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My latest watched Doctor Who DVD, this being the last of the first Jon Pertwee season. I liked it. Alex Wilcock has already said pretty much all I would want to say about it. I would just add a few more details:

The Doctor's own role is not especially glorious in this story. Rather than concentrate on the dangers of the drilling project, he prefers to try and escape via TARDIS. When the Brigadier accuses him of having wasted time "gallivanting", the Doctor takes deep offence, but the Brigadier is absolutely right. Had the Doctor stuck around on our world instead, he could have simply badgered Stahlman to take his glove off, which would have resulted in his being instantly discredited. We the viewers know about the intimate connection between the drilling and the Primords; the penny never really drops for the characters.

It's a shame that they didn't give Liz Shaw a decent farewell scene. I suppose that is part of the problem of a season with only four stories and the last one seven parts. There was too much plot to fit in, perhaps. On the second DVD, Caroline John comes across in the interviews as a very pleasant and intelligent person, much more so than the last companion-playing actress who I saw interviewed, who came across as pretty brainless. But it's nice that the last shot of the series, and of the season, is of her laughing at the Doctor and Brigadier squabbling.

The story of John Woods/John Levene and his acting career is a rather nice one too, which I hadn't heard before.

More on alternate universes in another post. But in summary: a good set of DVDs.


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 16th, 2006 09:25 pm (UTC)
Liz Shaw doesn't get a proper farewell because Barry Letts hadn't decided to dispense with Caroline Johns' services until after Inferno was in the can, and didn't want to bring her back just for a farewell scene.
Aug. 17th, 2006 10:03 am (UTC)
From what I recall Caroline got pregnant during the filming of that season and it was a sort of mutual decision to not continue, which is a pity because I think she was actually one of the best companions - there was real chemistry between Liz and the Doctor, not the teenage infatuation of Rose for 9 and 10. But in some respects I think Liz was too strong a character for the series, she was too bright to do the "but what does that mean, Doctor?" stuff and wouldn't've worked well once the show got back off Earth.

Aug. 17th, 2006 10:53 am (UTC)
As documented in The Television Companion and elsewhere, Caroline John was indeed pregnant, but this fact was not known to either Barry Letts or Terrance Dicks when they decided not to renew her contract. Being pregnant helped sugar the pill of being dropped for John, as she would have had to leave before the end of the next season anyway.

Letts dropped her for much the reasons you identify - her character (a legacy from Derrick Sherwin's desire to make the programme much more adult-orientated) was too smart to fulfill the typical and necessary functions of the companion. Plus Pertwee didn't like someone who was a near rival to the Doctor on the show.
Aug. 17th, 2006 08:45 am (UTC)
I enjoy the season 7 stories and wish that Letts and Dicks had persevered with the grittier storylines. Inferno is, I think, the most successful story in the season. While I enjoy The SIlurians and Ambassadors, there are longeurs. Inferno feels less padded. The alternate universe storyline gives it better pace and added drama.

On the DVD I'm afraid I found Levene's contributions (especially in the commentary) rather irritating. Is there some bad feeling between him and the others? The handovers and comments by Letts and COurtney suggested a little tension - but I'm not aware of the background to this.
Aug. 17th, 2006 10:18 am (UTC)
Ambassadors is very, very odd. The mix of low-key, realistic depiction of spaceflight, UNIT, seldom-seen aliens, and Quatermass-like story and the awfully clumsy thick-ear stuff with Reegan makes it feel like clear-air turbulence when you're watching it - as a four-parter it would've been one of the best ever; as a six parter it had problems!
Aug. 17th, 2006 02:13 pm (UTC)
So how was it as a seven-parter? ;o)
Aug. 17th, 2006 02:17 pm (UTC)
Good god it was too. I can only claim innocence by saying I watched it on DVD and you lose track of individual episodes -- it was just that bit too long. ;)
Aug. 17th, 2006 02:35 pm (UTC)
Padding in the old seven parters was somewhat excusable - and suggests I think that it is better to watch the classic series an episode at a time rather than in a block. They weren't designed to be viewed as TV movies. Sometimes DVDs do the classic series no favours (although occasionally an episode benefits enormously from being viewed in compacted form (eg I think Curse of Fenric).
Aug. 17th, 2006 02:45 pm (UTC)
I agree that the longer stories (several of which had to be there to stretch out budgets or because other stories had fallen through, IIRC) are often a strain to watch in one go but most of the better four-parters can be consumed as movies and work really well that way - the only way you'd know something like Robots of Death wasn't conceived that way would be the climaxes every 23 and a bit minutes!
Aug. 17th, 2006 02:49 pm (UTC)
Actually, I have never found it a problem. Admittedly, the incidental music in The War Games gets a bit repetitive.

I recall one of the early Who video releases was the second Ice Warrior story, which I grabbed as soon as I saw it in a shop. I think it was the second or third release, and the episodes were edited together into one long "movie". I never thought this was one of the best stories, but I was very keen to see it because we had missed the final episode because of reception problems on the original transmission. (I think we saw a total of about two minutes, and not a full, consecutive two minutes either!)

What made me think of that here was the time I was getting ready to go out with a girlfriend who was not really into SF, etc. I had stuff to take care of, so to keep her amused I bunged in the first tape to hand and said she could watch this for a bit. It was The Seeds of Death, and when I had dealt with everything I had to before we went out she refused to budge. She wanted to see the rest of the story...
Aug. 17th, 2006 11:05 am (UTC)
I believe there may be some resentment, dating back at least as far as Recall U.N.I.T in the 1980s. What it's actually all about, however, I couldn't say.
Aug. 17th, 2006 02:14 pm (UTC)
I met him at one point in the 80s (can't remember when, but it post-dated Recall U.N.I.T); if there was any resentment then he hid it well. Seemed a pleasant bloke.
Aug. 17th, 2006 02:11 pm (UTC)
As far as I know, the decision to drop the Liz Shaw character was taken after the series had been completed, hence the lack of a farewell scene. It was a bit of a surprise at the time to those of us who liked Liz Shaw that she wasn't there when the next series started.

Inferno was the story I enjoyed most of the last three of that season (Spearhead was rather in a class of its own). At the time, the Doctor's concentration on trying to get the Tardis working seemed reasonable. We had followed his travels in space & time for six years, and didn't like his being earthbound any more than he did. ;o)

Aug. 17th, 2006 02:22 pm (UTC)
Spearhead looks like nothing before or since because it was shot on film (it's a pity the BBC couldn't afford to do that more!), but it also has excellent villains, a superb soundtrack and both some great clowning and intense seriousness from Pertwee. And the 3/Liz/Brigadier triangular chemistry is just wonderful - I thought 9/Rose/Captain Jack and 10/Rose/Mickey were very explicit nods to that.
Aug. 17th, 2006 02:23 pm (UTC)
...and yes i'm aware that the use of film was an 'accident' but by 'eck you would've thought that when the BBC looked at it they might've thought "eyup, this is about forty zillion times better than it looks done on TV cameras -- let's stick with this and damn the cost!"
Aug. 17th, 2006 02:31 pm (UTC)
Despite the look of Spearhead (which like Ambassadors is very QUatermass-y) if anyone in the Beeb had said "Damn the cost" I suspect they would have been heading for LWT and the Stanley Baxter Special ;-)
Aug. 17th, 2006 02:41 pm (UTC)
Yes, some scenes from the start of Spearhead could have come straight from Quatermass II.
Aug. 17th, 2006 02:44 pm (UTC)
I think Nigel Kneale thought that too ;-)
Aug. 17th, 2006 03:01 pm (UTC)
So I believe. ;o)
Aug. 17th, 2006 02:40 pm (UTC)
Well, not exactly an accident. Force of circumstances, yes, but they did make a decision to go ahead and do it on film. I suppose they could have stuck with film and damn the cost, but we would only have had about eight episodes of Who a year. ;o)
Aug. 17th, 2006 02:46 pm (UTC)
And there were times when eight good episodes made with care and love and craft would've been better than some of the full seasons we got! :P
Aug. 17th, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC)
I do completely agree, but TBH I prefer to live in a fantasy world where a Routemaster totalled JNT before he got his grubby paws on the programme. ;o)
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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