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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
Myths and Legends


Starring: Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker
RRP: £49.99
Certificate: 12
Available 29 March 2010

Another Doctor Who collection hits the shelves in the form of Doctor Who: Myths and Legends, which collects together three stories which feature Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee,. The three DVD box set comprises of The Time Monster, Underworld and The Horns of Nimon...

The Time Monster (20 May - 24 June 1972) is a six part story from the Jon Pertwee era. The show was directed by Paul Bernard and written by Robert Sloman and Barry Letts (unaccredited). This was at a time in the show's evolution where long rambling plots seemed to be the order of the day, although some did work well, like Inferno.

The Time Monster sees the return of Roger Delgado as The Master, Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Richard Franklin as Captain Mike Yates and of course Katy Manning as the companion Jo Grant.

This time around the Master is once again up to no good. Having pretty much taken over the Newton Research Unit. Under his pseudonym of Professor Thascalos he is experimenting with his TOMTIT (Transmission of Matter through Interstitial Time) in an attempt to gain control of Kronos, being of immense power, a Chronovore, who literally feeds off time. Kronos had been attracted to Earth once before by a crystal held in Atlantis. An accident with the machine rips the Atlantean high priest through time where the Master uses his crystal to summon Kronos.

Here, like a lot of Doctor Who, the writers have taken great licence with some original myths, placing the Minotaur in Atlantis, rather than his original home in the maze created by Daedalus and Icarus for the Cretan King Minos - possibly he was on holiday.

The Time Monster comes with the usual bag of goodies, including a full length commentary with John Levene, Susan Penhaligon, producer Brian Letts, Marion McDougal (production assistant), Graham Duff, Phil Ford, Joe Lister and James Moran. The whole cacophony is kept to a reasonable level by moderator Toby Hadoke.

Between Now... and Now (23 min, 40 sec) has Professor Jim Al Khalili looking at the science behind the show, with contributions from Barry Letts, Katy Manning and Richard Franklin.

Restoration Comparison (3 min, 24 sec) does exactly what it says on the box with a quick before and after of the print.

All three discs come with the usual photo galleries, the coming soon (The Creature from the Pit) , the PDF stuff and subtitled production notes.

I’m not really sure what the writer and director were thinking when they produced this story. Don’t get me wrong it’s not all bad, it just feels like a mishmash of ideas slung together into a romp which makes little sense when looked at more objectively. For a start why would the Master, with a working Tardis, bother to hatch his plan just a few miles down the road from where the Doctor was working, rather than travel back to Atlantis, or even a time when he knew the Doctor was not on earth? It smacks of those villains which spend so much time telling the hero what the evil plan is that he is easily overcome.

The pace of the show isn’t bad and all the actors do what they can with the material, but there is some indefinable something missing from the story which failed to engage me. Still those guys, at the Doctor Who Restoration Team have done a great in resurrecting the old girl and whilst it is true that the picture is soft its better than no picture at all.

Underworld (7-28 January 1978) moves the set away from its fascination with the Minotaur and plagiarises, instead, the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece. Tom Baker stars in this four part drama, this time written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, directed by Norman Stewart.

The Time Lords interactions with the Minyans did not have a favourable outcome when the race used the technology obtained to start a bloody and terminal civil war. Only two ships made it out of the holocaust: the P7E, which held the races genetic banks, enough to repopulate a planet and a second ship, the R1C, which was sent to search for P7E when contact was lost.

The Doctor and Leela (Louise Jameson) find themselves on the second ship heading for the outer reaches of the universe. Following the original signal the ship runs into trouble when debris collects around its hull threatening to bury it, a fate which seems to have happened to the P7E, which now forms the core of a small planetoid. The society which has evolved is in thraldom to the ships computer, with the descendants of the crew having been reduced to the status of slaves.

For this little outing we have a full length commentary from Tom Baker, Louise Jameson and Bob Baker.

Into the Unknown (30 min, 44 sec) looks at the extensive use of blue screen for the show, some of which worked well. Although the overall effect will look odd to a modern audience it was an impressive technical achievement for its time.

Underworld - In Studio (17 min, 31 sec) has time coded film recording of the actual filming of the show, which shows that things do not always go as smoothly as one would presume?

What is good about Underworld is also what is bad about it. I suppose that someone had to dive into making virtual environments with blue screen, but what was impressive all those years ago has some decidedly dodgy moments about it. Still, the acting is strong enough to carry the audience over this hump of disbelief and generally the totality of the show is pretty satisfying.

The Horns of Nimon (22 December 1979 - 12 January 1980) is a four part Tom Baker story, written by Anthony Read and directed by Kenny McBain, this time featuring a creature, the Nimon, who bears more than a passing resemblance to a Minotaur.

The once proud and mighty Skonnan Empire is in steep decline, by the arrival of a single Nimon with its promise of power which would resurrect the empire is too great for this warlike people. Hidden within its labyrinth it demands sacrifices of the young in return for its help. When the Doctor, Romana (Lalla Ward) and K9 discover a manufactured black hole they suspect that something is amiss. It isn’t long before they discover that The Nimon is just the vanguard of an invasion of creatures which travel from world to world stripping them of their resources before moving on to the next.

The Horns of Nimon has a commentary with Lalla Ward, Janet Ellis, Graham Crowden and Anthony Read.

Who Peter - Partners in Time (29 min, 58 sec) which looks back at the relationship the show had with Blue Peter, lots of clips and interviews for your delectation here.

Read the Writer (6 min, 30 sec) has Anthony Read looking back at the making of the show.

Peter Howell Music Demos (2 min, 59 sec) showcase the only known copy of a set of possible replacements for the show's signature tune.

The last story is probably the better of the three, although it retains its connection to myth, this is used as only one element. It also sports the gloriously over the top performance by Graham Crowden, who seems to be trying to outdo Tom Baker at his own game and for the dads amongst you we also get to see Janet Ellis playing a young Teka.

It’s not a bad set, and the extras are up to the quality which we have come to expect. Apart from the fact that they all have their genesis in myths, I also suspect the relative strengths and weaknesses of the separate stories would have made them less of a priority purchase if produced individually. Still, it's a nice set at a reasonable price.


Charles Packer

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