Doctor Who – Dalek War DVDs

And so to the classic Doctor Who DVDs again. I’ve almost caught up with the pile now, which is just as well, as there are loads coming in the next few months. This set of two consecutive stories, starring Jon Pertwee as the Doctor and Katy Manning as Jo Grant were first shown between February and May 1973, and are both on the long side at six episodes each. Each comes in its own standard DVD case, with a slipcase to hold them together.

Frontier in Space

This is notable for being the last appearance of Roger Delgado as the Master. Wanting to move on to other projects, he’d asked to be written out of the series, and apparently something suitable was planned, but sadly, he was killed in a car crash before that could happen.

The story is a moderately typical Master-type Cunning Plan[1]. This time, he’s trying to provoke war between Earth and Draconia, by means of a hypnotic device that makes people (human and Draconian) see his Ogron agents as what he wants them to see. So, the crews of Earth ships think they’ve been attacked by Draconians, and Draconians think they’ve been attacked by Earth ships, which sounds rather like a couple of James Bond movies, but never mind. Lots of running around, getting arrested, being locked up and escaping follows before the Master’s real intentions are revealed – he’s working for the Daleks[3] who want to take advantage of the chaos caused by the war and take over both empires. The plot is revealed, and war prevented, but the Doctor is injured in the process, and Jo helps him into the TARDIS…

Special features include something which I’ll come to when I talk about the second DVD in the set, and:

  • The Space War – The now-traditional look back at the making of the story
  • Roger Delgado: The Master – an affectionate biography of the actor, featuring loads of people from Doctor Who and elsewhere. Good stuff
  • Stripped for Action: The Third Doctor – another in the occasional series on the Doctor’s comic-strip adventures
  • The usual production subtitles, commentary, pictures and stuff

Planet of the Daleks

The TARDIS materialises in a singularly nasty jungle, with the Doctor in a recuperative coma. Jo decides to do the sensible thing and go for a walk in the jungle in search of help. After getting herself infected with a deadly fungus, she meets the natives of the planet Spiridon. The natives have the ability to make themselves invisible (presumably so the fungus and other nice jungly things can’t see them), and this has attracted the attention of the Daleks, who have apparently decided that they’d be much more successful at extermination if the people they were exterminating couldn’t see them coming. Of course, they’d have to learn to stop screaming “Exterminate” and “Daleks conquer and destroy” when they’re approaching people, so the invisibility thing might not have helped that much.

The plot thickens when some Thals are found to be on the planet, too. The last time we saw the Thals (the other race on Skaro, where the Daleks came from), they were quite nice pacifists. It seems they’ve given up on that and are out to, err, exterminate the Daleks. Much of the usual fun and games follows, with a huge Dalek army ending up being buried by an ice volcano. And no, I’m not sure about that either. The main criticism of the story is that it’s very much a recycling of the first Dalek story from nearly ten years earlier, but it’s still good fun. The Daleks are as bonkers as ever, so it’s not so bad…

Special features include that extra something I mentioned earlier, and:

  • The Rumble in the Jungle Cast and crew look back at the making of the story in the usual way
  • Multi-colourisation – Pure techie magic. Episode three only existed in a black and white recording, but it was discovered that colour data could be extracted from what seemed like noise in the recording. Or something. Look, it’s quite complicated, very clever, and if you didn’t know it had been restored, you’d never guess. With any luck, this kind of stuff will allow the magicians Restoration Team to let us have a fully-restored version of The Daemons before too long.
  • Stripped for Action: The Daleks – Another in that series. There were actually Dalek comic strips without the Doctor – I have vague memories of reading some as a child, mumble years ago….
  • Bits from Blue Peter about a couple of stolen Daleks, and the usual bits and pieces

Perfect Scenario: Last Frontier / The End of Dreams

This slightly unusual extra, in two parts split over these DVDs is a sort dramatised look at Doctor Who in the context of its time, from the perspective of a point in the future. Err, what? Well, imagine a kind of Matrix-inspired future, where due to a shortage of oxygen, most of humanity is kept in stasis where their minds are fed dreams. Much like watching TV, but without having to keep your eyes open. A “scenariosmith” is looking for fresh ideas, and decided to plunder the past (see, it is just like TV) for inspiration. He sees archive interviews from our time, and from later in the 21st century, where the creators of later versions of Doctor Who look back at the 1970s version, and yes, it does all get a bit confusing, as there’s a mixture of real people talking about real shows and fictional characters talking about much the same things with the benefit of a few decades more hindsight.

It’s a bit odd and doesn’t really make that much sense, but it’s worth watching once for the interviews. And maybe watching again to convince yourself you didn’t imagine the whole thing the first time.

[1] Of the kind that generally goes badly wrong for all concerned, particularly the Master himself[2]
[2] And as anyone who’s seen The End of Time will know, some things never change
[3] The presence of their friendly sidekicks the Ogrons was a bit of a hint here…