Itâ€™s nearly Christmas (!) and Doctor Who fans are usually treated to a nice box set that they can ask Santa for. 2009 is no different and this time the BBC has lined up a treat for fans, the The Dalek War DVD Box Set. I say “treat” because of the amount of extras and not because of the stories. Featuring two six-part Jon Pertwee adventures from Season 10, Frontier In Space and Planet of the Daleks it will no doubt be at the top of many Christmas lists.
Frontier In Space
When the TARDIS accidentally brings the Doctor and Jo aboard Earth cargo ship C982, they find it under attack. The crew perceive the Doctor, Jo and the attackers as Draconians, whose empire currently rivals Earthâ€™s for control of the galaxy. But the Doctor and Jo see only Ogrons â€“ brutish, simian mercenaries who steal the cargo, including the TARDIS and head of into space.
Slightly plodding and at times a tad boring Frontier In Space is Doctor Who at its best and worst. Best because itâ€™s a smart story but worst as it over stays its welcome by the time Parts 4 or 5 comes to visit. At times it feels like one long trailer for the forthcoming Planet Of The Daleks story, much in the same way the season 2 of the new Doctor Who run felt like one long piece of promotion for the first series of Torchwood. On the plus side The Draconians are fully formed and a nice addition to the series and the Ogrons are always fun. Roger Delgado is as reliable as ever giving the Master some wonderful and memorable moments. Such a shame this was his last appearance.
Pertwee does his best to look interested in this story but seems bored, rubbing his chin and neck more times here than he ever did and Katy Manning as Jo just looks lost. In the end Frontier In Space is a good idea that is over-stretched by at least two episodes.
Commentary: Katy Manning, Barry Letts and Terrence Dicks let rip on this gag track moderated by Clayton Hickman. Fun and informative its one of the better ones Iâ€™ve heard.
Subtitle Production Notes: Always worth a look and this is no different. A great collection of facts and figures to enjoy whilst watching the main event. Look out for the bit about Joâ€™s knees!
Perfect Scenario – Lost Frontier: (from the blurb) In the far future, the remaining population of an oxygen-depleted planet Earth lies in enforced stasis in The Field of Dreams, their minds kept active through the work of Scenario Smiths. Looking for ideas to help him re-connect to his captive audience, Zed, a young Scenario Smith, turns to the world of Doctor Who for inspiration. Well, to tell you the truth all this is is a new way of reviewing and charting the production of the story in a dramatic way and Iâ€™m not sure it truly works. Self referential and slightly smug I wonâ€™t be tuning in again.
The Space War: Now this is much better, a smart look at the production of the story with honest and informative contributions from cast and crew. Such a shame Pertwee isnâ€™t around to contribute.
Roger Delgado â€“ The Master: This long overdue biography of everyoneâ€™s favourite incarnation of The Master is a solid look of the actor (full name Roger Caesar Marius de Delgado Torres Castillo de Roberto) who helped the series become so unmissable during the early 70â€™s. With unseen photographs, classic clips and contributions from those who knew him this is one of those extras that really does hit the mark and a reminder of just how good Delgado was. One of the best extras for a Pertwee DVD release, ever.
Stripped For Action â€“ The Third Doctor: The series continues with a look at how Pertweeâ€™s incarnation was transferred to the printed page. I didnâ€™t realise how much detail were in the later strips and made me want to search them out.
Photo Gallery: Six minutes of production shots accompanied by the rather eccentric score. As always this is really for people who want to see raw production shots.
PDF Materials: Here youâ€™ll discover Production Design Drawings, Radio Times Listings and BBC Enterprises Sales Literature.
Coming Soon: A snazzy trailer for the underrated Davison stories, The Kingâ€™s Demons & Planet Of Fire.
Planet Of The Daleks
Injured after a shoot-out between his old nemesis the Master and the Ogrons slaves to the evil Daleks, the Doctor sends a message to the Time Lords, asking them to pilot his TARDIS and follow the Daleks to their new base. After he slips into a coma, it falls to his assistant Jo Grant to explore the planet where the TARDIS finally materialises. She meets a party of Thals and is left in hiding aboard their crashed spaceship while they go to the Doctorâ€™s aid. On his recovery, the Doctor learns of their mission to destroy a party of Daleks sent here to discover the native Spiridonsâ€™ secret of invisibility.
I last saw Planet of the Daleks when it was shown as part of the 30th Anniversary celebrations on BBC1 and recall being slightly disappointed by it. Viewing now the story seems to be more solid with genuinely inventive ideas and at last the Daleks are effective baddies once more. Forget that their lights are rarely in synch with their voices and that the vast Dalek army are obviously just toys, just look at the wonderful Dalek Supreme (or The Supreme Dalek, up to you) – a fine and classic moment from Pertweeâ€™s era. The main selling point here is that episode 3, which was only available in black and white for years has now been restored to colour thanks to a new technique, more on this in the Extras section.
Similar to the first Dalek story in construction Terry Nation still proves he can give the Daleks a sinister edge and that Jo wasnâ€™t just a ditzy assistant who would say stupid things every now and again just to be engaging.
Commentary: Katy Manning, Prentis Hancock, Tim Preece, Barry Letts and Terrence Dicks, chat about this epic and enjoyable story.
Subtitle Production Notes: Another compendium of well-informed and educational anecdotes and trivia. Great stuff.
Perfect Scenario – The End Of Dreams: Continuing his search for inspiration, Scenario Smith Zed resumes his studies of twentieth century televisionâ€™s Doctor Who. What he finds will have a profound effect on the lives of all of the remaining sleepers in The Field Of Dreams. I thought of this in the same manner as the first entry. I understand that extras need to be interesting and informative but I prefer normal straight to camera stuff.
The Rumble In The Jungle: Another Making Of, this time members of the cast and crew recall their time on this run of episodes. Charming and honest it proves how many of the people involved really did love the show.
Multi-colourisation: Technology lovers jump to this extra first as its looks at how episode 3 was restored to its former glory. I wonâ€™t even pretend to understand all of it, just to say I hope they get to work their magic on some of the other Pertwee episodes that remain only in black and white.
Stripped For Action – The Daleks: Taking a break from looking at The Doctorâ€™s adventures in comics, this one charts the Daleksâ€™ life on the printed page. As informative as ever this is a nice addition to the series and hopefully more characters will get their own piece. The addition of having Gerry Anderson as a contributor adds huge weight to the piece.
Blue Peter: Now this is a real treat. This two-part piece shows just how committed Blue Peter has been to Doctor Who over the years. The first part is an appeal to viewers about two Dalek props that had been stolen and the second piece has Peter Purvis as a roving reporter following up the story. Charming, innocent and slightly surreal this gave me a huge nostalgia rush.
Photo Gallery: Exactly what youâ€™d expect, a collection of colour and black and white snaps from the serials production.
PDF Material: Production Design Drawings and Radio Times Listings can be found if you insert this DVD into your PC or Mac.
Easter Egg: Now this one is a real cracker. Donâ€™t forget to hunt it out.
All-in-all the The Dalek War DVD Box Set is a game of two halves; yes Frontier In Space is a bit of a yawn-fest but Planet Of The Daleks and the quality of extras more than make up for its failings. Santa baby, hurry down the chimney tonight!
Available for just Â£24.98 from Amazon, this box set is a 4-disc set and as released on October 5th.