Friday, 24 June 2011

Doctor Who: Earth Story Boxset

I bought this because of my typically nerdy completist need to own all of the classic series DVDs.

I watched The Gunfighters first as it has been championed by Steven from the Radio Free Skaro podcast and others such as Toby Hadoke (who moderates the commentary on this DVD).

© 2|Entertain
The story is quite fun, and is a light hearted take on the classic western movie genre.

The Doctor, Steven and Dodo arrive in Tombstone in the 19th century just in time to witness the events that took place prior to the famous shoot out at the OK Corral.

The show is played out as a comedy/drama with the emphasis on comedy. This could be seen as William Hartnell's last full story in the role of the Doctor, as Mr Hartnell's ill health forced the production team to find new and inventive ways to take him out of the story for the bulk of the subsequent serials of the third series.

And I have to say, he's pretty good! Often seen as a rather grumpy individual, Hartnell takes to the comic role with aplomb. Peter Purves should get a special mention also as he was increasingly required to carry the show toward the end of his stay on Doctor Who.

The story is paced well, which can't be said of all 1960s era episodes, the only negative thing I could say, having watched it for the first time, is the frequent use of 'The Ballad Of The Last Chance Saloon' sung well by Lynda Baron, which I found somewhat grating. In fairness this story was only ever considered by the production team to be transmitted once over a four week period, rather than watched back to back in one go.

So, it does enough to shake off it's "worst ever episode" tag (if you have any suggestions post them below), but not quite a classic.

The second DVD in this set is 1984s The Awakening, starring Peter Davison as the Doctor with Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson as Tegan and Turlough.

The story takes place in 1984, in the normally sleepy English village of Little Hodgcombe. Tegan asks the Doctor if they can go and visit her grandfather who lives in the village. It doesn't take long for them to realise that something is wrong.

© 2|Entertain
Tegan's grandfather has mysteriously disappeared, the rather unpleasant Sir George Hutchinson has sealed off the village so that no one can get in or out, while he plans a re-enactment of a battle that took place in the village during the civil war in 1643, and has plans to make Tegan "Queen of the May", which is not something you would want to be selected for.

During the course of the story, the TARDIS crew befriend Will Chandler,  a peasant from 1643, who has crossed a timeline and ended up in 1984. The Doctor investigates the strange goings on and discovers evidence of an aborted alien invasion back in Will's time, but did all the aliens leave?

I remember liking this watching it the first time around as an eleven year old (God I feel old!), but as John Nathan Turner once famously said "The memory cheats".

There are some good performances, the regular cast are all on full form, and there are some decent turns from the guest cast, particularly Polly James as Jane Hampden and Glyn Houston as Colonel Wolsey.

The problem seems to stem from the lack of time over two episodes to cover all the plot points in a satisfactory manner. In the DVD extras, it is revealed that the story was originally intended to be a four part story, which would explain what would seem to be a rather rushed ending.

As with much of the classic series DVD releases, the bonus material is excellent, with commentaries for both stories,  a retrospective look at the latter part of William Hartnell's tenure as the Doctor, a making of for The Awakening, and the usual informative and entertaining info text, to name a few.

Overall a good value set, but possibly not the one to use to introduce friends to 'Classic Who' for the first time.


  1. Have you considered a top ten list for introducing friends to Classic Dr Who? It's entirely subjective, but I'd include Genesis and Earthshock for starters!

  2. Hmm you might have started something there John!