A Few Words About The Five Doctors

Perhaps even moreso than The Three Doctors back in Season 10, The Five Doctors is about seeing a bunch of old friends ham it up on screen with the current cast. And with so many old faces around for the ride, there’s a lot more to notice.

-Sarah Jane literally throws away her purse as she gets caught up in the Timescoop.-The Brig has certainly learned to take the issue of multiple Doctors in stride if he doesn’t even flinch at the Second appearing after having spent time with the Third, Fourth, and Fifth.

-The Second Doctor, however, hasn’t gotten over the prospect of regenerating into the Third Doctor.

-Susan’s admiring look at the Fifth Doctor is a great little bit of acting by Carole Ann Ford.

-Elisabeth Sladen was right: rolling down the hill is pretty embarrassing, especially since the scripted meeting with the Third Doctor is quintessential Pertwee.

-So, in addition to being bastards for the mind rape of Jaime and Zoe, the Time Lords are responsible for killing Bessie. Yes, I’m keeping track of this.

-The Third Doctor’s attitude towards the Cybermen seems to mirror that of Terrance Dicks.

-Why is it that Susan, who’s got on a decent pair of boots, the one to sprain her ankle, instead of Tegan, who’s wearing heels?

-You know it’s an anniversary spectacular when the Cybermen are slaughtered in the most delightfully gory ways possible.

-Despite not wanting to make like Polly and get him some tea, Tegan gets on pretty well with the First Doctor.

-It’s astonishing how little Wendy Padbury had changed since ’69 in this special. She’s probably the best looking of all the ex-companions in the whole thing.

-Also, *big* plot hole in how the Second Doctor remembers his trial, which directly preceded his forced regeneration.

-The Third Doctor assuming the role of the know-it-all at the Tomb of Rassilon is classic Pertwee.

-I’m pretty sure that Nick Courtney enjoyed slugging Ainley just a bit too much. :D

-The ending is pitch perfect, as it happily returns the show to its roots, of the Doctor being on the run from the Time Lords while hopping from place to place.

 

The *Real* Transformers Season 1 DVDs

I’ve spent an unbelievable amount of time, effort, and hard drive space complaining about Rhino and Shout! Factory’s Sunbow DVDs (and I fear I shall be doing it again once the recently announced Jem DVD set arrives), with the most attention laid upon the first season of The Transformers, which are an utter disaster on American DVD releases.

In the UK, however, the first season of Transformers has been properly released on DVD for years, and is currently available at bargain-basement prices online.No, really. Original audio, broadcast video, and-ye gads!-no PAL-related time compression to speak of. That’s what Maverick’s three single-disc Region 2 DVDs have to offer, though there are some caveats. Obviously, you need a region-free DVD player, which is going to set you back a good $50 or more, which may be a bit silly for a measly 16 episodes of television (I’ll happily admit that my reasons for purchasing said player are related to my Doctor Who viewing habits and not The Transformers), especially since Maverick lost the license to the show years ago, and Metrodome’s DVDs are merely ports of the hideous Rhino Transformers box sets, right down to the hated 5.1 audio mixes, with no option for the original mono even in the third season sets. Also, Maverick released the episodes out of order, and without special features, which are what give the discs fairly low ratings on Amazon’s UK site.

The episodes as seen on these DVDs are a bit less than perfect though, but it’s mainly because of the intros and the end credits. All three parts of “More Than Meets the Eye” feature the opening from Season 3 reruns-which is to say, the Season 2 opening with the Season 3 version of the theme song. However, the episodes have their correct end credits, unlike the current US broadcast masters, which have the textless Season 1 end credits. And, as an odd aside, the first two shots of Act 3 of “More Than Meets the Eye” Part 1 are cut out, which is the only truly hideous offender in the race to remove the commercial bumpers (a note or two of music is lost in a couple of episodes around the commercial breaks at most other than this example).

Most other episodes feature the Season 1 open with the textless Season 1 end credits, but “Roll For It” and “Heavy Metal War” have a version of the Season 3 rerun opening without the vocal track, and the Season 2 end credits. Also, as with the US broadcast masters Part 1 of The Ultimate Doom has the original Season 1 credits (the version with the fixed music credits). But, best of all is the sound mix used for “Heavy Metal War”: it’s the original version with the properly mixed sound effects, and not the remix that makes the effects practically inaudible.

What this means, of course (since these PAL video masters are also used on Madman’s Region 4 Transformers box set, though paired with the 5.1 mix from Rhino), is that all of the video for the first season does in fact still exist, even if the NTSC tapes are missing chunks due to aging as has been claimed, and at least one episode would be better served by using the mono track currently paired with a PAL-format episode. As the first season of The Transformers is where the overwhelming majority of the issues with the broadcast masters lie, it seems that there’s really no excuse for not using the broadcast masters. Would it be more preferable to use the 35mm prints? Yes, but they’re missing footage, with “Fire in the Sky” and “Heavy Metal War” being around half missing in 35mm by my best guess. Plus, the pulldown on the Rhino transfer is utterly atrocious, with jaggies particularly present in the first season. Until the missing footage is found and given a quality telecine transfer, it makes no sense not to use the best available complete version of The Transformers (or any other Sunbow show, for that matter).

On a mildly tangental subject, I’m not going to be using the Shout! DVDs for screen grabs if I can help it after the long-delayed review for “Divide And Conquer” (for which the image capturing has long since been finished). The re-take/alteration issue has been a severe headache for me, if you haven’t noticed.

Besides, the color red is far too saturated on those “remastered” things.

 

Vicki in: “How to Behave When Your Friends Get Into A Lover’s Quarrel”

Credit goes to Leanne Hannah for first teasing this little scene in the second part of The Space Museum, wherein Vicki finds herself caught in the worst place possible: right in the middle of your friends’ fighting, when both of them are in a relationship.

Vicki: Oh boy, here they go again.
Vicki: This is going to last awhile, isn’t it?
Vicki: I hate it when they argue like this. Maybe we should go back to Rome.
Vicki: Maybe if I stare at the wall, they’ll stop fighting.
Vicki: Is it really over?
Vicki: Thank God, it’s over!
Vicki: OK, let’s go! Barbara and Ian: Huh?
Ian: You Know this is your fault. Barbara: Whatever, Ian.

Fin.

 

The Doctor And The High School

For the past month and a half, the DVD backlog has taken a back seat to Netflix, in part because of a free month given away via Xbox Live. Granted, I had been long considering joining up, but the free month was the tipping point. Through the service, I’ve seen such things as the British Office and Fawlty Towers for the first time, as well as reacquainting myself with Inspector Gadget, and even giving Batman: The Brave and the Bold the full attention it deserves. Suffice to say, the experiment has been a great success.

However, two of the first things I decided to use Netflix for have provided some particularly interesting results: Galaxy High School and Doctor Who.Galaxy High School was kind of a no-brainer, as cereal:geek has been teasing the hell out of the show since its inception, and despite the time slot it had (near the end of CBS’ Saturday morning lineup, around the time that the animated Teen Wolf and CBS Storybreak aired, both of which being shows that I know I viewed regularly), I failed to recognize the show at all, but what I saw did interest the hell out of me. So, once the first disc arrived in the mail, I was surprised to realize that I did remember the show after all, based upon the first two episodes. Granted, this was tempered by seeing the names of two people I loathe in the credits: Danny Goldberg, who, following his life as a music producer and agent (his role on Galaxy High School) effectively murdered Air America Radio and most of its original (and best) lineup, and John Kricfalusi, whose rigid opinions on animation (i.e., that the late Bob Clampett represents the end-all, be-all of what makes animation good) drives me crazy. Despite this minor test of my gag reflex, I did enjoy what I saw.

The thing is, the show left me thinking, “That’s it?” after the final episode, “It Came From Earth”, which I also remembered seeing back in the ’80s. After thinking about it, I realized what was bothering me: while CBS certainly did not interfere with the series to any obvious amount (though I suspect that they may have been the primary advocates behind “The Brain Blaster”), Galaxy High School would have been far better served with a companion 65-episode syndicated season, like the one that The Real Ghostbusters received. For one thing, I suspect that the full cast would have been better used under this arrangement (Henry Gibson’s characters in particular disappear after the first few episodes), and that there would have simply been more. As it stands, the relationship between Doyle and Aimee is barely established, and Wendy is only briefly teased as a spoiler to that relationship. Furthermore, Beef is the only character who received enough exposure and development for me to be satisfied with a paltry 13 episodes.

My thoughts turned to the possibility of a remake or sequel series, and I had to quickly dismiss the idea for a variety of reasons. First, the deaths of Howard Morris and Henry Gibson would, I fear, negatively affect things in a revival. While Icenstein is certainly overused as a plot crutch, Luigi is not, and I fear that no suitable replacement for their two extremely distinctive voices. Secondly, Aimee is too much of a product of the ’80s to be successfully adapted to modern times. She is very much cut from the same cloth as the likes of Molly Ringwald, and really, you had to be there to understand her appeal. Besides, most teen starlets these days are, quite frankly, jailbait. Aimee, like Molly Ringwald in her heyday, exudes a maturity well beyond her years, and most certainly was never staggeringly beautiful (and that was a big part of the appeal). A revival would see a lot of this disappear. The final reason, however, is the most damning: the prevalence of CGI today would mean any revival would be a live-action re-make. I hate live-action revivals of cartoons. The entire concept has been little more than a cash-grab that has upset fans of shows left and right, starting with the first of these revivals, The Flintstones, when Rosie O’Donnell was cast as Betty Rubble simply because she was a famous stand-up comedienne at the time, and could accurately replicate Bea Benedaret’s famous laugh (which was ironic since the then-current voice of Betty Rubble in the cartoons, B.J. Ward, was never known to replicate that same laugh). Not shockingly, though, a CGI animation studio called Vanguard Animation has some proposal sketches online for a re-make, which inspires absolutely no faith in yours truly.

On the side of things is Doctor Who, which has a revival currently in production, in addition to an extremely long lifespan. It’s this long life, added to the rather vague presentation of the series (until I looked online, I literally had no idea which episodes came first) and the 108 lost episodes that have kept me away for well over a decade. Now, with Season 1 of 31 (plus some specials and the ’90s revival TV movie) out of the way, I must say that I’m quite pleased with the show. The cast is generally great, even if it took me a while to properly appreciate everyone. I enjoyed Susan’s character from the start, and Ian and Barbara warmed on me by the end of the first story, and I fully warmed to The Doctor during the Marco Polo story (which is quite ironic since that story exists only as the soundtrack with various screenshots and promotional stills forming the imagery for the fan reconstruction). Likewise, the guest characters got stronger as the season proceeded-the famed Daleks are the first interesting guest characters, and Derren Nesbitt is genius as Tegana in Marco Polo, but starting with The Keys of Marinus, the guest casts begin to become more interesting overall.

The production values are certainly up to snuff, but the reasons are visibly obvious: the show was shot on video, and it seems particularly obvious in the early going that the budgets were limited: The Edge of Destruction for one is a classic “bottle” show, featuring only the main cast in the main TARDIS interior set, and the scope of The Daleks is communicated a lot more with inference and dialogue than in later stories. However, you can tell that the crew put forth a top-notch effort: the sets and costuming make the most of the limited resources, and what special effects there are are direct and greatly effective.

Perhaps most impressive are the stories: for a television series that was intended as “family hour” programming, there’s no attempt to dumb down things for younger viewers: violence in the historical stories (which include the Aztecs and France’s Reign of Terror as their subject matter) is handled accurately and without editing (though, obviously, said violence is not graphic). Additionally, there’s some really smart material: the Daleks are not robots are I initially suspected, but creatures that have retreated into suits, relying on the bulky things for all physical tasks. The Aztecs centers on Barbara’s vain attempts to bring an early end to the Aztec human sacrifice rituals, and The Sensorites touches on racism and xenophobia. In the end, I can’t helped but be pleased with the decision to-finally-leap into the world of Doctor Who.

 

G.I.Joe: The Movie Blu-ray/DVD review

I mentioned in the blog’s first post that I’ve purchased some Blu-rays for things I already know that I want to upgrade. One of these was none other than G.I. Joe: The Movie.

The short review: It’s the first Sunbow release that Shout! Factory has gotten right.

The long review: I like the Rhino DVD for G.I. Joe: The Movie. It’s a huge step up from the VHS releases in visual quality, even if it simply uses the same telecine transfer as the various VHS releases. Plus, it has a pretty good amount of the show’s PSAs in decent quality (especially compared to the bootlegs and online videos, which was the only place to see most of them at the time the disc was released). The problem is, the sucker’s old, and looks it in every way. The video has pretty heavy artifacting, and the 5.1 audio mix creates an echo effect with the background music (which was essentially mono, and created for a TV show that was barely stereo at its absolute best). The extras beyond the PSAs are quite silly, with an ancient ad for the original 12″ G.I. Joe, and an ad for MASS Device that was originally designed to have station IDs and voice overs thrown in in the middle and at the end. So, obviously, there was room for improvement, and the Sony/BMG DVD re-issue of Transformers: The Movie showed that the Sunbow feature films most certainly have their 35mm elements intact.

So, now, we have this new Blu-ray and DVD. Two wrinkles are immediately obvious: The Blu-ray is only available in widescreen (simulating the aspect ratio the film would have had if it had made it to theatres as planned), and the DVD has both the widescreen and the 1.33:1 format that the film has always been screened in. Unlike the notorious Dragon Ball Z “Orange Box” DVDs and the recent pair of Looney Tunes discs, the matting doesn’t result in a great deal of headless bodies or other vital information missing from the screen, belying the intended release format. In fact, one could argue that the movie could and should be shown at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, though the difference is incredibly minor when you get down to it. The stereo mix is also much better than Rhino’s 5.1 mix, as the background music is finally as clear as it was on VHS and the various TV airings.

While this alone would be enough to make it the best Sunbow home video releases in quite some time, there are special features to deal with. The main draw is the commentary track by Buzz Dixon, and it’s at least as good as the commentaries that Christy Marx and Roger Stern recorded for Rhino’s Jem DVDs way back when. The other features are a bit of a mixed bag, though: the PDF script confined to the DVD is of course a great thing, and as Dixon notes, the differences between it and the final feature a pretty subtle save for a couple of deleted scenes (including a funny sub-plot for Tomax and Xamot that would have set up their separation from Cobra in the never-made Season 3), but the art gallery is not much more than line art seen on the back of the original VHS releases and over at Dave Thornton’s website, JoeGuide.com, which is simply played for about a minute instead of selectable like most other DVD galleries I’ve seen. Worse are the PSAs. First off, these 8 are here because Shout! in their great ignorance (and because their G.I. Joe DVDs are not much more than ports of the discs that Rhino prepared) failed to search through the broadcast masters for. On the Blu-ray, the PSAs look and are encoded rather poorly (as I had issues advancing through the PSAs, especially when I noticed the fairly poor encodes). They look much better on the DVD, matching the quality one should expect for most of the Sunbow broadcast masters: clean, if aged, telecine transfers. But, again, these should have been on the so-called “Complete Series” box set.

As these are the last G.I. Joe DVDs we’ll see for awhile (at which point we can only hope that Hasbro and whatever distributor they choose stick with the uncut ’80s broadcast masters for the TV series), it’s comforting to finally see a release that generally gets things right, even if it’s a bit sparse in the special features department. Now, if only The Hub manages to continue this trend by using the broadcast masters for their reruns of G.I. Joe and The Transformers.

 

It’s A Blog!

So, instead of actually, you know, working on the site (next planned review: The Transformers’ first season-episode, “Divide And Conquer”), I’ve decided to entertain myself with…..a blog. I know, I know, but it’s the best way to deal with what’s been delaying me from my work: baseball, the selling off of my excess junk, and (the topic of this first post) my enormous DVD backlog.

Back when times were still relatively good, I managed to amass quite a collection of DVDs. Some, such as pretty much all of the cartoons, got watched immediately. Others, like a great deal of the TV season sets, got ignored for some reason or another. But now, with Blu-ray pretty much the winner of the format war, the time has come for me to go through all of these discs before even thinking about upgrading what can be upgraded. Granted, some things have already been upgraded (as I already know that I like, say, Major League and Star Trek), but there’s a great deal to go through. As of right now, I’ve gone through all the Disney stuff I own (it has its own section), and the As, and am now re-watching the Bond movies because I feel like it (besides, it’s been years for some of these movies since I’ve last seen them, and most only on VHS or TV broadcasts). So, yes, it’ll be a while before I get back to things in full, but I’m certain to have more than a few pertinent observations along the way.