The last time material from the Jon Pertwee era was released on DVD was two years ago, and that was the “Beneath the Surface” box set. Because it’s been such a lengthy gap since the last Pertwee, I’m probably feeling overly enthusiastic about this set, and yet it’s arguably a remarkable example of this period of the classic series. The Pertwee era was heavily dependent on six-part serials, which are all too often referred to as “padded.” One can say that, but it lacks imagination. Maybe a kinder label should be used. How about “leisurely?” Leisurely works well if you’re into a story and in no particular hurry to see it end. This set is comprised of two such six-parters, “Frontier in Space” and “Planet of the Daleks.”
The title “Dalek War” is a little misleading since it promotes the idea that this is some kind of action-packed extravaganza with Daleks trundling rampant, killing everyone and everything in sight. That isn’t quite the case, and yet it doesn’t make the set itself any less of an extravaganza from a presentation standpoint. Both stories have been given a thorough overhaul, and they’ve never looked better than they do here. Where the real magic becomes apparent, however, is in Episode Three of “Planet,” which has existed only in black and white for the past 30 some odd years – until now. Several techniques, including the new kid on the block, color recovery, have been joined together to achieve this feat, and the results are astounding. Visually, the differences between it and the other five episodes of the story are negligible. “The Silurians” colorization from “Beneath the Surface” was impressive, but this restoration leaves that one in the dust.
If these techniques can be honed further, it’ll be fascinating to see what can eventually be achieved with the other half-dozen Pertwee serials deserving the same kind of attention. It remains to be seen what exactly can be done, as the materials with which to work apparently vary from story to story, and, of course, money is always an issue. Yet this is a huge step forward, not just for the Doctor Who DVD range, but for vintage TV (particularly of the BBC kind) in general. There’s so much vintage TV that’s released on DVD these days, and a great deal of it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. As much as I love “Doctor Who,” it’s a real pleasure to view and review the series on DVD, as there are people behind the scenes working overtime to make this material the best it can possibly be, and far more often than not they succeed. If only the classic series weren’t so niche, other DVD producers might take note of what’s happening with this range and adopt the same strategies. It pays off in the long run to do right by shows with a fervent fan base.
Anyway, enough about the technical stuff and on to these two stories...
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