Part one focuses on the story content provided in this classic collection…
The restoration of the season has allowed it to look better than previous DVD releases, with the studio and on-location material being cleaned up as much as the quality of the master tapes have allowed. Mark Ayres has once again fine-tuned the audio for this release and also provided a 5.1 Surround Sound mix for Planet of the Daleks, said story has also been given a new colour restoration for episode 3-an improvement on the already impressive efforts made for the 2009 release.
Season 10 fittingly marked the tenth anniversary of Doctor Who and, as such, celebrated it with a multi-Doctor special, brought back old enemies like The Daleks and The Master (sadly the final appearance of Roger Delgado in the role), and had several anniversary programmes during 1973. Now four seasons in, Jon Pertwee had firmly solidified himself as a suave and Bond-ish Doctor, no-nonsense and not afraid to fight back as a last resort and his companion, Jo Grant (Katy Manning), had also become a fan favourite. Jo would, sadly, leave in The Green Death in a poignant and tragic departure that felt more meaningful than what came before.
At this point, the UNIT earthbound stories were becoming less frequent, especially as The Doctor was finally given free rein from his people, The Timelords, who had previously banished him to Earth in the 1970s/1980s (don’t ask.) Despite this, the season is bookended by stories featuring the UNIT family, with The Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney), Sergeant Benton (John Levene) and Captain Yates (Richard Franklin) on fine form.
The Three Doctors
“You’ve redecorated, haven’t you? I don’t like it!” Not wanting to miss out on celebrating ten years of Doctor Who, showrunners Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks commissioned a script that would bring together all three Doctors. The original script would see several changes including having to write out past companion Jamie due to actor Frazer Hines’ commitments to Emmerdale Farm and giving limited screen-time to William Hartnell who had played the First Doctor from 1963-1966. Hartnell was ill at the time and as such his appearances were limited to popping up occasionally on the Tardis monitor. Regardless he has some of the best lines in the story including the now iconic “Dandy and a clown” quip. Second Doctor Patrick Troughton, meanwhile, is an absolute joy to watch as Troughton effortlessly slips back into the role and frequently buts heads with Pertwee’s sterner and more no-nonsense persona.
The actual plot involves the Timelords requesting the help of the Doctor and his past incarnations as a rogue Timelord known as Omega is draining Gallifrey of its power. There are jelly monsters, signature quarry planets and a secret lair that feels a bit underwhelming. The Three Doctors is a fun celebratory romp but does feel a bit lacking in places but seeing Troughton and Hartnell again makes it a worthwhile watch.
Carnival of Monsters
Robert Holmes rarely made missteps as a writer and this quirky story provides an inventive premise with some memorable concepts with The Doctor and Jo being trapped in a device, stranded on the SS Bernice, a ship taken out of time and being forced to unknowingly entertain their captors- a pair of eccentric and past-it entertainers. Carnival of Monsters also has some of the best-looking monsters of the era in the Drashigs whose effects still hold up for the most part today.
The grey and gloomy inhabitants of Inter Minor, meanwhile, provide some snark and wit as they remain unimpressed about the peepshow antics and become trigger happy with an oversized death ray of sorts. Look out for future companion Ian Marter as the ship’s captain who unwisely challenges the Doctor to a fistfight and returning Who actors Terence Lodge (Medoc in The Macra Terror), Peter Halliday (Packer in The Invasion) and Michael Wisher (who would go on to play Davros in Genesis of the Daleks.)
Frontier in Space
A Bonafide space opera that covers a lot of ground throughout its six-episode runtime and has The Doctor and Jo imprisoned a fair amount. It has numerous factions embroiled in a villainous plot to cause an interplanetary war orchestrated by a sinister and suave returning foe in The Master, played for a final time by Roger Delgado, who sadly died in a car accident in 1973. Highlights of the story include the Draconians, a wonderfully realised alien race who became Jon Pertwee’s favourite, the return of the Ogrons who now serve The Master and Jo thwarting an attempt by The Master to hypnotise her, showing the amount of growth from her debut in Terror of the Autons, wherein she fell under his control.
A problem with the story for me is its ending, a confusing mess that does a great disservice to Delgado’s final on-screen appearance and an appearance from the terrible Ogron eater, which looks sort of like an inflated ballsack. The shock re-appearance from The Daleks in episode 6 is suitably effective, however. Despite some issues in episode six Frontier in Space is an ambitious story that stands out in an already memorable season.
Planet of the Daleks
Dalek creator Terry Nation returns to pen a greatest hits story of sorts for the deadly foes. Planet sports several story elements seen in previous Dalek stories including a re-appearance of the Thal race, last seen in the very first Dalek story in 1964, a jungle planet, using a Dalek casing as a disguise and a Dalek city boasting a pimped out gold Dalek Supreme (whose design came from a repurposed non-canon Cushing movie Dalek prop.)
Planet has always been a personal favourite of mine and thanks to the new optional special effects and delving into the commentary I was provided with a fresh appreciation of the story. It isn’t necessarily the most original outing for The Doctor’s greatest threat, but I consider it one of my top Dalek tales.
The Green Death
The one with the maggots. The Green Death is a thriller reminiscent of the likes of Quatermass and the Pit as The Doctor, Jo and the Brigadier are called in to investigate a mine in South Wales, wherein the waste from a nearby oil plant is killing miners and turning the green. The Green Death lives up to its namesake and the imagery of the miners found dead and green is rather disturbing, as are the maggots-made bigger due to the waste (and perhaps infamous for having some props apparently made from blown up condoms.) Whilst all this is happening UNIT get involved and has Captain Yates go undercover and investigate Global Chemicals only to find that it is home to a supercomputer known as BOSS, complete with the personality of a megalomaniac. This leads to The Doctor donning humorous disguises and has him face off against BOSS and its mind control capabilities.
The Green Death is a story that, despite being six episodes, never sags and is both a thriller and a sad swansong for companion Jo Grant, whose departure in episode six has a considerable impact on The Doctor as he slowly accepts that Jo has intentions away from the Tardis and falls in love with a professor, Cliff Jones (Stewart Bevan). The Green Death is the best story of the season and was a great finale for Jo grant and Katy Manning, and as Jon Pertwee announced his departure after Season 11, The Green Death feels like the beginning of the end of the Pertwee era.
The Green Death
The Three Doctors (still good fun, but the weakest in a very good season.)
Frontier in Space, The Green Death
Check out the second part of the review (Available from July 9th), which features a rundown of the packaging, special features and audio/visual details as well as a final review score.
By HW Reynolds
Images provided by BBC