New Doctor Who DVDs, December 2017 (Part 2)

The Shada DVD arrived on the 21st, and a nice box of DVDs landed from Amazon UK today. Everything’s here now except for The Dominators, which was shipped separately and should’ve been here on Friday. Hopefully it’ll get here tomorrow. If not, it’ll either be after Christmas, or it’s gone missing in the post.

Update: The Dominators arrived in the very first post after Christmas, so everything’s here now. I’m very happy with this massive stack of classic Doctor Who DVDs, which should keep me super-glued to the telly for weeks to come. The best Christmas pressies I’ve had in a while, even if I had to buy them for myself. 🙂

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New Doctor Who DVDs, December 2017 (Part 1)

I haven’t bought any DVDs in a while now due to the ongoing money being a bit tight situation. But it’s coming up to Christmas, and I have to get my Christmas pressies sorted out. So guess what I’ve ordered myself for Christmas? Yeah, a bunch of classic series Doctor Who DVDs, that’s what. They’ve been dispatched, and are on their way. I reckon I’ll have them Friday, or Saturday at the latest. Here’s what will be in Santa’s Christmas sack for poor ol’ Phil.

  • The Rescue & The Romans (boxset) [Hartnell]
  • The Reign of Terror [Hartnell]
  • The Sensorites [Hartnell]
  • Planet of Giants [Hartnell]
  • The Time Meddler [Hartnell]
  • The Underwater Menace [Troughton]
  • The Enemy of the World [Troughton]
  • The Krotons [Troughton]
  • The Dominators [Troughton]
  • The War Games [Troughton]
  • Shada [DVD] [2017] [Tom Baker]
  • Shada LIMITED EDITION Blu-ray [2017] [Region Free] [Tom Baker]

That’s five Hartnells (actually six, as The Rescue and The Romans are two separate stories in one boxset), five Troughtons and two Tom Bakers (well, one story, but both the DVD and the limited steelbox blu-ray edition of the new release of Shada). Aside from the two Bakers, the others are all 1960s black & white stories, which, as far as I’m aware, completes all of the black & white releases, with the exception of The Gunfighters, on the Earth Story DVD boxset.

Since I started collecting classic Doctor Who DVDs many moons ago, I’ve been working my way up slowly from the beginning of the series to the end, and, as I’ve said, I’ve now more or less completed all of the 60s black & white stories. Next step is to move onto the colour classics and complete the entire run of Jon Pertwee stories, but I’ll leave that until the New Year, when (if) I manage to get the finances sorted out. I already have most of the Pertwee and Tom Baker stories on DVD, but I still need a handful of each to complete their runs. Then onto Peter Davison.

I don’t care so much about the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy eras. I’ve already got my favourite stories from those (I only really liked two or three from each), but I’ll probably eventually get the rest, just to complete the collection. But to be honest, I never really much liked 90% of the output during those two eras. The first five Doctors was where it was at, story wise, as far as I’m concerned.

Happy 52nd Birthday Doctor Who!!!

It was on this day, fifty-two years ago, that the very first ever episode of Doctor Who, An Unearthly Child, was broadcast by BBC One, on the evening of Saturday, 23rd November, 1963. The world of television sci-fi would never be the same again.

This story introduces us for the very first time to a strange, mysterious young girl Susan Foreman (played by Carole Ann Ford) and her even stranger grandfather (played by William Hartnell), who both turn out to be aliens, from somewhere else in time and space. This strange old man would later become known to all of us as the very first Doctor, albeit a much more abrasive, alien, and less cuddly Doctor than most of his successors. We also get to meet the two unwilling new human companions, Ian Chesterton (played by William Russell) and Barbara Wright (played by Jacqueline Hill), who are to become not only the eyes and ears of the audience on the adventures with the Doctor and Susan, but also the very close friends of the two alien central characters.

The first episode of this four-parter is an excellent piece of television, and very different in tone to everything that comes afterward. To a viewer back in 1963, it would’ve been a strange story indeed, as they would’ve had absolutely no idea who the old man and his granddaughter were, what they were doing living in a police telephone box in an old junkyard, or what the hell was going on in general. The new viewer would’ve been just as curious and mystified as Ian and Barbara, as they stepped onto the TARDIS for the first time, taking a huge leap sideways into the twilight zone (if you’ll pardon the obvious pun).

We’d all have been just as shocked and confused as both frightened schoolteachers are at the end of the first episode, as they are whisked off (kidnapped is nearer the truth) into time and space on their very first adventure with the Doctor and Susan. To the jaded modern audience, all of this is probably no big deal nowadays, but back then, there was absolutely nothing like it on British television. What must it have been like watching that for the very first time? It must’ve been an incredible experience.

I didn’t get to see An Unearthly Child until almost twenty years after it was first televised, when it was first repeated on BBC Two, in November 1981. I was much too young to have seen it back in 1963, only a little nipper, really – the third episode, “The Forest of Fear”, was aired on my third birthday, 7th December 1963. It would be another two or three years after that before I would be old enough to start noticing Doctor Who on television, and my very earliest vague memories of the series come from about 1965-66. Ever since then, the show has been a life-long obsession of mine, and today I could never conceive how my life would ever have been without Doctor Who in it. But I’m so envious of those old codgers who do remember watching the very first ever episode way back on that cold November evening in 1963.

So I’d like to finish off by wishing my very favourite sci-fi series of all time a VERY Happy 52nd Birthday. And long may it continue.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DOCTOR WHO!!!!.

Doctor Who – The Beginning (DVD Box Set)

The Beginning UK DVD

Recently, I decided to conduct an interesting experiment in total immersion in classic Doctor Who, go right back to where it all started, and start watching my Doctor Who DVDs in order, starting with the earliest episodes first.

Well, you can’t get any earlier than The Beginning three-disk DVD Box Set, which contains the first three Doctor Who adventures, starring (of course) William Hartnell as the First Doctor, his granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford), and the very first companions, Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill).

The Beginning is an excellent box set, and the three stories it contains – the first thirteen episodes of the classic series – are, fortunately, complete, with no episodes missing. It’s the fourth Doctor Who adventure, Marco Polo, before we run up against the first of the Missing Episodes. Unfortunately this classic Doctor Who historical adventure is entirely missing from the BBC Archives, although it still exists in audio format.

The Beginning US DVD

The three stories in the box set – An Unearthly Child, The Daleks and The Edge of Destruction – lay the foundations of everything that came afterwards, from the first appearance of the mysterious Doctor and his granddaughter, to the first appearance of his most iconic adversaries, the Daleks. There are also quite a few fascinating featurettes on the three DVDs, a few of them oriented around the behind-the-scenes developments during those dim and distant days when the series was first created. Fascinating stuff!

I will be posting my thoughts here in this blog about each individual story as I watch the DVDs. I would also recommend that anyone who considers themselves a serious Doctor Who fan should do the same as I’m doing, and watch these earliest episodes, in sequence, maybe one a day to get more of the feel of their original appearance on television. Sure, these old stories can be a bit slow and are radically different from modern frenetically-paced Doctor Who, but they’re also the well from which all modern Doctor Who springs.

I find these early classics absolutely fascinating, both as television and as historical artifacts, and I strongly believe that they are required viewing for all true Doctor Who fans.

Another Doctor Who Night In (Part Four)

Last time out, I mentioned having a nice evening in watching a couple of classic Doctor Who DVDs, namely the first and third stories from Season 16’s Key to Time sequence, The Ribos Operation and The Stones of Blood. I’ve already given my views on The Ribos Operation, So, on now to The Stones of Blood.

The Stones of Blood has always been, by far, my favourite story from the Key to Time sequence, and is one of my Top 3 from the Graham Williams era. It features an excellent script by David Fisher, and a great cast, with particularly strong performances not only by the regular cast, but by fantastic supporting characters Professor Emilia Rumford (played by Beatrix Lehmann) and Vivien Fay/Cessair of Diplos (played by Susan Engel).

I found the aliens in this story to be pretty interesting. I loved the idea that the Ogri (the Stones in the title of the story) were a silicon-based lifeform that fed on blood. A pretty good variation on the vampire theme. I really wish the Ogri had made a reappearance in the series, rather than being “one-hit wonders”. Likewise the alien justice machines, the Megara. And the Cailleach, the Celtic goddess who is actually 3,000 year-old alien escaped prisoner Cessair of Diplos, who carries the Great Seal of Diplos, which is actually the next section of the Key to Time, and who also controls the Ogri. And the alien prison ship itself, which is in hyperspace, but which also happens to occupy the exact same space in our world as that between the stones. Entertaining and fascinating sci-fi concepts – this story is positively overflowing with them.

There’s even the almost-compulsory cult, led by their crazy High Priest (de Vries), who worship and serve the Cailleach. Doctor Who seems to have an obsession with taking pokes at cults and religions, which is all fine by me, as I tend to share those views. As a matter of fact, there are TWO stories featuring cults in the Key to Time sequence, the other one being the hilarious Swampies in The Power of Kroll. The scene where the cult are about to sacrifice the Doctor also gives us one of the best lines in the series, as Tom Baker looks up at de Vries, who has a knife raised in the air, and says “I hope that knife has been properly sterilised”. Cracking line! 🙂

Overall, The Stones of Blood is a fantastic story, full of inventive ideas, good acting, and which moves along at a cracking pace. It’s one of the very few Doctor Who stories from the Graham Williams era that I’d argue holds its own against the classic Hinchcliffe era of the series. Great stuff!

Another Doctor Who Night In (Part Three)

Last night I had another Doctor Who DVD-watching session, swinging back to the Tom Baker Doctor again. I watched a couple of Graham Williams-produced stories from his second season, this time concentrating on two of the tales from the Season 16 Key to Time sequence, the first and third stories respectively, The Ribos Operation and The Stones of Blood. I’ll give my views on The Ribos Operation this time out, and leave The Stones of Blood for the next post.

The Ribos Operation is a pretty decent story, if a little slow and lacking in excitement. The main plus points are the strong script and excellent cast. There is a new main supporting character and companion joining the Doctor and K-9 Mark II (voiced by John Leeson), in the form of the elegant and gorgeous Mary Tamm as Time Lady Romana. We also have the first appearance of an occasional recurring character, the White Guardian (played by Cyril Luckham). The rest of the supporting cast was also very capable, with particularly strong performances from the two lovable rogues Garron and Unstoffe (played by Iain Cuthbertson and Nigel Plaskitt), the main bad guy’s right-hand man Sholakh (played by Robert Keegan), and the old hermit Binro (played by Timothy Bateson). I really liked the exchanges between Unstoffe and Binro.

The negative cast performances stem mostly from the almost compulsory late-Tom Baker/Williams era failing of overly-melodramatic and ham acting from some actors. The Spam Awards for this story go, in particular, to The Seeker (played by Anne Tirard) and the annoyingly exaggerated cartoon villain/insane galactic ex-tyrant ruler the Graff Vynda-K (played by Paul Seed). This type of pantomime acting has always been one of the things that I find really irritating in Doctor Who, and I really do consider it the bane of the classic series.

And then there’s Prentis Hancock, playing the Shrieve Captain. Prentis is a lovely bloke, but every time I’ve seen him in any television role (and I’ve seen him in quite a few), he seems to play the same brooding, angry, unsociable stereotype. I dunno whether he’s just been typecast in that role, or it’s simply because he’s lazy and is comfortable playing the same part over and over again, but I don’t recall ever seeing him do any other character than the same stereotype that he’s played so many times in Doctor Who and elsewhere. Even as a regular cast member on Space: 1999, most of the time he seemed to be playing a barely slightly more mellow version of the same grumpy, permanently angry character.

Last but not least, let’s not forget this story’s scary monster, the Shrievenzale, which was about as scary as Kermit the Frog, if you ask me. In other words, complete crap. The Shrievenzale is one of those Doctor Who monsters which is very dodgy-looking and barely any better than the infamous Myrka from Warriors of the Deep.

Still, aside from those few small quibbles, I quite enjoyed The Ribos Operation. Next time out, I’ll be giving my views on The Stones of Blood.

Another Doctor Who Night In (Part Two)

In my last post I detailed my latest recent DVD-watching binge of Doctor Who stories, the recent choices all being Tom Baker stories. Last night I watched a couple more Doctor Who stories, switching this time to Jon Pertwee and the two Auton classics, Spearhead from Space (Special Edition) and Terror of the Autons, as featured on the Mannequin Mania DVD box set.

Spearhead from Space is one of my favourite Pertwee stories. When Jon Pertwee fell out of the TARDIS, almost exactly one month after my ninth birthday, I wasn’t too pleased. I’d been a Pat Troughton fan since I first started really paying attention to Doctor Who back in 1966 or so, at the young age of five-going-six years old. Up until that point in my life, he was the only Doctor I’d known, as I’d been too young to really remember Hartnell, although I’d doubtless seen a few of his as well, and had a view brief flashes and memory fragments of several stories.

So when Troughton left, and this new guy, Pertwee, took over, I was not a happy camper. But that mood didn’t last for long. By the end of the first episode of Spearhead, I’d completely forgotten about Troughton, and Pertwee was now most definitely The Doctor in my eyes. The sheer excellence of the story itself greatly eased the transition, and at that tender age, I found the concept of the Nestene Consciousness, and in particular the Autons, very scary and unnerving. For years afterwards, I was extremely nervous whenever I walked past any department store window. My young imagination already had the shop front dummies ready to smash through the windows and grab me. 🙂

Terror of the Autons is also a good story, but it never quite had the same impact on me as Spearhead from Space, although to this day, I still hate plastic flowers, plastic chairs and telephone cables. 🙂 The Autons in this one (except for the cops) weren’t quite as frightening as those in Spearhead. With their massive heads and their circus background, they looked faintly silly and ridiculous, although the fight sequences with the UNIT troops were excellent.

However, this was the story that first introduced The Master, played by the late, great Roger Delgado, who quickly became a great favourite of mine. For that reason alone Terror of the Autons will always hold a fond spot in my heart. The story also introduced the new companion, cute and cuddly Jo Grant, played by Katy Manning, who joined Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Captain Yates, Corporal Benton and the rest of the UNIT cast, and who was to be at Pertwee’s side for the next three years of his run on the show. The classic and much-lauded “UNIT family” was now well and truly in place to usher in a new and one of the most fondly-remembered periods in the show’s history.

Overall, another cracking night’s viewing on the Doctor Who front.