Friday, August 02, 2013

Spearhead from Space on Blu-Ray

I have long thought that the 1970 Doctor Who story 'Spearhead from Space', which introduced us to Jon Pertwee as the third Doctor, would be an ideal candidate for the 'Hi Def' experience. Unlike any other Who, it was all shot on film (rather than videotape) and so had the potential for remastering to give a better picture.  So I was rather delighted when it was announced that it would be released in the Blu Ray format, and remastered along the way too.

I was less impressed when I heard that 2Entertain had allocated next to no funds to actually do the remastering though, and this may be the source of my main (if minor) complaint about the story itself.

Seeing it in sharp and clear colour on the telly was magnificent indeed. And there's a little comparison documentary on the disk showing the different versions of the story, from VHS to DVD, to remastered DVD to this new Hi Def version.  I liked how filmic it all seemed, and the country colours of episode one, to the grey, waxy skin of the auton humans seemed new and fresh.

My main concern with the presentation, and it is picky indeed, is that in two scenes, there is what seem to be fluff or something in the film gate at the top of the frame. These are shots between Hibbert and Ransom in Hibbert's office in part two, and in the final scenes between the Doctor and Channing in part 4. Given the level of technology we have available, I'm not sure why these marks weren't digitally removed - even doing it frame by frame should be possible these days given the amazing work done by Stuart Humpreyes on the recent 'The Mind of Evil' release.

As I say, it's a small thing, but when you are promoting your release as being in Hi Def on Blu Ray, and digitally restored and remastered, this just looks like shoddy work.

The release has few extras on it. There's the aforementioned piece on the restoration; a 'coming soon' on the Pertwee story 'The Green Death' which just tries way too hard to make it look punchy and exciting - and all those fade to blacks render it almost unwatchable!  Seeing trailers for Classic Who done in the style of modern blockbusters was amusing at first, but now it just grates. It also perhaps raises false expectations in the minds of those who have not seen the story as to what it might be like.

The main two documentaries included on the disk are a piece on Jon Pertwee; and one on Caroline John.

The Caroline John Documentary, Carry On, is really good. It covers John's life through interviews with her husband, daughter and best friends and you really get a sense of the person that Carrie was. I liked the lady immensely ... I think if we'd spent more time together then we would have really got on. She was kind and funny and always laughing, and this comes over well in the documentary. I have to admit that I cried a little at the section where her family were explaining how she came to do her first ever convention - and they even had the video footage of exactly what was being explained. And so we could see the cheers and applause as she made her entrance to a packed room of fans, and realised that they all loved her and that her performance in Doctor Who had been something special. It's a shame that John Molyneux, who got her to attend, and who conducted the on-stage interview we see clips from in the documentary, was not credited. But it's a great piece overall, and good insight into the lady.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Jon Pertwee Documentary, A Dandy and a Clown - which is strange as it's from the same Director. This covers Jon's life, but his family are conspicuous by their absence, and it's left to about half a dozen showbiz pals, and one long-time friend, to reminisce about Jon, interspersed with some interview clips of him on shows like Wogan. Generally this is a very superficial look at Jon's life and career. Something of a wasted opportunity really. I assume that this is the documentary that I was contacted about some months back, where the Director wanted all my help, photographs, audiotapes and whatever about Jon, without paying a research fee or involving me in any way in the documentary (I declined), and for which he admitted extensively using the book I penned with Jon, I Am The Doctor, for reference (no credit was given to the book as a reference source at the end). This may be why I feel a little ambivalent about this piece ... so apologies for that.  It's nicely presented though, and I liked the idea of a timeline unfolding and the steps along the way being represented by photographs and clips - and there's lots of pictures here which I hadn't seen before, so kudos to whoever did the picture research.

Overall this is a lovely package. A chance to see some classic Doctor Who in tip top condition, and with a couple of Documentaries thrown in.  I'd have loved to have seen an isolated music track included, and more effort made to source interesting additional features, but I understand that the budget allocated to this release was minimal, and therefore they had to go with what they could get. It's still a shame though, given how much money these releases make for 2Entertain and the BBC, that they can't spend a little more and get a much better end product as a result.

1 comment:

dis1960 said...

The Caroline John documentary is worth the price of the Blu-Ray. It really is excellent