on May 30, 2001
If you only own one other Dr. Who video, your collection is incomplete without The Tenth Planet. It depicts, of course, the most significant turning point in the history of the show, the departure of William Hartnell as the Doctor. That, in itself is more than enough reason to buy this video.
As a special bonus, there are the Cybermen. Don't be fooled as I was by the still photos which gave them a cheesy appearance. They don't appear terrifying at all until you see them in action. The lip action and voice characterization are nothing less than chilling. I first saw the Cybermen in "Revenge" then later in "Earthshock" and "Attack" and found them scary enough then. Now that I've seen "Tenth" I realize that they actually got less and less scary as time went on, which makes this one the scariest ever.
The reconstruction of the unfortunately missing final episode is surprisingly and absolutely brilliant. The audio track is complete and there are stills that refresh every couple of seconds. The only times that I was reminded that it was a reconstruction was when lines of text would scroll across the bottom of the screen to depict what was happening or when brief clips of actual film would delightfully appear. And the regeneration scene is complete. So there is not much that is missing after all.
Bottom line, get this one.
It's 1986. Two astronauts in the Zeus IV space capsule relay photos back to their base, code-named Snowcap, buried under the Antarctic snow. Everything is going smoothly until one of the soldiers at Earth base looks through his periscope to the snowstormed continent surface and sees - a pretty woman!
It's Polly! She, Ben and the Doctor just landed in the TARDIS, and decided to explore. In short order, soldiers appear from a hatch and take our trio down into the buried base. They're at the South Pole Base of International Space Command, and the suspicious C.O., General Cutler, doesn't buy their story of landing in "a sort of spaceship".
However, the General has more to worry about. The Doctor informs him that a 10th planet has appeared. Not only is its gravitational pull affecting Zeus IV, but it is draining the power from the capsule, endangering the astronauts.
Before you can say "cyber-bully", three robot-like aliens infiltrate and take over the base. Their leader, Krail, explains that the new planet is Mondas, their home. "Eons ago, our planets were twins. We drifted away from you on a journey to the edge of space. Now we have returned.... We are called Cybermen.... We were exactly like you once, but our cybernetic scientists realized that our race was getting weak."
The news only gets worse, as Krail continues: "The energy of Mondas is nearly exhausted and now returns to its twin and will gather energy from Earth... until it is all gone.... Everything on Earth will stop." But never fear, the cybermen will save some of the humans - to take back to Mondas for conversion into cybermen.
If ever the Doctor was needed to save Earth, this is it. Unfortunately, at the beginning of Episode 3, the Doctor collapses. It's time for humans to step up and save themselves.
"The Tenth Planet" is a four-part serial that first aired in October 1966. It is not the best of Classic Dr. Who, but it is famous (among Whovians) for showing the very first regeneration of a Time Lord. It's supposed to take place in the then far-future of 1986!
The video for Episode 4 has been long lost, though the BBC does have a full audio track. "The Tenth Planet" was issued on VHS in 2001. For the VHS, episode 4 was reconstructed using "telesnaps", a combination of still photos, the few existing clips and the surviving audio soundtrack.
The November, 2013, 2-disc DVD release of "The Tenth Planet" is the 1st time this series has been on DVD. Both video and sound are fully restored and English subtitles are available throughout. The four episodes (including animation) aggregate to 93 minutes of highly anticipated Whovian viewing. This series is worth buying just to see how the Cybermen first looked - basically white stockings over their heads with tinny voices.
For this DVD release, Episode 4 will be animated, and synched with the original audio track, by Planet 55 Studios, the same company that animated "Reign of Terror".
[Added after my DVD was received and viewed] I think the animated episode turned out great. The Cybermen, in particular, look fantasic. The animation has a modern graphic novel-style feel to it that I like. The regeneration at the very end is also totally animated; they did not try to fuse in the short video of the regeneration that survives.
The sound may have been restored for all four episodes, but I thought it was still pretty fuzzy for most except the animated episode.
Trivia: This is the only Cyberman episode where individual cybermen have names. Also, in the next Doctor Who serial, "The Power of the Daleks", which is Troughton's first series as the Doctor, he describes himself as "renewed". The term regeneration isn't used until "Planet of the Spiders" (1974), which was Jon Pertwee's last Doctor Who serial.
The Commentary Track is extra #5 on Disc 1. I thought it was very good. Toby Hadoke moderates. Commentators include Christopher Matthews (plays radar technician), Anneke Wells (plays Polly), Gregg Palmer aka Donald Van Der Maaten (plays two Cybermen, Shav and Gern), Earl Cameron (94 years-old! plays the astronaut Williams), Alan White (plays the astronaut Shultz) and Christopher Dunham (plays R/T technician). There are also excerpts from Hadoke's interview with Peter Kindred (designer).
Cameron says: "It was slightly surprising that they should have a black astronaut at that time. The world has changed a lot since then. We're going back about fifty years ago, of course."
During the scenes with the astronauts moving slo-mo, Anneke talks about working on a show with astronauts 3 years before the first real moon landing: "One of the things that I loved when we worked on this, was that we were so proud because we had Kit Pedler. He knew exactly how the suits should be, how the movements should be. He was our resident whiz kid, beause he was probably the only person at the BBC at the time, who actually had the knowledge of what was going on within the space circles, which was completely fresh. Now, you know, we expect to see these things, but in those days, we'd never seen anything like it. We were terribly proud of it."
It was humorous (though maybe not to him), when Gregg Palmer states that he is NOT the American actor, Gregg Palmer, who had a small part in a Star Trek episode. Wikipedia had it wrong for a long time, but now with this release, perhaps that will remain corrected.
The Cybermen suits were very warm. Palmer: "That's why one of the Cybermen fainted." In watching my DVD the first time, I missed it. Second time through (with the commentary), I finally saw it. When the 2nd wave of Cybermen land, in episode 3, they approach the base in a line trudging through the snow. Towards the left side, one faints just before the scene cuts.
Disc 1 Bonus Extras:
1. "Frozen Out: The Making of the Tenth Planet" (29 minutes) Commentators include Anneke Wills, Earl Cameron, Reg Whitehead (plays Cybermen Krail and Jarl), Peter Kindred and Shirley Coward (vision mixer). This has a very interesting look at the gamble the producers took trying to continue the show with an actor replacing William Hartnell, who was much loved by audiences.
Shirley worked on the regeneration sequence and talks about the process. Anneke says, "We thought it was blooming magic!"
2. Episode 4 VHS Reconstruction (24 minutes) From the 2000 VHS release. The clips used were 8 mm film recordings made by fans and a 16mm film clip of the regeneration itself, which survived because it was used in a 1973 episode of the "Blue Peter" TV show (see disc 2, extra 12). These were included the 2004 DVD "Lost in Time: Collection of Rare Episodes: The William Hartnell Years". The regeneration clip was also released as a special feature on the DVD releases of "The Three Doctors" and "Castrovalva". All clips are very short, but you do get to see William Hartnell collapse to the floor and be flooded by a bright light as his face changes to that of Patrick Troughton.
3. Photo Gallery (3.5 minutes)
4. PDF Materials: Radio Times Listing
5. Audio Options. A Commentary track is available for episodes 1-3, but not the animated episode 4.
6. Information Text by Stephen James Walker. This is available on only episodes 1-3. Tidbits I didn't notice on my own. "In his final story, William Hartnell's Doctor dons clothes like those worn in his first episode: cloak, scarf and Astrakhan hat."
7. Coming Soon Trailer for the 2014 DVD release of "The Moonbase". Whoo Hoo!!
Disc 2 Bonus Extras:
7. "Points West: William Hartnell Interview" (3 minutes) A few months after "The Tenth Planet" aired in 1966, William Hartnell was interviewed by BBC Bristol for an episode of "Points West". He was touring in a children's Christmas pantomime titled "Puss in Boots" and is filmed in his dressing room. Cementing his image as a grumpy old man, for me, he speaks disparagingly of pantomime actors, making it clear that he is not one of them!
8. "Doctor Who Stories: Anneke Wills" (13 minutes) This interview was originally aired in 2003 as part of "Story of Doctor Who". She is frank about saying that Hartnell was difficult to work with and Troughton was lovely to work with.
9. "The Golden Age" (16 minutes) Dominic Sandbrook examines whether or not Doctor Who had a Golden Age, or are we just remembering with rose-colored glasses.
10. "Boys! Boys! Boys!" (19.5 minutes) This is a casual interview with Peter Purves (plays Steven Taylor), Frazer Hines (plays Jamie McCrimmon) and Mark Strickson (plays Vislor Turlough). They were companions to the 1st, 2nd and 5th Doctors.
11. "Companion Piece" (24 minutes) Commentators include William Russell (plays Ian Chesterson), Elisabeth Sladen (plays Sarah Jane), Louise Jameson (plays Leela), Nicola Bryant (plays Peri), Arthur Darvill (plays Rory), Nev Fountain (writer), Joseph Lidster (writer) and Dr. Tomas Charmorro-Premuzic (psychologist). The topic of this feature is what it takes and what it costs to be a Doctor Who companion.
It starts off with a photo montage of companions over the years, and in the middle is a funny video clip of Sarah Jane in "The Hand of Fear" (1976) talking to herself and getting as irate as she ever has: "I must be mad. I'm sick of being cold and wet and hypnotized left, right and center. I'm sick of being shot at, savaged by bug-eyed monsters. Never knowing if I'm coming or going or BEING. And boy am I SICK of that sonic screwdriver!"
Fountain muses: "If they [companions] did react normally, if Dr. Who was real, they'd be screaming and wetting themselves and creeping and hiding, as far in the ship as they possibly could - by story two!"
12. "Blue Peter: Doctor Who's Tenth Anniversary" (9 minutes) This 1973 segment of the children's show had clips from six Doctor Who series, including William Hartnell's regeneration in "The Tenth Planet".
Whether you grew up watching "Doctor Who" as it was first broadcast in the UK, or in endless 1980s US PBS reruns, "The Tenth Planet" is one of those stories you were dying to see again and again. Annoyingly, you couldn't, because the BBC destroyed all prints of the fourth and final episode, and the story was thus "incomplete" and never re-aired.
The recent BBC releases of stories featuring William Hartnell, the First Doctor, have been exemplary, and this VHS continues the trend. The first 3 episodes of "Tenth Planet" -- long seen only on dim, bootlegged, Nth generation copies of the original -- are nearly pristine. Episode 4 is reconstructed using existing still photos, the audio track, and a few well-used video effects which serve to add to the pictures, not detract from them. (It's heartening to note that for this story, the "restoration" team did not seek to alter the existing footage by replacing scenes with outtakes, or digitally "correcting" old special effects, as was done with the ill-advised "The Five Doctors -- Special Edition")
The seminal moment here is the First Doctor's death, and subsequent regeneration into another Doctor, another actor. Using 8mm film footage, this video presents the complete regeneration, and it's wonderful to watch. The sequence is an innovative bit of studio-bound 1960s TV direction and is most impressive.
The story itself doesn't hold up perfectly -- it was, after all, made 35 years ago and will come across as archaic, no matter how it's packaged and presented -- but most "Doctor Who" fans should be willing to overlook the inherent flaws and enjoy the story on its own terms. "Tenth Planet" offers a rare look at "adult" monsters and ethnic diversity in a "children's" show, and of course it's the first appearance of the Cybermen villains, whose popularity persists to this day.
Regardless of what you think of the story itself, the existence of this video satisfies one of the greatest wishes of all "Doctor Who" fans. Add to that the obvious care that went into recreating the lost Episode 4, and you have one of the most significant, appealing DW video releases of all time.
on November 18, 2001
Make no mistake: Doctor Who fans are well justified in purchasing this video. The first appearance of the wonderful Cybermen and the final regular appearance of the legendary William Hartnell is now finally available to own and the reconstruction of the missing final episode is superb. But what has been overlooked for all these years is the fact that the actual plot concocted by the talented Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler is hardly amazing. The storyline has all the requisite misunderstandings and escapes and diabolical schemes, but very little of it is executed with any real enthusiasm. Until the Cybermen arrive the first episode is surprisingly slow, with many scenes involving two incredibly dull actors portraying two incredibly lifeless astronauts in trouble. Things are not helped by a hammy performance by the actor portraying General Cutler, whose road to madness is unconvincing to say the least. While William Hartnell gives a bravura performance, he is not entirely essential to the story and is even absent from all of Part 3, which is disappointing considering it is the last complete episode of the First Doctor's era. This leaves Michael Craze, Anneke Wills and the guest cast to carry much of 'The Tenth Planet,' and the story is listless as a result.
But there are still enough good elements to recommend this video. The early Cybermen are a fascinating creation both on paper and in their conception. Sandra Reid's innovative costumes are quite impressive given DW's limited resources, and the one-time only sing-song voices created by Roy Skelton and Peter Hawkins are decidedly creepy. William Hartnell gives a dignified performance, and while his screentime is limited, he does get off a few choice lines of dialogue.
The reconstruction of Part 4 is excellent, seamlessly integrating an audio track with telesnaps, subtitles, the few clips that remain of the episode (including of course, the regeneration sequence at the end), and a few subtle visual effects that enhance the experience.
Overall, 'The Tenth Planet' is certainly worth buying, for its many DW firsts and for nostalgia. While there are many elements to the story which are underwhelming, in the end at least the combination of Cybermen and William Hartnell's last hurrah prove to be worth all the hype. As the Cybermen would (and do) say, 'Resistance -is- useless.'
December 1986. Isolated Antarctica, full of snow, snow, and more snow. Ideal place to have Snowcap Tracking Station, a military base under International Space Command. While tracking the progress of spacecraft Zeus IV, several things happen. One, loss of power in the fuel cells and some gravitational force prevents Zeus IV from reentry. Two, a new planet is seen inbetween Mars and Venus. Three, the Doctor, Ben, and Polly land at the base.
The new planet looks familiar, as many of the land masses look like Earth's, only upside down--Polly has a big deal claiming to recognize Malaysia. It turns out that this world was a twin of Earth, Mondas, which left millions of years ago. Now nearly drained of energy, it has returned to regain its energy--from Earth.
The Cybermen are clearly supposed to be a menace, but they do look laughable. One author described them as someone dressing up with kitchen implements at a jumble sale. However, their spaceships are more impressive than the paper-plate like ones in the second Cyber story, The Moonbase. Two human-like aspects of these primitive Cybermen can be seen. One, they have names. Two, their bare hands are still human.
The use of emotions to the ruthlessly logical Cybermen is a big point here. Polly's concern for the astronauts, "they're people and they're going to die" is responded with: "I do not understand you. There are people dying all over your world, yet you do not care about them." Another time, they say, "Our brains our just like yours, with certain weaknesses have been removed. ... You call them emotions, do you not?" and "We have freedom from disease, protection against heat and cold. ... do you prefer to die in misery?" A clip from here is used in the Earthshock story (1982), where the Doctor asks a Cybermen, "Emotions--love, pride, hate, fear--have you no emotions, sir?"
General Cutler is one of the nastiest characters ever to appear in a Who story, though not as much as Professor Stahlman (Inferno). He's gruff, has a harsh voice, puts the safety of his astronaut son above all other priorities, and takes a page from another general, Jack D. Ripper of Dr. Strangelove, in wanting to use the Z-bomb. When the Doctor tells him, "I don't like your tone [of voice]" the General shoots back, "Well I don't like your face or your hair." Fortunately, the time travelers gain a friend in Barclay, the Australian physicist, as an ally.
Ben's resourcefulness, real assertiveness and Cockney accent give him a credible and visible role here. Yet, he expresses regret when he has to kill a Cybermen ready to kill him, crying out, "You didn't give me an alternative!" Polly has a thankless time in comparison, but at least she's nice to look at. Pity more of her stories aren't available anymore.
By the time William Hartnell's last Doctor Who story aired, he was a very ill man and in Episode 3, he collapses and is taken to his bunk. That's all we see of him until he pops back up for Episode 4.
Speaking of which Episode 4 of this story was stolen from the BBC vaults and never returned, but a combination of photo stills, some of them publicity shots of the Doctor, surviving film footage, and the complete audio soundtrack help make this four-parter as complete as it possibly can. It still works.
When this was first aired, viewers in Britain witnessed an event more historical than the first appearance of the Daleks--William Hartnell (First Doctor) regenerated into Patrick Troughton (Second Doctor). It's thus legendary for this reason, as well as introducing the Cybermen, but it still stands out on its own as a reasonably good story in the Doctor Who canon.
on May 23, 2001
Although perhaps a bit cheesy by today's more sophisticated standards, this is a must have piece of Who history. This is the first appearance of the Cybermen and Mr. Hartnell's last story.
The story does a good job of showing the tension of a remote international space tracking station trying to get men in space home safely while facing huge obstacles (A new planet threatening earth, and waves of attacking Cybermen.) When the bases C.O. begins to crack from the pressure, you can begin to feel the tension yourself.
I am extremely pleased with the recreation of the fourth episode. It contains the full audio track accompanied by a slide show of corresponding images from the missing episode. There are also short grainy video clips from time to time. When the still picture fails show the action you are hearing, text scrolls across the bottom of the screen describing the action. "Ben checks the hall and sees that its clear" for example. The regeneration sequence is fully intact (grainy video).
Hopefully the BBC will release more classic Who with reconstructed missing episodes of this quality.
on May 9, 2001
What can I say. When I finally sat down to watch The 10th Planet, I was truly excited. I've been a Dr. Who fan for the past 15 years, and have always enjoyed the early black and white Who's; that's why I couldn't wait to see The 10th Planet. The 10th Planets plot is very simple, Doctor #1 lands at the South Pole with companions Polly and Ben only to discover that the missing sister planet to Earth, Mondas, is coming back and that its inhabitants are the Cybermen. Anyone familiar with the Cybermen will have a little chuckle when you see their first incarnation. William Hartnell, still one of my favorite Doctors is great, but you can tell that he was getting tired and probably glad that this was going to be his last story. The fourth episode is a rebuilt version since most of it is still missing, but it was enjoyable to be able to finally see the First Doctor regenerate. Perhaps not the best of the First Doctor, but The 10th Planet is a must have for Dr. Who fans. Lets hope the BBC is out there trying to find other classic Dr. Who for true blue fans!
on June 26, 2001
One of the all time classic stories of Doctor Who finally makes it onto BBC video so how does it stand up? Pretty well actually. William Hartnell is an acquired taste, and the first appearence of the cybermen takes a bit of getting used to. However, this is a quintissential base under siege story and everything holds up pretty well
It's a shame that part 4 is missing, but the restoration team have done a pretty good job of adding in all the extant footage and some telesnaps.
All in all a story that should really be in any Doctor Who fans library.
on November 23, 2013
Barring any wonderful future surprises, I think the release of The Tenth Planet wraps up the William Hartnell era of Doctor Who on DVD; and indeed at the time of it's first broadcast in October 1966, it wrapped up the Hartnell era period. Alas, this historically significant episode (possibly as important to the canon as Hartnell's opening story three years earlier) hasn't survived in the archives in it's entirety. Crucially, episode 4 is the one that's been lost (or more likely destroyed) and so the last episode to feature the first Doctor and the first ever regeneration of the leading role, is lost to TV history. Whereas most of the missing Doctor Who episodes were wiped once their overseas sales potential was exhausted, it's not entirely clear that that's the reason this four part story is incomplete. It seems that when BBC children's show 'Blue Peter' borrowed the episode to celebrate the show's tenth anniversary, the master print mysteriously disappeared. Even if that isn't true, it's thanks to 'Blue Peter' that the closing seconds of episode 4, with the transformation of Doctor One into Doctor Two, have survived at all.
Once again, BBC Video have opted to recreate the missing episode, using animation synched to the surviving soundtrack. Once again, it's a bit hit and miss how it's turned out, but generally, this may be the best attempt at animation they've achieved so far. The characters are very well drawn and very naturally animated. The backgrounds are all very much in sync with the surviving material and the detail is excellent. However, just as with the animation for The Reign Of Terror, they've got a bit over zealous with the animation detail. The faces and hair of the characters are just a bit overdone. In order to create shades, tones and shadow, they've just got a bit too carried away. They've reigned in the temptation to jump the camera cuts as quickly as they did before, but it still doesn't feel that it's paced at the same speed as the live action episodes 1-3. It's just a little too fast. It is nonetheless a huge improvement on both Reign of Terror and The Ice Warriors. A really good attempt to recreate something that otherwise would be lost.
There is an enjoyable commentary for the three surviving episodes, but nothing added to the animated episode 4 at all. Not even on screen production notes. It's a little disappointing there's no commentary, but in all honesty, everyone still alive who could contribute does so in the accompanying documentary and stand alone interviews, so the likelihood would have been the commentary would be repetitive or completely redundant. It's thus totally forgivable for it to be omitted. The one minor criticism for the reproduction of the three surviving episodes is that once again, the picture has been cleaned and enhanced to a state way beyond it's original transmission format. It's now just too good. As a result, we can clearly see the eyes of the actors playing the Cybermen and worse, the sellotape holding their helmets together is on full, vivid display. 405 line TV definition in monochrome would never have picked either of these things up at the time. We want the best for the DVD's of course, but applying modern technology to ancient video tape does have it's drawbacks.
It's not that great a story in the Dr Who canon, despite it's historical significance (the debut of The Cybermen is also hugely noteworthy in DW history) but it's by no means the worst of the late Hartnell adventures. Rumours abound that a couple more of his stories are about to be rediscovered, but until that is either confirmed or denied, this is the end of the Hartnell DVD era. Perfectly timed for the 50th anniversary.
on December 6, 2013
I have mixed feelings about "The Tenth Planet." It's a famous Doctor Who serial because it introduced two key pieces of the show's mythology: the sinister Cybermen, and the concept that the Doctor can "regenerate" into a new body (which means, in practical terms, a new actor). So it's an important serial, and pretty well made too.
But alas, I don't really like this specific type of Who story. It takes place in a space control center, meaning that much of the dialogue is boring technical stuff. (For example: "Zeus four, this is Snowcap. Do you read me? Over." "Reading you strength three, Snowcap. Go ahead." "Correct course by ten degrees. Over.") The supporting characters are also, for the most part, dull official types and soldiers who don't come alive in the same way as characters in a Robert Holmes or John Lucarotti script.
That said, the script does a good job of introducing and explaining the Cybermen - compelling villains who long predated Star Trek's rather similar Borg. Unlike some reviewers, I actually like the Cybermen's mummy-like costumes and weird, high-pitched voices in this serial. They also have unusually interesting dialogue; like the Daleks, they ultimately evolved into catchphrase-spouting bores, but here they actually have personalities.
As for the DVD itself...it's very well done. Key special features include a making-of documentary, a fun interview with Who actress Anneke Wills, and (best of all) an animated presentation of the serial's fourth episode, which is lost in its original form. Several lost Who episodes have been animated before, but I think this is the best one yet; the animation is fairly fluid, the character likenesses are good, and several of William Hartnell's characteristic gestures are neatly captured.
Speaking of Hartnell, this was his final appearance as the Doctor. It's not a great way for him to go out, since he has a small role and missed appearing in episode three on account of being sick. And unfortunately, Anneke Wills is the only person to be extensively interviewed about Hartnell on the DVD, and she (understandably) didn't really like him. So both the serial and the DVD aren't exactly great tributes to the First Doctor.
On the other hand, Hartnell gives a good performance in the few scenes where he's featured, demonstrating that he was truly one of the great Doctors. Like Tom Baker, he bowed out in a story that was weirdly uncharacteristic of his era...but overall, his body of work in the part was impressive.