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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who: Kamelion Tales


Starring: Peter Davison
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: PG
Available 14 June 2010

Themed box sets of Doctor Who are becoming more frequent and usually revolve around a single character. Well, for good or evil this latest set has the two stories which featured that ill omened creature Kamelion, in the obviously titled Doctor Who: Kamelion Tales, which features The King's Demons and Planet of Fire. The two stories are presented on this three disc DVD set. The reason it's three disc is that Planet of Fire appears as a full length director's cut with new special effects.

The King's Demons was a two part, Peter Davison story and the last story in season twenty, unfortunately the story suffered from having to follow the Guardian Trilogy, and whilst is was never intended to close that season industrial action saw the season end with a whimper, rather than a bang.

The story was written by Terence Dudley and directed by Tony Virgo. The story is mostly remembered for the introduction of one of the Doctor's shortest living companions, in the form of the robotic Kamelion, which was a voice activated robot, which frankly didn’t work very well.

The Doctor, along with Tegan and Turlough, land in 13th Century England near the castle of Ranulf, which is hosting a joust in honour of King John. Rather than being surprised at the Doctor’s appearance, King John welcomes them as his demons. This being Doctor Who things are not what they seem and the Doctor is suspicious of King John’s apparent cruelty towards his host. Things become worse when the king's champion arrives, the Master barely in disguise, with a plan to use the fake King John, really Kamelion, to stop the signing of the Magna Carter...

One can’t but think that the only reason this two parter existed was to introduce Kamelion. Even if this were true it is less than spectacular as an introduction. Given his name you won’t be shocked to discover that he can transform his appearance, but herein lays the problem. As King John (Gerald Flood) he is animated, even exuberant, but when he turns back into the robot it’s painfully obvious that the prop cannot move and can barely even act.

Anthony Ainley returns as the Master, whose plan to halt the signing of the Magna Carter is never really explained, this is hardly the villain whose schemes usually are grandiose and vast. This is a sham as Ainley was a very delightful man. As a shallow youth I once discovered his telephone number and rang him up, rather than being justifiably annoyed he freely chatted for some time, a real gent.

The show is in its original aspect ratio with a mono track, plus optional subs. The extras kick off with a light hearted and amusing full length commentary with Peter Davison, Isla Blair and Eric Saward. Episode one has a commentary with director Tony Virgo. Kamelion - Metal Man (13 min, 55 sec) looks at the ill fated history of the companion. Magna Carta (22 min, 27 sec) takes a peek at this important historical document. The disc is wrapped up with the normal photo gallery, the option for the isolated score, Coming Soon and the PDF and production notes.



If The King's Demons suffered from being sparse Planet of Fire suffers from being over burdened with material. This is the show that introduced Peri, had to not only explain Turlough’s background but also act as his swansong.

Planet of Fire is a Peter Davison story from the twenty first season. The show was written by Peter Grimwade and directed by Fiona Cumming. This four part story was originally transmitted between 23 February and 2 March 1984.

Whilst on holiday in Lanzarote, Peri nearly drowns and is rescued by Turlough, who brings her back to the TARDIS. The Doctor is on the trail of a distress beacon, which for some reason Turlough does not want him to find. When they find the beacon Kamelion takes the ship to the fire planet of Sarn where the Master tries to take control of Kamelion. The Doctor meanwhile starts to unravel the secret of Sarn and Turlough’s part in the planet's history...

The show has both its highs and lows. Being on location, but only the single location, there is little the show can do to hide the fact that Lanzarote stands in for both itself and Sarn.

Anthony Ainley returns as the Master and this time he has a slightly meatier part, oddly although he is dressed in an ordinary suit this adds a level of threat which his normal pantomime penguin suit fails to do.

It is a testament to Nichola Bryant’s depiction of Peri that she fits almost instantly into the TARDIS, her relationship with the Doctor gels almost immediately. If there is a sadness with the acting it's with Mark Strickson, freed of the endless faux machinations surrounding the killing of the Doctor the character finally starts to come alive, although it was his swansong it was also the best story for Turlough. Of course one of the best aspects of the story is that it finally got rid of Kamelion.

There is a good selection of extras on the disc starting off with the full length commentary by Peter Davison, Nichola Bryant, Fiona Cumming and Mark Strickson. The Flames of Sarn (25 min, 37 sec) wherein the cast and crew remember making the show. Return to the Planet of Fire (12 min, 38 sec) Fiona Cumming and designer Malcolm Thornton spend some time wandering around Lanzarote discussing the location work. Designs on Sarn (5 min, 03 sec) and Malcolm Thornton is back talking about design aspects of the show.

The disc continues with a cornucopia of alternative edits, deleted and extended scenes (15 min, 26 sec), the rest is the usual continuity pieces, PDF materials and production notes.



The third disc holds a reedited version of the show (1 hr, 06 min, 23 sec). For the most part these things are a bit of a hit and miss affair, mostly due to the cliff hangers at the end of each episode, but in this case the show works rather well as a single film. It’s not just re-cut but also better special effects and a 5.1 audio track. Not enough? Well, how about an introduction from the director? (1 min, 25 sec).

The last of the extras are also found on the third disc. Calling the Shots (7 min, 49 sec) has behind the scenes footage of the show being made and Remembering Anthony Ainley (12 min, 36 sec) has members of both cast and crew remembering what a nice man he was.



So, it’s a pretty good set, even if you have to suffer Kamelion. At least we get to see the thing destroyed.

Charles Packer

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