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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Adventure > British TV > Doctor Who – Robot + Survival (BBC DVD)

Doctor Who – Robot + Survival


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B/C     Episodes:


Robot (Story #75) B


Survival (Story #159) C



Dealing with the arrival and conclusion of the greatest of all runs as Doctor Who, BBC Home Video has issued the two key episodes of the series that marked the beginning of Tom Baker’s classic run and the end of the original record run of the show before its odd, recent revival.  Robot (1974) not only introduced Baker, but is one of the great classic tales in all of the series, enough that when a toy line of action figures was introduced by Palitoy, the title machine was one of the choices.


The Doctor is working with UNIT to find out how and why key electronics are being stolen and it turns out not by normal means.  Joined by K-9, Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry (Ian Marter), along with his regeneration a success, are immediately thrust into new trouble.  Baker is instantaneously perfect in the role and the greatest era of the show was on its way, while the writing is top rate.


The show never really recovered when Baker left in 1981 and even with the current revival still has not.  The ironically titled Survival has the rather miscast Sylvester McCoy as The Doctor badly paired with Sophie Aldred as Ace.  The only thing Baker eventually asked for in the show that stuck too long in later versions was the preposterous idea that The Doctor only have a single female sidekick.  If later actor’s eras had shaken this up, the show might have lasted longer.  It is a stale legacy that haunts the current version.


This time, The Doctor is taking Ace back to the town she grew up in, only to find pets are being killed while some of them have been possessed (i.e., black cats) to watch and manipulate what turns out to be some kind of takeover and a hunter who turns out to be all too familiar.  The show is so bad, it is unintentionally funny and dates much faster than most earlier shows in the series.  It was time to fold things and after this mess, you can see why.


The 1.33 X 1 image on both DVD releases comes from analog PAL masters, looking about as good as they are going to.  Both have Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and are fine for their age, with Robot monophonic and Survival simple stereo at best.  Amusingly, the sound design on the 1974 show is more complex and has more character than the one 15 years later.  The documentaries are anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 and look fine.


Extras for Robot include audio commentary by actors Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen and writer Terrance Dicks, DVD-ROM accessible Radio Times listing, terrific documentary Are Friends Electric? - A new documentary looks at Tom Baker's introduction as the Doctor & the making of his first story, featuring actors Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Alec Linstead, Patricia Maynard, Michael Kilgarriff and Edward Burnham, producers Barry Letts and Philip Hinchcliffe, script editor Terrance Dicks, director Christopher Barry, production unit manager George Gallacio, Easter Eggs, The Tunnel Effect featurette with Graphic designer Bernard Lodge explaining how he created the complex 'never-ending tunnel' opening titles for Tom Baker's stories narrated by George Kelly stills and text production notes.  Survival offers audio commentary by actors Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred and script editor Andrew Cartmel, another DVD-ROM of Radio Times listings, deleted scenes, Cat Flap two-part “making of” documentary, Endgame - documentary on the end of the original series, isolated music track, fan commentary (episode 3 only), Continuities, Search Out Science schools program featuring the Doctor and Ace with Stephen Johnson and K9, Little Girl Lost retrospective on Ace, Destiny of the Doctors - Anthony Ainley’s last appearance as The Master from 1997 computer games, stills, outtakes and text production notes.


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-   Nicholas Sheffo


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