"The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) arrives in a modern-day London under attack from prehistoric monsters in Invasion of the Dinosaurs
, an infamous 1974 serial from the 11th season of the venerable British science fiction series Doctor Who
. Though its dreadful puppet dinosaurs have the scorn of generations of fans, Invasion of the Dinosaurs
does have an intriguing storyline in Operation Golden Age, a bizarre plot to return the Earth to the purity of its pre-human days through time-travel technology. As noted in the fine making-of featurette, People, Power and Puppets
, which is featured on the set's second disc, the ecological-extremism element lends much-needed gravity to the serial, as does a subplot involving UNIT captain Mike Yates (Richard Franklin), whose brainwashing by the supercomputer BOSS in 1973's The Green Death
makes him a willing accomplice to the Golden Age scheme. Of course, any semblance of verisimilitude goes out the window anytime Pertwee or companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) have to face off against the stiff rod-puppet saurians, but both actors shoulder the burden manfully, and Franklin makes the most of Yates's brief moment in the spotlight. There's no question that much of Invasion of the Dinosaurs
is a misfire for the Pertwee-era Doctor, but by the same token, it's also not the unmitigated disaster it's been made out to be since its original airing.
The two-disc Invasion of the Dinosaurs set presents five of the serial's six episodes in their original color presentation; as Who historians well know, episode one was erased as part of the BBC's recurring practice of wiping tapes of past television shows, but a black-and-white 16mm work print was eventually unearthed, along with a scene not shown in the original broadcast that is included in the set's brief collection of deleted scenes. Viewers can watch episode one in its monochromatic format or in a version that attempts to approximate the original broadcast color quality. Also included are two audio commentaries, one featuring director Paddy Russell, script editor Terrance Dicks, Yates, and several other cast and crew members, while the other offers John (Sgt. Benton) Levene's observations on 10 minutes of Part Five. Now and Then revisits the serial's extensive London locations, while Doctor Who Stories: Elisabeth Sladen Part 1 presents the late actress's lively recollections of her brief tenure as companion to Pertwee's Doctor. The extras are rounded out by a clip from a broadcast of England's long-running Billy Smart's Circus that features Pertwee behind the wheel of the outrageous Whomobile, as well as a photo still gallery, a PDF of the Radio Times listings that can be viewed in DVD-ROM format, and the by-now standard production notes subtitle option. --Paul Gaita"