We are back again with another new addition to The Collection box set range. Season 9 is the midpoint of Jon Pertwee‘s tenure as the Third Doctor. It completes the Jo Grant arc in high definition and along with the bonus features, celebrates this memorable companion and the actor who portrayed the character.
The ninth season of Doctor Who provides a nice mix of stories. Three earth-based stories and two extra-terrestrial tales complete Season 9. Analogies regarding joining the European Economic Community, imperialism and segregation are contrasted with high science fiction concepts, the myth of Atlantis and creatures from the sea. Although not as dominant across the Season as others, and substituted for the Royal Navy in one story, UNIT still remain a positive influence. Unlike Season 8, The Master is also used more sparingly. All of these moves add to a wider variety to the storytelling. Some of it for better. Some for worse.
Season 9 kicks off with ‘Day of the Daleks‘. This was a popular release for me and many others during the VHS era largely due to the interesting concept of paradoxes and seeing UNIT do battle with the Daleks. Having already been vastly improved with better Dalek voices and updated special effects for the Special Edition DVD, this really is the ultimate version of this story. Louis Marks‘ initial story is certainly elevated by the presence of the Daleks as the overarching threat but the addition of the Ogrons also adds to proceedings.
‘The Curse of Peladon‘ might be studio based but it is a great story with a wonderful mix of characters. Alpha Centauri is hilariously bizarre and it’s great to see the Ice Warriors in colour for the first time. With some further technical wizardry, this story has never looked better in terms of picture quality. My personal favourite story is ‘The Sea Devils‘ which was the first example of Doctor Who I had ever seen. The imagery of these creatures emerging from the sea captured my imagination and still does. Thus far it is a thoroughly enjoyable watch. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the final two stories.
For me both ‘The Mutants‘ and ‘The Time Monster‘ are too long at six episodes each. Although they have their moments those are sadly few and far between. But for the purposes of completionism for this review I did re-watch them. It was a tedious experience. ‘The Mutants‘ has an interesting concept, not particularly well executed. Meanwhile ‘The Time Monster‘ is just nonsensical and when things move to Atlantis things get all the more bizarre with crystals, a Minotaur and some crazy flying chronovore. Madness.
A number of brand new documentaries make their debuts on this new Season 9 box set. ‘Location Location Location‘ sees Katy Manning and others including Anna Barry and Garrick Hagon, revisit the filming locations used for Season 9. Seeing Katy Manning get back on the Honda vehicle at the age of 76 made for slightly uncomfortable watching but only through concern for her safety. There are lots of wonderful stories and insights from the filming of Season 9 which made it an enjoyable watch. It ends on an emotional note as the locations for ‘The Sea Devils‘ provide a moment of reflection for Katy Manning. Her co-stars Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado are sorely missed. It is a lovely feature and should be first port of call on this new box set.
Although perhaps unsung in comparison to other individuals such as Douglas Camfield, Michael E Briant was a prolific director for Doctor Who and lots of other series. ‘Michael E Briant at the Helm‘ provides an interesting profile piece and reminds you how many classic Doctor Who stories he directed. Briant is also very magnanimous when telling the story of how his pitch for ‘The Boatyard’ was basically stolen to become ‘Howard’s Way’. Yet he bares no ill will, demonstrating what a lovely person he is. Another similar feature is a profile of memorable stunt performer Stuart Fell. ‘The Fell Guy’ sees Stuart Fell tell tales of his time on Doctor Who and other memorable programmes. This is a wonderful feature and a worthy addition to this box set.
Making The Time Monster
The ever wonderful Toby Hadoke presents ‘Making The Time Monster‘. Joining Hadoke at Swallowfield Park are Katy Manning, John Levene and Greg Palmer. Additional interviews were also conducted with Wanda Moore (Dr Ruth Ingram) and Aidan Murphy (Hippias). All provide interesting memories of the production, from accidents on horses through to Ingrid Pitt. Archive material with Barry Letts and Richard Franklin from the original documentary for ‘The Time Monster‘, ‘Between Now and Now‘, is also included along with that full piece. Thankfully, the new documentary redresses the balance and adds those production stories which had been absent in the original piece. Happily ‘The Time Monster‘ is now better resourced by the new documentary.
There is an acknowledgement from some that it is perhaps not the best story which is refreshing. One particular contributor of note was film editor Martyn Day. He provides a very detailed and fascinating insight into his work. This was not something which I had seen in previous Doctor Who documentaries and was a welcome addition.
Behind the Sofa and more
A popular feature on The Collection box sets is ‘Behind the Sofa‘ which ones again returns. Watching Season 9 are Katy Manning alongside director Michael E Briant; Peter Davison is joined by Fifth Doctor companions Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding (Tegan); with Wendy Padbury on the sofa with Sophie Aldred (Ace). Given the wide variety of stories and particularly alien creatures, it is unsurprising that there are an equally wide variety of reactions. However, there seemed to be a general opinion that the creative decisions of Alpha Centauri were a mistake! Something I personally dispute. Appropriately there are discussions about Jo Grant’s varied wardrobe as well as the monsters. The audience’s muted response to ‘The Time Monster‘ was particularly telling and very similar to my own.
Available for the first time are also movie-length editions of ‘Day of the Daleks‘ and ‘The Sea Devils‘ from repeat screenings for if you prefer to watch these stories without all the titles and credits. Also DVD versions of multiple stories are available if you’d like to watch those, for reasons I don’t fully understand.
In addition to rare convention footage of UNIT’s Nicholas Courtney and Richard Franklin recorded in 1986, there are HD photo galleries which include many previously unseen images, and a PDF archive which features scripts, BBC production files and other rarities. Once again, this is a box set stacked full of material. As Doctor Who fans we are very lucky to get releases of such superb depth and quality.