DOCTOR WHO: The Tenth Planet (DVD)
BBC / 1966 / 79 mins / NR
Classic DOCTOR WHO often has historic and iconic moments buried in mediocre episodes. Take "The Hand of Fear" for example. It's not a bad episode at all, but it certainly isn't one of the best. However, it does feature the departure of companion Sarah Jane Smith in one of the most heartbreaking and memorable moments in the entire 50 years of the show. "The Tenth Planet" is a lot like that. The story itself is nothing we haven't seen before: aliens attempt to invade the Earth and The Doctor prevents it. It almost entirely takes place in one small location and The Doctor isn't even in one of the episodes (more on that later); it's a very mediocre episode. "The Tenth Planet" is also one of the most important and crucial stories in all of DOCTOR WHO.
The First Doctor (William Hartnell), Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills) arrive on Earth's South Pole Space Tracking station in 1986 where General Cutler (Robert Beatty) and his staff are trying to get the Zeus IV space capsule safely back to terra firma. The Doctor soon discovers that the problems with the space capsule are due to the gravitational pull of the planet Mondas, Earth's hidden twin, which has broken orbit and is heading towards our planet. As if that wasn't a big enough problem, the base is invaded by the inhabitants of Mondas, the evil Cybermen who have come to collect humans to take back to their planet to become like them... emotionless cyborgs.
William Hartnell's health had been steadily deteriorating during the fourth season of DOCTOR WHO and the decision was made to replace him with another actor, something that was unheard of at the time. In fact, his health was so poor during the filming of "The Tenth Planet" that he collapsed during its production and was hospitalized for a period of time that prevented him from appearing at all in Episode Three (his dialogue was distributed to other characters and The Doctor simply fell ill at the beginning of the episode). This change in main actor was a huge gamble for the show as they were not replacing The Doctor with a new character; but changing The Doctor with a new actor. Would television audiences accept such a drastic change?
The concept that The Doctor can regenerate his body has been one of the main factors that the series is now celebrating its 50th anniversary. Unfortunately, the episode that actually shows that moment is considered lost. It is one of the most sought after "lost" television episodes in the world, with only a few low quality bits and pieces still existing (including a truncated version of the regeneration). Episode Four has been animated to bring it back to life and complete the story on this DVD and it looks great.
In addition to the very first regeneration, "The Tenth Planet" also includes the first appearance of what would become the second most popular villains of the classic era, the Cybermen. While their look is a long way off from metallic menaces they would evolve into, these original Cybermen are creepy, eerie and very scary. So while the story itself is only okay, there is more than enough in "The Tenth Planet" to warrant recommending.
The full frame 1.33 picture looks quite good keeping in line with the current black and white restorations. Episodes 1 - 3 offer a decent grey scale and even some very good detail. The video look has also been restored to as close as modern technology can take it and it is very clean. The animated episode 4 looks flawless as one would expect.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix may not fare quite as good as the picture, but it is still excellent for a nearly 50 year old episode. The cybermen's sing-song dialogue is weird and sometimes hard to understand but it is as clear as can be. The final existing William Hartnell story (to date) finally comes to DVD and looks great.
The supplement package kicks off with a commentary track featuring Anneke Wills, Christopher Matthews, Earl Cameron, Alan White, Donald Van Der Maaten, Christopher Dunham and Peter Kindred.
"Frozen Out" is our excellent making of documentary featuring most of the surviving cast and crew of this very troubled story.
The recently discovered raw footage of an interview with William Hartnell is quite the eye-opener in terms of what the actor was really like.
"The Golden Age" answers the questions, "is there really a 'Golden Age' of DOCTOR WHO?"
"Boys! Boys! Boys!" features Peter Purves, Frazer Hines and Mark Strickson talking about being a male companion on the TARDIS.
"Companion Piece" is a more general look at being a companion to The Doctor.
"DOCTOR WHO Stories - Anneke Wills" is the latest footage from the never produced documentary "The Story of Doctor Who" and is must see goodness for all Whovians.
"Episode 4 VHS Reconstruction" is all the bits and pieces of footage combined with telesnaps of the missing episode 4 that was originally on the VHS release of the story.
"Blue Peter" is the entire segment of the children's show that features the regeneration from "The Tenth Planet" and is the only reason that important footage still exists.
The usual "Photo Gallery," always highly recommended "Info Text" and a trailer for the upcoming DVD release for Patrick Troughton's "The Moonbase" round out yet another impressive batch of goodies.
The last adventure of the First Doctor (and all of his existing stories) is finally out on DVD for all Whovians to enjoy! Recommended!