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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Adventure > Time Travel > British TV > Doctor Who: Spearhead From Space (Special Edition/1969/BBC DVD)

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



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