New DVD releases bring classic television bang up to date

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This year has seen a number of interesting releases of classic TV programmes of the past.

Included among them are these four releases which make good Christmas presents for those people who enjoy programmes with a science fiction flavour to them.

Unfortunately ninety seven episodes of Doctor Who no longer exist in the archives. They are all from the 1960s when the programme was a collection of serials of varying length. This means that some adventures are completely missing, while others have some of their episodes missing. Some of the stories with missing episodes have already been released on DVD – The Reign of Terror, The Tenth Planet, The Moonbase, The Ice Warriors and The Invasion – with the episodes which no longer exist being replaced by animated ones. It has long been felt that if a story is completely missing then there is no way that it would be animated – until now.

The Power of the Daleks was the first adventure to have Patrick Troughton in the lead role of the Doctor. Screened originally over fifty years ago, the existing soundtrack of the six episodes has been put together with newly created animation. The animation is somewhat limited and the likenesses of Polly and Ben – the Doctor’s two companions – could have been better. The Doctor himself and many of the guest characters are extremely well animated as are the Daleks themselves as glide around with suitable menace The TARDIS crew land on the planet Vulcan (before it became Mr. Spock’s home!) and the Doctor discovers that the colonists there have found a space capsule which contains his original enemies the Daleks! However these Daleks are claiming to be the ‘servants’ of the colonists. Can the Doctor, in his new persona, convince the colonists that Daleks are dangerous and can he defeat those on Vulcan who think they can use the Daleks for their own ends? Overall this DVD is a great achievement and until we get the life action episodes back (if ever!) this is a great way of experiencing this classic story.

2016 has seen a number of excellent releases of archive TV programmes appearing on DVD via Simply Media. For me the best has been the classic BBC programme Doomwatch devised by Kit Pedlar and Gerry Davis – the creators of the famous Cybermen. Doomwatch is the organization which is set up to expose real scientific threats. Over the course of the series a number of interesting themes are covered including pollution, terrorist plots, genetic engineering and industrial sabotage. In its first series it was remarkable how many of the plots reflected things which were then happening in real life.

The team is led by Dr. Spencer Quist (John Paul) a dedicated scientist who has feelings of guilt about what he has done in the past.

Then there is Dr. John Ridge, who I always thought was the most complex member of the team. He was played by Simon Oates who auditioned for the role of James Bond. Robert Powell as Toby Wren was propelled to fame through this role.

This set features all the surviving episodes from the series. This is a well acted, thought provoking programme which deserves a wider audience.

GERRY ANDERSON’S UFO

The name Gerry Anderson is synonymous with puppet shows such as Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds and Joe 90. However Gerry always wanted to make programmes with actors in them and finally got his wish with U.F.O. Sadly when it was originally shown on ITV it was screened on different days and in different time slots which meant that it was not as successful in the ratings as it should have been. The show had a first rate cast with - Ed Bishop as Commander Straker; Michael Billington as Col. Foster; Wanda Ventham as Col. Virginia Lake; George Sewell as Col. Freeman and Gabrielle Drake as Lt. Ellis. Set in the then futuristic year of 1980, S.H.A.D.O. is a top secret organization which is hidden beneath a film studios, which has been set up to combat the threat of Unidentified Flying Objects which are visiting the earth for nefarious reasons. S.H.A.D.O. has at its disposal a fleet of interesting vehicles including the Mobiles, The Interceptors and the Skydivers. While the aliens from the U.F.O.s appear to be human, that might not be their true form at all. However this is far from your typical science fiction series where it is all about the action. For me two of the very best episodes – A Question of Priorities and Confetti Check A.O.K. deal with the complex character of Commander Straker. The series was made in two batches with the second set of episodes exploring more grownup themes than the first. This is not a series which always goes for the happy ending. An integral part of the show is the terrific music by regular Anderson composer Barry Gray. This series has recently been released in Blu-ray by Network and as well as the twenty six episodes contains there are a number of interesting extras. Ian K

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THE STAR TREK VAULT

The original Star Trek series has been released several times in the home video marketplace. Therefore you might think that it would be difficult to persuade long term fans to part with their money for a new release. However this week such a release has come along. It is a three disc set called The Roddenberry Vault. It was discovered that not only were the original episodes of Star Trek all kept in the archives but Gene Roddenberry its creator, also kept footage which did not end up in the completed episodes. So fans who thought they had seen ever surviving piece of footage from the original three seasons of Star Trek will – if they buy this release – have an opportunity of seeing material which was left on the cutting room floor but kept in Gene Roddenberry’s Vault. Some of that footage is behind the scenes material and will allow viewers a chance of seeing what life was like for the cast and crew on the set of the original series. In addition to that extra material there will be twelve episodes included in the set. While owners of the three full season Blu-ray sets will have that material already, this release might appeal to an occasional viewer who might like to see again some original Star Trek in the best possible condition. There are also new audio commentaries for this set on the episodes This Side of Paradise; The City on the Edge of Forever and The Trouble with Tribbles. Contributors to these include D.C. Fontana and David Gerrold. Fans might also be interested to learn that the animated version of Star Trek which contains contributions from the original cast has also been released on Blu-ray in recent weeks. It has never look better and is also very enjoyable. Ian K