Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon
Directors - Paddy Russell
Cast - Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen, Richard Franklin, Nicholas Courtney
Country of Origin - U.K.
MSRP - $29.95
Distributor - BBC Home Video
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Serial (5/5)
When the Classic Doctor Who Video range ended the Jon Pertwee vehicle Invasion of the Dinosaurs had the distinction of being the final entry in that range. Due to that, and a number of other factors such as the special effects of the serial Invasion of the Dinosaurs has an undeserved reputation as one of the worst of all classic Doctor Who serials. Prior to it's arrival on DVD, I had never seen it all the way through, just a few clips here and there. And although the dinosaur effects were not what one would calls high-quality effects, the material on display appeared to be at the very least entertaining.
I am happy to report, that Invasion of the Dinosaurs is not just a good and simply entertaining Doctor Who serial, but a simply fantastic Doctor Who serial with a fantastic premise, excellent writing, and even the effects cheesy as they may be contribute to the good time on display here.
Invasion of the Dinosaurs features the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane reappearing in Central London shortly after the events of the Time Warrior, however, the London they appear into is completely unlike the one they left behind. The streets are largely abandoned save for a handful of street gangs who are looting the area shops, and UNIT soldiers. As it turns out dinosaurs have been reappearing in Central London, straight out of the past, and into the present. These dinosaurs are not permanent fixtures as they appear to wreak havoc on the city, and then disappears in a flash. This leaves the Doctor, Sarah Jane, and the rest of the UNIT family to find out who is causing the dinosaur invasion, and to stop it (and them) before it can cause more widespread damage.
Invasion of the Dinosaurs completely took me by surprise. However, I would like to believe even without my lowered expectations the serial would have been just as good. The story by frequent Who contributor Malcolm Hulke is absolutely wonderful science fiction, mixing a fantastic post-apocalyptic in Central London atmosphere that would later be perfected in films like 28 Days Later, to the deep rooted conspiracy subplot that runs through the whole thing, and finally GIANT FREAKING MONSTERS! I don't care if they do not look entirely up to snuff, put a huge dinosaur attacking a major metropolitan area on screen, and you've already got some points with me (full disclosure I actually enjoyed Gorgo which had giant monsters Vs. London a decade prior to this).
Invasion of the Dinosaurs also has the distinction of being the 2nd serial featuring favorite Who Companion Sarah Jane Smith played by the recently deceased Elizabeth Sladen. Early on in her run as the Doctor's companion she was playing Sarah Jane as a feisty journalist, and that character is never better than what we see here. For having only played the character a short while prior to this, she feels completely comfortable as this character, and has already begun to flesh out the Doctor's companion stereotype into the one we have come to remember all these years later.
Aside from that the cast is uniformly excellent with Jon Pertwee putting in a late-era performance that is among his very best. A special mention should go out to Richard Franklin who played Capt. Mike Yates during the Pertwee years, there wasn't a lot of drama going on within the main Doctor Who cast during the Pertwee era with the notable exception being the departure of Jo Grant (Katy Manning) in the Green Death, so Mike's betrayel of the "UNIT Family" in this episode is a considerable shock to regular viewers, and Franklin plays it very well with a strikingly nuanced performance that shows a man conflicted between his loyalty to his friends and co-workers, and to the belief he now carries with him.
It should also be said that director Paddy Russell keeps things flowing at quite an excellent pace. Invasion of the Dinosaurs as I previously mentioned is a 6 part serial, a notorious entity among Who fans for a story that just goes on too long. And while a few Pertwee 6 parters have stretched their stories to their absolute limits, I am happy to report that this is not one of them. Between the excellent script by Malcolm Hulke, and the direction of Paddy Russell, it does feel like a single episode is wasted telling this story. Invasion of the Dinosaurs has a reputation for being one of the lesser Doctor Who Serials from the classic era, I would like to see that rectified, and the serial reevaluated, because it is surely one of the best of the Jon Pertwee era.
If you are a hardcore Doctor Who fan (Whovian if you must), then you know of the Doctor Who Restoration Team. This team has been responsible for restoring the Classic Doctor Who serials to the best looking, most complete versions possible, and providing great extra features to each Doctor Who DVD release. This team always does the best job possible, however, with Invasion of the Dinosaurs they have truly gone all out.
Invasion of the Dinosaurs Episode 1 was one of the episodes of Doctor Who the BBC decided to junk when they were clearing space in the early 1970's. For years the only way to view this episode was from a 16mm Black and White version, however, for this release the Restoration Team went back to the Black and White 16mm film, and extracted the color from the frames in a painstakingly epic process that has restored the color to this episode.
It is not really comparable to the Legends Film restoration done in the Dalek War boxset from a few years back, and as such has been relegated to this special edition as a special feature. However, as a firm believer in viewing a film (or in this case a TV show) in the closest manner to it's original intended appearance I chose the color restoration for my primary viewing.
The color in episode 1 looks really great, none of the major issues such as bleeding that appeared in early black and white colorizationís. The black and white version, and the rest of the serial fare much better, and are much closer to the standards set by the team on their prior Doctor Who releases. The episodes themselves are presented in a 1:33:1 full frame transfer preserving their original broadcast aspect ratios. The colors are excellent, and black levels are strong. The level of detail present is similarly good.
The audio is presented in the original English Mono Track. It's really nothing fancy, but it serves the serial well. There are no audio defects that I could pick up on the track like pops, hissing or distortion. The dialogue, music, and effects are mixed well together and optional English subtitles are included.
BBC/2 Entertain have put together a nice slate of extras for Invasion of the Dinosaurs the disc kicks off with a commentary. The first 3 episodes feature director Paddy Russell accompanied by Doctor Who theme comedian Toby Hadoke. The 2nd 3 episodes are a mixed cast and crew commentary featuring Richard Franklin (Mike Yates), with actors Peter Miles and Terence Wilton. Also featured are script editor Terrance Dicks and set designer Richard Morris. There is also a 10 Minute scene excerpt commentary with John Levene (Sgt. Benton).
The 2nd disc of the set features the majority of the special features, and it kicks off with a 30 minute documentary People, Power, and Puppetry which is a typical behind the scenes featurette which overlaps slightly with the commentary, but still manages to be an interesting watch. We then have Elizabeth Sladen Part 1: 1 14 minute interview with the late Miss Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith during the Late Pertwee/Early Tom Baker years, and a few spinoffs (The failed K-9 and Company, the successful Sarah Jane Adventures). We also have a Now and Then featurette which shows the locations for Invasion of the Dinosaurs, well, now and then. It's the least interesting of these extras, as it always is, but it's there if you're interested. Finally, we have 4 minutes of deleted scenes, and a minute long appearance with Jon Pertwee and the Whomobile on BIlly Smart's Circus. There are also some .PDF extras including storyboard comparisons, scripts, Radio Times listings, etc.
A real masterpiece of 70's Doctor Who, Invasion of the Dinosaurs has for far too long lived with a reputation that belittles it's sheer awesomeness. The A/V quality is excellent, and having Episode 1 re-colored is a nice addition. The extras are interesting, and informative. Doctor Who Invasion of the Dinosaurs Special Edition comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.