Doctor Who: Myths and Legends
I’ve always felt that The Time Monster’s lowly reputation is rather undeserved. The common consensus is that, while not descending to the depths of a Time-Flight or Timelash, it fully lives up to the Time Curse whereby any story with that word in the title ends up being a bit of a dud (something which has carried on right up to The End of Time). The last story of Season Nine in 1972, Jon Pertwee’s third year as the Third Doctor, this ambitious six-parter is generally said to be a poorly plotted mess and dismissed as a failed attempt to repeat the success of the previous year’s season finale The Daemons, with which it undoubtedly shares some similarities. But I think that's rather harsh. While the story, which sees the Doctor and the Master tussling over a crystal which holds the essence of the Greek Titan Kronos (Cronos? Chronos? Is there an official spelling in the Whoniverse?) does have its flaws, it’s also got some really nice bits in it, including arguably the most moving Doctor-Companion scene in Pertwee’s entire era. Indeed, many of its problems are not unique at all, but are rather endemic to the era as a whole - it's a couple of episodes too long, there's some back-and-forth padding, a couple of mildly questionable performances, but you could say the same about plenty of other Third Doctor stories. While no classic, it’s a perfectly entertaining, at times pleasingly unpredictable, and just occasionally utterly mad, adventure from the writing duo of Barry Letts and Robert Sloman, with good performances from most of the cast, strong sets and, in general, solid direction from Paul Bernard.
So why its poor reputation? I have a theory. While much surrounding it is fine, there’s one little thing, an unwelcome interloper to the party that ruins the mood and casts a ridiculous pall over the rest of the story, a giant, white, man-in-a-chicken-suit-covered-in-a-sheet-and-madly-flapping-his-arms-around-shaped elephant in the room. If one was to compile a list of the best ways to realise the mighty Kronos (who, lest we forget, defeated the ruler of the entire universe and, in turn, begat Zeus himself, thus making him pretty much the bad-asses’ bad-ass in Greek mythology) it’s fair to say that dressing someone in a bird suit and covering him in a white sheet would be pretty far down the pecking (heh) order, possibly just after the idea of having him played by Charles Hawtrey in a tutu. In his first appearance he gives the impression of a dog over which some scamp has thrown a blanket, desperately trying to find his way out. Just when you think it can't get any worse he's hoisted up on some wires and flung around the studio, arms still flapping ineffectually while Roger Delgado pretends to be in awe of this unprepossessing sight, before good sense finally prevails and the poor sod is shoved back into his crystal, not to be allowed out again for another few episodes. As time monsters go it’s not an impressive debut, and the fact that this is the being whom the Master believes will grant him ultimate power just shows that the latter has finally flipped after one too many defeats at the hands of the Doctor. Up to this point I would dare to argue that the serial would not have the scorn poured on it that it has; after it has gone it’s very difficult to think of anything but that the whole fuss is about a power that is, at the very least, overrated. Because it's thrashing around so much getting a decent screenshot is almost impossible, but here's an image from this DVD's Photo Gallery which unveils the monster in all its glory, looking not unlike a Power Rangers baddy which hasn't had its paint job yet:
Admittedly, there's a lot else in the first four episodes which is quite silly, albeit not at the same level. The name of the experiment which brings Kronos into the Master's lab is TOMTIT, and to counter its effects the Doctor does a MacGyver and constructs a time-blocking-doodad out of a wine bottle, some wire and a cork (see below). But there's nothing wrong with that, Doctor Who is science-fantasy after all, and within the context of the narrative it works just fine. In the main these episodes revolve around the effects the TOMTIT has on the immediate timeline, which leads to all sorts of hijinks – a V1 flying bomb blows up a UNIT convoy, another group of Civil War soldiers mount a surprise attack, various people start movvviiinnnnnngggggg veeerrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyy slloooooowwwwwwwwllllyyyyyy and Sgt Benton is turned into a baby. There's actually a reasonably epic feeling to it all, while Letts and Sloman try to infuse some proper ideas into the mix by talking about “instititial time,” which apparently has its origins in Letts' Buddhist beliefs. Kronos, it transpires, is a Chronovore, literally feeding on time and living in the gaps between it – if you imagine time as a series of discrete atoms, these creatures live between them. The pair do their darndest to make something of this idea, and do so in an entertaining manner, and while in the final analysis it’s a concept that doesn’t have that much going for it they do as well with it as they can. Whatever else you say about the episodes, they aren't boring.
And then, two thirds of the way through, everything changes and we leave the comfy home counties of UNIT Britain and end up in an Atlantis hours from its waterlogged destiny. In this version the island is ruled by Ingrid Pitt and her husband king who is soon disposed of because he isn’t Ingrid Pitt, with the other crystal which holds the key to controlling Kronos kept hidden away out of sight. To get at it the Master works his magic on the queen, who swiftly falls for his seductive manner and Mediterranean good looks, rewarding him both with ample displays of her bosom and looking the Doctor and Jo up in a dungeon. It’s here, following their run-in with a Minotaur who is more bull than anything else, that we get The Scene, one with echoes of the Second Doctor and Victoria in Tomb of the Cybermen, in which the Doctor tells Jo about an old man of his childhood, and how he shaped his future. It’s beautifully played by Pertwee with immense gravitas, giving us a side of the Third Doctor far removed from the arrogant fop who presents himself to the world. After five episodes of flapping chickens and time distortions it’s a surprising, tender moment, and one on its own which should guarantee that the serial is better regarded than it is. Sadly it’s over all too soon, but we are then afforded what is a proper, suitably long climax to the whole six parts, as the Master’s plans come crashing round his head (literally), with Atlantis sinking and the Doctor and Master facing judgement from a Kronos who has thought better of the whole bird outfit look and decided to become a babe instead. Had he/she/it done that four episodes previously I think everyone would look it a lot better.
The Time Monster is a bit mad, the whole less than the sum of its parts, but is hugely enjoyable because, not despite, of its poorer elements. In Ian Collier’s sexist pig scientist we have one of the most annoying secondary characters in the show’s history. In Krasis, an Atlantean brought forward in time by the Master, one of the most pointless. Episode Four, which sees the Doctor and Master facing off against each other in a time limbo, hurling insults at each other over their TARDIS’s intercoms with a level of discourse that would shame a Montessori playground, is plainly padded out to fill in the running time. There are moments that don't make sense. But it also has a Pertwee at the top of his game giving it all he’s got, and a final chance for Roger Delgado to be a mad, cackling, scheming Master running the gauntlet of villainy – his one further appearance, in Frontier in Space, is not nearly as strong. There's a well-realised Atlantis, a great big explosion, Bessie turned into a time-bending hotrod, and an epic feel to it which for once makes the idea of time a central weapon to be used. It also has a man in a bird suit. Quite why anyone wouldn’t like all that I have no idea.
Not being, shall we say, one of the more acclaimed six-parters The Time Monster only merits a one-disc release which means in turn that, once the six episodes are squeezed on, there isn’t much room left for a substantial collection of extras. The Video is quite soft in places, especially in exteriors (albeit not to the same level as in The Masque of Mandragora a couple of months back, and the studio image, recorded as ever on video, is sometimes flat and markedly lacking in fine detail. However, the improvement in colour from the old VHS is very noticeable, and as one of the featurettes proves below, it originally looked far worse than the final product. The Audio has been cleaned up fine as usual and the episodes and all subtitles bar the commentaries are subtitled.
Inevitably the most poignant of the Extras is the Commentary, featuring as it does Barry Letts shortly before he passed away. It’s good to say that while he sounds frail his contribution is as informative and interesting as it ever was, helped along by the excellent moderator Tony Hadoke, who, as in his stage show, combines knowledge with a still wide-eyed enthusiasm for the programme. The pair are joined by the story’s Production Assistant Marion McDougall who is also very good value, and, later on, by Susan Panhaligon, who played the Atlantean servant girl Lakis. This covers three of the six episodes; on Episode Three Hadoke is joined by a coterie of modern Who writers, namely James Moran, Joe Lidster, Phil Ford and Graham Duff, which lends some variation and presents a different, more analytical, perspective. Finally, John Levene recorded two solo tracks, for Episodes Two and Four. These are, erm, interesting – he sounds a bit like a televangelist consoling his congregation in smooth, well oiled, tones, while what he actually says is difficult to put in context, other than it’s a mixture of describing what’s going on on screen, singing the praises of his fellow actors, and making observations that are perhaps a little off the beaten track. Perhaps it’s best just to listen to, as he uniquely puts it, his own “flavour and texture” to the commentary tracks and leave it at that. The Production Subtitles are up to the usual standard, and help fill in the gaps in the myth that aren’t that clear from the story itself.
Instead of the usual Making Of we get Between Now... and Now! (23:40) which explores the science and philosophy behind the time-wimey elements in the story. Sadly, the conclusion Jim Al Khalili, Surrey’s Professor of Physics, comes to is that it’s mostly a load of rubbish, but it’s good to see Barry Letts talking about how his brought his Buddhist beliefs into the show. Restoration Comparison (3:24) shows the remarkable level of improvements possible to quite degraded source material, in this case the NTSC copies of the story which are now the only version of The Time Monster in the archives, and showcases, if briefly, the sterling work done on these DVDs. The difference between the original and the DVD transfer are striking, going from barely watchable (and not at all commercially viable) to perfectly acceptable.
Rounding things off, there’s a reasonably interesting Photo Gallery (8:02) for once with some rehearsal shots and also get the usual Radio Times listings for the story in PDF format, as well as a Coming Soon trailer for The Creature From the Pit (0:42).
I was dreading watching Underworld again. I’ve always considered it a particularly dreary story which sits alongside its equally dreary Season Fifteen stablemate The Sunmakers in what is, Horror of Fang Rock aside, a particularly dreary season. Squeezed between the gothic magnificence of Season Fourteen and the carefree romanticism of Season Sixteen Producer Graham Williams’s first year in charge is a bit of an uneasy transition, neither quite one thing nor the other, and while I haven’t seen it for a while I’ve always classed Underworld as a perfect example of that uncertainty, competent but wholly unremarkable. Before pressing Play I was expecting to see ninety or so minutes of unmemorable characters and much running up and down in front of a CSO screen, with nothing more exciting than the sight of Leela threatening to slice someone’s throat open to keep me going. And you know what? I didn’t get that. Instead, I got ninety or so minutes of characters who dream of one day waking up and reaching the dizzy heights of unmemorable, seemingly endless running up and down in front of a CSO screen, and not even Leela particularly misbehaving to wake me up from the catatonic slumber into which I’d fallen. Suddenly last month’s The Space Museum was looking like Blink in comparison...
Of the three stories in Myths and Legends, this is the one which is most heavily indebted to Greek legend. While The Horns of Nimon borrows the basics of Theseus and the Minotaur and uses it for its own ends, Underworld is an almost literal translation of Jason and the Argonauts into the world of Doctor Who, writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin almost slavishly transposing every element from Ancient Greece to the far future. The story finds the TARDIS arriving on the R1C, a Minyan (Minoan) vessel which has been carrying its crew for thousands of years on its quest to catch up with the P7E (Persephone), another ship which is carrying the memory banks of the entire Minyan race. After a bit of fuss our heroes end up inside an asteroid which has built up around the P7E, which is now being run by a megalomaniac computer (who groaned at the back there?) called Oracle, who is ruling a colony of Minyans under slave labour and generally being a bit of a Delphic nuisance.
On the face of it, using one of the oldest myths of the Western world in Who should have worked perfectly – after all, the just-finished Hinchcliffe era had had many of its greatest triumphs doing something similar with more recent classics, albeit in more abstract form. Sadly, Underworld has none of the panache of that earlier era, and certainly none of the confidence, with the story’s problems boiling down to two main factors. The first is the script. In so doggedly translating the old legends, Baker and Martin totally forget to have any fun with the concept, running it through a photocopier running low on ink to produce a grey, lifeless shadow of the original. Sad to say, ultimately the duo were never more than journeymen Who writers, perfectly able to produce mildly entertaining stories when on form but never anything with that extra spark that the best serials have. You don’t look at a Baker and Martin story and think, “Yes, that sums up Doctor Who.” Underworld is a perfect illustration. It has all the ingredients for a decent story, is competently structured, has reasonable cliffhangers and doesn’t break any cardinal rules, but it’s all so brain-meltingly bland - if it wasn’t for the Jason angle, the argument could be made that this is one of the most banal scripts the series ever had.
It’s somewhat unfortunate, then, that this was the script that ended up becoming the CSO story. I would venture to say that nowadays the first thing anyone thinks of if you mention Underworld is the fact that, decades before even James Cameron began to imagine it was possible, a large part of the production was made entirely on blue and green screens, the season’s budget having suddenly gone to the dogs and urgent cuts needing to be made. While the interiors of the spacecraft are physical sets (indeed, one set does for both), all the rest is artificial, which inevitably constrains the direction to an almost painful degree. Much of the action, especially in the middle two episodes, seems to consist of nothing more than endless scenes of the Doctor and co running (or, rather, floating) up and down the same bit of cave, managing the impressive trick of being simultaneously visually quite striking and tedious to the extreme Of course, such aesthetics shouldn’t necessarily matter – there aren’t, after all, many real sets that were any more realistic – but when the issue is coupled with a story as dull as this one the problem is magnified. There is literally nothing to hang onto.
In the extras much is made of guest star Alan Lake’s wit, and there are moments when you can see a glint in his character Herrick’s eyes, but in truth the latter-day Argonauts, dressed up in identical bacofoil uniforms won’t stay with you thirty seconds once the credits have finished rolling. As for the villain, if there had been an academy for training tyrannical computers Oracle would have been the one who got its head stuffed down the toilet and lunch money nicked from by the likes of WOTAN and BOSS, its only notable feature being that it speaks exactly like Goza from Ghostbusters. By the time you meet her/it, though, you won’t care any more and will just want it to end. It might be remembered for the CSO but that is entirely unconnected with Underworld’s main problem: it just isn’t very good Doctor Who. Worth giving a myth.
As with the other discs in this set Underworld gets the one-disc treatment, with, compared to some other titles, slender pickings on the extras front. The menu set-up is the same as ever. The Video transfer suffers from being quite soft, but the transfer is not helped by the indistinctness of much of the CSO backdrops the serial features. Inevitably the CSO artefacts are on full display, with little haloes around the actors who occasionally lose parts of their body into the background, but that’s hardly the fault of the Restoration Team. For those scenes actually shot in a proper set it looks as good as any other serial of this period, with no issues unique to this title. The Audio is equally fine and unremarkable, and the episodes and all extras bar the commentary are subtitled. It's worth noting that it is this disc that is rated 12 - it must be because some oath can be heard in one of the extras, although I have to confess I missed it.
The Commentary, which features Baker, Jameson and Baker, takes an episode or so to get going. There isn’t really a dominant voice amongst the three who could keep the discussion on focus, so it’s a bit rambly at times, and Tom isn’t on quite as good form as he has been in other recent tracks. There are a few highlights but like the story itself it’s ultimately unmemorable. As ever, however, the well-researched Production Subtitles help to move things along, with plenty of information about the show’s production and trivia about the story.
Quite unexpectedly, the Making Of, Into the Unknown (30:44), is the most interesting extra of the entire Myths and Legends set. Focusing on the difficulties involved in making a story largely with CSO, the fascination comes from the inclusion of a lot of grainy, on-set footage as actors struggle to understand exactly what they’re doing. Given the time it was filmed it’s especially good to see that Baker seemed to be behaving himself admirably, and even almost enjoying the confusion, at one point whispering that “Alan Lake was in cracking form this morning..” The piece is complemented by a longer collection of said recording footage in Underworld - In Studio (17:31). In the past such raw material included on Who DVDs hasn't been as interesting as you might think but this is accompanied by a handy narrator explaining what’s going on which benefits the piece enormously.
And as ever there’s the usual Photo Gallery (5:56) – generally I find these pretty dull anyway but when the subject is Underworld that’s like a whole extra level of boredom – and the Radio Times Listings in PDF format, as well as, in case you missed it on The Time Monster disc, the Coming Soon trailer for The Creature in the Pit (0:42).
Theatre in Ancient Greece was very different to how it is today. As they were playing in giant amphitheatres to audiences of thousands rather than hundreds the actors wore giant masks with fixed, often grotesque expressions to represent their characters, their costume completed by large erect leather phalluses tied to their waists which were waved around whenever the need, erm, arose. The style was relentlessly histrionic, with characters spending much of their time declaiming how tragic was, making sure the spectators were left in no doubt how utterly miserable they were feeling. The great comic poet Aristophanes, meanwhile, spent a large amount of time indulging in slapstick, his satire never scared of pointing out how fat/stupid/conceited leading political figures were, while his plays often ended in a bizarre manner - one famous example has characters, for no explicable reason, dancing off imitating a bunch of crabs, purely to get a laugh. While the writing was often profound, the style was not subtle.
The Horns of Nimon is neither profound nor subtle, but with its blunt humour, overblown performances and reinterpretation of a classic Grecian myth, that of Theseus and the Minotaur, its style has a lot in common with those performances nearly two and a half millennia ago. Although not intended to be, as the last story of Season Seventeen it marks a transitional point, a last Bacchanalian orgy of excess of Tom Baker’s reign, the night before the series woke up with a splitting headache under the disproving reproach of the sober and puritanical Bidmead era. Under the direction of Producer Graham Williams but more particularly Douglas Adams, the year was either the ultimate expression of the bohemian spirit at the heart of Baker’s Doctor or an over-indulgent feast of lowbrow farce which sacrificed any semblance of drama at the altar of metahumour and buffoonery.
The Horns of Nimon makes for a good illustration of why Adams really needed his own script editor to keep things in check. The bare synopsis sounds quite sensible - the Nimon have camped on the planet Skonnos where it's persuaded a mad scientist that it will help restore the planet's empire in return for being supplied with a steady stream of living sacrifices. What the Skonnans don't realise is that the Nimon are the Black Widows of the universe, moving from planet to planet, invading and consuming each one's resources utterly before disposing of them and moving onto the next. But what in other hands could be a good plot is rendered largely immaterial by the style in which it's presented. Even its staunchest defenders could not argue that it was good drama, but then it would never claim to be. When the Doctor faces oblivion in the path of an oncoming meteor, he reacts by pinning a Dog Show Roseate onto K9, when escaping from capture he stops in the middle of an atrium to be Terribly Witty, while any menace the ostensible enemies have is neutered early on by one guard’s constant refrain of “Weakling scum!” to his prisoners. There is no pretence here that the thing is being played for anything but laughs – even the cliffhangers are slightly sloppily edited – a fact which has its ultimate expression in Graham Crowden’s deliriously OTT Soldeed, the scientist who supplies the Nimon with its victims. Whenever a list of the ripest performances in Who’s history is compiled the likes of Joseph Furst’s Zaroff or Paul Darrow’s Tekker usually top the polls but for me Crowden outhams them both and then some. His boggle-eyed madman is outrageous, even within the context of this season, and one can almost imagine Baker watching him with envy.
It’s also, crucially, not very funny. There’s an argument to be made that Adams’ approach was not right for Who but even if one allows that, in a series as long-running as this that the occasional season can be purely tongue-in-cheek, it has to be funny enough to justify the approach. And it’s here that Nimon falls apart. It isn’t. Crowden’s performance sums it up – there’s just a bit too much. It pushes slightly too hard. The whole thing virtually lurches at the screen and screams "THIS IS ALL VERY AMUSING, ISN'T IT?" The first time the guard barks “Weakling scum!” it’s funny. The second it’s mildly so. By the time we’re onto the fourth or fifth repetition it elicits just groans. The key scene is one in the TARDIS. Attempting to fix the old girl, the Doctor sets off a series of bangs which include an old car horn and a penny whistle and which go on for about ten seconds. The pay-off line – “Now that’s very odd” – is good, and well delivered by Baker, but the effects themselves are too much. The difference between this serial and Hitchhikers is whereas the latter is witty this is wacky, and as anyone who, like me, grew up in the Eighties having to endure Wacaday in the early mornings can tell you only too well, wacky is never fun.
Nor is the set design, which is singularly unimaginative. The “labyrinth” is particularly poorly envisaged, a collection of open corridors which even director Kenny McBain doesn’t bother trying to convince is any sort of maze. For some reason there’s a profligacy of metallic walkways which rattle noisily every time anyone steps on them, in a curious way emphasising the ephemeral, rather cheap nature of the sets. Even the Nimons, who look quite good from the front, are exposed when, all too often, the camera catches sight of their backs, which look like a blank cloth waiting for the Nimonic designs to be placed on. All-in-all, it's not an attractive-looking story.
The writer was Anthony Read, who of course was Adams’s predecessor as Script Editor and had managed to find a far more satisfying combination of laughs and thrills a year earlier with The Key To Time. He sounds quite dispirited in one of the DVD extras about this story, and reading between the lines one can almost sense he feels the story was hijacked. Certainly, the contrast between Underworld and The Horns of Nimon is striking. While only two years separate the serials, and they share the same producer in Graham Williams, their styles could not be more different. While Underworld has jokes, it’s an obviously dramatic piece, continuing in the same style as the series always had up to that point. The Horns of Nimon, on the other hand, doesn’t even pretend to be doing anything other than playing it for laughs, even to the point of undercutting the rare moments of drama with another joke. The disappointing thing about it – and Adams’ involvement in the series as a whole – was that there is no context for the jokes, no substance. Scratch the surface and you find little underneath. Hitchhiker’s is a comedy of ideas. There are no ideas in The Horns of Nimon. And at its best, Doctor Who is about being scary as well as funny, magical as well as fantastical. The Horns of Nimon is none of that, and if those involved thought this was good Doctor Who they were living, as Aristophanes would have put it all that long time ago, in cloud cuckoo land.
Once again The Horns of Nimon comes on a single DVD, and there’s nothing very different to report about the set-up from either of the previous two stories. Purely studio-bound the Video and Audio are both as you would expect from a story of this era – the video image is a little flat with occasionally poor definition, while the beige/brown palate of the adventure don’t make for the most visually thrilling experience. It’s all been cleaned up fine though and looks and sounds as good as one would wish for.
There are a couple of unusual inclusions amongst the Extras. The Peter Howell Music Demo (2:59) is a rare clip of the opening of Episode Two re-edited with a new, electronic score replacing Dudley Simpson’s. One of the innovations incoming producer John Nathan-Turner wanted to do was replace Simpson’s more orchestral music with newer, more hi-tech sounding arrangements, to reflect the fact the series was entering the bold new decade of the 80s. To convince the Powers That Be that this would work, he commissioned Howells to produce some test samples, and this is reportedly the only one that is now known to exist. The music itself actually works perfectly well, and as such it’s easy to see why the experiment was judged to be a success. Another rare feature is a copy of the Studio Floor Plans, accessible only via PC, which while hardly thrilling just add that little extra.
The Commentary features Ward, Read, Crowden and Janet Ellis, who plays one of the Nimon's victims, but isn't one of the better ones. In the past Ward has been a bit caustic but she’s quite gentle with this story and even praises certain aspects of it, such as the set, that don’t seem to merit such appreciation. All reminiscence perfectly happily and offer some interesting tidbits, but it’s a bit like listening into a group with whom you have no connection, and there’s not enough, aside from hearing about Baker’s very amusing reaction to seeing Alien for the first time, to really make it worth trudging through. As ever, there are also meticulously researched Production Subtitles which in this case tell far more of the background to the story than the four talking.
As anyone who has bought even a handful of Who DVDs down the years will have realised, it was often featured on Blue Peter, although rather ungratefully the promotion has always been one way – not once in all of his travels has the Doctor materialised in the Blue Peter garden to help its presenters fight off hordes of defecating elephants or angry beheaded Legomen. Often the show has been the first to interview a new Doctor and several actors from the show have gone to be presenters, most famously, of course, Peter Purves. While Who Peter – Partners in Time (29:58) is superfluous to anyone who has a complete set of DVDs, given that the range never fails to include relevant clips from the magazine show, it’s still a well-put-together, enjoyable documentary, with Gethin Jones (who moonlighted as a Dalek and a Cyberman in the revival) assembling Purves, Ellis and most notably BP’s legendary producer Biddy Baxter in the Blue Peter garden to look back. This is the first of a two-part strand, the second of which we are promised will look at how the show supported Who post-1989. There is also the afore-mentioned interview with Anthony Read in the punningly-titled Read the Writer (6:30) in which he gently makes clear that he didn’t at all approve of Adams’ humour or the indulgent performances.
Rounding things off, there’s the customary Photo Gallery (7:54) and, via PDF, the original Radio Times Listings for the serial, and, as with the other two discs, the Coming Soon trailer (0:42) for The Creature in the Pit. The one notable omission, however, is a lack of any mention of Shada, which would have come next in the series had it not been cancelled. Given that there also wasn’t on The Leisure Hive DVD one can’t help wondering what the plans are for it....
When rumours about this set first surfaced, there was much caustic comment about how it was 2|Entertain bundling together three rotten stories to get rid of them all at once. It's an assessment, now the set is with us, that's hard to disagree with. The Time Monster is better than its reputation, but both Underworld and The Horns of Nimon are very poor examples of Doctor Who during the period when it was arguably at its most popular, pre-2005 at any rate. Regretfully, this set is similarly half-hearted. There are a couple of good inclusions - Who Peter is fun, as is the Making Of for Underworld - but compared to other packages it all looks a little sparse, and even the Commentaries don't really liven things up. This is almost certainly the least crucial box set yet released in the range.