Earth Story is an upcoming Classic Doctor Who release comprising
of two completely unrelated stories; the First Doctor Story The
Gunfighters and the Fifth Doctor Story The Awakening. These
stories are separated by almost every conceivable distance any yet here
they are lumped in together because they happen to take place “on Earth”
(as if that didn’t comprise a majority of Doctor Who stories).
to be honest, within the scope of Doctor Who fandom these are not sought
after stories. They’ve never topped the polls of favourite stories and I
struggled to even find a message board or any single individual crying
out for their release. So you have to think that these are two stories
that the BBC has conveniently packaged together so you can avoid buying
both at the same time. Are there any saving graces? Perhaps they are
lost classics waiting to be rediscovered? Let’s check them out. First
up, The Gunfighters.
Gunfighters is an almost accurate retelling of the shootout of the
O.K. Corral. The Doctor, Steven and Dodo arrive in the Old West so the
Doctor can get a tooth looked at that is causing him trouble. The
Doctor gets mistaken for Doc Holiday and they generally get embroiled in
the schemes and ultimately the gunfight in Tombstone. If I’ve made that
sound vaguely good it’s because you’re imagining one of the many good
movies that have been made about the shootout.
Gunfighters is not like that. It’s a studio bound story and it
shows. It’s also from a time when people still thought that Doctor Who
needed to be; A: a children’s show and B: directly educational -hence
the ‘Historicals’. And on top of these handicaps it is ostensibly a
comedy. However, apart from a good recurring joke about the Doctor
continually being handed guns when he really doesn’t want and a giant
comedy tooth, there’s precious little to laugh at here. Time has not
been kind to The Gunfighters and oh god English people trying to
do American accents is every bit as painful as Americans trying to do
Gunfighters raises lots of questions that it never answers. Why does
the doctor seek a dentist in the Wild West? Why not a place where they
have highly advanced medical technology? Why does he seem so content to
let lots of people die? Why does he seem so ignorant about what’s going
on around him? But the big question it raises is who thought it would be
a good idea to have “The Ballad of the Last chance saloon” play every
five seconds because I will happily go the rest of my life without
hearing it again.
Awakening is a Fifth Doctor two-parter and because of that you might
think that the pacing might be better than some of the examples from the
period, but there seems to be the requisite running up and down
corridors; although because it’s on location they run up and down
streets. And there is lots of classic Doctor Who hiding in plain sight.
The Doctor , Tegan and Turlough arrive in a little English village in
1984 just in time for the villages recreation of a battle from 1643
between the roundheads and um..people who’s heads weren’t so round. And
it just happens to fall on the exact 341st anniversary of the
battle. However, the recreation is to be going too far, the soldiers
are really rounding people up and the local barrister who is the head of
the roundheads has gone power mad and isolated the town from the outside
world, demanding that everyone takes part in the recreation. Then a
giant rubber face bursts through a church wall. This is “The Malus”
(Malice, get it?) which is an alien probe that crashed on earth long ago
and to quote the Doctor it’s “Pure Evil” (yes very scientific). The
Malus is controlling the minds of the villagers and making them want to
want to kill and maim and be generally unpleasant. Only Colonel Wolsey
is immune as he has seen the horrors of war. The Malus ends up being a
salamander like creature in the Tardis, the Doctor does some *Insert
Technobable here* some bloke gets his head cut off, the Barrister gets
thrown into the Malus, the church explodes and hooray, everything is ok
big problem with The Awakening is that it’s not good. The script,
the acting and the production all suck away from what could have been a
good spooky English village pot-boiler. As it is, there’s nothing to
recommend; although I do think I found the connection between The
Gunfighters and The Awakening; the Doctor’s casual acceptance
and indeed tacit approval of killing the people who were annoying him.
line? I can’t recommend this set.
video quality of The Gunfighters is consistent if a little better
than what you would expect from a series that was first broadcast in
1966. It’s obviously been Vidfired and looks pretty good.
Awakening video quality is fine for a show that was broadcast in
quality for both series is adequate.
series sport special features but none of them are particularly special.
The Gunfighters features a documentary about the production of
this era of Doctor who which somehow manages to be really boring despite
key players admitting that The Gunfighters isn’t a great story.
Awakening features a documentary about the making of The
Awakening and one of those “Now and Then” doco’s where they go back
to the villagers where these stories were filmed and look a things that
may or may not be still there. As a cure for excitement this pretty
much does the business. And finally a “Where is it now” tracks down the
Malus prop and find that it’s in the house of a fan. Yay!
* Features (The Gunfighers: 3/10
& The Awakening: 4/10)