Doctor Who: The Visitation
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Doctor Who: Visitation SE, The (DVD)
New to DVD! Digitally remastered Doctor Who classic The Visitation Special Edition! It's 1666, and England is in the grip of the Great Plague. But when the Doctor and his companions arrive, they discover an even greater threat: the entire planet is in danger. As the Grim Reaper stalks the countryside, the Doctor uncovers an alien menace intent on wiping out humanity and claiming our planet for themselves. The Terileptils have arrived – and only the Doctor can stop them.]]>
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The supporting cast is generally quite good. The opening, long wind-up segment is especially poignant and works as a honest-to-goodness hook for the rest of the story. And for those who can appreciate such subtly, Michael Melia, in the full rubber attire of the baddie Terileptil, gives a very credible performance, conveying emotive impressions in spite of being, well, in a full body rubber suit! Unfortunately, Michael Robbins, a veteran actor who plays itinerant thespian and occasional highwayman Richard Mace, is obviously not fully engaged in the role, missing cues and half-heartedly giving his lines, still an entertaining character, but never gets it's full potential displayed. Nor are the villagers as particularly ominous as they should be. As for the big plot hole... hah! Well, we just have to brush that off like so many others, I suppose, imagining the Doctor takes the quick jaunt to take care of it. At least it's not like the FACE OF EVIL (Story 89) where the plot hole is already fait accompli. :P
Still, a worthy addition that shines quite brightly when considering future adventures, like the season finale TIME FLIGHT (Story 123) and the following second Davison season. Ugh.
First up is the Jon Pertwee story ending his fourth season as the intrepid Time Lord - The Green Death. For many, this is one of the most evocative and best-remembered stories from his five-year stint in the role. With a remarkable eye on future events, this story has once again led the way from being science fiction to many science facts. The storyline of a mega-corporation polluting the planet and sinisterly controlling our behavior is hardly stuff of fantasy anymore, alas. But thirty years ago, it was only a nightmare of a possibly frightening future.
The problems with many of the Pertwee stories were of length and budget. Six part stories tended to be heavily padded to make the money go further and often sagged badly in the middle. I'm glad to say The Green Death is not one of those. Of course, it might have been tighter had it only stretched to four episodes and undoubtedly if it was made today it would be trimmed to one fifty minute romp, but it works very well in it's longer format. There are flaws of course, but all these can be washed away by the very, very poignant and indeed tear-jerking ending that sets the show apart from much of what had gone before. Losing one of the show's regular characters was often hard on viewers but somehow the departure of Jo Grant, the third Doctor's long standing second assistant, had a very big impact on the audience, possibly more so than the exit of any previous leading lady in the show. By far one of the most successful partnerships ever created for the show, even now, viewers can tell that the acting by the two leads as they parted ways was heightened by very real sadness. Indeed, Katy Manning, the lovely actress who played Jo for three years, becomes very emotional in her commentary for this release as she relives the parting scene all these years later.
It's the commentary and the extras that always make these releases so special and Katy, together with Script Editor Terrance Dicks and Producer Barry Letts, provide a genuinely interesting narrative, which is hugely enjoyable. Clearly a close team, they all lament the absence of the Doctor himself, the late Jon Pertwee. There could have been a certain amount of discomfort in the commentary, since Jo Grant leaves the Doctor when she falls in love and intends to marry Professor Jones. In reality, Katy Manning was indeed engaged to the actor playing Jones, Stewart Bevan, and their subsequent marriage only lasted a few months. Tactfully, none of this is mentioned in the commentary or by Bevan's own contribution to the disc. In addition, a terrifically funny documentary on what happened after the show is worth purchasing the disc alone.
I can't say the same for The Visitation, the second of the new releases, pulled from the first season to feature Peter Davison in the Time Lord's shoes. It's certainly not a bad four part romp and there's a lot to commend it in terms of production values and a fine guest cast, but it's symptomatic of the era that the squabbling and frankly badly acted regular cast get in the way of a good story. Interestingly, in this story, Davison's Doctor loses his temper with all three of his companions and as a viewer, you really can't blame him. Individually they may have all worked as characters, but there were just too many of them to make scenes work effectively. But it's another twist on the Doctor explaining Earth history via science fiction and a clever idea in itself and well executed.
Recorded second, but transmitted fourth, Davison was still finding his way in the part but he was hampered by the inexperience of the cast he was expected to carry and alas the story fails as a result. Things certainly did improve later, but these were still very early days. Thankfully, the on screen bickering of the four main leads clearly didn't translate into `real life' and their commentary is genuinely funny and entertaining, particularly as they gleefully point out each other's rather limited acting ability.
The extras on this disc are slightly less impressive and almost became tedious, but they're still worthy of inclusion and hardcore fans will certainly be pleased to have them.
All in all, another great pair of releases showcasing different approaches to the long running classic adventure serial. Well worth the investment and a must for any collector.
"Black Orchid" is also interesting. This time the year is about 1920 or something in England. The Doctor gets mistaken for another Doctor and gets invited to a large house with classy people. He plays cricket there. The problem is that someone gets murdered and the Doctor gets accused. I like it.
They seem to have extra-care taken with the presentation; updated information and documentaries are always welcome, especially now that almost all the telly serials have been released. The covers look great, too!
A whiny reviewer accused 2Entertain of trying to get as much money as they could from fans but in fact 2Entertain doesn't exist anymore. BBC keeps releasing these new editions because they know the fans want them!