Shiny Shelf

Doctor Who: The Visitation DVD

By Jim Smith on 26 November 2005

‘The Visitation’ is a handsomely mounted early 80s ‘Doctor Who’ serial with a young heroic Doctor (Peter Davision) a needlessly large crew of ‘companions’ (Adric, Tegan and Nyssa) oodles of location filming and one of the series best ever monsters.

The script is simple but strong, although some of the dialogue is cringeworthy even by Doctor Who standards. The performances are all sound with the exception of Davison (who is fantastic) and Guest Star Michael Robbins who is, as Higwayman Thespian Richard Mace, even more fantastic than Davison is.

The story is neatly directed, although there are some moments of horrible shot continuity. This is a surprise when one considers the blunders that director Peter Moffatt committed on some of his later ‘Doctor Who’ assignments.

Moffat’s ‘Doctor Who’ canon is the subject of one of the special features. This documentary, which is really an extended interview with the man himself, is rather nice. Moffatt explains himself well, articulating his theories about directing drama in an engaging way. Clips demonstrate what he did well, and less well, on his six ‘Who’ serials and he clearly regards everyone he worked with on the series as ‘lovely’. This seems, somehow, to not be the forced bonhomie of a proffesional sycophant but the real feelings of a man who enjoyed his work and tried to make sure everyone else did too.

Elsewhere there’s an equally interesting, though spectacuarly bitter, interview with the screenwriter Eric Saward and a longer chat with composer Paddy Kingsland. Kingsland’s score is available on a ‘music only’ option on this disc, which offers viewers the tempting possibility of watching the story’s neat visuals without hearing the dialogue.

Another audio option is the commentary in which messrs Davison and Moffatt team up with Sarah Sutton, Matthew Waterhouse and Janet Fielding (who played Davison’s three assistants in this). Davison is funny, Moffat interesting and the other three alternate between quiet, caustic and helpful.

Some film trims and a photo-gallery are of historic interest only and the Easter Egg, though easy to find (toggle right on the first circle on the Special Features menu), is almost brain-numbingly trivial even by the standards of such things.

‘The Visitation’ is a good, sound example of ‘Doctor Who’. A tale of an alien menace attacking Earth’s past, it’s archetypally the kind of serial that Joe Public thinks ‘Doctor Who’ was composed entirely of. And maybe it should have been.

Good story, good disc. Roll on the next one.

You can pick up your own conveniently exploding Tereleptil gun at Blackstar or visit the Tinclaavic mines of Raaga. Either’s good.

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