Tuesday, September 4, 2012

REVIEW: Vengeance on Varos: Special Edition DVD

VENGEANCE ON VAROS: SPECIAL EDITION
Starring Colin Baker & Nicola Bryant

2 Disc DVD
Extras: See HERE

Sep 5 (Aus)
Sep 10 (UK)
Sep 11 (North America)


Review by Gavin Dunbar

The thing with the Revisitations boxes and the release of Special Editions is you've probably already bought the story on DVD (and VHS before that), so what you really want to know is - is it worth you shelling out for it again? BBC Worldwide has done a great job in recent years of providing a host of special features on Doctor Who releases, and it's understandable that for the early releases, that didn't have the same level of extras, they can now update them with a full array of all the lovingly-put together material you'd expect from your Who DVDs these days. With that in mind, I'm going to start with them.

Disc 2 is chock-full of Special Features. 'Nice and Nasty' kicks-off and is the usual documentary on the making of the programme. It offers a selection of interesting interviews with writer Philip Martin and Script Editor Eric Saward in particular making it a good view. It is interesting to see Saward's opinions of what he was trying to do with the programme through this era (which, I confess, is not my favourite period of Doctor Who, mainly due to the production/budget issues) and the struggle they seemed to have not only within the BBC at the time but also in the programme's own production office. Perhaps the absence of producer John Nathan-Turner from so many of the DVD documentaries from his tenure makes it slightly biased as to where the blame for a lot of the issues in the production office lay, but he does seem to often have this charge laid at his feet by his script editors, writers and also many of the actors that worked on Who during his time.

Tomorrow's Times [one of my favourite features! - Ed.] looks at the Sixth Doctor era, a time when there was certainly a lot of newspaper headlines about Who, but for the first time they seemed to be predominantly more critical than for any previous era. It seems such a short jump from the happy Sixth Doctor announcement pics, through to the first eighteenth month enforced break, and then the untimely end for Colin as he leaves the TARDIS. Watching this so closely after the Seventh Doctor Tomorrow's Times on the Greatest Show DVD [read Blogtor's review HERE], these can't have been the most fun to compile - as they seem, increasingly, often unfairly negative towards the programme.

Broadcaster Samira Ahmed presents The Idiot's Lantern which is an interesting piece on both the effect of television on Doctor Who and also how it used TV in itself. Also included are a fair few BBC appearances are included here from the time. Colin and Nicola on Saturday Superstore (including a surprise appearance from The Master on the phone!) and Colin on Breakfast Time just after his announcement as landing the role, along with news footage of his casting being announced.

Topping this lot off are a selection of deleted and extended scenes and along with unused alternative music cue (which was discovered while mixing up to 5.1 for the soundtrack). There are also the usual continuity announcement and trailers, along with the PDF material and the Photo Gallery. The other feature of note is a previously unbroadcast French and Saunders sketch with them as Silurian extras during a Doctor Who episode being filmed. It's mildly diverting to watch once, but there is probably a reason it was never broadcast at the time.

And onto the main feature... Not having watched this since the original DVD release over ten years ago, it was good to see again with fresh eyes. Martin's studio set tale of a media controlled/obsessed society seems even more appropriate now than it did at the point of broadcast. This really does stand up as one of the stronger stories in the Six era; solid plot, Colin and Nicola in good form and some great guest performances, especially Martin Jarvis, and the introduction of Nabil Shaban as Sil.

The level of violence in the story is raised in Nice or Nasty (and in the commentary), something that the programme was accused of from time to time. I'm not convinced this period of Who really is more violent than other eras, it may just be that the Doctor's coldness/detachment from the violence around him makes it notable. Throwaway sarcasm works for Bond but its not overly Doctor-y.

The commentary on the disc is with Colin, Nicola and Nabil (the same track as featured on the original release) and is a warm and engaging chat reminiscing about the recording of the story with some great interjections about the production and general period of Doctor Who.

As usual there are well researched production subtitles throughout with a variety of facts from the recording of the story, from the original draft scripts through to the recording blocks, noting all manner of interesting changes that were made through the process, and ad-libbed scenes from the studio. The remastered 5.1 stereo mix sounds great if you have surround sound in your set up. Interesting to hear the theme in 5.1 too. The Radiophonic Workshop soundtrack is cool and also pops up briefly in Nice or Nasty.

All in all the extras on offer here do make it worth re-investing, and if you haven't bought this before, it's a great new release with all the usual special features by the tonne.

BLOGTOR RATING 8/10
Thanks to BBC Worldwide
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