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ATTACK OF THE ANTI-MATTER CLONES!
Doctor Who - Planet Of Evil (DVD)
Member Name: Mauri
Doctor Who - Planet Of Evil (DVD)
Advantages: Good Story, clever designs and good acting.
Disadvantages: Weak special effects
Doctor Who and the Planet of Evil was a story from what many considered the first golden Age of the Doctor the mid 70's. Indeed this season of the show produced some of the best stories including the Pyramids of mars which followed this story in the schedule. Alongside the doctor we have one of the best loved and fondly remembered assistants Sarah Jane Smith the feisty journalist played by the sadly missed Elizabeth Sladen who just recently passed away. A previous assistant that I also grew to like Harry Sullivan had just left the series in the previous story so Sarah Jane and the Doctor are once again on their own for this adventure.
STAND BY FOR EMERGENCY MATERIALIZATION!
The Doctor and Sarah Jane pick up a distress call from the planet Zeta Minor, there they find that a Morestran geological expedition has been almost wiped out by an unseen killer and only their leader, Professor Sorenson is still alive alive.
At the same time a Morestran military rescue party has also arrived on the planet to investigate and suspect the Doctor and Sarah Jane to be behind the deaths of the expedition members, but soon realise that there are other deadly forces at work on the planet.
Many Science fiction fans will recognise elements of this story have been borrowed from other classic science fiction, including Forbidden Planet and Jekyll and Hyde. The story penned by Louis Marks is a clever one and one of the most interesting of this season. Marks was a experienced writer having previously written some of the Doomwatch series and two doctor who stories Planet of Giants (1964) and one of my early favourites the classic Day of the Daleks (1972). After this story he also went on to write probably one of the best and most unusual of the later Tom Baker Doctor stories 'The Masque of Mandragora'. The basic idea behind the plot was to re tell the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale of competing light and dark sides of one person's personality and transpose it to a science fiction setting, the Jekyll and Hyde character in this story is not really a person but a planet. The inspiration drawn from the 'Forbidden Planet' is more a question of style. In this story as in the 1950's classic the 'monster' is an unseen foe that is only notice through the consequences of its destructive behaviour. In the original film the monster is only seen towards the end as a line animation when it is being repelled by a force field, in the same way the monster is initially seen in the Planet of evil as a red glowing outline around a semi-human form, although we do eventually see a more corporeal version along with unconvincing make up toward the end. There is also a great similarity between the Morestran uniforms and those of the military in the forbidden planet.
LAUNCH THE OCCULOID TRACKER!
The usual disused quarry in Surrey used on many occasions for the surface of an alien planet is discarded in favour of a very elaborate and colourful studio mock up of a tropical planet; the plants do look plastic though. The special effects are shall we say of the budget kind but on only £700 for the jungle setting they have done an extraordinary job. The Morestran spaceship look suspiciously like one of those hand held vacuum cleaners from the 70's, and the costumes also look a little suspect as do the hairstyles that despite being from the year 31,000 look surprisingly 1975, oh well they say fashions come around again and again. Still we can forgive all this in return for a good plot and the verbal sparring between the Doctor and Sarah Jane, which we get lots of in this story.
There are some interesting highlights in this story. There is an almost psychedelic sequence where the doctor is falling in the rift between the known and the alternative universe which is delight and makes me wonder about the drug habits of the programme makers. There are also some other nice touches such as the floating Morestran surveillance devices that they use to follow the Doctor and Sarah Jane through the jungles which look like flying mechanical eyes and reminded me of the Martian eye stalks in the 1950's classic version of 'War of the Worlds'. The recreation of alien world designed by Roger Murray's-Leach despite being a little unconvincing is also quite imaginative and colourful and adds to the oppressive atmosphere key for the story to work. The supporting cast approach this story with verve and while all the performances are enthusiastic Frederick Jaeger as the unfortunate Prof. Sorenson, Ewen Solon who had been a distinguished actor in the 1950's as second officer Vishinsky and Prentis Hancock as the leader of the military rescue mission Salamar stand out from the rest. All in all this is an inventive and enjoyable story from the shows most successful period.
DVD BONUS MATERIAL
As usual the BBC DVD's in the Doctor Who series are packed with bonus material.
A DARKER SIDE- This is a half hour documentary talking about the themes behind the story. It features interviews with producer Philip Hinchcliffe, writer Louis Marks, Roger Murray-Leach Elizabeth Sladen and also a very rare chat with Tom Baker. They are basically talking about how the idea of the Jekyll and Hyde planet idea came to fruition after a lot of debate between the various parties involved. Some time is also spent outlining how the design of the sets came about and the differences between filming in the studio on videotape as opposed to a movie set on film. This is an interesting insight into the programme making process.
PLANETARY PERFORMANCE- This is a short documentary mostly reminiscences from some of the actors involved in the story on how it was acting in the show.
STUDIO SCENE- Exert from the filming of one of the jungle scenes featuring the Doctor and Sarah Jane, you can hear the director giving them guidance on how to play the scene.
CONTINUITIES- Short TV trailers announcing the following weeks Doctor Who episodes as broadcast at the time in 1975.
AUDIO OPTIONS - This has commentary with Tom Baker, Elizabeth Sladen and Philip Hinchcliffe. It is the usual mixture of background info reminiscences and anecdotes, quite worth listening to fro Tom baker's witticisms.
INFO TEXT ON/OFF
PHOTO GALLERY- Some nice pics and stills from in front and behind the camera.
COMING SOON- An advert for 'Doctor Who and the Destiny of the Daleks' DVD.
RADIO TIMES LISTING- Feature to play on PC giving you the TV listings for the broadcast day of the show.
Overall although not a classic in this very good season of the show it is still a thoughtful, imaginative and well made addition to any fans DVD collection.
'Doctor Who - Planet of Evil' is available from Amazon.co.uk for £5.49(including p&p) at the time of writing this review.
Summary: A Planetary Jekyll and Hyde tale from the highpoint of the Tom Baker years.
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