Let’s face it, thanks to the care, attention and love lavished on them, the Classic Doctor Who DVD range is one of the great treasures of universe. What do you mean, ‘not in public?’ I don’t care! Look, it’s one of the great treasures of the universe!
But they are also quite strange. What other DVD series would have an extra called ‘Was Doctor Who rubbish?’. Yes, clearly only Doctor Who, unless this other hypothetical range is being particularly vindictive to a fellow TV series. But you wouldn’t get a documentary on the ’80s Battlestar Galactica box-set called, ‘Isn’t this just a bland Star Wars rip-off?’ Even though it definitely, definitely is.
So if, like me, you have collected all 769 (this figure is an estimate) classic Doctor Who DVDs, including double disc sets, re-releases, special editions, and all 47 (estimate) variations of Spearhead from Space, you may find those extra special extras difficult to locate. What? You’ve only got seventeen DVDs? I give up…
No I don’t! Because, brandishing the indispensable tome, The Classic Doctor Who DVD Compendium, I have re-viewed all 467 months worth (probably) of Classic Doctor Who DVD extras (no, not the easter eggs as well, I’m not a total slobbering obsessive). [Plus I smell a follow-up article.] And I bring you my personal selection of the weirdest and wonderfullest of all the extras. If you want to know the best, the outstanding, the award-winning, you will not necessarily find it herein, but if you want shock and awe, pull up a sofa and prepare to hide…
Note: we’ve included links (where possible) to where you can view the extras online (which could be pulled at any time, particularly now we’ve drawn attention to them, Miss Shaw). But for the full effect study the list, scour your shelf and pile up the DVDs. That way each time you can enjoy the 1m24s it takes to load up a Doctor Who DVD: title screen, 2 Entertain ident, BBC ident, that posh woman who says ‘To select audio navigation press enter now’ (which always causes me to panic and nearly press ‘enter’), and the dodgy 2000s vintage CGI tumbling TARDIS…
The Dalek Invasion of Earth – Rehearsal Film (1m42s)
Older readers will remember collecting holiday snaps developed at Boots, flicking through the mini folders of 24 pictures, and – at the last one – thinking, ‘Hang on, we didn’t take our faithful family dog on holiday with us, did we? Then what’s Muffin doing on the beach in Majorca?’ The answer was a double-exposure, where two images (often eerily) appear on the same print.
Back in 1964, Carole Ann Ford took a cine (moving film) camera along to the rehearsals of her final story to capture the cast and crew in action. What she didn’t realise was that she’d already used the film in the camera to record her family, and other animals, larking about in the local park. Mummy and daddy Ann Ford playing some strange hybrid of hockey and golf accompanied by the family hound (let’s call him Muffin for consistency).
The result is a psychedelic mash-up like some kind of bad trip where a wigless First Doctor threatens to punch you, then give you a good smack bottom while, simultaneously, a ’60s era lady rolls about suggestively in a field. A Dalek being attacked by rebelling Robomen melds into Muffin getting some unwarranted attention from a passing pooch. The silent film is accompanied on the DVD by the Dalek control room heartbeat. But it works much better methinks with the footage on loop accompanied by Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive. Turn on, tune in, drop out, kids….
Enlightenment – Russell Harty Christmas Party (3m32s)
This gem is from ’70s and ’80s celebrity interviewer Russell Harty’s 1983 festive TV spectacular, which featured then-husband and wife superstars (our very own) Peter Davison and (TV Hitchhiker Trillian) Sandra Dickinson. (They were the Brad and Angelina of their day.) Davison displays his aptitude for being the kind of front cloth entertainer that William Hartnell so despises in the astonishing rediscovered interview extra on The Tenth Planet DVD (not featured here).
Pete and Sandy indulge in some corny banter (Sandra: ‘We must conspire!’ Peter: ‘Well I’m conspiring already, it’s hot in here’) with Mr Davison strangely continuing to channel his Fifth Doctor persona throughout the performance. Then, as in all good pantomime routines, the music cues and they burst into song (complete with a cute dance routine…) C’mon everyone join in, ‘Where there’s mystery there’s a clue/ Where there’s a Doctor there’s a Who.’ Ouch!
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy – The Psychic Circus (3m52s)
Where the hell has this been all my lives? Correct me if I’m mis-remembering, but before The Greatest Show DVD release, I’d not heard a whiff of this bizarre item. It’s a pop video recorded by the cast and crew that tells the story of The Greatest Show in the Galaxy in song. It’s sung by Mags-the-(spoiler)werewolf, Jessica Martin, and Bellboy actor Christopher Guard – which is not surprising as they are both professional singers. What is surprising is when, at 1m44s, veteran character actor TP McKenna bursts in, crooning ‘Far beyond the bouncing Upas trees of Boromeo!’ (a line from the show).
Produced by Doctor Who composer Mark Ayres, this was apparently an attempt at breaking the popular music chart in 1988. It didn’t quite reach the dizzy heights of the top 40, which you may think is not surprising given Doctor Who’s (unfairly) laughable reputation at the time. But that didn’t stop The Time Lords with Doctorin’ the Tardis reaching number one the same year. A generous assessment would be that The Psychic Circus wasn’t quite as catchy…
The Ultimate Foe – Doctor in Distress (3m45s)
Another music video, but probably the one you were expecting. Yes, this was uber-fan Ian Levine’s attempt to crowdsource a protest movement to reverse the decision by BBC bigwigs to extend the period between two Doctor Who seasons by a shocking six whole months. In a staggering misunderstanding of the scale of need, Levine elevated this 24-week delay of the scheduling of a TV show into the same category as the 1984 famine in Ethiopia which led to the deaths of more than 400,000 people. If Band Aid can save millions from starvation, thought Levine, then Who Cares? can bring Doctor Who back to our screens in March 1986, rather than fans suffer an interminable wait until September 1986.
And it worked. In that it worked to make Doctor Who fans, some duped celebrity supporters and the confused-looking cast of Doctor Who seem even more stupid than anyone could possibly imagine. (Despite the fact that they are absolutely not. Apart, seemingly, from Mr Levine.) You’d think everyone involved would want it buried in the same way you won’t find Dimensions in Time on any official DVD release. (Or Star Trekkin’ by The Firm on the Star Trek the Original Series DVD boxset.) But no, it was cleared, cleaned up and included on the Ultimate Foe disc. Maybe fans should learn the same lesson the Doctor did in that story; sometimes you literally are your own worst enemy.
Apologists argue that the whole thing was justified because the huge proceeds from sales went to Cancer Research, and I’m sure they spent the £4.20 wisely. But, presumably, this meant Bob Geldof and Midge Ure missed a trick. They should have written a song lamenting the cancellation of Blake’s 7 (Do They Know It’s Chris Boucher’s Fault?) and just given the royalties to Ethiopia.
The Claws of Axos – Living with Levene (35m10s)
From one contentious Levine to another (spelt slightly differently, I know…). But this is very different from the extras previously listed here. It’s a specially-made feature, but it’s not your typical making-of documentary. Comedian and fan Toby Hadoke takes his cue from Louis Theroux’s When Louis Met… TV series. In that series of programmes, Theroux attempted to get under the skin (no, not like a Slitheen) of an odd, slightly impenetrable celebrity.
Now chiefly remembered for the fact that one of Louis’ subjects was the now-infamous predatory paedophile Jimmy Savile (you won’t find that vile person on a Doctor Who DVD, at least not now they’re removed A Fix with Sontarans from pressings of The Two Doctors). One thing that is not widely known is that Tom Baker was approached by Theroux to be the subject of a When Louis Met… documentary. Now, I only know this because I queued up to get my copy of The Ark in Space signed by Tom Baker in HMV in Oxford Street in 2002 and asked him about it. I suggested to Tom that he should feature on the show, to which he replied that Louis was pursuing him to do it, but Tom had turned him down.
So that’s a Doctor Who Companion exclusive!
Back to Living with Levene. Everyone loves Sgt Benton, but John Levene is a different matter. At conventions and public appearances he comes across as a strange mixture of a little boy lost and an evangelical preacher. I was afraid that the documentary would set out to ridicule Levene, but I really should have thought better of lovely Toby Hadoke and the team. Living with Levene is a touching, generous and kind insight into the life of one of Doctor Who’s most misunderstood stars. A tear, Sarah Jane? Watch and weep, blub fans…
(On the subject of Levene I’d like to point you in the direction of one ‘extra’ that never made it to DVD. And it’s brilliant. It’s John’s video diary John Levene POV – Journey to Wales to meet Matt Smith. Worth it just for the – unknowingly – Alan Partrigeness of the opening line (over bleak images of suburban Wales), ‘This is Wales, the slightly poorer cousin – I imagine – of England. But it’s got some beautiful things in it…’ And for the subsequent commentary of his journey by train to Cardiff. It’s filled with unintentionally hilarious moments. God bless you John. One of life’s great innocents…)
We’ve still got five more gloriously-odd special features to prod and poke and peer at longingly. Especially the one with Katy Manning collecting stones on a beach with a complete stranger. Rowr.
But wait! Sometimes, I fear we spoil you too much here at the DWC. It’s no good for you, y’know. You’ll be expecting overloads of oddities every day, and I’m not sure your heart can take it.
So come back tomorrow, okay? I promise it might be worth it.