Doctor Who: Revisitations 3 On DVD
Don't worry, it's better than Revisitations 2...
Most of the pleasure of the previous Revisitations box-sets have been being able to wallow tit-deep in a jacuzzi of new extras. But with Revisitations 3, there's the added lure of a freshly VidFIREd Tomb of the Cybermen, all spruced and a lot shinier and cleaner than it was for its 2003 release.
The last Revisitations set wasn't the best showcase collection of stories, despite the glittering extras. This one, at least, does boast two stone-cast classics (The Robots of Death and Tomb of the Cybermen) and another milestone story (The Three Doctors). Given their stellar standing, they all travelled light on their original DVD outings, and so are now fully kitted with a wealth of stonking new features.
The newly restored Tomb is a joy to look at, and much better than the fleeting VidFIREd clip on the original DVD. The process seems to get better with every black and white release, and it's painstakingly explained on the new documentary, the six-minute, The Magic of VidFIRE, which does a good job of making it understandable for the technically thick among us.
The Lost Giants is the big Making Of, which brings together most of the surviving participants, including a GILFy Shirley Cooklin, a catty Victor Pemberton and the always tiresome pairing of Deborah Watling and Frazer Hines. Things we found out - Cooklin and Watling fancied Roy (Toberman) Stewart; Morris Barry had a bit of a temper; Michael Kilgariff was left forgotten on the floor after he fell to the ground at the end, and Frazer Hines tried it on with Shirley Cooklin, not knowing she was the producer's wife.
The Curse of the Cybermen's Tomb has Dr Debbie Challis (Big Finish author Simon Guerrier's missus) and Sir Christopher Grayling (quite a signing) talk about the story's many Egyptian influences, which at 14 minutes doesn't outstay its welcome.
Even better is Dr Matthew Sweet's authored piece on the Cybermen (the oddly titled Extended Edition). Sweet is a brilliant writer, a gifted presenter and knows his Doctor Who onions. And you just hope he'll be asked to do another of these shows before the DVD range breathes its last.
Right, what of the other extras? There's a regurgitated intro by Morris Barry, previously used on the 1992 VHS release, that looks as though the director was forced to do it with a gun against his head.
The title sequence tests are a nice add-on, but continued exposure to three and a half minutes of monochrome "howl-round" might send you the way of Syd Barrett. Approach with caution. The Late-Night Line-Up interview with visual effects man Jack Kine is pretty short at only 2.44 mins, but gives us the chance to see some Tomb-era Cybermen and Cybermats in colour, and to note that it seemed compulsory to boast a moustache if you worked in that department in the 1960s. There's also some prime-era Joan Bakewell on offer.
Added to this, there's a Doctor Who themed promo for Walls Sky Ray ice lolly and a recreation of the final climactic battle at the end of Evil of the Daleks, using BBC designer Tony (not father of Paul) Cornell's Super 8 footage, alongside the off-air audio.
The Three Doctors, like its celebratory counterpart nine and a bit years later, isn't a great story, but it's one that needed the Special Edition treatment. Happy Birthday To Who is the Making Of here, and we get to hear a little more than on the commentary (recycled from the 2003 release) about the friction between Patrick Troughton (prone to ad libs and with an irreverent attitude towards the job) and Jon Pertwee (prickly and precious). Also, the First Doc's original line to his two successors was "So you're my replacements! A hairdresser and a clown!", until Tewwance replaced "hairdresser" with "dandy". Not sure "hairdresser" is a very Hartnell insult to throw.
There's a germ of a good idea in Was Doctor Who Rubbish? which puts those age-old criticisms (wobbly sets, dodgy acting, shoddy special effects, etc) to the test. Well, we can all think of a few examples where Classic Who could boast fantastic sets, brilliant acting and great sfx, but bringing up the same reliables (dodgy acting? Look at Julian Glover! Shitty effects? Look at the beginning of Trial of a Time-Lord! No emotion? Look at the end of The Hand of Fear!) looks a bit defensive and doesn't really convince.
As no-one here points out, virtually all television of that period has similarly overlit sets and a queasy attitude to emotion. It would have been good to get some articulate Who haters battling it out against the Who lovers here, but, alas, no.
Girls, Girls, Girls - The 1970s is another of Robert Fairclough's occasional series on the chicks of Doctor Who. Unlike most DVD documentaries this has its three guests - Caroline John, Katy Manning and Louise Jameson, in a room together, and the conversation seems pretty free-form. They're not three people you could ever imagine knowing each other if it weren't for being united under the Who umbrella. John is soft and mumsy, Manning is dim and loud in way Americans and Australians love but the British don't, and Jameson is patient and cerebral. It's like a special edition of Loose Women live from the Gallifrey Convention.
There's also 20 minutes of Pebble Mill at One featuring special effects man Bernard Wilkie (a biscuit has more charisma) and a cheeky and ill-at-ease Patrick Troughton, plus Pertwee with his Whomobile on a 1973 Blue Peter, and several interviews (Pertwee, Courtney, Dicks, Martin, Baker, JNT(?)) from BSB's Doctor Who weekend in 1990.
Both Tomb and The Three Doctors come as double-disc sets, but The Robots of Death mysteriously comes only as one.
The Sandmine Murders has most of the main players, except Chris Boucher, talking about the making of the story. Given the story's high standing, it's surprising to hear so many people in the documentary talk about how unimpressed they were with the script. And it's interesting to hear of Tom Baker's petulance and occasional rudeness on set, behaviour which I'd always thought started with the Graham Williams years.
Even if the script didn't please everyone, the look did. Director Michael E Briant talks about the design of the story, but seems insistent it was influenced by "Ar Decor" and "Edwadian" art. We can only put it down to his many years living in France...
Robophobia is a 12-minute comedy skit about the robots of Doctor Who from Toby Hadoke. It's as informative as it is funny and also features Toby in drag. You Cannot Get Better Than This.
Other extras include a 1.10 minute scene with some original studio sound, before SV7 had his voice dubbed; the plan for the studio floor (not for everyone, methinks); and finally a new commentary (to sit alongside the original sparkless one with Hinchcliffe and Boucher) with Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Pamela Salem (Toos) and Michael Briant. Tom says "God and I were an item," for the 436th time and conveys a disliking for Julian Bleach's Davros.
That's all you need to know.
Click here for a re-edited clip of The Three Doctors:
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