01/02/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
region 2 DVD: pub: BBC 1033. 1 DVD 97 minutes 4 * 25 minute episodes with extras. Price: about £ 5.00 (UK) if you know where to look) stars: Jon Pertwee, Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney and Hugh Burden.
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After watching 'The War Games', it was too much of a temptation not to go on and watch the first of the new regeneration with actor Jon Pertwee's tenure as the Doctor. If anything, Pertwee's regeneration becomes the template for all the regenerations that followed. Confusion and learning to come to terms with the new body as his personality reasserts itself.
Apart from introducing the new Doctor, 'Spearhead From Space' is a first for many things. 'Doctor Who' starts 1970 in full colour - although I didn't see it that way until a few years into the future - and the first appearance of the Nestene Intelligence that controls the Autons. Compared to the Eccleston regeneration five years back, the Nestene plan here was a lot more insidious. None of it, incidentally, was filmed at the BBC studios owing to a strike. The story also gave details of the Doctor's physiology with his twin hearts, unusual blood type and slow metabolism, which was later written up in 'The Making Of Doctor Who' by Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks. The Doctor was becoming less of an enigma as we came to know more about his background. It also introduced new companion, Liz Shaw (actress Caroline John), already newly hired for her scientific knowledge and ultimately second fiddle to the Doctor's expertise when he arrives.
While the Doctor is recovering from his regeneration and discovering himself Earth-bound for the foreseeable future by the Time Lords, a massive meteorite shower was delivering the Nestenes to Earth. Six months earlier, an advance squad had arrived and taken over a plastics factory where they were building full-size tailor's dummies for the High Street and specials to replace key people in British Government and military forces. It does make you wonder why the head of British UNIT, Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart (actor Nicholas Courtney) wasn't on that list. Then again, he was needed to make sense of just who the new Doctor was and could only identify him by the TARDIS, which is promptly taken to UNIT HQ. After discovering how trapped he was, the Doctor comes into his own with devising the weapon that would defeat the Nestene Intelligence and probably his first act of deliberate murder. Mind you, unless he did it, the Nestenes would have won. Their weaponry was on par, if not greater than the Cybermen, and the Autons were practically indestructible.
This is a great introduction for the new Doctor and a fast-neck story. The audio commentary by Nicholas Courtney and Caroline John shows an interesting contrast as she admits to little interest in SF although getting into the story but gives a lot more insight into the TV business. This was her first TV show, largely getting an audition after a lot of theatre work by having a photograph taken in a bikini. Courtney also explains about his own family being in the real military and his lack of interest in that area although his character part probably ended up out-ranking them all.
There are few extras with this DVD. A descent photo gallery with a scattering of BBC announcement trailers plus a promotional reel for those of you who are eager to join UNIT and risk death facing a variety of alien foes. This is a great story to get your teeth into and see Jon Pertwee settling into the role and make it his own.
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