|A lost story and a worthy documentary make up the latest Classic DOCTOR WHO BBC release: The Legacy Collection. Images: BBC.|
DOCTOR WHO: THE LEGACY COLLECTION
(A 3-disc DVD set comprising Shada and More Than 30 Years of a Time Lord)
Released by BBC WORLDWIDE CONSUMER PRODUCTS
Reviewed by Scott Weller
The BBC kicks off its well-deserved Fiftieth Anniversary celebration of their greatest television achievement- an institution to both the British public and the sci-fi and fantasy genre- with a sterling three-disc set release that looks at the best and brightest aspects of the series classic past. Pop open the champagne bottles, “put another shrimp on the barbie!” and get the birthday cake ready: the LEGACY COLLECTION set, comprising the lost 1979 Tom Baker story Shada, and the 1993 30th Anniversary documentary, More Than 30 Years of a Time Lord, have arrived on nicely priced DVD...
|An ancient threat from Gallifrey poses problems for the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward) in Shada.|
SHADA (2 discs)
There’s a mind stealer on the loose in the picturesque streets of Cambridge, planet Earth, as the Doctor and companion Romana are called to visit an old friend possessing a vital book of powerful Gallifreyan origin that mustn’t fall into the wrong hands. Too late…
Trailer: DOCTOR WHO - THE LEGACY BOX DVD - COMING SOON TRAILER - COPYRIGHT BBC AND 2ENTERTAIN - YouTube
Supreme master of wit and imagination Douglas Adams final work for DOCTOR WHO sadly never made it to the TV screens but its uncompleted form lives on, via a previous and successful VHS release from the mid-nineties, with linking narration making it whole, now available on DVD, alongside some meticulously produced behind the scenes extra material.
Humour and horror may have been in a state of imbalance during his era’s middle period, but Tom Baker’s dominance and charismatic portrayal of the Doctor remains as compelling as ever. Simply put, there has just never been anyone else in the role to have proved so natural, and seemingly effortless in their portrayal, especially in the way he combines larger than life comedy along with sophisticated drama. Baker’s natural intelligence and charm, along with his to be admired nomad heroism, radiate from the TV screen and bring a warm glow to audience’s heart. No longer the serious dark heart of earlier seasons, and now enjoying a personal creative whirlwind of freedom like never before, Baker’s Doctor is fearful and fearless, funny and intelligent: a hero for all time. Baker doesn’t act the part now-he is the part! And the world is all the richer for it.
Alongside him is Lalla Ward’s classy and intellectual Romana-still one of the finest of the Doctor’s companions, an actress whose personality and on-screen persona can clearly be seen capturing the heart of the actor and the character. Clearly making the most of their friend Adams lively and ideas packed script, they make a wonderful team of intellect and witticism, mixing business with pleasure: the kind of unique and entertaining people we’d all die to have on our dinner party guest list! It was a shame that their real life union beyond WHO was not to last…
|Tom Baker: a force to be reckoned with...|
A uniformly fine guest cast is well chose by director Pennant Roberts, clearly having a solid grasp on the shows storytelling needs, includes Denis Carey as the lovable eccentric with a dark secret, Professor Chronotis, the striking and leggy Victoria Burgoyne, who would have made an excellent travelling companion to Tom Baker’s Time Lord in my book, and a youthfully enthusiastic Daniel Hill, who brings heart and innocence to his portrayal of Bristolian academic Chris Parsons. Christopher Neame’s snooty, power hungry portrayal of mind stealing baddie Skagra is fine from what little material involving his character was completed, and ultimately proves nowhere near as bad as anything being performed by Graham Crowden as the completely over the top Soldeed in the season’s prior The Horns of Nimon.
|Time Lady Romana (Lalla Ward) has fun on the river.|
The story’s accompanying set designs are of a good standard and hold up well alongside the lovely location filming. The filmed episodic cliffhangers are also of effective note.
The VHS “completion” of the story back in 1994 did the best it could with a very limited BBC WORLDWIDE budget of the time, proving itself as a noble effort from late producer John Nathan-Turner, though his selection of late eighties WHO series composer Keff McCulloch as a replacement to the expert work of seventies music veteran Dudley Simpson, isn’t totally satisfying, and proves acceptable more than totally rewarding.
On the plus side, the transfer of the VHS release of the story has benefited from a major picture restoration, of which the shot on film location sequences look particularly superb.
With its successful completion into partially animated form last year by another dedicated fan and supporter to the series, record producer Ian Levene, it’s a shame that his unauthorised specially commissioned version of Shada, (with animation filling in the final episodes many blanks (notably its action packed end)) wasn’t additionally given an official release as part of the collection, especially considering all the hard work put into it, including reuniting many of the original cast in the voice recording studio. The animation, though basic, is of a very pleasing standard from what I’ve seen in example cells put online. Would it really have been any harm to include it? Especially in the anniversary year. I’m sure fans would have forked out extra monies to have seen it.
With Levene’s work rejected, it’s a further shame then, that the current BBC restoration team couldn’t have at least added some specially commissioned artwork to heighten the previous VHS release and Tom Baker’s sterling descriptive talents in the final two action-orientated episodes, mostly linked to the un-filmed material of the shows ultimate baddy, Skagra.
|Pondering the mystery of Shada: Romana, K-9 and Chris Parsons (Daniel Hill).|
Despite these frustrations, there is a rock solid foundation of extra materials accompanying the story. Chris Chapman’s behind the scenes documentary is a tight and compact affair of love and loss in the climate of a cancelled story, told against the lively green and intellectual climes of Cambridge, with contributions from the always wonderfully grandiose Tom Baker (with a cameo from his lovely pet dog roaming the countryside!), supporting caster Daniel Hill, his Production Assistant wife Olivia Bazalgette, and several other key behind the scenes players.
Additionally, Strike! Strike! Strike! is an interesting look at the history of the unions and their links to the BBC and the entertainment industry in general over the years, plus the trials and tribulations they’ve bought with them. Even more importantly, how they have ultimately affected the destiny of DOCTOR WHO on television, not always for the best over the years. As well as some intriguing and rather snooty comments from several then industry bosses (one of whom clearly doesn’t have much regard for DOCTOR WHO, especially in the late seventies, and its overall place with television audiences-no doubt accidentally dropped on his head as a baby when the very first episode went out!), there’s additional anecdotes from companion actress Nicola Bryant, producers Barry Letts and Derrick Sherwin, and long-term “superfan” and real-life union rep Gary Russell. Shaun Ley presents the documentary with clarity, in a fascinating production incorporating classic clips, behind the scenes material and production info from producer and director James Goss.
The Then and Now look at the Shada's competed location work is particularly pleasing in that it presents us with a charming presentation of not only the selected locations used in the final filming, but also the ones planned for but ultimately not used or abandoned due to rising industrial action complications, including the aborted night filming chase sequence between the Doctor and the pursuing mind sphere, and another short sequence involving the exterior of a Cambridge laboratory.
|The mysterious Professor Chronotis (Denis Carey).|
Finally, there’s the obligatory fine selection of photos from the location and studio filming, the informative and good humoured production notes, plus, as a final bonus, if only for access via PC and MAC, there’s the BBCi/BIG FINISH co-production of the Paul McGann incarnation of the story from the mid-2000’s, featuring the return of Lalla Ward as Romana. It’s a nice curiosity, but ultimately, despite its completed form, isn’t a patch on the original version.
Nothing to do with Shada itself, but the final Being A Girl documentary is an interesting addition to the overall special features/LEGACY set, as Thomas Guerrier produces a fun half hour featurette on the changing face of the Doctor’s numerous and attractive lady companions over the years, and how their importance along the Time Lord’s side has swung the pendulum in reflecting the times and changing attitudes in both real-life and within the evolving entertainment and story telling medium. There's some nice clips and narration from Leela actress Louise Jameson, whose vocal work brings subtle authority, as well as observations from the latest DOCTOR WHO magazine “expert” Emma Price and the return of journalist/ presenter Samira Ahmed. Engaging stuff.
Over the years there's been much fan debate as to whether Shada would ever have been so highly regarded if it had actually made it to completion on our TV screens as the final story of the shows seventeenth season, with many thinking that it’s overall enjoyment and consideration as a classic being ultimately due to the notoriety of its cancellation and the aura generated around it’s unfinished form. The late, great Douglas Adams himself was apparently not a fan of his final work on WHO, either, feeling it was rushed into development and not living up to his own personal satisfactions: pretty much glad it never made the light of day.
I personally don’t agree with such criticisms and complaints. From what material was completed, Shada, to my mind, shows a terrific cast at work enjoying a solid, intelligent and funny script, working in an overall story telling atmosphere that was both cosy and attractive. Alongside the prior excellent location filming, something good, something extra noteworthy, was definitely coming together at that time in television centre, and for the show, before the studio doors were untimely and disgracefully locked up by industrial action. Shada could and should have been a triumphant end to the series, and the reign of producer Graham Williams and script editor Adams, rather than the Beeb leaving us with the Rennie tablet-inducing travesty of the badly cooked Christmas turkey that proved to be the season’s premature ender, The Horns of Nimon. An enigma and a curiosity certainly, but what remains of Shada, which would have had something for everybody, is still, most definitely, a rewarding viewing experience...
|Lots of fun for everyone with the More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS documentary.|
MORE THAN 30 YEARS IN THE TARDIS (1 disc)
1993: the last great year that the shows Classic Series era was truly celebrated by the upper echelons of the BBC, what with their unveiling of a plethora of merchandise, a marvellous celebrity packed convention in London and, despite the lack of a continuing series (not such a problem in these modern times!), the promise of a BBC ENTERPRISES one-off special production directly made for video: The Dark Dimension. Sadly, like Shada, the project ultimately proved doomed, though unlike the Douglas Adams classic, where at least something was shot for all to see, the Adrian Riglesford concoction seemed to have had dark clouds set against it from the start, with ENTERPRISES bullied by rival BBC management and, despite their passionate enthusiasm, ultimately lacking the necessary funds to push it through to filming.
Despite the resulting furore and disappointment, the BBC did at least commission young director and WHO superfan Kevin Davies into bringing to the screens that November an extremely worthwhile visual celebration documentary for BBC 1 viewers, and WHO fans of all ages, to savour and wax lyrical nostalgia over. A veritable triumph then to be given an extended lease of life with additional extra material by BBC WORLDWIDE, back in the days when VHS tapes were king. Now, MORE THAN 30 YEARS OF A TIME LORD returns via DVD, and is all the richer for its reappearance during this bigger, and likely better, Fiftieth Anniversary.
And it really does maintain its legacy as the ultimate knees-up to WHO’s past and then present, with a look into the shows exciting and ground-breaking birth in the monochrome era of the mid-sixties and its enduring legacy into the seventies and late eighties, what with the iconic character of the Doctor himself, his multitude of companions, incredible monsters- most notably those cunning metal monsters, the Daleks, and overall behind the scenes evolution, all given a much deserved examination in this ultimate visual scrapbook, alongside classic and rare clips from numerous episodes across all the shows eras as well as some sterling scene recreations from classic adventures like the Skaro realm that is The Evil of the Daleks and the Cybermen army patrolling the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral from The Invasion. Plucked out of the vaults, there’s lots of great behind the scenes material adding to this veritable goldmine of the past, and proving a timely reminder to fans of all ages as to why the series is so good and endured for so long, surviving the ravages of changing times, internal corporation resentment and rival channels competition.
Classic clips, extended and deleted scenes and unused title sequences of old, and even overseas TV commercials, are used to great effect alongside contributions from Classic Doctors Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker (appearing in archive form), whilst the late, great Jon Pertwee, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy talk affectionately about their time inhabiting the role and its important, multi-generational appeal. Original series producer Verity Lambert talks candidly on how the show came to fruition and casting original star William Hartnell, whilst successors Barry Letts, Philip Hinchcliffe and John-Nathan Turner maintain the legend admirably, along with equally noteworthy script editors Terrance Dicks and Eric Saward, all of whom discuss many developing aspects linked to the shows existence, including the lead character’s ability to be recast on and off via the handy concept of “regeneration”, and the occasional controversy or unsuccessful elements that have reared their heads along the way. Plus, some of the great traditions linked to the series over the years, like it's connections to Blue Peter, competitions and other publicity. Stars, sportspeople and political figures, like Toyah Wilcox, Mike Gatting and Ken Livingstone, share their childhood memories, whilst the late Gerry Anderson talks about his then young sons adoration for the programme, rather than his own productions!
Of particular note, it's nice to see extended contributions from much missed series icons like Nicholas Courtney (also the narrator of the documentary), and Elisabeth Sladen (who appears in some segments with her then little girl, Sadie), both of whom had played such an important part in so many people’s childhoods. Carole Ann Ford, Fraser Hines, Deborah Watling, Nicola Bryant and Sophie Aldred also have fun reminiscing, and there’s a nice little foray into the two colour packed Dalek movies of the sixties that starred Peter Cushing in the lead role.
Backed up with an affectionate incidental music score from Mary Ayres, the documentary has held up well twenty years on and remains a lively and engaging tribute to the 30th anniversary.
Complimenting More’s release are a host of new materials from the current custodians of the classic WHO flame, including:
Remembering Nicholas Courtney: a charming, sadly never finished documentary talking to the actor about his life and career, hosted by his friend and co-author Michael McManus, with a nice guest appearance from a lively Tom Baker.
Those Deadly Divas: a fun twenty minute look at the classic and modern series female villains, such as The Rani, with contributions from modern series writer Gareth Roberts and actresses Kate O’Mara, Camille Coduri and Tracy Ann Oberman, celebrating just what memorable ingredients are needed to make a lady baddy so memorable in DOCTOR WHO!
The Lambert Tapes- Part One: an interview with the original producer of the show, Verity Lambert: truly one of the all-time great talents of the British television industry, talking with charm about the early difficulties of getting the show made at the BBC with limited resources but lots of enthusiasm and luck, plus the satisfaction of seeing it hit the big time with audiences once the Daleks had made their big entrance. A noteworthy interview segment compiled from The Story of DOCTOR WHO documentary from 2003.
Doctor Who Stories- Peter Purves: Hartnell era companion and Blue Peter icon Peter Purves talks very candidly and amusingly about his time in the TARDIS, earning the then healthy sum of £35 pounds a week in 1964. A nice featurette featuring more unseen footage culled from The Story of DOCTOR WHO special.
Finally, there’s a classic photo gallery of the documentary’s various Doctors, companions and monsters, PDF Radio Times listings, and an atmospheric Coming Soon trailer for the next DVD release: William Hartnell's Doctor caught in the French Revolution, during The Reign of Terror!
KOOL TV RATING: Considered somewhat an eclectic set by die-hard Who fans, the LEGACY box set nonetheless remains an essential purchase. Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5
Get the set here: Doctor Who: The Legacy Collection Shada/More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS DVD: Amazon.co.uk: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, Douglas Adams: Film & TV
Get the set here: Doctor Who: The Legacy Collection Shada/More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS DVD: Amazon.co.uk: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, Douglas Adams: Film & TV