DVD Reviews

Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space - DVD Review

By Jeff Swindoll Oct 19, 2012, 17:11 GMT

Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space - DVD Review

Exile! The Time Lords have banished the newly regenerated Doctor to Earth. But the Doctor isn\'t the only alien to have arrived, as a swarm of meteorites have crashed into the sleepy English countryside, bringing with them a terrible new threat to mankind. As the Nestene plan takes shape, UNIT, the Doctor and his newly appointed scientific advisor, Liz Shaw, race against time to stop humanity being replaced by a ...more

We go back to the manger to witness the “birth” of my favorite classic Doctor.  Jon Pertwee takes over for Patrick Troughton and joins up with UNIT.  His earthbound exile would have the aliens coming to him, but also bring the series to a modern (1970s) reality.

The regenerated Doctor (Jon Pertwee) was exiled to Earth by the Timelords.  He arrives in his disabled TARDIS at the same time that a sudden meteor also crashes down mysterious glowing spheres to Earth.  The exhausted Doctor falls out of the TARDIS and is found by UNIT troops and taken to a nearby hospital.  Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) is recruiting Dr. Liz Shaw (Caroline John) to investigate the meteors but she doubts there’s anything to fear from them. 

The Brig is always on his guard so he’s skeptical, but he’s even more skeptical of the mystery man claiming to be the Doctor since he looks nothing like the Doctor he knows.  Meanwhile a sinister, emotionless man named Channing (Hugh Burden) has taken over a local plastics factory and his plans involve the same meteorite storm. 

I always repeat it during these reviews, you don’t even have to ask, but Jon Pertwee is MY Doctor.  I guess I must qualify “of the classic series.”  However, in 1970 he was an unknown quantity (or maybe quatermass) playing this type of role.  He was largely known for this comedic styling and funny voices.  He would not be immediately thought of when casting a show about a time traveling alien.  His success though would pave the way for the likes of Tom Baker. 

Another reason for the success might also be that instead of glorious black and white the show was transitioning to this new-fangled thing called color television.  Even better, thanks to producer Derrick Sherwin, this inaugural episode of the Pertwee years was shot in 16mm and looks fantastic.  It may also be the only show in the classic series that can make the jump to Blu-ray thanks to that fact.  The rest were shot on video. 

The 16mm makes all the difference as the colors pop even on DVD and the definition is fantastic.  I can hardly wait for a Blu-ray release yet know not a thing about one planned, just that it can happen thanks to this one investment by Sherwin.  The Doctor is also given an earthbound family in the form of his companion, the late Caroline John being every bit his equal, and the stalwart Brig and UNIT. 

Courtney is as fantastic as Pertwee and is so beloved that he would eventually work with nearly every Doctor.  Five rounds rapid sir – rest in peace Mr. Courtney.  It’s a wonderful beginning.

Spearhead from Space is presented in fullscreen.  Special features include some holdovers from the old edition: a commentary with Courtney and John, pop up trivia notes, a photo gallery, 1 minute of trailers, and the 5 minute UNIT recruitment film. 

New features include a commentary from producer Derrick Sherwin and script editor Terrence Dicks, the 22 minute “Down to Earth” making of, the 18 minute “Regenerations” about the transition from black and white to color, and the Radio Times on DVD-ROM.

We’ve only just begun – to have alien invasions for the Doctor to save us from.  Good thing he’s stuck her with us in those wild and woolly 1970s.  Pertwee is grand, UNIT is the military family, and Liz Shaw starts her short time as a companion with a scientific mind close to the Doctors.  Besides those wonderful special features the disc also features a stunning image thanks to that 16mm decision.

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