“ Genre: Television - Doctor Who / Theatrical Release: 1973 / Parental Guidance / Director: Paul Bernard, David Maloney / Actors: Katy Manning, Jon Pertwee, Roger Delgado, Bernard Horsfall, Tim Preece ... / DVD released 2009-10-05 at 2 Entertain Video / Features of the DVD: Anamorphic, Box set, PAL „
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Dalek War is a box set comprising of two stories from the Jon Pertwee era that form a twelve part arc involving the Doctor's greatest foes. Featuring the Katy Manning as Jo Grant and Roger Delgado's last appearance as the Master, Dalek War offers a good look at the highs and lows of Pertwee's time in the Tardis.
The first story in the set, Frontier in Space, is quite well regarded; though perhaps more for the Target novelisation than the story itself. It sees the Doctor and Jo in the far future as Earth's space trade routes are being attacked on a regular basis. The humans believe a rival spacefaring race, The Draconians, to be responsible and the fragile relations between the two races are strained further. The Doctor and Jo soon discover that things are not quite as they seem with both sides being manipulated from the shadows.
It's quite an original plot and we visit a variety of different settings through the story. One Earth metropolis looks surprisingly like a prefab University building usually the settings are quite effective. Delgado's last appearance, for all its charm, feels very much like it was taken straight out of the Master's first year; it keeps the story moving though. Unfortunately while there are a lot of good ideas here and some great scenes, it has real trouble keeping things going for the full six episodes and ultimately drags.
Picking up directly after Frontier is Planet of the Daleks, this story has come under a lot of fire for being a rehash of all Terry Nation's old Dalek plots but I quite enjoy it. The Tardis materialises on the planet Spiridon, while an injured Doctor places himself in a healing coma, Jo leaves to Tardis looking for help. There she meets an expedition of Thals, the Dalek's old enemies, they've come to the planet to sabotage a Dalek scientific experiment. Soon the Daleks are alerted to their presence however and they are forced to accelerate their plans.
It's not perfect and really does suffer from a bit too much familiarity, again it's too long at six episodes and much of this story involves the characters travelling back and forth through the same few locations. The Daleks are well characterised while they appear, though they're not quite the brilliant tacticians we're supposed to believe they are and are generally bested quite easily. The Doctor is well written here and it's probably one of Pertwee's best performances, it's a pity that the story is rather cheap, giving little reason to rewatch. Most of the planet looks like it was harvested from old school play leftovers and the less said about the barren Dalek research lab the better.
All in all, Dalek War is a mixed bag but one that works best as package. While Frontier is the highlight, Planet does complement it a little and they make a nice run of episodes to watch if you're patient. It's a pity that the production strayed so far from the original intention of producing a twelve part Dalek epic along the lines of The Dalek's Master Plan but the stories we have aren't atrocious.
The special features on this set are absolutely fantastic, on top of the wonderful commentaries and making of features, this set includes two parts of the "Stripped For Action" documentary series. These DVD extras cover different elements of Doctor Who's history in the comics world, this set covers the absolutely wonderful Terry Nation's Daleks comics that offered such ingenuity as well as the exploits of the Third Doctor in TV comic. The Third Doctor's run in the comics is particularly fascinating, portraying the side we didn't see on the show; in these the Doctor has a little house in the country, a new car and a bit more of a well rounded life. Nice to have these old strips discussed again and probably my favourite of the "Stripped for Action" segments.
The picture quality is wonderful as usual and it was nice to see that the famous black and white episode of Planet of the Daleks has now been colourised. Using a combination of digital colouring and chroma-dot restoration the results are phenomenal and it really makes this set worth the upgrade from VHS.
As usual this is a solid recommendation for fans, the restoration and package is fabulous and it's as good as this story will ever look. For newcomers to the show, this makes a good introduction to the Third Doctor as it features a good performance from Pertwee and yet isn't confined to Earth as with most of his run, a good stepping stone into 70s Who and good fun. Planet of the Daleks will be a good story for anyone who is only familiar with more recent Dalek stories though classic series fans might feel a bit of deja vu.
This has been out a little while now and will probably cost around £15, a high recommendation.