What's better than a new Doctor Who
release? A boxed set release!
The BBC has recently released The
Guardian Trilogy, a set of three Doctor Who adventures staring
Peter Davison in
the lead role that tell one larger story.
This story revolves around the Black Guardian, who was last seen
Key of Time saga, and his
attempt to have the Doctor killed by one of his
companions. This is a great set, with
two very good stories (okay, the middle one is a stinker) that features
introduction of a new companion and the departure of another.
Mawdryn Undead (4
When the Tardis breaks down (again) in mid-flight, its
emergency circuits case it to materialize aboard a luxurious space ship. One that is totally abandoned.
Meanwhile on Earth a school boy named Turlough is in a car
accident. While unconscious he talks to
the Black Guardian (last seen in the Key of Time Saga from Tom Baker's
ear). Turlough hates his life and wants
to leave Earth, the first clue that he's not originally from the
planet, and the
Guardian makes him a deal: He'll get him
away from Earth if the young boy performs a simple task:
kill the Doctor.
Turlough reluctantly agrees and gains consciousness.
Eventually the Guardian shows him the
location of a hidden Transmat pod, and Turlough uses it and arrives on
luxury liner where the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa are trapped. The Doctor surmises that the Transmat homing
on Earth is causing the Tardis problems, so he programs to Tardis to
Earth, 1983, and leaves Tegan and Nyssa to guide it while he and
rid of the interference.
The problem is, it doesn't work. Sure the
Doctor turns the beacon off, but
when he does the Tardis arrives at the predetermined place, but in 1977. Tegan and Nyssa go looking for the Doctor
while the Doctor and Turlough search for the girls.
They both find Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart,
though one is six years older than the other, and both parties take him
the mysterious space ship. It's not
quite abandoned however, and one of the ships occupants badly
disfigured by a
trip in the Transmat capsule, convinces Tegan and Nyssa that he's
Doctor going through a regeneration. But
what do the occupants of the ship want, and why have they been
travelling the universe
for 3000 years?
This was good story.
I always enjoy seeing companions join (or leave) the Doctor, and
has the added advantage of being mysterious.
It's never explained in this introductory show just who he is or
from or why he's on Earth. All that's
known is that he's an alien who desperately wants to get back to his
The story itself has been done before, the Doctor trying to
find his Tardis, but the added mystery of Mawdryn and the ghost luxury
ship helped make this a good show. In
addition they gave long-time fans a lot to cheer about.
This story saw the return of the Brigadier,
only for this adventure, but they gave the old soldier a hefty role
and made him integral to the plot. It
was nice to see this former supporting character once again. They story also told more about the
mysterious Time Lords, and how they punished criminals.
They imposed a cruel but ironically just
punishment on a group of scientists looking doing research on a
subject. All in all this was a great
start to a good story arc.
Still working for the Black Guardian, Turlough tries to
disable the Tardis at the beginning of this saga. He
changes the position of some switches
behind a panel and then tries to disconnect a vital circuit from the
of the control panel. He can't get it
out but he has done enough damage so that part of the outside universe
merging with the Doctor's ship. Nyssa is in her room doing experiments
starts to dissolve, turning into static.
Luckily, the Tardis starts to merge with another space vessel. A door appears and Nyssa runs through it.
The Doctor follows, ordering Turlough and Tegan to stay
behind. Needless to say they don't. They eventually board the ship but after they
do the door that they passed through disappears. Trying
to find the Doctor, they get lost.
Nyssa and the Doctor discover that they are on a ship
transporting people suffering from the contagious Lazar's Disease to
futuristic equivalent of a leper colony:
Terminus. They have been told
that they will be cured on Terminus, but no one has ever returned from
and even the few guards, called the Vanir, have ever seen a cured Lazar. Thing get worse when Nyssa comes down with
the dreaded disease and is captured by the Vanir, and the Doctor finds
Terminus really is, and that it is scheduled to destroy the entire
This was a very messy show, and at the end there were still
a lot of things that were never explained:
who was the Garm? How did he get
on Terminus? Why was he controlled by
they box? What happens to Kari and Olvir? What became of the Lazars who were
cured? What about the ones who
died? That's not to mention problems
going forward, like how Terminus would get supplies in the future. Why did the door connecting the shuttle to
the Tardis keep disappearing? If Turlough
damaged the Tardis, how did it get fixed?
For heaven's sake why did Nyssa take off her skirt?
And on and on....
Even if you ignore all that, the story was a bit below
average. There was a fair amount of
mystery, but it was hard to get too involved in any one story because
fractured the party into several groups and each one had their own
tell. That made it hard to get very
interested in any one plot line. Another
thing that bothered me was that the Doctor didn't really have much to
this adventure. Yes, he saves the
Universe by preventing the something from happening, but that had
nothing to do
with the main plot and seemed like padding (though it was the most
part of the saga... which is another deficit.
A minor subplot should never eclipse the main story.)
That's not to say this adventure had no redeeming
qualities. There was a very interesting
tale hidden underneath the extraneous subplot and seemingly meaningless
digressions. With one more through
rewrite it could have been an excellent adventure.
As it is, Terminus is only mediocre at best.
Now we get back to the good
stuff. The White Guardian tries to contact
the Doctor, but has trouble getting through.
(Why is it so difficult for the White Guardian while the Black
seems to have no problems at all talking to Turlough whenever he wants?) The fragmented message that gets through
instructs the Doctor to travel to a certain location and that "winner
Going to the coordinates that he's received, the Doctor and
his companions find themselves in what seems to the cargo hold of an
ship. Exploring they discover that they
are on an old ship, but one that's flying in space.
The ship was created by the Eternals, ancient
beings of immense power. There is a race
between ships from different time periods, manned by humans, referred
Ephemerals, but led by an Eternal captain and officers.
They are participating in this race to
entertain themselves, but also for the prize:
The winner will gain Enlightenment - total knowledge of
The race is tense, with the planets of the Solar System
being used as marker buoys, but when one of the ships blows up while
to pass another, things start to look suspicious. Most
assume that the destroyed ship flew too
close to a planet, but the Doctor has other ideas.
This adventure was grand in scale and a nice relief from the
previous muddled story. While it doesn't
all succeed, they give it a good try and more things work than don't. On the negative side, the obvious models
flying is space look a bit hokey, the sign inside to airlock was really
and Valentine Dyall played his role as the Black Guardian with a bit
gusto and way too over-the-top.
The Eternals, on the other hand, were very sedate and secure
in their power, especially Captain Striker (Keith Barron), and I liked
that. They were also very interesting
that they were incredibly powerful yet they can't think for themselves
the Ephemerals to give them both ideas and entertainment.
This idea of great power with great
limitations was explored to a certain degree in the relationship
Turlough also matures as a character as the affects of the
Black Guardian's constant demands starts to pay a toll on the young man. Mark Strickson plays the role well, making
sure viewer's are never quite sure just where his loyalties lie and
do to get what he wants.
When all is said and done, this was a fitting ending to a
very nice trilogy of stories.
These three adventures each come in their own standard
keepase. Each is contained on a single
disc save for the last part which gets a pair of discs, one for the
story and one for a reedited version.
(See the extras section for more information.)
These three cases are housed in a nice
The mono soundtrack (with the exception of the feature
length edit of Enlightenment which comes with a 5.1 mix) is very good...
and clear with no hiss or background noise to take away from the story. Being a mono track, there's really not much
more to say about it.
The full frame video has been cleaned up by the Restoration
Team and looks fine though not stunning.
There's only so much you can do with 27 year old video tape. Some scenes are a bit soft, but generally the
image is clean and the colors are fine.
If you've seen the other restored Davison era stories, then
what to expect.
The one thing I really, really enjoy about these BBC Doctor
Who releases is that they come with a comprehensive collection of
extras. Even the one-disc adventures have
amount of bonus features, and this set is no exception.
All three stories have commentary tracks with Peter Davison
(the Doctor), Mark Strickson (Turlough).
They are joined by Nicholas Courtney (the Brigadier) on Mawdryn Undead, Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) on Terminus,
and on the track for Enlightenment writer Barbra Clegg
director Fiona Cumming are also on board. I
really like Peter Davison's commentary
tracks. He's honest and forthright and
amusing. Unlike a lot of commentary
tracks of recent films where everyone pats the whole cast and crew on
Davison is willing to admit when monsters look horrible or when things
went wrong. These three tracks are all
If that doesn't give you enough information on the
productions, all three stories come with an optional pop up trivia
filled with information. Some of it is
minutia, the date the episodes were filmed and ever the time that the
wrapped, but also background info on the supporting and incidental
and it points out on screen gaffs. These
All of the discs also have the option of watching the show
with new GCI special effects added, an isolated music score, photo
Radio Times listings for the episodes, a making of documentary (these
fluff pieces and run nearly half an hour) and Easter Eggs.
Sprinkled across the three discs are unused
model shots, storyboard comparisons, deleted scenes, outtakes, and more.
The most impressive extra is the feature length cut of Enlightenment. It's a reediting of the story (performed by
the original director Fiona Cumming, with producer Brendan Sheppard)
didn't have to worry about cliffhangers every 25 minutes.
They did a good job with it, not just adding
in every scrap of film they could find.
This edit is actually shorter than the original episodes,
75 minutes, and has new CGI special effects, is reframed to 1.78:1, and
a nice 5.1 audio track. In a lot of ways
I enjoyed this more than the original version.
Some of the padding that took place in episode three is cut out
whole story seems to flow better. The
CGI effects only worked part of the time however. The
ships in space look much better, but when
the camera shows the view from the main deck it's much less impressive. Overall this was a very nice addition to the
This is a top-notch production and a good Doctor Who
adventure. Yes, Terminus
isn't that great, but it's not painful to watch and the
quality of the first and third parts of this trilogy more than make up
weakness of the middle story. The
bountiful extras, including an excellent reedit of Enlightenment
make this a collection that should be in every Doctor Who