaned up version is.

There's a funny cheat in episode seven where Cornish explains that they can't obtain a good look at the alien spacecraft because radioactivity is blotting out cameras. That'll save a bit of money from the effects budget! But I have to forgive AMBASSADORS its cheats because it's just so damned entertaining. And while there are figures of power in the world willing to launch pre-emptive military strikes, this story will always be relevant.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why don't they put THIS on DVD?, September 2, 2003
By A Customer
Ambassadors of Death is an old favorite of mine.
One can tell it was made at the same time as Inferno,
both have longish running times and offer these strangely subdued yet thoroughly effective atmospheres: Lots of stark and empty landscapes stretching under cloudy skies mixed with the eerily quiet "ground control".
And lets face it, a key strength of any Doctor Who episode is its power to convey mood and setting, even if a ton of money for effects was unavailable.
Ambassadors (like uber-classic "Inferno") also feature that gem of an underused companion, Liz Shaw. Only the hard-core Whovian knows why she left so early on, but I always felt that in her all too brief (four episodes) run, that both Pertwee and Pertwee's Doctor where fond of her abilities; she left an indelible impression on Pertwee's first episodes.
Ambassadors is a movie to sit back and settle into; it's more of a mystery than action (Inferno had a lot of action in comparison) and the joy is simply in allowing its plot to unfold. I love the minimal soundtracks that these
earlier episodes employed, and the `sixties' feel they convey so well.
Treat yourself: Pertwee was the Man!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!!!!, October 20, 2003
By 
Alan D. Patten III "A. Daniel Patten, III" (Taylors (Greenville), SC United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
First of all for those who keep saying 'why isn't this on DVD?' be patient!!!! those of us who have been collecting Doctor who videos since the early 90's needed to complete our collections, which is why the BBC is releasing all the remaining stories on video ( I bought the End of the Universe collection of course).
I've always felt very strongly that the early Pertwee (3rd Doctor) adventures were the very best that Dr. Who has to offer. They had the best writers, the best production values, and the cast with the Brigadeer and UNIT was superb and as Jon Pertwee often remarked, it is somewhat more terrifing when the menace comes to earth.
the plot is classic doctor who for the time, with the storyline revolving around a misunderstanding and humans who are usually the bad guys in the end. It is hard to belive that this one is one of the last videos to be released, but I'm glad it's finally here!!!!!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lengthy but suspenseful 7-episoder better as 6 episodes., October 30, 2003
"I don't know what we brought down in Mars Probe 7, but it certainly was not human." That's the Doctor's assessment of three missing astronauts who were sent up in space, two of who were trasnmitting photos before radio contact was lost and were missing for seven months, and the other who was sent to find the first two. In this 2001-Space Odyssey meets "Invaders From Mars" meets James Bond story, which deals with the implications of the first human contact with space aliens, Recovery 7, the rescue craft, is eventually brought down, with the astronauts missing.
The Doctor later discovers a high radiation reading from the capsule, which indicates that the astronauts should've been dead, but upon further investigation, finds a log discovering a 2 million rad count, leading him to make the opening quote of my review. His attempts to find the astronauts is met with delay, espionage, sabotage, coverups, a hijacking which the Doctor foils in a very clever way, astonishing the Brigadier, and eventually, murder, in the Space Centre. As the story progresses, more people are discovered to be part of the conspiracy, be it ordinary thugs, scientists, and even politicians.
Apart from UNIT, the only person who seems to accept his help is Dr. Cornish, the head of the Space Centre. Then there's General Carrington, head of the military Security Service, whose motives from the get-go are very suspect, even though he tells the Doctor that the astronauts were suffering from a self-sustaining, highly contagious radiation, and he had national security in his interest. However, the concept of moral duty comes into question, as depending on one's frame of mind, moral duty can mean whatever one wants it to mean.
Episode 5 features the first appearance of John Levene (Sergeant Benton) in the Pertwee era, having made his appearance in The Invasion (1968). Caroline John is still great as Liz, but I doubt if real Cambridge Ph D graduates wear miniskirts that short. Two Who guest star alumni include John Abineri (Carrington) later to come out in Death Of The Daleks (1974), and Cyril (Dr. Lennox), Viner in Tomb Of The Cybermen (1967), Dr. Clegg in Planet Of The Spiders (1974), and the Archimandrite in The Androids Of Tara (1978). Michael Wisher (John Wakefield) came out in many Who stories, including Davros (Genesis Of The Daleks).
The times play a big part in this story. The image of the Recovery 7 probe docking with the Mars Probe not only brings reminders of Stanley Kubrick's 2001 (1968) but also David Bowie's "Space Oddity" (1969). I half-expected to hear "Ground control to Major Tom." And John Wakefield's TV narration gives a sense of the impact of TV, as this story was made a year after the first landing on the moon.
Before episode 1, there is the original trailer that was shown on BBC1 for this story. While this is playing, a message scrolling at the bottom explains that although made in colour, only Episode 1 was maintained in its original form--the other copies being accidentally junked in colour, survived as b&w film recordings, with incomplete colour recordings recovered from the U.S. in order to restore the story to colour. Hence there is a mix of colour and b&w, and as the brightness in restored segments plays havoc with the image's visibility, one can see the decision to leave 81 of its 171 minutes in b&w. So, here's a rundown:
Episode 1-all in original colour
Episode 2-first few minutes in colour, then b&w all the way
Episode 3-about 10 minutes in colour, rest b&w
Episode 4-all in b&w
Episode 5-restored colour
Episode 6-b&w for few minutes, colour for couple minutes, b&w for couple minutes, colour for rest
Episode 7-first third in colour, second third in b&w, last third in colour
Yes, it may be an episode too long and contains some continuity errors, but what carries this story is the espionage and suspense, especially as the action goes into a continuous plot W, the Doctor gains the upper hand, only to end up one step behind when someone with information is killed or goes missing, and etc. This is one of those thoughtful stories that requires repeated viewings on a lazy weekend.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brave restoration attempt., October 16, 2012
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death (Story 53) (DVD)
This has been one of the most anticipated releases in the Doctor Who DVD series. Since it's one and only BBC broadcast in 1970, it's never been seen in its original color format in the UK again. All but episode one of the original video master tapes was wiped, with just (very) poor quality home recordings made in the USA and black and white tele-recordings remaining. After technological successes in 'colorizing' other stories that existed in the same formats, many attempts were made to apply the same process to this story, all of which failed. When the VHS came on to the commercial market, it was a patchwork of colorized and black and white footage. Sadly, although things have moved on considerably and they have managed to reapply the color to the entire seven part story, the quality of the result really isn't very good. Not really much anyone can do about it and it's a good attempt to restore the picture to something at least akin to the original tapes. Generally, what seems to be happening is that faces are in (overly) vivid color, but the surrounding background is largely black and white. Nobody is to blame (other than the idiots in the BBC archives who trashed the original tapes) but anyone buying this disc set expecting something picture perfect should lower their expectations. The extras are good, the commentary being well moderated and spread around amongst those taking part and there's a nice little documentary included, focussing largely on the director and the stunt team. Some excellent photos are included too, including many of the production sets and the cast in the make up room. All in all, a great story and great to see it once more in color, despite the inevitable flaws. Still, hang on to your dollars if you're not convinced. Technology will only continue to improve and the BBC will be gouging the fans with a "Special Edition" DVD once they've got a better process in play. That's a promise.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Pertwee!, July 6, 2003
By 
Rick Lundeen (Western Springs, Il USA) - See all my reviews
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Years ago when I had tried to stay up late and watch the PBS broadcast at 11PM on Sunday nights, I found myself falling asleep since this was a 7 parter and I hadn't gone back to it for 20 years! Well, I watched it again this year and was blown away at how cool this adventure was! It was very well done and one of the best Pertwee episodes I'd seen, maybe the best of that first season of Pertwee's. Great spy/military adventure with a healthy dose of Sci-fi thrown in for good measure! Highly recommended for The Third Doctor and Liz Shaw fans!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ambassadors of Death, July 8, 2014
This review is from: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death (Story 53) (DVD)
"THE AMBASSADORS OF DEATH" (STORY No. 53) was JON PERTWEE'S third go as THE DOCTOR. It rates about 4.25 stars (B/B+ range)

When something goes terribly wrong with the return of two British astronauts returning from Mars on MARS PROBE 7, a rescue ship, RECOVERY 7, piloted by a third astronaut is also "lost". Just as THE DOCTOR, LIZ SHAW and UNIT become involved, the capsule returns to Earth, apparently containing the three astronauts....

The capsule, however, is hijacked, then hijacked back by THE DOCTOR, but, before it can be opened by the Brigadier and THE DOCTOR, phony UNIT guards hijack the astronauts. It turns out that the "astronauts" are really radioactive aliens who have come seeking peaceful relations with Earth, but who are kidnapped by "evil forces" bent on using them for.....well.....evil purposes.....

THE DOCTOR eventually boards another rescue rocket to bring the REAL astronauts home, but finds that they are being held by the aliens until their own people are returned to them. The real astronauts have been brainwashed into thinking they are on Earth in quarantine and just watching football on television (say…..this review is appropriately posted during the World Cup).

THE DOCTOR's mission now is to rescue the aliens and stop the plot before war ensues....

There are plenty of action sequences, stunts, plot twists, maybe TOO many "moles" in the military, the space program and the government, but despite typical 'padding' of the story (it could easily have been done in 5 episodes rather than 7), it is overall a good story and well acted.

Originally written by, and full credit given to, David Whitaker. Whitaker originally wrote the story in 1968, but his story was sent back for re-writes 3 times before it was totally rejected. It was brought out of mothballs 2 years later and re-worked by Terrence Dicks, Malcolm Hulke and Trevor Ray, although none were given screen credit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Doctor Who, March 12, 2013
By 
JanB (Columbus, OH USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death (Story 53) (DVD)
Some I love more, some I love a little less, but I love Doctor Who in all his regenerations. This episode is classic John Pertwee
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic restoration, March 5, 2013
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death (Story 53) (DVD)
Another great release from the BBC and the RT! The color restoration was better than the VHS release by leaps and bounds. It certainly wasn't quite as good as the full-color Episode 1, and there was color bleed at times (especially on Liz's hair and the Brig's uniform) but considering how much work went into restoring this serial, I think it's a pretty minor issue overall.

The commentary was great. It was nice to hear the different perspectives at different points throughout the episode. Usually I like hearing the same folks across the entire serial, but with one this long, I think swapping people in and out worked better. And it was especially great to hear Caroline John and Nick Courtney. Here's hoping that the RT got Caroline to record a commentary for the Inferno SE.
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Doctor Who: The  Ambassadors of Death (Story 53)
Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death (Story 53) by Michael Ferguson (DVD - 2012)
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