Dalek War DVD Box Set

Friday, 02 October 2009 13:13

Featuring two six-part Jon Pertwee adventures involving one of the Doctor’s greatest nemeses, The Dalek War Box Set is released on DVD on 5 October 2009, priced £34.26 – oh, don’t you just love these bizarre prices created by the 15% VAT rather than 17.5%! Packed with a host of brand new special features, this four-disc box megamix contains the stories “Frontier in Space” and “Planet of the Daleks”, although it is one particular episode of the later story which is the reason for such great expectations.

For many years, poor old “Planet…” has suffered from one of its episodes, originally made and broadcast in colour, having only been maintained as a monochrome film print, retrieved from overseas broadcasters.  At least viewers could actually see what was on screen, even if not as originally presented.  Colourisation was simply not an option, as the process was far too expensive … until now.

Dalek War DVD Box SetSo, Episode Three is regenerated into a colour print where you simply cannot see the join with the episodes either side of it. Three techniques have been melded together to create the final result. You have an American company doing colourisation. Then, a new process which extracts colour signals from black and white film prints (all to do with the way the recording was created – by pointing a film camera at a TV screen showing the episode; the dot patterns on the print can then be reprocessed to details what colour is present in each part of the image – incredible stuff!). Finally, all that gets combined with the ‘Vidfire’ process, which changes the ‘look’ of film to the ‘feel’ of video transmission.

Needless to say, the 11 minute bonus feature that details all this is as jaw-dropping as it sounds.  It’s readily admitted that this sort of stuff is still on the expensive end of production for archive material being given a DVD release – so those expecting an imminent release of “The Ambassadors of Death”, with all its seven episodes needing recolourising (and no colour source material to work from), had better put plans for an ‘Ambassadors Party’ on hold for the foreseeable future.

In terms of the stories themselves, for those of you just coming in here’s a quick recap:


“Frontier in space”

When the TARDIS accidentally brings the Doctor and Jo Grant (Katy Manning) aboard Earth cargo ship C982, they find it under attack. The crew perceive the Doctor, Jo and the attackers as Draconians, whose empire currently rivals Earth's for control of the galaxy. But the Doctor and Jo see only Ogrons - brutish, simian mercenaries who steal the cargo, including the TARDIS, and head off into space.

The Doctor's investigations take him to Earth, the Moon and then to Draconia itself. He discovers that the Ogrons are employed by his sworn enemy, the Master (Roger Delgado in his final performance), who is attempting to provoke a war between the space empires. The Doctor suspects the scale of the plan is too grand even for the Master, but he is shocked to discover the identity of the far deadlier foe waiting in the wings...


“Planet of the Daleks”

Injured after a shoot-out between his old nemesis the Master and the Ogrons, who are slaves to the evil Daleks, the Doctor sends a message to the Time Lords, asking them to pilot his TARDIS and follow the Daleks to their new base. After he slips into a coma, it falls to his assistant Jo Grant to explore the planet where the TARDIS finally materialises. She meets a party of Thals and is left in hiding aboard their crashed spaceship while they go to the Doctor's aid. On his recovery, the Doctor learns of their mission to destroy a party of Daleks sent to discover the native Spiridons' secret of invisibility.

Not only must the Doctor contend with the Daleks' new scheme, but he must try to stop them unleashing a plague that will exterminate all organic life. When a rescue ship of Thals arrive, they bring with them even darker news - somewhere on Spiridon, 12,000 Daleks are waiting to emerge and take what they believe is their rightful place as the Universe's supreme beings!


With Doctor Who releases, the plethora of special features helps satisfy both the audience of ‘traditional’ Whovians as well as those who have just come to appreciate the format via the adventures of Messrs Eccleston and Tennant.

For “Frontier in Space”, we get a commentary from the inimitable Katy Manning, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks, all moderated by Clayton Hickman. There are also Programme Subtitles, and Subtitled Production Notes to enhance the ‘viewing pleasure’.

An intriguing approach is taken to the obligatory documentary, with a format entitle Perfect Scenario (in two episodic parts – one for each of the stories on this set).  The background is that in the far future the remaining population of an oxygen-depleted planet Earth lies in enforced stasis in ‘The Field of Dreams’. Their minds are kept active through the work of ‘scenario-smiths’. Looking for ideas to help him re-connect to his captive audience, Zed, a young scenario-smith, turns to the worlds of Doctor Who for inspiration. Featuring interviews with cast members Katy Manning, Janet Fielding, Vera Fusek and Michael Hawkins, plus producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, visual effects designers John Friedlander and Mat Irvine, it’s a bold and unusual approach to digging through the archives and framing reminiscences.

A more familiar approach to documentary making is found in “The Space War”, where cast and crew look back at the making of the story.

“Roger Delgado: The Master” is a touching and almost tear-jerking celebration of the most renowned of actors to play the Doctor's arch-nemesis – Roger played the role from his introduction in 1971 until his tragic death two years later. This tribute features previously unseen photographs, rare excerpts from his many BBC TV appearances and interviews with those who knew and loved him – including the likes of William Gaunt and Linda Thorson.

“Stripped for Action: The Third Doctor” chronicles the next era in what is an ongoing series across the Doctor Who DVD range, tracing The Doctor's comic book adventures in the Pertwee era.

Coverage of “Frontier…”, as is also the case with “Planet…”, is completed with a Photo Gallery, a ‘Coming Soon’ teaser and some PDF Material.

Moving on to “Planet of the Daleks”, for this story we have a commentary from actors Katy Manning, Prentis Hancock and Tim Preece, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks. These episodes also come with Programme Subtitles and Subtitle Production Notes.

The next episode of Perfect Scenario is entitled “The End of Dreams”. Continuing his search for inspiration, Zed resumes his studies of 20th Century television's Doctor Who. What he finds will have a profound effect on the lives of all of the remaining sleepers in ‘The Field of Dreams’.  This episode features interviews with cast members Katy Manning, Jane How, Janet Fielding, Bernard Horsfall and Tim Preece, producer Barry Letts, and script editor Terrance Dicks.

Again, there’s a more conventional documentary approach with “The Rumble in the Jungle”, where cast and crew look back at the making of the story.

“Stripped for Action: The Daleks” takes a look at the comic book adventures of The Doctor’s deadliest foes.  Needless to say, this is the best advert ever for the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson-produced comic “TV Century 21” from the 1960s, which featured the Daleks in their weekly pages for a couple of years (and Gerry even gets to note his jealousy of Terry Nation for having created them). Certainly, it’s an idea for an item of merchandise in the making – the collected Dalek pages from TV21!

As is almost always the case it would seem these days, no Who DVD is complete without related items from Blue Peter making their appearance. The two on this set both focus on an appeal for information concerning the theft of two Daleks from the BBC, with a follow-up on their subsequent return. If you are the sort of person who watches detective shows and knows who the murderer is halfway through the second act, you might want to spot the errors in the stories of the various witnesses.  The time line for the robbery and recovery simply doesn’t add up!  Far be it for Cineology to suggest there’s twelve and a half minutes here that intimate Blue Peter has a track record for trying to deceive its viewers … one not limited to whether a cat is called ‘Socks’ or ‘Cookie’ !

So, that’s 300 minutes of episodes, gallons of extra material, a ‘PG’ certificate, and bundles of fun.  Rest assured, if you ever wanted proof that Doctor Who has always had plenty going for it, whatever the era, this four disc set is just what you need!

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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