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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Doctor Who: Colony in Space
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
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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.  Their power generator is old and frequently breaks too.  Nevertheless, they are determined to make it on Uxarieus as they have no other options.  The space ship that brought them, old when they bought it, won't survive another trip.

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.  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.  In this case the story repeated itself a couple of times with situations that were identical, or nearly so.  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.  It definitely had an alien atmosphere to it, and it wasn't the regular go-to quarry for Doctor Who adventures, which was nice.)

The story, always the thing that carries Doctor Who was pretty good however.   Penned by Malcolm Hulke (who also wrote War Games and 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 see it." 
The DVD:

The six episodes in this adventure arrive on a single disc.
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.
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.  That means that the image was converted back to PAL, cleaned up, then converted once again to NTSC for this release.  The result is a fairly soft image.  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.  (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.)  Overall it's one of the weaker looking Doctor Who releases.   
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.  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.  Recommended.
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