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Doctor Who: Terror of the Zygons (1975) - DVD Review

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Doctor Who: Terror of the Zygons (1975

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5 stars

A genuine classic of the long running Doctor Who BBC series has finally seen the light of day on DVD.  Terror of the Zygons remains a terrifying experience of Celtic proportions.  Opening its thirteenth series and Tom Baker’s second as the Doctor, this story – written by Robert Banks Stewart – is considered the last UNIT storyline and is a fitting adios for the ever-brilliant Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart even if he does hilariously don a kilt for no good reason.

Yes, Terror of the Zygons starts with its fair share of Scottish clichés.  But it quickly shakes them off.  We’re somewhere in the vicinity of the famed Loch Ness and something otherworldly is attacking the off-shore oil installations.  The Doctor (Tom Baker), Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry (Ian Marter) have spent a whole season of space adventures time-hopping forward and back again and, upon arriving safely on Earth, offer their assistance to UNIT once again.

What follows is a creepy and intimate tale of strange goings-on in a Scottish village, behind which lurk one of the show’s most imaginatively realized monsters, the Zygons (and their less-well realized giant monster, the Skarasen).  Of note is the fact that this is story is also the last official outing for Harry as a companion.  Fun while it lasted, Harry was beginning to slow the series down with his laser-brained shenanigans.

The changes don’t stop there, though.  Having successfully tightened the format of the serial, producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes add some grit to the science fiction mix and provide believability to the action that had previously been disregarded in favor of a younger audience.  But followers were evolving; the show was growing; the changes were necessary.

It is here where Baker – hypnotizing Sarah, being hilariously rude, cracking strange remarks, and outfoxing the villains left and right – makes the role of the Doctor uniquely his.  Strange and interesting things follow his lead.  Going from mood to mood in the blink of an eye and making it seem so easy takes some doing – but Baker does this effortlessly.

I mean no disrespect but - unlike the family-oriented Pertwee years of Doctor Who that ended with the Doctor being comfortable and as red-blooded as his associates – Terror of the Zygons rips new pathways with shocks and uncompromising moments that both startles and excites.

Terror of the Zygons is quite rightly regarded as being one of the best stories of the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who; despite a few flaws (most of which are effects-related), this is a cracking story that rattles along and introduced the world to the Zygons.  It also one of the last Doctor Who’s to be released.  They saved the best for last indeed.

With Terror of the Zygons, Doctor Who is alien again.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Doctor Who: Terror of the Zygons (1975

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

5 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
5 Stars

DVD

DVD Details:

Available on Blu-ray - October 8, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.33:1
Language
: English
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 2 50GB Blu-ray Discs
Region Encoding: Region 1

The Doctor Who Restoration Team have cleaned up this story as best they can, and the results on the studio footage are most impressive, with a healthy level of detail and vibrant colours that only reach saturation point when reds dominate inside the Zygon spacecraft. The location footage obviously no longer exists and the guys have done their best with it; the film footage is fairly clean and doesn’t look TOO bad, but whenever there are composite shots involving the Nessie-like beastie, clarity takes a nosedive with nth-level generational loss and muddy visuals.  It’s a somewhat bizarre experience listening to this all-too-familiar arrangement of the Doctor Who theme in 5.1; all of the original elements that make up this version have been separated and you can clearly hear each of them with a fidelity that you would probably never have imagined.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • With commentary from producer Philip Hinchcliffe, writer Robert Banks Stewart, production-unit manager George Gallaccio, makeup-designer Sylvia James and Dick Mills, one of the very last releases of Doctor Who gets an appropriately sweeping sit-down with those who made it.

Special Features:

If you’ve been waiting what feels like ages to own this one on DVD, you won’t be disappointed with this 2-disc set.  Of most interest to hard-core fans will be the option to view The Director’s Cut of Part One, which was trimmed prior to transmission for timing reasons.  Other extras include The UNIT Family Part Three (with Terrance Dicks, Richard Franklin and Nicholas Courtney) and two Doctor Who Stories featuring Tom Baker and Lis Sladen.  Recorded in 2003 – just after the return of Doctor Who was announced – the latter beautifully has Sladen discuss her enthusiasm and hopes for its return, as footage from 2006’s School Reunion plays alongside.  Remembering Douglas Camfield is a 30-minute retrospective of the late director.  Rounding off this hugely impressive array of extras are: the Radio Times listings (with some gorgeous Terror of the Zygons artwork); a couple of Easter Eggs (I won't spoil them for you, but they are well worth checking out); informative but very playful Production Subtitles; a juicy trailer for The Moonbase DVD; and the aforementioned, and very welcome, addition of "Isolated Score" - allowing the viewer to watch the four episodes purely with the gorgeous soundtrack.

  • Scotch Mist in Sussex (25 min)
  • Remembering Douglas Camfield (30 min)
  • South Today Interview (7 min)
  • The UNIT Family Part Three (25 min)
  • Merry-Go-Round: The Fuel Fishers (30 min)
  • Doctor Who Stories: Tom Baker (10 min)
  • Doctor Who Stories: Elisabeth Sladen (8 min)
  • Isolated Score
  • Photo Gallery
  • Radio Times Billings
  • Coming Soon
  • Production Subtitles

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