This month has several great Doctor Who releases, so let’s buckle in and get with the program.
The Classic Series DVD this month is a Special Edition of 1971’s The Claws of Axos, which was originally released in 2005 as a fairly vanilla release. Now it’s been re-released in a snazzy two-disc set which includes a whole bunch of new extras and a really fantastic, cleaned-up video and audio presentation which is especially evident in episodes 2 and 3, which were pretty poor before.
“The Claws of Axos” is the middle story of Season 8, aka “The Year of the Master.” Famously (and infamously), the Master is the villain in all five stories that year, which began to wear thin. If he’d taken even one off, it would have made a huge difference. At any rate, an alien something-or-other crash lands near a nuclear power plant and UNIT and the Doctor are called into investigate. Unfortunately, this also happens to be during a visit from an irritating and unhelpful government paper-pusher. The aliens on board reveal themselves to be Axons and offer Earth the gift of Axonite, a mineral that can basically fix anything. Unfortunately, this is all part of a much more nefarious plot involving the Master attempting to capitalize on the greed of mankind.
There’s a fair amount of UNIT action, since this was directed by Michael Ferguson, who had also directed the action-heavy “Ambassadors of Death” the season before. The design of the Axons is a bit “naff,” as the Brits say, looking either like a gold-plated Greek statue in their humanoid form or a big pile of red garbage in their alien form. However, the look of Axos itself is really weird and kind of mod-cool. The video effects used when the Axons attempt to mess with peoples’ minds is nothing short of hallucinatory. The story itself is only moderately good and is somewhat let down by creatures, but it’s only a four-parter and it’s Pertwee, the Brigadier, UNIT, and the Master, so it’s gonna be pretty great in my book. One real downside is just how useless companion Jo Grant is in this story. She does nothing but scream. Ah, Jo.
The extras here are pretty standard but quite good. There’s the usual making-of, which I always find enjoyable, a 73-minute chunk of unedited studio recording from when they taped the show in 1971, a locations featurette, and a half-hour of deleted and extended scenes. From the old DVD we get the audio commentary with actors Katy Manning (Jo) and Richard Franklin (Capt. Mike Yates) and producer Barry Letts, who passed away in 2009, and also a short interview with director Michael Ferguson about directing “Claws.”
The main new special feature here is a 35-minute doc called “Living with Levene,” where comedian and Doctor Who historian Toby Hadoke spends the weekend in Salisbury with John Levene, who played Sergeant Benton during the UNIT years. Levene has been a staple of the con circuit for many years and is… an interesting guy. He’s always super friendly, but will talk anyone’s ear off if they let him. He also has a very high opinion of himself with regard to being on Doctor Who. Hadoke knows all this going in, and tries to see beyond Levene’s public face to, possibly, the man underneath. Whether he succeeds is up for debate, as it really just seems that ol’ Johnny is just pleased as punch to be anywhere with people he can talk to. This was enjoyable, but a tad awkward at times.
BOTTOM LINE – It’s a Third Doctor story, so I’m gonna say buy it anyway, but it really is pretty to look at and has a decent amount of features.
If “The Claws of Axos” sounds intriguing to you and you’re in the LA area Saturday, November 24th at 2pm, come to the NerdMelt Showroom in Meltdown Comics for our Pertwee installment of the Doctor Who screening series. It’s all free, just RSVP HERE.
Also this month we have the DVD and Blu-ray release of Doctor Who:Series 7, Part One featuring the five episodes that comprised Who-tember. There’s a lot of stuff on here for a supposedly “vanilla” release, including “The Science of the Doctor” and “Doctor Who at Comic-Con” BBC America specials, all of “Pond Life,” the prequel to “Asylum of the Daleks,” and “The Making of the Gunslinger.” My guess is BBC Home Entertainment realizes that the complete Series 7 box set won’t be coming out until Fall 2013, so they want to give us as much as possible.
BOTTOM LINE – Usually I say wait until the big set comes out, but that’s gonna be like a year, so if you want to watch the episodes, it might be worth the dimes.
And finally, hitting shelves and online retailers on November 20th is the big, honking Doctor Who: Limited Edition Gift Set. If you’ve never purchased any of the New Who sets and want to get it all out of the way at once, this is the set for you. It features every DVD set from Series 1 to Series 6, including the gap year Specials set, in a larger box. It also includes a brand new disc of bonus features with specials never on DVD before (the rest of the BBC America specials, I’d imagine), an Eleventh Doctor sonic screwdriver, 3 original art cards, and a comic book.
BOTTOM LINE – I need to reiterate: this is just the seven box sets you could buy separately, all put together with a couple of knickknacks thrown in. BUT, as I say, if you have none of them and want to let Santa off the hook with one click of a mouse, this is a good way to do it.
December will have no Doctor Who DVD releases (sad face), but when we get beyond the holidays, January will see the release of the famously unfinished Tom Baker story, “Shada,” written by Douglas Adams, along with a documentary on the making and subsequent abandonment of the serial, plus the 1990s TV documentary, “More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS,” which also promises to have a pant-load of other special features. Can’t wait, see you then!