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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
The Visitation (Special Edition)


Starring: Peter Davison
RRP: £20.42
Certificate: PG
Available 06 May 2013

Following one of the Doctors, seemingly endless, attempts at returning Tegan to Heathrow Airport, the TARDIS and her crew land in 17th Century England, only to discover that they are not the only spacecraft that has made an unexpected stop. Terileptil‘s and their bejewelled android have taken up residence in the local manor house intent on releasing a plague which will wipe all life off the planet. With the help of a local highwayman and coward, Richard Mace, the Doctor races against time to track down the main base in Pudding Lane, London...

The Visitation was the fourth story in season nineteen; staring Peter Davison (The Doctor), with Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan) and the much maligned Matthew Waterhouse (Adric). The story was written by Eric Saward and directed by Peter Moffatt.

There is a continuing thread through all the Doctors, including the modern incarnation that somehow he is involved in some of the most important events in human history, although he probably deserves to offer an apology for starting the Great Fire of London. This historical element was a part off the show’s original reason for being and if it hadn’t been for the introduction of the Daleks, very early on, the show may have withered and died as a flawed, if interesting, experiment in trying to combine fantasy with history, however the show's own history had its own ideas.

Still, it remained an important element which all the Doctors have revisited. There is another reason that historical shows may have been of interest to the production team, at times of economic tightening, not that the show was ever blessed with an overabundance of money, the show could rent a manor house and raid the BBC’s costume department, a much cheaper idea than having to build sets of some imagined future city, even if they all seemed to consist of endless corridors.

As it happens Visitation isn’t a bad story. The villains are interesting with costumes which included an early version of animatronic lips, which helped the character to emote more than usual. The real jewel in the crown is Michael Robbins (Richard Mace), who for many years had appeared in On The Buses. He plays his character with so much joyful ham that at the end of the four episodes you could have reconstituted the whole pig.

The story is notable for not featuring the TARDIS crew in the opening sequence, something which is not usual and sets the scene for something odd happening with first strange lights in the sky, before the whole family is killed by the android. This is also the story when it was felt that the Doctor was able to get out of too many scrapes with the use of his sonic screwdriver, so they destroyed it.

The story remained a fan favourite, in part because the script is pretty perfect, but also because the show contained a high level of outside filming, which meant the use of film stock, rather than the slightly less sharp video work from the studio shoot.

The story is presented on a two DVD set. The first disc contains the four episodes with commentary by Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Matthew Waterhouse, Sarah Sutton and director Peter Moffatt. The commentaries for Davison’s seasons are always worth listening to, as they contain equal amounts of insider information and self-deprecating humour.

The extras on the first disc consist of Film Trims (5 min, 33 sec) having both deleted and extended portions of the story. The next three cover the creation of the story with, Directing Who – Peter Moffatt (26 min, 15 sec) which covers all the stories he directed. Writing a Final Visitation (12 min, 52 sec) with Eric Saward recalling the making of the script who is fairly honest about what worked and what didn’t between the writing and the actual show. Lastly we have Scoring The Visitation (16 min, 20 sec) with Paddy Kingsland discussing the blends of modern and 17th century music used in the show.

Disc two moves us forward with even more extras. Grim Tales (45 min, 10 sec) is one elongated reminisce about the show with Davison, Sutton and Fielding, mediated by Mark Strickson wandering around the show's outdoor locations, desperately trying to remember what they were doing twenty years ago, they do repeat some of the information in the commentary, but the chemistry between the actors is still there making it a delight to watch. It also includes asides from surviving actors and crew.

The Television Centre of the Universe – Part One (32 min, 13 sec). Well, if you’ve wandered around the countryside talking about the show why not a companion piece about their memories of filming in Television Centre, presented by Yvette Fielding from Blue Peter, past members of the crew pop up to discuss their own memories.

Doctor Forever – The Apocalypse Element (27 min, 29 sec) has the great and good discussing the Doctor’s survival in other media, predominantly in the audio plays created by Big Finish, including the threat of piracy and how Big Finish survived the creation of the modern show.

The disc wraps with the usual PDF files and the Coming Soon (1 min, 04 sec) for the very excellent Inferno.

Overall, a good show with strong characterisation and character interplay. The excess of filmed elements gives the show a look which belies its limited budget, even though the historical coincidences seem a little contrived now.


Charles Packer

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