Thursday, July 19, 2012

Doctor Who: 059 The Daemons (DVD Review)

Another little sidestep as I catch up on my DVD watching to review the DVD release of the Jon Pertwee story The Daemons which was released earlier this year. I watched the VHS copy of this just before beginning this blog (while I was filling in the gaps of Pertwee stories I'd not seen), so it's reasonably fresh in my mind.

I'll make a few comments about the story itself, then I'll proceed to the DVD review. An archaeological dig near a town called Devil's End, a cult of black magic practitioners led by a Vicar named Magister... sounds like a case for the Doctor. :) The Daemons is considered to be one of the classic Third Doctor stories. It's a fairly decent story with lots of action, but not one of my favorite Master stories or Pertwee stories.

Pertwee's "missing" episodes are a little unique from Hartnell's and Troughton's in that while many of them were wiped, all have been recovered in some format or another. Many exist only in black and white film copies which were sold overseas to stations that didn't have color broadcasting capabilities. Such is the case for the bulk of this story. Of the five episodes, only one exists in its original 2" color videotape format. However, Pertwee's episodes were the first to be shown in the US, so some US fans videotaped the episodes onto Betamax tapes. In 1992, when the BBC was in the process of releasing video tapes of the episodes, someone got the idea of merging the luma (brightness - black and white) information from the film copy and the chroma (color) information from the Betamax tapes to produce something resembling the story as it originally aired. Along with some hand tweaking, the result was pretty decent, but not as crisp as the original episode would have been. However, it's as close as we're going to get without finding original copies of the 2" taped episodes.

There was another process that was used to restore color to an episode of Day of the Daleks, which extracted the color information from chroma dots on the black and white film copy (along with some hand tweaking). I thought this process was much more successful, but they weren't able to use it for all of the black and white copies. I presume such is the case for these as well. The episodes as presented on this DVD appear to me to be identical in quality to what appeared on the VHS release.

Stories longer than four episodes tend to get a two disc release. Since this one is five episodes long, that was the case with this one as well. The first disc contains the episodes plus:
  • Feature length commentary featuring Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), Damaris Hayman (Miss Hawthorne) and director Christopher Barry
  • Pop-up Production Notes
The second disc contains just special features:
  • The Devil Rides Out - a nice making of documentary that includes interviews with the cast and crew including the late Barry Letts (recorded for this DVD shortly before he died)
  • Remembering Barry Letts - a tribute to Barry including interviews with the man himself as well as his family and co-workers
  • Location Film - 8mm silent footage of the filming of this story
  • 1992 Colorization Test - an early attempt at colorizing episode 1 as a proof of concept (an entire copy of episode 1)
  • Tomorrow's World - a short clip on the 1992 restoration
  • Photo Gallery
  • PDF materials: Radio Times Listings
  • Coming Soon trailer for the Fourth Doctor story Nightmare of Eden
If this set has any Easter Eggs, I was unable to find them. :) As I said, a fairly decent story and generally considered one of Pertwee's better stories. It's nice to finally have it on DVD as the BBC gets close to releasing all existing stories on DVD. With Death to the Daleks having been released earlier this month (review coming soon), only two Pertwee stories remain to be released on DVD: The Ambassadors of Death and The Mind of Evil. The Ambassadors of Death was supposed to have been released last year, but issues with the color restoration delayed it and it's supposed to be released in the next couple of months.

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