Daily Archives: Thursday, 6th Jul 2006

Doctor Who – Inferno

No, I haven’t quite got round to the backlog of episode reviews. This is the most recent DVD release, and it’s another fine package from the restoration team. Inferno was first shown in 1970, at the end of Jon Pertwee’s first year as the Doctor. At the time, the production team were working along lines laid down by their predecessors – the Doctor was stuck on Earth[1] and longer stories were in – up to seven 25-minute episodes, which in many cases was a wee bit too long. When you compare that with the pace of the current series, where a “long” story is just two 45-minute episodes, you can see that things have changed a wee bit over the last few decades…

But enough of the preamble. What’s this one all about, then? A secret project is under way to drill through the Earth’s crust and (according to the project’s leader) release a boundless source of energy. So we know from the start that something nasty is going to happen. And we’re not disappointed. The Doctor and his assistant Liz Shaw have been sent to the project as observers. The Doctor has taken over a disused building and is attempting to repair the Tardis, using the site’s nuclear reactor to provide power. For reasons that are not altogether clear, he has removed the Tardis console and is trying to get that to work independently[2].

Things start to go wrong soon enough – something nasty leaks from the drill pipes, and exposure to it transforms a technician into a rather odd looking primitive form – later called a Primord. When a man is killed, the Brigadier arrives to investigate.

The Doctor tries to stop the project, realising that it will destroy the planet, but he is rebuffed by the project leader.

Returning to his Tardis experiments, he finds himself transported to a parallel world[3], where things are very similar but dangerously different. Britain is a Fascist dictatorship (Nicholas Courtney has great fun being the Nazi version of his character, complete with duelling scar and eyepatch) and the drilling project is much further along, and there are more Primords around.

It’s too late to save the parallel world, which ends up being destroyed when the drill goes too deep. But the Doctor manages to return to the original project just in time to save the day, in the usual manner.

Good fun, some nice drama and tension. The Primords look a bit silly, but that’s forgiveable given the constraints of time and budget in those days.

Extra features include the ubiquitous and useful on-screen production text, and:

  • Can you hear the Earth scream? – nicely detailed 35 minute “making of” documentary, which confirmed my suspicions that somebody had been reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s “When the Earth Screamed”
  • The UNIT Family [Part One] – another 35 minute documentary, this time about the role of the Brigadier and the UNIT mob’s role in the series up to Inferno. More bits to follow on a future DVD, apparently
  • Visual Effects promo – short, very dated, clip about the BBC Visual Effects Department

And there are some other bits and bobs, too. Two DVDs – feature on one disk, extras on the other. If you’re not a major fan, you might not want to bother with this one (certainly not at the list price of around £20), but online prices make it a bargain.

[1] Quite a nice planet in many ways, but you wouldn’t want to stay there :uhoh:
[2] You may well think that this makes no sense at all. I couldn’t possibly comment :shh:
[3] See, there was a good reason for talking about this DVD first. I’ll be getting back to parallel worlds later…