Doctor Who Spearhead from Space
Spearhead from Space is a huge list of firsts. First
doctor who story in colour, first who story to feature Jon Pertwee,
first and last who story to be shot on film. The first story to feature
Caroline John in her new role as Liz Shaw.
Written by Robert Holmes there is so much to love
about this story that almost everything wrong with it can be forgiven.
The Doctor is exiled to earth by the time lords who
take away his knowledge of time travel. Or ruin his dematerialization
circuit or change the dematerialization codes depending on which story
you listen too.
Several meteorites land in the woods near Devon, they
contain the Nestine conciseness a malevolent alien that uses pamspermia
to take over worlds, or at least the ones with thriving plastics
Brigadier Leftbridge Stewart is concerned that his
new Unit Task force doesnít have a scientific advisor and realizing that
sometimes just shooting at something doesnít make it go away he
Shanghaiís Doctor Liz Shaw into the role. Sheís an ďAll-rounder ďand
just the sort of person he was looking for. Liz was a great character
but unfortunately too progressive for the time and in the end got
replaced but Jo Grant after one season.
Meanwhile the Doctor is found in the woods by Unit
and taken to hospital where we learn more about his physiology and how
alien he really is.
There are some fantastic scenes in this serial, the
most memorable is probably where the store dummies come to life on a
main street and start killing people which is chilling to this day but
there are lots of others, the fact that when an Auton shoots you, you
spout plumes of thick yellow smoke is almost more disturbing than
showing blood. The scene where the brigadier turns to find Chambers
staring at him through a mottled glass door making him appear completely
alien is a brilliant little moment that carries more subtext than your
average Doctor Who episode.
But there are also some bad points, despite the
dialogue being crisp, the acting very good, the fact that the story
moves at a great clip and the generally excellent production design. The
whole thing is let down a bit by a somewhat rushed ending that doesnít
quite match the rest of the excellent production. Also the fact that the
frankly terrifying Autons natural form is then reveal to be a poorly
rendered squid is also less than thrilling. Throughout this serial Jon
Pertwee has been absolutely killing as the Doctor his acting has been
brilliant his switching between vulnerability and authority has been
utterly believable and charming , so itís a shame that he caps it off
with some terrible comedy mugging when the tentacles have him that
really sells the fact that they are made of foam.
Audio: The mix is a little off in 5.1, if you have a
surround sound system the center channel is soft which means dialogue
isnít as well represented as you might have liked it, this isnít the
case on the stereo mix on the DVD which is disappointing.
Video: A little distortion makes rock music sound
better, not just with the guitars, a little grain makes TV shows seem
more like the shows that I knew in my youth. I canít imagine going back
to the picture that I got 20 years ago on a small set that couldnít be
tuned in properly and yet some if not all of my best TV watching
memories were through that flawed setup. But here I am, I have HDTV I
got Blu-ray I got 1080p I got a really decent surround sound setup and
everything looks pristine but is it better? And does remastering TV
shows that were never meant to be shown in 1080p do them any favors?
Conventional wisdom is that only tv shows that were
originally shot solely on film can be remastered to Blu-ray and itís
probably true. Anything that was shot on 480i which was most Tv output
right up till 2000 canít be upscale without adding noise and doing more
harm to the picture than itís worth.
So itís unlikely that the original episodes of Dr Who
will ever be released on blu-ray the remastering for DVD has done the
best it can with them.
Spearhead from space due to a BBC strike was shot on
film and therefore able to be watched in glorious 1080p now over 40
years since it was made.
It does look great, the makeup is ironically one of
the greatest benefactors from the HD transfer, the sheen that tells us
that someone is an Auton is clear and very well done.
Is it worth buying again in Blu-ray? Yes I think it
is, it adds little special features wise to the mix but the sheer
quality of the transfer surely makes this the definitive edition.
Special Features: A dandy and a clown a rather nice
tribute (and about bloody time) to Jon Pertwee even if he does mention
several times that he preferred Worzel Gummidgeto Doctor who, this
tracks his career with file footage and interviews from friends and
family from his birth to death and his career in-between.
A tribute to Caroline John appears on the disc. A
short restoration comparison which is nice and about half an hour of
intro tests for Jon Pertwees Doctor, which might be nice to get stoned
too if your that way inclined. Thereís a trailer for The Green Death
which has already appeared on DVD so get ready to buy that one again.