Review by Jack Bowman
This latest from BBC Worldwide sees Spearhead From Space
, the début of Jon Pertwee's Doctor, receives yet another release into the world of home entertainment – and this version is the one receiving the most fanfare due to its Bluray restoration. Originally shot in 1969, completely on 16mm film, this means it is the only Doctor Who
serial - pre-2009 - that can be transferred truly to the Bluray HD format.
Most fans will, as a result of this serial's numerous releases, already have strong opinions on this story. For the sake of honesty, I will say this serial, despite some moments of casual 1970s sexism, represents one of the strongest opening stories of any Doctor. Indeed, Spearhead
's reputation in Doctor Who
history meant its tropes were used as a loose template for the ill-fated Paul McGann revival some years later.
So, with this being the sixth video release (with two on VHS, and three DVD releases), the question rises – should fans pay out once more for this edition? The answer lies with whether you love the Bluray format or not. Personally, I feel no need to replace my DVDs with Blurays, despite owning a player and a HD TV, although I am aware of the amazing quality Bluray offers. However, if you have a Bluray player, love Spearhead
, or didn't buy the 2010 edition on DVD, then this is absolutely the copy to buy. The picture and sound quality is amazing, with a stunning good restoration effort, explored further in the extras. Some of the most iconic moments, such as the Auton attack on the streets of London, seem fresh and exciting while the Nestene creature work in the final episode holds up remarkably well, even under HD scrutiny.
In shooting completely on film for the first time, Doctor Who
successfully achieved the Avengers
-esque feel the then-production team aimed for with Spearhead From Space
, and this restored edition really honours the stunning look and feel of this serial. It truly does showcase how good early colour Doctor Who
could have looked, if this approach had continued.
To give you an idea how good the restoration of this serial is, look to both the Coming Soon trailer for forthcoming The Green Death
DVD release and the before-and-after featurette that compares the previous editions to this one. The former really shows how any other Doctor Who
serial would look on Bluray today, while the latter really shows off the work that has gone into making this a quality release, by comparing it to other editions.
Also included is a series of test title sequences – this will be a feature for more hardened fans, and at 17 minutes of silent sequences, some of which surprising evoke Hartnell and Troughton's era, feels over-long, by being, understandably, included in their entirety.
The two main extras – documentaries on the lives of Jon Pertwee and Caroline John – are remarkably well-made. However, for this reviewer, it's Carry On: The Life Of Caroline John
that edges it; despite A Dandy And A Clown
being a fascinating and well-crafted piece, Jon Pertwee's life has been well-documented over the years both before and after his death, and cannot help but feel like a familiar story.
However, Caroline John remained something more of a mystery figure during her life, and Chris Chapman's exceptionally crafted feature shines on this release. Interviewing some of her closest friends and family, this is a beautifully shot and incredibly touching, warm and engaging exploration of the actor behind Liz Shaw, that will surprise you and make you realise how lucky it was fans for her to have brought her exceptional talents to the series.