Doctor Who: Revisitations 2 Review
As I did with the first Revisitations boxset, I'll refer you to the reviews of the original releases on this site, and concentrate on discussing the extras. There are a lot of them.
Review of The Seeds of Death by Gary Couzens
Review of Carnival of Monsters by Gary Couzens
Review of Resurrection of the Daleks by Mark Campbell
Revisitations 2 is a box set of three two-disc DVDs. Four of the six discs are encoded for Region 2 only; the second discs for Seeds and Carnival are Regions 2 and 4 only. Resurrection was intended to be shown in four episodes but in order to free up time in the schedule for the 1984 Winter Olympics, it was re-edited into two. The original DVD had the four-part version (running 93:23), but this release has both that and the two-part version (97:53), one on each disc. All of the discs have an optional audio-descriptive menu.
Seeds was recorded on 625-line video, in black and white, but the original tapes have long since been wiped. The DVD transfer is derived from 16mm telerecordings, except for the fifth episode, which was also available in 35mm. As with almost all the surviving Sixties episodes, these have been VidFIREd to restore the original video look – so much so, that the film-shot location material is quite grainy in comparison and really does stand out. However, given that we are watching this on televisions much larger and less forgiving than those of 1969, we can't complain.
Carnival and Resurrection survive on their original transmission tapes, two-inch and one-inch analogue video respectively. Carnival is intentionally very colourful, from the grey-blue of Pletrac, Kalik and Orum's skin, to Vorg and Shirna's gaudily variegated costumes. (This is clearly a show where the director and designer were intent on making the most of the new medium. The majority of viewers who still had black and white sets may well not have known what they were missing.) The exteriors, filmed in 16mm, do stand out by contrast, but then they did at the time. With Resurrection, you can see director Matthew Robinson's attempts to subdue the palette somewhat, in order to create atmosphere. With all three stories, it's fair to say that they look as good as they probably can do, given the original materials. All of the episodes are in the correct 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
The soundtrack is the original mono, also cleaned up and restored. It's a professional job of work, with dialogue, music and sound effects well balanced. Resurrection has an optional 5.1 remix on both versions. This announces itself straight away with the Doctor Who theme coming out of the surrounds. Given that this story contains a lot of gunfire and explosions – it's reckoned to be the story with the highest body count in the show's history – the remix really makes use of directional effects and the subwoofer gets something of a workout. Resurrection also has Malcolm Clarke's isolated score available on the two-part version. All discs have English hard-of-hearing subtitles available on the episodes and also on the extras apart from the commentaries.
Seeds reuses the earlier DVD release's commentary, featuring director Michael Ferguson and companion actors Frazer Hines (Jamie) and Wendy Padbury (Zoe). Script editor Terrance Dicks joins them at an appropriate place: as he wrote the final versions of the last four episodes (Hayles was unavailable to complete his work, though still gets sole on-screen credit), he turns up at the beginning of Episode 3. The four clearly have a considerable rapport and there’s quite a lot of banter between Hines and “Padders” here. Fortunately memories seem more or less intact even after more than three decades. This is an engaging commentary, easily able to fill two and a half hours.
Carnival has two commentaries. The first is the original one from the 2002 DVD release, though actually one of a batch recorded in 2000 to take advantage of the Australian-resident Katy Manning's presence in the UK. She is teamed with Barry Letts. He's avuncular while she is luvvyish, but as a commentary it gets the job done. Commentary 2 is new. Toby Hadoke moderates, and he begins with Cheryl Hall and Jenny McCracken (who both auditioned for the role of Jo Grant and made the final six along with Katy Manning), plus Peter Halliday. Brian Hodgson joins them for the second episode and discusses his failed attempt to redo the theme tune – see below for further details. This was the last Who serial for which he produced sound effects. Terrance Dicks joins the commentary with the third episode but does not dominate proceedings quite as much as he does on other commentaries.
I reviewed these DVDs from checkdiscs, and there's a glitch that may not be on the final version. If you are listening to Commentary 1 on Play All, it switches to Commentary 2 when Episode Three starts, and vice versa.
Resurrection also has two commentaries. On the four-episode version we have Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and director Matthew Robinson. For one thing, Davison and Fielding aren't as disparaging about this story as they have been about others (see Warriors of the Deep for a prime example) – well, Davison does think it's one of the better ones of his era. I've said, when discussing other commentaries, that the obvious rapport between the participants is the reason for listening, but that isn't the case here. While not becoming actively hostile, there are more than a few jabs back and forth, and Robinson's opinion of his own work may not be shared by all. Let alone his comments about Time Lord dentistry.
The two-episode version gets a new commentary. Nicholas Pegg moderates, and he's joined by Eric Saward, Terry Molloy and special effects man Peter Wragg. This is more even-tempered but will probably be more than a little dry for most viewers.
Information subtitles are provided by Martin Wiggins for Seeds, Richard Bignell for Carnival and Paul Scoones for Resurrection. As ever, these give you all the information you will likely ever need to know about these three serials plus more besides, including information about shooting schedules, brief details about cast members and out-and-out trivia, often with an edge of wit.
Seeds Disc One has two other extras. One is technically an Easter egg: it's an off-air trailer for the story (audio-only), which plays over the Episode Selection menu. The other is a Coming Soon trailer for the the next Who DVD, namely Planet of the Spiders (1:36).
On Disc Two, “Lords of the Red Planet” (28:33) is a new making-of featurette. This begins with Brian Hayles's original treatment (called Lords of the Red Planet) to the version which was finally broadcast, with its final four episodes substantially rewritten by Terrance Dicks. Although the featurette spends some time on the differences between Hayles's original treatment and what ended up on screen, and also brings in reminiscences of Hayles himself, it stops short of being a tribute to the writer. (Hayles died in 1978, aged just forty-eight.) Also appearing are costume designer Bobi Bartlett, who had to retrieve existing Ice Warrior costumes from storage and found a colony of rats living in one. Richard Bignell is on hand to lay some popular myths to rest, such as the one where a woman saw an Ice Warrior during the location shoot on Hampstead Heath and drove into the kerb. No doubt something like this did happen, but truth has been much embellished along the way. As Bignell points out, it was only first mentioned four years later by Wendy Padbury, who wasn't present. And talking of Ms Padbury, we hear about her famous yellow leather catsuit. Padbury paid for the materials and got to keep the catsuit afterwards – but she no longer has it. If anyone out there reading this knows where it is...
“Sssowing the Ssseedsss” (24:08) is a featurette reprised from the original Seeds DVD release, and is presented in 4:3. Alan Bennion and Sonny Caldinez talk about their experience of playing inside the restrictive costume and makeup. We also hear extracts from an audio interview with Bernard Bresslaw, who played the leader Varga in the 1967 Ice Warriors serial. Makeup supervisor Sylvia James also features.
“Monster Masterclass” (3:47) is a brief item in which Michael Ferguson talks about the look, sound and threat of a good monster, with illustrative clips from Who stories he directed – not just Seeds but also The War Machines and The Ambassadors of Death. In “Monsters Who Came Back for More!” (16:28) Nicholas Briggs and Peter Ware take us through a few examples of monsters who did, the obvious successes being the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Ice Warriors, the Sontarans, the Yeti and, from more recent times, the Weeping Angels. We also see some less successful creations, such as the Mechanoids and the Quarks, both introduced with much hope but doomed never to give the Daleks any sleepless nights. There are also some very memorable one-offs: the Zygons, the seaweed from the now-lost Fury from the Deep and the giant maggots in The Green Death. Monsters can come back through fanboy enthusiasm, for example the Macra – a monster from a serial shown just once and now lost, but Russell T. Davies brought them back in the new-series episode “Gridlock”. We also find out what Jon Pertwee's favourite monster was – the Draconians, for the record.
The extras on this disc are completed by a self-navigating stills gallery (4:32), the sixth of the TARDIS-Cam animations that appeared on 2002 Who releases (1:01) and the Radio Times listings for Seeds in PDF format. For the Easter egg, click left from “Lords of the Red Planet” to find video footage (0:59) of the commentary recording and the participants' reaction to Wendy Padbury's onscreen corpsing.
There have been more than one version of Carnival in circulation, and some of the extras on that story's first disc reflect this. A rough-cut version of Episode Two, about four minutes longer than the final version, was inadvertently sold to Australian television and was also included on the British VHS release. It features a new synthesised arrangement of the theme tune. This was soon abandoned, for reasons that are clear as soon as you hear it: as I say in my earlier review, it’s very tinkly and “Seventies” and if anything more dated than the eight-years-older original version. The whole early edit of this episode is included on this DVD, beginning with the countdown clock (“They didn't teach me this at Cape Kennedy, you know”) which was an Easter Egg on the earlier DVD release. The running time is 29:45.
In 1981, when Tom Baker left the show after seven years, the BBC ran a short season of repeats called “The Five Faces of Doctor Who”, rerunning four-parters from all the previous Doctors - An Unearthly Child, The Krotons (not yet on DVD), The Three Doctors (due to form part of Revisitations 3 later this year), Carnival of Monsters and Logopolis. The trailer for this season is included on this DVD and runs 4:11. For this repeat showing of Carnival, Barry Letts re-edited a scene near the end of Episode Four, as Peter Halliday's bald wig was clearly slipping. The re-edited scene is included on this disc: up to the start of the end credits, it runs 1:20.
The other extras on this disc continue with some behind-the-scenes footage in an extract (1:45) from Looking In, a programme broadcast in 1972 to mark the BBC's fiftieth anniversary. Then there is some 16mm test footage (8:43) for the visual effects, including the Drashigs (glove puppets built round dog skulls, but good glove puppets) and the spacecraft which lands at the beginning of Episode One. Barry Letts also appears in a demonstraton (3:09) of Colour Separation Overlay (CSO), which unfortunately demonstrates the blue fringing the process was prone to. Finally, there is TARDIS-Cam number 2 (0:47), the serial's Radio Times listings in PDF format (which reveal that Stuart Fell gets a credit as the Functionary who is shot at the beginning of Episode One, which he doesn't on screen) and the Coming Soon trailer for Planet of the Spiders referred to above. For a rather pointless Easter Egg, click left on “Director's Amended Ending” to find textless opening and closing credit sequences (0:45), with the original Delia Derbyshire arrangement of the theme tune.
Roll up, roll up for “Destroy All Monsters!” (23:13), which is the making-of documentary that kicks off Carnival's second disc. Robert Holmes's original title was Peepshow, but Terrance Dicks tells us that was vetoed for being possibly too suggestive. This is a dependably solid runthrough of this serial, taking in the location shoots on a decommissioned ship in the Medway (standing in for the Indian Ocean) and the Essex marshes (the Drashigs' habitat), to James Acheson's costume designs, plus Peter Halliday on the bluish-grey makeup he was given to wear. Barry Letts appears in an interview from 2008, and we also hear from Kathryn Collier (Assistant Floor Manager) and Colin Mapson (Visual Effects Assistant).
Next up is another in the occasional series “On Target”, about the novelisations published by Target Books and which for many young fans in the 1970s was their first chance to revisit stories before the days of VHS and DVD. This instalment focuses on Ian Marter (16:10), who played Lt Andrews in Carnival, Harry Sullivan in Tom Baker's first season and went on to novelise nine stories for Target. Tom Baker, Terrance Dicks, Elisabeth Sladen, script editor Gary Russell and Nicholas Courtney pay tribute to Marter. Russell in particular points out Marter's flair for vivid sensory detail, and regrets that Marter was not alive to be able to contribute to the New Adventures book range. There are readings from his novelisations of The Invasion (read by Courtney) and The Ribos Operation (read by Nigel Plaskitt, who played Unstoffe in that story), and Baker discusses Doctor Who Meets Scratchman, their attempt at writing a Who story of their own. Marter died suddenly, on his forty-second birthday, and Sladen and Courtney are very moving when they talk about that day. It's clear that they still miss him.
“The A to Z of Gadgets & Gizmos” (11:23) is a jokey piece all about the futuristic technology of the show, starting with A for Artificial Intelligence (i.e. K9), B for Blue Crystals (as in Metebelis 3, and don't walk off with them), taking in of course S for Sonic Screwdriver, T for the Genesis of the Daleks time ring, W for the Whomobile and ending with Z for Zero Cabinet. Pay attention, as there's a short quiz at the end.
“Mary Celeste” (18:03) is one of those featurettes that are quite tangential to the show in hand, but are well put together and fascinating. Roger Luckhurst and Ian Murphy discuss several famous ship disappearances, going back in time from the SS Poet in 1980 to the Mary Celeste itself in 1872, putting together convincing theories for each one. Needless to say, Daleks (see The Chase) were not the reasons why!
Also on this disc is a stills gallery (2:56).
Disc One of Resurrection begins with “Casting Far and Wide” (32:19). Toby Hadoke, standing in Shad Thames, introduces an unusually poignant featurette. Hadoke interviews five members of the supporting cast of Resurrection: Roger Davenport, Del Henney, Leslie Grantham, Jim Findley and William Sleigh. Not all of these men are still in the acting profession and it's fair to say that some have been more successful than others – and even those, like Del Henney, with an undoubtedly impressive CV, talk about regrets rather than triumphs. The overriding theme is one of disappointment, and how unforgiving a trade acting is.
“On Location” (18:33) is reused from the previous DVD release, introduced by director Matthew Robinson, who seems very proud of his work. Shad Thames was virtually derelict at the time the serial was made, and it's gone very much up in the world since. Also interviewed are writer/script editor Eric Saward, and producer John Nathan-Turner, recorded months before his death from liver failure. He's clearly not in the best of health here.
Next up are some extended and deleted scenes (7:06), with timecodes marking the additional sections. As usual with these items, it's easy to see why material was cut. “Breakfast Time” (7:59) comprises extracts from the BBC's morning show of that name – undated but clearly recorded in 1984. Guy Michelmore interviews Janet Fielding, then later (after a short piece on the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, featuring Brian Hodgson and Malcolm Clarke) we're back in the studio with Sally Magnusson talking to Fielding and John Nathan-Turner. It's fairly lightweight stuff, though JNT does reveal where Tegan got her name from.
Also on the disc is a BBC trailer (0:34) for Resurrection. “The Last Dalek” (9:36) has been used before in the Doctor Who DVD range. Part of this appeared on the DVD of The Tomb of the Cybermen and all of it on the original disc of The Seeds of Death and on Lost in Time. It's an 8mm film shot by Tony Cornell at Ealing studios during the filming of the climactic Dalek battle from Episode 7 of The Evil of the Daleks, an episode which no longer exists in the BBC archive. It is presented with a commentary by visual effects designers Michaeljohn Harris and Peter Day. The model-work is undeniably impressive, but this is really not much more than someone’s home movie, and the commentary is soporific.
Completing the extras on this disc are “TARDIS-Cam No. 4” (0:44), the Radio Times listings in PDF format, and the Coming Soon trailer for Planet of the Spiders that I've already mentioned.
The extras on Resurrection's second disc are not so much story-specific as Davison-specific. Since all of the Fifth Doctor's adventures have now been released on DVD, this is no doubt the place for “Come in Number Five” (56:30). Presented by David Tennant, this is a comprehensive and occasionally contentious overview of Davison's three years in the role. It begins with the casting, which varied from that of the previous four Doctors. Instead of a character actor (well known in the industry if not necessarily to the public) aged at least forty, we had a twenty-nine-year-old who was already a star name from series such as All Creatures Great and Small and Sink or Swim. Executive producer Barry Letts did not always see eye to eye with producer JNT. Incoming script editor Antony Root was left on his own with few usable scripts in hand. Outgoing script editor Christopher H. Bidmead had to write the season opener (Castrovalva) at very short notice. The schedules had to be rearranged to fit round Davison's commitments – and the show was moved from its traditional Saturday timeslot to midweek.
With some of the key participants now dead, the interviewers are able to speak more frankly than they might otherwise have. Davison is clear about deficiences in the scripts and direction, particularly in the middle of his three seasons. Several interviewees point out that JNT's strengths were in publicity, particularly noticeable in his casting of familiar faces from comedy and light entertainment in guest roles, but his weaknesses were in the stories themselves, quite probably because he did not become producer after having been a writer or director, as most of his predecessors had done. There should no doubt be a JNT overview on a future DVD, though given that this item, dealing with just three years of his producership, runs for just under an hour, you have to wonder how long such a feature would be. As you might have gathered, “Come in Number Five” is more critical than celebratory – even if Tennant does say that Davison was “his Doctor”.
Next up is “Tomorrow's Times – the Fifth Doctor” (12:19), another in the series which looks at the reaction to the show in the national press, read by actors Points of View style. Nicholas Courtney introduces this item and Frazer Hines presents it.
Next up is the oddly-titled “Walrus” (1:24). It's a comedy skit involving a Welsh woman and a Dalek. Finally, there is a photo gallery (5:19) and the Planet of the Spiders Coming Soon once again.
As with Revisitations 1, none of these new editions are available separately, at least not in the UK as yet. So how essential you will find this boxset will depend on your completiveness, your liking for the individual stories, and whether you already have the earlier DVDs and haven't sold them. But we'll be here again later this year for Revisitations 3, which will comprise The Tomb of the Cybermen (VidFIREd for the first time!), The Three Doctors and The Robots of Death.
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