November 12, 2013

Regeneration & Rebirth: DOCTOR WHO - THE TENTH PLANET

(NOTE: Thanks to BBC Home Entertainment for providing a complimentary DVD for review. My opinions are my own)

Historically, the Doctor Who story The Tenth Planet is renowned for introducing the concept of regeneration - the changing of one actor over to another. So on that level, the story is worth a cursory watch, but the new two DVD release of The Tenth Planet on DVD is a must-own, if only because of some of the historical material presented.

In terms of actual story, The Tenth Planet is....well, it's not the story you think it is. Although it does debut the Cybermen, the bulk of the story concerns efforts to rescue two different space missions. (The Cybermen just happen to be a complicating factor). Add in production issues (including Hartnell growing sick for episode 3), the story tends to weaken. It isn't until the last ten minutes - ironically, the first "regeneration" (although it isn't called that in the episodes) - that the story ultimately redeems itself.

The other factor is that, like many classic Doctor Who episodes, The Tenth Planet has one episode missing from the BBC archives. Thankfully, the disc provides two options: an animated version of episode four as well as the picture-and-text reconstruction taken from the initial VHS release. As I've discussed previously, I'm not a fan of the picture-and-text style of reconstruction, and the animated version works...but the style (with more of an anime influence - think Reign of Terror) can be a bit off-putting at times, and it feels as if the animators were pushing the limit. (Plus, you can see that they used the same shot from An Unearthly Child several times as a fill-in). With the recently discovered The Enemy of the World or The Web of Fear (and yes, one of these days I hope to watch and review), hope always springs eternal....

But what makes this disc a must-own is some of the historical material - the obligatory making-of featurette on Disc 1 provides plenty of insight into not only how this episode was made (including the technical aspects of the regeneration), but into some of the politics of production, including working with William Hartnell. A three-minute interview with Hartnell, taken when he starred in a pantomime right after Doctor Who, leads off disc two. Although way too brief, it does provide a glimpse into Hartnell's mind set, and suggests that perhaps he needed to leave the role. Some other featurettes - focusing on the psychology of companions, the role of the male companion, and the idea of a "golden age" of Doctor Who - help round out disc two, and help provide greater value for the set.

Encouraging people to purchase a lackluster story seems counterproductive, but The Tenth Planet remains a critical piece of Who mythology. Yesterday's DVD release is more historically important than merely another story....and for that reason, Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet on DVD is a must-own.

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