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Doctor Who: The Dalek War boxset

01/01/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Doctor Who: The Dalek War boxset in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: The Dalek War boxset in the UK

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region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD 2614. 4 DVDs 283 minutes 2 stories, 6 episodes each, with extras. Price: about GBP 10.00 (UK) if you know where to look.

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Doctor Who: Frontier In Space: 143 minutes 6 episodes with extras

stars: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning and Roger Delgado

The TARDIS in hyperspace nearly collides with an Earth cargo spaceship before materialising inside it instead. When the spaceship is attacked apparently by Draconians, the Doctor (actor Jon Pertwee) and his companion, Jo Grant (actress Katy Manning) are thought to be traitors or collaborators are sent to Earth. With the TARDIS stolen, they have little choice in the matter and have a hard time convincing anyone that it wasn’t the Draconians that attacked but the Ogrons. It is only with the arrival of the Master (actor Roger Delgado) that the Doctor realises the plan is to get the humans and the Draconians annihilating each other but who’s in the third force doing the manipulation? If you don’t know, then that’s spoiler territory.

The Draconians are really impressive looking aliens and an obvious influence on scriptwriter Joe Straczynski and the similarity to the Narn on ‘Babylon 5’ thirty years later is less of a coincidence. Listen to the nursery rhymes used by Jo Grant to resist the Master’s mind-control confirms this even more.

The audio commentary from producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks and actress Katy Manning conducted by Clayton Hickman is a nice topping to the DVD. You learn everything depends on money, the poor use of franchise at the time, Katy’s love of the Ogrons and her dream that her snazzy platform boots used in the final episodes be marketed for real would probably sell well today. Shoe manufacturers make note.

Of all the features on the second DVD, the strongest one has to be a biography of the late Roger Delgado which includes some performances from his non-Doctor Who material. He might be remembered for playing the Master but his back story and work showed how much more he did up to his untimely death.

There is also a feature of how the third Doctor was portrayed in British comicstrips. Although I might have missed out on ‘TV Comic’, as a reader of ‘Countdown’ and its successor ‘TV Action’, I could hardly miss out on them. It was certainly one of the best portrayals of Jon Pertwee in this format.

I’m not altogether sure it was wise having an examination of how we viewed the future and not getting it right from the view of future people is the way to go. That might just be me, though, preferring documentary to less tongue-in-cheek.

This story has a lot going for it, even if Barry Letts explains the original ending wasn’t quite as good as it could be. As the last story before Roger Delgado’s untimely death, it is highly significant for any Who fan to watch. It is also the lead in to the next story so it’s a good thing that it’s in the same boxset.

Planet Of The Daleks: 140 minutes 6 episodes with extras

stars: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Bernard Horsfall, Jane How, Prentis Hancock, Alan Tucker and Tim Preece

The Doctor (actor Jon Pertwee), having been blasted in ‘Frontier In Space’, is severely injured as he dematerialises the TARDIS and when it appears on another planet and the Time Lord’s worsening condition, Jo Grant (actress Katy Manning) goes out to seek help. The planet is a death trap of deadly plants but she finds a derelict spaceship and the remains of a Thal suicide mission to stop whatever the Daleks are planning. There’s also the added menace of the local invisible inhabitants and she’s told to stay out of sight as they go and get her friend.

The Doctor, meanwhile, recovers and discovers that something is rapidly absorbing the air from the TARDIS and after taking all measures possible finds he can’t stop it. Fortunately, the Thals remove the plants growing on the outside and rescues him. Although he has a hard time explaining that he is the same Doctor from their history, he didn’t go into explaining regeneration, that first aided them against the Daleks, he soon becomes an asset with what is going on. The Daleks have a plan to keep an army of Daleks hidden on the planet Spiridon in reserve for a future war. The plan ultimately becomes one of making sure that never happens although even he’s not sure how to achieve that.

This story is the first demonstration of how the TARDIS can restore the Doctor without stabilising a regeneration. We also see beds kept in drawers in the main control room. It is a puzzle how, considering its size, the TARDIS could run out of air but bearing in mind the plant-life connected to the door-way, it might have been absorbing the air faster than it could be generated inside. The real planet of the Daleks is actually Skaro as everyone knows. The planet Spiridon is several star systems from there. The Thals have only just gotten into space but still just about capable of getting that far. Actor Bernard Horsfall has been on ‘Doctor Who’ a couple times before now and in each regeneration of the Doctor up to this time. For those interested in Gerry Anderson series trivia, Prentis Hancock was in the first season of ‘Space: 1999’ and Alan Tucker appeared three times in different parts in ‘U.F.O.’.

There is no explanation as to how Jo Grant had the time to change clothes nor, come to that, the Doctor’s clothes change from green to purple unless his changed as the TARDIS’ air supply ran out. I did have some more thought on that. I mean, the TARDIS is far bigger on the inside than out and I doubt if the Doctor could use it all up on its own. As the TARDIS is still very much under the control of the Time Lords, they might have limited the air supply to ensure that he doesn’t stay stubborn and refuse to get out at a destination of their choosing.

The audio commentary gives more light to producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks’ need for credibility and why the new resurrection leaves plot hole questions which is a shame when it comes to allotropes of ice because allotropes happen with elements not with compounds. You might get ‘heavy water’ but it would still be water. Apart from them there, we also have the talkative but delightful Katy Manning, Tim Preece and Prentis Hancock. The latter doesn’t really say much and to be fair, I suspect there were just too many people at the commentary. Things aren’t helped that I heard the same story about Terry Nation coming back to ‘Doctor Who’ three times on this pair of DVDs which is a little bit over the top, although the audio commentary gives a bit more detail about the man himself and how he keeps increasing the perils of the characters.

The first of the extras on the second DVD, still using future people looking in on our past notes the basic plot of ‘Planet Of The Daleks’ was the same one used by Terry Nation with his first story, ‘The Daleks’, although dressed a little differently and more action. Although I agree with the observation, there’s enough changes to see them as different stories. The rest explore the colourisation of episode three and the making of the story. There is also a look at ‘The Daleks’ comicstrips as shown in ‘TV Century 21’ comic and how they gained dimension thanks to writer David Whitaker. I’m always amazed that outside of the ‘Classic Dr. Who’ reprint of the 1990s, there hasn’t been a softcover release of them. Makes you wonder if Terry Nation’s Estate is putting too high a price on them or it hasn’t occurred to any publisher yet. They certainly deserve a softcover.

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