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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who


Starring: Peter Davison
RRP: £20.42
Certificate: PG
Available 30 May 2011

When the TARDIS makes a forced landing during a meteor storm, the crew find themselves confronted by the remnants of the human race, trying to stay alive on a distant and inhospitable world. Although they try and help the victims of the storm they are mistaken for the mysterious enemy of the colony. The Doctor discovers that not only are the storms being directed, but that the inhabitants of Frontios are being dragged underground. Below ground a new horror awaits the Doctor and his friends...

Frontios is a four part, Peter Davison, story from season twenty-one. The show was originally broadcast between 26 January and 03 February 1984. Frontios was directed by Ron Jones from a Christopher Bidmead script and was his last televised script.

For the time it was made Frontios was another case of a great script, not being well served by the limited budget of the show. The dialogue is deftly written and the overall story does build to a convincing portrayal of a colony on the edge of destruction. What the show couldn’t do was disguise that it was filmed on a stage with very few supporting actors, given the amount of people on show; the colony had already fallen below a survivable number.

It is not unusual for a Who story to start with the Doctor and his companions, this time Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding) and Vislor Turlough (Mark Strickson), being mistaken for the bad guys. Here the rational is that the colony has never met their attackers, so paranoia has become rampant amongst the survivors. Both Plantagenet (Jeff Rawle) and Brazen (Peter Gilmore) view the trio in this light. There is also another tradition that the suspicion is pretty much done away with by the end of the first episode and so it is here.

The story has good supporting leads in Jeff Rawle (Drop the Dead Donkey) and Peter Gilmore (The Onedin Line). The show also has a bit of a grisly history, in the fact that the actor Peter Arne was originally to play Range, however following his murder the part went to William Lucas. The production designer hired for the show, Barrie Dobbins, committed suicide and had to be replaced by his assistant.

The DVD has a full length commentary featuring Peter Davison, Jeff Rawle, John Gillett, Eric Saward and Dick Mills. It's fine but I did miss the easy camaraderie and downright silliness of having Janet Fielding taking part.

The extras are not particularly extensive for this release, kicking off with Driven to Distraction (32 min, 53 sec) which is the usual retrospective from both cast and crew, featuring contributions from Davison, Strickson, Rawle, Gillett. Bidmead, Saward and designer David Buckingham. Apart for the healthy dose of extended and deleted scenes (15 min, 38 sec), the rest of the disc is filled with the standard options such as photos, PDF’s, Isolated music, subtitles and production subs and the Coming Soon for The Gunfighters (1 min, 46 sec) and Earthstory which isn’t a Doctor Who story. It doesn’t help that the visuals are from The Awakening (1984), very confusing.

So the show scores high on the script and the acting and low on the scope they could achieve on a meagre budget. The main villains, the Tractators, are not too bad for the era, the show had seen worse. Their realisation was averagely good.


Charles Packer

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