Wednesday, May 26, 2010

REVIEW - "Kamelion Tales" DVD Box set

Release Date: June 14

RRP: £29.99

Duration: 150 mins (approx)

Stories included:
The King's Demons
Planet of Fire
Planet of Fire: Special Edition

Extras:
See HERE



The box sets these days are getting to be an odd collection. For example take this one, a box set named after Kamelion, one of the most universally loathed and inconsequential creations in Who's history. Well, perhaps loathed is a bit harsh but after watching this set you'll see that no~one involved in the show had any affection, or trust, in the robot. But more of that later, first up the stories.


THE KING'S DEMONS
This box set actually demonstrates just why the Eighties' Master is regarded by some as such a pantomime creation. In The King's Demons his plot, involving the Magna *yawns* Carta has so little merit that even The Doctor comments on the smallness of his enemy's machinations. At no point does The Master convince you of his name and even employs the ridiculous robot Kamelion in his 'dastardly' scheme to so little effect that you'll wonder if the story has actually been read by anyone (including the author).


Not helping matters is a woeful performance from Anthony Ainley whose "accent" (and I use the word quite wrongly), as The Master in disguise for the first part, really will make you wonder what the production team were thinking. Throw in another misplaced performance from Gerald Flood as the King (listen to him singing the word "waaaarrrrr") and you've got yourself a laugh~fest of the highest order. The rest of the cast also seem to think they're actually starring in some kind of Am~Dram show. Although only two parts, The King's Demons manages to outstay its welcome.


PLANET OF FIRE
Acting is another problem that raises its head in Planet of Fire, a story with a number of items on the shopping list, as it were. Peter Davison's penultimate story sees the 'end' of The Master, goodbyes to Turlough and Kamelion and a hello to Peri. Oh, and Peter Wyngarde. Again the supporting cast lend little sympathy to the 1984 four~parter with a bland cast, the prime sinner being Peri's stepfather played by Dallas Adams - simply awful.

As in The King's Demons, The Master comes off as a poor villain though the idea that he's trying to restore his powers (after being a bit silly with the Tissue Compression Eliminator) is solid. But the other 'plot' involving the indigenous people of Lanzarote, sorry I mean Sarn, is a well-trodden one and lacks any interest at all. And, like the two~parter accompanying this tale, the ending is abrupt and we're so used to seeing The Doctor's nemesis 'die' that his final scenes are unaffecting, safe in the knowledge that he'll probably be back.


I'm a huge fan of Peter Davison's portrayal of The Fifth Doctor and his era but these two stories are no way to introduce anyone to his time in the TARDIS (though his performance, as always, is never less than spot~on). The usual Eighties problems raise their head and even though the location shoot might spark interest, sadly the story fails to engage.



EXTRAS
Despite the quality of the stories, any Doctor Who DVD is worth the price alone for the wonderful special features that we always get from 2|entertain. And, I would add, the commentaries on these two stories are testament to that. The King's Demons features an irreverent Peter Davison (is there any other kind?) whose candid outlook is to be commended. AND he reveals that when he took on the job of The Doctor, he had to stop advertising a brand of beer - always refreshing to hear a new anecdote.


Those familiar with commentaries will slightly tire of hearing (yet a~flippin~gain) about how people don't rehearse anymore. We get it! I think every commentary for the past year has had some 'actor' say that very same thing - can't a producer inform guests of this fact?? Anyway, Davison's sense of fun is engaging and their laughter at Gerald Flood's "singing" will have you joining in on the giggles.

The commentary for Planet of Fire is even better. Joining Petey D is Mark Strickson (Turlough) and Nicola Bryant (Peri) and they are clearly on the same wavelength whilst acknowledging the limitations of the show (usually the acting in this case) and regaling the listener with various stories about the activities on Lanzarote and Peter Wyngarde. It's slightly saucy too, not surprising given the tightness of Turlough's shorts and the skimpiness of Peri's bikini, though I was surprised nobody commented on the Trion relic which looks not unlike a female sex toy.


Given that The King's Demons is only a two~parter, not much time is given over to it. Kamelion - Metal Man is a tonally appropriate look at the aforementioned hated robot (and I will say that at every opportunity in this set, numerous people are queuing up to stick the boot in). It looks at the origins of the 'companion' discussing its possibilities but, ultimately its failures. Bizarrely, there's a deleted scene from The Awakening included which is very welcome but one would have expected that to pop up on its own DVD release. Even more bizarre is the occasional foray into 'educational' VAMs which continues on this set with Magna Carta. I'm sure it's all worthy stuff - including the inclusion of weighty comments on 9/11 and Guantanamo Bay (no, really) - but that's not what I want on a Doctor Who DVD, thank you very much.


Surprisingly, given the current economic climate, 2|entertain have seen fit to send out some of the crew to Lanzarote, revisiting the excellent locations. The Flames of Sarn, Return to the Planet of Fire and Designs on Sarn all superbly document the entire production from start to finish with contributions for the main players. In particular, John Nathan~Turner's thoughts, on audio, are put to good use. I will say, however, I was not fond of the music tracks used; namely from Take That and Sigur Ros. Two overplayed tracks on television you will not find. Though I did guffaw heartily at the montage of Kamelion's "best bits" with Culture Club's Karma Chameleon blaring out.


Other special feature include Remembering Anthony Ainley, a look at the actor who played The Master during the Eighties. Despite some remarkable footage of him in conversation at a convention (revealing himself to be a very amusing fellow) it's light on archival materials (unlike the excellent doc on Roger Delgado). There's also a lack of insight into the man but one can only assume that's indicative of Ainley himself who, according to all reports, was a very private chap. There's also some fun to be had in Calling the Shots - a collection of behind~the~scenes larking around from Planet of Fire (especially when Bryant is asked to tighten her blouse).


Accompanying the original version of Planet of Fire is a newly updated 'Special Edition' version, which condenses the four~parter into one movie, of sorts. Not only have they tarted up the original (and letter~boxed it) there's even a pre~titles sequence. Sadly, apart from the fact it's totally unnecessary, the CG work is jarring and the actual film stock, as it were, is markedly different to the pre~existing footage. The producers have done an excellent job, however, in making the location footage seem more alien when the action takes place on Sarn. It's always interesting to see how 'classic' Who can be changed, especially when the original director is involved, but on the evidence presented it is no better (or worse). My view is distorted, of course, as Planet of Fire is not exactly what I would refer to as 'classic' and the SE treatment could be better used elsewhere.

BLOGTOR RATING 6/10

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The special edition is very poor indeed. It looks and feels like a special edit put together for a 1990's convention not a DVD release in 2011.

Zooming a 4:3 picture to 16:9 just makes the picture look soft and throws the original framing out.

SE's put together with love and care like Fenric SE are excellent and more than welcome. Planet of Fire SE is just dross of the worst order. One of the worst DVD features of the entire Who releases.