Doctor Who - Vengeance on Varos VHS
One of the most popular of Colin (the sixth Doctor) Baker's adventures, "Vengeance on Varos" finds the Doctor and Peri (Nicola Bryant) involved with rebels on a 1984-like planet, Varos, where televised torture is used to support and enforce the ruling regime. When first broadcast, the episode aroused condemnation over the violence shown--particularly two men falling into a vat of acid--as well as the implied horror and moral corruption. However, these complaints missed the satiric subtext of a world in which reality-TV suffering pacifies the masses while big business exploits them. While there is too much running about in corridors, the surreal terrors of the Punishment Dome make for good Doctor Who, and the adventure develops ideas from both "The Sun Makers" (1977) and "The Caves of Androzani" (1984) with considerable low-budget aplomb. Filled with bizarre touches, such as Peri's transformation into a bird creature, the show also marked Jason Connery's TV debut as a rebel leader. --Gary S. Dalkin
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Given the "Restoration Team" treatment, "Varos" is notably lacking in the care and attention given to the extra features that made, for example, "Aztecs" and "Caves of Androzani" such outstanding DVD acquisitions. There are no production featurettes here, no behind-the-scenes interviews with cast members or the production crew. 3 features simply dump raw video footage without any explanation. The "outtakes" and the "behind-the-scenes featurette" basically show the same thing... aborted takes with a PA calling cast members "darling" and "love" a lot. The extended/deleted scenes montage, while satisfyingly long (10 minutes), doesn't offer any context to those scenes would have fit into the story, as was done on the far more professional "Remembrance of the Daleks" presentation. Baffingly, one audio tracks allows you to watch the complete episode... without incidental music or sound effects. I'm not sure who would sit through 90 minutes of this.
Fortunately, the audio commentary track is well above-average. Many DW stories are narrated by aging cast members who barely remember their time on the show; not here. Colin Baker is well-versed in his character's mythology, and is able to walk the audience through the particularly controversial scene in which the Doctor seemingly shoves a security guard into a vat of boiling acid. From a production standpoint, he attempts to explain why this scene isn't as bad as it appears. Nicola Bryant (Peri) doesn't say much (and she didn't on the "Caves of Androzani" DVD either), but Nabil Shaban (Sil, an anatomically-correct slug sitting on a fishtank) shows himself to be a real "Doctor Who" fan, and tells some funny on-the-set stories as well (such as the time when, in costume, he was mistaken for an inanimate prop!). Both Baker and Shaban together may come across a bit smug, as they deride "reality TV" and "post-Thatcherite economics", but they both provide excellent, funny context for the story. "Varos" becomes one of the few DW DVDs so far with an audio commentary worth playing more than once.
James Bond fans who purchase the disc will be interested to note that "Varos" marks the TV debut of Jason Connery, son of Sean. He doesn't have a whole lot to do here -- he plays a no-nonsense rebel who goes shirtless most of the way -- but it's interesting to note that his chest is nearly as hairy as his dad's.
1. Any Doctor Who episode you can get for $10 or under is a good price.
2. This is a classic DW episode and onw of the better Colin Baker episodes.
3. This episode introduces a classic villian in Sil. Also stars Jason Connery (son of Sean).
4. The story concept still holds up today.
5. Production quality is pretty typical of classic DW.
6. The Doctors character development continues to be erratic making the viewer wonder about this regeneration.
All in all it's a classic DW episode and one of the better Colin Baker episodes.
Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant give solid performances and the guest stars performances are also very solid. That really pulls this story up and makes it one of the "must see" classic stories on my personal list.
This tale is considered by many to be one of the best Colin Baker storylines. It has a lot of action, a decent amount of gore, and some brilliant one-liners from Baker and Bryant. We get to see Jason Connery, Sean Connery's son, who plays Jandar, a rebel leader trying to overthrow the ancient ruling families of Varos. We also get our first look at Sil (Nabil Shaban), who is quite possibly one of the vilest, funniest enemies the Doctor ever faced. "Water me!" and Shaban's tongue-flicking laughter entrench Sil into your mind long after the story is completed. The rest of the enemies in this tale are some of the best during Doctor #6's run. This tale visits the idea of "reality" TV and just how far it can go. Today, many people argue over having the opportunity to pay-per-view executions. Could this tale have been a harbinger of things to come?
The special features are pretty light. This DVD comes with the standard "Who's Who," outtakes, production notes, trailers, a photo gallery and a decent featurette. The best special feature on this disc has to be the running commentary provided by Baker, Bryant and Shaban. Of special interest is Shaban's tale of how he came up with Sil's twisted little laugh.
I have to agree with the majority that this is one of Colin Baker's best outings as the Doctor. I always felt that he, along with Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy, were cheated out of excellent storylines for the bulk of their respective runs as the Doctor. If you are unfamiliar with Colin Baker's work as the Doctor, pick this DVD up as well as the "Trial of a Time Lord" DVD. It's some of his best work.