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Doctor Who: The Caves Of Androzani Special Edition (DVD review).

April 24, 2019 | By | Reply More

When the Doctor (actor Peter Davison) and Peri (actress Nicola Bryant) arrive on Androzani Minor, they find themselves in the middle of a conflict created by the inhabitants of Androzani Major who are seeking spectrox, an elixir of youth except in concentrated raw form is also toxic. Unwittingly, they are both poisoned, although they don’t find that out right away. Instead, they are captured by Federal Forces, deemed as as gunrunners and executed.

Except, they are rescued by the masked Sharaz Jek (actor Christopher Gable) and had been replaced by a couple androids from the force he owns and has his own plans, including falling for Peri. He’s also in the process of buying from the real gunrunners, led by Stotz (actor Maurice Roëves) and they aren’t keen on the negotiations.

In the meantime, the Doctor and Peri discover that Salateen (actor Robert Glenister) has been replaced by an android and the original is imprisoned with them. They escape yet again but. this time, the Doctor is momentarily stunned and left behind.

From there on everything is spoiler because so much of each side being treacherous, not only against each other’s side but even with their own people. I’m amazed that the Doctor even kept these pair of planets on his ‘to visit’ list although he never went back again. Without getting too spoiler, this is another story where no one gets away. In many respects the Davison Doctor certainly had one of the most if not the most body counts per story and, of course, the regeneration end. I do wonder if the next regeneration’s insanity for a brief time was caused by the spectrox poisoning hadn’t got clean out of his body. It would certainly explain a lot about his behaviour.

The audio commentary is with actors Peter Davison and Nicola Bryant and director Grame Harper. Various things you learn is that Dorset…er… Androzani Minor was awfully cold when they were filming there. Various plot points were questioned like how did Peri know the contents of a crate were bombs? Oddly, they never question how Sharaz Jek whisked them away from their imprisonment and replaced them. If he could roam around so freely, why not just bomb his enemies? There’s a lot of quiet pauses as they watch which does tend to suggest Davison never saw the advance copy, not that it helped him much in the past. Has he never heard of notepads?

Although I agree with them that Morgus talks in a Machiavellian style, it was done purely by accident in filming and misinterpretation of director notes. Nicola Bryant explains how to tell the difference between the two Salateens and it’s all about the hair. They also said some set material had been bought from ‘Alien’ but darned if I could spot it in this story. Oddly, after Peter Davison regenerates into Colin Baker, they stop speaking and you have to wonder if they are doing another cleavage joke off-microphone.

The rest of the extras on the first disk cover specific areas. The 8 minute ‘Behind The Scenes: The Regeneration’ shows how the main acting was done in the studio sans music. The change to Colin Baker was from an angle not used in the final cut. The commentary version with actors Peter Davison and Nicola Bryant and director Grame Harper which adds the details. Harper points out that it took 4 hours in the editing room and you have to wonder why they don’t just hire a Gallefreyan? Nicola Bryant didn’t know about the change in actor until she heard in on the news.

‘Behind The Scenes: Creating Sharaz Jek’ at 5 minutes has an audio commentary with Christopher Gable who points out the details of the uncomfortable leather mask and the make-up underneath that took 90 minutes to be created in a way that should remind you of the original ‘Mission: Impossible’.

Oddly, on my DVD, the ‘Extended Scenes’ whether with studio or commentary didn’t work despite the protests of my DVD player. I tried it on my back-up player and it worked so think alternatives if you have a similar problem. This is 4 minutes divided into three scenes, two of which do explain some actions and especially a clue to how Salateen was replaced and he nearly got a medal for it. The audio commentary is only for the first scene with the mercenaries from Graeme Harper.

The 30 second ‘Trailer’ is as advertised and only one. The 5 minute ‘News’ covers BBC News footage with Kate Adie announcing Peter Davison leaving but no one chosen as his replacement. The local news programme ‘South East 6’ has Davison with producer John Nathan-Turner about his leaving and speculation of having a female Doctor. Nah! Who thought that would work? That shows how far back that had been on the list although problematic with companions and Nathan-Turner saying she would have to be a crotchety middle-aged woman. That should give some of you pause for thought as to who would have fitted the bill in 1984.

The opening 35 minutes of the second DVD is ‘Chain Reaction’, the original title of the Robert Holmes story. Back in 2010, Matthew Sweet discusses the story with director Graeme Harper and most of the cast. Among the things we learn is keeping things in budget, the caves were on wheels and that John Nathan-Turner had to be persuaded to employ Robert Holmes. Of note is if you’ve worked with Harper before, then you stand a good chance of another job with him.

Following this, is ‘Directing Doctor Who: Then And Now’ with Graeme Harper doing comparisons with footage from one of the Tennant/Piper stories. I did wonder with 5 cameras to watch that perhaps it was better to be in the gallery but Harper points out that he would and did use the Vision Mixer’s camera to see the final result when on the stage floor. These days, there is only one camera and filming is done film like with about 3-4 minutes recorded a day.

8 minutes of the ‘Russell Harty Show’ had both Peter Davison and Colin Baker being interviewed. I suspect the reason why the TARDIS didn’t have its light on was to enable it to be quickly put on stage.

Finally, the Photo Gallery runs at 5 minutes and, interestingly, has some photos of Anthony Ainley as the Master.

That’s quite a lot of material for a 4 episode story. Certainly the Graeme Harper material is of most interest for those of you who see yourselves as future directors and someone really ought to get him to write a book on the subject.

GF Willmetts

April 2019

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC. 2 DVD 99 minutes 4 * 24 minute episodes with extras. Price: I pulled my copy for £10.00 (UK) if you know where to look. ASIN: BBCDVD2806)

cast: Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant, Christopher Gable, John Normington, Robert Glenister, Maurice Roëves, Roy Holder and Martin Cochrane

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Category: Doctor Who, TV

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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