Planet of Giants with Restored Footage!

The Tea-Lady Design for the DVD release. (Source: Doctor Who News web site. Copyright 2012 by BBC.)

I’m not sure how I missed this news. Life has been super busy. That’s the excuse, anyway.

According to the Doctor Who News web site, the DVD release of Planet of Giants will have four episodes for the serial rather than the three that were originally broadcast. Planet of Giants was commissioned as a four part story, but Verity Lambert had the serial recut as three episodes. For the DVD, 2Entertain has used the original scripts to recreate episodes three and four. We are getting an entirely new episode from the Hartnell era!

Presumably, the DVD will also have the broadcast version. Still, this is exciting news and I can’t wait to revisit this story . . . and to fill a gap in my Hartnell DVD collection.

Planet of Giants can be pre-ordered via Amazon UK. No word yet on a USA release date.

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Doctor Who Story 054 – Inferno (and Excuses)

Story by Don Houghton
Directed by Douglas Camfield

Somewhere in the last few weeks I forgot to review Inferno. I watched it with my wife, but I never got around to reviewing it. Work got busy; I set up a new blog about Stephen King; you know, the usual excuses. So I apologize for my negligence. Besides, I can’t start watching Terror of the Autons until I have a few thoughts about Inferno posted here.

Source: Amazon.com. Copyright 1970 by BBC.

From the DVD: A top secret drilling project headed by Professor Stahlman is attempting to penetrate the earth’s crust, and the Doctor and Liz Shaw are on hand to observe. Tensions and professional jealousies plague the project, but things really heat up when a mysterious green substance is found leaking from the drill head. Just when UNIT needs the Doctor most, a time experiment throws him into a parallel universe where everyone he knows has changed for the worse.

This story wraps up the rather successful series seven. What better way to end a season than to destroy an alternate earth! I tell you, Don Houghton was decades ahead of RTD where over-the-top finales are concerned!

All kidding aside, Inferno was an excellent story with great pace, genuine chills, and quite a bit of heady sci-fi concepts. This was a seven part story that was stuffed full of ideas. While the monsters seem a bit arbitrary, at least they keep the tension going and provide us with a few good chase scenes. Choosing to let The Doctor see the consequences of Stahlman’s drilling via alternate universe was a fun idea. We get to see the world destroyed and we get to see the Doctor save it. Having our cake and whatnot.

Highlights

  • Fascist UNIT was an interesting concept. Keeping with the idea that these are the same characters who developed differently due to different choices and circumstances, Liz has a good and noble core to her. The Doctor is able to appeal to her sympathies and scientific sensibilities. The Brigade Leader, however, seems to be a lost cause.
  • All the characters were very-well written and portrayed. The antagonism between Stahlman and Sir Keith was wonderful. Christopher Benjamin (who portrayed Sir Keith) is always a pleasure to watch.
  • Excellent story all-round

Low Point

  • I’m not opposed to the monsters, but I don’t really know why there was a green slime that turned people into wolves. Something more could have been done with this.

Final Verdict: Inferno was a lot of fun. I watched it with my wife; she was captivated! A great end to a truly great season.

Source: TARDIS Newsroom web site. Copyright 1970 by BBC.

Doctor Who Directors

Directors–the visionaries behind the camera. I started watching Inferno and was reminded just how much I love Douglas Camfield. He was good at directing action and keeping a tight pace. Even in a seven (or eight) part story, his stories just crack along.

Doctor Who has accumulated a large number of directors over the years, some better received than others. From a show that developed in the 1960s these men and women helped contribute to the visual style behind television production. I thought I’d take a moment today to share my favorite Doctor Who directors. Which are your favorites?

  1. Douglas Camfield – As mentioned before, he is good with action and pace. I don’t think there are any stories he has done that I’ve disliked.
  • Planet of the Giants – “Crisis” episode
  • The Crusade
  • The Time Meddler
  • The Daleks’ Master Plan
  • The Web of Fear
  • The Invasion
  • Inferno
  • Terror of the Zygons
  • The Seeds of Doom
  1. Waris Hussein – The first director for Doctor Who, Waris Hussein help shape the visual style of the show. He didn’t direct many episodes, seven of which have been lost, but his input helped make the show a success early on.
  • An Unearthly Child
  • Marco Polo
  1. Graeme Harper – I love that when Doctor Who returned in 2005, Graeme Harper was brought in to the director rotation. Where Harper is concerned, I love his use of sound, from using machine gun fire rather than sci-fi laser sounds, to pulling back on the music for dramatic effect.
  • Warrior’s Gate (uncredited)
  • The Caves of Androzani
  • Revelation of the Daleks
  • Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel
  • Army of Ghosts / Doomsday
  • 42
  • Utopia
  • Time Crash (mini episode)
  • Planet of the Ood
  • The Unicorn and The Wasp
  • Turn Left
  • The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End
  • The Waters of Mars

Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death Part 7, Wrap-Up

Source: Amazon.com. Copyright 1970 by BBC.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Having written about the six preceding episodes, I don’t feel I have much to add. The story was an interesting—and to me, uneven—mix of action, spy-fi, and intrigue. It didn’t feel as tight as The Silurians, despite sharing an author; to be fair, however, Malcolm Hulke was brought in partway through. I think the shift between three writers is probably the biggest problem with this story. As no one writer had complete control in shaping the vision of the story, it was a collision of styles and voices.

That said, the underlying story is good. I wouldn’t mind more stories in Doctor Who that attempt to do what this one and The Silurians did.

Highlights:

  • Malcolm Hulke proved with The Silurians he has a strong grasp of character, and that strength is still in play here. The leads interact well. Professor Cornish is a strong leader, concerned for his astronauts above all else; General Carrington is wonderfully portrayed as a man with strong beliefs acting out of a genuine, yet flawed, concern for the planet. Even Reegan is a fascinating, fully fleshed-out thug. He could have easily been a cliché, but he has his own motives for the aliens. The characters really help this story along when it loses its pace.
  • As mentioned before, the story itself is good. I look forward to seeing how it was novelized and whether it was tightened up any in book form.

Lowlights:

  • Once more, the pace was uneven. There were some good action scenes and side-by-side with some rather dull mission control sequences. Perhaps this story, if it had a little more lead time (something that I’m sure was virtually impossible) and could have gone through another draft, probably would have ironed out some of the kinks.

Final Verdict: While I would say that The Ambassadors of Death is, for me, the weakest of the season seven stories, I wish to emphasize that I feel, in no way, that this is a bad story. So far, with only one story left (which I shall be writing about as a whole rather than episodically), season seven has been a successful revitalization of Doctor Who.

Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death, Part 6

Masks off! (Source: Radio Free Skaro – The Chronic Hysteresis. Copyright 1970 by the BBC,)

As episodes go, I think this one is the most even. It is certainly my favorite so far. We get final confirmation of what has been happening all along. Alien ambassadors have been kidnapped by humans and the astronauts are being held prisoner until their return. The Doctor, finally having all the necessary pieces of the puzzle, can now work toward a resolution. This is good stuff.

Once more, the aliens are not necessarily evil. At this point, we don’t know if the aliens were hoping to make peaceful contact with Earth or not, but the fact that ambassadors are involved means some attempt at negotiation. The aliens haven’t responded with violence, merely taking hostages of their own. They have not, however, eliminated the possibility of violence, as they tell The Doctor that they will destroy the planet if their people are not returned.

While there is not an actual invasion happening, the threat of invasion is what is driving General Carrington. It seems he was behind the abduction of both the aliens and Liz. He fears the alien ship is an invasion force and is reacting accordingly. He is being driven by fear and what he feels is best for the country he is trying to protect. It just a shame he got things so wrong.

So, the story has really picked up—for me—in the end. I’m looking forward to the resolution.

Doctor Who – The Ambassadors of Death, Part 5

Source: Adventures with The Wife in Space website. Copyright 1970 by the BBC.

Benton!

I’m not sure why I like Sgt. Benton so much. Perhaps it is because John Levene seems like such a nice guy. Perhaps it is due to his inclusion in the Tom Baker debut Robot. Benton seems to represent a regular support cast; he conveys what has been termed “The UNIT Family”. A support cast is new for Doctor Who. These are the days before we had Jackie Tyler or Craig. Old friends are a new thing because until this point we did not return to the same place twice. Things are quite different now.

What strikes me most about Ambassadors at this point is that there is more action. Ambassadors seems to draw a significant amount of inspiration from James Bond. The show is adapting and evolving. In some ways, it has moved quite some way from its origin. While I don’t dislike what they are doing with the show, it is still very different. So far, the stories have been good enough that I don’t mind.

Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death, Part 4

This entire story seems an exercise in decompressed storytelling. Don’t get me wrong, there is a good story buried in here, one in which humans have kidnapped a group of radioactive aliens. The humans are developing a way to exploit these deadly aliens, to use them for their own nefarious ends. The problem is, at the current pace, I’m not sure the story needed to be seven parts long.

Granted, I’m making this criticism in 2012. Television probably didn’t work that way in England in 1970. Most-likely, the producer set an episode count and ordered a story. It would then be up to the writer to meet the episode number. With the writing issues of this story, it probably isn’t a big surprise that the pace is occasionally glacial. Still, this story could be tightened to great effect.

At least it is different, though. This isn’t an alien invasion; it is a covert group using alien prisoners as weapons. This is a great idea to explore, especially as it has the potential to become somewhat personal for The Doctor. He is trapped against his will. He has fallen in with an international military organization. He could very easily become a weapon. Thankfully, The Brigadier offers him a certain degree of autonomy, but if he had fallen into different hands, The Doctor’s fate could have been quite different.

Three episodes to go.