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Doctor Who: Colony in Space

BBC Worldwide // Unrated // November 8, 2011
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted December 9, 2011 | E-mail the Author
The Show:


 


Colonist:  Are you
some kind of scientist?


The Doctor:  I'm every
kind of scientist.


 


The third Doctor finally gets off of Earth, if only for one
adventure, in The Colony in Space,
a fun serial from Jon Pertwee's second
season.  While the story has some flaws,
it repeats itself a bit, it's a solid installment that has some very
good
moments.  Well worth watching, especially
by fans of the classic series, this is a solid release.


 


The Time Lords have discovered something disturbing... they
need someone to handle a possibly dangerous situation. 
With the Doctor mad at them since he's been
exiled to Earth, the members of the council don't expect that he'll
just do
their bidding... so they send him without asking.


 


Meanwhile on Earth, The Doctor is working on fixing his
TARDIS, as he's been doing for a while. 
He invites his assistant Jo Grant inside for the first time just
as the
Time Lords take control and send him to the far off planet of Uxarieus
in the
year 2472.  Getting out, the pair
discovers that the world has been colonized for a year by a small group
from
Earth.  They've only barely managed to
grow enough food to survive and the latest crop is failing.style=""> 
Their power generator is old and frequently
breaks too.  Nevertheless, they are
determined to make it on Uxarieus as they have no other options.style="">  The space ship that brought them, old when
they bought it, won't survive another trip.


 


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Things go from bad to worse soon after The Doctor and Jo
arrive (as they often do).  A pair of
colonists is found dead, apparently killed by a giant lizard-like
creature.  Claw marks are discovered all
through there dwelling, and the bodies are horribly disfigured.style="">  Added to this is more bad news. 
Another stranger arrives, a man from another
heretofore unknown colony on the same planet, who tells how his colony
was
destroyed:  Giant reptiles attacked their
settlement and then the relatively peaceful indigenous population
finished the
survivors off.


 


The worst news, however, is when an IMC mining survey ship
arrives.  Though the planet has been
approved for colonization, the mineral deposits are so rich that
something as
small as a law won't stop the mining company from turning the planet
into one
huge slag heap... colonists or no colonists. 


 


The IMC ship calls in an Adjudicator to decide the matter,
but half of the colonists are certain that the government
representative will
be in IMC's pocket and want to fight while the other half wants to
discuss the
matter peacefully.  The Doctor sides with
the pacifists, naturally, until he sees exactly who the Adjudicator is.


 


This was a decent adventure. 
Not great, but definitely good. 
Yes, there were some problems but they were outweighed by the
story's
strengths.  On the minus side, it's a
six-parter, which means that there's more than a bit of padding.style="">  In this case the story repeated itself a
couple of times with situations that were identical, or nearly so.style="">  Two episodes end with The Doctor being
attacked by an IMC robot, and there were three (or was it four) gun
battles
between the colonists and the IMC people. In the last half of the story
every
time you blink one group gets the drop on the other. 
Added to that were the exterior scenes... lots
and lots of driving around a quarry.  (On
the other side of the scale, the quarry that they picked was unique.style="">  It definitely had an alien atmosphere to it,
and it wasn't the regular go-to quarry for Doctor Who adventures, which
was
nice.)


 


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The story, always the thing that carries Doctor Who
was pretty good however.   Penned by
Malcolm Hulke (who also wrote War Games and style="">The Silurians) the script had a lot of interesting
aspects, not the
least of which was having the Time Lords use The Doctor to do their
dirty work,
something that would continue for years and years. 
I really enjoyed the way the story was
constructed though.  The opening with the
Time Lords discussing a mysterious problem grabs the viewers attention,
and
then having Jo finally get into the TARDIS is exciting, not to mention
having
The Doctor leave Earth.  Then we're knee
deep in the problem of the colonists vs. the miners, and everyone has
forgotten
the reason that The Doctor is on the planet... to stop something that the
Time
Lords don't want to happen.  It's a neat
bit of misdirection and when the main villain does make his appearance
it's
surprising.  (The only thing that ruins
the effect is the direction.  The
director hid the face of The Adjudicator basically saying to everyone
watching
"Hey!  Look!  Something
surprising is going to happen!  After
battling The Master for every story
this season, who could he be facing this time???  You'll
never guess so don't even try!")


 


The best moments in the adventure are when Pertwee and
Delgado are on the screen together.  The
two had such wonderful chemistry and this is one of their better
pairings.  I especially enjoyed when The
Master offered
to let The Doctor join him.  The Doctor
indignantly replied "I don't want to rule the universe, I want to style="">see it." 


 


The DVD:



 


The six episodes in this adventure arrive on a single disc.


 


Audio:


 


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.


 


Video:


 


This is one of the lesser releases, in terms of video
quality.  The Restoration Team did what
they could, and the results aren't bad, but it's not as impressive as
some of
their other offerings.  The original tapes
for this episode were wiped by the BBC, but luckily color NTSC copies
were
discovered in Canada.style="">  That means that the image was converted back
to PAL, cleaned up, then converted once again to NTSC for this release.style="">  The result is a fairly soft image.style="">  The lines are not tight and clean and the
level of detail is average at best.  On
top of that there are some defects inherent in the original recordings,
most
notably several instances of microphony during the gun fights.style="">  (Microphony is a specific type of banding
across the screen.  It occurs when a loud
noise vibrates the tubes on the camera used to record the action.)style="">  Overall it's one of the weaker looking Doctor
Who releases.   


 


Extras:


 


This disc is a bit light on the extras, but what's there is
good.  There's a nice commentary track by
actors Katy Manning, Bernard Kay and Morris Perry, who are joined by
director
Michael Briant, script editor Terrance Dicks and assistant floor
manager Graeme
Harper and the whole lot are moderated by Toby Hadoke. 
Like most of the Who commentary tracks, this is
a fun one to listen to.  I actually enjoy
these much more than the
commentaries on recent films.  It's been
40 years since this serial was filmed and the participants are free to
say what
they really feel without worrying about torpedoing their careers.style="">  It's an amusing and light track, that's
filled with a lot of information.


 


The main video extra is IMC Needs You a 25-minute making-of
featurette that starts with a hilarious recruitment commercial for IMC,
the evil
corporation featured in the show.  Once
that's over the same people who appeared in the commentary track
reminisce
about the show, the casting, the filming in the quarry pit, and
naturally how
cold it was.  (It seems that Doctor
Who
never films exteriors when
it's balmy.)   That's followed by
13-minutes of outtakes. 


 


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.


 


Final Thoughts:


 


When all is said and done, this is a solid, decent story but
not one that warrants the two-disc treatment. 
It's a fun adventure with some great banter between The Doctor
and his
nemesis, and these sections make up for the parts where the story drags.style="">  Recommended.


 
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