The Caves of Androzani:
The long running British series Dr. Who is a unique phenomenon in the realm of Science Fiction fandom. Debuting in the mid 1960s the program was targeted at young children but featured plot lines and situations that could be appreciated by teens and adults as well. The craggy old Doctor flew around the galaxy traversing both space and time in a blue police box known as the Tardis. This strange contraption, small on the outside but vastly larger on the inside, propelled the Doctor and his companions into situations involving everything from robots and aliens to supernatural monsters and even well known historical scenarios.
The basic format of the program drew much from classic cinema serials but the true genius of the show was the way it handled its central character. The Doctor, eventually revealed as a Time Lord, was able to use his wit and wisdom to defeat every enemy, charm every adversary and wiggle out of every difficult situation including death. In other words, when a particular actor's contract ran out or he grew tired of playing the Doctor he would simply 'regenerate' into a completely different individual and the show would go on.
Each actor to play the Doctor (there have been eight to date) brought something unique to the role and consequentially drew his own set of fans to the show. The result is a huge fan base that is divided into sub sets of devotees of each of the various Doctors. The typical Who fan tends to gravitate towards the first he or she saw on the show and I'm no exception to that rule. My first Doctor was Tom Baker and he remains my favorite to this day. A close second however is Peter Davison, the accomplished British actor who played the role from 1982 through 1984.
The BBC is slowly releasing Dr. Who on DVD in both regions one and two in an order based mainly on the popularity of episode (fan favorites come out first) with an eye to addressing each Doctor equally. Of course the most popular Doctors have been getting special treatment so it's no real surprise that the most recent discs released and announced focus mainly on Baker and Davison.
The Caves of Androzani is the final adventure of Davison's Doctor and it's a genuine classic. By the end of his run Davison had become comfortable in the role and really seemed to be having fun. Concurrently the production team was delivering more adult scripts, better special effects and increasingly menacing villains.
When the Doctor and his new companion Peri land on Androzani Minor they find themselves in the middle of a violent military blockade. Our heroes are captured, accused of gunrunning and sentenced to death but with the help of insurgent sympathizers they make a miraculous escape. Their saviors turn out to be pawns of an even more dangerous figure; a masked megalomaniac called Sharaz Jek. Compounding their problems the Doctor and Peri have been infected with deadly Spectrox poisoning. Can the time traveling duo escape from Jek in time to find a cure for the deadly poison? Well, you already know that this is Davison's final Dr. Who adventure so all that's left to discover is the details.
The BBC should be commended for the fine job they've been doing with these transfers. There was a time not too long ago when we fans thought that the BBC had turned its back on the series and that they would never release good versions of the programs in the UK, let alone the US. We shouldn't have worried though. Dr. Who is still a major cash cow and the DVD format offers a new money making frontier. Each episode is taken from the original elements and carefully restored to near pristine condition. The Caves of Androzani even got a few new special effects to replace some shaky old ones. This presentation shows a marked improvement over the previous VHS release.
As with the visual elements the sound for this episode is very crisp and clear. The original stereo soundtrack has been cleaned up and sounds as good as it did when originally aired. You won't find any fancy panning across the sound stage or artificially enhanced thundering lows, just a clean, serviceable audio track that does the episode justice.
One of the neat things about the BBC's handling of these releases is that they're adding some really great special features to each disc. In this case you get a fun audio commentary with Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant (Peri) and director Graeme Harper. The three have a great time reminiscing about this episode in specific and Davison's run in general. Next up is a fantastic 'popup production note' feature that uses subtitles to deliver a wealth of information on the episode, the actors, the special effects and much more. Also included is a collection of behind the scenes vignettes. These interesting slices of video are taken from the set and include audio commentary (though that fact is never mentioned in the packaging). As if those extras weren't enough you'll also find an isolated score, an extensive photograph archive, BBC trailers for the episode, a handful of news clips focusing on the end of the Davison era and a Who's Who that delves into the many characters of the Who universe.
Wow! The Caves of Androzani is a loving presentation of a fan favorite. If you're a Who devotee this disc is a no-brainer. With a fine audio and video transfer, a fantastic set of extras and a great episode under the hood this disc exceeds expectations. Highly Recommended.