Doctor Who: Revisitations 3

As with the reviews of the previous two Revisitations boxsets (here and here), I'll dedicate the wordage to discussion of the extras and refer you back to the original reviews for discussion of the stories themselves. This time, the reviews of the original DVDs were all written by me.




The DVDs

Revisitations 3 is a five-disc box set, comprising three four-part stories, each on a DVD-9 encoded for Region 2 only. The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Three Doctors have a second disc each, a DVD-5 encoded for Regions 2 and 4. All five discs have optional audio-descriptive menus.

All three stories were captured on video, 405-line black and white for Tomb and 625-line colour for Three Doctors and Robots, with 16mm used for the location sequences of Tomb and Three Doctors. (Robots of Death was studio-only, but film was used for some model shots and one live-action sequence, the cliffhanger to Part One, shot on film at Ealing Studios.) They are transferred in the correct ratio of 1.33:1. The two colour stories survive in the archive on their original two-inch PAL quad videotapes and look just fine. The original edition of The Three Doctors had an authoring error in the final sequence of Part Two, when some shots appeared in the wrong order. This has been corrected.

The Tomb of the the Cybermen has a more complex history. As with all the Sixties episodes transmitted from video, all four episodes had their master tapes wiped – in September 1969 in this case. For over a decade this was a lost story. However, 16mm telerecordings had been made for overseas sales, and in 1992 all four parts were returned in that format from Hong Kong. These film recordings formed the basis of the 1992 VHS release and the 2002 DVD release. That DVD was produced just as the VidFIRE process, which restores a video “look” to film recordings of VTR originals. The original DVD went out un-VidFIREd, except for a short scene included as an Easter Egg. This time round, the serial has been fully VidFIREd and the results speak for themselves. Of course this is not the same as native PAL video, but it's as good as we'll get.

The soundtrack is the original mono, cleaned up and restored. English hard-of-hearing subtitles are available for all the episodes and all the extras except for the commentaries.

All three stories have the ever-useful information subtitles (provided by David Brunt for The Three Doctors, Martin Wiggins for the other two), and a Coming Soon trailer for the next Who DVD release, The Face of Evil (1:27).

The Tomb of the Cybermen (96:45)

On Disc 1, many of the 2002 extras are carried over. This begins with the first audio commentary, featuring Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling. In my original review, I described this as a single-listen affair and nearly ten years later I haven't changed my mind. There's some banter, some plot spoilers (for which Hines tells Watling off), some anecdotes, and a lot of description of what we can see on screen. Much better is the second commentary, which benefits from the presence of a moderator, namely Toby Hadoke, recorded in 2010. His guests begin with story editor Victor Pemberton and actor Peter Haydon, who is killed off at the end of Episode One, after which we say goodbye and welcome Shirley Cooklin (who plays the role of Kaftan) and Hines and Watling. The latter two are on much better form here – no doubt a moderator helps considerably. There are many tales of the martinet tendencies of director Morris Barry. They are joined in Episodes 3 and 4 by Reg Whitehead, who played a Cybermen, and who once dated Watling to much hilarity as he was nearly a foot and a half taller than her.

The extras on Disc 1 continue with the introduction by the late Morris Barry (3:08), used on the prior VHS and DVD releases, in which he talks about the casting of the Cybermen and the public reaction to the serial. Also on the disc are 3:25 of title sequence tests, which don’t seem especially different to the one finally used. Late Night Line Up was a popular TV magazine show of the late 1960s: in this extract from 1967, which runs 2:52 and is in colour, Joan Bakewell talks to Jack Kine of the BBC’s Visual Effects Department. “The Final End” (1:19) reconstructs the ending of (the lost) Episode 7 of The Evil of the Daleks by means of extracts from “The Last Dalek”, an 8mm film shot on set, and the surviving soundtrack of the TV broadcast. The 2002 DVD was the first time this extra had appeared, and the full nine minutes have since appeared on the discs for the original release of The Seeds of Death, the Lost in Time box set and as an extra to Resurrection of the Daleks on the Revisitations 2 box set, so it seems redundant to include it here once again.

Not carried over from the 2002 DVD (so completists hang on to their copies) are the “Tombwatch” Q & A after the 1992 BAFTA screening of the then-recovered serial and a restoration comparison between 1992 VHS and 2002 DVD. The latter is superseded by an extra on Disc 2, discussed below. However, an original Easter Egg does reappear: go to the Episode Selection menu and you will hear an audio recording of a trailer for the story which followed this one, The Abominable Snowman, running 52 seconds.

Disc 2 kicks off with “The Lost Giants” (26:54), the kind of solid, thorough making-of featurette, from conception to production, that are characteristic of the Who range. Interviewees include Victor Pemberton (who looks much younger than he must be), actors Shirley Cooklin. Michael Kilgarriff, special effects designer Peter Day and others. Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling are interviewed as a pair and prove a fascinating study of body language: Watling seems forever to be seeking Hines's approval. Those departed get discussed, such as writers Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis (the former had the ideas, the latter provided the structure) and Morris Barry, who planned out cast and camera moves, used a music stand and baton on set, and woe betide anyone who was not precisely in place or any scenery that was out of position. Cooklin describes how she took playing dead to a new level by falling asleep on set, and how Hines once chatted her up not realising she was the producer Peter Bryant's then wife.

Click left from this item and you will find this disc's Easter Egg: 1:11 of 3D computer-animated shots by Rob Semenoff, which appear in the featurette.

“The Curse of the Cybermen's Tomb” (14:27) discusses archaeology and the discovery of and supposed curse of Tutenkhamun. On hand are Sir Christopher Frayling and Dr Debbie Challis and this is an informative piece.

Introduced by Matthew Sweet, “Cybermen Extended Edition” (32:28) is an overview of Doctor Who's second favourite monster. Sweet takes us from the Cybermen's creation (not shown on screen but included in the Target Books novelisations as a prologue) to their realisation on screen from their first appearance in The Tenth Planet to their visits to the post-2005 revived show.

“The Magic of VidFIRE” (5:58), narrated by Philip Kelly, details the restoration process for both picture and sound for Tomb, in particular the development of the VidFIRE process.

Yours for only six old pence is a Sky Ray Lolly, and you can collect a set of picture cards. This commercial (0:32) is in 4:3 and in colour. I'm presuming this is a cinema ad as it's in colour and the Doctor is clearly meant to be his Second Incarnation (though isn't played by Patrick Troughton here). If it's for television, then ITV was the only commercial channel at the time and didn't broadcast in colour until November 1969, the same month that BBC1 did, and after Troughton had left the show. Maybe it was used for both big and small screens?

The extras conclude with a stills gallery (3:26).In PDF format are the usual Radio Times listings plus no less than 103 pages reproducing the Sky Ray Lolly picture card promotions referred to above.

The Three Doctors (98:42)

There is only one commentary here, reusing that from the 2003 DVD release. This features Barry Letts, Nicholas Courtney and Katy Manning, one of several commentaries recorded by Manning while visiting the UK. (She lived in Australia at the time.) It's clear that the three get along famously, which makes this a pleasant listen for the most part. Letts is unsparing with the Gel Guards who he considers some of the silliest monsters he ever saw in Who. Manning's little-girlisms become tiresome.

The extras on Disc 1 are mostly carried over from the 2003 release. Pebble Mill at One was a BBC1 afternoon TV programme of the time (live from the BBC’s Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham at one o’clock, hence the title). This extract (20:45) comes from early 1973, shortly after the first broadcast of The Three Doctors. Firstly, there’s an interview with Bernard Wilkie from the special effects department. Then Patrick Troughton comes on. He’s in good form, but there’s a sense that he’s playing the Doctor again – where the real Troughton was, only his friends and family presumably knew. Then there’s a return to Wilkie, and a special effects demonstration that doesn’t quite work. The perils of live TV…

A Doctor WhoDVD would be nothing without an extract from Blue Peter, and so here it is. This footage (13:40) comes from 5 November 1973 (I was watching) and features Peter Purves, John Noakes and Lesley Judd. Purves takes centre stage, first introducing Jon Pertwee as he drives into the studio in the Whomobile, the custom-made car that features a couple of times in the 1973-74 season. Then Purves introduces a brief retrospective of the series on its tenth anniversary, including a sizeable clip of himself in “The Traitors”, Episode Four of The Daleks’ Master Plan from 1965, an episode allegedly lost after a copy was loaned to the Blue Peter office for this purpose. There are quite a few other extracts, including at least three from other episodes now lost.

In 1990, the now-defunct satellite broadcaster BSB held a Doctor Who weekend, during which The Three Doctors was repeated. Footage from this broadcast (10:16) appears here, during which there are interviews with Terrance Dicks, Nicholas Courtney, Bob Baker and Dave Martin discussing the serial. Baker and Martin go on to discuss the invention of K9, which for me at least started the series’s decline. The interviewer of the latter two is none other than latter-day Who producer John Nathan-Turner, minus his trademark beard.

In 1981, The Three Doctors was repeated, along with An Unearthly Child, The Krotons, Carnival of Monsters and Logopolis, as part of a season called “The Five Faces of Doctor Who”, to mark the arrival of Peter Davison in the role. Included on this DVD is the original and rather lengthy (4:13) trailer for this season.

Also included is a BBC trailer for the first episode of The Three Doctors (0:50), with somewhat soft visuals and what sounds like a recorded-off-air soundtrack. It’s clearly part of a longer trailer as it highlights “two new series returning to BBC1 tomorrow”, the other being The Basil Brush Show..

The ”40th anniversary celebration” (3:01) is a compilation of clips from all eight doctors (as of that time), cut to what’s best described as a dance remix of the Ron Grainer theme. Fun, especially if you can identify which stories all the clips came from – I got most of them – but really just a one-watch item. In PDF format are the Radio Times listings, plus a reproduction of the cover of the 30 December 1972- 5 January 1973 edition and an article which interviews not just all three Doctor actors but also present companion Katy Manning and past companions Carole Ann Ford (whose character is called “Sue” for some reason) and Frazer Hines.

Completists should note that the footage from the Panopticon convention, featuring Q&As with Pertwee, Courtney and Manning, has not been carried over to this special edition DVD. There are no Easter Eggs.

Disc Two begins with “Happy Birthday Doctor Who” (23:13). Terrance Dicks begins by detailing how he and Barry Letts wanted to move the Doctor away from Earth and he, and Letts decided to do something special for the show's tenth anniversary season. There are interviews with the surviving cast and crew: Dicks, Katy Manning, Stephen Thorne and (in archive interview) Barry Letts. Inevitably there are gaps due to participants no longer with us, which include all three Doctors, director Lennie Mayne and co-writer Dave Martin. This featurette also discusses the locations, all in or around Denham, Buckinghamshire, in lieu of a “Now and Then” item.

A distinctly provocative question is asked by the next item: “Was Doctor Who Rubbish?” (14:02). Michael Grade, appearing on Room 101 certainly thought so, and he cancelled the show. Fans disagree with him about his charges: the wobbly sets, bubblewrap monsters, poor acting, awful SFX, unemotional, each one dismissed in turn.

“Girls! Girls! Girls! – The 1970s” (21:17) is a follow-on to the item on The Romans DVD which covered the 1960s. .Peter Purves introduces this, but much of it is a get-together between three of the Doctor's companions from the decade: Caroline John, Katy Manning and Louise Jameson, talking about their roles as companions, the costumes they had to wear, how the companion characters reflected feminism, at which point the conversation becomes much more serious. They also talk about how they worked with their respective Doctors, and inevitably Jameson says she found Tom Baker hard to work with. Finally, they discuss how the role affected their later careers. They certainly seem to be enjoying themeselves. There's an inevitable huge gap in this item, in that Elisabeth Sladen is unavoidably absent. It would also have been good to hear from Mary Tamm and Lalla Ward.

The extras on this disc conclude with a stills gallery (3:56).

The Robots of Death (96:05)

The Robots of Death was one of of the very first Who DVD releases, from before certain features became standard, such as information subtitles. What it did have was a commentary, featuring producer Philip Hinchcliffe and writer Chris Boucher, and that reappears here. As I said at the time, this has a lot of solid information on the making of the programme, though is less chatty and anecdotal than later commentaries involving cast members. For that, there is a newly-recorded commentary on the disc as well. Even so, it's good that this original commentary has been reused, as Boucher is otherwise noticeably absent from this disc's extras.

The new commentary features Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Pamela Salem (who played Toos) and director Michael E. Briant. This commentary, unusually for a new one, is unmoderated and therefore the four participants, Baker especially, are not above digressing from time to time. But with just four people involved for the whole of all four episodes, everyone gets their chance to speak. Baker's fondness for the tall tale is certainly evident, but he does acknowledge as well that he was not always easy to control. The four clearly get on very well with each other, so that makes for a chat that's well worth listening to.

“The Sandmine Murders” (32:25) is the making-of featurette. Chris Boucher had done a good job with the previous story (The Face of Evil, due to be the next DVD) so was asked to come up with this serial at very short notice, to replace another that had fallen through. Philip Hinchcliffe wanted to make a robot story and this was the result.At first Michael Briant did not think a great deal of it, summing it up as Agatha Christie in space. Briant, costume designer Elizabeth Waller and designer Kenneth Sharp visited china clay mines in Cornwall (by plane, no less), research which paid off in the design of the space miner, though not its art deco-inspired interiors. Tom Baker and Louise Jameson say their piece (that helium voice was real, by the way), as do fellow cast members Pamela Salem, Brian Croucher and Rob Collings. The making-of featurettes on Who discs are consistently solid and informative pieces and this is no exception. If you don't know the story by now, watch the serial first as here be major spoilers.

“Robophobia” (11:49) is a jokey piece on the history of robots in and outside of Doctor Who, taking in Karel Capek (mispronounced), Isaac Asimov and real-life robots such as Unimate, as demonstated on a clip from a 1967 Tomorrow's World. Meanwhile, Hadoke takes us through the portrayal of the metal man (and sometimes woman) in Who, playing chess with one and appearing in drag as a labour-saved housewife.

Other extras are reused from the original DVD. “Studio Sound” (1:25) is an extract from the studio recording without music and sound effects, highlighting how different the robot's voice sounds to the way it does in the final episode. “Model Shots” (7:48) are esactly as they sound, mute and on timecoded black and white video. Also included are an interactive studio floor plan for the Sandminer sets, a continuity slide and announcement (0:53) which tells us that a Rory Gallagher concert (simultaneously broadcast in stereo with Radio One – those were the days) was on BBC2 at the same time.

The disc concludes with a stills gallery (5:37) and the Radio Times listings in PDF format. There are no Easter Eggs on this disc.



out of 10

Latest Articles