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Doctor Who: Dalek War, Stories 67-68 (Frontier in Space / Planet of the Daleks)
DVD | Box Set
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Doctor Who: Dalek War (DVD)
The Third Doctor and Jo Grant face the combined might of the Daleks and the Master in these two classic 1973 adventures! Frontier in Space ― (6 eps, 143 mins) In the year 2450 the Doctor is arrested as a spy as the fragile peace between Earth and Draconia is threatened. Since the mid-1970s, episode three of Planet of the Daleks has only been available as a 16mm black-and-white recording, but for this DVD release it has been returned to full color!]]>
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"Planet of the Daleks" features the infamous Daleks using a jungle planet to raise a secret army of conquest. Their enemies from Skaro, the Thals, have followed them there to stop their evil plans. Interestingly, the Thals are a peace-loving people at this stage of their development, who have to put pacifism away to thwart the Daleks. The Daleks are almost ready to release their army of tens of thousands when the Doctor and Jo arrive and begin to aid the Thal party in their secret mission against impossible odds! The setting of the jungle planet for a Dalek story is particularly well realized for Doctor Who, and has some nice effects. The Daleks are a favorite enemy and there are a number of morals to this story that are explored as it unfolds.
The special effects for this story are pretty decent, but I didn't particularly like the CGI-heavy two part-fictionalized commentary that tried too hard to explore the meaning of the episodes in their time. Otherwise, there are the usual DVD extras and interviews from a Third Doctor episode. All in all this is a pretty good boxed duo, which I recommend to get a good perspective on the Third Doctor's off-earth adventures.
'Frontier in Space' has the Master manipulating the Earth Empire and Draconian Empire into all-out war after an unrelated misunderstanding ruined peace negotiations. The Doctor and Jo are mistaken for spies (by both sides), and then it turns out the Master was helping the Daleks. This was Roger Delgado's last appearance on the show: he died in a traffic accident in Turkey while making a movie.
In 'Planet of the Daleks', a large invasion force hibernates on the planet Spiridon. The Daleks want to learn the inhabitants' invisibility secret, and the Thals are there to stop them. The Doctor lends his aid, and it's obvious that Jo's done with haring around time and space.
First off is Frontier In Space. While it is certainly true that it suffers from some of the padding evident in most six parters but, on the flip side, we get one of the most complete portraits of the future presented in any Who story. The result is that the story ahs a real epic feeling to it (albeit an low budget one) that travels across a large part of space including future Earth, a lunar penal colony and other places along the way. There's also the Draconians as well whose society might not be quite as fleshed out as the Human's but who remain one of the best designed of original series monsters (which makes one wonder why they never made any type of return at all). There's some nice moments from Jon Pertwee as the Doctor and Katy Manning as companion Jo Grant plus Roger Delgado's final appearance as The Master as well. While a tad bit too long and with some occasionally iffy model work Frontier is still a fine Who adventure.
This epic is concluded in the six part Planet Of The Daleks. This story had been referred to elsewhere by Dalek voice actor/audio storywriter Nicholas Briggs as being akin to "the Dalek's greatest hits" and that is a fair assessment. Writer and Dalek creator Terry Nation writes a story that takes the elements of previous Dalek stories and combines them together into one story. The result is a story that is just too familiar for its own good. The result is that story is predictable to the pointing of being downright boring. This is despite the efforts of the cast and crew including some well designed sets and some fine direction from David Maloney. The result is a story with much potential but none really showing.
The special features are somewhat better then the stories themselves. The best special feature is actually the third episode of Planet Of The Daleks which has been restored to full color for the first time in over three decades. The restoration work is so good you'd never have known that the color version had been lost at some point! There are also some fine documentaries as well including making of docs for each of the two stories, a fine tribute to the career and life of actor Roger Delgado and two further installments for the Stripped For Action documentaries on the Doctor Who comics (one for the third Doctor and one for the 60's Dalek strips). Of special interest are the audio commentaries due to them ebbing the first ones released since the passing of Who producer Barry Letts late last year. The commentaries feature Letts who is still at the top of his game and it is as always interesting hearing his thoughts and memories on these two stories. The only real duds of the special features is the two-part Perfect Scenario sci-fi docu-drama which attempts to look at how the world of the early 1970's effected to and can be seen as sub-texts within the two stories. Unfortunately the drama bits are both filled with bad dialogue and bad acting but both the actors and the fictional talking heads, not to mention seemingly advocating genocide before it ends. Considering that the similarly done documentary Beneath The Surface on the Silurian's DVD back in 2008 covered much the same ground for that story in a pure documentary form so successfully, one wonders why this unsuccessful experiment was even attempted. That said, the majority of the special features are worth inclusion.
So how does the Dalek War box set rank then? Well there's the stories: Frontier In Space is a good story, though slow at times, while Planet Of The Daleks can be considered borderline boring with its over reliance on what had gone before it. The special features are overwhelmingly fine (especially the Planet Of The Daleks episode three restoration and the Delgado documentary) though the two-part Perfect Scenario is far from good. The result then is a good box set, though a bit of a mixed one to be honest.