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Dr Who has spanned decades and generations with its unique brand of sci-fi and low budget effects. This release shows Worzel Gummidge, or Jon Pertwee as we all know him, dressed up as the third Doctor in the legacy. BBC Worldwide and Roadshow Entertainment now present Doctor Who – Carnival of Monsters from 1973 on DVD for our Australian cousins.

Worzel has never washed up so good
This disc has four episodes that make up the story, which can be viewed either as separate chapters or continuously via a menu option. Unfortunately the opening and ending credits are not chopped from this way of viewing of each chapter, but it is no real problem.

The film starts showing two seemingly unrelated stories, one with the good Doctor and his assistant Jo (Katy Manning) appearing on a ship in the middle of what we learn is the Indian Ocean, and the other is on a planet called Inter Minor where a travelling showman known as Vorg and his assistant named Shirna arrive to entertain the population. Vorg’s main method of entertaining is a special viewing screen mounted on a stand which he refers to as “The Scope”. This device allows the views to see alien worlds and the incredible sock puppet monsters that live there.

I call this device a "l-a-z-o-r"
The Doctor and Jo are on the SS Bernice, exploring their surroundings and trying to avoid the ships occupants, learning a little at a time that they are actually in the 1920s sailing to India. Their journey is suddenly interrupted by some form of black and blue muppet, which is identified as a Plesiosaur – a sea dinosaur that died out over 130 million years ago! The Doctor and his slightly slow witted assistant Jo realise all is not what it seems and yet their fellow passengers are very unreceptive to this plight and so begins another classic Doctor Who tale.

Obviously made for TV in the early seventies, this disc is presented in 4:3. I am not sure when the BBC stopped using black and white film for their programming, but it seems to have been before this was made as this is, as you might see during the opening titles of Police Squad, “In Colour”! Straight off, this print looks very “seventies”. While colours are reasonably lifelike (if a little dull in places), the feel of the video looks very amateurish. There is not too much in the way of grain present, but there are several artefacts on screen that are particularly noticeable during scenes shot outside, and during the credits. The transfer is actually appropriate for this presentation as it just adds to the whole slightly cheap and tacky production. If it came with a 16x9 artefact and grain free anamorphic transfer, it just wouldn’t look right.

If you wanted a 5.1 DTS track then there is something wrong with you. As with the video, this needs to reflect the era in which it was created, and with that in mind we get a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix which is probably below average in terms of content, but perfect for this disc. There are several monsters screaming and growling, which are I guess for the time, excellent sound effects and they are reproduced faithfully here. So while the bass levels might not rattle Grandads teeth like your favourite DTS track might do, it does the job and there is little to no hiss. One thing I did note was when the Doctor and one of the ships crew fight using the rules of boxing. I had forgotten that when people hit each other there is no whooshing sound of arms flying through the air, and no monstrous thunk sound when punches are landed. Too much Hollywood made me forget we don’t make those sounds when we get into fights.

"No we'll see if I've remembered what Myagi taught me"
I could not believe the amount of extras the BBC and Roadshow Entertainment have managed to get for this disc. Firstly there is a full length audio commentary from the director and producer, Barry Letts along with the Doctor’s assistant Jo (Katy Manning) which is quite fun. They talk about the props used and how they were created, and both have a great laugh at the “monsters” in the feature. The director came up with some interesting anecdotes about Jon Pertwee and his stealing of the ships compass, and how he had to compensate for the filming which was done in daylight when it was supposed to be darkness.

There are two extended and one deleted scene, which I wasn’t expecting at all. After all, this is only Doctor Who, not an expensive movie production. There is an alternate take on the theme music using what was at the time, a much newer mega synthesiser, but the new version was scrapped, as it wasn’t liked as much. However it did by accident ship to Australia on episode 2 of this story and for completeness it was included on the DVD. Since this was recorded in Delaware Road in London, it became known as the Delaware titles. There is a special trailer called “The Five Faces of the Doctor” which is essentially a montage of 5 episodes from different doctors, which was to be shown as part of the Doctor Who season. There is something called the “Tardis-cam sequence” which is a computer generated Tardis flying around through space next to a space station. I am not entirely sure what the reference is for this, but anyway, it is quite pretty to watch. There is a visual effects test film which basically has a lot of sock puppets breaking through a paper “wall” accompanied by monster roaring noises and I very much enjoyed the special effects documentary which talks the audience through what we know today as “Blue Screening”. It’s funny really as the effect is so bad you find it hard to believe that people could not see the background was a super imposed model, but none the less obviously some people needed telling. I was very impressed with the way they filmed the space ship landing in the opening sequence, as they wanted large flames below the ship to help simulate it landing. The problem with flames it that they burn upwards, and for this scene the flames needed to burn downwards. Since using a rocket booster was probably out of the question, the effects people essentially built the set upside down, and then the ship moved from the ground upwards to the landing pad, with flames shooting upwards. A simple effect that is cheap and works well – this is the essence of how Doctor Who was created – clever ideas to enhance production value, with little cost. A photo gallery and a behind the scenes report round off this impressive list of extras.

Up from the depths, thirty stories high, breathing fire, his head in the sky!
I was not even a glint in my parents’ eye when this was originally aired, and even as I grew older I was not a Doctor Who addict. However, today I have quite enjoyed this special effect laden romp through the past. Or should that be future? The DVD is presented well, with decent animated menus and so stuffed full of extra features any fans of this series would be mad to miss out on this part of the collection. I even found an easter egg or hidden extra which I have placed in the Easter Eggs section of this site. A well presented, fun DVD worthy of any fan’s collection.