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Published on April 2nd, 2010 | by James Whittington

Doctor Who – Myths And Legends

New out this week, the Myths And Legends DVD boxset features 3 classic Doctor Who adventures – The Time Monster, Underworld and The Horns of Nimon. James Whittington was lucky enough to view them all…

Another month another Doctor Who box set. Now don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy these DVD releases but as a collector I like to line my discs in broadcast order (come on, I’m not the only one reading this that does that…am I?) like I did with the videos (even if the spine design changed a few times and lets not mention the Battlefield fiasco!) but when the serials contained in the set are from different eras I can’t put them in order. You see? OK, enough of my OCD, I can see why the BBC sometimes does this when you uncover what’s contained in this so called Myths And Legends set. Oh yes, three tales that not only split the audience right down the middle but also helped the show to be ridiculed for years afterwards from those who just needed only the slightest excuse to poke fun at it.

Disc 1

The Time Monster

The Myths and Legends DVD box setUNIT is called into monitor the initial trials of a device called TOMTIT (I kid you not and no sniggering at the back!) which stands for the Transmission Of Matter Through Interstitial Time at the Newton Institute at Wootton. Created by Professor Thascales, TOMTIT’s (snigger) demonstration causes unexpected causes unexpected time anomalies. At the heart of TOMTIT (smirk) is an ancient crystal, which the Master hopes to use to gain control over Kronos – a Chronovore which feeds on time itself. But the stone he holds is only part of the sacred crystal of Kronos – the main crystal is hidden…

OK, juvenile joking aside, The Time Monster is an OK entry into the Doctor Who canon, let down by The Master’s part being over written. Yes, he was a larger than life villain but here he’s gigantic and chews through scenery like there’s no tomorrow. The six episodes are on the slightly slight side, with quite a lot of padding. This is not to say the rest of the regulars don’t have a good time. Pertwee is his chin scratching excellence, Katy Manning is her bubbly blonde best and Nicholas Courtney’s top lip has never been stiffer. Maybe as a 4-part adventure this would have worked better, in this 6-oart format it does tread water quite a bit. The casting of horror scream queen Ingrid Pitt is inspired and she does her best when things get a bit bizarre, but as this ended Season 9 one would have wanted something with a bit more excitement.

Commentary – John Levene, Susan Penhalligan, Barry Letts, Production Assistant Marion McDougal, new series writers Graham Duff, Phil Ford, Joe Lidster and James Moran all contribute to this gag track which is moderated by comedian Toby Hadoke. One complaint is that not all contribute at the same time. Barry and Marion do episodes 1, 5 and 6, John episodes 2 and 4, Graham, Phil and Moran episode 3 and Susan episode 5. Talking of Levene he is the most talkative, very serious and gives over some strong recollections including a very moving one.

Between Now…And Now! – In this interesting piece professor Jim Al Khalili takes a look at the science behind this adventure. To make sure it doesn’t get too technical Barry Letts, Katy Manning and Richard Franklin also get to have their say. Its thought provoking stuff and anyone who has seen one of Khalili’s excellent documentaries on BBC4 will want to jump straight to this.

Restoration Comparison – This short but informative look at the restoration this serial has had graced upon it illustrates just how these set of episodes look so good. I don’t pretend to understand it all but I think I got the gist!
Photo Gallery – Another collection of production stills from the archives. I really don’t understand who would want to sit through these but it is a good collection.

Coming Soon – A rather dark and serious trailer for the Tom Baker adventure The Creature From The Pit.

PDF Material – For fans of such things you can look at scans of Radio Times listings from when the serial was originally shown.

Subtitle Production Notes – Always a favourite in my book, this wonderfully entertaining on-screen information blog that entertains and informs. Edutainment as you will!

Disc 2

Underworld

The story begins onboard a Minyan space craft, the R1C, commanded by a man named Jackson. Jackson and his crew are on a long quest to recover the Minyan race banks from a ship called the P7E which left their planet centuries ago. The Doctor helps to free the R1C after it becomes buried in a meteorite storm, but then it crashes into another newly formed planet. Talk about bad luck!

Crippled by budget restraints, Underworld was a very brave attempt at doing something different with the series. Unfortunately the BBC didn’t have the technological advancements at hand to compete with what was happening in Science Fiction at the time (Star Wars had just hit the big screen) and Underworld’s cheap production values hinder what might have been a decent story. Talking of which the idea of using Greek mythology works well and its fun spotting the names and working out where they originated from. As a cost cutting measure most of the sets were realised using CSO so this leads to a rather soft image around the actors where at times due to the process some of their bodies fade in and out.

Commentary – Tom Baker, Louise Jameson and co-writer Bob Baker are on hand to bring a rather fun to the Doctor Who fans out there. As you can guess Tom is his usual enigmatic and very humorous self whilst the other Baker and Jameson add more serious contributions. Bob Baker does have time to briefly mention his new K-9 series, something I don’t know if I’m looking forward to or not! Tom’s recollection of seeing Star Wars for the first time is worth the price of the set alone. You have to hear his Alec Guinness impersonation!

Into The Unknown – Underworld is best known for its use of CSO to help save money and also try something different. This look at how the serial was realised is incredibly interesting and it exposes how the “old” BBC used to work. A lot of the Production crew are here as well as some very rare convention footage of Producer Graham Williams.

Underworld – In The Studio – These time-coded Shibaden and U-matic video recordings tell the tale of just how hard it was to bring this adventure to the screen. Though cutting edge technology for its time it shows how things have changed but how the technique did work, occasionally.
Photo Gallery – Yet more snaps from the production archives for fans of such things!

Coming Soon – The Creature From The Pit trailer once again.

PDF Material – Here lie the Radio Times listings for this serial.

Subtitle Production Notes – Mighty fine textual information as you’d expect.

Disc 3

The Horns Of Nimon

The Horns of NimonIn a place called the Power Complex dwell the dreaded Nimon, a fearsome monster with immense scientific powers. The Nimon has promised to restore the Skonnan Empire to its former glory, but first it demands sacrifice – youths and maidens from the peaceful planet Aneth. The TARDIS collides with the space ship delivering victims, and the captured Romana is condemned to be sacrificed to the Nimon. Aided by the faithful K-9, the Doctor goes to the rescue.

Known to me as “The one where Tom jumped the shark”, The Horns Of Nimon really is Doctor Who at its navel gazing worst. It looks cheap, story steeped in too much mythology and the acting is so hammy you can almost smell the bacon. Let’s start at the top then. Baker is at his most self indulgent here, the comedy he delivers (whether it was scripted or ad-libbed I don’t know) is sledgehammer/pantomime stuff that wouldn’t be out of place at the end-of-the-pier show. The supporting cast do their best with Graham Crowden literally acting his way off the screen and into your mind. Juts watch his eyes! Sorry to be so negative and harsh (let’s be honest here I’m rarely both) but this is one story that should have been wiped instead of all those Hartnell and Troughton ones.

Extras

Commentary – Lalla Ward, Janet Ellis, Graham Crowden and writer Anthony Read all pop up on this track. Crowden as you’d expect is way over-the-top here but makes the commentary incredibly fun. He’s on form here delivering each anecdote with huge thespian gusto and even admits he is a ham actor but as one friend once said about him “beautifully cooked”!
Who Peter: Partners In Time 1963-1989 – This much talked about extra is the long awaited look at Doctor Who’s association with the perennial TV favourite Blue Peter. Disappointing to say the least it’s an incredibly brief affair cramming 26 years of friendship into 30 minutes. To learn at the end another instalment, which looks at the 2005-10 run, smacks of short-sightedness.

Read The Writer – Anthony Read (Tony to his friends) chats about this adventure as well as his time on the series. I enjoyed his recollections and he seems like a nice chap, but sorry Anthony, this wasn’t one of my favourite stories.

Peter Howell Music demos – The Horns Of Nimon was the last story to have its incidental music composed by the legendary Dudley Simpson. Incoming producer John Nathan-Turner commissioned a new arrangement of the theme to start the next season. Peter Howell was asked to supply electronic music.

Photo Gallery – Production snaps from the creation of this much talked about serial.

Coming Soon – The Creature From The Pit trailer just in case you missed it on the first two discs.

PDF Material – Here are the Radio Times listings for this serial as well as Studio Floor plans, just remember you can only look at these whilst using a PC or MAC.

Subtitle Production Notes – Those interesting and unashamedly geeky subtitles that tell us everything we’ve ever wanted to know about this serial.

So then, to sum up: it’s no surprise the BBC have put these 3 together as each probably wouldn’t really sell by themselves. Extras are a bit sparse but there are a few gems to find and the commentaries do make up for the lack of story.

The Myths and Legends box set has an RRP of £49.99, and is available for from Amazon for just £33.48!

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About the Author

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James has been a Doctor Who fan for as long as he can recall. A child of the 70s and 80s, he weathered all the storms and controversies the show encountered, though he didn’t buy the “Doctor In Distress” single.



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