Doctor Who: The Reign of Terror
Directors - Henric Hirsch, John Gorrie
Cast - William Hartnell, Jacqueline Hill, Carole Ann Ford
Country of Origin - U.K.
Discs - 1
Distributor - BBC Worldwide
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
Date - 02/20/13
BUY FROM AMAZON HERE! I am serious this time. I know you don't normally click these, but hopefully by now you've read the review. So you probably read the bit about Tenth Planet Episode 4 is being animated, I would also like to see the Ice Warriors. However, I'll admit to being a greedy fan, I'd prefer the whole lot to be animated, so the more you and I buy now the more get animated later. Get it? OK, then click and buy, click and buy.
The Serial (3.5/5)
The Reign of Terror finds the Doctor once again trying to get Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright back to London, England in 1963 (aka home). Of course, he fails in his objective by a body of water, and about 100 years as Barbara, Ian, Susan, and The Doctor find themselves in the midst of the French Revolution. They emerge from the TARDIS to do some exploring, but soon find themselves in the middle of the conflict. They must find a way to escape, and get back to the TARDIS before they can be imprisoned and executed.
OK, I am going to just cut to the chase here. If you are a fan of classic Doctor Who, in any capacity, as a public service to yourself, and to other fans such as yourself.
BUY THE REIGN OF TERROR DVD AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!
Sorry about the minor digression, and please allow me to explain myself. This is common knowledge among Who fans, but during the early 70's the BBC began to purge their vaults and wipe tapes of pre-existing content so they wouldn't have to pay to store them. A lot of shows that were recorded prior to the early 70's were lost during this period, including well over 100 episodes of Doctor Who. A majority of these episodes were from the first and second Doctor's eras.
Over the years some episodes have been recovered, but slightly over 100 have not been found. The one silver lining to this cloud is that audio exist to every lost episode. This has resulted in many fan created recreations using telesnaps, photos, and whatever preexisting footage can be cobbled together to create a working approximation of what once was. However, starting a few years back with the Patrick Troughton serial The Invasion the BBC began to experiment with animation as a way to fill in gaps in serial that only had a few missing episodes.
It has been a few years since the Invasion, and the BBC have decided to take another stab at animation. This time they are testing the waters with a first season Hartnell historical The Reign of Terror. You may ask why the Reign of Terror, when there are other episodes like the Tenth Planet, and Ice Warriors which also need animation. The commonly held belief in fandom is that The Reign of Terror is the episode which require the least amount of animation, that is NOT expected to sell as well as the aforementioned titles. The Tenth Planet will sell, because it contains the first ever Regeneration, the Ice Warriors contains some of the most popular monsters in Who history, and is a popular serial in it's own right. So in a way Reign of Terror is being used a Rorschach Test for how other animations will sell.
Now, as for the serial itself. It is quite good for what it is. It is not quite as good as the best of the Hartnell historical serials (my opinion, the Aztecs), but it a fun romp through the French Revolution that does take itself too seriously. The performances from the primary cast, are across the board excellent. Although, I did find it suffered from a bit of a six episode drag due to the multiple escapes, and captures I did find myself compelled by the serial as a whole.
BBC Worldwide have presented Doctor Who: The Reign of Terror in a quite respectable 1:33:1 black and white transfer preserving the original aspect ratio. The transfer when taken episodically is decent. The first few episodes of the set are in the roughest shape, a lot of grain and video noise appear to be present, a lot of this appears to be have been cleared up by episodes 3 and 6. These last 2 episodes (which are the ones that contain real footage) have very good contrast, and much better fine detail than the earlier pair. Of course, the A/V highlight of the set are the animated episodes, as they are brand new. These episodes are very sharp, and look absolutely fantastic.
The audio on the episodes is similar a mixed bag. BBC Worldwide have presented us with a nice solid Dolby Digital Mono track in English. The episodes which feature actual footage sound just fine, with dialogue, music, and effects all coming through nice and clearly. However, the weak point of the audio experience is the animated episodes. This can be explained by the fact that the soundtrack provided to the BBC consist of multiple on-air recordings provided by fans who recorded the show on to tapes prior to video technology existing in order to have their own version of the show. Because of the amateur recording quality of this material, the BBC have done their best to restore it to the best sound quality possible, and while it certainly does the trick, when placed against the surrounding audio tracks, a difference is certainly noticeable.
BBC Worldwide have put together a nice slate of extras together for their release of Doctor Who - The Reign of Terror. The disc kicks off with a cast and crew commentary featuring Carole Ann Ford, Neville Smith, Caroline Hunt, Jeffrey Wickham, Patrick Marley, Philip Morris, Tim Combe, Ronald Pickup, and Paul Vanezis. This is followed up with a 25 minute featurette called Don't Lose Your Head: The Making of the Reign of Terror that goes into detail about the making of the serial, and is quite an interesting watch. Robospierre's Domain Set Tour is basically clips of the backgrounds used in the animated episodes. The disc is rounded off with a photo gallery, animation gallery, a trailer for the Ark in Space special edition, an information Text track, and PDF options.
Not the greatest of the Hartnell historicals, the Reign of Terror is nonetheless quite a fun little serial. The A/V restoration is decent, however, the reason to pick up this DVD is to see an incomplete serial, completed with animation. Which has been done quite well, and I hope we get to see more of this in the future (as of this writing Tenth Planet episode 4 has been announced for January 2014!). There are quite a few decent extras on this release, and the whole package, of course comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.