Friday, 24 February 2012


Newly restored classic WHO adventures. Images: 2ENTERTAIN/BBC.


(Comprising The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Three Doctors and The Robots of Death)


Reviewed by Scott Weller

The Time Lord Doctor finds himself in a space whodunnit, is caught in a plot to reactivate deadly inhuman foes from his past and meets his previous incarnations to unite against a galaxy-threatening enemy. Its four Doctors for the price of one, across three classic re-releases and five discs, in the third of the BBC’s REVISITATIONS series of restored and extras packed Special Edition CLASSIC DOCTOR WHO adventures, out now from 2ENTERTAIN/ BBC WORLDWIDE.

So, put on your best Beatles wig, wrap that multi-length scarf firmly tight around your neck, and wear your frilly Edwardian shirt with pride as we take a look at each of the thrilling stories in time and space the set comprises…


With its prior reputation as one of the scariest, original and most atmospheric of tales, with only a few stills and people’s memories of the tale from its original transmission in 1966- all there was to go on and believe in- the return of the classic Patrick Troughton DOCTOR WHO story The Tomb of the Cybermen from Hong Kong in 1993 was a joyous moment to fans and TV historians alike-as if the show’s Holy Grail had been discovered. When finally back in England in 1993, the important question was, when restored and released, could it possibly live up to all its expectations and iconic status?

The long sleep of the Cybermen is finally over. 

Getting the new DVD box set off to a mysterious and deadly start in its well deserved re-mastering, Tomb almost lives up to it’s All-Time Classic status as a potent and chilling tale of greed, manipulation and ambition, as the emotionless Cybermen, determined to survive their limited existence, devise the perfect trap to ensnare the very best and brightest, and most evil, to their cause, as they are reawakened from their hibernation state within the ice tombs of the planet Telos by a largely unprepared for what they find  group of scientists and space explorers. Into all this comes the Doctor and his companions, of which a battle for survival by both sides soon rages within the cold and chilly environs of the Cybermen’s lair.

The Doctor (Patrick Troughton) confers with the Earth expedition.

Despite a few dated moments and effects misfires, this is still an effective and atmospheric story that perfectly showcases the silver Cybermen, especially in the shivers down the spine moment when they break out of their honeycomb like tombs: indeed the stuff of TV and WHO history. The TARDIS trio of Patrick Troughton as Cosmic Hobo Time Lord, Frazer Hines as Scottish warrior Jaime McCrimmon and pixie-like Deborah Watling as Edwardian lady turned adopted companion Victoria Waterfield are first rate, as is the majority of the main guest cast, including George Pastell as the head of a loony band of Logicians, Eric Kleig, surely one of the great WHO/genius madmen of the small-screen black and white era, and Shirley Cooklin as his conniving, equally ambitious, stab-you-in-the-back partner, Kaftan.

The awakened Cybermen make new plans.

But above all else, it’s Patrick Troughton as the Doctor who holds it all together magnificently, with plenty to admire in his performance as it shifts between mystery, comedy and drama as he takes on the Cybermen, primarily at his and their peak in the shows second and third episodes, as the sparring and battle of wits between them intensifies-these creatures truly are the ultimate monster for his Doctor’s era. As an actor, Troughton has this rare ability to make it all seem so easy on-screen, showing us the Doctor’s multi-faceted personality in a way that modern WHO actors have tried to imitate but have never bettered. There’s a touch of the Machiavellian in him as he helps the Earth expedition unravel the mystery of the Cybermen, ultimately for his own ends so as to finally destroy them, but also a tender side, too, in a charming scene he has discussing his unknown family to Victoria.  And, of course, there’s his brilliant on-screen pairing with Jamie, and his off-screen best friend Frazer Hines-the pair bringing out the best in each other. Any chance to see Troughton-this fine and much-missed actor- in a WHO story, complete or not, should be relished.

Adding to his Cyber legend opponents is the introduction of the massive and dangerous form of the Cyber Controller, as played by Michael Kilgarriff, taller than his subordinates and far more creepy and intimidating, who would play the part again in a story for the Colin Baker colour era in 1985. His frightening first appearance in Tomb delivers the classic line to the captured humans, voiced by a transistorized Peter Hawkins off-set- “You belong to us. You shall be like us…” Surely another one of WHO and television’s most memorable and sinister scenes. On a smaller, though less successful scale, there’s also the premiere appearance of those cute but deadly beasties the Cybermats, which also terrorized Matt Smith’s incarnation in 2011.

Another Cyberman emerges.

Written by Kit Pedler, scientist and journalist, and Gerry Davis, whose love for good old fashioned adventure yarns would make their way into WHO history, they make a fine duo pooling their not inconsiderable talents to first create the Cybermen at the end of the William Hartnell era (though its obvious that The Doctor has encountered them off-screen before even this story), and helping them become the Doctor’s second greatest nemesis, who, like the Daleks, always (thankfully) manage to escape total destruction. This third adventure featuring the creatures certainly cements the Cybermen’s deserved reputation as one of the Doctors deadliest enemies, a literal plague across the galaxy, in a story packed with great visual imagery and logical nastiness from them. Their legend lives on as they kick off the famous Monster Era of Troughton’s period.

The filmed sequences at Ealing Studios are first rate, though there’s a few limitations of the time in the majority of the video tape footage shot at the restrictive Lime Grove studios-most notably the odd boom mike appearance or shadows, the odd camera swerve showing an actor ready to arrive on cue, a slip on a set or the odd string on a prop Cyberman thrown across the room, but that doesn’t matter when you have a strong story to enjoy and an overall ambitious production to be applauded.

An iconic colour moment from a black and white classic.

Making fine use of effective atmosphere within confined and claustrophobic sets (black and white always brings out the best in the medium), with some good exterior location filming, too, alongside sound design from Brian Hodgson and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop that continues to resonate, Tomb is directed with stern efficiency by Morris Barry.  It definitely shows its sixties roots at times but is still a story much to be admired. Beyond its place in WHO-dom, Tomb would also have worked well as a memorable horror story, what with its army of undead coming back to life. It could have been a great HAMMER film, eh? Watching this four-parter unfold, you’d think Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing might turn up at any minute.

What Tomb lacks in great special effects it more than makes up for in its aforementioned atmosphere and cast performances-and one of the reasons why it would become so memorable after its original transmission, alongside what was considered at the time some quite strong violence for mid-sixties tea-time Saturday viewing.

Special Features: Two informative and fun audio commentaries from the surviving cast, an original introduction from the late director Morris Barry, an examination of how the classic story was restored to its former viewing glory using the innovative VidFIRE process, early B/W Patrick Troughton title sequence tests, a short but sweet part of the sixties Late Night Line-Up magazine show in which presenter Joan Bakewell talks to the BBC effects team about their work on shows like DOCTOR WHO, rare cine footage of the final Dalek war from the lost Troughton Evil of the Daleks adventure which preceded Tomb, info text, a very nostalgic mid-sixties WALL’S ice cream film commercial for Sky Ray ice cream sticks of Doctor Who and the Daleks, another fine Coming Soon trailer for the Tom Baker adventure The Face of Evil, PDFs, and photo gallery. New special features material included The Lost Giants-the making of Tomb: a fun look behind the scenes (with some especially notable CGI set renderings of the Cyber tombs and control room), The Curse of the Cybermen’s Tomb: a fun mini-doc in which historians compare the WHO story to the legendary real-life uncovering of King Tutankhamen and classic HAMMER HORROR, and the Cybermen: Extended Edition, in which writer/presenter Matthew Sweet takes a look at the evolution and history of the Cybermen through the classic and modern series. The clips for this are well chosen and edited, and there are some good observations made, but Sweet’s commentary and presentation are frequently annoying and too sarcastic for my tastes. This documentary deserved to be taken more seriously, with the presenting of the Cybermen in a more dangerous and darker light.


Those all-powerful, galaxy observing Time Lords from the then as-yet unnamed Gallifrey find themselves on the very brink of destruction from one of their own: the revered and once believed dead, now revenge fuelled, stella engineer Omega, harnessing the dark power of anti-matter and aiming a bloody enormous black hole at them! With such an all-consuming crisis, those smart-alec Time Lords know they’ll need the help of their exiled Doctor. And not just one, but a multi-partnership timestream lift comprising three of ‘em!

Galactic Greats! William Hartnell, Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton.

Big ideas for a big story celebrating the shows landmark 1973 Tenth Anniversary, and that’s exactly what we get in the fairytale-like adventure that is The Three Doctors, a genius idea concocted by Who legends Producer Barry Letts and Script Editor Terrance Dicks whilst in the BBC Bar (of which so much great WHO would be created within it’s hallowed booze halls), from the always witty and imaginative penmanship of then writing duo regulars Bob Baker and Dave Martin. This is the first, most memorable and ratings busting multi-Doctor reunion story of CLASSIC WHO, and the type of story which the modern day series would find cheesy, or probably be afraid to do now. Starting off as a space lightning mystery, it becomes a grand dish that finally sends the first two monochrome Doctors into full colour, alongside the exiled to Earth, velvet coated, dandy/action figure of the distinctive and highly likable Jon Pertwee.

Doctors 2 and 3 encounter the legendary Time Lord Omega (Stephen Thorne).

In their sterling efforts to defeat the super mad-man in his negative domain, the tale definitely reveals itself to the Doctors as a colourful pantomime, working well as a post Xmas 1973 treat, especially in certain areas of its production design: notably its anti-matter universe environs and misty singularity well, but the lovable UNIT set-up and supporting cast, including the late, great Nicholas Courtney as a now almost comedic Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart- a far cry from his earlier appearances in the series as a more realistic and efficient military man of the late Troughton/early Pertwee era- are first rate throughout, alongside a towering performance of intelligent but threatening gusto from Stephen Thorne as the tragic loony to be pitied, Omega, who would later re-appear to challenge the Doctor and the universe in the 1983 Twentieth Anniversary season story Arc of Infinity. Banished to another dimension, might he possibly rear his head for the upcoming Fiftieth Anniversary? Never say never.

Doctor 2 confers with the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) and Jo Grant (Katy Manning).

A strength and weakness in equal measure, there’s lots of archetypal early seventies WHO ingredients on display here, colourfully amped up in this Special Edition restoration: weird and wonderful monsters (the lumpy red Gell Guards), UNIT unsuccessfully battling the alien invaders, lots of quarry runarounds and explosions, and Jon Pertwee showing off The Doctor’s Venusian or Martian Aikido against aliens.  And we love it. Oh, and Katy Manning, as assistant Jo Grant, as well as being more comfortable and confident in her role than previously, looks absolutely sexy as hell in this story, too!

A quick peep outside from Doctors 2 and 3.

Director Lenny Mayne is clearly having a good time with the story, keeping the action coming fast and loose, whilst also allowing the actors to breathe and enjoy the storytelling celebration. Troughton the Second Doctor and Pertwee the Third, obviously rivals in character and out, work a treat together, and its just a shame that William Hartnell’s clever, sometimes playful, sometimes irascible and authoritative portrayal would be restricted to film cameo appearances only (due to sadly failing health prior to filming).

You certainly won’t be bored watching The Three Doctors, as the charming and delightful Doctors and companion camaraderie provide the much anticipated and delicious icing atop the proverbial Birthday cake.

Happy Tenth Anniversary, DOCTORs WHO!

Special Features: A delightful commentary from the late Nicholas Courtney and Barry Letts with Katy Manning, a look back to a BBC 1 Pebble Mill at One 1973 celebration of DOCTOR WHO with a fascinating interview with a very shy Patrick Troughton and effects man Bernard Wilkie, plus lots of classic WHO monsters, BLUE PETER’s 1973 celebration of DOCTOR WHO with a visit from Jon Pertwee in his then new Whomobile car, nice to see again 1990 highlights of the THREE DOCTORS talk from the BSB 31 WHO event, talking to Pertwee, Bob Baker and Dave Martin, Nicholas Courtney and Terrance Dicks, the trailer for the 1981 Five Faces of DOCTOR WHO repeat season, a reconstructed trailer from 1973 for The Three Doctors,  an under-rated trailer for the 40th Anniversary DVD and video tie-ins for the series from BBC WORLDWIDE, info text, PDF’s. New specials features include Happy Birthday to WHO-another fun but short documentary on the making of the landmark story, Was Doctor Who Rubbish? – a nice little fan contributing programme which satisfyingly debunks all of ex-BBC 1 controller Michael Grade’s ridiculing comments about the show from a few years back (I hope the success of Modern WHO continues to stick in his crawl!), Girls, Girls, Girls – the 70’s, in which ex-companions Caroline John, Katy Manning and Louise Jameson have a Loose Women style talk about their life and careers in WHO- the trials and tribulations and legacy of being a WHO companion in that era of tea-time sex symbols, the changing face of feminism and television for women, and life working with the actors who played their Doctors- that’s enjoyable enough, and a photo gallery.


It’s Agatha Christie meets Isaac Asimov-certainly Murder Most Foul- in concurrence to a robot revolution that are the two superb dramatic hooks of the classic four-parter from 1977:The Robots of Death, a tense and claustrophobic space murder thriller, starring curly haired bohemian intellectual Tom Baker in his magnetic, in–his-stride prime as the perennial Time Lord, alongside ex-savage now companion Leela of the Sevateem, played with beauty and independent spunk by Louise Jameson, a fine successor to the then recently departed Elisabeth Sladen. Back into a realistic devised sci-fi civilization, it’s one of the series finest adventures and certainly in my personal top-ten of all-time favourites from any era. Another definite showcase as to why the show has remained so popular over the years.

The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) takes on a new type of enemy in this adventure.

Chris Boucher’s second script of three for Baker is top notch, attracting first class behind the scenes talents including director Michael E. Briant and designers Kenneth Sharp and Elizabeth Waller, and future Academy Award nominee editor Tariq Anwar, alongside a supporting guest cast of super actors- seventies defining talent the likes of David Baillie, the gorgeous Pamela Salem, CALLAN’s Russell Hunter, SAPPHIRE AND STEEL/WHO veteran David Collings, and BLAKE 7’s Brian Croucher.

The art of murder. One of the robots of the title.

The art deco world our heroes are caught in-whose colourful corridors are soon smeared and tainted in a darker shade of blood red- is wonderfully realized for the small screen-a WHO tale memorably devoid of location filming- and the robots of death of the title are superbly created, providing many memorable images of thrill and spills in this sophisticated tale from Baker’s third season of the role, impeccably produced by the dedicated pairing of producer Phillip Hinchcliffe and script edited by Robert Holmes, masters of iconic tales full of dark plotting, well created atmosphere and exciting cliff-hangers. Robots is compulsive viewing and certainly lives up to the title and reputation of Classic WHO, then at the top of its popularity as the linchpin start of Saturday night TV viewing for the BBC 1 channel back in ‘77.

If you’ve never seen Classic WHO, this is the type of story that’s a fine place to jump in with, and defies the ages as a well-crafted piece of classic television. It’s a story that general viewers always remember from its original transmission. And quite rightly so…

Leela (Louise Jameson) and The Doctor within the art deco Sandminer.

Special Features: Two audio commentary’s (one serious from producer Hinchcliffe and writer Boucher, and one lively, from Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Pamela Salem and director Briant), The Sandmine Murders- the best of the three Making Of Documentary’s of the box set, including contributions from the mighty Tom Baker (affectionately referred to as a “creative terrorist’ by guest star Brian Croucher), and presenting new information on the shows exquisite production and costume designs, Robophobia –Toby Hadoke, an affectionate look at Classic WHO’s robots, from this story’s murderous offerings to other weird and wonderful one-offs through the original series (though beware, the scenes of Hadoke dressed as a suburban housewife at one point may cause visual distress!), Studio Sound-a brief but interesting look at the undubbed voice of one of the robots as originally recorded in-studio, silent model shot footage both used and unused from the original filming, studio floor plans of the story’s sets, original continuity announcing of the opening episode, info text, photo gallery, PDF’s.

The Doctor's then new companion, Leela, as previously introduced in the story, The Face of Evil.


All the stories in their new re-mastered makeovers look far superior than they did in their original DVD releases (in fact, some of those early 2000 discs have actually started to disintegrate!), and surely better than when they were originally transmitted, too, whilst sound restoration and the VidFIRE conversion process are first rate. Alongside all this are some smashing new bonus features that add informative weight and behind the scenes discoveries to the discs.

REVISITATIONS 3 is one of the most entertaining box sets for the series yet, and well worth the purchase.





All extras (new and old combined): 5 out of 5

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