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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
The Rescue / Romans


Starring: William Hartnell
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: U
Available 23 February 2009

The TARDIS gains a new crew member then travels back in time to Nero’s Rome in these two classic adventures starring William Hartnell. In The Rescue the TARDIS arrives on the planet Dido in the late 25th Century, where the time travellers discover a crashed spaceship from Earth. In The Romans the time travellers are enjoying a rare holiday, staying at a villa not far from Rome in the year 64 AD...

Having recently paid more attention to the later shows Auntie Beeb takes us right back o the first Doctor with the release of the double DVD set of The Rescue and The Romans. Let the games begin...

Following the loss of his granddaughter, Susan, the Doctor continues his voyages with Ian and Barbara. Landing on the Planet Dido they discover a crashed Earth ship, before being attacked by one of the local inhabitants. With both of her companion’s seemingly dead, Barbara is rescued by Vikki - along with Bennett, she is the only survivor of the crash. Unharmed the Doctor is confused, as when he previously visited Dido its people were peaceful. With time running out the Doctor must discover the truth behind the attacks and the identity of Koquillion...

The Rescue is a two-part, William Hartnell, story, which was used to introduce Vikki (Maureen O’Brien), who would be a replacement for Carol Ann Ford (Susan) who had left the series. Written by David Whitaker and directed by Christopher Barry, the show was originally transmitted on 2 and 9 of January 1965.

As one of the shorter stories, it is often overlooked, which really is a shame as it is a nice introductory character piece, allowing the character of Vikki to present various aspects of her personality.

The disc has fewer extras, partially because of its age and partly because of the shortness of the story. You do get a full length commentary from William Russell (Ian), director Christopher Barry and designer Raymond Cusick. Mounting the Rescue (21 min, 45 sec) looks at the making of the show with contributions from William Russell, Maureen O’Brien, Ray Barrett (Bennett), Christopher Barry, Raymond Cusisk and a 1960’s viewer Ian McLachlan, providing the fans view of the changes in the show. Rounding off the first disc is a photo gallery, the Radio Times listings, the usual and useful info text and a trailer for Attack of the Cybermen.

Although the restoration team have done another sterling job at fixing some of the dodgy effects and generally clearing up the picture, I did notice that there appeared to be a dead pixel in the centre of the screen for most of the first episode. At first I put this down to equipment failure, but having tried it on a number of screens it’s still there. This may be a mistake in the mastering of the test discs. After a while it is very distracting.

Following their adventures, the crew of the TARDIS take a long wished for holiday. Taking up residence in a villa just outside Rome in the year 64 AD, the enforced relaxation soon causes friction between the crew. The Doctor and Vikki decide to take a trip to Rome leaving Barbara and Ian alone. Along the road the Doctor is mistaken for a famous lyre player and taken to the court of Nero, Meanwhile Ian and Barbara have been captured by slaver traders and sold...

The Romans is a four-part William Hartnell story, written by Denis Spooner and directed by Christopher Barry. The show was originally broadcast between the 16 January and 6 February 1965.

The show is a bit of an oddity. One the one hand we have the Doctor and Vikki’s story which is a light hearted romp, giving William Hartnell a rare chance to play a comic role, set against the backdrop of Nero’s court, as he comes up with increasingly ingenious and unlikely reasons not to play his lyre. Ian and Barbara fare less well in their bondage, their stories are played as straight, if a little harrowing, drama. That said, the two pieces work seamlessly, partly due to the often overt violence of the court - Nero is not above randomly killing his subjects.

With a longer story, the extras are a little more substantial than on the previous disc, even so, the age of the stories means that there is a 50/50 split between pieces which are directly about the show and pieces which are predominantly about the Romans. As usual we have the info text and a full length commentary from William Russell, Nick Evans, Nick Evans and Barry Jackson, designer Raymond Cusick (episode four only) and director Christopher Barry, moderated by Toby Hadoke.

The first feature, What Has The Romans Ever Done for Us? (33 min, 58 sec), takes a look at the many attempts to portray this part of history. Next is Roma Parva (2 min, 31 sec), a very short piece with Christopher Barry talking the audience through a model of the set. Denis Spooner, Wanna Write a Television Series? (17 min, 45 sec), is a quick retrospective of this obviously talented and well loved man. Padding next, with a piece from Blue Peter (7 min, 14 sec), which looks at Roman eating habits and lastly Girls! Girls! Girls! The 1960’s (17 min, 39 sec) a retrospective piece about the changing roles of women in the sixties. Throw in a photo gallery, a trailer and the Radio Times listings and what you have is quite a decent double disc.


Charles Packer

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