In any case, it’s not my intention to take anything away from the story; I marvel at the seeming potency of this particular serial. Several of my Who-devoted friends would agree that it’s the tops, and while I can’t say that I do, neither can I offer up any reason why “The Caves of Androzani” shouldn’t be someone’s – or even everyone’s - favorite Doctor Who story. The case could even be made (and probably has been) that “Androzani” is the last truly great story of the classic series – laying waste to the entirety of the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy eras in one fell swoop - and it might be a case easily won. It really is that good. “Androzani” even managed to get a shout-out from Steven Moffat as recently as “The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe,” back in December.
|The Doctor comforts Peri in the presence of Sharez Jek|
|The Doctor and Peri with General Chellak|
The narrative of “Androzani” centers around bad, dumb luck, and something I took away from this DVD set was how easily the story itself could have been a failure if not for all of its components falling into the right places. Holmes hadn’t written for the show for six years. It’s borderline amazing that he was coaxed back and encouraged to write what’s arguably his finest script (out of many fine scripts) of the series.
What’s even more amazing, however, is that John Nathan-Turner took a chance on the relatively wet behind the ears director Graeme Harper. This could have been a disaster, yet it ended up anything but. Harper was hungry to make a name for himself, and it shows. His direction of “Androzani” is nothing short of revolutionary for this series, and he crams the frame with one invention after another. Harper remains the only director to helm stories in both the classic series and the new, however “Androzani” remains the jewel in his crown. What he was able to achieve with little money and no time should have been an inspiration for every Who director that came after him.
|John Normington as Morgus|
Bet you thought I wasn’t going to mention the magma monster? Being classic Who, there’s of course always at least one element keeping a story like this from reaching total perfection, and in this case is a plastic-y looking creature, but much like Holmes’ “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” before it, there’s simply no way this monster keeps this from being Doctor Who gold, and you should certainly not let it, either. (It’s onscreen for probably all of 90 seconds of the serial’s 99-minute running time.) If you have never seen “The Caves of Androzani,” or didn’t buy the previous DVD edition, there surely cannot be any safer Doctor Who DVD purchase this year. If you did own the old DVD, read on…
DVD Extras: “Androzani” was first released on R1 DVD back in 2002, and it was a fine DVD with remastered picture and sound, featuring a commentary track with Davison, Bryant and Harper, as well as some enlightening behind the scenes footage of the regeneration shoot, an extended scene, a piece on Sharez Jek, some trailers and news items discussing Davison’s departure, as well as a photo gallery, the production notes subtitle option, and an isolated music score. All of this material has been ported over to the new edition. On the original disc, some matte paintings in Episode One were fixed, and viewers were allowed to watch the original version via seamless branching. The Special Edition does not allow for this, and instead offers up the original sequence as an Easter Egg. (The only item not ported over is the “Who’s Who?” text feature, which is a fairly insignificant omission.)
So what’s new? First and foremost, there’s a making of doc entitled “Chain Reaction.” Unfortunately, due to the passings of both John Nathan-Turner and Robert Holmes, we just don’t get an accurate representation of what went into putting this story together at its earliest stages, which I think could have been fascinating. The topic is left to Eric “Mr. Personality” Saward to discuss, and as usual he seems so uninterested in everything. (This guy could make a solid career out of boring folks.) Beyond that, it’s a fine doc and about on par with these sorts of things. There’s also a short piece on Graeme Harper entitled “Directing Who: Then and Now,” which via its title is pretty self explanatory. There’s an extra extended scene that’s not of very good quality. There’s a nice little vintage news show with Russell Harty which features both Davison and Colin Baker, and also this edition features the Radio Times listings in PDF form.
Beyond all of the extras, the serial has been given another visual overhaul, but quite honestly I couldn’t tell a huge difference from the old disc. The below screen grabs demonstrate the differences in picture. Notice that really only the exterior, filmed scenes offer up an improvement. The interior videotaped scenes – of which most of the serial consists – look nearly identical to the original release. For the fan who owns the old edition, I can’t really call this set a priority purchase, especially with so many discs currently on the horizon.
|2012 Release (Note that the TARDIS is actually blue here)|