I know, I know. We’ve left you wallowing in a distinct lack of weirdness for far too long now and you’re desperate to see which five further special features from the Doctor Who Classic DVD Range we’ve picked in this lofty list.
What? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Check out Part One first and come back here sharpish. Don’t worry: I’ll wait.
Done? Right. On we go…
An Unearthly Child – Corridor Sketch (5m53s)
There have been quite a few comedy sketches included in the Classic DVD range, of varying success. These include the popular Oh, Mummy! from Pyramids of Mars, and my personal favourite, Mark Gatiss’ Eye on Blatchford on The Green Death releases.
From The Beginnings box set, the An Unearthly Child disc leaves you spoilt for choice with four comedy sketches. But the turd among the turnips is the unlarious (a new word I’ve invented specifically for this article, readers) Corridor Sketch. Clocking in at just under six minutes, the sketch manages to bend time around itself so that watching the skit feels like some kind of interminable hellish protracted torture for many hours, perhaps even days. Each ‘gag’ clangs with the ominous tone of a hand bell rung by a plague corpse collector.
Now, in isolation it is appallingly smug and unfunny, but surrounded by Mark Gatiss and David Walliams’ three brilliant Doctor Who Night sketches, it’s like finding a McGonagall poem among the Marvells. Except that McGonagall’s doggerel is unintentionally hilarious, whereas The Corridor Sketch is neither intentionally, or unintentionally amusing in any way (did I mention it’s not funny?). But it’s like Chicken Pox for a true Doctor Who fan: you are best exposed to the sketch as early as possible, then you can recover from it and avoid a more damaging contamination in later in life.
The Green Death – What Katy Did Next (5m39s)
These days when a companion actor leaves the series we await the announcement of what blockbuster film franchise they are about to join, what high-profile theatre run they’ve signed up to star in, or what big budget TV drama has coaxed them away from the TARDIS. Not so in the classic era.
It’s a massive injustice that pre-revival, the co-stars of our beloved, high-profile, popular Saturday family drama struggled to find acting parts when they left. Katy Manning’s run of stories regularly captured more than 10 million viewers and she was a young, attractive, funny and brilliant actor. So why weren’t the teams behind Upstairs, Downstairs, The Onedin Line, Play for Today, or the National Theatre on the phone to Katy’s agent when they saw the Doctor drive Bessie off into the sunset all alone?
Instead she gets stuck fronting a bizarre arts and craft show called Serendipity. It’s a bit like finding out Jenna Coleman’s next move was co-presenting Botched Up Bodies on Channel 5. (Okay, Katy starred in the prestigious Armchair Theatre: The Open Road, directed by Douglas Camfield in 1973, but she also felt the need to pose naked with a Dalek in Girl Illustrated Magazine a few years later. It’s always struck me that the Dalek kept fully covered throughout the shoot, maybe a full-frontal Kaled mutant was a step too far in 1977…)
The extra includes highlight from Serendipity, mostly featuring Katy in her height of gorgeousness learning obscure arts and craft skills from craggy-faced older geezers who, frankly, can’t believe their flippin’ luck. It’s 1973: imagine you are John Wainwright, a tired 50-something lapidarist from Morden, and you get a call from the BBC, ‘Hi John, would be available to spend a day on the beach collecting stones with one of the most desirable women in the country?’ Or if you’re a balding scruffy sculptor called Dennis, trying to keep focussed on teaching your craft on camera, while Miss Manning gets all touchy-feely, then starts caressing your artwork…
The War Games – Devious (12m17s)
There are lots of enthusiastic filmmakers out there creating their own take on the Doctor Who mythos. And they’re splendid chapters, all of them. But only one has been selected to join the lofty heights of being an official Classic Doctor Who DVD extra. So they must have chosen the very best of the best, right?
Now, it seems churlish to have a pop at dedicated fans who spend their spare time filming a Doctor Who story just for the sheer love of it. So I won’t. Just watch it and see for yourself. My lips are sealed. Although I might blurt out a guffaw now and again. Or possibly again and again. And again. Again.
So what made this amateur effort ripe for including in the official DVD line? Because, by some kind of bizarre misunderstanding (I presume) they managed to persuade Jon Pertwee to reprise his role as the Doctor for their no-budget vanity project. As always, he’s a class act. (The rest of them need acting classes.)
Devious attempts to bridge the gap between the spinning giddy Second Doctor’s last appearance and the collapse of Doctor Three in Oxley woods that begins Spearhead From Space (an enhanced 3D re-configured edition due 2018, folks… probably). I always imagined that the Doctor simply remained unconscious while the Time Lords enacted their punishment. How wrong I was. And how right I wish I had been. Devious tells the untold, perhaps untellable story…
Because this is just a 12-minute excerpt from Devious, a project that is still in production. In fact, they started shooting it in 1991. And that means, fact fans, that if they finish it next year (2017), Devious will have taken 26 years to make, an equivalent length to the entire run of the original Doctor Who series. Let’s hope it’s all been worth the wait…
The Sensorites – Looking for Peter (21m19s)
Hey, I’m here! Oh, they mean another Peter…
You can imagine the BBC DVD team brainstorming extras for The Sensorites release and leaving with a blank flipchart… No behind-the-scenes footage, many of the actors and production crew now sadly deceased, and most of the contemporary extras featuring already on earlier Hartnell DVDs. Like a tub of plain ice-cream, The Sensorites DVD had vanilla written all over it.
So step forward the trusty, affable and thoroughly watchable Toby Hadoke (oh, and Clive Doig who provided the other extras). The absolute star of the release (sorry the main feature) is Looking for Peter, a documentary that charts Toby’s mission to find out more about the writer of the serial, Peter R Newman. And it could have been a huge anticlimax. As Toby points out in the intro, so little is known about the scriptwriter that just finding out what the ‘R’ stood for would be something.
I won’t spoil the ending (and it has nothing to do with poisoning the water supply) but what unfolds, and the way that Hadoke reacts to what is uncovered is (like Living with Levene) really quite moving. He will never command the renown in which Robert Holmes is held, nor the avuncular familiarity of Terrance Dicks, but this documentary manages to put Peter R Newman, if only fleetingly, in the spotlight. And you are left with a strange feeling that, somehow, they’ve awoken his spirit, given Peter a big hug and sent him off to rest in peace. Show me something like that on a Babylon 5 DVD.
Castrovalva – Continuities and trailers (5m29s)
Across the classic DVD range there’s a series of extras called ‘continuities’ or ‘trails and continuities’. Basically, it’s the bits they show just before and just after episodes are broadcast. Usually captured by fans on videotape, there’s always a swelling of nostalgia for those of us old enough to remember the broadcast first time. It’s a bit like the smell of new Star Wars figures, which transport you back to the magical world of your childhood. Or is that just me..?
But the Castrovalva disc is extra-special, because you also get the BBC1 evening schedules for all four days that the adventure was shown. And the jewel in the crown is Monday 11 January 1982. Not only does Peter Davison star as Doctor Who that night, he’s also a guest on the health-based celebrity panel show So You Think You Know What’s Good For You?.
The clip lasts less than 10 seconds, but it’s a baffling and delightful excerpt. Peter, again accompanied by his then-wife Sandra, features alongside Terry and Helen Wogan, Olympic swimmer Sharron Davis and Judo champion Neil Adams. They all have their eyes shut and are attempting to balance on one leg, with varying degrees of success, accompanied by a jaunty instrumental version of Keep Young and Beautiful. The absurdity of the excerpt is heightened by the very next item, the hard-hitting BBC current affairs programme Panorama ‘a look at the West’s response to the crisis in Poland’ accompanied by bleak images of tanks and military maneuvers in frozen Eastern Europe, and the show’s ominous theme music.
As I’ve maintained all along, the Doctor Who series is unique, special and should be treasured. Where else would you find such obscure and forgotten gems on a DVD range? Only Doctor Who commands such attention, dedication and absurdity.
If you have a favourite Classic DVD extra, why not share it with the class using the commentary box below…