As we approach the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who, revisit the story of Doctor Who, the occasional series written for the 50th Anniversary, explaining the origins of the programme.

Episode 31 - An Unearthly Series - The Origins of a TV Legend: First published 23 Nov 2013

The Edge of DestructionBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 15 December 2004 - Reviewed by Graham Roberts

This story is rather uneven. On the one hand are some rather odd acting moments, e.g. Ian’s false “strangulation” gestures and Susan’s very moody stares, but on the other the audience sees some great confrontations, particularly between Barbara and the Doctor near the end of episode one. The Doctor’s verbal attack is strong enough to make the audience fully support Barbara’s reaction and she stands up for herself wonderfully. Hartnell also has his best episode yet in The Brink of Disaster – he transforms from a hostile accuser to an apologising kind man who has learnt something very important. His flustered inability to apologise to Ian is great to watch, as is his decent apology to Barbara at the end. No other episode in the history of the series ever had the Doctor learn so much about friendship and himself.

All of this drama is enacted within the TARDIS and involves no one else, giving us time to see more of the TARDIS interior and the dynamic of the crew. I feel the direction isn't quite good enough to make the audience believe there is an intruder aboard, and the initial lapse of memory results in some odd moments between Ian and Barbara at the beginning. Susan’s behaviour is particularly worrying – she certainly looks possessed but when the cause of the crisis is revealed, this is shown to be false, so her violent scissor attack was based on paranoia, fear and hysteria rather than possession. Freud would probably have liked to ask her some questions after that one. 

The story’s main boost in my opinion is not the Fast Return switch problem but Hartnell’s performance. He is suspicious, worries, cares, bullies, learns, speculates and apologises all in a few scenes in these episodes. When he fails to bully Barbara he offers the crew drinks, his explicit intention to calm everyone down hiding his real intention of forcing them to sleep so he can solve the mystery himself. The scene where he checks Ian and Barbara, chuckling to himself, is wonderful, for he is childishly enjoying himself. The next episode forces him to admit he needs the help of others to solve the problem (a nice touch for from Pertwee onwards he becomes so clever and invulnerable that he rarely needs anyone to help him). However his potential to commit murder is raised again (not seen since the Za stone incident) but this time it’s worse for he is going to force two acquaintances out of his TARDIS who have previously saved his life and are the victims of his prejudiced false conclusions of events he has shown he doesn't understand. This act makes his desire to ask Barbara to forgive him at the end more touching – not only has he learnt an important lesson about himself, he needs forgiveness to move on. His line “You still haven’t forgiven me have you?” is very poignant and when Barbara does forgive him the audience knows this crew is now much stronger and warmer than it has ever been before. It is a significant development and a sign of David Whitaker’s writing skills as well as the acting of the regular cast. 

The stock music adds to the drama very well, but I associate it more strongly with The Moonbase and kept thinking of that story when I heard it. It makes the “mystery” stranger. The cause of the problem is almost incidental to the suspicions it has raised, but the final moments when the Doctor fixes the spring have sufficient drama to make us urge him to hurry up before they’re all annihilated. The final moments are nice to see – the tension has gone once the Doctor is forgiven and they are all looking forward to exploring their next destination. The audience will see a kinder Doctor from now on, though his complex fascinating nature will still remain…

FILTER: - Series 1 - First Doctor - Television

Mawdryn UndeadBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 14 December 2004 - Reviewed by Kim Arrowsmith

Mawdryn Undead has long been one of the most popular stories of the Davison era of Dr. Who. Its success lies partly in the way that it takes themes and characters that are very familiar to anyone who has watched the series for a number of years, and combines them with some fairly radical departures from the norms of the series plotting and characterization. 

One of the most obviously familiar elements of the story is the presence of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. It seems very natural, that in a story made for the series 20th anniversary season, a character who has played such a big role in the programme’s history should return, and it is a return to form as well. This Brig is very clearly the intelligent military man of the early Pertwee stories, not the frankly daft blunderer of The Three Doctors (what were you thinking of Bob and David?). That said, this is no return to UNIT’s glory days, as we discover the Brig teaching maths in a school, and suffering from amnesia brought on by some kind of nervous breakdown. Courtney plays both versions of the Brig very well here, and his vulnerability over his missing memories is very touchingly played, reminding us that any display of emotionalism must be hard for this old soldier. Some have said that the inclusion of the Silver Jubilee crates a problem with dating the UNIT stories. I have always assumed that they were contemporary, and so, to my mind, this doesn’t present a problem. 

Mawdryn Undead also sees the return of Valentine Dyall as The Black Guardian. Dyall’s portrayal of the character is quite entertaining, but The Black Guardian is, essentially, a pantomime villain, spending much of his time snarling at Turlough and threatening death and destruction at every possible opportunity. I’m almost tempted to boo and hiss every time he appears on screen. The rather strange choice of costume (“this is an ex parrot”) doesn’t help. In the hands of a less charismatic actor, this would all be very embarrassing, but Dyall somehow rises above the limitations of role and apparel, to give a performance that is, at times anyway, quite scary. The much discussed issue of why The Black Guardian can not be seen to intervene directly to destroy The Doctor is one I can not attempt to answer definitively, but perhaps it would incur the wrath of The White Guardian. 

Having dealt with the return of two previously seen characters, it’s time to talk about Turlough. Personally, I like the character, and I like Strickson’s performance. This is one of the areas where Mawdryn radically departs from the norms of the series. Of course, we’re used to seeing companions becoming caught up accidentally in the Doctor’s affairs, and deciding to stick around ( cf. Jamie, Sarah, Leela etc. , etc. ) , and companions who are kidnapped or unexpectedly removed from their own time ( Ian, Barbara, Tegan ) , but there has never been a companion who became involved with The Doctor because he was trying to kill him! He is also one of the few companions that it is hard to feel real affection for. Usually, the occupants of the Tardis are a pretty pleasant bunch. Strickson, in the opening moments of this serial, establishes Turlough as a sneaky, cowardly, cold young man, and, although his time with The Doctor mellows him a little, these essential traits remain in place until he leaves, under something of a cloud really, at the end of Planet of Fire. During this serial, Strickson starts the process of taking turlough from his starting point as a quite unpleasant individual to someone who begins to appreciate the values and actions of someone like The Doctor. Stickson’s performance is one of the joys of Mawdryn Undead. Of course, it was this dwelling on the interaction of characters in the Tardis crew that lead Andrew Cartmel to describe this era of the show as “Neighbours with roundels”, which I can’t help feeling not only ignores one of the things that made the early Hartnell series so compelling, but also seems a bit hypocritical from the man who gave us the Grange Hill with explosives character of Ace. At least in the Davison years, character development wasn’t done with a sledgehammer.

The plot of Mawdryn Undead also deals with a theme that is very familiar to long time fans of the series, that of scientists using their knowledge for questionable ends. We can see this theme in evidence in stories such as The War Games, The Brain of Morbius, Robot, Invasion of the Dinosaurs etc., etc. . . . Here, immortality is the goal sought by Mawdryn and co., and this is the first of two occasions in season 20 that immortality is seen as something craved by villains, the other occasion being, of course, The Five Doctors. However, Mawdryn is not a straightforward villain, and, rather like Omega in Arc of Infinity, we do feel some sympathy for him. This traditional bad scientist plot is given a twist by a quite surprising use of The Doctor’s ability to time travel. Tegan and Nyssa become stranded in 1977, while The Doctor is in 1983, both parties encounter The Brigadier, and it the eventual meeting of these two versions of The Brigadier that causes the release of energy that provides the plot’s resolution. This makes time travel central to the plot, rather than simply being the device by which The doctor and his crew enter the story. There have, of course, been stories where time travel has played a role in the plot ( The Chase, Earthshock, Pyramids of Mars, etc. ) , but in Mawdryn it plays a very central role, explaining The Brigadier’s breakdown, and providing the resolution. Given the unpredictability of The Tardis when piloted by the Fifth Doctor, it also raises the possibility of The Doctor being separated from his companions permanently, especially as it went with them and not him! 

Any mention of time in this story will inevitably lead into the long standing argument over whether this story plays fast and loose with the UNIT continuity by showing a Brigadier who has retired from the organization by Summer1977 at the latest. I have to say, I don’t think this argument can ever be resolved, as, when it comes to dating the UNIT stories, there is a lot of contradictory evidence in the series as a whole ( not least of all Sarah’s claim in Pyramids of Mars that she comes from 1980 ) . I am content to accept that the majority of the evidence tends to suggest that the UNIT stories were more or less contemporary, and that Mawdryn Undead doesn’t really present a problem in continuity terms. 

All in all, this is one of the best stories of the Davison era, and I would be very surprised if it doesn’t remain a firm favorite with fans for many years to come.

FILTER: - Television - Series 20 - Fifth Doctor

Time and the RaniBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 14 December 2004 - Reviewed by Steve Oliver

It’s difficult to find anything good to say about this season twenty four opener, but here goes. The Rani’s bubble traps look quite good, and… err… You see, ‘Time and the Rani’ is perhaps the worst Doctor Who story the McCoy era produced and probably the worst ever. I say probably only because I’ve yet to see other clangers such as ‘Timelash’ or ‘The Twin Dilemma’. In my growing Doctor Who video and DVD collection it is perhaps equal only to ‘The Chase’ in its extreme crappiness. Perhaps the worst thing that could be said about ‘Time and the Rani’ is that there is very little to say about it.

The plot, concerning the Rani gathering together the greatest minds in the universe (for a purpose so tedious I won’t even begin to explain), is un-involving, one-dimensional and just plain rubbish. The performances, particularly by the lead actors, are either completely over the top or wooden, the Tetrap monsters are about as scary as a pet hamster, the dialogue is ridiculous… I could go on. To be fair to the writers, Pip and Jane Baker, apparently they wrote this serial without knowing who would be playing the Doctor, so had to be as generic in his characterisation as possible. Less forgivable is the completely over blown dialogue they write. Why they feel the need to do this is unclear. Perhaps they are trying to cover up deficiencies in the plot.

Sylvester McCoy gets off to a bad start as the Doctor. His performance throughout this serial has a certain pantomime quality to it, complete with spoon playing and over the top physical movements, and you never get the sense that he (or any of the other performers for that matter) really believe in any of it. Probably due to the poor script. The Doctor McCoy plays in this adventure is completely different to the mysterious and dark traveller we get in later McCoy stories such as ‘Ghost Light’, with his performances improving greatly from him playing the role much straighter. It goes without saying that Bonnie Langford as Mel is awful, and in my opinion the reason many fans have a big problem with season twenty-four is because of this one character. Thankfully this would be her last season with the show. The Rani is played by Kate O’Mara, and although she appears to be having a great deal of fun, she comes across as not especially villainous. This is the only Rani adventure I have seen – I’m still yet to see ‘The Mark of the Rani’ – and, assuming this is the same Rani we get in her debut adventure, it is difficult to see how this character could ever earn a second outing. The idea of a female Master is a nice one, but Pip and Jane Baker have written this character like a pantomime villain.

‘Time and the Rani’ was the first Doctor Who adventure I watched as a small boy of four years old. Unbelievably, it was also the story that got me hooked on Doctor Who and as a result good film and TV science fiction in general. Looking back on it now, however, it is perhaps fortunate I was so young when I first saw it, for I fear that if I was only three or four years older ‘Time and the Rani’ would have turned me off Doctor Who for life.

In summary, whereas I can usually find things to enjoy even in bad McCoy adventures, such as ‘Silver Nemesis’, which is so bad its good, ‘Time and the Rani’ is so bad its bad. Doctor Who had reached its lowest point, and after this awful McCoy debut adventure, things could only get better.

FILTER: - Television - Series 24 - Seventh Doctor

BattlefieldBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 14 December 2004 - Reviewed by Kathryn Young

Through the wonders of the local council a copy of the "extended version no true Doctor Who fan would want to miss" of Battlefield fell into my sticky little grubby Doctor Who obsessed paddy paws. Well first off let me put that one straight: extended version? What extended version? Thirty seconds of the Doc and Ace climbing a spiral staircase covered in fairy lights (the staircase, not the actors)? Well whoops se do (but not in a good way).

Everyone says this story is total and utter...

And yes I began to believe the hype: Bad direction, too rushed, someone even complained that the countryside was too green and nice looking! But then I thought about it. Actually this story is rather clever. Concept wise: OK, so all the plot really consists of is a bunch of other dimensional knights poncing around an over green bit of English country side trying to recover a sword for some reason that is never actually explained, but at least they aren't your usual "oh, let's take over the Earth for the sheer hell of it" type aliens.

I think Aaronovitch had been watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. The bad guys in Battlefield are a sort of cross between the Klingons and the "Knights of Ni" from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (but without the shrubberies). On the one side there is the honour code stuff and on the other there is the cod awful overacting, complete with maniacal laughter.

However by giving them a pseudo medieval background this also gives them a bit of depth and grounds them in a culture that the viewer can relate to. The upshot of the idea that "it may be more exciting to actually think about your villain and perhaps create a bit of backstory about them rather than just write in some malevolent green slime that shimmies around the air conditioning ducts" is the wonderful scene with the head bad lady (who has the most impractical fingernails I have ever seen) and the Brigadier where they take some time out from the mindless slaughter of universe domination and universe saving to have a bit of a chat and honour Earth soldiers who have fallen in battle. And this, along with a lot of other stuff makes Battlefield INTERESTING. Not really scary I admit, but definitely interesting.

Are You Short?

I am. I am very short. Do you know how difficult it is to dominate when you can barely see over the table? This is probably why I will cut Sylvester some slack for Battlefield. Not only does he have to stop some alternately dimensional knights from unleashing bloody and unstoppable destruction on Earth, but he has to cope with being a shortass (and admittedly sort of weird looking) to boot. Perhaps six foot tall Sean Connery could have done it and still found time for a few rounds of golf, but Sylvester had to go the extra gurn just to get people to look at him.

So this is my theory. People criticize his performance in Battlefield all the time. But it is not the gurning, the question mark jumper or the hat. It is because he is short and silly looking. Well so was bloody Napoleon. And look what he did (not that I am saying starting wars and general conquering is a good thing mind you).

As a "vertically challenged individual" I know how tricky it is to make tall people take you seriously - "seven degrees, worked with Mother Teresa, ran the UN, and found the holy grail.. well that's nice dear, but you can't see over the top of the steering wheel without a cushion can you now?"

So what do you think Sylvester (a bloke who, until Doctor Who, was most famous for stuffing ferrets down his trousers and pretending to be a car) did when he was asked to stop a war?

He did everything he could.

And do you know sometimes it works. Short, silly looking and Scottish he may be, but sometimes his performance as the Doctor gives me the chills. Sometimes he totally freaks me out (god help his kids if they ever misbehave). It's the eyes. Sometimes, when Sylvester isn't wiggling around like a man with a ferret down his trousers he comes across all dead spooky and serious. Sylvester may be a clown, but he knew who the Doctor was. And he knew that the Doctor was scary.

Winifred and Ancelyn

Drawn together by a love of hitting people and gratuitous violence Brigadier Bambera and Knight Commander Ancelyn fall in love. They are like a very dangerous and violent version of the Moonlighting couple. He is a spunky blond-haired knight from another dimension (with a healthy respect for the fairer sex) and she is a spunky gun obsessed UNIT Brigadier (with a cute little beret). If you ask me this is a match made in heaven.

Very rarely do we have a love story on Doctor Who, and while I think this one was handled with about as much subtlety as Tom Baker after a late at night down the pub, it is sweet. And INTERESTING. Sometimes I get so sick of your generic scientist/soldier supporting characters who get no character at all and then usually snuff it horribly.

Here we have something different. Instead of putative dead people standing around going "Oh my god we are going to die/the Doctor is a spy and we must kill him" we actually to seem to have characters who aren't just waiting around in suspended animation for the entrance of the Doctor (Maybe the writer had been watching The City of Death?).

I have actually read later books/fiction of some kind where the two characters pop up and they have actually got married and settled down to have little psychopaths, er sorry - kids. And, call me an old softie, but I think that's lovely.

And just think of the sex? Phoaarrrr!

FILTER: - Series 26 - Seventh Doctor - Television

The Curse of PeladonBookmark and Share

Sunday, 12 December 2004 - Reviewed by Michael Stead

Whilst I still rate tom Baker as my favourite Doctor, I think Jon Pertwee was the one that influenced me most. I came to Curse of Peladon as a nine year old and this was just the time that I was getting into the series. I had vague memories from the year before of the spitting daffodils and the gingerbread-man killer doll, but not much else - I have a feeling that Mum felt it was all to scary and stopped me watching for a while. But somehow I got back into things with Day of the Daleks and was hooked by the time of Curse, although I did have to keep asking my Dad what the name of the telephone box was.

To this day, curse remains for me one of the very best stories. There was the mixture of the highly advanced TARDIS (only barely glimpsed, but it could survive falls down mountains as well as travelling to distant planets) and the gothic citadel of Peladon. I found Peladon utterly convincing as a distant planet. The great use of shadows probably helped, and I loved the idea of the pivoted flambeaux which opened secret doors, leading into even more shadowy caves. By the second or third week as a viewer, I was privy to secrets about Peladon that many of the inhabitants didn't possess. 

The monsters were great. Arcturus in particular achieved a completely alien look. To my adult eyes, he still seems well realised, but as a nine year old I was utterly convinced by the notion of this wicked weed-like alien with his huge collar and tropical palm house container. His evil disposition was very effectively shown by the destruction of a plant pot in episode one. It's not actually an impressive moment for an adult, but at the time the fact that he could destroy every last trace of the object was quite chilling. Alpha Centuri was a great favourite, and was fairly well rounded as a character: basically good, but prone to let the Doctor down from fussy-minded obedience to rules, or from sheer cowardice. The combination of the Doctor calling it a 'chap' and it's high squeaky voice added to its alien's and charm. At 9, the phallic symbolism simply didn't register with me, although the notion of a being with just one huge eye captivated my imagination and appeared in most of my artwork at school for months afterwards.

The Ice Warriors were marvellous. I was young enough to be terrified of them, because they had the essential ingredient of most Doctor Who monsters, they were like something out of a nightmare. They might not be agile or very well armed, but what impressed me was their relentlessness, as they lumbered along, breathing heavily, just about to find Jo hiding in their room. They were that nameless something that comes after you in a dark dream. That they turned out to be friends, added to the roundness of the story.

Aggedor was another wonderful addition to the tale. Half hairy foe; half cuddly friend, again as a viewer was privy to inside information about him and generally he was rather well filmed and came over successfully to my child's eyes. It was the rounded storytelling that helped to imprint the character of the Doctor into my mind. Here was a hero who could befriend a roaring beast and tame him, just by singing him a song. He could also take the Ice Warriors on as allies, despite their past history, as a story telling device this was useful in pointing out how King Peladon could help his world; but also it was a useful lesson for a viewer, especially of school-age when friendships and enmities can run so deep.

The political overtones of the story resonated with me, because I was aware of the news stories about our status within the Common Market. I didn't understand all the nuances, but Hepesh was quite clearly carved out of the same wood as Mr Heath and Mr Wilson, who were always on the telly - either in person, or as Mike Yarwood - arguing about the future of the country.

Some people look back and regard the Pertwee Doctor as patronising and establishment. At the time, I found him reassuring and challenging. He was never prepared to put up with boorish behaviour, from friend or foe, but he knew all the social niceties, and could make his point forcibly and diplomatically. Unlike Centuri, he would never be afraid to step outside the proscribed limits - such as exploring the caves beneath the citadel; then when things went wrong and he was in terrible danger, his authority and courage gave me reassurance as a viewer that things would work out well. I like the Pertwee Doctor's moral and generally liberal stance on many issues. Looking back I can see that he was a mixture of Lett's compassion, Dicks gung-ho courage, and Pertwee's natural authority.

Jo was a marvellous companion, used very well here. The notion we are always fed that the latest Doctor Who girl will be braver than the last, would suggest that way back in 1972, the girls were terrified of everything. Jo wasn't like this at all, she spoke her mind, even to the doctor and would generally take it upon herself to have a go, even if it meant edging along a castle wall in high heels during a gale. And in the end she had the sense not to take up with the drippy Peladon. 

I have always regarded Curse as one of the best Who stories. It had just about the right amount of continuity in it, with a brief TARDIS scene, and even briefer reference to the Time Lords. It had an array of imaginative monsters, very atmospheric design, and a mysterious, heroic Doctor. I wonder if I would remain a fan if Curse hadn't caught my attention all those years ago.

FILTER: - Television - Third Doctor - Series 9

Invasion of the DinosaursBookmark and Share

Sunday, 12 December 2004 - Reviewed by Steve Cassidy

Can someone please explain to me WHY 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' has a poor reputation?

Granted, the dinosaurs fail miserably in 2004. When we are used to the living breathing cgi of Jurassic Park or the Star Wars prequels the hand puppets of 1974 fall by the wayside. But how else in this time before pixel orientated SFX were they mean't to realise them? I remember the seventies quite clearly and their ambitions were always high. There were hand puppets in 'The Land that Time Forgot' and stop motion monsters in the 'Sinbad' films but such things were way above Doctor Who's budget. A state funded television channel that had always prided itself on its prudence isn't going to go splashing money around for stop motion photography - even if it did have the luxury of time. To be frank this was a childrens show which ran for almost six months a year. Its shooting schedule was tight and it had to turn out a good story each week - and in this 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' succeeds admirably.

'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' is good. Damn good.

All the anachronisms of the Pertwee era are here - the Unit family, the earthbound threat, the Barry Letts preachiness. But it is held together by a superb script by Malcolm Hulke that is rich in characterisation, plot and surprises. When the novelty of the dinosaurs wears off then the story takes another turn that catches the audience by surprise. And all is held together by the tight script-editing of Terence Dicks. Not a scene is wasted, not a piece of dialogue is superfluous. Its a tight exciting piece of television take actually builds to an effective climax. And that in itself is a rare thing in the WHO cannon.

And the dinosaurs? To be frank they are not as effective, and certainly not as scary as the Drashigs in the fabulous 'Carnival of Monsters' and aren't really as well realised. The thing is the canvas was probably a bit too ambitious for such a production so 95% of the adventure is drama with the UNIT regulars. But they have too appear and when they do the entire thing has the feel of a comic strip or B-Movie. I expected little bubbles to appear out of Pertwee's mouth saying " A triceratops! Just keep it busy Brigadier while I finish doing this!" OK, the Tyrannosaurus Rex looks like a rubber doll, the kind you can win at a fairground and the fight with the Brontosaurus in front of Moorgate tube was unbelievable (I shall never look at that station in the same way ever again). The pterodactyl was as scary as the mop the Doctor used to fight it off. Only the Stegosaurus and possibly the Triceratops emerge with any credibility.

And yet it all seems eerily possible. Due to superb acting and directing the premise of giant sauropods roaming all over central London (surely the most hackneyed B-movie plot ever devised) it all actually works. And this is because, in short, the dinosaurs are superfluous. The adventure could have been called 'Invasion of the Mongol Horsemen' or 'Invasion of the Hairy Vikings' as the story is really about idealistic people endangering the rest of the population by scaring the bejesus out of them so they can formulate their plans. But I suppose the title 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' looked better in the Radio Times. The scale is bigger then a few dinosaurs - the whole of human history is in jeopardy. And that is what is so good about this adventure, which is rapidly moving up the scale to become one of my favourite Pertwees, that there are layer upon layer of story here. There is stuff here which is incredibly adult - idealism, ecology, self-deception, the ends not justifying the means. One of the most chilling threads was the removal of 'disruptive influences' and the measures used to ensure cohesity amongst a group.

Three people should share the credit - Malcolm Hulke the scriptwriter, Barry Letts the producer and director Paddy Russell. First of all Hulke comes up with a reason for their being dinosaurs roaming around Oxford Circus. And from this he builds a very interesting story. The villains aren't villains, at least in their own minds. They think they are doing great good returning mankind to a simpler less polluted age. Mankind has destroyed the planet and they want it returned to a more pristine time where their guiding hand will ensure the abuse never happens again. To them, they are doing great good. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Grafted onto this is almost a 'cold-war' type story of cross and double cross where it becomes apparent that anyone left inside the central zone is working for the idealists. And then we have the big shocker at the end of episode three where the audience is just as stunned as Sarah. A spaceship! She's been on a space ship for three months! With the stroke of a pen Hulke turns the story upside down in one of the best story twists of the entire series. Watching this part again I couldn't help thinking of 'Capricorn One', a Hollywood film where they fake the moon landings and the astronauts eventually twig and rebel. 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' predates this by about five years.

Producer Barry Letts knows exactly how to create such a story. Going from his DVD commentaries Mr Letts winces along with the rest of us watching subpar effects so it would be interesting to know his opinion on the dinosaurs thirty years on. The production company at Pinewood certainly let him down in that respect. But on the whole the production is top-notch. The first episode is incredibly atmospheric. Certainly it benefits from being in black and white, and the whole episode has something of sixties WHO about it. But director Paddy Russell certainly evokes a deserted and abandoned London with ease. The audience shares the disquiet of the Doctor and Sarah as they roam around trying to find out what has happened. Their arrest as looters works wonderfully and Pertwee pulling his face funny faces as their mugshots are taken was very funny. But it is evoking atmosphere and getting good performances from the cast that Russell excels. There is not a duff performance amongst them.

The three "villains" are well handled. Instead of the usual ranting megalomaniac with have a couple of faceless bureaucrats who want to change the world. Each one is well-drawn, Whitaker is the scientist who has finally cracked the secret of time travel and thinks he is using it for something good. John Bennett, a long way from his sympathetic portrayal of Chang in the 'The Talons of Weng Chiang' plays General Finch. Finch is played so unsympathetically by Bennett that if Finch were one of the good guys we still wouldn't like him. And then there is Grover, the government minister who is behind all of it. Politicians always claim they go into politics wanting the change the world - well, Grover does, back hundreds of years in fact. It is a very good performance and for the first three episodes we like him immensely, such a kindly gentleman - his scenes helping Sarah in his office, making the tea, are very gently done lulling the audience into a false sense of security - then WHAM! He betrays her! Noel Johnson brings the right kind of gentle charisma to the role. I've seen him play government ministers before, I'm sure that was him in the pre titles of 'For Your Eyes Only' as First Sea Lord.

And Captain Mike Yates? His betrayal is one of the best things in the adventure. The character was pretty faceless before, just a public school ladder-climber. We learn't more about the real Mike Yates then we have over the two/three years he has been with us. That at heart there was an idealist who was willing to sacrifice himself and all about him for a better world. He did, however, have a weakness - he would not kill his friends. Time and again he stops the idealists from killing the Doctor. Its a good way for a character to depart and interesting to watch the character develop over the six episodes. Top stuff.

Finally we have the Doctor and Sarah. It has been claimed that Pertwee was running on autopilot for most of season 11. I can see no evidence of it here. In fact his portrayal in this one is one of my favourite EVER Pertwee performances. Swinging from that spiky no-nonsense boffin we know and love, to a warm humanity and someone who can actually sympathise with what the idealists are trying to achieve but not the way they are going about it. And no one can look more interested and engrossed in some silly bit of machinery then Jon Pertwee - he does it so well. And Lis Sladen? Adventure number two for her and the production team must have been rubbing their hands with glee with what they could do with Sarah Jane Smith. In this adventure she is superb - leading a rebellion, chasing off on her own leads, getting frustrated at her treatment at UNIT, showing scepticism and good humour at every opportunity. They could use her much more in the story then they ever could Jo Grant. Can you imagine Jo Grant opening an airlock to prove a point? Or standing up to the Elders so much that they talk about destroying her? Lis Sladen is a natural actress, she emotes easily and no one does fear quite like she does. Also, I love the seventies black leather jacket.

So there you have it. If my review hasn't convinced you to get a copy then shame on you. As I said before, it is fast moving up the list to become one of my favourite Pertwees and certainly is one of the more enjoyable UNIT adventures. Naff dinosaurs aside, it is a well constructed scripted tale with lots of special moments. Why has it had such a bad reputation for so long? I can think of worse effects (Erato, the green mattress in the pit for example) and what are you watching WHO for SFX for anyway?

To me it is the best of WHO, a little gem hiding away in season 11. Actually, keep quiet - it will be our little secret. A hidden treasure...

FILTER: - Television - Series 11 - Third Doctor