Doctor Who: Myths And Legends (DVD boxset review).

March 20, 2016 | By | 1 Reply More

Doctor Who: Myths And Legends

DW-MythsAndLegends

Three stories under one boxset. Before you ask, these past few months, I watched them within the order of the other ‘Doctor Who’ stories I was watching so in relative context than jumping from Doctor to Doctor. Data is given for the individual stories.

Doctor Who: The Time Monster by Robert Sloman

(region 2 DVD pub: BBC. 1 DVD 147 minutes 6 * 24 minute episodes with extras. ASIN: BBCDVD2851(A))

cast: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney, John Levine, Richard Franklin, Roger Delgado, Wanda Moore, Ian Collier, Donald Eccles, Ingrid Pitt and George Kormac

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The Doctor (actor Jon Pertwee) is disturbed by a dream of the Master (actor Roger Delgado) and although alerting the Brigadier (actor Nicholas Courtney) and getting Jo Grant (actress Katy Manning) to check up on world-wide volcanic activity. However, he is getting forgetful and didn’t realised he asked her to check the previous night. Rather than accompany the Brigadier and Sgt. Benton (actor John Levine) as part of a VIP examination of a new teleportation device called TOM-TIT (Transmission Of Matter Through Interstitial Time), he and Jo stays at UNIT HQ working on a new device, a means to detect the Master’s TARDIS.

Speaking of whom, the inventor of TOM-TIT is Professor Thascales, otherwise known as the Master. The two scientists he’s guiding, Dr. Ruth Ingram (actress Wanda Moore) and Stuart Hyde (actor Ian Collier), are pretty much free unhypnotised spirits and do an unauthorised teleportation which registers on the Doctor’s new detector. Having just hypnotised the new replacement department head Dr. Percival (actor John Wyse), the Master is annoyed with them but Ingram points out an error which he designs a temporal device to compensate with. He sends Ingram to see the VIPs when he realises UNIT is with them and re-builds the device himself.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Jo are trying to pinpoint where the time emissions came from driving in Bessie. The second use of TOM-TIT gives the location but they are too late to prevent Hyde being aged to 75 years old. While the Brigadier orders up equipment to be delivered by Captain Yates (actor Richard Franklin), the Master gains control of TOM-TIT and brings forward Krasis (actor Donald Eccles) from ancient Atlantis.

Having succeeded, he realises how to bring Kronos out of the time stream but can’t control him but does have some unusual time effects, including restoring Hyde to his normal age. While making more adjustments to his equipment, the Master twists time to ensure that Captain Yates team with the Doctor’s TARDIS is delayed. However, the Doctor, with Jo in tow, is able to transpose his TARDIS with that of the Master’s TARDIS, although one is inside the other. Without the Master aware of this, he seemingly zaps the Doctor into oblivion before dividing the TARDISes and off to Atlantis.

Unknown to him, the intangible Doctor explains to Jo how to restore himself to physical form and they are back on his trail. The Master, meanwhile, has ingrated himself on the Atlanteans with a private talk with King Dalios (actor George Cormack) but finds he can’t hypnotise him but finds an alley in Queen Galleia (actress Ingrid Pitt), promising control of Kronos.

When the Doctor and Jo arrive, they find a kindred spirit with Dalios. While the Doctor confers alone, Jo learns of the Master’s plot but gets thrown into the labyrinth instead and the Doctor has to rescue her from the Minotaur but that leads to another discovery. As the rest is spoiler, you’ll need to buy to find out what happens next.

The audio commentary is a musical chairs of various people. For the first and fifth and sixth episodes, we have producer Barry Letts and Production Assistant Marion McDougall discussing things with moderator Toby Hadoke. Letts says this isn’t his favourite story and his co-writer Robert Sloman would just write than think about what he was writing. McDougall pointed out aspects of her work, including finding outdoor settings and how stuntmen worked. For the fifth episode, there is the extra presence of actress Susan Penhaligon discussing one of her earliest television appearances as the servant Lakis. For the sixth, the best info is about the mask maker not knowing that there was a difference between cow and bull heads.

For episodes 2 and 4, actor John Levene does solo turns and fills in details of the scene production. Episode 3 had some reminiscences from modern scriptwriters Graham Duff, Phil Ford, Joe Lidster and James Moran and how the story might have been handled today.

There are a few extras. The 23 minute ‘Between Now…And Now!’ explores the aspects of time travel used with a mixture of Buddish philosophy from Professor Jim Al Khalili and producer Barry Letts with additional comments from actors Richard Franklin and Katy Manning. A small piece covers restoring the picture quality of this story. The Photo Gallery is extensive and a decent look at the sets and sunglasses worn by the cast in rehearsal.

Watching ‘The Time Monster’ again after so many years, it’s like a visit with old friends. What struck me most was the Doctor’s softer nature as he didn’t want to leave the Master in the time vortex and who consequently escapes. Equally, the Master did have the opportunity to do more than capturing Jo Grant but didn’t go that far so maybe he did have a morality of his own. Certainly Roger Delgado stole the scenes he was in but he wouldn’t have been the Master otherwise. Considering that Ruth Ingram got TOM-TIT working without the crystal, I can’t help wondering if this was the early version of the T-MAT system that cropped up in later stories.

Doctor Who: Underworld by Bob Baker and Dave Martin

(region 2 DVD pub: BBC. 1 DVD 89 minutes 4 * 24 minute episodes with extras. ASIN: BBCDVD2851(B))

cast: Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, James Maxwell, Alan Lake, Imogen Bickford-Smith, Jonathan Newth, Jimmy Gardner, Norman Tipton, Godfrey James and John Leeson

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You would think with a title like ‘Underworld’ that this story would be about the criminal fraternity or even Orpheus. However, this is ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Underworld’ takes a whole different meaning.

The TARDIS is being drawn into a nebula and with K-9 (voiced by John Leeson) detecting a nearby spacecraft, the Doctor (actor Tom Baker) and Leela (actor Louise Jameson) materialise there. Before they meet the crew, the Doctor realises they are on a Minyan spaceship and they were the people that made the Time Lords stop helping people as they gave them a lot of their technology and then were turned on.

Finding the crew, they meet Captain Jackson (actor James Maxwell), Eric Herrick (actor Alan Lake), Orfe (actor Jonathan Newth) and Tala (actor Imogen Bickford-Smith) who is nearly dead. Herrick takes her to the medical bay where she regenerates, care of Time Lord technology. Something that should raise your eyebrows is this crew have done it a thousand times. Makes the Time Lords thirteen times seem paltry in comparison but it only pushes back the years and not changes their appearance and done rather quickly.

Jackson explains that after the original Minyan planet was destroyed, they founded a second planet but have been on a quest to find P7E, a missing starship which has all their Race Banks. It turns out that it is in the middle of the nebula but, after K-9 saves their spaceship from going into nebula, the Doctor is forced to order him to guide it into the nebula. Unfortunately, the spaceship being a heavier mass attracts all the light meteor debris and after blasting free, they smash into the planet that had formed around P7E. Not being that solid, they arrive at the core.

Although the Doctor and Leela are told not to follow them, the crew go off to seek P7E, with them following later. The core isn’t empty and the Trogs are ruled by the Seers, who see nothing wrong with sacrificing the odd few to encourage work from the rest. They are in the process of doing this when Idmon (actor Jimmy Gardner) and his son, Idas (actor Norman Tipton) are scheduled to be the next sacrifices but the latter escapes, although injured, and finds the open spacecraft. They are followed by the Doctor and Leela, avoiding the Seers and then facing a defumication gas designed to disable them. Leaving them in the spacecraft, the Doctor, masking his face with his scarf goes to find an off switch or rather the reverse switch which upsets the Seers.

The Doctor returns and collects Leela, K-9 and Idas and finds a route into the spaceship and sends K-9 to get the crew. Getting through the various obstacles, they get in and rescue Idmon’s father and start a revolution with the workers there to watch. As they escape, the crew arrives to help although Herrick is believed killed but actually captured. Under torture, he reveals what they are after and the Oracle decides to give them it so they would go. The Doctor, Leela and Idmon return secretly and discover that the Oracle has lied. Retrieving the correct Race Banks tubes, they escape again, only to have the walls fall in, imprisoning them. From here, you need to get the DVD for yourself.

The audio commentary is by actors Tom Baker and Louise Jameson with co-writer Bob Baker. Jameson takes the role of asking questions and is better researched. The discussion from Baker is that this story is based off ‘Jason And The Argonauts’, explaining the names and the fans objecting. Thinking about that, I think it’s the fact that these are aliens but have mostly English names. Some thoughts on the blue Chroma-key they were using at the time and the release of ‘Star Wars’ and the effect on the show, despite the budget being cut at the time.

Tom Baker’s explanation as to why he never watched the rushes or very rarely himself on TV is common of many actors as they will always see something they could improve on. At last, I have his reason why he keeps his hair short these days as Baker sees old people with long hair as a tad crazy. Not sure if I totally agree as the craziness has to come from inside the skull not the length of the hair.

There was also a conversation with Bob Baker about the reasons why Dave Martin broke up the partnership to become a book author. Baker also talks a little about working with Nick Park on the ‘Wallace And Gromit’ animation films.

There are fewer extras with this DVD but they are the most informative. ‘Into The Unknown’ is a 30 minute exploration of the problems and solutions of limited cost late into the season and getting around it by doing everything outside the spaceship interiors with chroma-key. This was also the first ‘Doctor Who’ to use it extensively and looking back now belies the small budget it actually had. The two spaceship interiors was the same one slightly redressed. There is also a look at comparisons between ‘Jason And The Argonauts’ and ‘Underworld’.

The 17 minute ‘Underworld In The Studio’, despite poor film quality, shows much of the behind the scenes making the story. It is also the most instructive as the cast check on what is needed and trying to achieve it, retakes and the odd innuendo and bleeped swearword. There is also an indication of the long hours taken to get things done and I doubt if things have changed much today. If you’re thinking of a career in production or acting, then you should certainly give a look at this and pray you have as good a sense of humour and stamina.

The Photo Gallery dwells on the two spaceship interiors mostly, I suspect, because all the tunnels were CGI and probably wouldn’t have been deemed good photos even back then. Having watched ‘Underworld In The Studio’, I doubt if it was photographable anyway.

I kept looking at James Maxwell thinking if he was that good then why haven’t I recognised him from something else. A little IMDb research and then Google, with shorter hair, recognised him as the saboteur in ‘The Champions’ episode ‘The Silent Enemy’. Oddly, that is the one entry missing from his IMDb entry. One thing that does puzzle me is that with the effect of the pacifier ray, why didn’t the crew use that against the Seers than the more traditional ray gun?

In many respects, this is a really fast story and the elements of solution either a lot easier than I’ve seen in past stories or easier to work out. However, in light of the extras, the story is more remarkable on a small budget.

Doctor Who: The Horns Of Nimon by Anthony Read

(region 2 DVD pub: BBC. 1 DVD 101 minutes 4 * 25 minute episodes with extras. ASIN: BBCDVD2851(C))

cast: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, Graham Crowden, Simon Gipps-Kent, Janet Ellis, Michael Osborne, Michael Terris, David Brierley and John Bailey

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Much to Romana (actress Lalla Ward) distress, the Doctor (actor Tom Baker) is conducting repairs to the TARDIS convinced that, despite dismantling the dematerialisation circuit amongst other things, that they are in a safe area to do so. Instead, they find themselves being drawn into a gravity well and there is a spaceship ahead of them.

In this starship, the co-pilot (actor Michael Osborne) has survived a manipulation to go faster to their home planet of Skonnos with its cargo of five teens with a supply of the radioactive hymetusite crystals from the planet Aneth to be given to Nimon.

The Doctor jury-rigs a connection from the TARDIS to this spaceship and orders K-9 (voiced by David Brierley) to do a full list of the repairs needed while he and Romana examine the ship. They sort out its engines, at the co-pilot’s gunpoint, having discovered both the crystals and the teens because they have to escape the black hole. The Doctor tells the co-pilot to wait until he gets back with the TARDIS but finds himself left behind, despite Romana’s protests and she, herself, is imprisoned with the teens as they now speed to Skonnos. There, the scientist Soldeed (actor Graham Crowden) doesn’t believe the co-pilot did the repairs but sends all of them into labyrinth of the Nimon. Despite the co-pilot trying to save himself, the Nimon is happy to kill him.

The Doctor manoeuvres the TARDIS to be batted off an approaching small planet into Skonnos space and eventually materialised on the planet. Despite Soldeed denying he’s ever heard of Romana, the piece of the TARDIS used to rescue the starship is shown and the Doctor is forced to flee into the labyrinth. Despite using star stickers to mark his route, the tunnels continually change. However he does catch up but only manages to rescue a couple of the teens and Romana and then they go back to rescue the others. In the meantime, the Nimon has the teens put the hymetusite crystals into his machine and it powers up as he immobilises and puts them into suspended animation.

The Doctor and his team find the Nimon’s main machine and try to work out what it is supposed to do and then from hiding watch the bull-headed alien power it up and bring a pod with two more Nimons. Trying to prevent more Nimons coming, the Doctor inadvertently sends Romana, who is examining the pod to where the Nimons are coming from and she discovers from Sezom (actor John Bailey) what will finally happen to Skonnos. If you want to see if things get worse, again, buy the DVD.

This story borrows more heavily from the Greek minotaur legend than any other ‘borrowed’ plot for ‘Doctor Who’. Graham Crowden is unusually over the top and rather grandiose. One of the teens, Janet Ellis, grew into a ‘Blue Peter’ presenter as an adult but still has the same kind of recognisable voice. In case you think you’ve seen actor John Bailey before, then check your ‘The Champions’ boxset and the story, A Case Of Lemmings’ where he has presence but barely spoke. Here, he at least has some dialogue.

The audio commentary is spread between actors Lalla Ward, Janet Ellis and Graham Crowden with writer Anthony Reed, since handing over his ‘Doctor Who’ editor position to Douglas Adams. I was most surprised how quiet Graham Crowden was compared to the various roles he played on TV. He points out how he was offered the role of the Doctor when Jon Pertwee was preparing to leave but his then agent, who also looked after Tom Baker, pointed out that he wouldn’t like the more social aspect of opening buildings and seeing people, preferring to keeping his home life private. Lalla Ward notes how Tom Baker might have been difficult to work with but superb with children. Janet Ellis points out that fellow teen actor Simon Gipps-Kent died nine years after the show. There is debate on corridor acting, the differences between stage and television acting and projecting from a stage amongst other things. Odd thing, watching it over a second time in a week. The Doctor’s overcoat grows a second missing button on its back over the course of the story.

The opening extra is a 30 minute look at the BBC programme ‘Blue Peter’ and how it connected to ‘Doctor Who’ from everything from guest visits to model-making and cakes. That’s all apart from the fact that two of its presenters, Peter Purves and Janet Ellis as actors had roles in the series. Something that I must have missed because of growing up and working was seeing the enormous car Dalek. All right, not too enormous because it looked like it was built around a mini-car but an enormous scale compared to the standard height. Because of producer Biddy Baxter’s preference for keeping all recordings of ‘Blue Peter’, several vital cuts from ‘Doctor Who’ were preserved.

The other two extras are minor in comparison. ‘Read The Writer’ is 7 minutes from writer Anthony Read touching on Douglas Adams as story editor and how close ‘The Horns Of Nimon’ came to being a farce. I still haven’t made my mind up about the 3 minutes of ‘Peter Howell’s Music Demos’, mostly because little was given in the sub-titles. The ‘Photo Gallery’ is always enlightening although the few behind-the-scenes photos are towards the end.

After absorbing everything here, I do think ‘The Horns Of Nimon’ got as close to farce it could get, largely because of Graham Crowden’s performance, occasionally gelled by that of Tom Baker’s performance as well. However, in retrospect, one has to consider that some alien races are likely to be flamboyant as well so, sooner or later, the Doctor was bound to run into one. The only puzzle is why has he never encountered the Nimons since. After all, they couldn’t have been confined to only one planet at a time.

GF Willmetts

March 2016

 

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Category: Doctor Who, TV

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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  1. avatar Julian White says:

    Just a comment on James Maxwell – I remember him as Henry VII in ‘Shadow of the Tower’ way back in the early 70s but I think he’s mainly a theatre man.

    I’ve watched all three of these stories individually over the last year or so and can’t really disagree with you on your main points. I’m not overly fussed by Graham Crowden’s bombastic Soldeed in ‘Nimons’; it’s unfortunate that Tom Baker is more subdued than usual or the two would be well balanced. As it is, Romana steals this one for me – apart from the best catch-phrase ever in ‘Weakling scum!’, certainly an apt description of the tribute…

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