Jon Pertwee is my Doctor.
It was his incarnation of the long-lived Time Lord that I was
exposed to, and though I only saw one complete story (along with
episodes) before my local PBS station stopped airing the show, I've
an affinity for his era of the show.
There are a lot of great Pertwee stories, and one of my absolute
favorites has just made it to DVD in region one: the
season opener for his second year as The
of the Autons. Not only does this
adventure bring back the
Nestene Consciousness, it also includes the first appearance of The
plucky (and quite attractive) companion Jo Grant. Oh
yeah, and our hero's greatest nemesis is
introduced too: The Master!
The Doctor is still stranded on Earth by the Time Lords with
a faulty TARDIS, but that doesn't stop him from trying to repair his
machine. Some time has passed since the
last adventure (Inferno) and The Doctor's assistant, Liz Shaw, has left
back to Cambridge. He's been complaining to the Brigadier to get
another aide, but when the UNIT leader finally relents, he gives him a
bubble-headed novice trainee, who was assigned to UNIT through family
connections. The Doctor is furious at
first, but her innocence and charm, not to mention her plucky spirit,
Meanwhile in the country side, the owner of a small circus
hears a strange noise and when he investigates he discovers an
carriage. Out steps a tall, dark, and
sinister looking man who declares that he is The Master, and quickly
the carnival barker into doing his bidding.
The first step: steal a
mysterious object in a museum that is on loan from UNIT.
The object turns out to be the Nestene Consciousness, an
alien entity that can inhabit and animate anything made of plastic. The Doctor defeated the previous year, but
couldn't bring himself to 'kill' the inert orb that grew dormant once
been disconnected from an energy source. The
Master has grand plans to kill thousands
of people and then open the way for the alien Nestene to invade Earth. But first, he decides to kill The Doctor.
There's a lot going on in this story and it ends up being a
wonderful romp, even though the conclusion is a bit of a let down. The aspect of this story that makes it one of
my favorites is the way both The Doctor and The Master are portrayed. The Doctor, though we all know he's the good
guy, comes across as petty, arrogant and a bit of a bully.
He throws a temper tantrum when a bureaucrat
asks UNIT to look into a series of mysterious deaths and is constantly
complaining. The Master on the other hand is suave, cool, and collected. He even admires and compliments his enemies
that manage to (temporarily) best him. Oh
yeah, and he'll commit murder at the drop of a hat.
These characters with personalities that don't match their
true nature makes the show a lot of fun, but the creators took it a
further. There is a lot of very subtle
humor in this story that you don't necessarily expect from an episode
Who. The Doctor is a part of UNIT. He has the weight of a well-trained military
organization behind him and can call (or cancel) an airstrike. The Master?
He controls a circus. One with a
mute strong man. And he travels around
in a rented bus. Yet he's the one who
nearly destroys the Earth.
His method of disrupting Britain is wonderfully
too: he's giving away plastic flowers
that will turn deadly when given a signal.
The idea that a kitschy plastic flower could be deadly is
the fact that the only people who would die are those that would
a plastic flower in their house (for free or not) is hilarious. It's almost as if the creators are saying
"don't feel too sorry for them... they got what they deserve."
The most substantial complaint about this story is that the
ending is rushed and pretty much just pulled out of nowhere. It is a significant flaw, but the rest of the
adventure is so enjoyable it's easy to overlook the misstep at the end.
This four-episode adventure arrives on a single disc.
The mono soundtrack has been cleaned up and is very
good. It is nice 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 it looks good. There
are a few spots where whites bloom and
colors bleed (especially the Doctor's purple jacket) but the serial was
likely recorded that way. The videotaped
segments aren't as sharp as the filmed exteriors, but that's to be
expected. This is an average looking
Doctor Who disc.
There are a solid set of extras along with this four episode
adventure. There's a commentary track
featuring Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney
Letts which is just as much fun as the story itself.
The group has a great time reminiscing and it
would be a mistake not to listen to this one.
The video extras include Life
on Earth (33 min) which looks at
The Doctor's extended UNIT family in the early Pertwee years, and
with the current Doctor Who series. The
Doctor's Moriarty (19 min)
Master including his origin and how he's changed over the years (and
between stories.) Finally we have Plastic
Fantastic (11 minutes) a
fun look at
plastic and its role in society. All
three are enjoyable (though the last one is only marginally so) and
There is also an 'info-text' option for each story.
This is something that the other Who releases
have and I'm a big fan of them. This
pop-up text options allows viewers to read about the shooting schedule,
between various story incarnations and the final version and learn
history of the supporting actors. It's
well worth watching, though it can be distracting so watch the story
extras are wrapped up with a photo gallery, Doctor Who promotional
Sugar Smacks (featuring a maniacal looking Jon Pertwee drawing), and
products, and the usual Radio Times listings.
This is a great Doctor
Who story. It introduces a new
companion, The Doctor's main foe, and wraps all of that up in a fun
with some very subtle humor. Highly