PLEASE NOTE: Due to the sheer wealth of material included on the Revisitations box set, the reviews will split into three; one for each story. The first review – of Doctor Who: The Movie – can be read HERE
and third review – for The Talons of Weng~Chiang – can be read HERE
. Next up…
THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI
I’ll make no qualms about it, Peter Davison holds a very special place in my heart as The Doctor. I wouldn’t quite say he is “my” Doctor, as that excludes my connection to the other actors to play the Time Lord, but he was there during those crucial formative years watching Doctor Who.
And whilst his time in the TARDIS was slightly marred by bizarre casting, poor stories and equally poor production values (lights don’t always need to be turned up to eleven you know), Davison managed to go out on a high that was never before seen in the show’s history.
The Caves of Androzani is that rarity in the Whoeuvre where The Doctor isn’t trying to save the Earth (or the Universe), battle an old enemy or solve a crime. He’s just trying to get out of a situation, pure and simple. There’s no hyperbole but there are plenty of heroics. Notably in the manner in which he spends the last episode endeavouring to save Peri.
Peter Davison’s swan song has been written about and voted on too many times to make any further comment (and I suspect if you’re reading this then you’ve actually seen it and are aware of its awesomeosity), but I will say that this four~parter is my favourite of the ‘classic’ era.
With the exception of a few scenes featuring what can only be referred to as ‘Bowser’, this Fifth Doctor finale is compulsive viewing, demanding your attention from the get~go. It’s a production where, somehow, everybody involved got everything spot on; from the sensational cast (everyone in Caves is memorable) to the two of the most groin~grabbingly effective cliffhangers (episodes one and three, and indeed four if you ‘count’ that) to the exquisite direction from Graeme Harper, which is both gritty and stylish (grylish?).
But, most of all, this is Peter Davison’s moment. We get everything from him here: his trademark curiosity at the start; his disdain for violence; humour in the face of adversity; ingenuity; and, of course, his bravery and heroism. The Fifth Doctor’s finale episode, after he staves off regeneration, has those two characteristics in abundance. Dying, he does his all to save his companion – a true hero.
Newer viewers may be thinking: hold on isn’t that similar to The Ninth’s Doctor? In fact, even The Tenth? Yes, in a way. Russell T Davies was smart enough to know that a regeneration should be based upon heroism and bravery; The Doctor giving his ‘life’ for a relatively ‘unimportant’ person should be his defining trait.
Tragedy is woven into almost every character in Caves but the Fifth’s final words belie an even more heart~wrenching secret – his guilt at the death of companion Adric. In the midst of fearlessness and valor comes the dark honesty of the Time Lord’s vulnerability and endearingly fallible nature.
I can think of no better actor to so admirably display all these magnificent characteristics of The Fifth Doctor than “Sir” Peter of Davison.
Kicking off the “extra” extras (the new ones, additional to the features on the original DVD release) is the center~piece, Chain Reaction. Mathew Sweet presents with some aplomb asking, “Is The Caves of Androzani the best story ever?” and, despite the reverential tone of this question, the documentary is light and positively un~reverential.
Director Graeme Harper understates his talent, choosing to cite the “happy accidents” that make the story the classic that it is (the fact that Morgus talking to the camera was a mistake is quite the revelation). The rest of the main players are involved with Peter Davison and Nicola Bryant on top form (they always are, it should be said) with Robert Glenister and Maurice Roëves (looking and sounding uncannily like Duncan Bannatyne) more than adding to the warm anecdotal feeling of the piece.
Bryant describes Androzani as a “little piece of history,” and the team behind Chain Reaction have produced an astutely toned tribute, featuring wonderfully interesting locations for interviews, not to mention superb interviewees and engaging presenter.
“Astutely toned” are not words one would use, however, to describe Colin Baker, who pops up in an extract from the Russell Harty show (also featuring Petey D). Davison’s charm and humour is never so obvious than when sitting beside the more gregarious, and amusingly obnoxious, Baker. Also of note in this extra are the fans in the audience who are left speechless when invited to ask the two Doctors a question (I believe the expression is #fanfail).
The Now & Then series is tinkered with in the form of Directing Who: Then & Now; a pleasant, if matter~of~factly, look at the differences in directing ‘New’ and ‘Classic’ Who from the perennial VFM, Graeme Harper.
Sadly, and unlike the TVM, there’s no new commentary (come on guys, you could have asked me!) but the original one is well worth another listen as it features Davison, Bryant and Harper all on top form (with much laughter from all). We do get a new photo gallery, excellent production notes and a listings PDF though.
Essentially, there’s about an hour’s worth of the new material for Androzani over the two discs, and it’s an excellent hour. But this is one of the very rare times in the DVD series where the main feature outshines its extras. If you don’t own The Caves of Androzani, or haven’t seen it (for shame!), then there is no better time to invest.
The Revisitations DVD box set is released on Oct 4, read more about the seven~disc set HERE
Thanks to 2|entertain