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DVD Review

Doctor Who
The Invasion of Time


Starring: Tom Baker
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 05 May 2008

The Doctor is behaving bizarrely, even for him. Meeting unseen aliens and threatening Leela, he finally looks like he’s lost the plot. In an unexpected turn he returns to his home planet of Gallifrey to claim the office of President, something which he has previously run away from. Although his odd behaviour sparks distrust, the office is his by rights, even his diva request to have his office lead lined has to be obeyed. On the day of his inauguration, when he finally has all the trappings of President, The Doctor opens up Gallifrey’s defences and admits that he has made a pact with the Vardens to subjugate his own people, the Time Lords...

The Invasion of Time is the closing story of Doctor Who's fifteen series and stars Tom Baker. Directed by Gerald Blake and written by David Agnew, we’ll get back to him later, the story was spread across six episodes which were originally broadcast in February 1978.

Usually the closing story of each season was something worth waiting for, not so in the case of Invasion, which was held to be a universal disappointment. There were a number of reasons for this. Firstly, the special effects were anything but special, with the Vardans being portrayed as little more than a handful of shaken tin foil, which removed any real sense of threat. Rather than being scary you just wanted to wrap them round your Sunday chicken. Fans had to wait until episode four before they even saw the Sontarans, and then all they seem to want to do nothing more than run around - indeed the last two episodes have a prodigious amount of running around for no real reason.

Secondly, the script is below par for a season finale. This problem arose as the original story, which was commissioned but turned out to be unsuitable, leaving Graham Williams and Anthony Read mere weeks to come up with six working scripts. The name David Agnew was a name used by the BBC to denote scripts which were written in house.

The problems with the script continued up until the very end, when the audience is expected to believe that Leela, companion to the Doctor and a ferocious warrior woman, does not leave the series having made the ultimate sacrifice, but rather falls in love with a man she's hardly spoken to. I can only presume all that running around affected them more than normal.

A lot of these problems have been sorted out for the DVD release with the special effects getting a complete makeover. Now, at least, the Vardans look like a credible threat, though there was little that could be done with the variable acting. In order to keep up the best quality this release is a two-disc set. The first DVD has all six episodes with a choice to watch them with either the new CGI or the old special effects, though god knows why you would want to do that. The disc also contains a full length commentary with Louise Jameson (who plays Leela), John Leeson (who provided the voice of K-9), script editor Anthony Read and visual effects designer Mat Irvine.

With the first disc containing the story, all the goodies have been shifted to disc two. Ok, so what do we get? The disc kicks off with Out of Time (16 min 53 sec) which stands in for the inevitable making of feature. This explains the difficulties in getting the show together and features contributions from Louise Jameson, John Leeson, Chris Tranchell and Milton Johns (who played the duplicitous Castellan), script editor Anthony Read and visual effects designer Colin Mapson.

 Next up are some deleted scenes from episodes five and six (5 min 56 sec), which whilst a nice addition doesn’t really add anything to the story. Next up is The Rise and Fall of Gallifrey (10 min) which is another of those unexpected features that are appearing on Doctor Who discs and is a great introduction to the Time Lord culture for any new viewer. It’s great to see features that deal with the wider world of Who and not just the current story.

The Elusive David Agnew (5 min 18 sec) is a slightly less successful bit of nonsense with various ‘Who’ luminaries pretending that he was a real, mysterious figure. You also get three and a half minutes of continuity announcements, a self playing photo gallery (7 min 6 sec) which has various production shots, but still no wallpaper. Come on BBC, how long do I have to bang on about that one?  As ever you get the Radio Times listings and the "coming soon", which this time is for The Invisible Enemy and K9 and Company.

Overall, given that the whole thing was rushed through on shoe string, the story isn’t half bad. Tom Baker has some great scenes in the first couple of episodes, as he pretends to be working with the invaders so that he can trap them. Though I’m sure that the audience would have happily lost an episode to cut down all the unnecessary running around. The new CGI effects definitely makes a difference to the show and once again Auntie Beeb has given ‘Who’ fans a disc to be proud of. The show is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio and mono sound.


Charles Packer

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