1666 - the darkest days of the Great Plague. When the Doctor and his companions
step from the TARDIS into a land gripped by fear and mistrust, they soon discover
that they are not the only new arrivals.
Strange lights have been seen in the sky, the Grim Reaper stalks the local woods,
and evidence of advanced technology is all around.
DVD EXTRAS "SPECIAL EDITION" (2013) - DISC TWO only
- GRIM TALES
- THE TELEVISION CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE - PART ONE
- DOCTOR FOREVER - THE APOCALYPSE ELEMENT
- COMING SOON TRAILER - DOCTOR WHO: INFERNO "SPECIAL EDITION".
Comment ("SPECIAL EDITON")
Initially realised by BBC DVD in 2004, Eric Saward’s vision of medieval England, rift with plague, billowing plumes of ‘purification fires’ and out-of-work actors languishing astride tree branches, DOCTOR WHO – THE VISITATION has been highlighted for ‘special treatment’ (re-mastered with additional Extras). Released on 6 May 2013, this two-disc edition represents one of the most popular stories from Peter Davison’s first season as the Fifth Doctor, and, as a period adventure, has stood the test of time.
In GRIM TALES, we witness four good friends traipsing around an English forest (Black Park) regaling tales of past times and fun. Whilst these may be mistaken for errant Orienteers they are, in fact, the TARDIS crew, circa 1981/82, recalling the location filming for Eric Saward’s THE VISITATION (initially known as INVASION OF THE PLAGUE RATS). Of course, attempting to find specific locations within (1) a forest and (2) 30-years after the filming is not as easy as initially planned.
And whilst you learn or glean nothing new about the Fifth Doctor’s four-parter ‘pseudo-historical’ story, it is diverting escapism for forty-five minutes especially if supplemented with wine, beer or vodka. Or a combination of all three and this particularly helps when Janet Fielding sings a tune from ANNIE whilst under the influence of the Mara (see KINDA).
Acting as the genial host and Orienteering Leader, Mark Strickland (“Wrong story, Mark!”) cajoles fading memories from its cast, Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding (“I don’t want to talk about my acting at all”) only armed with a location map and a TARDIS. Yes, as you can guess, with these four actors at times it’s a gag-fest of delight with gentle ribbing and sarcasm.
Concluding their playful, yet affectionate, rummage around within the box of memory, the foursome decamp to the manor house location for a celebratory slice of ‘time ship cake’ (about the cake: “This cost more than our entire budget” according to Fielding, and seeing the creative moulding on the cake; “we called that Terileptil ‘Terry’sChocolateLeptil’”).
Supplemented with contributions from set designer, Ken Starkey (“The manor house was well out of period but it worked”) discussed how the Terileptil escape pod was constructed and disguised on location, Terileptil leader, Michael Melia (“There was to be steam coming out from the gills”), Eric Saward apologising for Tegan arguing too much (and about its Director, Peter Moffatt; “…learned man. You could have a good natter in the wine bar with him…”) and costume designer, Odie Dicks-Mireaux discussing the limitations of designing the bejewelled Android.
Overall, GRIM TALES as a frothy documentary is great fun (and worthy of repeat viewing) but as a feature that adds valuable information or knowledge to the making of a highly-regarded Fifth Doctor story then it’s burning its torch at both ends and fails.
Only marginally less interesting and, again (why ‘again’?), wildly off the mark in any re-assessment of THE VISITATION (isn’t that what’s a “Special Edition” supposed to do?), THE TELEVISION CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE – PART ONE is a half hour of banter and recollections by Davison, Fielding and Strickson under the tour direction of a former BLUE PETER presenter unceremoniously dragged from the “Makes” cardboard box, Yvette Fielding.
If you have taken my advice in watching GRIM TALES accompanied by copious amounts of alcohol, then by the time you watch this featurette you’ll be mildly inebriated and enough so to thoroughly enjoy the ensuing revelry. Don’t get me wrong the whole wandering around BBC TV Centre is entertaining but it has nothing to do with THE VISITATION, in fact it is so ‘story non-specific’ that it could be included on any DVD, and as such you have to think “why?” commission it in the first instance. On a positive side, the CGI linking elements of “Dalek Invasion of TV Centre” is impressive.
Following an essay in how both merchandise and printed novels had supported the longevity of the series especially in its darkest hour (i.e. hiatus and cancellation), the third instalment of DOCTOR FOREVER, subtitled THE APOCALYPSE ELEMENT, examines the role that audiobooks & audio-plays have played in maintaining am importance presence.
For devotees of DOCTOR WHO audio product, this documentary effectively demonstrates that the format was key in revitalising the brand utilising key industry ‘creatives’ (particularly Gary Russell as he pickpocketed finances from BIG FINISH’s Jason Haigh-Ellery) and the enthusiasm of fan-fiction authors & of the original CLASSIC SERIES cast.
With an expertly edited COMING SOON trailer for DOCTOR WHO – INFERNO, disc two is, sadly, underwhelming.
With disc one being identical to the 2004 release, this “Special Edition” is disappointing. My Granddad used to say, “If you have else new to say, keep your mouth closed”, and that, perhaps, should have been the directive with DOCTOR WHO – THE VISITATION “Special Edition”.
I truly do have a fondness and appreciation of this four-parter - on that I could re-watch every month for a year - but I have been 'short-changed' (its RRP is £20.42). A memorable story (thankfully, re-mastered), a superb cast, solid production values that deserved better than disc two demonstrates.
Commentary by Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Matthew Waterhouse and Peter Moffatt
WHO. Peter Moffatt looks back at his time on DOCTOR WHO,
in particular THE VISITATION.
A FINAL VISITATION. Eric Saward discusses his first script for the Series.
THE VISTATION. A detailed analysis of the incidental music by Paddy
TRIMS. A behind the scenes glimpse of the material that never reached
the TV screen.
ONLY OPTION. An isolated incidental score.
SUBTITLES + PHOTO GALLERY + EASTER
COMMENT (2004) Spoliers
a long time ago, dear boy”, as the Director reminds us during the
opening scenes commentary. It was but it doesn’t show.
beauty of THE VISITATION is that quality never dates, more so
as it’s historically set. A slight irony.
production is extracted from the nine million average Season 19, alongside KINDA, EARTHSHOCK and BLACK
ORCHID, and like the Great Reaper casts deep and depressing shadows
over the ham-fisted McCoy stories (please, don’t shout GHOST LIGHT or THE
CURSE OF FENRIC). The cold collation of talent satisfies the most delicate
of palate: Eric Saward’s crafted twisting plotline, Peter Moffatt’s
persuasiveness direction and enthusiasm for the series, Ken Starkey’s unchallenging
realistic sets, and swan-like acting from the regulars.
either like or loathe THE VISITATION. Whether it is regarded
as an engaging narrative or a degenerate aberration, no one can deny that for
the general music-store browsers could be the one that could introduce DOCTOR
WHO to another audience. Additionally, the DVD extras are, remarkably,
the most rounded issued to date.
extras draw together the views of the production team and cast.
studio cast/crew commentary is a hoot. A real hoot. As ‘Head Prefect’,
Davison marshals his colleagues like a Wimbledon Centre Court tennis referee.
Janet Fielding sobs, as she regrets the time when she had “a rat nailed
to my head”, whilst Matthew Waterhouse ticks-off the number of times
he “routs” around with his hands in his pockets.
Peter Moffatt discusses his work on the production (and others stories) so enthusiastically
and humbly that it would be admirable to offer him (in the twilight of his directing
career) a job on the New Series. This Director is only one of a few who realised
that “lighting is very important. It can make or mar a scene.” Referring
to Paddy Kingsland music, Moffatt comments that he didn’t like the ‘turgid’ noise.
comments relating to other DOCTOR WHO stories he directed, it
proves how committed he was. “I learnt a lot from DOCTOR
OF DECAY: John Nathan-Turner offered Moffatt the story it was sold as
a ‘gothic story’ but when it changed to ‘space and people coming
out of eggs’ Moffatt sent it back. It eventually came back as the story
DILEMMA: How John Nathan-Turner, Colin Baker and he moulded the sixth
Doctor’s persona into an “a know-all Doctor”.
TWO DOCTORS: How frustrating Script Editor, Eric Saward became as Patrick
Troughton continually ad-libbed parts of the script.
and Script Editor, Eric Saward admits that the story (originally written for
the Fourth Doctor with Adric and Nyssa) stands the test if time and “was
workman-like and unsophisticated to what came later”. Revealing that
he unapologetically used a cheap movie technique for the beginning of episode
1. Known as “a grab”, it offers the viewer a false sense
of security by introducing a set of ‘warming’ characters and then
kills them off.
music guru, Paddy Kingsland (talking to Radiophonic Workshop archivist, Mark
Ayres) is, like Saward’s script, ‘workman-like’ yet the interview
flags. This is for the hardcore fans only.
any behind-the-scenes material is eagerly viewed like a kid in a candy store
(or a CCTV camera operator in a public toilet), even if it was only Michael Robbins
encamped in a tree or Nyssa & Adric dancing on a sack. I kid you not.
release the second from the 19th. Season, and I can safely say that this will
be first Season to be wholly released on DVD. Yes, even TIME-FLIGHT.
the only question remains is the question mark; what was the
BBC photomontage illustrator thinking?