Doctor Who: Spearhead
From Space (Special Edition/1969/BBC DVD)
Picture: B Sound: B Extras: A Episodes: A
By the end of 1969, Doctor
Who stood on a knife edge. The
series ratings were dipping, and an exhausted Patrick Troughton had just called
it quits as the Second Doctor. What
next? Several things happened which
conspired to rescue the show from itself.
At the beginning of the 1970’s, the BBC ushered in color for the first
time across its lineup of shows. At the time of the filming of “Spearhead
From Space” (Story no. 51) a workers strike meant the cast and crew
could not film in the BBC’s studios. They
shot the entire four episode story on location, and they shot it in glorious
16mm film! With Troughton’s departure,
the show’s producers selected Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. Better know for comedic work, Mr. Pertwee’s
dynamism and energy for the role quickly made it his own.
It didn’t hurt that writer Robert Holmes created one of Who
canon’s signature alien foes, the Nestine, and their servants the Autons, for
this series. Now stranded on Earth by
his fellow Time Lords, the newly regenerated Doctor finds himself in the hands
of UNIT--the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. After convincing Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas
Courtney) of his true identity, the Doctor quickly takes up with a new
assistant, the brilliant scientist Liz Shaw (Caroline John).
Together the two set about solving the mystery of the troubles
plaguing a sleepy English town and its local plastics factory. Those troubles involve a Nestine invasion
spearheaded by their manikin-like foot soldiers, the Autons. Mr. Holmes pens a great first foray for Jon
Pertwee’s Doctor, but its the show’s overall new direction that lends it
increased energy. Now firmly grounded on
Earth, the Doctor must use his vast knowledge and knack for problem solving in
concert with UNIT. The show’s producers
mention Quatermass more than once in the extras. This was another British show where intrepid
scientists face down alien threats. Mr.
Pertwee’s long and productive run would be spent doing just that.
The excellent extras on this disc include a featurette on the
transition from Troughton to Pertwee, a short on the transition to color, a
clever 1993 UNIT recruitment film narrated by Mr. Courtney himself, and several
commentaries. Fans who have never given
Mr. Pertwee’s run a proper try will find this a great starting point, and
Pertwee fans will love this new special edition.
Being shot all on 16mm film, this looks as good in its 1.33 X 1
color presentation as any Who release
in the long series of DVD issues and might be one of the rare shows that might
find its way to Blu-ray one of these days.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is just fine for its age and sounds pretty
good at that.
- Scott Pyle