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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
The Dalek War Box Set


Starring: Jon Pertwee
RRP: £34.25
Certificate: U
Available 05 October 2009

The Dalek War Box brings together two stories from Jon Pertwee’s time as the Doctor. The stories are spread across four discs with each story having a single disc for the story and an additional disc with all the extras.

In the year 2540 the human race has built itself a great empire, with satellite planets supplying the motherworld with all its material goods. Great freighters plough the space lanes bringing produce to Earth. It is onto one of these freighters that the Doctor and Jo materialise in the TARDIS. They are instantly mistaken for Dracoians, Earth's greatest galactic rivals, when the ship comes under attack. However, Jo and the Doctor can see that the attackers are actually Ogrons, even if the freighters crew perceive otherwise. Dragged into the conflict between earth and Draconia, the Doctor is sent to a penal colony, Jo is given over to the representative from Sirius 4, who is in actual fact, the Master...

Frontier in Space is that rare Who beast: an honest to goodness space opera. Written by Malcolm Hulke and directed by Paul Bernard, the six part story originally ran from 24 February 1973 to 31 March 1973.

Although some of the effects may look primitive by today’s standards, especially the spaceships, the realisation of the Draconian was nothing short of miraculous. The combination of great costumes and a half mask, which allowed the actors to fully emote makes the design, seem fresh even by today’s standards.

The show is not without its problems, not least of which is the amount of time which the Doctor and Jo spend locked up in various prisons, leading to large pages of exposition. The plot is also not without its holes. Although the Master is using a mind machine to make his victims see what they most fear, an idea already used in The Mind of Evil, this device requires a level of fear and paranoia on both side which was unlikely to exist. Certainly the head of Earth military does not appear afraid of the Draconias, rather he is filled with hatred for them.

For once Jo (Katy Manning) gets a little more to do than just act as a sounding board for the Doctor and this and the following story holds some of Manning strongest work. Roger Delgado, as the Master, continues to relish his role and it was only a matter of his premature demise which makes this, his last story, a bit of a disappointment. Most fans would have liked to see a more dramatic ending for the character and indeed one was planned for a later story.

In the end the Doctor averts the war, but not without some personal cost as he is injured, leaving Jo alone in the ship.

The disc has an extensive collection of extras which does the story proud, including a full length commentary with Katy Manning, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks. Time is less kind to the memory so the whole thing is kept on track by moderator Clayton Hickman.

Perfect Scenario: Lost Frontier (30 min, 05 sec) is an odd but very compelling concept. Initially it appears to be a slight look at Who based around a story idea. In the far flung future the world's population is held in a dreaming state, provided with audio visual entertainment. Zed, a young Scenariosmith, looks for inspiration by examining the Doctor Who drama. What you get is a pretty good look at how Doctor Who was placed in the sociopolitical environment out of which the show sprang. So, the short show looks at things like the role of women; the paranoia over the cold war; and the fear that man would run out of room and food. The show has contributions from actors Katy Manning, Janet Fielding, Vera Fusek and Michael Hawkins, as well as producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, visual effects designers John Friedlander and Mat Irvine. With Rich Batsford, Mick Broster, Tony Broster, Henry Dunn and Paul Ewing, and the voices of Steve Broster, David Harley and Cathryn Miller. Written by David Harley. Its not deep enough to form part of a sociology course, but it’s nice to see some more serious thought given over to the influences and importance of the program

The Space War (17 min, 58 sec), is the usual piece wherein the cast and crew tell us just how much they enjoyed appearing in the show with contributions from cast and crew featuring actors Katy Manning, Vera Fusek and Michael Hawkins, visual effects designers John Friedlander and Mat Irvine. Produced by Steve Broster, it’s a light piece, but well worth a watch, as it includes a look at the creation of the aliens and the model special effects.

Roger Delgado: The Master (31 min, 47 sec) is an in-depth biography of actor Roger Delgado. Although, to Who fans, he was the great Master, Delgado had a much more diverse career until his untimely death in 1971. The piece has many original photos as well as excerpts from many of his television appearances. The bulk of the show contains interviews with many people who knew and undoubtedly loved him with his wife, Kismet Marlowe, producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, director Christopher Barry, actors Katy Manning, Linda Thorson, Harry Towb, Frazer Hines, William Gaunt and Damaris Hayman, stunt coordinator Derek Ware. The show is presented by Stephen Greif.

Stripped for Action: The Third Doctor (16 min, 07 sec) which is another in the series looking at the ongoing development of the comic with Gary Russell and Alan Barnes, comic historians John Ainsworth and Jeremy Bentham, and author Paul Scoones.

The extras are rounded off with the usual photo gallery, PDF materials and a coming soon for The King’s Demons and Planet of Fire.

With the Doctor injured, and in a regenerative trance, Jo finds herself alone on the planet Spiridon. Unsure what to do she sets off into the lush jungle to find help. Here she meets a group of Thalls who have been tracking the Daleks invasion force. The Daleks intent to use the Spiridon’s natural invisibly to make their army of ten thousand invincible...

Planet of the Daleks was written by Terry Nation and directed by David Maloney. The six part story originally ran between 7 April 1973 and 12 May 1973.

Planet is a bit of an odd story as it feels almost like a rerun of the Daleks first story. The Doctor, helped by the Thall’s, have to stop the Daleks from releasing a poison into the atmosphere. Jo even does the decent thing and gets ill, not from radiation this time but from the venom of a plant.

The model work is slightly dodgier that the previous story with a very uninspired Dalek ship and a whole bunch of toys standing in for the Dalek army. However, none of these elements really detract from what is a good adventure story, if anything they give the story a nostalgic undertone.

Whereas the Draconias were a memorable alien race, the new militant Thalls do less well, though this is mainly due to the lacklustre acting on most of their parts, which saps the show of some of its excitement.

Obviously the big selling point of this story is the recolourised episode. I’ll be honest here, for some reason I thought that the episode which only existed in black and white was episode five, so as I sat through all the episodes waiting for this great colour revelation I obviously watched episode three (the actual one which had its colour replaced) without even noticing. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting not to notice it, it’s that good.

Once again there is a decent amount of extras including another full length commentary with Katy Manning, Prentis Hancock and Tim Preece, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks.

The featurettes are a little less extensive than the first story and kick off with:

Perfect Scenario: The End of Dreams (30 min, 11 sec), written by Steve Broster, which continues the pseudo story about the Senariosmith seeking inspiration. Once again the story attempts to put the show in its social context. I really quite like these, though a more academic piece would have been preferred I can see that this would be a hard sell to a young modern fan base. The story contains contributions from Katy Manning, Jane How, Janet Fielding (still not sure why she was involved, but she had some insightful things to say about the role of women), Bernard Horsfall, Tim Preece, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks.

The Rumble in the Jungle (16 min, 49 sec), wherein the cast and crew reminisce about their time on the show with contributions from Katy Manning, Jane How, Bernard Horsfall and Tim Preece, director David Maloney and designer John Hurst. It gives you a little peek behind the curtain to see how the show was made.

Multi-colourisation (10 min, 50 sec) takes a look at the miraculous restoration done by the restoration team with contributions from Barry Letts, James Insell, Dan Hall and colourist Jonathan Wood. Narrated by Glen Allen. Its pretty impressive technology and holds the hope out of seeing more of the B&W Pertwee stories being restored to their original condition.

Stripped for Action: The Daleks (13 min, 56 sec) and there is more about the ongoing comic strip, this time the show concentrates on the Daleks stories in TV21 with contributions from Gerry Anderson, Alan Barnes and Clayton Hickman, comic historian Jeremy Bentham and author Paul Scoones.

Blue Peter (12 min, 35 sec) which has two pieces. The first is an appeal for the return of a couple of stolen Daleks, which had been parked outside of the BBC. Good lord, parked outside, that brought the likely villains down to just about every Who fan, but fear not they were returned.

The disc is rounded off with the usual PDF contents and a photo gallery.

For all its faults this is one of the stories which stuck with me since childhood. Partially it was the scale of the show, empire against empire, but mostly it was the excellent makeup for the Draconians.


Charles Packer

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