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Doctor Who - Spearhead from Space

BBC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 97 mins . PG . PAL


Spearhead From Space has a number of firsts for Doctor Who: the first story for the third actor to portray the Doctor, Jon Pertwee; the first story where the closing credit sequence was created to match the opening sequence; and the first time Doctor Who was filmed and broadcast in colour. Adding to this list of firsts is one other detail - this was the first of only two Doctor Who stories to have been shot entirely on location, with film rather than videotape, as BBC studios were unavailable due to an industrial dispute at the BBC.

"We deal with the odd... the unexplained. Anything on Earth... or beyond."

Making a return appearance to the series is Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (played by Nicholas Courtney), promoted from Colonel since his last appearance, and given charge of U.N.I.T. - United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. UNIT have been sent to investigate a mysterious meteorite shower, with the assistance of the good Dr Liz Shaw (Caroline John).

Arriving on the scene, exiled to Earth by his Timelord peers for interfering in the concerns of other lifeforms, is the Doctor, and his now disabled TARDIS. Unfortunately, he has re-generated into a new form, and whilst he recognises the Brigadier from past encounters, the Brigadier does not recognise him. Meanwhile, strange things are afoot at a plastic manequin manufacturer located near the meteorites site of impact.

Can the Doctor discover what is going on and stop it with the aid of the Brigadier and Ms Shaw? Who knows.


Re-mastered for re-broadcasting in 1998, Spearhead From Space looks fantastic for a television show filmed just over 30 years ago (it was originally broadcast in January of 1970). Colour is remarkably rich, and the image nice and sharp, both without creating an unnatural feel to the picture. Black levels are usually strong, with few barely noticeable exceptions. In fact, the only issue you are likely to notice would be one of film grain, and the minor artifacting it causes every so often. For footage that's older than I am, I really can't complain, and I don't think Doctor Who fans will be either.


Presented in Dolby Stereo, the audio too has been remastered, leaving a clean sound that again belies the age of the original. Dialogue and effects all clear and sound genuine, with no underlying background hiss that would normally be associated with a source this old, and no synching problems were noticed.


Once again, we're treated to a baggie of Doctor Who goodness:

  • a photo gallery with an assortment of colour and black and white still shots (52 in all), some from during filming, others more obviously are promotional material;
  • a collection of trailers from the BBC when they aired the re-mastered episodes;
  • a short featurette filmed in character, extolling the virtues of U.N.I.T., in an effort to attract new recruits;
  • running production notes displayed on a sub-title channel during the main presentation;
  • an audio commentary with Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) and Caroline John (Dr Liz Shaw), an interesting and entertaining walk down memory lane for two actors who obviously enjoyed their time on the show. Be aware of the minor spoilers to the plot if you listen to the commentary before watching the episodes.


So far, the BBC are doing well with Doctor Who - two good discs from two releases, with the second being even better than the first. It seems they are aware that this of all programs is viewed as their flagship, and they are doing as much as they can to appease the millions of fans that await each disc.

Though it takes some time for each story to see the light of day, the care that has been taken in bringing it to DVD, and the additions that have been made to add value to the disc are more than worth the wait - if only we could get them at the same time as the UK.

Spearhead From Space is a fine example of Doctor Who, and an excellent example of what can be done when the creators of a DVD care about the content. A must-have for fans, and a good night's viewing for the nostalgic.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=830
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      And I quote...
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