]1 Courtesy BBC Home Entertainment

(Special thanks to BBC Home Entertainment for providing complimentary DVDs for review; parts of this post originally appeared in slightly modified form on Blog This, Pal!)

There’s nothing quite like early 1970′s Doctor Who – unlike the whimsy and timey-wimey of the current series, many stories during Jon Pertwee’s tenure as the Doctor of the early ’70s are more straightforward. Revealing the influence of both James Bond and Star Trek (which made its British television debut in the 1970s), Third Doctor stories contain slightly harder-edged elements that bring an immediacy that makes them inherently watchable. Several recent BBC DVD releases – including the August’s Special Edition of The Green Death – provide some great watching for Who fans who might want to see a classic Doctor with an edge that many contemporary audiences can appreciate.

Watching The Green Death now, it is easy to see many of the production flaws in classic Doctor Who. But with its focus on environmental issues, increasing globalization of business, exploitation of workers, and the darker side of automation, Robert Sloman’s six-episode script never feels overly long. In fact, one of the key elements of The Green Death is the departure of companion Jo Grant – foreshadowed in episode one, it is one of the few instances in classic Who where the relationship between the Doctor and a companion is explored. By the end of episode six, when the Doctor rides off into the sunset, there’s a slight melancholy reminiscent of the last few minutes of Doomsday with the Tenth Doctor and Rose. (One of the bonus features on the Green Death special edition is the two-part Death of the Doctor from The Sarah Jane Adventures, which features both Jo Grant and Sarah Jane Smith). With plenty of featurettes and commentaries, The Green Death is not only a great classic episode with much for new Who fans – the Special Edition is a must-own.


]2 Courtesy BBC Home Entertainment

Two other Third Doctor releases from earlier this year also are indispensable, and are worth investing an afternoon in watching. Although seven episodes long, the special edition of Inferno moves at a very brisk pace, focusing on efforts to drill into the earth’s crust to find a new energy source. One of the unique features of this story is that it splits off, and events transpire on a parallel Earth, avoiding the usual “padded” quality of longer Who episodes. (This is also one of the few times classic Doctor Who would dive into that theme).


]3 Courtesy BBC Home Entertainment

Another, more noteworthy release is the fully restored Mind of Evil from 1971, a great-looking release in full-blooded color), featuring Roger Delgado as the Master. Mixing both prison drama and elements of military espionage, Mind of Evil is one of the few stories to introduce elements from another culture in a contemporary context. Unfortunately, what seemed cutting edge in 1971 comes off as a little….awkward in modern times, but that shouldn’t take away from your enjoyment. This is Doctor Who amping the James Bond-style elements with a slightly adult edge (after this story, the series would move in a more family-friendly direction). As a plot-driven episode, Mind of Evil is another classic Who story that feels like it would fit easily in the context of modern Who.

Keep in mind that these stories – produced in the early 1970s, have production values and special effects reminiscent of their time. Although longer stories (equivalent to new series three’s Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords), none of these stories feels padded or overlong. All of these stories are available as dual DVD sets through BBC America Shop, and are worthy additions to any Doctor Who fan’s library….these stories are well worth watching, and quite honestly, demonstrate the strength of Doctor Who as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.


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