DVD
Dr Who Collector's Edition (Two Discs)

Starring: Peter Cushing
Warner Home Video
RRP 24.99
D038470
Certificate: U
Available now

 


Scientist Dr. Who's new invention - TARDIS - transports him, his grand-daughters Barbara and Susan, and Barbara's boyfriend Ian to an alien planet devastated by nuclear war. There they encounter mutated metal monsters: the Daleks! TARDIS's second trip is no less terrifying, carrying Dr. Who, his niece Louise, Susan and a hapless policeman called Tom Campbell to the year 2150, where the travellers find that the Earth has been invaded by Daleks...

No, that's not a typo. I really did abbreviate "Doctor Who" to "Dr. Who"! That's because in these two theatrical movies from 1965 and 1966 respectively, Peter Cushing does not play the alien Doctor of the famous BBC television series, whose real name is still the subject of some debate, but an eccentric human inventor whose surname really is Who.

The tone of both movies is considerably lighter than that of the black-and-white William Hartnell serials upon which they are based. Cushing plays a far less severe Doctor than Hartnell, having more in common with later incarnations of the Time Lord. Additional light relief is provided in Dr. Who and the Daleks by Roy Castle as Ian, a pratfalling clumsy coward who makes good. Inheriting his comedic mantle in the second film, Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. is another BBC children's television stalwart, Bernard Cribbins, who earns a lot of audience sympathy as the personable PC Tom Campbell. Even so, the latter movie, with its devastated London and more murderous Daleks, is decidedly the bleaker of the two.

Both screenplays are extensively condensed from their source material, especially in the case of Dr. Who and the Daleks, which is adapted from a seven-part (that is, 175 minute) serial, The Daleks. The plots to the movies therefore unfold at a cracking pace, although 2150 A.D. seems less rushed, since it is based upon a rather sluggish six-parter, The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

Unfortunately, the high definition of Technicolor and Techniscope clearly reveals just how un-futuristic 2150 looks, even when you bear in mind that the planet has been ravaged by Daleks. Both the fashions and the signs on the London Underground are unmistakably of 1960s origin. One wonders why writer/co-producer Milton Subotsky didn't just have the Daleks invade 1966, or some less distant future. The "special" effects at the end of 2150 A.D. are also rather disappointing - the model of a burning building is far too small, and the flames are therefore clearly out of scale. Another design disaster was the decision to put eye shadow and false eyelashes on the Thal males in Dr. Who and the Daleks.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of spectacular visuals to be enjoyed, from the first movie's impressive metal city (the sets for which were actually made from plastic) to dangerous-looking stunts galore in the second film. The additional Dalekmania documentary on the first disc reveals just how dangerous a couple of those stunts actually were. The Daleks themselves have never looked better on screen.

The film prints retain a few marks and specks of dirt here and there, but generally they look very good for their age, and the conversion to DVD has retained an exceptional level of fine detail. Unlike on the American disc the cool pre-titles sequence of Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. is in its correct position before the opening credits!

Special features include two exciting trailers, DVD-ROM presentations of the original theatrical campaign brochures to both movies, an audio commentary for Dr. Who and the Daleks by Jennie Linden (Barbara) and Roberta Tovey (Susan), and the documentary Dalekmania. Directed by Kevin Davies, who also gave us the affectionate Thirty Years in the TARDIS, this 57-minute documentary truly captures the whimsical spirit of the Dalek movies. Watch out for an appearance by Davros himself - the late Michael Wisher - as a sinister cinema commissionaire.

This is an excellent presentation of two enjoyable family movies. As Cushing's Dr. Who might say, "highly advanced"!

Richard McGinlay


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