Friday, July 13, 2012

Doctor Who: 037 The Tomb of the Cybermen (Special Edition DVD Review)

Season 4 saw Victoria's father killed on Skaro during the "final" defeat of the Daleks in The Evil of the Daleks. With Victoria's father dead, she has nowhere to go, so she joins the TARDIS crew at the end of that story. As season 5 begins (Patrick Troughton's second season and his first full season), they materialize on the planet Telos, the final resting place of the Cybermen, just as an archaeological dig discovers The Tomb of the Cybermen.

The Tomb of the Cybermen technically isn't a missing story, and since I saw it when it was released on DVD in 2001, it's a little bit of a sidestep from my "project" to fill in the gaps in the televised stories I've seen. I figured it was appropriate since I've bought but not yet watched the Special Edition DVD which recently came out and it's the next story in my sequence. Besides, I've watched every Troughton story since he took over as the Doctor because they've been missing or incomplete, so why stop now? :)

While it isn't missing, it was wiped along with all of the other material that is missing, and the story of its return is one of the more interesting. When the BBC put out the call looking for missing episodes, most of the ones that were returned were returned fairly quickly (from other departments in the BBC, from overseas affiliates, etc.). The ones that trickled in after that tended to be single episodes held by private collectors. This particular story was returned in its entirety in 1992 from a television station in Hong Kong. The BBC was already releasing VHS tapes of episodes by this point, so they did a rush job on this and released it on VHS in 1992 as a film transfer with minimal cleanup and repair (based on the available technology of the time). In 2001, it was released on DVD with much more extensive restoration (using the more advanced technology available in 2001). I've not seen the VHS release, but there is a featurette on the 2001 DVD release called simply "Remastering for DVD" which compares the two releases. There is also an easter egg on this 2001 release that shows a scene from Episode 3 processed with a fledgling version of what is now known as VidFIRE (although there seems to be no explanation for what this clip is).

When 2|entertain began releasing the Special Edition DVD's, the original intention was to revisit some of the early DVD releases which had very few special features, and add additional commentaries and featurettes to better match the current DVD releases. I'm not sure if this generally includes new transfers of the episodes or not. After the first few Special Edition DVD's, 2|entertain began polling the fans to see which stories they would like to see re-released and given the Special Edition treatment. This is how The Tomb of the Cybermen was chosen to be re-released as a Special Edition DVD. As well as the additional material included, all of the episodes were remastered and processed through VidFire. The result is as spectacular when compared with the 2001 DVD release as that release is when compared with the VHS release! The episodes are crystal clear and are probably crisper than they would have been if you'd watched it on TV in 1967!

Apart from the new transfer, there are a lot of special features on this set, much of it new, but most of the material from the 2001 release is retained. Let's start with a list of features from the 2001 DVD:
  • Feature-length commentary by Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling
  • Title Sequence Tests
  • Late Night Line-Up - Behind-the-Scenes at BBC Visual Effects (where the existing clips of The Abominable Snowmen episode 4 came from)
  • Photo Gallery
  • The Final End - recreation of the battle from The Evil of the Daleks, the previous story (also included on the Lost in Time DVD set)
  • Tombwatch - A panel with cast and crew recorded at BAFTA in 1992
  • Remastering for DVD - Documentary on the restoration of the story for the 2001 release including comparisons with the 1994 VHS release.
  • Introduction by director Morris Barry
  • Pop-up Production Notes
  • Who's Who - a feature on several of the early DVD's that shows brief bios of the actors
  • Easter Egg featuring an Unused Title Sequence
  • Easter Egg featuring an a scene of the Doctor and Victoria from Episode 3 which has been processed by an early version of VidFIRE
Features included on the 2012 Special Edition DVD are:
  • Disc 1 (almost identical to the 2001 release extras, minus the Tombwatch and Remastering for DVD featurettes also the Photo Gallery has been updated and moved to Disc 2):
    • Two feature-length commentaries: the one from 2001 plus a newly-recorded one with several of the actors (including Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling) plus the script editor.
    • Title Sequence Tests (same as the 2001 release)
    • Late Night Line-Up - Behind-the-Scenes at BBC Visual Effects (same as the 2001 release)
    • The Final End - recreation of the battle from The Evil of the Daleks, the previous story (also included on the Lost in Time DVD set and the 2001 release)
    • Introduction by director Morris Barry (same as the 2001 release)
    • Pop-up Production Notes (probably the same as the 2001 release)
    • Easter Egg featuring an Unused Title Sequence (same as the 2001 release, but in a different location)
    • Not technically an Easter Egg, but the Episode Selection option on Disc 1 features audio from a trailer for the next serial, The Abominable Snowmen.
  • Disc 2:
    • The Lost Giants - Making of documentary
    • The Curse of the Cybermen's Tomb - a retrospective on the Egyptian origins of the story, most notably Howard Carter and Tutankhamun
    • Cybermen - Extended Edition - an irreverent "history" of the Cybermen from their first appearance in The Tenth Planet all the way through their appearances in the revived series
    • The Magic of VidFIRE - Documentary on the restoration for the Special Edition. This seems to have replaced the "Remastering for DVD" documentary on the original release as that featurette was specific to the 2001 release.
    • Sky Ray Advert - Advertisement for popsicles which featured a Doctor Who giveaway
    • Photo Gallery (completely updated to the style used on recent DVD of a slideshow with audio backing)
    • PDF Materials - Radio Times Listings, Walls Sky Ray promotion (the giveaways shown in the advertisement)
    • Easter Egg featuring the CGI backgrounds used in The Lost Giants documentary
The Tomb of the Cybermen is a very good story and the Cybermen continue to be menacing. It's fantastic that we have this story in its entirety as it is the earliest complete Cybermen story. The Special Edition treatment really works for this story. Even if you already own the 2001 release, it's worth picking up this release as well.

Now, back to the missing episodes, starting with The Abominable Snowmen, another of the classic monsters of Doctor Who.

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