Tom Baker returns as The Doctor

A friend pointed me in the direction of this Doctor Who-themed clip over the weekend, a series of short ads for New Zealand superannuation services featuring Tom Baker in full-on Fourth Doctor mode.

The ads were made in 1997, long before the return of the show to BBC One in 2005, and I wonder how much they had to pay for the rights to use the character and the music.

Tom’s on fantastic form and it’s evidence, if it was needed, that he’s still got what it takes to play the role. Here’s hoping the BBC decide to bring him back for next year’s 50th anniversary celebrations…

DVD Review: Doctor Who – The Sun Makers

Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor finds himself in a rather taxing situation in The Sun Makers, landing on Pluto in the far future with Leela (Louise Jameson) in tow as he discovers the planet’s populace is being kept in its place by The Collector (Henry Woolf).

The Sun MakersAssisting the rebels fighting to overthrow their oppressors, the Doctor discovers the true nature of The Collector’s origins and that sometimes money is the root of all evil.

Written by Robert Holmes, perhaps Doctor Who’s most celebrated scriptwriter and also its script editor at the time of The Sun Makers, the story is packed with the type of humour rarely seen in the series.

With overt references to the British tax system, this was never going to be your typical Saturday tea time romp, but social commentary doesn’t overwhelm the science fiction at the script’s core.

Baker and Jameson are both on fine form and it’s a joy to see them take on Woolf and Richard Leech as Gatherer Hade, even if things do get slightly heightened as the story goes on. The guest cast are uniformly excellent, particularly Michael Keating and William Simons as Goudry and Mandrel respectively.

Clever, challenging and always entertaining, The Sun Makers is a welcome DVD release which shows once again just how diverse the series has been over the years.

Extras on this single disc edition include an informative commentary from Baker, Jameson, Keating and director, Pennant Robert, and a new documentary, Running from the Tax Man, which looks back at the story’s development and production.

Yet more fact-filled production notes can be switched on to aid enjoyment while the usual PDF documents and a photo gallery are available.

Story ★★★★
Extras ★★★★★

DVD Review: Doctor Who – The Seeds of Doom

The Avengers meets Quatermass in this latest Doctor Who DVD release, a rollicking adventure which takes us from the Antarctic to the English countryside as the Doctor interrupts diabolical deeds in the greenhouse.

Flown to present day (well, 1970s) Antarctica, the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen) discover a research team who have unearthed two strange pods.

It’s not long before the scientists realise they’ve got something dangerous on their hands, something which has turned one of them into a creature capable of destroying them all.

Seeds of DoomWith a reclusive millionaire, Harrison Chase (Tony Beckley), determined to gain control of the pods, the Doctor must make his way back to England before the Krynoid threat escalates.

Veteran writer Robert Banks Stewart’s script is one of the Tom Baker era’s finest, packed with incident and memorable dialogue. That something this entertaining was made for children is testament to the BBC’s commitment to the series at the time, one which, tragically, began to fade as the decade wore on.

Only in his second season as the Time Lord, Baker is still clearly relishing the job, his banter with Sladen and assorted goons one of the story’s finest elements.

Beckley makes for a suitably seedy (pun intended) bad guy, smooth yet clearly bonkers, a non-alien foe worthy of the Doctor’s scorn. John Challis, a few years before his turn as Boycie in Only Fools and Horses, is fine support, while the rest of the cast seem to relish the quality dialogue they’ve been supplied with.

If one was to nitpick, then the six episode format would be the main sticking point, the need to stretch a relatively simple idea over so many weeks resulting in some rehashing of events once we move from the icy wastes to Chase’s mansion.

Thankfully, the sheer energy of the production, overseen by director Douglas Camfield and his assistant, Graeme Harper, means it’s easy to overlook this, and we’re left with a quality adventure which should satisfy both the more mature fans and the younger saplings more used to nuWho.

Extras-wise, there’s a wealth of new material available across these two discs. First-up is the commentary, featuring contributions from an on-form Tom Baker, happy to recall being adored by old ladies in the mid-70s, while Robert Banks Stewart, John Challis, Michael McStay and Roger Murray-Leach are just some of the others lending their voices to the track.

Disc two gives us the in-depth PodShock documentary, the cast and crew looking back affectionately at the stories creation, albeit with details of various problems which beset the production. A tour of Athelhampton House today, where the story was filmed in 2010, an interview with composer Geoffrey Burgon (whose score is rewarded with its own isolated music track), and a fascinating look at what production staff job titles really meant are some of the other gems on here, while the latest Stripped for Action featurette looks at the Fourth Doctor’s time on the printed page.

If that lot isn’t enough, there’s a photo gallery, Coming Soon trailer and PDFs of Camfield’s paper edit of the story for a compilation version of the story.

Doctor Who: Seeds of Doom is out on DVD on Monday 25 October

DVD Review: Doctor Who – Revisitations Box Set


Spruced up with improved picture quality and beefed up with enough extras to fill the Pandorica a few times over, three classic Doctor Who stories are now back to entertain fans all over again.

The Talons of Weng Chiang sees Tom Baker’s Sherlock Holmes-inspired Fourth Doctor roaming the foggy streets of Victorian London with his very on Eliza Doolittle in the shape of Leela (Louise Jameson) while aliens and rogues get in his way.

Peter Davison’s swansong, The Caves of Androzani, is the type of multi-layered, fast moving and near perfect romp that we remember all of his stories to be (at least until we see Time Flight again), a doom-laden epic which pits the Doctor and Peri (Nicola Bryant) against Sharaz Jek (Christopher Gable) and a gaggle of mercenaries.

Doctor Who: Revisitations Box Set

Finally, the 1996 TV Movie stars Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, destined to enjoy just one night only on our TV screens before vanishing off onto audio adventures for an eternity. The San Francisco of 1999 was the backdrop for his battle against Eric Roberts’ Master, an intermittently threatening presence with a great line in evening wear.

The downer for long-term fans with this set is the fact that they’ve all been released before, though that was near the start of the range, the technology and ambition available to the Restoration Team who put the DVDs together clearly improving over the years.

Now, in addition to all the previous extras, we get a bundle more, a substantial haul which it’s hard to fault. Talons is awarded three discs this time around, with a typically bonkers Tom Baker meeting ex-producer Philip Hinchcliffe in his kitchen to discuss their time on the story and a number of mini-documentaries examining every aspect of this much-loved tale.

Caves gets an informative new documentary from TV and film historian, and über-fan, Matthew Sweet plus an odd appearance on Russell Harty from Davison and the incoming Colin Baker, while the picture quality on the story itself is impressively clear.

The TV Movie does the best out of the bunch, with three in-depth documentaries: the first looks at the so-called Wilderness Years that lasted between the end of the series proper in 1989 and it’s rebirth in 2005; the second goes behind-the-scenes of the TV Movie’s pre-production; and the third is the second part of a series which shows how Who was depicted on kids’ magazine show, Blue Peter. Continue reading