One of the sadly overlooked adventures from the Pertwee era of Doctor Who is Invasion of the Dinosaurs. The only time I saw this story previous to screening the DVD was 25 years ago or so, and the only thing I remembered about was the aspect that everyone recalls: it's the one with the really crappy dinosaurs. Yeah, they are embarrassingly bad, even for Doctor Who which is famous for its abysmal looking creatures (I didn't want to turn anyone off so there's only a single screen cap at the very bottom of hte review), but they don't appear that often and if you can get past that there's a very good story with some interesting ideas and a message you don't often see in SF.
The Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith return from space in the TARDIS and land right in the middle of
It turns out that
Once the Doctor is reunited with the Brigadier and brought up to speed, he quickly realizes that the dinosaurs are being brought though time from somewhere in
Of course The Doctor is right, there's an intelligence behind the dinosaur appearances, and a conspiracy to make sure he doesn't figure out what's going on. A group has decided that humanity is on the wrong course and that the world is irreparably damaged. They want to erase the last few millennia of history are start over with a hand-picked group of ecologically-minded pacifists who will guide the earlier version of man to a better future. That does involve wiping out everyone on the planet, but since they're changing history it will just be like they were never born, they won't be killing them. At least that's who they're justifying it.
While I'll be the first to admit that the special effects for the dinosaurs are absolutely wretched, the rest of the adventure is very good, which wasn't always the case for a six-part story. There was a good amount of suspense, some nice twists, and I especially like how Sarah really stepped up to the plate. She came up with a great way of discovering where the time machine was, and while she does get captured (more than once) she escapes on her own and is instrumental in resolving the situation. She's much more than just someone screaming for The Doctor to save her.
The other great aspect of this show is how they portrayed the villains: they were people who basically had the right ideas but that they took it way too far and became evil. When the idea of ecology is first introduced in the story, The Doctor is a big proponent of the concept. They don't paint the basic tenets of the antagonists as wacky or just wrong... it's the fact that they go way too far that's wrong. It's their inflexibility that is the flaw, and it's scary how apt that is today, especially in the
This release is a two-disc affair. The six episode story is on disc one while the second one is reserved for the bulk of the special features.
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show just fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the dialog is generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss, distortion or dropouts. There are optional subtitles in English.
I was pleased with the full frame color image. Only a B&W copy of the first episode still survives and that plays by default. It's okay, though the dark scenes in the garage have a lot of grain and banding. There is also a colorized version of the episode on disc one that can be selected in the extras menu if you prefer watching it that way. (I screened the episode in black and white but spot-checked the color version and they did a very good job. The added color looks natural and doesn't have any of the flaws that early colorized products were plagued with (bleeding, slow, jerky motion since they cut out frames during action scenes etc.). I was ready to skewer the color version, but I really can't. As for the rest of the serial, the Restoration Team did their usual top-notch job. The colors are nice and the fine detail is good. The blacks are pretty strong too. There are some scenes that are a bit softer than I'd like but it's not a big deal though. This looks very comparable to the other Who releases from this time frame, which means your getting a pretty solid transfer.
This disc has some good extras included, but nothing that really got me too excited. The commentary track is actually done in two parts. Three episodes have director Paddy Russell discussing her role in the story and three others have various members of the cast and crew (actors Richard Franklin (Mike Yates), Peter Miles (Professor Whitaker), Terence Wilton (Mark), script editor Terrence Dicks, and set designer Richard Morris together in different combinations on various episodes) reminiscing. All are moderated by Toby Hadoek. The Paddy Russell tracks are a bit dry and they should have probably cut her down to one or two episodes. One of the installments they spend almost exclusively discussing her other work in TV, which I found pretty uninteresting since I hadn't heard of a lot of the shows. The other tracks were more entertaining with everything (especially Terrence Dicks) taking shots at the crappy looking dinosaurs. There's also a stand alone commentary to a ten-minute except from one of the episodes by actor John Levine (Sgt. Benton).
The first featurette is People, Power and Puppetry, a half hour look at the show with many of the people who appear on the commentary tracks appearing for interviews. It's a nice overview of the filming and talks about why the dinosaurs looked so wretched. I also really enjoyed Doctor Who Stories: Elisabeth Sladen Part One, a 14 minutes bit where the late companion reminisces about some of the more memorable events in filming the Who episodes she was involved with.
There's also a Now and Then featurette that's pretty standard, a one minute clip from some show called Billy Smart's Circus where Jon Pertwee appears in the Whomobile, and four minutes worth of deleted scenes.
In addition there is a pop-up informational text option which is very informative as always. It does give some dry statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are also some interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background information on the supporting characters. The extras are rounded off with storyboard comparison, a trailer for the story, a photo gallery, and the listing from the Radio Times in .pdf format.
Though I remembered this as being a mediocre-at-best adventure, I was surprised to discover that it was actually quite good and much more developed thanks to the strong script by Malcolm Hulke. With some nice twists and an interesting plot, this story deserves more attention than it has generally received, crappy dinosaurs and all. Highly Recommended.