This came as a bit of a surprise when it was announced. Just when we thought we wouldn’t be getting any more classic Doctor Who releases (especially after the frankly shoddy job done on The Underwater Menace), this happened.
In a totally unexpected development, somebody decided to spend some money and recreate a missing story in animation. We’ve had missing episodes given this treatment before, but this is the first time a whole six-part story has been given the treatment. As complete soundtrack recordings and “telesnaps” – photos taken of the transmitted shows – are available, this isn’t an unreasonable thing to do. It’s just a matter of economics – animation still requires a lot of work by skilled people, so it’s not a cheap option. This means that if they’re going to do it, they has to be some hope of, you know, people buying the results. Now there’s a hard core of fans who will buy every release, but for a decent financial return, they need to appeal to a wider audience, which probably explains why this particular story was selected for the treatment.
For a start, it’s got Daleks, which is always a good start for appealing to the more casual viewers. But it’s also one of the most important stories in the classic series. Following on from The Tenth Planet, which ended with the Doctor collapsing and transforming. This was the point at which the series established that it could go on, and on…
Of course, it all depended on the new start – could Patrick Troughton replace William Hartnell and keep the audience? Well, in hindsight it seems obvious – of course the Doctor can regenerate (not that the word was used at the time) and be the same but different. But back then it was a bold step.
The fun starts with the new Doctor and his companions Ben and Polly arriving on the planet Vulcan (no relation to any other planets of the same name you might have heard of), which has mercury swamps (nasty), a base (of the traditional kind), a mad scientist (ditto) and a mysterious alien capsule which contains Daleks, who start off in a non-traditional way, by being very nice and helpful (you might spot a link with Victory of the Daleks here, not least in the metal maniacs constant cry of
I am your ser-vant
Which was doubtless the inspiration for
I am your sol-dier
many years later.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Daleks if they were nice, would it? It turns out that they’re making a whole new army of psycho cyborgs who have a more familiar cry of
Daleks conquer and destroy!
and of course a sideline in
The Doctor has to deal with that, the suspicions of Ben and Polly and the machinations of the people in the base. Lots of fun all round, really.
This has been made available on the BBC Store (download service), DVD and the rather nice limited edition dual-format steelbox thingy. This contains the story in black and white (an more authentic recreation of how the original might have looked) and in colour (less authentic, but hey) on both DVD and Blu-ray (in very unauthentic widescreen high definition).
There’s a small selection of special features – a making of documentary, picture galleries and some surviving footage from the original serial.
Overall, this release is a Good Thing. Let’s hope it sells enough to make it worth recreating more of the missing stories.
 Nice word that, don’t think I’ve used it here before