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VINE VOICEon August 2, 2009
This double-pack is occasioned only by the fact that these two stories were made back-to-back. However, it's a neat little window on "Doctor Who"'s radical early days -- a two-episode outer-space character piece set 500 years in the future, followed by a 4-episode romp through Ancient Rome. "Doctor Who"'s genius then and now is its willingness to try absolutely any form of drama, making it up as it goes along and succeeding most of the time.

"The Rescue" is basically a filler episode designed to introduce a replacement character for original companion Susan. Vicki (Maureen O'Brien) is a teenage orphan from the 25th Century. Marooned on the planet Dido, Vicki finds herself menaced by a reptilian biped with the unlikely name of Koquilion. There's a mystery in the middle of all this, which the Doctor solves without breaking a sweat. It helps that he's been to Dido before... The script hasn't held up very well, but director Christopher Barry (previously seen helming "The Daleks") adds some inventive directorial flourishes.

This is one of the restoration team's "lite" releases so there's not a whole lot going on in the extra features. Maureen O'Brien, who played Vicki for parts of two seasons (before the character went off to help found the city of Rome) pops up very briefly in the making-of documentary, but not in the commentary track.

Speaking of Rome, the other episode in the case has held up shockingly well. "The Romans" was "Doctor Who"'s first foray into farce. William Hartnell's Doctor gets to play comedy for the first time, and kicks into overdrive -- palling around with Caesar Nero, unsuccessfuly learning how to play the lyre, and demonstrating the fine art of fisticuffs (which, we learn, he once taught to the Mountain Mauler of Montana). He gets to deliver some comedic zingers, and even his line-readin fluffs add to the charm. The main guest character, Nero, also gets a slew of terrific lines ("I'll have you killed over and over again!") and plenty of wonderful character moments (not the least of which is his creative disposal of an overzealous cup-bearer).

The story itself has a huge scope; each individual half-hour seems to have its own mini-plot and unique settings. From the rural marketplace to the slave galley to gladiators in the arena to the burning of Rome, "The Romans" moves along at a breakneck pace more befitting the 2005 revival of "Doctor Who" than something from 45 years ago.

The extras on the "Romans" disk are of the deluxe variety. The making-of featurette is over half an hour long and puts the story in its historical context. "Doctor Who" in its first two years was an extremely radical program, and if it all looks slow and dull and black-&-white today, this documentary will quickly disabuse you of that viewpoint. Also charming is a featurette on Dennis Spooner, the writer of the story and "Doctor Who"'s second script editor; the MVP of this extra is current "Who" writer Rob Shearman, who makes a far-reaching but convincing argument that the show wouldn't have survived this long without Spooner's creativity and risk-taking. There's also an overview on "Who"'s female companions throughout the 1960s decade (demonstrated in this story by the strong-willed schoolteacher Barbara, and the sweet but innocent future-girl Vicki). Finally there's a crowded commentary booth, moderated by British comedian Toby Hadoke, who's much more lively that previous Hartnell-episode-commentary-track moderators.
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on January 11, 2001
"The Rescue" The TARDIS crew lands on a planet where they find a wrecked spaceship with only two survivors. Terrorized by a mysterious alien, the Doctor and his friends attempt to discover the truth and attempt a daring rescue. Collector's Note: This story features the first appearance of Vicki, the first "new" companion in the show's history.
"The Romans" After an extended vacation in ancient Rome, the TARDIS crew is separated into two adventures: The Doctor and Vicki become involved with the court of the notorious Emperor Nero, while Ian and Barbara are captured and sold as slaves!
William Hartnell's time as the Doctor is as entertaining today as it was over 35 years ago. In the title role, Hartnell is superbly cast, portraying an elderly man with a keen desire for exploration. Despite his occasional fluffs (See The Romans), he delivers the lines with all of the wit and urgency necessary. It is easy to see why each of the actors who followed him owe much to his portrayal. As Ian, Willam Russell is wonderful. In many ways, he is as influential as Hartnell, performing the stunts and action that would become so important to the series' success. Jackie Hill's Barbara is also fondly remembered. Along with Russell, Hill portrayed a humanity that opposed Hartnell's gruff and heartless Doctor. By the time these episodes aired, Ian and Barbara had mellowed the Doctor somewhat, bringing out his "humanity," another hallmark of the series. Maureen O'Brien, introduced here as Vicki, is given the thankless job of being the screaming young woman who gets captured, falls into traps, etc. She portrays it well, and has a great many amusing scenes with Hartnell's Doctor.
These stories are drastically different, but represent the dual nature of early Doctor Who. "The Rescue" is a sci-fi romp, complete with aliens and spacecraft. While not the greatest example from this series, today's viewers may still find it interesting. Of more general interest may be the set's dual opposite "The Romans," which is one of the "historical" dramas where the TARDIS lands at a crucial place in our history, often converging with historical figures. Though not completely accurate, it does show a fair sampling of what life was like in Roman Times without skimping on the trademark adventure. I personally prefer "The Romans," mostly for Hartnell's performance. This was in the show's second season, during it's first wave of popularity. Hartnell is obviously enjoying being a children's hero and his enthusiasm is infectious. This tape provides many hours of fun and adventure, suitable for the whole family.
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on March 4, 2001
A period of transition for Doctor Who as the first story not featuring granddaughter Susan is unveiled. In The Rescue, the Doctor, Ian and Barbara land on a planet where a young girl named Vicki is held captive by an alien menace named Quoquilion. After rescuing her, the four travel to the time of The Romans where the Doctor inadvertantly gives Nero the idea to burn Rome. Both stories are well written, the later, The Romans, being played mostly for laughs that work well. This is a welcome addition to a Doctor Who collection and an important piece of its history.
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VINE VOICEon July 16, 2009
The previous reviews have already offered summaries of the stories, so I won't bother.

The Rescue is a pleasant, if unenthralling 2 parter, serving mostly to introduce a new companion, the charming and sweet faced Vicki.

The Romans is the series' first excursion into comedy. And, unlike some later attempts (can you say Season 17...) it works very well. A nice mix of humor and drama and, as an historical, no dodgy special effects to worry about. I've always been a fan of the historicals .. now I'm just waiting for them to release "Reign of Terror," and I'll be a happy fan.

Some pleasant extras as well, detailed 'making of' documentaries about each episode, commentary tracks, and some fun stuff like the Roman Banquet. (Anyone know when that dates from? Being in color, it obviously wasnt' contemporary with the Dr. Who story.)

My one complaint with the set is that disc one is over half empty. There is barely an hour's worth of material on it! (One 20 minute documentary and a 2 part, 45 minute story.) By contrast, disc two has almost 3 hours. Couldn't they have found something to fill the space? Like... maybe "Planet of Giants"? (A 3 parter that comes from the same season ... would have been a perfect fit.)
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on February 21, 2014
This is getting ridiculous, classic Doctor Who DVD's going for $50.00 to $100.00 or more is just insane. I saw that one of the best Hartnell era stories The Romans was going up in price so I ordered it quick.
For me there are only a handful of essential Hartnell stories available on DVD and those are: An Unearthly Child, The Daleks, The Aztecs, Planet of Giants, The Space Museum, The Romans, Dalek Invasion of Earth and The War Machines.
The rest I don't care about, The Web Planet is slow and boring and goofy and The Time Meddler is a mediocre story at best and definitely not worth $130.00!!!! it's barely worth $25.00...

For those who don't already own the Hartnell episodes I mentioned and consider themselves huge Doctor Who fans I do feel sorry for you because you're missing out!!!! The Romans is on par in comedy and drama and characterization and acting with any of the best Who episodes being produced today... Nero is devilishly naughty, The Doctor is amusingly indifferent, Vicki is there mainly just to keep him out of trouble. But if you are a fan of the classic series at all this is where Ian and Barbara truly shine. The writing overall is superb and whimsically comic in a way I never knew Doctor Who could ever be and I was so surprised to see how playful and clever the story flowed on the my first viewing ... for me The Romans will always be one of the best Doctor Who stories of all time and what's great is that it survived complete.

Oh, and by the way you get The Rescue in this DVD too.
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on July 12, 2009
Two classic adventures from the William Hartnell era.

The Rescue:

This is a two-part story introducing new companion Vicki. The TARDIS lands on the planet Dido where the Doctor and his companions discover a crashed spaceship. The only survivors are a young orphaned girl named Vicki and an injured man named Bennett who both live in fear of a hideous alien named Koquillion. Who is this strange creature that they fear, and will they remain safe long enough to be rescued?

This is a nice little adventure, and made an enjoyable two-parter. The only thing that disappoints is the crappy-looking spaceship, and although Koquillion looks rather frightening, once you hear him speak for the first time in that squeaky little voice, the frightening effect is lost rather quickly. But still the plot is good, the story is rather moody, it has a great surprise ending, and although the spaceship wasn't that impressive, the rest of the sets and special effects were pretty good. In all, I wouldn't consider this one of the best "Dr. Who" stories of all time, but it was still worthy and enjoyable. Three stars.

The Romans:

The Doctor and his companions take a holiday in ancient Italy. But trouble soon comes calling when the Doctor takes Vicki to Rome and finds himself being mistaken for the musician Maximus Pettulian, and forced to play for the Emperor Nero, or face execution while Ian and Barbara are kidnapped and sold into slavery. Barbara becomes a handmaiden for Nero and Ian is forced to fight as a gladiator in the arena. Can they escape and find the Doctor before all of Rome is consumed by fire?

Some consider this four-part "Dr. Who" to be the best of all time while others consider this one to be the worst. In fact, it's both. The first half of the story was boring as hell. No real excitement and not a lot of comedy, but the second half... boy was that good! Lots of funny comedy and lots of excitement! Sets and performances are great, and although this one was a cheap story to make, it looks like a million bucks due to the production reusing old reusable sets and due to a brilliant director. In all, like "The Rescue", this might not have been the best "Dr. Who" ever made, but it was still worthy and enjoyable too. Three stars.
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on January 15, 2003
This is the first of three double cassette packages to contain two separate adventures for Doctor Who. Now, The Rescue, is little more than a filler adventure used for introducing a new companion to the series, now that Susan is long gone. The character of Vicki, a plucky, emotional, curious, strong-minded, kind-hearted young woman, who would basically become an adoptive granddaughter for the Doctor. The Romans is an enjoyable historical adventure as the TARDIS crew land in the final days of Rome, during the reign of Caesar Nero. The crew spend about a month in relative ease and relaxation before deciding to split up and travel to Rome. what follows in an extraordinary comedic adventure, as the Doctor and Vicki travel to Rome and become embroiled in a conspiracy to assassinate Nero, with the good Doctor mistakenly taken to be Maximus Petullian, while Ian and Barbara are sold as slaves. it's a fabulous adventure as the character of Nero is made up to be a fat, perverted, blustering, cowardly, power driven, and ultimately insane. and the scene in which Nero is given the notion to burn all of Rome is both funny & frightening. definitely a must to have for Doctor Who afficianados.
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on January 20, 2016
This is a very good set of stories.

The first story is a two part story called The Rescue. It is written in a suspense-mystery style and introduced the Doctor's new companion, Vicki. I found it to be rather decently written and it held a very good suspense aura throughout the story.

The second story is a 4 parter called The Romans. This was a slight departure for the series at the time as it was more a comedy but still it was well done and keeps you interested. It was also one of the historical stories and was rather accurate although some things such as a banquet was inaccurate due to studio space and production needs.I thought it was an interesting piece and very well done, Allowing for some comedy in it lightened the mood and let the actors have a little fun also.
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on March 27, 2011
The Rescue and the Romans. I've had this pair of stories in so many forms. Taped off of a PBS broadcast in the mid 1980's in ep mode. Re-taped on super VHS in sp mode in the late 1980's. Bought the BBC VHS release in the early 1990's and burned a DVD copy made as a disk image of the VHS release in the early 2000's.
I liked it so much that I bought the new BBC DVD release!
It better never come out on bluray!
So what does that say about these two stories? Well, not much as I have done similar things for almost all old Doctor Who. But these two are special.
To sum up the plot, as every reviewer should, The Doctor has just left his granddaughter, Susan, on a dalek ravaged earth to marry some bloke named David with only one shoe (Hers. We presume that David still has both his shoes). The Doctor is a bit distant as they arrive on the Planet Dido where strange things are happening (when aren't they?) to recriut a new companion, Vicki. They then travel to Nero's Rome to have a bit of fun and rest.
That may be a lackluster synopsis, but I refuse to give the plot away in case someone hasn't seen it.
The restoration is on par with all the other restorations of old Doctor who. There are spots of dirt in the film that werent removed and this story hasn't undergone vidfire process. It looks good enough though and they corrected the wavy picture problems in the first episode.
I believe that the marketing arm of the BBC & 2 Entertain think the Black & white Doctor Who stories have a very limited value. It's true, on the short term, but this is Doctor Who. Sooner or later the real fans of the current series will be curious to see what happened in the past. I know because I did the same thing. I started watching in the Tom Baker era and I love the older stuff just as much as the newest stuff.
I feel old now.
This is the first Doctor at his finest, which sums up most of the original second series. Honestly, can you imagine doing as much television every year as this cast and crew did? The extras, as always, give you good reason to replace your old VHS tapes or whatever.
I bought this DVD with "The Space Museum and The Chase" set and it's a great ride. Completists (like me) may want to go a bit further and watch all the second season in order.(except "Planet of the Giants" whch has never been officially released that I know of, but is out there in digital form, made from really bad vhs tapes like mine.)
The stories flow together through the season, and not just the cliffhanger at the end of an episode. To say more gives away the plot, just think of the new series... it's a bit like that.
"Planet of the Giants" is a great idea done at the wrong time. The effects work somewhat but the plot is a bit thin.
"Dalek Invasion of Earth" is a dark and deadly world of the future (Touche'! it's a Cliche'!)
"The Rescue" is a short mystery with many questions left unanswered.
"The Romans" brings a lot more fun and humor into the series.
"The Web Planet" is ambitious with a gripping Science Fiction story and a limited budget. Many casual viewers find it difficult to watch.
"The Crusade" (Available in the "Lost in Time" Boxset) again brings back a touch of the humor after the serious Web planet story, although Ian and Barbara have a rough time.
"The Space Museum" is a bit of a letdown after the first episode, but they can't all be gems.
"The Chase" is brilliant in most parts which makes up for the weaker elements.
"The Time Meddler" wraps up the season with no money, but a brilliant performance. Some questions are answered about The Doctor but we find more things we don't know about him.
It is a rare treat to enjoy this many early Doctor Who stories together as a complete season. Season one is missing all seven "Marco Polo" episodes and two episodes of "The Reign of Terror". Also, "The Sensorites" has never been officially released to video. As for season three, only 16 episodes out of the 45 episodes made exist, thats three complete stories and a few scattered episodes.
It gets worse as Season Four has no complete stories and Season Five only has "Tomb of the Cybermen" as a complete story. Things get better for Patrick Troughton's final year, but even the Sixth Season has gaps.

If you enjoy the show already, I don't need to convince you to buy this. But if you are allergic to old Doctor Who or break out in hives watching old 425 line black and white programmes on your new 54inch HD TV, keep in mind that these stories were filmed week after week with no breaks with no cgi and no retakes. They make it out like it's a hard job to make new Doctor who but it is nothing in comparison to all that's gone on before. It truly boggles the mind!
A little long-winded but I covered the whole second season!
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on February 12, 2016
Back to back episodes with a new assistant traveler, Vicki, who was orphaned. Since the Doctor left his granddaughter on future Earth I guess he had room in the Tardis. I had never seen these episodes until I caught a great DVD sale some years back. I'm talking $25 for both stories. A win/win for us fans but I see now they want $60-too rich for me at this time.
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