After almost exactly six weeks, my DVDs from The Sun have arrived. How’s that for precision? Haven’t watched them all yet but impressions so far:
The Day of Armageddon (Hartnell): I’ve never seen this one before and I realise I have almost no recollection of the other episodes in the story either. But Hartnell’s a bit more spry than I remember – he’s practically doing forward rolls over Daleks at times – Kevin Stoney looks really silly with his “Guardian of the Solar System” make-up and Peter Hawkins can’t disguise his Bill and Ben voice enough to make the Daleks anything more than laughable. All the same, I’d forgotten just how complicated Hartnell plots were. UPDATE: I’d also forgotten just how keen they were on ‘hard sci-fi’ aliens, despite their limited budgets. And the incidental music is fantastic.
The Faceless Ones (Troughton): One of my all-time favourite stories – I even wrote a sequel at university that had the working title of “Gratuitous Violence of the Chameleons” (you can tell where I was coming from and why my screenwriting career never came to anything) – this one’s a bit duller than I remember. I think the other surviving episode, number three, was the better one. Instead, we get the Doctor and co being chased around 1960s Gatwick airport by an all-star cast including Colin Gordon, Wanda Ventham and Donald Pickering. Lots of violent deaths, brainwashing and implacable aliens all the same, so thumbs up.
The Spearhead from Space (Pertwee): It’s entirely shot on film, it’s the first Jon Pertwee story, it’s written almost entirely with adults in mind and it’s got the best companion ever in it (Liz Shaw), ripping the piss out of the Brigadier and eventually saving the day through sheer scientific genius and daring – pah to everyone who thought feminism on Doctor Who started with Sarah Jane Smith. Anyway, what more to do you need to know? It’s fantastic! Go and buy the full story. You’ll have to forward wind past the traditional comedy yokel poacher scenes that were so beloved of the Pertwee era.
The Robots of Death (Tom Baker): Ignore the silly costumes, silly special effects, silly make-up and silly Tom Baker. This is a cracking murder-mystery with some deeply disturbing robots. Trouble is, the title gives the game away a bit, but it’s still a classic, even if you only get to see the first episode – imagine giving someone an Agatha Christie novel but ripping out the last chapter first. Same thing here.
Earthshock (Peter Davison): “The Cybermen want to destroy Earth, and will use any means at their disposal” says the back of the DVD and on the front is a lovely picture of a Cyberman. Hmm. This is episode one. Essentially, false advertising then, since the Cybermen don’t do anything in this episode other than stare at a monitor and say “Destroy them! Destroy them at once!” in the last ten seconds. Plus it does ruin the cliffhanger (why are they ending there? We already know the Cybermen are the baddies). But this is another cracker of an episode with all sorts of unpleasantness happening in creepy caves. We do have to put up with the traditional Davison moanathon by the various companions, though. “Doctor, why haven’t you taken me home yet? Doctor, why haven’t you let me fly the TARDIS yet? Doctor, why have you overdone my eggs – you know I like them runny?” Shut up you whiny little brats. Where’s Liz Shaw when you need her?
Rose (Christopher Eccleston): Actually, the weakest link of the whole lot. Some nice lines of dialogue and the Nestene are back from Spearhead from Space (without Liz Shaw though), but still not wholly brilliant. Am not going to bother putting it into the DVD player, because I know I’m going to be cringing the whole way through it. Sorry, Eccles.