Review: Doctor Who - The Fourth Doctor Time Capsule / Cert: PG / Director: Douglas Camfield / Screenplay: Robert Banks Stewart / Starring: Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Ian Marter, Nicholas Courtney, John Woodnutt, John Levene / Release Date: July 29th
This surprise Doctor Who box set – fans only became aware of its existence following the appearance of an online teaser trailer a few weeks prior to its release date - is rather more than just another Doctor Who DVD release. If any incarnation of TV’s top Time Lord deserves his own moment in the spotlight in this fiftieth anniversary year then it must be Tom Baker, whose teeth-and-curls (and scarf) interpretation of the Doctor is still used as a sort of lazy shorthand for journalists and associated media folk in a hurry to evoke the essence of Doctor Who without bothering themselves with all the other arcane lore and iconography of the series. And who can blame them? Baker arrived in the series at the tail end of 1974 and immediately took the show to new heights of popularity with his combination of alien aloofness, offbeat humour and shambolic Bohemianism. The Doctor was suddenly cool and Doctor Who was seriously trendy, perhaps for the first time ever.
The Fourth Doctor Time Capsule commemorates the huge popularity of the fourth Doctor in a lavish package which includes a no-frills DVD of Terror of the Zygons, the first serial from Baker’s second season (but in production terms a holdover from the previous recording block), a Baker-narrated CD recording of the soundtrack to the 1975 serial Genesis of the Daleks, a twenty-six minute DVD interview, an exclusive action figure depicting Baker in his predecessor's frills and velvets, a 1970s-style sonic screwdriver, art cards of all the fourth Doctor’s companions, a glossy print of the fourth Doctor, an introductory letter from the indefatigable Baker himself and a fourth Doctor novel written during the ‘dark years’ when Doctor Who wasn’t the cornerstone on the BBC schedule it’s become since the 2005 resurrection.
The tempter here, as with June’s Regenerations box set, will be the early availability on DVD of a previously unreleased serial and Terror of the Zygons is featured here without any of the special features due when the episodes are released separately later this year (and certainly without the reinstated ‘missing’ footage from the first episode). Starburst will be looking at the serial in greater detail when it’s released in September but it’s an odd and uncharacteristic fourth Doctor story, very much a throwback to the Pertwee era with its UNIT soldiers and bright orange rubber monsters. The Zygons remain a masterpiece of design (and are making their long overdue return in the upcoming anniversary special) but as characters they’re nothing special, cast very much in the ‘die, Doctor, die’ mould of many of the latex and fibreglass baddies who came before them. Baker, yet to sink his comedy chops into the role, remains a joy, a distant and diffident alien who can barely bother himself with the concerns of humans whilst still possessing a twinkling charm and bags of boundless energy. The Baker interview disc is frustratingly brief – who couldn’t listen to Tom Baker talk for hours on end? – but he covers his landmark seven-year run with typical honesty and laconic enthusiasm. He remembers his many companions, especially Elisabeth Sladen, with huge affection and former short-lived wife Lalla Ward is honoured with a casual, “I married one of them”.
The Fourth Doctor Time Capsule is a generous, impressive collection immaculately presented in faux Gallifreyan artefact packaging, and with a limited run of just 5,000 units (and a price tag of around fifty quid) it’s clearly aimed at the high end Doctor Who collector’s market. Cynics might view it as an expensive rip-off designed to extend the life of the winding-down DVD range but we’d like to believe that the reality is that it’s an affectionate and timely tribute to a much-loved incarnation of a character who’s now a bona fide television legend celebrating a very special birthday.
Extras: See above