Doctor Who: Revisitations 2 - Part 2 (UK - DVD R2)
Good grief! The Wilson Bros have front-row seats for The Carnival of Monsters...
Due to the increased traffic for us in terms of reviewing, these Revisitations reviews will be in a more compact form; Doctor Who fans will be more than familiar with the stories, but we have included some of the essential information to bring those outside of Who-fandom up to speed...
The Doctor/Companions: The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee), Jo (Katy Manning)
The Adversaries: The Drashigs, the grey-faced population of Inter Minor.
The Plot: The Doctor and Jo find themselves aboard the S.S. Bernice, an early 20th century vessel, apparently travelling on the Indian Oceasn, but they eventually discover they things aren't what they seem and that they on the planet of Inter Minor, and are trapped inside an outlawed device, the Miniscope, used for entertainment purposes. The Miniscope is owned by Voorg (Leslie Dwyer), who, with his glamorous assistant Shirna (Cheryl Hall) try and bring some colourful distraction to the population of Inter Minor, who are as grey and as colourless in their personalities as they are in their skin pigmentation; this entertainment could end up costing The Doctor and Jo their lives if they can't figure out a way of escaping from the Miniscope...
Observations: Robert Holmes was always a safe pair of hands when it came to writing scripts for Doctor Who, even when he stuff was occasionally mediocre, it was still head and shoulders above most other mediocre efforts from other writers on the show.
The guest cast in this story work wonderfully well together with Dwyer and Hall providing a bit of old-time music-hall entertainment, as they try and ingratiate themselves in an alien environment that isn't so much hostile and dangerous, more indifferent and bureaucratic. Even by this point, Dwyer was a acting veteran, having appeared in the sort of cheap and cheerful black & white British thrillers from the late forties to mid-sixties that we happen to adore (if you get the chance, watch The Black Rider - it's great fun) and Hall would step firmly into comedy a few years later when she appeared in the first couple of series of Citizen Smith, so it is interesting to see her essentially doing comedy in Carnival of Monsters.
Peter Halliday, Michael Wisher and Terrence Lodge make for an amusing red-tape bound version of The Three Stooges, rather than battering themselves physically, they talk amongst themselves in a manner so exasperating that most would prefer to be poked by the eye by Moe Howard. Halliday, a veteran of Doctor Who (most memorably seen as the cowardly Packer in The Invasion) finally gets to do blatant comedy and he succeeds wonderfully in his grey-faced role.
Pertwee shows a bit more charm than usual (he must have slipped Bob Holmes a few quid in order to write it into the script) and as always, his chemistry with Katy Manning is undeniably wonderful. Manning his her usual bubbly self, always seemingly bubble-headed, but with an understanding beneath the surface that eventually comes to the fore.
The only thing that marrs and otherwise wonderful episode are some of the production values with the scenes set on Inter Minor, especially the make-up on the lower class of workers, which look fairly pathetic and makes the viewer glad that they decided to scrap having Halliday, Wisher and Lodge looking that way.
Audio Commentary #1: Actress Katy Manning, director/producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrence Dicks are in the studio to watch and give their observations on this particular story. Manning - shameless old ham that she is - flits between all manner of drama school accents, and though they’re entertaining, they ultimately wear quiet thing, but seeing as she’s such fun and so endearingly daffy, most Doctor Who fans can overlook this minor caveat.
The late, great Barry Letts is partnered with the ever-fun Katy Manning for another fun stroll down memory lane via the Time Vortex known as DVD. With the two spending so much time working together on the show, there is no question that the chemistry is going to spark, and you won’t be disappointed.
Letts’ recall is excellent, and his delivery contrasts perfectly against Manning’s exuberance, with one of the few things he is unsure about being whether of not a costume consisting of a black and white clowns’ outfit covered in question-marks was for either Manning or Elizabeth Sladen, the design of which he flatly nixed. Manning swiftly puts him out of his misery by revealing that it was she who donned the ludicrous garb, which was probably worse than the Andy Pandy outfit inflicted upon Sladen during her final story.
Letts astounds Manning when he reveals that not only had the viewing figures “dropped off the bottom of the graph” at the time he accepted the job as producer, but that he was told to be actively looking for a replacement show to take the place of Doctor Who. This is quite possibly the result of having The Doctor spending too much time on Earth and getting involved with the guys at UNIT.
Usually the sin of participants silently sitting back and not commenting is a cardinal one, but Manning is genuinely enjoying the experience, so it‘s more than forgivable, quickly apologising with a genial: “I’m having much too good a time watching this, I have to tell you”. The former companion supplies our favourite moment, which is another bizarre look at the inner workings of Manning’s head, when she complements the excellent set design, which was cleverly augmented by use of split camerawork, and how’s all different from the technology today. “…It’s like if you’re cooking a meal and you’ve only got three things in the fridge, and you whip up those [ingredients] and it comes out much better than if you have everything that you need. It makes you more creative.”
We defy you not to laugh as Manning goes into a fit of hysterics when watching her performance at the end of the second episode, where our heroes are confronted by a ravenous Drashig. She her laughter competes with the fearsome beast for sheer volume, as she exclaims: “Jo’s gone into total shock!!!” There are so very few commentaries which strike the prefect balance between tone and information, and this is certainly one of them. Recommended listening.
Audio Commentary #2 - New: Toby Hadoke is your genial moderator for this newly-recorded audio commentary, along with actors Cheryl Hall, Jenny McCracken and Peter ( “Mmmmpackerrrr!”) Halliday. McCracken interestingly reveals both she and Hall auditioned for the role of Jo Grant, with Hall being short-listed for the part, but ultimately (and somewhat obviously) losing out to Katy Manning. McCracken also sings the praises of Barry Letts, who helped her out when her agent went bust, owing her a large amount of money. Later on in the commentary, sound effects designer Brian Hodgson drops in and reveals some interesting aspects about the show and his career in general and also notes that - much to his chagrin - some of the sound effects that he created are still being used today in Doctor Who, but he doesn’t receive any sort of payment for their use. Possibly the most important aspect of this new audio commentary track is that it highlights the ravages of smoking, as Cheryl Hall’s voice now sounds like a Stradivarius that has been hacked to pieces, churned in a cement mixer for a weekend and reassembled using Pritt-Stick.
Destroy All Monsters - New: The making of this classic story is examined in this documentary that opens with a very kitsch, 1950’s style that takes the form of a quintessential B-movie trailer, complete with amusing graphics and a voiceover that makes you think that Patrick Allen has risen from the grave. There are a nice selection of interviewees, all of whom share their memories of the filming of Carnival of Monsters, including Katy Manning, who uses this as an excuse to show off her seldom-used talents for imitating things, especially recounting the bizarre situation when on location in Essex for Carnival of Monsters, where she was left sinking in the mud whilst the rest of the cast and crew went off for a break. The jovial Terrance Dicks is on-hand to tell everyone how instrumental he was in having Robert Holmes join the show and how he allegedly nurtured Holmes’ talent. Towards the end of this documentary, Barry Letts fills the unaware of the controversy surrounding the “Delaware” version of the Doctor Who theme, which turned up on the opening of export prints of Carnival of Monsters - for those of you yet to hear this infamous version of the theme (yes, it’s even worse than the one used for the Trial of a Time Lord season!), you can hear a sample of it in Destroy All Monsters, and you can hear more of it on the rough edit of episode two on the first disc… if you dare.
Most of the contributors add their two penneth-worth regarding the “appropriating” of fixtures and fittings from the boat that they were filming on as it was shortly to be scrapped - with several of them mentioning that the light-fingered Jon Pertwee had gone a bit too far and tried to pinch something very valuable from the bridge that had been catalogued and was due to be sold off as salvage - a quiet word to Letts from the Captain and a sheepish Pertwee gave the thing back. Letts also reveals just why the design of the Drashigs worked so well and why in particular their teeth looked frighteningly realistic - the answer, distastefully enough - was because they were real teeth, as the effects team were able to get their mitts on a few dog skulls, which they embellished and hey presto, the Drashigs were born! When you hear that information, it’s very difficult to look at them in the same light, as it now seems pretty damn distasteful that the skulls of fox-terriers were used for the purposes of entertainment in a family show - however, Letts does make it clear that the canines weren’t killed specifically for Doctor Who - there would have been an outrage if they had been; Manning declares that she would be proud to have her teeth used for a monster on Doctor Who, though you would have to ask if she was referring to her original set or her bought and paid for ones…
Destroy All Monsters’ unconventional style comes as a breath of fresh air, as nothing like it has been seen in previous Doctor Who special features - it manages to have an amusing and unique feel to it, but still imparts the usual quota of information and fascinating anecdotes that Doctor Who fans have come to expect from these releases. We can only hope that the guys at Dene Productions are going to be producing further making-of documentaries in equally unique styles, as it works wonderfully well here.
Episode Two - Early Edit: Doctor Who episodes generally tended to run for about 24-25 minutes in length, but occasionally there would be times when an episode in a story would run too short ( Meglos) or too long, as was the case with episode two of Carnival of Monsters. Beginning with the countdown clock, with someone off-camera dryly quipping "they didn't teach me this at Cape Kennedy for nothing", before launching into the title sequence with the dreaded "boingy" Delaware arrangement of the Doctor Who theme tune, this edit of episode two clocks in at 29m44s and is unrestored, but still looks remarkably good for something that really shouldn't be in existence anyway. This episode survives because it was inadvertently sold overseas and this is why the Delaware version of the theme turned up when Carnival of Monsters was transmitted in Australia, then surfaced on UKGold and was even released on video.
The extended material consists of more scenes between our three blue-faced bureaucrats, and extra dialogue from Leslie Dwyer and Cheryl Hall, providing some interesting background information about their characters. There is more footage of Ian Marter, which is always welcome, helping to make the fisticuffs between Andrews and The Doctor seem less abrupt. The footage is nothing mind-expanding, but does help to flesh things out a little and the inclusion of the whole episode on this release (the original DVD issue just presented the material as deleted and extended scenes) is most welcome.
Behind the scenes: Courtesy of the BBC TV show Looking In comes a terrific snippet of the incredibly complex machinations which were commonplace when recording multi-camera drama at the Beeb. On a recent commentary it was noted that a director needed to possess a calling to be able to do the job efficiently, and you won’t doubt these words upon exposure of bringing Drashigs to life. There have been other looks behind the scenes of 70s Doctor Who, but you probably won’t find any as viscerally edited nor conveying the urgent panic under which they were always made. File under: “Invaluable”.
Visual Effects Models: It was featured on the previous release, but is presented at double the length of the last outing. As before, we see trims and demonstrations which were only ever intended for the top brass of those involved with the show, and were probably destined for the bin once approved or rejected, so to have it included is a minor miracle. This is principally a number of test-runs of the Drashigs, with them bursting through materials of varying thickness, but we also get to see the little buggers wandering around the countryside, as well as disappearing into the drink. How about a few runs at getting the effects of space flight just right? Yep, you get that too. The footage of the Drashigs is highly variable in its success, but such is the nature of running tests. On some shots, the hand-puppet nature of the beasts is patently obvious, to the point where you expect it to say “sausages” before attacking. That they look so good in the show is testament to all the pre-filming work put into them.
The Five Faces of Doctor Who Trailer: Ah, this is bliss. Absolute bliss. A lengthy trailer for one of the few times the BBC showed Doctor Who’s history the proper respect, and we remember watching all of them when they were broadcast. But then again, it was such a rare opportunity to see previous stories that each one was the talk of the playground when they were screened. Yep, Logopolis (even though it wasn’t all that long before that it went out), Carnival of Monsters, The Krotons and An Unearthly Child were dusted off an rolled out to an appreciative audience, and to look at the quality of some of the footage here is to fully grasp just how much work the Restoration Team have put into them in the intervening years.
Watching this trailer again gave us that wonderful feeling of mind-expanding possibilities before the archives were opened up, and so many tales were still there to be discovered. Wonderful.
Director's Amended Ending: For the repeat of Carnival of Monsters that took place during the Five Faces of Doctor Who season, director Barry Letts requested that the ending of episode four be re-edited in order to remove the footage of Peter Halliday in which his bald-cap had obviously slipped. What is interesting about this amended ending is that it actually seems to work better than the one that was originally transmitted, as it is far punchier.
Mary Celeste and Other Maritime Mysteries - New: This look at the most famous ghost ship in history is a compelling one, and ties into a central core of Carnival of Monsters rather nicely. Any salty old seadog will spin yarns of luggers which drifted their way into port with all hands missing, and here we get a potted history of those lost in mysterious circumstances. Those who think that the only ground covered will be from centuries ago will be in for a very pleasant surprise, as it starts out looking at the SS Poet, which was lost in 1980, making events more accessible for casual viewers.
Often there is a reasonable explanation for certain vessels going missing in a particularly infamous area. The Sulphur Queen in 1963 being the first link to the Bermuda Triangle, the theory of which was concocted the following year. Rationally, the loss of the ship might be explained by the volatile load it was carrying, hence the name. Before that was the 1918 sinking/disappearance of the USS Cyclops, the captain of which was a very unpopular Dutch guy, who could have been mistaken for German and caused the crew to do something drastic.
Our hats go off to the National Maritime Museum’s John McAleer for bringing gravitas to the proceedings in the face of numerous innuendo-laden traps. He manages to explain the fateful mission of the Mary Celeste with only a few juvenile titters on our part. We admit that one certain piece broke our stoicism, and that was about Captain Benjamin Briggs’ mission to make the tricky journey across the Atlantic whilst carrying 1,700 barrels of alcohol, but having the good fortune of: “…a large consignment of sailors and seamen to help him”. Sounds like a party to us. Bugger, we said it.
Professor Roger Luckhurst mentions Close Encounters of the Third Kind as a reference to popular culture and such matters, neatly bridging the chasm between Doctor Who and a documentary on the most famous of oceanic mysteries. Clips from The Chase are used to illustrate events, and it occurred to us when we first read of the extras that this documentary might have been more at home on the release of the infamous William Hartnell story. Obviously the reason for its inclusion in the Revisitations 2 box is because the SS Bernice was thought to be lost at sea in the 1920s, which might be a bit of a reach, but we’ll go with it. Still, Mr McAleer states that he’s pretty certain that The Daleks were not responsible for the mysterious disappearance of all hands. There are a couple of theories we hadn’t heard before, and you can push the usual outlandish ones like giant squids to the back of your minds.
The Merseyside Maritime Museum’s Ian Murphy is on had to deliver (for our money) the most likely theory as to what happened. It seems the ship could have run into treacherous seas, and the crew would have stood a better chance getting into a launch and tethering it to the stern of the Celeste, with the water so rough, the rope snapped and the main ship sailed off and surviving the storm whilst the smaller boat capsized, killing all aboard.
This documentary might seem a little out of place on this disc, but it is no less fascinating for its inclusion here. Those interviewed are personable and really know their stuff, imparting what might be written off as dry material with a level of involvement which is infectious. Certainly worth a spin.
The A-Z of Gizmos and Gadgets - New: This eleven-minute featurette is a breakneck, light-hearted look at some of the more interesting technological devices seen during the run of the original Doctor Who series. Narrated by Paul Jones, who seems to be doing his best Dave Lamb (the irritatingly smug little prick who voices Come Dine With Me) impersonation, this is a pretty entertaining romp taking you on a cosmic journey from A through to Z in terms of wild and wacky Classic Who tech. As is often the case with such alphabetical looks at things, the letter X is represented rather tenuously by X-ray (for which they trot out a clip from the Paul McGann movie). Unsurprisingly, when it comes to the letter S, the trusty old sonic screwdriver is featured, and a number of capabilities of the Doctor's most popular gadget are listed, though they could have been somewhat flippant and say that it is used for lazy, catch-all get-out-of-any-situation in any given episode of New-Who.
On Target With Ian Marter - New: This is another in the occasional looks at the authors of the Doctor Who novelisations from Target Books, the focus on this one being the late actor who not only wrote, but also played Doctor and all-round good-egg Harry Sullivan during the early part of the Tom Baker era. This is great stuff, as Marter died at a fairly young age and this documentary also functions as a retrospective on his life in general. Contributors include writer Terrence Dicks, actors Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and the recently deceased Nicholas Courtney, with the contributions from the latter make this documentary more poignant than it would have been before February 2011. What is also touched upon is the aborted film Scratchman, which would have seen The Doctor, Harry Sullivan and Sarah Jane Smith on the big screen in a manner more in keeping with actual Doctor Who than the two Rosenberg/Subotsky outings - this would have seen The Doctor and his companions face living scarecrows and Vincent Price as the title character (which wouldn’t have been so hard to imagine as Price was in and out of Britain like a failed asylum seeker during the sixties and seventies, not to mention that he was game for pretty much anything if a project tickled his fancy). Baker and Sladen talk about the project and just how the creative process worked as Baker and Marter hammered out ideas between them - it’s a crying shame that the project didn’t go through ( Born Free director James Hill was attached to the project), as seeing if the big screen could contain Baker’s ego (not to mention having him butting heads with Vincent Price) would have been a fascinating thing to watch.
Everyone speaks fondly of the man who was very much like his on-screen character and several of the contributors read excerpts from Marter’s novelisations, which demonstrate wonderfully how he was able to cram so much descriptive information into something that would have ordinarily taken up mere seconds on-screen. Near the end of this documentary, Marter’s tragically early death are touched upon and Sladen poignantly recalls how she found out about her friend and colleague’s death - Sladen is genuinely moved as she recounts this and shows just how well-loved Marter was. This could have easily been longer and have incorporated more about Marter’s life, but as it is, it’s still as fascinating and warm look at the professional life of an actor who played a character ultimately surplus to requirement when Tom Baker was cast, but was wonderful in the role and eventually built up a sterling reputation as a novelist whilst still staying in the Doctor Who universe.
TARDIS-Cam No 2: Though the limits of what was possible back when this was originally produced has advanced considerably in subsequent years, this little look at the TARDIS evading capture by a Dalek mothership by dematerialising into the time-vortex is still pretty cool, and it bears more than just a passing resemblance to the opening credits of New-Who - it’s a fairly safe bet that Russell T Davies saw this and thought “hmm…”
CSO Demo: This is a fascinating relic from the era when Colour Separation Overlay was in its infancy, with producer/director Barry Letts (with an assistant) standing in front of a blue-screen and showing the advantages of the CSO process. The informality of the piece clearly gives you the impression that this was intended only to be seen by a fairly limited number of people within the BBC, and it quite plainly a plea from Letts to those above him within the organisation to give him the green (screen) light to develop the system to its fullest potential.
Info-Text: Once again, there is more information about all aspects of the making of this story that you can poke a stick at when you access this special feature, presenting you with facts, figures, statistics and triva that all serve to enhance your appreciation and understanding just what went into the production of Carnival of Monsters.
Photo Gallery: There is a nice mix of colour and black white images in this fairly short section, with other bits and pieces thrown in for good measure, including the drawings created for the Radio Times listings, which is a nice little bonus, along with photographs from the recording of the audio commentary of the late Barry Letts and numerous pictures of Katy Manning. In something of a departure from the usual presentation of still images from Doctor Who, there are some nice on-screen graphics to kick things off, giving you a sense of being dropped into the story and seeing things on the Scope.
PDF Materials: All four of the Radio Times listings can be accessed when you pop this disc into your computer, featuring the synopses, cast list and the cute little illustrations that appear with each listing (though these can also be seen in the photo gallery as mentioned above.
Coming Soon Trailer: Good Grief! It's Planet of the Spiders next, it may be the Third Doctor’s swansong, but many will remember this one for episode two’s automotive pornography pandering to Pertwee’s particular passion for power.
Carnival of Monsters remains one of the very best stories from the Jon Pertwee era; the fascinating and intriguing script from the master, Robert Holmes are the bones onto which the flesh of the wonderful performances hang on. This story more than many others demonstrates why Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning made such a great pair, as their chemistry is infectious and - above all - genuine.
The new extras on this set, and the slight upgrade in the image department make this revisitation to Carnival of Monsters worth the money; the fairly radical departure from the usual Making Of documentaries with Destroy All Monsters breathes new life into a format that had sadly become somewhat stale - subsequent documentaries are going to have quite a tough act to follow.
Review by Wilson Bros
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 1st January 1995
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Aspect: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: Audio Commentary, Destroy All Monsters, The A-Z of Gadgets & Gizmos, On Target - Ian Marter,
Easter Egg: No
Director: Barry Letts
Cast: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Leslie Dwyer, Cheryl Hall, Ian Marter
Length: 98 minutes
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