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Doctor Who: Planet Of The Spiders
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Planet of The Spiders is particularly significant for me as it is the earliest memory I have of a watching a classic series Doctor Who story on its original transmission and as a child I remember back then being deeply disturbed by the concept of Sarah plus the Doctor and local elder Sabor confined in webbing cocoons in the spiders larder ready for the next meal time. Yes indeed it is best known for the extensive chase sequence which considerably pads out the overall length but I think this was a good celebration of the action man nature of the third Doctor era. I like the perplexed nature of the Police Constable whom failing to keep up with the Whomobile and a toy helicopter and the yellow Bessie car attempts to explain the bizarre sequence of events to his superior on the car radio. I think there is worthy praise due for Elizabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane particularly when possessed in the last episode and John Kane whom turns in a convincing performance as the first retarded and then adept and competent crusading good guy Tommy. I was satisfied with John Dearth as the unscrupulous power hungry Lupton whilst I also welcome the guest appearance of a moustached Gareth Hunt as Metabelis villager Arak when the story later moves off planet Earth. There is some worthy interplay early on between the Pertwee Doctor and the Brigadier both before and after attending the theatre show and there is I think true sadness for what befalls the genuine mystic Professor Clegg when he examines the great crystal. Although primarily buying it for its original two and a half hour original transmission I can see the appeal of a shortened additional version to be also included in this new DVD title as a second disc extra. I think there is a lot of ground to cover in a making of the story item and hearing that THE FINAL CURTAIN weighs in at 38 mins I believe they will have done satisfactory justice to what a pivotal moment in the classic series Planet of The Spiders is. I think it is fantastic that there is a separate approx 13 min extra where actor John Kane remembers working on the story however I am more delighted to see a 7 min NOW AND THEN item concentrating on the locations used as this is a regular feature that I always look forward to. Although not one of the greatest Pertwee tales there is much to enjoy and with such a outstanding amount of extras on offer this certainly makes for an essential title acquisition of a pivotally important moment in the classic series. In my opinion it is definitely worth nabbing a copy.
Zodiac: The Complete Series (2 Discs)
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For me the strongest appeal of Zodiac is that it has two excellent well defined lead characters portrayed marvellously by Anton Rodgers and Anouska Hempel. Their contrasting outlooks on life and their playfully antagonistic relationship together is undoubtedly the series greatest strengths and spending time in their company is I think certainly a pleasing experience. This is another series that offers us a wealth of well known guest stars liberally sprinkled throughout the six episodes whom largely rise well to their respective character roles. For me the best example of this has got to be Trevor Baxter whom appears in the second story as a rather disdainful uppercrust butler. It is a marvellous scene stealing performance for Baxter as the plumy Neville clearly cast in the same mould as classic Doctor Who Talons of Weng Chiang story pathologist Professor Litefoot. I would also praise actor Robert Powell who brings a commendably convincing air of unnerving menace to fifth story villain Brian Godfrey. Although this is an entirely studio bound series I think there is effective use of lighting sound effects and set design to negate any potential sense of budgetary restrictions. This is noticeable when we spend time on Esthers rooftop patio or taking a trip down to Brighton in the fifth story which is my favourite instalment. The mysterious death of a man in a businessmans empty penthouse bath is a worthy opening offering and the initial Hitchcock Rear Window premise offered up in the fourth episode also gains praise. The latter is of course further enhanced by pleasingly dramatic performances from Peter Vaughan and Ian Ogilvy. A knowledge or fervent interest in astrology is not a prerequisite to enjoying this series. Viewed in a broader context it is a reassuringly cosy sadly forgotten seventies drama series that makes for a worthy and satisfyingly enjoyable addition to the casual DVD title collection. Highly recommended.
Wish Me Luck: The Complete Box Set (6 Discs)
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As a fan of wartime drama series like Secret Army I picked up this Network 2007 title earlier this year and having now strolled through the entire contents I must say despite the lack of extras I am extremely delighted with the entire 23 episodes of Wish Me Luck (in a 4/4/4/3/4/4 disc configuration). It has certainly been an enthralling emotional journey for a show that is superbly crafted with well-defined characters dramatic scripts effective incidental music and marvellous location filming. Each season of the show follows an established pattern of introducing two new trainee British agents of conflicting backgrounds and personalities and after initial training they find themselves in occupied French territory attempting to put what they have learnt to good use. The German aggressor for each run is primarily personified by a significant officer. For the 1st season it was the softly spoken Colonel Werner Krieger (Warren Clarke) the 2nd season the unsettlingly quiet Colonel Voller (Donald Gee) and the 3rd brought us the barking mad power crazed General Stuckler (Terence Hardiman). The first two seasons pose additional personal complications for Liz Granger with the eventual disintegration of her marriage and her blossoming romance with Kit Vanston a highly effective operative whom she knew before the war. Each season concludes with a dramatic final set piece. In the 1st it is the rescue of Matty Firman from the Germans in the 2nd it is the engineering factory raid coupled with the resolution to Viviens renewed relationship with her daughter and in the 3rd it is the mass German assault on the Le Crest resistance movement. Personally I found the 1st season incidental music a trifle overpowering however there are some beautifully effective pieces used in the 2nd and 3rd seasons which helps to greatly enhance the viewers enjoyment. Although present in the 1st it is the beautiful location filming used during the 2nd and in particular 3rd season which is especially breathtaking and helps to significantly elevate this series against other World War Two drama series. Although all the regular cast contribute marvellously to the overall believable aspect of the series I personally would single out both Michael J Jackson & Kate Buffery for special praise for their outstanding performances as Kit Vanston & Liz Grainger two stars whom convey such a resonate believable atmosphere to their characters their previous history prior to the war and their newly blossoming romance in such dangerously difficult present times. Passionate delivery of scripted lines can also be appreciated from many of the series guest stars like Trevor Peacock (Renard) Nigel Le Valliant (Laurence Grainger) Shirley Henderson (Sylvie) Caroline John (Helene) Bryan Pringle (Father Martin) Jeremy Brudenell (Jean-Louis) and Stuart McGugan (Gordon Stewart) to name but a few. If you enjoy great emotive exciting drama with engaging character interaction matched with stunning scenery and appropriately moving incidental music then I strongly recommend you nab a copy of this series. I am confident it will be the wisest investment you have ever made
Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles - 5.04 The Invasion of E-Space
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For his first return to the series since his debut 1980 television script I thought the Andrew Smith penned Invasion of E Space slotted in perfectly between State of Decay and Warriors Gate. For the most part Romana is paired with Adric which helps develop their relationship. This is most evident whilst locked in a cell together where Romana leans much of the backstory of Adrics life before stowing away in the TARDIS a worthy recap of his TV debut in Full Circle. For the most part this is a story of contrasting perspectives from our two narrators. Whilst you have Lalla Ward conveying Romana and Adric facing the Farrian guest star Suanne Braun tells of native Ballustra Marni Tellis whom during the story travels briefly in the TARDIS with the Doctor. Whilst the attack and appearance of the Farrian warriors is conveyed well I personally thought it similar to the action sequence in the Stargate feature film. Although enjoyable enough this 61 min story is for me hardly the most memorable of companion chronicles titles but I am happy to add it to my collection as an essential between stories regular character development relationship filler. 11 mins of trailer and chat fill out this disc to 72 mins.
Doctor Who: The Seeds Of Doom
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I suspect when synth pop outfit The Human League penned the instrumental B side to their early 1981 single Boys and Girls to commend the lead actor for all he had done for Doctor Who they were no doubt thinking about this extremely tense rather unsettling and excitingly engaging story. As definitely one of the archetypal Tom Baker era stories this has to be considered as one of the few remaining true classics yet to be released on DVD and it ostensibly feels like two linked stories for the price of one. You initially have two parts where it is the base under siege premise as a research station in the snowy wastes of Antarctica. We then predominately relocate for the remaining four parts to the mansion and grounds of rich and eccentric botanist Harrison Chase played with suitably memorable insane zeal by actor Tony Beckley. I would also praise future sitcom star John Challis who so memorably plays the unscrupulous henchman Scorby. Stealing the show despite only appearing in only three brief scenes Sylvia Coleridge is an absolute delight as eccentric painter Amelia Ducat whom has probably the most amusing line of the entire story. Aside from a cast offering some fine dramatically believable performances there is a marvellous filmic glossy quality to the location filming coupled with effective emotive incidental music thanks in part to the genius of director Douglas Camfield. Again another fine enticingly fascinating commentary team is on offer whilst looking through the range of special features on the second disc aside from the obvious making of item (here it is titled Podshock and weighs in at 37 mins) I am pleased that we have an approx 9 min Now and Then feature looking at the stories locations. This title certainly provides a perfect opportunity to talk with composer Geoffrey Burgon over the 10 mins of the Playing In The Green Cathedral item regarding his career in Doctor Who and no doubt this story in particular. I am surprised that the Photo Gallery is barely 5 mins in length but considering the wealth of images we have had this year for other titles I am not overly disappointed. There is no doubt in my mind that by combining the polished prints of the episodes sitting along such a pleasingly informative and enjoyable range of extras that this is a fantastic fully comprehensive painstakingly assembled DVD release that makes it an essential addition to your collection. Highly recommended.
Doctor Who 135. Legend of the Cybermen
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As the concluding title in the Colin Baker-Frazer Hines trilogy of stories I found LEGEND OF THE CYBERMEN breathtakingly epic in its scope and conveyed in a satisfyingly dramatic engaging narrative that effectively tied up all the plot incongruities offered up in the preceding two instalments. As one of the most bizarre and atypical stories of the Troughton era I was delighted and fascinated to hear how the Land of Fiction from the TV story THE MIND ROBBER was used as the setting for this new audio title with all manner of literary characters new to this story and the entire trilogy cropping up. Totally faultless sound design impeccably recreates both the creepy locale atmosphere the stalking white robots and the appearance sound of comic strip character The Karkus which led me to gain the impression that there is certainly a strong tribute to TV storywriter Peter Ling. I also liked Zoe referring back to the only home she had ever know and events after Jamie and the Doctor had left her there as featured in the TV story THE WHEEL IN SPACE which indicates the type of vocals you have on this title for the Cybermen and the Cyber Planner. As usual these are in terms of content very heavy weight discs with the first weighing in at almost 75 mins whilst the second runs to 78.5 mins. Aside from the first two episodes disc one fields 9 mins of suitably stirring emotive incidental music and an approx 2 min next release trailer. Turning to disc two and the bonus interviews track of 9 mins conveys the deep friendships between messrs Baker Hines and Padbury whilst director Nicolas Briggs exudes his appreciation for the trilogy despite the complex nature of interlinking these three scripts plus a fourth for the Companion Chronicles. In my opinion LEGEND OF THE CYBERMEN concludes a fantastic trilogy of stories in a truly stunning immensely enjoyable way with a script that blends action and suspense with a healthy amount of effective 60s nostalgia. Highly recommended
Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles - 4.12 Solitaire
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Personally I have always thought of Charlie Pollard as being one of the better audio regulars so I was surprised and delighted when I heard she had gained an entry in the Companion Chronicles series. However SOLITARE is certainly not your traditional offering. Essentially it is a two handed full cast play with no narrative conveyed in real time. Joining India Fisher we have David Baile whom I think renders a worthy distinctly measured self assured vocal delivery as the Celestial Toymaker. If like me you enjoyed the previous two actor SCHERZO December 2003 title then the challenging SOLITARE will certainly feel like relatively familiar ground. This is typified by its puzzling nature and the fact that the toyshop is reducing in size as Charlie plays THE GAME. Early on there is a nice brief nod back to previous Eighth Doctor audio characters and adversaries during a basic rhyming wordplay between the two characters. By portraying the Time Lord as a dummy this allows India to neatly sidestep attempting a vocal interpretation of Paul McGann. Featuring a relaxed and pleasing 13 min CD EXTRAS chat which hints at a possible spin off audio series this 77min SOLITARE title is a pleasing addition to the Companion Chronicles range. Both a worthy addition to the Celestial Toymaker and a satisfying bonus to the continuing adventures of Edwardian adventuress Charlotte Pollard I think fans of this character will not be disappointed with this release.
Doctor Who: Time And The Rani
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General perceived wisdom is that the Seventh Doctor debut tale TIME AND THE RANI is much derided but please do not dismiss it out of hand. There are worthy aspects to this four part story which I believe are worthy of praise. I love the spinning globe traps on Lakerta which I think are technically well realised especially in the first episode cliffhanger. If you take it for the joke that it is the sight of Kate OMara impersonating Mel so as to convince the recently regenerated Doctor then I feel it is a lot of fun. I like the costume change scene in the TARDIS where McCoy goes through a variety of former Doctor apparel and in so doing infuriates the Mel impersonating Rani. When we are talking costumes I would also like to praise the Lakertyans and the shiny fabric straight out of Dynasty outfit that Kate OMara wears. The basic plot premise seems satisfyingly engaging if rather scientifically bewildering and I like the occasional incidental music pieces throughout the story. Yes it is unpardonable the way that the sixth Doctor exits in the pre-credits scene and it is difficult to truly envisage the real danger that the multi-eyed bat wing Tetraps pose but generally I do not think TIME AND THE RANI is quite as bad as its reputation would lead you to believe. Admittedly it will never win any favourite story polls but in my opinion there are far worse classic series adventures that would rank below it. For its arrival on DVD I am delighted to hear that for the first time with this title one of the contributors on the commentary will be Bonnie Langford. Other extras of note that you will find on this disc include a 29 min THE LAST CHANCE SALOON making of item plus 11 min 7D FX titles sequence item plus pleasingly weighty 8 min photo gallery. For me TIME AND THE RANI is definitely my second favourite classic series DVD title of 2010 and one that I am very keen to add to my collection.
Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles - 4.11 Night's Black Agents
With four scripts but only three slots in the main monthly range of the rather bewildering but I think pleasing Jamie and the Sixth Doctor pairing we take a side step into the Companion Chronicles for another crossover title. I feel we begin at a fairly frantic pace with our duo escaping from the water horse Kelpie inhabiting the Scottish moors. They are rescued by Reverend Merodach whom by gaining descriptions like mouldy time worn gargoyle and features like a half chewed apple core are pretty obvious clues as to where the writer intends to proceed with the character. Anyway back at Ravenswood Castle over an evening meal I liked the reference back to CITY OF SPIRES foe Red Cap made by our duos host. Ostensibly NIGHTS BLACK AGENTS is about Merodach attempting to persuade Jamie to betray the Doctor to gain entry to the TARDIS. There is a very lengthy questioning of the morality of Jamies previous actions which slows down the pace of this audio story quite considerably. When you consider that out of a total 70mins there are almost 12 mins used up by chat an next release preview extras the use of introspective but worthy self analysis exposes the weakness of the overall premise. To its credit the story is well routed in the Scottish heritage historical setting and Frazer Hines take on the Sixth Doctor conveying him in clipped crisp and clear English is acceptably different but not a patch on his decidedly spooky Troughton. In summary NIGHTS BLACK AGENTS is I believe perfectly fine for a first draft but could do with more action and less moralising. In my opinion a fairly average title especially when compared with the preceding TIME VAMPIRE release.
Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles - 4.10 The Time Vampire
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In a story that sees our heroes investigating a tempera incursion Leela initially confronts a constantly changing face coming out of the console as featured in the cover illustration in a sequence that is a worthy precursor to the subsequent adventure. Leaving the confines of the TARDIS Leela and K9 encounter a group of tourists strolling around an ancient ancestral house. A seemingly innocent initial scene develops well with the sudden removal of the roof of the royal gallery hall and Tripods like machines appear causing chaos and death on those below. Now it is good having a knowledgeable tour guide on hand to convey historical details of the area with John Leeson doing worthy double duty as both K9 and the Dutch inflected tour guide Holland. Additionally I like the initial inclusion of orange haired woman tourist Vara which affords Louise to demonstrate her talent for rendering a believable Irish accent. The second episode takes our intrepid trio to an adjacent Znai sky city where the dramatic tension and excitement of this title strengthens greatly. Once again it is another impressively commendable performance by Louise Jameson whose measured emotively passionate vocal delivery to the scripted lines is an absolute joy. The main selling point naturally will undoubtedly be the first audio story appearance of K9 rendered by original vocalist John Leeson whom also succeeds in the ultimately chilling Holland. At 73mins in length supplemented by 5 mins of CD extras accomplished audio story writer Nigel Fairs has crafted another pleasing premise suitably embellished by worthy sound design and with two actors on such fine form this is certainly one of the strongest most satisfying Companion Chronicles titles you will find in the range. THE TIME VAMPIRE is a very enjoyable title that I unreservedly recommend you nab a copy of this impressive audio story.