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DVD Review: Doctor Who – Day Of The Daleks
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Doctor WhoDoctor Who: Day Of The Daleks
DVD
Directed by Paul Bernard
Written by Louis Marks
DVD Special Edition Produced by Steve Broster
Starring Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney, John Levene, Richard Franklin, Aubrey Woods, Nicholas Briggs
BBC
Release Date: September 13, 2011

The Daleks have been a long-term fixture in the chronicle of Doctor Who, and while the television series is two years shy of its 50th anniversary, it is when the evil enemies of the Doctor are used sparingly in the writing of the show that they tend to shine. They featured in only two adventures during Tom Baker‘s era, for example; and during his predecessor’s reign as the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee faced them three times.

Of these three adventures, only one of the serials had been released on DVD – but no more: Pertwee’s initial encounter with the villains in Day Of The Daleks has finally been published as a two-disc set, complete with the special edition treatment.

What makes the DVD release enormously special, in my opinion, is that the BBC has shown a ton of respect to their original Doctor Who fan-base by releasing the unaltered original version as the main feature on the first disc, with the updated special edition on the second. George Lucas could learn an immense deal from the BBC (I’ve been a long defender of the Star Wars Special Editions, but can totally understand and respect the fans who have long waited for the original unaltered movies to be released).

Day Of The Daleks is, effectively, the precursor for what would be used as the main plot in Terminator. Time loop devices have been used in countless science fiction media forms over the years, but it’s interesting that time and time again voluminous Classic Doctor Who episodes have used stories to be later lifted in sci-fi movies. The Deadly Assassin influenced The Matrix, The Seeds of Doom influenced The Thing, and so on – these plots mirror their later movie contemporaries that it is hard to believe the similarities are merely coincidental.

Terminator is reflected in the plot of Day Of The Daleks in many ways: military warriors from the future come back to an earlier age, to destroy someone supposedly blamable for their war. The difference with this plot in Doctor Who is that the writer, Louis Marks, does focus on some of the complications associated with a circular paradox without becoming too hung up on the conception.

Jon Pertwee is in exceptional form as the Doctor in this serial, his seriousness dedicated to the role evident in his performance here. Slight humor here and there, a refined view of the cosmos, with a few quirks here and there – and most importantly for its time: a complete distaste for politicians, red tape, and bureaucratic nonsense.

Companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) is also a delight in this adventure, representing the audience dependably. UNIT team members Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), Captain Yates (Richard Franklin), and Sergeant Benton (John Levene) are also in excellent form, and the chemistry between all four with the Doctor works splendidly. It is said that during this era of Doctor Who, the ensemble cast were very close off-stage in a very strong family atmosphere – and it shows on screen.

Aubrey Woods puts in a formidable stance as the evil Controller in the serial; enslaved to the Daleks, but in charge of their military actions against humans. Producer Barry Letts criticizes the performance as being too suited for theater rather than television, during the DVD commentary, but I oppose this view – it suits his character immensely.

The special effects employed for Day Of The Daleks have actually aged quite well. They do indicate the age of the filming, of course, but are neither clunky nor ridiculous. The only criticism that holds up after all these years is in the direction by Paul Bernard near the end of the serial where the “army” of Ogrons and Daleks consist of two dudes and three Daleks. When I was a child, it never impacted me negatively, but viewing the episodes now, it’s very apparent that it is not an army – a characteristic thankfully updated in the special edition.

On the topic of the special edition, on disc two, I must say that I was highly impressed. The Dalek voices (which were never that good in this serial) have been updated with the talents of Dalek voice dude Nicholas Briggs from the current and modern version of Doctor Who – but done with the analog technologies from the 1980’s to match the show more closely. New filming was done with old film cameras, and visual effects updated, which improved the final army battle scenes immensely. The CGI inserted into the special edition is only overwhelming in a couple of scenes, but for the most part are nice additions and updates – but as stated, it’s wonderful that the BBC have included both versions on this release.

The DVD commentary on the unaltered and original version is of an excellent standard – the Pertwee era commentaries tend to be more informational than the subsequent humorous ones from the Tom Baker and Peter Davison eras; but this doesn’t detract from the quality. Unfortunately, and most disappointing for the hardcore fan, is the absence of a commentary track on the special edition – because that would have been fascinating to learn and see the differences from the perspective of Special Edition DVD Producer Steve Broster, and other cast and crew.

The special features, as all of the other Classic Doctor Who DVDs, are of a remarkable high quality, giving fans an in-depth look at the history of the episode and the era from which it came. Of note is the UNIT special on disc two, which is a spellbinding overview of part of the history of Doctor Who‘s involvement with the UNIT crew – most touching being the scene of John Levene in tears after all these years when speaking of Roger Delgado‘s passing (the first man to act as the Master).

Most impressive is the ongoing appearances of producer Barry Letts on these DVDs. The great man sadly passed away in 2009, but clearly must have worked relentlessly on Pertwee Era DVD features before cancer took him – showing a love and a dedication that is beyond words and description. Finally, hardcore fans obsessed with continuity would be delighted to see the ‘UNIT dating controversy’ ultimately being addressed: does it get resolved? Hm… I’m not telling!

It would be an understatement if I said I enjoyed this DVD. It blew me away. The work that went into this release is extraordinary, the respect shown to the material is admirable, and the experience is most definitely immersive. I have very little criticisms about this DVD release, and highly recommend fellow Doctor Who fans check it out – it is a wonderful snapshot from the brilliant Jon Pertwee era.

Overall rating: 4½ out of 5

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