Thursday, December 27, 2012

DVD REVIEW: The Legacy Collection

 

THE LEGACY COLLECTION
Ft. Shada and More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS


Jan 7 (UK)
Jan 8 (North America)
Jan 9 (Aus & NZ)


 
DISC ONE - Shada
For those not in the know, Shada was a story written by Douglas Adams and designed to be the finale for Season Seventeen. Due to some strike action, however, the tale was never completed. Back in the early Nineties, those crazy days, it was released on VHS with linking narration from Tom Baker and this is the version presented here (albeit cleaned up for sexy DVD action).

It should be said Tom's presence here is quite remarkable and his introduction is a sight to behold. Sadly, for me, Shada is neither remarkable or a beholden sight. Douglas Adams was none too happy with his story (and was not shy about admitting his disdain) and I agree with him. It seems to have only been held in such high esteem by fans due to is elusiveness and incompleteness.

Having said that, Shada does feature some delightful performances from Tom and future wife/future ex-wife Lalla Ward and Denis Carey as fellow Time Lord, Professor Chronotis. The gang work wonderfully together and they genuinely look like they're having a ball. [Oh dear - Ed.] Likewise, the location shoot adds a terrific dimension to the proceedings; Cambridge looks gorgeous.

But it's the story that gets in the way. It's over long (it's a six-parter) and lacks any real focus. The fractal nature of the version presented here doesn't help either - Shada feels like it should have been left well alone. I will point out there are some cracking production notes alongside, always an informative pleasure on the classic range.

For completists, the BBCi "webcast" version, featuring Paul McGann as The Doctor, is included. Again, despite some good performances, the story and length lets it down. Just too tedious for me. I should also add that I find its inclusion in this fashion - as a DVD-ROM style inclusion, not as a feature on the DVD - a tad odd. Even more bizarre as Shada is still available to watch online on the BBC website.

DISC TWO - Shada extras
Leading the pack here is a "making of", or "un~making of", from seasoned Who docco~maker, Chris Chapman, titled Taken Out Of Time. Cleverly, the route chosen to portray the mournful story of Shada's production is not presumptive. Instead of positing the film from a hindsight viewpoint, we follow its production chronologically. It's an astute move and most refreshing.

The subjects involved, all speak effusively about the shoot but when it comes to that moment of STRIKE! there's a definite sadness. And because we've been watching and enjoying their journey, we've almost forgotten what's about to happen. It's like a shot to the heart. The resulting aftermath is just as distressing as numerous remounts were attempted.

Shot on location in Cambridge, Taken Out Of Time is a real treat on the eye too but the most startling of revelations comes just at its denouement with Tom Baker in a rather sensitive and reflective mood. And it's not even Shada related, in particular. The former Doctor Who regrets, quite obviously, his treatment of producer Graham Williams. I don't think I've seen anyting from Baker so affecting, and it's someting that clearly weighs on his mind.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the actual story, as with a number of Whos, the accompanying documentary is always a pleasure and here it excels, brimming with emotion, nostalgia and affection.

Slightly more colder is the ongoing series Now and Then, visiting the locations of Shada. It's a stout feature and excellent reference material but not a series I find interesting. Strike! Strike! Strike! is a look at an often discsussed industrial action and how the BBC was affected. Given that this topic has been broached a number of times in DVD features I approached with trepidation and, indeed, the old "we had to be finished at 10pm on the dot or else" chestnut is wheeled out but there's much more on show here.

Informing on the state of affairs are people like Nicola Bryant and Gary Russell who bring all their charm and knowledge to a fascinating period in the history of television production. When strikes were so frequent, it's amazing Doctor Who was really only affected so badly once. A very appropriate, contextualising accompaniement to Shada.

Not quite so contexualised or appropriate is Being A Girl where broadcaster Samira Ahmed and Doctor Who Magazine's Time Team's Emma Price look at the portrayal of women in Doctor Who. At just thirty minutes, it's not enough to go into any depth on the subject, which is a great a pity as the pair have many valid and interesting points to make. It really just scratched the surface of what is a potentially fiery and contentious hotpot of discussion. There's a feature-length documentary to made there by itself but this is just too slight.

DISC THREE - More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS
First broadcast in Doctor Who's 30th Anniversary year, this smashing documentary from Kevin Davies is presented here in its fuller VHS version (released the following year). I must admit, I have watched this dozens and dozens of times over the years, it never gets tired for me.

It was the very first time I had seen Doctor Who presented with such vigour and such pace. The interspersion of footage was a revelation to me, as was its use of montages - it just felt very fresh and made Who seem like an exciting thing (a feeling I had not had in many years). At the time, when I knew few Who~fans (and I mean literally about two), this was like a new world opening up to me, seeing the series celebrated and spoken highly of; not to mention the inclusion such great clips throughout.

Looking back, it's still a thrill of a watch, full of humour and bounce. There's much to marvel at as various actors and actresses returned to take part in some neat specially~filmed sequences featuring familiar villains and aliens (Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen, Colin Baker, to name just a few) . Of course, you may be slightly scratching your head at the lack of Tom Baker or Peter Davison action (perhaps they weren't available, or cost prohibitive, or some "other" reason) and the inclusion of "singer" Toyah, criket "legend" Mike Gatting and clothes "guru" Lowri Turner but it all adds to the rather Who~esque skittish nature of the piece.

More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS is something you can sit down with, with a bunch of chums and have a good old time with (something you can't do with a lot of actual Doctor Who stories). It was revelatory fun back in 1993, and it remains an absolute must-watch. One of my favourite bits of Who ever, and stands up to many, many repeat viewings. 

Remembering Nicholas Courtney features Courtney's biographer and friend Michael McManus in a very engaging chat about his career. It's a touching tribute though is somewhat disrupted in fine style by Tom Baker who pops by. Magnificent to see Tom and Nick, who didn't spend that much time together, chatting away so heartily.

Completing the set are: an installment of Doctor Who Stories featuring actor Peter Purves discussing his time on the show; The Lambert Tapes including interviews with original producer Verity Lambert, always a welcome watch with her unique insight into the show; and Those Deadly Divas, a look at the ladies of Doctor Who featuring Kate O'Mara, Camille Coduri and Tracy-Ann Oberman (amongst others). It's a bit of a mix here on this disc and whilst at least enjoyable on a first watch, there's no depth and no desire to come back and revisit these featurettes.


The Legacy Collection is a odd creature (and just why "legacy" exactly?) but one most definitely worthy of a watch. At three discs, some will raise a quizzical eyebrow as the material could have easily been put on two discs but given that you can buy this for less than £15, one cannot really grumble. More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS and the Shada doc, Taken Out of Time, are worth that price alone, and they'll be the features you come back to and enjoy over and over again.
BLOGTOR RATING 8/10
Thanks to BBC Worldwide
First Look at the new TARDIS


3 comments:

Simeon D Carter said...

Just thought I'd make the point that the material really couldn't fit on two disks, it was apparently cramped enough on three which was part of the reason why 'Webcast' Shada is only available as a DVD-rom feature. The fact it was made using flash is, I believe, another reason.

Gavin Bollard said...

Still peeved that they didn't use the restored version of Shada with the specially recorded footage (which was apparently offered to them).

Also the feature from the web site should be watchable via DVD. I managed to make my copy work that way.

Poor form BEEB. Poor form.

Anonymous said...

"Magnificent to see Tom and Nick, who didn't spend that much time together, chatting away so heartily."
I assume you mean this to read 'Didn't spend that much time together ON SCREEN'? Given that they became good friends off screen?