2 Disc DVD – details HERE
UK – Oct 14
It’s a cracking first episode (like so many in the Whoeuvre) with some beautiful shots of the South Pole whilst the Cybermen are an impressive and very otherly bunch; still human (note the eyes and the hands) but very much a “robot”. They’re shot and positioned extremely well here with a number of excellent close-ups shots (ending of Episode One, for example) and the brutality of their actions in the second installment is well-handled.
Best of all is their return in the third part where a great number of them are attacked. It’s not often in Who when it actually looks like there’s a great number but they do it well here and, again, the camera’s framing is dynamic and certainly adds to their threat and the drama of the situation. It’s a great opening for the Cybermen, sad they weren’t always given this formidable treatment.
Plaudits should also go to the set designs, which work the claustrophobic feel of the story very nicely indeed. One appreciates the small touches such as the television screens in the background still relaying pictures from the pilots (even though they’re not interacting at that point). Even better is the constant sound of the future in the background (set in 1986, fact fans), with computers beeping and various machines buzzing, thoroughly adding to the vibrancy of the proceedings. The rocket set, though obviously small, is neatly observed and the South Pole set is an absolute treat, evoking chills and more.
On the downside, there’s the cast; who, very sadly, aren’t the most compelling or engaging of bunches. David Dodimead (bearded bespectacled Barclay) and Earl Cameron (pilot Williams) fare the best but Robert Beatty plays General Cutler with no panache at all and has one default setting throughout – grumpy shoutist. Granted, he’s not meant to be liked but his antics are tedious, much like companion Ben (played by Michael Craze) who becomes intensely irritating quite early on with his heightened and reactionary performance (and also the number of times he has a conversation with himself). Polly isn’t treated much better with her infamous, “I can make some coffee or something?” making for a decidedly telling quote. Some may say, “Hey man, it was the Sixties!”, but there are plenty of other Who stories from this time with excellent casts (and scripts).
The final moments, though, of The Tenth Planet are exquisite. There’s quite an abruptness to the defeat of the Cybermen and immediately we know something is wrong with the Doctor’s wish to get back to the TARDIS. It’s an eerie return to the time machine with its console noises whirring away and Ben and Polly trying to get back in. The Doctor’s desperateness really shines through, making for a remarkable ending to a stoutly-produced adventure – not to mention one of the best regeneration scenes in Doctor Who.
In particular, the Cybermen attack as they re-enter the base is very fluid and has a vitality to the proceedings (probably even more so than the original actual live-action version). I wouldn’t normally quote someone else in my own review, but my flatmate (who pretty much loathes Doctor Who) was mightily impressed with the animation and was surprised at its high quality (so much so he watched it intently for a while). Great job.
First Doctor himself, William Hartnell. And to call it nothing less
than extraordinary is still selling it short. From 1966, this Points
West interview finds Hartnell preparing backstage for pantomime and if
you thought that his portrayal of the Doctor was “irascible” then get
ready to recalibrate your grump-o-meter.
for pantomime, saying “I’m not a pantomimic artist in that respect. It’s
never appealed to me, I don’t want it,” and as if to remind his
interviewer, and the audience, of his credentials he blasts, “I’m
legitimate. I’m a legitimate character actor. Of the theatre and films.”
the turn of Anneke Wills who makes for a wonderful guest with cracking
lines like, “My eyelashes were longer than my skirt!” Though, after
watching Frozen Out, some Hartnell fans may not want to see any more
from her, just in case.
More companion fun is to be had in Companion Piece which asks various former companions (Louise Jameson, Arthur Darvill, Nicola Bryant to name but a few) about their roles and the place the “companion” has in Doctor Who. There’s also some writers, lovely Joe Lidster (Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures), for example, and pyschologist Dr Tomas Charmorro-Premuzic on board to guide us through the mental arena of those who travel with the Doctor (just in case you needed some academic opinion on the matter). It works, but it’s doubtful you’ll return for a repeat viewing.
There’s a lovely Blue Peter feature celebrating ten years of Doctor Who (ah, the old times) and the Episode Four reconstruction (using telesnaps and clips), originally released on The Tenth Planet VHS back in 2000, which makes for quite a good watch (though the animation is a much better option). The commentary makes for a surprisingly lively affair with some excellent recollections from those behind and in front of the camera.
And, as always, there are the always fascinating Production Notes Subtitles, Photo Gallery and Radio Times feature and listings. These often overlooked extras are, for me, essential and really enhance the all round experience of getting to grips with a Doctor Who story.
Whilst I wouldn’t want to bandy around the word “controversial” regarding this release, one feels compelled to do so. Though you will delight in seeing Billy H’s last proper outing as Dr. Who, some may come away with a lesser opinion of the man who brought so much joy to millions of people’s lives. Regardless, The Tenth Planet makes for a terrific DVD set and one every fan should have in their collection.