Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Good DVD Guide

With yet another Sarah Jane Smith "Doctor Who" DVD announced for later in the year ("Robot", which is out 28th May) now seems the appropriate time to travel backwards in time, and explore all of the Sarah Jane adventures released on DVD thus far. Oh yes; this is what no new news has reduced me to...

ELISABETH SLADEN AND CO-STAR GLYN HOUSTON PROVIDING VALUE CONTRIBUTIONS

"The Ark in Space" - a classic adventure by Bob Holmes; that suffers because of its budget - of lack of one. The DVD set was one of the first released, way back in 2002 and features new model shots (done in exciting CGI) of the Ark space station. Aside from that, there's very little else to see here; although a rather neat commentary with Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and Philip Hinchcliffe should raise a few laughs. If you know anything about Tom Baker, then you'll know what to expect.

"The Sontaran Experiment" - a milestone for the DVD range, as this is the first "vanilla" release - although we're still given a 40 minute documentary on the Sontaran race, and a commentary track from Elisabeth Sladen, co-writer Bob Baker and producer Philip Hinchcliffe. Exciting stuff - although the main feature isn't exactly Doctor Who's grandest hour (literally, it's an hour long adventure!). The Sontarans are cool though - hurry up and bring them back Russell! The Judoon have nothing on them...

"Genesis of the Daleks" - quite possibly the greatest "Doctor Who" ever made, so I don't really have to go into much detail about the story. As for the extras? Well, this is a double release with not only looks back on the production of "Genesis" but of all the Dalek stories in general. The commentary between Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, actor Peter Miles, and the story's late director David Maloney is especially cool; as it features references to "School Reunion" which Sladen had just recorded!

"Pyramids of Mars" - another classic and one that was voted for release by readers of Doctor Who Magazine. The story is an unusal mix of modern day (well, the 1920's) and Eyptian mummies. I jest you not. The bonus features include a look at Philip Hinchcliffe's influencial era on the show, and a commentary featuring Elisabeth Sladen and the late great Michael "Mr Bronson" Sheard, with producer Philip Hinchcliffe too. Phew!

"The Hand of Fear" - the last classic series adventure to feature Elisabeth Sladen as a regular character. Though not exactly the best story, the DVD features make up for this fact. There's a look behind the scenes on Sarah's departure scene, and a commentary featuring Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and Judith Paris. Oh, and a chance to see Elisabeth on the first ever addition of children television's "Swap Shop". What's not to love?!?

"The Five Doctors" - a true vanilla release, with no special features whatsoever (unless of course you own the Region One addition...) Everybody is familiar with the central plotline (if not, then the clues in the title!) but one can't help but think this isn't Sarah Jane's finest hour. After all, she's reduced to a bit part! Boo!

"School Reunion" - part of the "Complete Second Series" boxset, this story sees the welcome return of Elisabeth Sladen to our screens after far too long away. There's a commentary track, but for whatever reason Elisabeth isn't included. Damn! Nevertheless, David Tennant's video diaries make up for her absense. Watch his excitment as he realises that Sarah's back! He's revisiting his childhood, and it's a joy to watch.

There's also a cutdown edition of "Friends Reunited" in the boxset - an episode of Doctor Who Confidential with takes a look back on the life and times of Sarah Jane Smith, and what she's been up to since we last saw her onscreen. Welcome back!

If there's one thing that does need praising about all these releases, it's how actively involved Elisabeth Sladen has been in their development. She never fails to provide a commentary track, or interviews for the main feature documentaries - so on behalf of every single 'Smithie' who's ever bought a DVD and thoroughly enjoyed it, I want to say a massive thank you. To Miss Sladen. Because you deserve it.

And that's about it. Well, until "Robot" is released in May. If you've got a craving for any more of my rather bizzare reviews, then head on over to my Doctor Who.tv review site. It should only be a couple of years until I get round to reviewing Elisabeth Sladen's era of the show...
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