Doctor Who – The Caves of Androzani

This is the final DVD from that Revisitations set, and like the last one I mentioned, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, it was written by the excellent Robert Holmes. There may be other similarities, which I’ll come to…

This is a four-part story, starring Peter Davison in his last regular appearance as the Doctor, and Nicola Bryant as new companion Peri. It was first shown in March 1984, and has the reputation of being one of the best Doctor Who stories ever, including those from the revived series.

The Doctor and Peri become involved in a serious mess between a military force and androids made by Sharaz Jek, a masked madman (or so we’re told) living in some caverns[1]. The cause of the trouble is spectrox, a drug whose supply is controlled by Jek, and which is in great demand given its property of greatly extending human life. With the military trying to execute them, both of them poisoned by the quite lethal raw form of spectrox, Jek drooling over Peri in a blatant Phantom of the Opera tribute and a suitably evil business leader on the main planet, things are complicated and nasty…

And talking of nasty, this is one of those stories where pretty much everyone dies. The Doctor takes an enormous risk to get the antidote for the poison that’s slowly killing both Peri and him, but only has enough for one dose, and so he sacrifices himself to save someone he’s only just met, before regenerating into someone quite different. But that’s a different story altogether.

I’ve skated over the actual story here, because it’s one of those you actually need to see to make sense of – any summary wouldn’t do it justice, and I’d hate to do that. It is indeed seriously good, and provides a fitting send-off to the Fifth Doctor.

Once again, there’s a good selection of special features:

  • Behind the Scenes – the Regeneration Nice bit of in the studio stuff showing the recording of the regeneration, with a commentary from Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant and director Graeme Harper, which is good fun
  • Behind the Scenes – Creating Sharaz Jek Examining the motivations of Jek, who’s less of a villain and more of a victim than he appears. Includes audio recordings of Christopher Gable talking about playing Jek, and images from the recording.
  • Extended Scenes – Minor things, as always, but one does have a narration from Graeme Harper
  • News Reports – TV clips from when Peter Davison announced he was leaving the series
  • Chain Reaction – A very detailed look back at making the story, featuring Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant, Graeme Harper and many more.
  • Directing Who – Then and Now The only person to have directed both “classic” and “new” Who, Graeme Harper talks about how techniques have changed. Good stuff, he should write a book on it. Oh, wait – he did!
  • Russell Harty – A March 1984 clip with Peter Davison and Colin Baker talking about changing Doctors

So that’s another good selection. There’s another Revisitations box coming later in the year. I’ll try to witter about that one a little more promptly.

[1] Watching this after Weng-Chiang made the connection a wee bit obvious