Doctor Who: Inferno - Special Edition (UK - DVD R2)
The Wilson Bros get the marshmallows ready for their date with Inferno...
Season seven of Doctor Who was going swimmingly - Jon Pertwee's dashing Doctor had brought in a new, more adult audience, along with a not-unattractive intelligent female assistant and a regular cast of supporting characters had given the show a new lease of life. Oh, and the transition to colour helped a bit too. However, changes were around the corner and this did not just related to a trip to a parallel world...
The Doctor has been called in to act as a consultant on an ambitious drilling project that has the potential to harness a vast, untapped source of energy lurking beneath the crust of the Earth. The Doctor’s arrival at the site, which also has a nuclear power station, seems to suit his own ends, as he intends to use the power coming from the reactor to conduct experiments on his TARDIS console, in the hope that he can produce a way of travelling through time and space without the need for a pesky dematerialisation circuit (which was half-inched by his fellow Time-Lords when he was exiled to Earth). During a nuclear power surge as the vast robotic drill prepares to burrow its way through the Earth’s crust, The Doctor is accidentally transported to a parallel universe where things are decidedly hostile - a fascist Orwellian totalitarian society exists where the power is held by one man and his position is maintained by a heavily-armed militaristic force that keeps the population in control by maintaining a climate of fear. As if all this wasn’t enough, murderous creatures have started roaming around the facility, popping the clogs of people attached to the project…
The Pertwee era ushered in a new direction for Doctor Who - The Doctor was forced to regenerate and was exiled to Earth by his fellow Time Lords. This was a handy move on the part of the production, as it meant that less elaborate alien sets and costumes needed to be designed, it also meant that stories could focus upon a newer kind of terror that the general public could identify with.
One of the most memorable stories of the Troughton era was The Web of Fear, which saw the London Underground invaded by the Yeti. This had a profound effect on a generation of kiddies - suddenly, taking a Routemaster around the Big Smoke seemed like a much safer option. It was this sort of home-grown menace that became rife during the first half of Jon Pertwee’s tenure as The Doctor. From the very first story, Spearhead From Space, many of the terrors seen would be grounded in some kind of reality - very handy for scaring the shit out of the kiddiewinks (the documentary on the DVD release of Genesis of the Daleks confirms that writer Robert Holmes’ personal mission on the show was to scare impressionable little kids!)
Early on in Pertwee’s Doctor Who years, a “format-breaker” story was included - and Inferno was the result. Short of allowing the Doctor to actually travel in space and time whilst still in exile, which is what they eventually did anyway, they came up with something that would still be relatively cost-effective, but also very inventive from a storytelling point of view. This story was the fourth and final one of season seven and neatly follows the rules of drama, meaning that in order to play with a format you have to establish and reinforce before you subvert. The subversion here comes in taking characters that the audience has come to know and love and then twisting them into "evil" versions of them and seeing how The Doctor reacts to them all. To writer Don Houghton's credit, he avoids the simplistic black and white approach to good and evil and certain has numerous shades of grey between them, with Section Leader Elisabeth Shaw being a prime example.
Inferno seemed to adopt the Star Trek rule of parallel universe stories - have most of the cast playing (almost) exact opposites of themselves and ensure that at least one of them has some kind of distinctive facial difference (a scar, or some other thing) - the best example of this comes with Nicholas Courtney in the parallel universe; this Lethbridge-Stewart has no moustache and an eye-patch - Courtney usually wore a fake moustache for Doctor Who, but in this story, because the viewer is drawn to the fact that his moustache comes and goes throughout the story, so the fake one he wears as the “real” Lethbridge-Stewart for Inferno looks like a dead caterpillar glued to his (stiff) upper-lip.
The story takes a couple of episodes to get going, but once The Doctor crosses over to the parallel universe, the story really shifts into gear and it becomes a fascinating story of juxtapositions and intrigue. In the parallel universe, the Brigadier is Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart; Liz Shaw is Section Leader Elizabeth Shaw, and so on. Though there are differences between the two worlds, there are many similarities and The Doctor realises that both sides are conducting the same drilling project, and that the consequences could be equally disastrous for both worlds, and The Doctor must try and return to the “real” Earth to avert a global catastrophe.
The story is very inventive, as characters die in one Earth whilst continuing to live in the other - it is this inventive storytelling that keeps the viewer on their toes. What was most appealing was that at a crucial point in the story, The Doctor manages to convince one of the “bad” characters in the alternate reality about the fundamental similarities between her and her counterpart in the other Earth. It is this “humanity” that is what Doctor Who is all about; though The Doctor is an extraterrestrial, he is arguably typifies the more virtuous aspects of humanity than most of the human beings he encounters on his travels.
What makes Inferno such a joy to watch - despite the somewhat bloated seven episode length - is that it is directed by Douglas Camfield, widely acknowledged as being one of the very best Doctor Who directors. Camfield's desire to push things as far as he can is seen in both the location film footage, which features plenty of action and dynamic editing, and is also seen in the more constrictive confines of the studio, where even though the video-cameras used were still cumbersome and only one or two steps up from being powered by coal, Camfield makes the most of the large set at the drill-head and has his actors pitch-perfect with their lines and also in hitting their marks on time so the almost balletic movement of the cameras capture everything perfectly; there are some long and audacious shots for what was effectively "live" recording. Camfield's directorial instructions were so meticulous that when he suffered a minor heart attack just before shooting episode three, that producer Barry Letts took over in an uncredited manner and followed the instructions and nobody noticed much in the way of tonal shift for the rest of the episodes - although Camfield's episodes were slightly more cinematic in our opinion.
There are solid performances from all concerned, particularly Pertwee, who seems to revel in being really able to cut loose with his prickly “I told you so” attitude that seemed to define his characterisation of everybody’s favourite Time-Lord. Caroline John gives a great performance, having two very different roles to contend with - unlike Courtney’s dual roles, which were his usual Brigadier and Brigade-Leader and required him to be merely “good” or “bad” - John was allowed to be much more subtle, painting her performance of Section-Leader Elizabeth Shaw in shades of grey, rather than black and white; fitting really, as this - sadly - was her last full-time appearance on Doctor Who. Ms John looks particularly fetching in the black wig and fascist uniform, though…
The wonderful Christopher Benjamin appears as bespectacled civil servant Sir Keith Gold and has the unenviable task of delivering much in the way of expository dialogue during the first episode to bring both characters on-screen and the audience up to speed - to his credit, he is able to do this in a manner that seems effortless. Benjamin's Sir Keith has serious doubts about the nature of the drilling in both universes, but a potentially nasty fate awaits him in whichever one he is in…
Inferno also benefits from having a strong antagonist - Olaf Pooley as Professor/Director Stahlman really sinks his teeth into the part(s), giving a performance that will have viewers baying for something nasty to happen to him, though with him playing two versions of the same character, viewers might want something doubly nasty to occur. Stahlman in the alternate universe is little different to his counterpart, only he’s a bit more of a bastard and that he has a fascist military police force to back him up, along with secret operatives to covertly bump off those who stand in his way.
Episode six is by far the best in this story, as the parallel world begins to tear itself apart and there is a strong and pervasive sense of impending Armageddon as the end of the world is nigh and the iron-fisted order steadily breaks down, with chaos and confusion presiding over the final moments of that particular Earth. What is also great to watch during this episode is the way that the characters react and change when they all eventually realise that their world is doomed and that they are all facing imminent death; without giving too much away, some are pragmatic, one of them has more in common with her other-worldly self than she realised and one backs up the old maxim that bullies are ultimately cowards.
If there is a little aspect to this story that bogs it down a little, it is that the appearances from the Primords, which just feel like they were conceived as a way of having a "monster" in the story (in much the same way that Russell T Davies would later insist during his tenure); they have a certain charm and it must have been very liberating for actors who had played "straight" characters earlier in the story to cut loose, but they seem to detract from the main storyline.
This particular story was originally released on DVD in 2006 and was the first story to undergo the Reverse Standards Conversion technology; allow us to go back to a review we wrote at the time to explain what we thought of the original release...
"The guys at the Doctor Who Restoration Team kept Inferno on the back-burner (pun intended) until sufficient restoration technology had been perfected so they could restore the story to it’s former glory. Like so many of the earlier half of the Jon Pertwee era, many of the stories only exist as distinctly poor quality NTSC copies, as the Beeb in their short-sightedness, were still routinely wiping and reusing the videotapes at the time. Being frank, those expecting it to look like most of their usual work will be a little disappointed, but this is merely due to the fact that the quality of the materials they had to work with weren’t exactly marvellous. All previous colour Doctor Who stories released on DVD came straight from the original Quad masters (or from digital copies sourced from said Quads), so the quality was pretty much assured. Because Inferno is such a treasured story, fans will be pleased with the results on display here, but there will be some viewers who will be disappointed. To the nay-sayers, we would urge them to catch Inferno next time it plays on satellite television and THEN ask them what they think of the DVD release.
The Restoration Team have used their Reverse Standards Conversion software on Inferno, designed to “unpick” the drop in quality caused by the conversion from PAL to NTSC. Sadly, the results are not perfect - anyone who has watched Inferno on UKTV Gold will know just how dreadful the materials the guys of the Restoration Team had to work with. The RSC manages to restore the episodes to something approaching the way they looked, but there is a little shimmering on certain parts of the image, most notably high contrast areas. The colours still look off (the tell-tale banding is still present), but there was little that can be done about that once it was converted NTSC (as the great Victor Lewis-Smith once called it Never Twice the Same Colour). Generally speaking, the Restoration Team has made Inferno look as good as it is ever going to look. Maybe we were expecting miracles, but it sure beats the living shit out of watching it on UKTV Gold!"
What a difference a few years make in terms of the continuing advancement of technology; this new restoration of Inferno really knocks spots off the previous one. There is improved clarity and colour, including more image detail in close-ups of members of the cast. The original release suffered from a distinctly fuzzy, off-air look to the picture, but it has been significantly improved with this version. The film sequences still look like a second or third generation of-air copy, but they are still a marked improvement over what was previously available.
Though the overall quality of episode five doesn't quite match the others (it's not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but you notice that there is a bit of a drop in resolution and something of an increase in fuzziness), this is still marvellous work that manages to breathe another much-needed breath into a story that was dealt something of a bad hand over the years.
Nothing much to complain about as far as the restoration is concerned, but those with any degree of hearing difficulty will be advised that a creative decision made during production means that for many of the studio scenes set in the thick of the drilling, there is an underlying rumbling sound that tends to drown out (or at least make somewhat difficult to hear) some of the dialogue.
Audio Commentary: As with the recent spate of Special Editions releases, it will come as no surprise that this is another vintage commentary track, in both senses of the term, as the appearance of Nick Courtney and Barry Letts conclusively give away - that you have already heard it is possibly another one. It makes no difference, as it’s a pretty damned entertaining way to watch Inferno in the company of people who really were at the top of their game when they made it, and their affection for the show is definitely infectious, with more than a few laughs at all shortcomings, no matter how minor. Oh, and fairly bitter ex-actor John Levene is also on board - well, being towed in his own rowboat behind the ship, anyway.
The gregarious grouping of Nicholas Courtney, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks provide the bulk of the commentary, the three of them possessing a great rapport, with their memories of the filming, considering that it was (at time of recording) filmed over thirty-five years ago. Actor John Levene pops up now and again (and even gets episode four all to himself) to provide some amusing anecdotes, particularly of note is his blunt admission that he doesn’t like actors and that Pertwee had “a bit of an ego“ on him. Levene also says that trying to look tough onscreen can be difficult, and probably even more so when Inferno saw him made up to look exactly like the Club Secretary from The Monster Club. His participation really breaks up the flow of things, and whilst there are so good things rattled off by the UNIT stalwart, you have to wonder if it was a considered choice to be recorded on his own or that there was no room left in the booth for others once his ego was safely inside.
Courtney kicks things off as he professes that: “This story…is my own personal favourite, because I get to play two parts - the nice Brig and the nasty Brig”. Sure, any actor likes taking a break from their usual character in a series, but few get to play them as broadly as those in the parallel universe. A glaring discrepancy between location worked and material taped at the BBC, this being the size of Pertwee’s bowtie, which shrinks when indoors, “Lack of continuity between film and the studio, you see,” confesses Letts. “…that’s the sort of thing the producer is supposed to notice - but I didn’t. Well, I‘ve noticed now, but it‘s a but late now…” Cue throaty, rasping chuckle from Courtney. “Maybe they can lengthen it digitally…” jokes Dicks, ever one to crack wise.
One of our favourites recollections involves the process of outfitting the Brigadier with suitable clothing for a man of his position, whilst circumventing the problems which special effects would have. Namely, this is how the usual uniform would see Courtney wearing a blue beret, which would make the top of his head disappear whenever Colour Separation Overlay would be employed. The solution? A trip to an expensive tailors in London to get a nice green one instead, keeping the Brig from partial desertion when a particularly fearsome monster confronted him.
For all his ego-driven faults, Levene has very sharp recollections of the filming, never once failing to pick out stuntmen at work and instances of when said professionals came a cropper, including where poor old Alan Chuntz had his leg ripped open by a glancing blow from Bessie’s mudguard. “It burst it absolutely wide open,” grimaces Levene, “…in fact, it was one of the worst wounds I have ever seen”. Levene remembers that even when conveying an obviously fascist dictatorship, they were not allowed to employ the Nazi salute to each other, coming up something akin to an open-fisted version of the Black Panther sign. He loved working with the rest of the cast, and has no shame in telling everyone, even when some of the working conditions were less-than-hospitable, which draws out his feelings towards certain thespians: “I often dislike actors, “ he starts, “…who talk about how hard something is, especially these Hollywood actors that earn twenty million bucks a time and say ‘oh, it was so tough…’ well, for twenty million dollars, it’s meant to be”. We’re sure there are many who would agree with Sgt Benton on that one.
At the start of episode two, Letts and the guys crystallise what most had already worked out, but it’s great to hear it from the man himself: “…we always had these recaps,” notes the producer. “Just to remind people”. With unparalleled timing, Dicks muscles in to finish off Letts’ thought-process: “Sometimes if we were running short, we would have a very long recap!” Not to be outdone or talked over, Letts reveals a little extra with: “…I have know occasion where we had to put extra stuff in!” It this kind of playful banter which could only come from people with a good working relationship and deep-rooted camaraderie, and all the more fun for it.
Dealing in the currency of Sci-Fi is something both Letts and Dicks do with a good deal of knowledge between them, with the former more versed in the first part of the term, and the later the fiction end of the moniker, and whilst this can make for a great dynamic in writing, certain frictions arise, evidenced when Dicks mentions the previous traditions of the genre now being discarded, “In Fifties science-fiction,” the writer starts, “…Venus was a jungley planet: jungles and water, and monsters and things, and Mars was a dry one, with canals and survivors of an ancient, ruined civilisation - perfectly good conventions - they should leave them alone”. Letts then brings science in to deftly urinate all over Dicks’ love of pulp Sci-Fi - “Now they know that you’ve got an atmosphere of sulphuric-acid and carbon-dioxide,” he flatly states, “…that would kill anyone who tried to land”. Nicely defusing possible tension between them, Courtney blithely interjects that… ”I’ve never been to those places. I’ve never wanted to, particularly. But I’m not adventurous, I suppose…” Classy stuff!
This is a fun one, and rather an mixed set of emotions hit when revisiting it, as only 50% of those participating are still alive today, but it’s great to have them all on disc to put on and revel in their wit and wisdom whenever the mood takes you. This is a damned good commentary track, with all on sparkling form, and even those not yet given over completely to the concept of sitting around listening to something being narrated will be sold on it, as it’s a heaping helping of fun to listen to these guys sitting around reminiscing about times which will never come again. Recommended for edification - by order of the Brigade-Leader!
Production Subtitles: What Doctor Who DVD release would be complete without the usual exhaustive set of titbits of information about the filming of the story? Needless to say, you are presented with more info that you could need - for those of you who can multitask, try listening to the audio commentary and reading the production subtitles, but we would advise caution on this one, as absorbing this much cool information at once could cause the human head to explode in a Scanners-type way.
We have rightly come to expect an exacting record of all changes between the script at various stages to be found within the production notes, and there is no need to lose sleep about its possible absence here! Included is absolutely everything which was rejected, discarded, altered or just plain replaced on paper, right down to quoting grandiose descriptions of things written in the script and their ultimately compromised transposition to the screen due to lack of time, money and materials. Does the use of a fire-extinguishers seem to come out of the blue? Well, we find that there was originally a set-up line for them. Also to be discovered are lines of more detailed dialogue from Pertwee about his previous experiences with volcanoes, namely standing on the island in 1883 when Krakatoa blew its top, adding more colour to the Doctor’s past lives. We even get a log of all the unscripted ad-libs from the cast, brought in to inject humour or just to make the dialogue flow a little more evenly, including Christopher Benjamin’s wonderfully doom-laden line of “…that might not be a bad idea”.
The balance and tone of the writing of the subtitle track is a perfect as ever, with the tone light enough for the uninitiated, but more than armed with sufficient authority and information to satisfy the hardcore fan, and all laced with the almost trademark humour these guys do so well. Such frivolity from the set is well-represented too, including the detailing of the prank to make Courtney crack up by all wearing matching eye-patches in wait for him to swivel round in his chair. The ever-professional Brig called their bluff and delivered his lines without even flinching, much to ire of director Camfield, who demanded an expensive retake.
Ever wanted to know where all those technicians working in the background come from? Well, thanks to the limitless fountain of information provided here, we now know that they mainly came from the agency entitled Associated Plays and Players, and you can bet that there was probably simmering resentment towards those who actually got to hold a clipboard rather than just leaning on a desk in the background. We are even privy to the entire itinerary of a typical days’ shoot on location, including exactly when breakfast was served - such a repast was also supplemented by a quantity of brandy, on hand to keep out the cold whist filming in freezing conditions whilst on location!
You want complete? Maybe when to look for the shadow of the mike-boom on Pertwee’s immaculately-groomed bouffant will suffice? How about a potted history of the Trim-phone so as to enlighten younger viewers why that funny-shaped I-Phone used is still plugged into the charger unit when it’s used? By jingo, it’s all here and more! There’s more smart fun to be found here than Stephen Hawking sellotaping breadcrumbs to a bird-table, and it scrambles the brain to think that this all comes as standard! It’s another winner from the dangerously comprehensive mind of Martin Wiggins, and let’s all be grateful that he’s able to get us all up to speed on the processes of getting Doctor Who from script to screen, and in such an involving, entertaining way. Stick it at the top of your “to-do” list.
Can You Hear The Earth Scream?: This 35 minute documentary takes an in-depth look at the making of this highly-regarded story. Many of the participants from both in front and behind the camera share their memories of making Inferno. The genesis of the story - which started kicking around at the fag-end of the sixties - is explored and how Hammer Films writer Don Houghton was brought onboard (Terrance Dicks knew him from his Crossroads days), along with the inspiration for the story, which involved those dastardly Ruskies and a drilling project. The clippings from the local newspapers about filming in Hoo, Kent are interesting, as we lived relatively near that area, so it’s a bit of local colour! The documentary also explains Pertwee’s insistence on getting his Doctor to be more action-orientated; this decision led to the ultimate example of this dictum - the near-pornographic chase episode during Planet of the Spiders. Douglas Camfield's heart attack and Barry Letts' stepping into the breach to direct the remaining episodes is also discussed, during which Letts modestly admits that Camfield's directed episodes were better than his. A couple of the pranks that were pulled during the shoot are mentioned, including one that involved a coin on a piece of string that Pertwee tried to chase around the room, which chimes with Tom Baker once saying that Pertwee was physically incapable of putting his hand in his pocket to buy a round. Can You Hear The Earth Scream? was included on the original DVD release of this story and it's depressing that several of the participants of this documentary are now no longer with us, with Barry Letts, Nick Courtney and Caroline John all sleeping in eternity and watching this makes you miss them all the more, but you can't help but have a smile on your lips as you hear their priceless reminiscences.
The UNIT Family: This is a really fun documentary, tracing - in 35 minutes - the origins of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce from their first skirmishes with the Yeti, through to the events of Inferno. There are interviews aplenty, with series regulars Nicholas Courtney, Caroline John and John Levene, along with many prominent people behind the camera, including Terrence Dicks, Barry Letts and Derrick Sherwin, all contribute stories relating to their time as part of the UNIT family. All of this is illustrated with numerous clips from this golden era, with welcome excerpts from the Troughton era, along with the expected footage from the Pertwee years, including black and white footage from Ambassadors of Death, which is now available in colour.
Pertwee Years Intro: The opening of The Pertwee Years documentary is included here, mainly because it has Pertwee himself - standing outside BBC Television Centre - giving an introduction to the final episode of Inferno. Make yourself feel very, very old by watching this and remembering just how far into obsolescence video has slid over the last decade.
Deleted Scene: This didn’t go out in the original BBC transmission, but it did feature in overseas broadcasts and was in the version played numerous times on satellite in the UK. It is painfully obvious that the identity of the Lord Haw-Haw-like radio announcer has a name that sounds not unlike Ron Bertwee. A wise edit, but nice to see it included here all the same.
Visual Effects Promo Film: Now this really IS a time capsule from a bygone era, a short promotional film showing how some BBC visual effects are achieved. Complete with groovy bongo-driven music and mid-Atlantic voiceover (you know the sort of thing where there is heavy emphasis on adding "r" to the end of almost every word), this is a fun little thing, which has a Doctor Who connection because of the shots of several Silurian heads and footage from the apocalyptic climax of episode five of Inferno. What is particularly fascinating (for us, at least) about this is that it features being-the-scenes footage of the shooting of a water-based sketch with the late, great Marty Feldman.
Photo Gallery: Presented in the usual fashion of having music play from the story playing over the images, this six-minute selection of stills from the show are quite fascinating. The black and white photographs have an eerie quality to them that is quite striking, and there are numerous candid pictures, which show Pertwee in quite a favourable light. There are also several vintage pictures of the Doctor Who production team posing in their office, which are quite cute to look at - you almost expect Barry Letts to be posing with the telephone to his ear in one picture...
Hadoke Vs Havoc: This 27 minute documentary sees writer and die-hard Doctor Who fan Toby Hadoke doing his Justine Lee Collins bit (we're talking Bring Back... and not the more nefarious things reported about in the newspapers) by getting several key members of the Havoc stunt team back together and actually coach the self-confessed "card-carrying coward" to perform a stunt worthy of the outfit.
Mr Hadoke assembles four members of Havoc, including boss Derek Ware, and he explores the history of each member, along with what they are doing now; the most interesting life story out of the four old pros comes from stuntman-turned-actor Derek Martin, who would eventually find national fame in Eastenders. Martin recounts his early years as a ne'er-do-well in the East End and how being arrested for robbery allowed him to put his acting abilities to the test in court and realised that he could be an actor when he was found not guilty. Ware himself was eventually forced out of Doctor Who when the Beeb realised that they could just hire Terry Walsh to double for Pertwee and arrange the stunts himself, and the writing was on the wall for Havoc when rival stuntmen went to Equity and ruled in favour of their members being prevented from being agents. A sad end to a impressive outfit.
Once Hadoke gets of the old gang are back together in a very Blues-Brothers-like fashion, they make for an airstrip on a farm where Toby tests his mettle and perform a high(ish) fall from a platform into a couple of mattresses on top of a large number of cardboard boxes; Hadoke usually has a wit drier than a sandpaper Martini, but the nerves begin to show when he scales the scaffolding to perform this reasonably straightforward act of submitting to the forces of gravity - the transition from the sort of gag that Mr Hadoke is usually know for to doing the sort of "gag" that stuntmen refer to is fascinating as you can see that Mr H is doing the old actorly thing of not trying to make yourself look a complete wimp in front of seasoned veterans, who are now in their late seventies and early eighties and the guys don't make it easy for him, with the usual degree of stuntman banter designed to gently unnerve the initiate. Veteran Havoc man Roy Scammell does the stunt first, and at twice Hadoke's age, almost reinforces the sense of shame that would be felt if he bottled out of it.
The fall is a genuinely tense moment, as a middle-aged man with no previous stunt experience and a palpable sense of fear performs something that would be seen in many eyes as a pretty straightforward stunt. We won't reveal how things go in order to create a sense of suspense, but Mr Hadoke is seen wearing a neck-brace near the end of this documentary. This is a wonderfully nostalgic look back at the glory days of Havoc and there is a sense of joy as you watch these old compadres get together for what it almost certainly one of the last times - Mr Hadoke's sense of fear, mixed with his dry wit is a potent cocktail that many will have great pleasure in savouring. This is most assuredly another winner from Chris Chapman and Toby Hadoke.
Doctor Who Forever! Lost in the Dark Dimension: This instalment of the fascinating and entertaining series looks upon Doctor Who's cancelation and subsequent attempts to return to television. Starting with the opinions from people connected with Doctor Who Magazine (and fanzines) and even the infamous "day of action" that was organised by the fans is covered (which ended up pretty much convincing the BBC that Doctor Who only really had a small, hard-core bunch of nutters for fans and it wasn't worth bringing back). One of the most bizarre instances during those desperate times was the announcement that actor and local radio personality David Burton has been cast as the new Doctor - what is made even more astonishing is that the guys behind this documentary actually managed to track him down and he is interviewed on-camera! He talks about being approached, having a three-month contract, what the intentions of the producers were (including changing the TARDIS into a red telephone box), but any plausibility that his story might have had is blown out of the water when he claims that "two full... episodes" were filmed and subsequently destroyed/wiped when it fell through, including - conveniently - no photographs taken and confidentiality agreements; being perfectly frank, Burton seems like a nice guy, but the needle on our Bullshit-O-Meter is now slightly more to the right than the late Margaret Thatcher.
The depressing (and short-lived) saga of The Dark Dimension is brought up and discussed in a tantalising amount of detail; the writer speaks about what the project was exactly supposed to be, along with a detailed description of the plot and there is even an interview with all-round good-egg Graeme Harper, who was attached to direct the thing. The growing interest in the project from the BBC elevated it to casting (Rik Mayall was attached to play the villain), to possibly having a theatrical release and the eventual scrapping are discussed in painful detail - the project ultimately shook itself apart as the ballooning budget failed to materialise properly (Harper has his suspicions that Amblin trying to buy the rights was responsible for killing the project). As if the interview with would-be Doctor David Burton wasn't astonishing enough, there is some brief location-scouting footage for The Dark Dimension included here! It's wonderful, yet depressing to see it.
The bubbling rumours of a feature-film are addressed (one of us was going through 25 years of newspaper cuttings recently and found one about a film with Caroline Munro and Donald Sutherland!), along with the rumours - and subsequent failure - of the Paul McGann film and how things went from there, leading all the way to the announcement of New-Who, which contains an amusing story about Big Finish head-honcho Gary Russell being the only one who DIDN'T know it was returning. This really IS wonderful, with plenty for those who didn't know everything that went on during this fallow period and some concrete confirmation for die-hard fans who had heard rumours about this stuff; this is the kind of in-depth, above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty thing that you only get from Doctor Who and the passion of people behind it is abundantly evident.
PDF Materials: For those of you watching Inferno on either a PC or a Mac, you have the option to check out the listings for Inferno that were published in the Radio Times and the 1971 Doctor Who annual for good measure.
Coming Soon Trailer: Holy shit! It's The Mind Of Evil! And it's in colour! That's all we really need to say!
This closer to season seven is one of the crown jewels of the Pertwee era - an exciting, intriguing story is fleshed out with engaging performances and inventive direction - the guys at the Doctor Who Restoration Team have broken out the Windoleen to ensure that this particular crown jewel shines more brightly than ever. Good on ya, guys!
Review by Wilson Bros
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 27th May 2013
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: Audio Commentary, Production Subtitles, Can You Hear The Earth Scream?, The UNIT Family: Part One, Visual Effects Promo Reel, Deleted Scene, Doctor Who Forever! Lost in the Dark Dimension, Hadoke Vs Havoc, Coming Soon Trailer, PDF Materials
Easter Egg: No
Director: Douglas Camfield & Barry Letts
Cast: Jon Pertwee, Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney, Christopher Benjamin
Length: 173 minutes
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