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Doctor Who in London,
By A Customer
This review is from: Doctor Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (Story 10) (DVD)
There are those who consider Doctor Who to be at its very best when the errant Time Lord is visiting Earth and dealing with alien threats that are Earthbound. Doctor #3 himself, the late Jon Pertwee, often stated this story genre to be his favorite, and judging by the number of Earthbound stories from the show's lengthy history, many agreed. The latest two releases on DVD from the BBC archives are united in their "Earth invasion" theme, but both have taken an interesting and indeed unique slant on the alien invasion of London twist.
The "Dalek invasion of Earth" was the last adventure made in the first season production block, way back in 1964, albeit held over and broadcast as the second story in season two. The adventure is significant for many reasons, mainly because it featured the departure of one of the original Tardis crew, and also because it was the first "sequel" to feature in the show, featuring the return of the enormously popular Daleks, created by Terry Nation. Set almost 200 years in the future, the adventure mainly takes place in central London, allowing for much location filming around familiar sights, which adds to the realism of the story. It was the first real use of extensive location filming in the show's history and was well worth the effort to take the show out of the studio and bring a more epic quality to the production. The closing sequence featuring the Doctor (as played by William Hartnell) bidding farewell to his granddaughter Susan, played by Carole Ann Ford, may also be one of the entire series most poignant scenes.
All six of the original black and white episodes have been painstakingly restored to almost their original broadcast quality, with many enhancements to some of the laughable special effects added as an option. Potentially, it's the other bonus material that may prove the most interesting to fans and casual viewers alike. The commentary from the surviving cast (Carole Ann Ford and William Russell) together with the producer and director is first class. The on-screen captions also go a long way to fleshing out the background to the production. Almost the entire guest cast appear in newly shot interviews airing their reminiscences, plus there are all sorts of behind the scenes programme's, trailers and other goodies gathered onto a 2nd disc.
The same is true of the companion release, "The Talons of Weng-Chiang." Made twelve years later, in glorious colour, this six part series took another twist on the Earth invader theme by taking the Doctor, this time played by Tom Baker, and his companion Leela back into Victorian London to deal with a sinister alien menace. For many, this story is often regarded as one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) story of the Doctor Who canon. And I'm not going to disagree. The production values alone would be enough to set it apart, but the wonderful script, incredible design and superlative acting by the entire cast adds a special magic to the show that few other Who adventures have ever matched. Like the earlier Dalek story, it also marks the end of an era, since this was the last adventure produced by Philip Hinchcliffe. Quite honestly - the show was never the same again!
Again, there are all sorts of goodies available on a 2nd disc to accompany the restored six-part adventure. A documentary on the history of Doctor Who televised at the conclusion of the serial is just one bonus worth having; the commentary from the cast and crew is another. It's great to hear Louise Jameson (Leela) making her DVD debut, and it's a real shame Tom Baker himself did not take part.
Both stories are excellent additions to the growing Doctor Who library, clearly demonstrating the changing production values and story making not only of this particular show, but also British TV drama in general. I'd highly recommend them and look forward to the next two releases in 2004.