Doctor Who: Inferno
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New to DVD! Digitally remastered Doctor Who classic Inferno Special Edition! Inferno is a top-secret project that involves drilling down into the crust of the Earth to unleash a new energy source. However, the Doctor, along with his assistant Liz Shaw, is concerned that this drilling will have disastrous consequences for the whole world.
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Perhaps the big question to ask about this “special edition” DVD release of the story is if it's worth purchasing given that it was already released several years ago. As the owner of both editions, my answer is a definite yes. The Restoration Team went back and took another crack at restoring the story and their efforts are plainly visible. Watching the story with this release was akin to watching the story again for the first time with huge improvements in the picture quality especially that made the colors more vivid and the picture far smoother. While the original DVD release looked good under the circumstances, this release is well worth the price tag just for these improvements.
Then there's the special features. As well as keeping the various features from the original DVD release including an excellent audio commentary and the nicely assembled making of documentary Can You Hear the Earth Scream?, there's some new features added for this release. The most notable is Hadoke versus HAVOC, in which the man behind the excellent Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf meets up with the members of the Pertwee era stunt team and reunites them to demonstrate one of the stunts they frequently used on the show with Mr. Hadoke performing the stunt in question. The other notable addition is an entry in the Doctor Forever series focusing on the aborted 1993 special Lost In The Dark Dimension which features interviews with a number of people involved with it as well as looking at some of the other aborted attempts to get the show off the ground during the Wilderness Years. The combination of improved restoration work and these new special features makes the potentially double dipping well worth it.
What about the story itself though? Well at its heart perhaps, Inferno follows the formula established in earlier stories such as Silurians and The Ambassadors Of Death. UNIT and the Doctor are yet again at a government funded scientific project that is attempting to drill through the Earth's crust to penetrate pockets of Stahlman's Gas, which is theorized to be able to provide nearly cheap endless energy. The project, nicknamed “the Inferno” by the technicians working upon it, is headed by a brilliant but egotistical Professor Stahlman who views virtually everyone around him with suspicion due to his belief they are trying to slow or stop him and the project.
While the Doctor and Liz are there working on the TARDIS console in an attempt to get in working, the Brigadier and UNIT are investigating a series of strange events and deaths. Despite growing concerns, the project proceeds on even when a mysterious green substance begins to ooze out of one of the drill's output pipers from deep within the Earth itself. Unable to stop the project and becoming increasingly confrontational with Stahlman, the Doctor's attempts to fix the TARDIS land him in a parallel universe where the project not only exists in a Fascist Britain along with familiar faces, but is actually considerably ahead of the one he left behind.
It's when the story reaches the parallel Fascist Britain that the story really picks up. Like the Star Trek episode Mirror, Mirror (which had yet to air in the UK at the time), the story takes familiar characters and settings and gives them a delightful twist. Everyone but the Doctor is represented here raging from an even more egotistical Professor Stahlman, Sergeant Benton as a despicable thug and Liz not as a brilliant scientist but the assistant to the worst one of all: the Brigadier (known in this world as the Brigade Leader). It is a world stripped of morality and these seemingly familiar characters embody that fact.
It's in the parallel world as well that we see some of the best work out of the regular cast. Pertwee's Doctor is often noted for being assertive and authoritative but, in an interesting precursor to what would happen to Tennant's Tenth Doctor in Midnight decades later, he seems unable to convince anyone to believe him upon his arrival. Indeed, part of what makes the middle episodes of the story so interesting is watching the Doctor try and deal with the situation, often struggling to do so as his usual combination of charm and authority fails miserably. All of which leads to some great moments both serious and comedic from Pertwee.
The real star of the story though might be Nicholas Courtney. Up until his passing in 2011, he would always cite this story as his favorite and it isn't hard to see why. While he's legendary to Doctor Who fans for playing the Brigadier, it's really here that we get to see the man's acting chops. The Brigade Leader might look like the Brigadier but he certainly isn't him: behind the eye-patch is a bully who is really nothing more then a coward at heart who struggles to deal with the situation once things go wrong and his troops all but desert him. As the Brigade Leader, Courtney loses all the charm and dry humor he brought to the Brigadier and plays a thoroughly nasty and likeable piece of work which helped to make the story all the more iconic.
The story also benefits from its extra episodes in other ways. The story has time to unfold and remains tense thanks to Don Houghton's script and the combined direction of Douglas Camfield and Barry Letts. Houghton's script uses the extra episodes to its advantage, throwing the parallel universe plot into the middle of the story (something that, as Letts and Dicks admit elsewhere on the DVD, was initially meant to bring the story up to length) and actually being better for it since it allows us to see the consequences of the project in a parallel world which hightens the tension once the story shifts back to the “normal” universe. The story's direction both from Camfield (who did the first two episodes and all the exterior film sequences before becoming ill) and Letts (who directed all the interior scenes in the rest of the story) give the story an almost filmic quality despite it being set largely within a couple of buildings though it's perhaps the filmed sequences which standout the best.
The production values of the story are strong as well. There's some excellent excellent set design to the costumes, especially when the story shifts over to the fascist parallel world. The Primords, the monsters of the story, prove the old saying that “less is more” as the designers go for a simpler approach to them, using the fact that they're played by actors in make-up to their advantage. Last but not least is the music which isn't much a score as a collection of stock music, some of which was composed by Delia Derbyshire. The music though was well picked as it adds tension and atmosphere when it's used, which is sparingly used. All of which makes Inferno one of the best looking and least dated Doctor Who stories of its time.
All told, Inferno's Special Edition release is well worth the price. The new restoration work and added documentaries more than make the potential “double dip” purchase worth it, the former especially improves on the original release. Then there's the story itself which stands as one of the most unique stories in all of Doctor Who but also as the best story of the Pertwee era. For those who have seen and does who haven't, this is a must have for any serious Doctor Who fan.
Things are neatly stacked and items missing, books etc. When he opens the door he finds it painted black with an odd symbol on it. In a white disc are three black arrows--one up and two on each side moving outward like some military maneuver...
The picture is very clear, a well written story, though it is 7 episodes, a left over from the previous regime and they had to fill it so they made the story into a parallel world one. In this case the negative, dark version like Star Trek's "Mirror Mirror" only here people are minus facial hair. And this is actor Nicholas Cortney's favorite since he gets to play a bad guy version of his own Brigadier of UNIT character. The Brigade-Leader is clean shaven, has a dueling scar running down his face and a black eye-patch. And in 1970's British fascist uniform. For the US it is Spock with a beard, in the UK it is clean shaven with a scar and eye patch! The print in color looks wonderful no obvious flaws in it. (They had found a color copy of it about 10 years ago.) Alternate worlds are my main interest.
Many extras and commentary tracks full of interesting information and interviews. 5 thumbs up!
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Love it! Pertwee kicks butt!