Saturday, November 16, 2013

Doctor Who - The Tenth Planet DVD Review

by Ken Parker

This is amazing. Here I am reviewing one of the most important episodes of Doctor Who which was just released on DVD. I am listening to the music from “The Tenth Planet” CD and earlier saw The Adventures in Space and Time Trailer, featuring a quick scene from the making of “The Tenth Planet.” And my 5 year old daughter actually watched part of this story with me (first time she watched some of Doctor Who. How cool is that?

"The Tenth Planet" is one of those Doctor Who stories that for years I never thought I would see because it was incomplete. Then one day I watched a 10+ generation video tape of episodes 1-3 and I could barely see what was going on. I was still intrigued and enjoyed the story. “The Tenth Planet” is one of the first Target books I saw in a bookstore and one of the first I bought. Finally it is out on DVD and thanks to Jeff, I have a copy to watch, enjoy and review!

The story is your basic 'base under siege” tale but there is nothing basic about this one. First off, “The Tenth Planet” features the first appearance by the Cybermen in all their creepy glory. Secondly it is the last time William Hartnell would play the Doctor until he comes back in “The Three Doctors” a few years later. We also experience something that is taken for granted now, but at the time was so original and exciting – a regeneration.

A few things to note here, this being the first Cybermen story and Hartnell's last story as the lead of the Doctor, neither of them are in it that much. Hartnell had gotten ill during the filming of the story and vanishes for part of episodes 2 and 3 while the Cybermen are dispatched in episode 2 but do return by the final episode to begin their doomed invasion.

Despite this, both are important to the story as Hartnell delivers a final performance that is only marred by the fact that the episode does not exist. The animated part 4 does an excellent job though with giving a glimpse at what it must have been like to see the Doctor regenerate.

The Cybermen are especially creepy, being more human like than any future incarnation. They have human like hands and their faces are some horrific resemblance of a human face with a mouth that mimics a human mouth. The fact that the Cybermen are humans that have replaced parts of their bodies with machinery was a commentary of science and medicine in our world and one that co-writer Kit Pedler was obsessed with.

This Cyberman design would be heavily modified a year later but this one is probably the most terrifying.

The story is not without its faults. The upside down Earth representing Mondas was a poor idea and should have been just a different looking planet. The idea that Mondas is just like Earth except it has gone on a different path is interesting but hard to take serious with an upside down Earth. The story moves fairly well and is well conceived. The cast do well in their respective parts and while it would have been great to see more of Hartnell in this one, he manages to go out on a high point.
The DVD looks great and for once the animation is enjoyable. It is unfortunate that the missing episode is part 4 but the animation has more motion and looks better than the paper doll cut out versions of the past.

The making of documentary is fascinating as most of these are on the DVDs. Several other special segments make for some good extras including a look at the male companions of Doctor Who and an excellent, more in depth analysis of companions in “Companion Piece”. This is one of my favorite extras I have seen in a while as interviewees discuss some of the psychological aspects of traveling with the Doctor. A little humor mixed in, this is a great special.

Along with a Blue Peter is a short opinion piece that tries to convince me (and fails) to tell me that the latest Doctor Who is as good as the old one. The photo gallery and the original VHS reconstruction are also included. The highlight is a very short interview with William Hartnell which happened a short while after leaving the show. This segment is far to brief but gives us a very rare look at the man behind the first Doctor. Incredible.

So this DVD is an excellent choice for being an anniversary release of sorts. It is an excellent story and important one as well.

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