Doctor Who: Legacy Collection (II) (UK - DVD R2)
The Wilson Bros continue their look at this anniversary compendium...
All fans of the original Doctor Who remember excitedly sitting down to watch the shorter version of this documentary when it went out, and we have no doubt that many “record” buttons were pushed when the BBC logo faded down - OK, “play” and “record” for older videos. It was the first time the BBC had really pushed the boat out for one of their hardiest programmes, a show which was only outstripped by either soaps or factual shows in the longevity stakes, so such praise was long overdue. However, the funny thing was just why the bothered to do so when the BBC had brought it to an end with almost gleeful relish only four years earlier.
The brainchild of uber-fan Kevin Davies, More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS was made before the deluge of modern sound-bite orientated “documentaries” where “celebs” stick themselves in front of a camera to talk about something they have little knowledge of, only watching a few provided tapes beforehand, utilising it merely as a way of getting themselves into the media once again. As such, the memories of those talking about Doctor Who are valid ones, such as Mike Gatting’s account of how his passage from childhood to man was torpedoed when his trips into London coincided with the sight of Yetis in the Underground, courtesy of The Web of Fear, and who hasn’t felt a certain stirring when Toyah Wilcox describes how the PVC smell of a Dalek dressing-up costume “influenced” her in later life, and as for her fetishistic attraction to Cybermen! Sure, younger folk today might be a little baffled as to who the above are, but they offer a more enduring appeal and a whole lot more charm than the more transient celebs of today. Well, apart from fashion-journalist Lowrie Turner, anyway…
On recent commentaries and documentaries found on Doctor Who releases, we have noted that there is something mournful about hearing from those who have since passed into the great beyond, and watching this show again, such melancholy looms larger than ever. Just as he kept popping up at the start of every Tomorrow’s Times, the rolling tones of Nicholas Courtney narrates everything with affectionate aplomb, armed with dialogue a combination of both wistful and informative is pitched just perfectly, with knowing humour for the fans and informative tid-bits for those casually tuning in whilst dispelling any notion of mourning his loss. It’s for those watching might have forgotten the show or are tuning in out of idle curiosity, “Essential Information” breaks are on hand for the uninitiated, where you can learn both elemental facts or more obscure stuff, for example that Dalek means “a far and distant thing” in Servo-Croat, giving ammunition to those out to win points on some Doctor Who themed quiz night down at the local pub. The one thing which really sticks out like a sore thumb in this particular department is when Nick Courtney announces with great authority that gold is to Cyberman as garlic is to a vampire, where a dose of a woman’s favourite metal will off one of Mondas’ finest, rather than just repel them. You might argue that it’s churlish to bring it up, but attention to detail is the very oxygen of Doctor Who fandom.
While there is a really cool selection of guests on to talk about the show and their experiences on it or the effect it had upon exposure to it, we have to say that there is a pretty poor showing of from the actors who played the title character. Sure, both Bill Hartnell and Pat Troughton were in a state of permanent death at the time, and Jon Pertwee certainly relishes the opportunity to talk about his most beloved role, but the lack of participation of Tom Baker leaves a void so big you expect Omega to be lurking within the vacuum. Naturally, Pertwee is only too happy to talk about the show, turning up in costume to demonstrate the Whomobile and show off his all-action prowess once again. However, the dapper Doctor makes a bit of a dick of himself when a combination of ignorance and pedantry turn on him during a guest-spot on Good Morning with Anne and Nick. Pertwee is on to draw the winner of a post-in competition where the question was: “Who invented the Daleks”? The lucky entrant is pulled out, only for Pertwee to vehemently dispute the answer of “Terry Nation,” saying that they “…were invented by a gentleman on the staff at the BBC, who got an ex-gratia payment of £250”. Nick Owen lolls over to one side at the dispute, and we’re unsure if it’s because the researchers might have gotten their information wrong, or that Pertwee is adamantly going off on a misunderstanding.
We all hate the clip of that nerdy little prep-school git putting the boot into the very concept of the show, and it’s one which has done the rounds among fans wishing to thank God that the class system divides most from than sort of person, and it gets quoted as faithfully as ardent Python fans quote the Dead Parrot sketch, and the inclusion of it here for posterity is certainly a welcome one. This extended form of MTTYITT just keeps on providing even more bliss, and one particular piece exclusively from this longer version which leaps out at us comes when we find out how Sylv’s accrued skills as an all-round performer saved the life of Sophie Aldred when the water tank stunt from Battlefield went horribly wrong. Assuming that he learned about safety in such an environment right after How to Stuff a Ferret Down the Trousers 101, our man with the walking-stick yells “SHIT! GET HER OUT!!!” over the footage as the tank cracks, threatening to turn Ace into little pieces faster than a batch of Nitro-9. It’s dramatic stuff, and helps to give a better look at just how much smarts McCoy is possessed off, rather than the general perception of being a multi-purpose buffoon in the Christopher Biggins mould.
An area where MTTYITT really comes into its own is when it ambitiously re-stages a number of iconic set-pieces from the show, giving a more modern - and or colour - look at how they would appear decades later. There are area where the tone is both knowing and playful exemplified by the sequence where Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant recreated the classic shot from The Invasion where the Cybermen come down the steps at St Paul’s Cathedral. The two of them list the requirements of the “companion”, and how they are there as a cipher for the questions young viewers might have, as well as making The Doctor look as smart as possible, all as Bryant points out to Baker that a squadron of Cybermen is following them. “I know that…” Baker all but sighs. Most enticingly, some gave tantalising glimpses of where the show could have been at had it not been cancelled, a prime example being when the kid timidly enters through the TARDIS doors, the tracking shot following him through into the Console Room rather than magically hard--cutting onto the studio set. This is were the broadcast version of the scene ended, but the extended release expands the magical air still further by having him meet an adult version of Susan, before being menaced by an approaching Dalek. Speaking of which, we get to see newly-constructed footage of the metal meanies using their Trans-Solar Discs from the comics, allowing them the power of flight. Flying Daleks? Let’s hope such fan-wank doesn’t make it into anything considered canon, eh readers? Oops, the mention of comics put us into Beano-mode there…
Younger viewers watching probably couldn’t appreciate at the time it was made, just how rare some of the clips of the episodes played were, given that a number of them hadn’t seen the light of day for some time. We are now in an age where just about everything Doctor Who has been released on shiny DVD, with the first ever location shot filmed of The Doctor (with Hartnell-double Brian Proudfoot) from The Reign of Terror being a perfect example, as fans had to wait about ten years for a video edition to come out, and about twenty for the DVD copy. There are still a few Doctor Who-related clips from the BBC archive here which still haven’t found their way onto DVD releases yet, so MTTYITT still has a number of cards stashed up its sleeve.
Sure, there are great interviews, and priceless footage to be found here, but one of the standouts is probably for the wrong reasons, that being when the BBC’s Pebble Mill programme interviewed Visual Effects Designer Bernard Wilkie, with a loads of classic baddies roaming the lush grounds outside the studio. We really feel sorry for the poor bastards they got to dress up in all of the various monster costumes, as there is nothing more ridiculous or grating than seeing a bunch of these guys grouped up and paraded for the cameras. Some of them take the thespian approach of “acting through the mask” with their hands, gesticulating wildly as seen by a few of the patrons of The Monster Club, but you end up really empathising with the poor sod playing the Draconian, as he tries to look elegantly noble in the face of magazine-television mentality. Best of all is a Cyberman trying to smash through a pane of candy-glass in a window stuck in the middle of the BBC grounds(!) only to have it fall over rather than smash. Could the Beeb not afford two stuntmen to carry the window and give the full Hollywood car-chase effect?
More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS concentrates more on the practical/technical side of things, these elements being liberally removed from the BBC screening so as to keep it bright and breezy for casual audiences. Lots of studio recording footage is used, that which has since been released in unedited form on DVD editions, but the use here is for providing visual reference to the working conditions under which the show was made. The Death to the Daleks B-Roll intersperses an interview with Barry Letts and Terence Dicks, both sitting a gallery as they discuss the rigours of studio filming. Letts amusingly recounts Aunties’ stubborn refusal to get with the times, in this case with the blue-screen process. “Chroma-key, the rest of the world calls it,” notes Letts, “… but the BBC insists on calling it Colour Separation Overlay, CSO”. It’s all in the tone of his voice! Amusingly, even with the two guys just sitting together, you can pick up on the familiar tension between them!
Exclusive to the longer edit is a new opening to the programme, which shows footage of Troughton as he waits being interviewed on Pebble-Mill, trying to brush off his discomfort and impatience at being on camera with a humorous: “...get the recording going.” before giving a thumbs-up. It’s all in jest, but you have to wonder if his ill-ease stems from either a dislike of revealing his inner-processes, fear of revealing his double-life or just that any delays meant that he had less time to divide between his two families. This extended version of the documentary doesn’t allow for the possibility of viewers getting bored, it is switches its style from BBC to ITV, putting in commercial-breaks in as a way of screening a few vintage, Doctor Who-related adverts. Preceded by end-of-episode situations, we get the Walls Sky Ray promotion and two of the Prime Computers campaign, including the one where Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are more than a little familiar with each other, which must have been rather jarring for fans at the time. It’s ironic that both adverts put together lasted only slightly longer than their marriage…
We’ve said it earlier, but there is something unnerving about watching archive interviews where those involved have died since recording, rather like flipping through an family photo album and finding picture of those no longer around: the bitter-sweet sensation is the same, but to have access to them again is warmly comforting. Also there is the jarring juxtaposition of how the last twenty years has aged those still alive, with the recent appearance of Colin Baker on reality television the most pertinent, and we all wanted to see just how cute an adult Roberta Tovey looked, but with so many subjects covered, including monsters, assistants/sexism, fashion, Mary Whitehouse (puttup!) and cancellation, it is an important document of the show at around the time it was made, keeping the full weight of nostalgia from crashing down upon it.
What else is there to say, only that it looks about as good as you could hope for, given the era it was made. It certainly bests our old recording from the TV (and we used a Scotch tape, buddy!) and the video release, but it is a little grainier than most might imagine. OK, hairs are being split, but you will be getting the definitive copy of an important UK historical artefact.
No complaints here. Again, it comes straight from the tapes, so there is nothing which could really go wrong.
Remembering Nicholas Courtney: Of all the recurring character on Doctor Who over the years, it is doubtful that there is any one held in higher regard or in greater affection than that of the implacable Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, and it’s thanks to the tremendous charisma and charm of the actor playing him that his appeal endures as it does. Looking to capture the story of Nicholas Courtney for posterity, his friend and biographer, Michael McManus, set about interviewing the suave thespian in 2010, finishing it whenever time permitted. Courtney’s slide into ill-health and inevitable death meant that McManus was never able to complete the project how it was intended, but he presents it in as a memoriam to a man for whom a stick-on moustache was the gateway to an enduring legacy.
Accessible to both the curious and the hard-core fans, this fascinating look at an appropriately fascinating man takes flinching look at his whole life, from the abandonment by his mother, followed by a miserable time at school, where he was mercilessly bullied by all and sundry, through to tailing top-of-the-class Bernard Horsfall at the Webber Douglas Academy, and how Courtney learned the nuts-and-bolts of the theatre biz under the wing of the tyrannical Donald Wolfit. On breaking into the desirable sphere of television, Courtney had the horrifying realisation that acting on TV required a very different set of skills, as well as a tremendous reduction in “work” when appearing in living rooms up and down the country. We all know that some actors on Doctor Who never really worked out that last bit, but ol’ Nick was just the man to command a small army and still be someone you’d want to have a pint with.
Proceedings are interrupted when a menacingly large figure appears at the window, begging entrance into both the house and the interview. Tougher to get rid of than an Avon lady, Tom Baker muscles his way onto the three-piece suite and reminisces with his old friend about how they met and times together on the show, and it says something when Nick Courtney can effortlessly deliver a zinger about the Fourth Doctor staying the night at his place which not only has McManus in stitches, but the mighty Baker busting a gut laughing at it. This is also when he recounts appearing with all of the subsequent actors to play the Timelord apart from one in particular, noting that: “…I’ve never been with Colin (Baker) except in the 3D thing…”
Aside from all mentioned, there are so many things to enjoy here, including how Equity was nearly spilt in two when the thorny issue of letting its members perform in Apartheid-torn South Africa came up, not to mention clips from many other Courtney projects, including footage from Then Churchill Said to Me, which went untransmitted for eighteen years because the Falklands War broke out just as it was about to go out. New linking material with McManus papers over any unfilmed material, along with archive interviews from the infamous Doctor Who Night (1999) to keep the great man alive and well during the proceedings, and the death of Courtney closes the book on a eminently entertaining look at the rich life of a much-loved character actor.
While there are many who would question the inclusion of a few of the items on this disc, viewing it a merely a “dumping ground” for things which didn’t make the cut elsewhere, this particular documentary rightfully belongs in the Legacy Collection, if inadvertently. Shada was intended as an ambitious story for the show, breaking with the tradition of studio-bound adventures, unspecific London locations and rural villages, but the bold vision was left incomplete due to circumstances beyond reasonable control. Michael McManus’ look at the great Nick Courtney met the same fate, but such things were too good to let slip away, with the efforts put into getting it into workable order commendable, and the final few minutes ultimately gave it a poignancy wouldn’t have had otherwise. What is presented here is an entertaining - albeit in hindsight slightly sombre - reminiscence of Nick's life and career. Though he looks distinctly tired, it's always a pleasure to see him, and we recommended to anyone and everyone with even a passing interest in Doctor Who.
Doctor Who Stories - Peter Purves: The actor who portrayed Steven Taylor appears in a featurette that somebody made earlier. After years of being very bitter about the show, every piece of participation with a more mellow Mr Purves is a very welcome one, as he brings a considerable amount of knowledge and 20/20 recall about times where information usually exists though mangled folklore and Chinese whispers. He remembers episodes by name, where they were filmed, including distinctly odd instances, such as the filming at Ealing where “…Jean Marsh and I jumped up and down on trampolines for quite some time trying to get us weightless in space”. To hear him wax causal about stories like The Myth Makers and The Savages, both lost in time, gives a real shot in the arm, and hope that they might still be out there somewhere.
It isn’t all glowing praise and rose-tinted glasses, as he's very forthright about the “cheapjack” production design of the early days, and this seems to be fuelled buy a sense of frustration that they couldn’t have more expansive vistas or more sophisticated camerawork due to the four-camera studio system which was the norm at the time. He also gets stuck into his dislike of “monsters” on the show, including the Daleks, expressing an interest more in the historical side of Doctor Who writing, or the more high-concept shows produced during his tenure. Most of all comes the wilderness years, where he really couldn’t get arrested after leaving, as the acting work totally dried up, but Purves balances out these caveats with his admiration for the calibre of actors employed on the programme, as along with the all-important writing, which he can’t praise enough.
Naturally, his work on Blue Peter is covered, mainly focusing on the numerous Doctor Who-related articles it carried through the years, including how they managed to help find a stolen Dalek, the do-it-yourself theatre (along with sound-effects) Jon Pertwee demonstrating the Whomobile and even a look at the episode broadcast from the UNIT HQ lab during the infamous BBC strike. Generous looks at clips from his time as Steven are to be found, as well as vintage Noakes footage as well, making for a whole lot of fun.
This is another excellent instalment of Doctor Who Stories, one you would think might have been prepared for a release of a story they were hoping would be miraculously found in the intervening time, so the quality is of the same lofty standards as any other example. The presentation is of the same insanely stylish design, and Purves is a joy to listen to. Our favourite is how the Trilogic game from The Celestial Toymaker won him Blue Peter through its mystical pyramid power. You would be foolish to pass this one up.
The Verity Lambert Tapes - Part 1: Subtitled “Success Story,” this is was intended to be the first instalment of a multi-part look at one of the BBC’s youngest and most successful female producers. Although the unedited tape surfaced on a fairly recent DVD as an extra, we here get the finished product as it was intended to be seen, with edits, cutaways, relevant clips and the like. It’s a short, but eminently digestible piece about How Lambert got her big break at the Beeb, and how she ended up becoming responsible for not only one of the most beloved shows on the BBC, among the most enduring in the history of world television.
She interestingly points out that the biggest hurdle she had to overcome when she took on her new job was not that she was only twenty-seven and (gasp) of the wo-man species, where everyone else was a middle-aged man, but that the Drama Department of the BBC were making a kid’s show saw the Children’s Department do their level best to try and stop them. When the idea of the Daleks irritated head-honcho Donald Wilson, their massive success through Lambert’s insistence that they would work prompts the woman herself to recall Wilson telling her: “I clearly know nothing about this, and you do, so I shall leave you alone from now on.” If that wasn’t encouragement enough for a young producer, than when else it?
While most Who documentaries utilise the words of the subjects exclusively, there is an instance where interviewer Claire Finnett’s voice is brought into the proceedings, as she makes a case for the hard-edged drama approach taken by An Unearthly Child, a notion which Lambert steadfastly agrees with, refusing to take the camp route. Yes, she even mentions The Web Planet, but stresses that the actors in the “butterfly” suits played their roles as straight as possible.
As things draw to a close, it’s a real treat to see that great picture of Lambert on the set of The Dalek’s Master Plan, surrounded by a gaggle of monsters never to be seen in their entirety again, shortly followed by Lambert putting her time on Doctor Who into words so incredibly modest, that from the lips of anyone else, they would seem egotistical: “…I just wanted it to be good, and I wanted people to enjoy it.” This look at Verity Lambert is an entertaining little nugget, and it’s buffed-up just lovely from its original, unpolished form.
Those Deadly Divas: We all know that many of the monsters in Doctor Who are pretty much asexual, with nothing to really tell them apart from Arthur or Martha, except maybe that the plunger of a male Dalek might be slightly longer when proudly erect, but the female of the monster species is generally regarded as a rare thing in the show, but prepare to have your perceptions of villainous gender upgraded as we take a look at all the intergalactic tyrants who have deserted the kitchen sink in favour of felonious Enlightenment...
A gaggle of Doctor Who-related folk are interviewed to pool their collective opinions of those barbaric bints bent on bumping-off the renegade Timelord, be it from those playing them (Kate O’Mara & Tracy Ann Oberman,) interested observers (Camille Coduri) and those responsible for writing every villainous move they make (Gareth Roberts & Clayton Hickman) to give a richer look at those malicious muthas splattering blood onscreen and other fluids off it.
Faces new and old are examined (and that‘s just O‘Mara) along with a few inclusions which will doubtless surprise many of those watching, with Kassia, Lucy Saxon and Krau Timmin being some of the more obscure choices. Professional MILF Camille Coduri is unrestrained when it comes to Oberman’s turn as Yvonne Hartman in Nu-Who, almost gasping in disbelief as she exclaims: “Oh, what a bitch!” to describe the obnoxious head of Torchwood. It’s not all amusing eye-scratching from her, though as Coduri expresses a real empathy with Liz Sladen when Tom Baker roughly twist the arm of Sarah-Jane/Edlrad in The Hand of Fear, genuinely concerned that she might have sustained serious shoulder damage from such rough treatment, praising Sladen’s professionalism for not breaking character.
Nu-Who writer Gareth Roberts does more than stays on the surface when looking at these treacherous tarts, going so far as to theorise that Revelation of the Dalek’s Madame Kara was created when Eric Saward “…sat down and watched everything Robert Holmes has ever written and done an homage to it, and good on him”. Fellow scribe Clayton Hickman makes a more unconventional choice for the supreme satanic slag, picking one of the more trouser-arousing variety. “Evil Tegan, for me, was never that different to real Tegan,” he admits, “‘cause she used to frighten me… she can do evil better than almost anyone else in Doctor Who, Janet Fielding…she‘s really, genuinely frightening”. He also makes a very interesting point about the early days of Doctor Who benefiting from no set “bible” for kids’ TV being used, allowing things like domestic violence and infidelity to find their way into the show, singling out Kala in Keys of Marinus, where her bed-hopping antics are interspersed with her husband smacking her upside the head.
City of Death’s Countess Scarlioni draws praise from more than one voice represented here, even the lofty O’Mara goes out of her way to give credit where it’s more than due. With O’Mara on board, it was inevitable that there would be a pretty decent look at The Rani, and it’s nice to see that ol’ Kate seems to view it with higher regard than a lot of other successful thespians who have appeared on the show do these days **cough**Jean Marsh **cough**. O’Mara reveals the little quirks and ticks which made up the character, including how The Rani “…doesn’t have a sense of humour…although she thinks she does”.
Presented in the very cool Doctor Who Stories style we’ve all grown fond of, this is a pretty damned slick package, encompassing both original and Nu-Who, with insight and humour to spare. This was a featurette that had been ready for quite a while and kicked around the release schedule until it found its way into this collection. An impressive list of female villains that have bothered, bewitched and bewildered The Doctor over the years are examined here, but we really hope that this wasn’t made utilising the route ITV took with their Comedy Classics show, where they stuck interviewees down in front of a loads of episodes (or even clips) from programmes and merely got them to comment on them, feigning that they either watched them at the time or were genuine fans.
OK, it’s spoiling the ending, but we had to let you know how this turns out, and that there is one former cast-member who would turn up in the if she go the chance. Kate O’Mara floats the notion that it would be cool for a bunch of the femme fatales to all join up, but not to create a single, Doctor-killing entity. She lets us in with the real reason for her plans, so as to eliminate the competition. “I think it would be nice to have all these sort of divas come together… I’d wipe the floor with the lot of them”. We probably don’t need to tell you that vicious, cat-fighting among Doctor Who villainesses would certainly require a lot of floors at home being wiped afterwards…
Photo Gallery: With more photos for your delectation than a long-running porno website, this a fine selection of pictures from the filming of More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS, mainly concentrating on the location shoots, which were extensive. If you have ever wanted a really good look at the Whomobile, including the dashboard, then this is definitely for you. We also get candid snaps of the guys suiting up to play the aliens, including a glimpse into the makeup room when a Draconian is getting his chin painted green to match the mask. One of the most curious is a piccy of the lovely Roberta Tovey and Jennie Linden being interviewed on a mocked-up set of the Dalek spaceship, but next to them is standing… Roy Castle!!! Why the Hell didn’t he appear in the interviews with them? We’re pretty sure that another actress is seen in the gallery but didn’t find themselves in the documentary, but we’ll leave you to work out who it might be when you watch this excellent collection of pictures from the time when Doctor Who was trapped in a dark dimension, with only glimmer of ever getting out again.
PDF Materials: We are treated to the Radio Times listing for More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS, giving a more detailed rundown that we are all used to on one for the actual episodes. It’s nostalgic fun, and interesting to see a footnote reading that “The continuing story of Planet of the Daleks can be seen on Friday at 7.30pm”. This was back when they actually cared about screening the original Doctor Who for newer audiences.
More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS is a joy from start to (unwanted) finish, with a decent look at all aspects of the show, not to mention the spin-off films. It gives the dead the opportunity to impart their experiences to others, fans to express their love for the show and a damn good time guaranteed for all. Through this invaluable documentary - to quote another popular Sci-Fi franchise - things you will see, other places… the future, the past, old friends long gone. We can’t recommend this highly enough, as it really is the definitive look at the original Doctor Who series in its entirety. Be sure to catch the Yentob comment after the cock-up laden closing credits, where the “We shall return” Dalek shot is much more elaborate. All this terrific stuff in the Legacy Box and MTTYITT thrown in as an extra??
P.S.: Where would a look at Doctor Who be without hearing from Mr Ian Levine, and how he managed to save The Daleks from the BBC’s own short-sightedness? A sterling fellow, not to mention a man who should be sent in to Afghanistan once all the troops pull out, as he does such a damn good job when it comes to reconstructions…
Review by Wilson Bros
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 4th January 2013
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: Remembering Nicholas Courtney, Doctor Who Stories: Peter Purves, The Verity Lambert Tapes: Part 1, Those Deadly Divas, Photo Gallery, PDF Materials
Easter Egg: No
Director: Kevin Davies
Cast: Nicholas Courtney, Jon Pertwee, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Nicola Bryant, Toyah Wilcox
Length: 87 minutes
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