Doctor Who: Kameleon Tales boxset (DVD TV series review).

The King’s Demons by Terrance Dudley

cast: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson, Anthony Ainley, Gerald Flood, Frank Windsor, Christopher Villiers and Isla Blair

How to sum up a two-part story where everything is so much spoiler. The date is 4th March 1215 and King John (actor Gerald Flood) is on the estate of Baron Ranulf (actor Frank Windsor) and his wife Isabella (actress Isla Blair) and son, Hugh (actor Christopher Villiers). Over a meal, King John accuses Ranulf of not giving him all his money and lays down a challenge which Hugh takes on against his champion, Sir Gilles Estram.

During the joust, the TARDIS arrives and King John announces the Doctor (Peter Davison), Tegan (actress Janet Fielding) and Turlough (actor Mark Strickson) as his demons and doesn’t seem perturbed that they just materialised. They accept their hospitality for a meal but Turlough goes missing. The Doctor is forced into a duel with Estram and discovers what a tangled web he’s been drawn into. From there on, everything is spoiler.

Be warned, there is something odd about the DVD and it won’t readily go from episode to episode.

The first audio commentary is with actors Peter Davison and Isla Blair with script editor Eric Saward. Information is given about the Kameleon being a real robot. However, the thing I can answer which baffled them is just how heavy is the TARDIS as it’s rather simple. The TARDIS is transdimensional so it’s heavier on the inside than the outside aspect that pokes into our reality. The Master’s TARDIS, having even less poking into our reality is even lighter.

Director Tony Virgo was away working when the first commentary was done but I’m glad he was back to do one for the first episode. He explains that after being a floor manager he passed the director’s course and this was his first gig. He praises cameraman Remi Adefarasin for the speed they got doing the outside filming. He also corrects the previous commentary in that they were doing this in December not November.

‘Kameleon – Metal Man’ in 14 minutes goes over the deficiencies of the humanoid robot. For the historically minded, the 22 minute ‘Magna Carta’ goes over why it was created in our reality. Finally, 6 minutes devoted to the ‘Photo Gallery’ which was for the studio work. Presumably they were working too fast outside to get much there.

Planet Of Fire by Peter Grimwade

cast: Peter Davison, Mark Strickson, Nicola Bryant, Anthony Ainley, Jason Wyngarde.

The connection between the people on Sarn and in a shipwreck off Lanzarotte on Earth isn’t readily apparent. However, one object in particular shares a symbol. On the yacht, Perpugilliam ‘Peri’ Brown (actress Nicola Bryant) is eager to go to Morocco but is fooled by her stepfather, Professor Foster (actor Dallas Ford) and stuck there.

Meanwhile, on the TARDIS, the Doctor (actor Peter Davison) and Turlough (actor Mark Strickson) have discovered that the robot Kameleon is acting oddly while connected to the TARDIS’ memory bank co-ordinating them to land on Lanzarote. They go off to explore what is causing the signal they were tracking, then divide up with Turlough returning to the TARDIS so they can cross co-ordinate. However, he sees the stranded struggling Peri trying to swim ashore and failing and rescues her and the artefact, leaving her to recover in one of the TARDIS’ bedrooms. The Doctor returning finds Turlough trying to hide the device but discovers it contains a memory core. Putting it in TARDIS, it transfers them to Sarn, where they both go off to find out what is going on.

Peri recovers and finds a distraught Kameleon transforming first into her stepfather and then into the Master (actor Anthony Ainley) who is controlling him from afar and who wants her and a component from the TARDIS called the compactor. Succeeding in escaping him, she runs off with the component and hoping to catch up with the Doctor and Turlough. They in turn have met up with the Sarn inhabitants and prove to them that their volcano god Logar is going to erupt and offers to rescue them in his TARDIS. Turlough discovers the spacecraft they came on, convinced they came from his home planet Trion, proving it by showing the same symbol scar on his own arm. It is then that the senior guardian Timanov (actor Peter Wyngarde) returns and sees the people there as traitors who should be thrown into the volcano as persuaded by the Kameleon/Master.

As usual, the Master is out to manipulate the situation for his own ends and Turlough discovers he can go home again. Peri also, literally, finds her feet on the edge of a volcano and Kameleon’s fate is finally decided. There’s too many spoilers to go beyond that.

Something that did occur to me after watching this episode is the Doctor promising to return her to Earth to match her three month holiday. However, we know from ‘The Trail Of A Time Lord’ that she never returned to Earth. Her mother and step-father must have been overcome with that situation.

The audio commentary is between actors Peter Davison, Mark Strickson and Nicola Bryant with director Fiona Cumming. The latter also admits to choosing Lanzarote for this story and accidentally choosing a nudist beach late at night for a major scene without knowing what it was used for until filming. The actors are still usually amnesic about the story but have background stories.

Cummings also pronounces ‘Grimwade’ the same way I wrote it further up in the review. No one seems to note that Davison loses his waistcoat in the second episode or in the third episode where Peri’s shirt goes from open to buttoned to opened again. As to where the Doctor put his glasses, watching, I spotted a pocket in his trousers and it’s not unusual for the Doctor to hide various things about his person. Fiona Cumming points out that she was an assistant floor manager on the ‘The Massacre Of St. Bartholomew’s Eve’ story with William Hartnell and worked her way up through the ranks and this was the last ‘Doctor Who’ story she directed. I looked up her career and she died in 2015.

A bunch of extras. We start with 26 minutes of ‘The Flames Of Sarn’ where cast and production discuss the making of the story and how many left the show. The 13 minute ‘Return To The Planet Of Fire’ has director Fiona Cumming and her cameraman, John Walker, return to Lanzarote 20 years later and shows how much some of the places they’d filmed in and some that have stayed the same.

Set designer Malcolm Thornton goes over what was involved then and now with the 5 minute ‘Design Of Sarn’. I didn’t see much difference in the ‘Alternative, Deleted And Extended Scenes spread over 15 minutes. The 8 minute Photo Gallery also didn’t show much behind the scenes.

On disc 2, the 8 minute ‘Calling The Shots’ goes a lot further with showing behind the scenes and more recent comments from actors Mark Strickson, Peter Davison and director Fiona Cumming as to the speed of filming.

Finally, the 12 minute ‘Remembering Anthony Ainley’ was given over to mostly a convention interview by him as cast comments were mostly he was a private person with a passion for sport. Oddly, they don’t seem to know his co-starring role in ITV’s ‘Spyder’s Web’ although maybe the BBC don’t look at the other channel.

The 63 minute version of ‘Planet Of Fire’ was with new effects with an introduction by Fiona Cumming. She explains how CGI allowed better use of flames in the scenes using them. Probably the biggest difference is seeing the Trion spaceship coming in to crash on Sarn. At least I’ve figured out that at some point in the TARDIS, the Doctor takes his waistcoat off so he hadn’t totally lost it.

Although I can understand the BBC putting both stories in a boxset because of the connecting factor of Kameleon, I do have to wonder if perhaps they had less faith in selling them separately. The real shining glory for both stories is the superb Anthony Ainley and his take on the Master but it would be a big boxset putting all his adventures together.

GF Willmetts

March 2019

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC. 3 DVDs 220 minutes. 2 stories 8 25 minute episodes and 1 63 minute story. Price: I pulled my copy for £ 7.79 (UK). ASIN: BBC2738)

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