Doctor Who : Kinda
Cast - Peter Davison, Mark Strickson, Janet Fielding
Country of Origin - U.K.
Discs - 1
MSRP - $14.98
Distributor - BBC Home Video
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Serial (3.5/5)
With the release of Doctor Who – The Awakening we have reached the end of Peter Davison's run on Doctor Who of DVD. That is right, there is no more Peter Davison episodes of Doctor Who left to be released. So how is the episode? Did the Davison DVD line go out with a Bang, or with a whimper? The answer is somewhere down the middle.
The Awakening is a great story in concept, sadly, the execution is a bit lacking. I will call what we have here the reverse Jon Pertwee Six-Parter syndrome, where in the 70's Jon Pertwee was featured prominently in 6 part serials that were considered to go on for about 2 parts too long, The Awakening actually feels much too short.
There is a great story here, but it is not given enough room to breath, and towards the end of the 2nd episode feels a race toward some proverbial finish line. That is not to say the episode is not without it's merits, in the realm of 80's Doctor Who it is quite good, it's just that it could have been quite better. The performances across the board were good, and fitting to the material. Even Janet Fielding's Tegan who I normally find grating seemed to have mellowed her performance for this serial.
Also, Keith Jayne's performance as Will Chandler while not given much to do works well for this story. In the extra features it is stated that Doctor Who show-runner John Nathan-Turner was considering him for the part of an ongoing companion, and seeing his similarities to Matthew Waterhouse's recently departed Adric, I am glad that the decision was made to leave him simply as part of this serial, and allow him to work well for this one story. Surprisingly the effects for this episode are also quite good. From the pseudo-digital effects of the Malus' minions to the Malus itself, the budget must have been quite a bit higher for this two parter, and it shows.*
The story begins with school teacher Jane Hampden being attacked by a couple of townspeople in the midst of a war game. It turns out these people are trying to reenact certain events that befell the village during the English Civil War in a manner that is more reality than game, and she stands in direct opposition to this behavior which puts her at odds with the community.
We then meet the TARDIS crew of Tegan, Turlough, and the Doctor as they plan to arrive on Earth in the year 1984, because Tegan wishes to visit her Grandfather in the village of Little Hodcombe where the prior events are taken place. Upon arrival they are arrested as the village has been sealed off for the games, and are notified that Tegan's Grandfather Andrew Verney has gone missing just days prior to their arrival. It is up to to the Doctor and TARDIS crew to unravel the events connecting the present day village of Little Hodcombe, and stop the alien menace The Malus from continuing his fear based invasion of the area.
The Doctor Who have continued their tradition of success with Doctor Who – The Awakening. The 4:3 aspect ratio image is clean, clear, and quite sharp for a nearly 30 year old shot on tape BBC affair. The colors pop quite nicely, and the only complaint is some minor softness during some exterior daylight scenes that appears to have more to do with the production than the restoration.
The Audio is presented in the shows original English mono track. The track is similarly clean, clear, and without any audio debris. The audio levels are mixed well. The dialogue is completely audible throughout the presentation, and is never over powered by music or effects.
I seriously love the Criterion-worthy treatment these classic episodes of Doctor Who receive on DVD. Even a short 2 parter like this has an incredibly detailed slate of extras. The disc kicks off with a commentary by screen writer Eric Saward and director Michael Owen Morris. This is followed by a short featurette called Return to Little Hodcombe which interviews the cast and crew of the episode alongside residents of the village where the episode was shot.
This is followed up with a 7 minute piece detailing the creation of the Malus, and even goes so far as to track down the current owner of the prop to get a look at it today. We then have a Now and Then featurette which is a short piece that compares the Awakening locations as they were at the time the episodes were shot, and how they look today. The disc is rounded off with an excerpt from the Golden Egg awards which features a comedic out take from this episode, and roughly 10 minutes of deleted scenes. There is also the usual photo gallery, Radio Times listing in .pdf, and a subtitle information track which plays in place of the subtitle track, and offers little trivia tidbits about the episode.
An interesting little 2 parter from the Davison era. This ends his Doctor Who range, and makes him the only Doctor outside of Colin Baker (and maybe Patrick Troughton if you count only the existing episodes) to have their entire run released on DVD. It's not the best 80's Who episode (Caves of Androzani), but it's far from the worst, and quite a lot of fun in a quick short burst. Recommended for Doctor Who fans, and Peter Davison completest.
* Oddly, this serial directly follows Warriors of the Deep which may have had the lowest effects budget, and possibly worst effects of the entire classic run of Doctor Who.