The TARDIS arrives on Earth in the middle of a meteorite shower
and the Doctor is found by UNIT troops and taken to a nearby hospital. The Brigadier
is faced with having to cope not only with the mysterious meteorites but also
with Ransome, an ex-employee of a local factory, who claims he has seen a walking
The meteorites turn out to
be hollow globes containing the Nestene agent, Channing, has infiltrated the
plastics factory and is using energy from the globes to animate Autons - mannequin-like
figures and realistic replicas of senior establishment figures - with the aim
of colonising the Earth.
Simply, this BBC DVD release, rummaging through the DOCTOR WHO episode archive all the way back to 1970, sets a new definitive benchmark for all future releases.
Or should I be more cautious? Our, fandom's, first - and, perhaps, only - CLASSIC SERIES story, DOCTOR WHO - SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE, re-mastered to a High Definition standard and formatted & released as a Blu-ray, has been issued twice before but, unlike even a smattering of Matt Smith/11 th Doctor's stories, you can never tire of being drawn into Robert Holmes' penned four-parter as it heralds the beginning of a new era for the drama series.
With a blaze of gyrating colour, Holmes', supported by the Production Team and the resources available at the BBC, jettisons the dull greyness of the sixties, in addition to capturing the Third Doctor's premiere adventure on wholly celluloid (16mm film camera) ditching videotape. Primarily, this is one reason why SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE has been so adept in accepting a diligent restoration process, and compared to its two previous releases (1999 and 2010) this issue could be considered a quantum leap in seeing it with new clarity, depth and ebullience.
More so, it is the writer's skill in constructing a linear (NEW SERIES take note!), confidently acted (Caroline John's performance is calmly precise and often underrated by critics. Watch the indignity of her character as she confronts the Brigadier after having been ".even searched." It's not what she says but it's all in John's subtle eye movement) and magically produced that ensures that SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE remains as watchable now (2013) as it did when it was originally broadcast.
As you would expect, the restoration is clinically astute and, almost , flawless.
However, there are only two scenes - episode two and four - where there is a 'hair-in-the-gate' at the top of the frame. I can only assume that this errant shadow could not have been removed as the camera constantly scans the actors and set?
However, throughout, the attention to detail in improving picture clarity, stabilisation and colour balancing is expertly observed.
So sharp is the image that you empathise with Sam Seeley is bathed in unrelenting sweat as he unearths the super-heated Nestene Energy Unit, or winching at the extent of his dental tartar staining, or the simply beauty of his vivid red scarf.
So sharp is the image that I am sure that the Brigadier's iconic moustache has a live of its own, and that I am sure that I spotted Susan Boyle in Ashbridge Cottage Hospital's waiting room reading a magazine.
So sharp is the image that you can see the nap of the Third Doctor's purloined velvet jacket, or that the ethnicity of a UNIT soldier can be classified as 'Indian'.
So sharp is the image that you can see that the Auton 'warehouse men' are wearing the silver Doc Marten's boots that were previously owned by INVASION-styled Cybermen, or the delicate embroidery across the Time Lord's crisp, white cotton shirt.
So sharp is the image that the make-up of the "humanised" Autons, such as the 'Hospital Porters', is as alien as you could possibly imagine; chillingly creative.
Again, it's a remarkable restoration and unequivocally matches the quality of Holmes' four-parter and one that truly deserves to be the first of its kind to be 'blu-rayed'.
Equal in quality to the main feature's restoration are the all-new documentary features ('the Extras' or 'Value Added Material'). Both, A DANDY AND CLOWN and CARRY ON: THE LIFE OF CAROLINE JOHN, are highly informative, thoroughly enchanting and gloriously filmed that will have you wide-eyed in astonishment, heart-broken on the edge of tear and breathless.
In A DANDY AND A CLOWN, the life of Jon Pertwee is chronicled with precision, honesty and depth that delivers a new perspective on the actor's work, rebellious life and untimely death whilst attending an American DOCTOR WHO Convention. I don't want to give too many spoilers but the documentary combines interviews with the actor, his friends and colleagues (including former WORZEL GUMMIDGE's The Scarecrow Man, Geoffrey Bayldon) along with never-seen-before family photographs and 'cine-film' capturing summer holidays (including a candid glimpse of a vacationing Pertwee stuffing an unseen object into his 'tidy-whitey' underpants. Definitely not a Sonic Screwdriver).
From his birth (7 July 1919) to swinging on school lavatory chains and his subsequent expulsion, and from his rise and rise as a BBC Radio "actor of a thousand voices" to playing the Doctor, from creating a head-swapping scarecrow to his legendary appearances at Convention, A DANDY AND A CLOWN is superb and, once again, sets a very high standard for future DVD (or BLU-RAY) releases.
Goosebumps. That's what I have running down my neck and arms as comment about CARRY ON: THE LIFE OF CAROLINE JOHN. It's a classy, sensitive and beautiful documentary that deserves your unwavering attention. Recalling the career of a much forgotten/ignored or, at the very least, underrated DOCTOR WHO companion, Caroline John's family and colleagues provide an insight into a person that perhaps DOCTOR WHO did not really know or get to know and, in moments of candour, the memories are very personal indicative of, and I speak from my own experience, untempered grief. If you are not emotionally touched by her husband's, Geoffrey Beevers (THE KEEPER OF TRAKEN), description of his life-long friend (".so gracefully.") is so heart-warming, but it's not all what he said but the distant gaze through time as he recalls Caroline in memory that only he retrieve and we, as viewers, can only wonder of when, of where that was created.
Daughter, Daisy Ashford, recalls that her mum was ".unconventional; she smoked a pipe." whilst Caroline's younger sister affirmed that ".Cary was never frightened of death." and Geoffrey confirmed that ".she worried more about me than she did about herself..." and at the end of her life (2012) ".was very calm."
At the time of her death, the ".unconventional." and Royalist Caroline even has the temerity to telephone the BBC to complain about the amateur, lamentable presentation commentary that accompanied the broadcast of the Queen's Golden Jubilee. But what would you expect from a Yorkshire-born woman!
An exquisite documentary by Pup Ltd.'s Chris Chapman and Dan Hall. Truly magical.
The TITLE SEQUENCE RAW MATERIAL is a 'filler' that is no more than a mild distraction to the main events. I suppose it had to be there but I am sure, considering that SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE was filmed entirely on location, a NOW AND THEN featurette could have been compiled.
The RESTORATION COMPARISON is demonstrates the lengths to which the digital clean-up has not only improved the original 'archive' print but of the 1999 and 2010 DVD releases. 'Chemical stains', dust sprinkles and scratches have been laboriously exorcised and the new HD 'master' colour balanced to a level of pulchritude.
The COMING SOON is heralded with a lament from a Welsh Male Voice Choir ahead of the snarling tones of giant maggots, discharging weapons from UNIT soldiers and the tears of seven million viewers as Jo Grant and the Doctor part company. The special edition of DOCTOR WHO - THE GREEN DEATH is released on 5 August 2013.
Overall, DOCTORWHO - SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE Blu-ray edition is categorically, unreservedly and undoubtedly the pinnacle of releases from BBC DVD since the 1999 release of DOCTOR WHO - THE FIVE DOCTORS.
Even if, like me, you'll need to purchase a Blu-ray machine to play it, then you will not be disappointed.
But the next question is: which CLASSIC SERIES story is being prepared for Blu-ray release?
Whatever it is, I can't wait.