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Doctor Who is considered by many to be the best children’s programme of all time. Its theme music is recognised throughout the world and even though some of the episodes are over thirty years old, they have stood the test of time.  The programme may not have the cult fan base of other sci fi programmes like Star Trek, but its brand of story telling is original and exciting. The Tomb of the CyberMen is one of the first BBC programmes to be presented on DVD in black and white. Regarded by fans to be one of the best Doctor Who stories, I was interested to see how the programme looked on DVD.

Doctor Who : The Tomb Of The Cybermen
The Story
The Tomb of the Cybermen has had a torrid time since it was first aired in September 1967. In fact it would be fair to say that we are lucky to be getting a release of this series as it was lost for a long period of time. During the 60’s the BBC would often tape over programmes to save money and for this reason many of their programmes were lost for ever. This seemed to be the case with many of the Doctor Who episodes, but fortunately in 1992 a Hong Kong studio found the video tapes of The Tomb of the Cybermen and returned them to the BBC.

The story for this particular DVD is split over four episodes which each have a running time of about twenty four minutes. Patrick Troughton plays the Doctor in these particular episodes. Troughton is regarded by many fans to be the best Doctor Who, because he is funny and has a good screen presence. The four episodes concentrate solely on an expedition to Telos – the homeworld of the Cybermen.  Luckily for the expedition they come across the Doctor and his friends Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling). The expedition hopes to find out why the cybermen disappeared suddenly from the universe, but soon they discover that certain members of the group have hidden agendas. The group find the cybermens' tomb, but soon realise that the cybermen are not as dormant as they had first thought. They are in fact frozen but Eric Klieg (George Pastell) has plans to bring the horrible monsters back to life. Locked in the tomb, the Doctor not only has the task of fighting the dreaded cybermen but also has to stop the plans of Klieg. Kleig intends to control the Cybermen and use them to create a powerful army.

Before watching this DVD I wasn’t really a fan of the programme. I can remember watching it when I was young but I wouldn’t consider myself a fan. I am delighted to have had the chance to watch it on DVD though, as it has shown me that it is a classic entertaining children’s programme. The acting might be particularly poor at times (especially the character who plays Captain Hopper) but this all adds to the fun. Special effects by today’s standards are laughable, but while watching the DVD you have to consider that the contents are over thirty years old. The Cybermats are incredibly funny. They are creatures created by the cybermen and they home in on human brain waves. They reminded me of robots from Robot Wars, not fearsome creatures. What makes Doctor Who the classic that it is, is the great stories that it offers. They are exciting, witty, terrifying and tense all in just thirty minutes of TV.  

Doctor Who : The Tomb Of The Cybermen
The disc is presented with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.  As mentioned above the episodes are in black and white so reviewing the video aspect of the disc is a little harder than normal. Also while reviewing the visual side of the disc, special consideration must be given to the age of the presentation and also the conditions the original print was kept in. I don’t want to spoil the extras section of this review, but the BBC has done a wonderful job of restoring the original presentation and also producing a first class finished product. There is a section in the special features which details how this was done.  There is no sign of obvious damage to the print and clarity is as near to perfect as you would expect.  Overall this is a very impressive transfer which surpassed any expectations I had before watching the disc. The BBC have obviously taken great care and time with presenting the contents in the best possible manner. Maybe they should consider revisiting some of their other releases and give them the same treatment.

The audio aspect of the disc is perfectly acceptable as well. The main presentation is in Dolby Digital 2.0. This may sound pretty poor but to be honest it does the job. Apart from the musical score (which is brought to the screen perfectly) the episodes are mainly dialogue driven. The centre speaker is the only channel that was used. Surprisingly this was adequate. The music playing when the cybermen come to life was very haunting and was portrayed well by the soundtrack. There seemed to be no lip-synch problems and overall I had no qualms about the audio. There are three subtitle selections available while watching the main presentation. The first choice is the English subtitles. The next proved to be a surprise. I was happy to find an audio commentary by Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling. This commentary is very interesting and the pair obviously seem to be genuine fans of the programme. What also comes across during the commentary is that the couple are great friends and had a good time filming the programme.  The final subtitle option is production notes.

People familiar with BBC releases will know that you don’t get many extras (if any!) with their DVD releases. Most releases contain only the episodes, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a vast selection of choice in the special features section.

Doctor Who : The Tomb Of The Cybermen
The most impressive extra is the Tombwatch conference. This is a 30 minute press conference with many cast members and makers of the episodes answering questions. The Director (Morris Barry) talks about how he had a 1st class script and cast which made filming much easier. He also says that he wished he had more time filming so he could add some finishing touches to the presentation. Another interesting thing to come from the conference was the producer talking about how they received letters of complaints about the cybermen. One particular lady wrote to them saying that her son had had nightmares after the show and he thought that the cybermen were real.

Also worth watching is the ‘Late Night Line up – Special Effects’ featurette. This is a three minute interview with the special effects team. The interview shows some of the models created by the team. The person being interviewed talks about the time and budget constraints they faced while creating effects for the programme. He talked about how they could make things very realistic but the audiences would not be ready for it.

‘The final End’ is a one minute clip from the final battle with the daleks. It is worth watching but not that interesting. The best inclusion on the disc has to be ‘Remastering For DVD’ which is a five minute look at how the BBC remastered the programme from the poor print that was found. During the five minutes we are shown original footage which is compared with the remastered version. A lot of detail is given in this featurette and it is very interesting. A lot of effort went into remastering the presentation for the DVD release. It was well worth it!

Also worth mentioning is the extra entitled ‘Title Sequence Tests’. This is a three minute clip which shows the different title sequences that were created for the show. We are also treated to an introduction from the director. Morris Barry talks for about three minutes about various aspects of the programme.  Finally there is also a photo gallery which shows about twenty five photos from the programme. The photos are in good condition and are worth looking at.

Fans of Doctor Who will love this release. Finally one of the best storylines from the programme has found its way onto DVD. We are treated to a remastered version and some superb extras, which would normally not be associated with a BBC disc. If you feel like a night of nostalgia or reliving your childhood, then I would recommend purchasing this disc.