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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Doctor Who: Inferno Special Edition
Doctor Who: Inferno Special Edition
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // June 11, 2013
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted June 23, 2013 | E-mail the Author
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The Series:

Broadcast in 1970 from a script by Don Houghton and directed by Douglas Camfield, Inferno stars John Pertwee as The Doctor. The story takes place on Earth where a cantankerous Professor Stahlman (Olaf Pooley) overseas a drilling project that should hopefully provide access to a recently discovered fuel source dubbed Stalhman's Gas. Project Director Sir Keith Gold (Christopher Benjamin) expresses his concern about Stahlman's obsessive behavior to Petra (Shiela Dunn), Stahlman's assistant, and he then brings in a drilling expert named Greg Sutton (Derek Newark) to make sure that everything Stahlman is doing is safe. While all of this is going on, The Doctor, who is acting as a consultant of sorts, is using the power generated by the projects reactor to power the TARDIS' console which he is in turn using to conduct various experiments that he hopes will allow him to fix the TARDIS proper, as at this point in the series he's still in exile on Earth at the behest of the Time Lords.

Meanwhile, the good people of UNIT are overseeing security on Stahlman's project. This becomes important when a worker named Harry Slocum gets some strange green goop on his hands and quickly transforms from a regular man into some sort of monster that promptly goes on a killing spree. Stahlman also comes into contact, and around this time The Doctor's experiments send him into an alternate dimension where England has been overrun by fascists. UNIT's Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) and The Doctor's companion, Liz Shaw (Caroline John) witness his disappearance and set about to make things right. The Doctor, however, is trapped in a world where the Stahlman Project has taken on a life of its own and where evil, fascist versions of those involved with it in the ‘real world' are running things their own way. In order to correct things The Doctor must return to the original ‘reality' from whence he came and change things connected to the drilling project that could result in the end of the world as we know it... this will not be easy, however, not if Stalhman has anything to say about it.

Inferno is pretty solid Seventh Season Doctor Who, the kind of story that lets Pertwee do what he does best and amp up his own take on The Doctor in ways that the series hadn't really seen before. If nothing else, the man has loads of charisma and brings an enjoyably manic enthusiasm to the role in this serial. He brings that ever so slightly caustic attitude to the character well, not at all above rubbing it in when he's right and not without some arrogance, but somehow never losing sight of the character. Olaf Pooley is also great as Professor Stahlman, stealing a few scenes from Pertwee even and really getting into his role with a whole lot of energy and spirit. The rest of the cast are also good here. Caroline John is not only as pretty as ever but her performance and her back and forth with Pertwee makes for some fun dialogue. Nicholas Courtney is also as dependable here as he ever was and once The Doctor travels to the alternate dimension and starts dealing with ‘evil' versions of some of these familiar faces the story is able to go in some interesting and fairly subversive directions.

The production values, sets and locations are decent here as well. There isn't really a whole lot of ‘space' going on in this episode as The Doctor is still exiled to Earth so maybe in some ways this storyline is a little more restrained than others but we get some fun monster effects courtesy of the mysterious green slime and the transformations that it brings on and of course the aforementioned ‘evil versions' of characters that appear in the alternate reality. The sets look fine, there's some fun design work on display and a few decent stunts too. As far as the pacing goes, the first couple of episodes are a little slow but once the basics of the plot and characters are properly established, things definitely pick up nicely. Once that happens, Inferno turns out to be choice entertainment, a great mix of science fiction, action horror and drama done in that inimitable classic Doctor Who style and with a great job done across the board by all involved.

The DVD:

Video:

This installment of Doctor Who arrives on DVD in its original fullframe aspect ratio. This transfer was obviously taken from tape masters, so the image is a fair bit softer than some of the other releases that the series has enjoyed. There are moments where the picture is muddy looking and fairly murky and detail is generally below average throughout playback. It's all watchable enough though and scenes shot inside tend to look cleaner and clearer than those shot outdoors (the stage lighting probably helps here), but this isn't really a great transfer even if it's obvious that the powers that be have done their best with the material that they had available. The disc is well authored in that there are no problems with compression artifacts and as soft as it all is, at least it's clean in that there aren't any nasty issues with print damage.

Sound:

Doctor Who: Inferno is given an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Sound mix for its DVD debut and generally it sounds pretty good. There isn't a ton of surround activity to wow you but the score is spread out nicely and the dialogue is always easy to follow save for a few scenes where the drills are used very heavily. There aren't any problems with hiss or distortion worth noting and the sound effects have some good punch to them. Subtitles are offered in English only.

Extras:

Extras kick off with a commentary track from actors Nicholas Courtney and John Levene, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks that offers up a lot of great behind the scenes information about this particular serial. There's a lot of back and forth about who did what and a fair bit of discussion about Pertwee's personality and that fact that he wasn't always the most humble of men to work alongside. They also discuss the script, the effects, the locations and what not. There's also some fun talk about Courtney's character in particular, his wardrobe, and how he feels about this particular story, noting that it's one of his favorites. A pretty lively talk with a good balance of information and breezy recollections laced with some amiable personality and humor. And that's it for disc one in this two disc set, save for the obligatory production notes subtitle track. If you haven't seen one of these before they're pretty great as when enabled as a subtitle stream it'll inform you of all sorts of facts and trivia in a fairly scene specific manner. It makes for a quick and easy way to learn more about this particular serial and the cast and crew involved with it.

Disc two features a load of supplemental material starting with a thirty five minute making of featurette entitled Can You Hear The Earth Scream?. This covers some of the same ground as the commentary does and includes input from some of the same participants but it's worth checking out for the bits and pieces that are unique and of course for the visuals as there are a fair amount of pertinent clips and photos used here. Topics discussed include the story concepts, Pertwee's insistence that The Doctor have more ‘action' here to deal with than in the past, what it was like on set and more. Definitely worth a watch. Hadoke Versus HAVOC is a twenty-seven minute segment where Toby Hadoke reunites with the surviving members of the HAVOC stunt team that was employed on the series. It's amusing in that we get to watch the HAVOC crew show Hadoke what it takes to pull off a successful stunt and coerce him into trying one of his own. Doctor Forever â€" Lost In The Dark Dimension is twenty-seven minute entry in the ongoing series of documentaries on ‘how Doctor Who was kept alive in the years between the end of the classic series and the beginning of the new.' It's interesting stuff as it discusses the ongoing magazine that was dedicated to the show, attempts to convince the BBC that the show's fanbase was sizeable enough to warrant a return, and potential casting ideas that were being thrown around for different stories and concepts. The UNIT Family Part One is a thirty-five minute documentary that explores The Doctor's family during the years in which he was exiled on Earth and how he came on board to help UNIT as their science advisor. This is a really fun look back at the genesis of UNIT, their exploits with the Yeti early on, right up to the events in Inferno. Nicholas Courtney, Caroline John, John Levene, Terrence Dicks, Barry Letts and Derrick Sherwi are all interviewed on camera and talk about their respective parts in the productions and lots of amusing clips and highlights from throughout the early UNIT adventures are used.

Rounding out the extras on the disc is a six minute long vintage Visual Effects Promo Film showing off some of the BBC's effects work on the series, two minutes worth of Deleted Scenes from overseas broadcast versions of Inferno, a three minute long clip called The Pertwee Years - Intro that was taken from an older documentary, a six minute long Still Gallery and a collection of PDF Materials that includes Radio Times listings, the 1971 Doctor Who Annual, production notes and more. Both discs include menus and chapter/supplement selection.

Final Thoughts:

Pertwee's insistence on more action works well in this story and Doctor Who: Inferno turns out to be a tense, occasionally eerie and always enjoyable storyline. Some of the design work is a bit quirky but the performances are fun, the set pieces memorable and the pacing quite strong, it's hard not to have a good time with this if you're at all a fan of Pertwee's run. The new two disc special edition release from the BBC looks and sounds about as good as it likely ever will unless better elements show up, but the extras are great and this one comes recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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