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DVD Review: Doctor Who – “Remembrance of the Daleks” Special Edition

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Through the years, science fiction has created numerable iconic images and phrases. Any sci-fi fan knows in what franchise they'll hear "resistance is futile," "may the Force be with you," or "the truth is out there." Some of these phrases are meant to invoke a sense of wonder and amazement, others convey general greetings, and still others fear. In the realm of this last type of famous saying, one of most enduring – and potentially scary in terms of their idea if not their execution – is "exterminate!"

Though a simple, one-word phrase, "exterminate!" carries with it nearly 50 years of history. The Daleks may not have said their catchphrase in their first serial in Doctor Who, something that occurred during the classic series' first season, but extermination was certainly discussed at that time and would soon be stated in classic fashion. The Daleks are a massive part of the series, and although not seen as often as a companion have influenced the Doctor as much as any individual or group (particularly if you count the new series).

In 1989, in "Remembrance of the Daleks" which was the first story in the 25th anniversary season of Doctor Who, the Eighth Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) returns to some of the locations seen in the first Doctor Who story, "An Unearthly Child." In "Remembrance," the Doctor does battle with his nemesis one last time (for the original series). Except, of course, that there are not one but two Dalek factions – Imperial and Renegade – running around London fighting one another as well as the Time Lord. Davros, the creator of the Daleks puts in an appearance as well. In short, for those unfamiliar with the Doctor and his universe, there is a whole lot of background information that is if not always crucially important for viewers at the very least terribly relevant.

The impetus for the entire story is something called the "Hand of Omega" which the Doctor himself left on Earth, and which both Dalek factions want for their own. However, the specifics of that are somewhat less important than the fighting between the Daleks' themselves – a battle which revolves around the notion of racial purity.

The end of the tale and the actions that the Doctor takes in story are quite fascinating and have great ramifications in the world of Doctor Who, but none of that is dealt with herein. It is terribly unfortunate, one can't help but wonder what will come of the Doctor's actions during the climax of "Remembrance," because most certainly those actions will have consequences, but we don't learn those answers here. This leaves "Remembrance of the Daleks" as even more of an unfinished tale than an average Dalek or even Doctor Who story (because, after all, we always know that there will be more of the Doctor and more of the Daleks so therefore all the tales are unfinished) and the forced speculation is somewhat unsatisfying.

The Doctor's companion for this episode is Ace (Sophie Aldred). In production which has an extremely 1980s feel to it, Ace's patch adorned black leather jacket, aluminum baseball bat, and boom box only add to something of an odd sense about episode. The story may take place in 1963 but doesn't always feel that way.

This new DVD set of "Remembrance," a Special Edition, contains two discs and a whole lot of bonus features (some of which appeared on the first DVD edition release). In terms of new features, the discs have (again) been remastered, there is a 5.1 channel surround mix, two behind-the-scenes featurettes with the writers, producers, and stars of the episode. The first of them, "Back to School," goes more into the actual production of the episode whereas the second, "Remembrances," is more about the references the serial makes to earlier moments of Doctor Who. Also new to this set is an expanded photo gallery, introductions by Aldred and McCoy to deleted scenes (the scenes though are not new to DVD), and the entirety of the second disc which contains a featurette on Davros and his history entitled "Davros Connection." This last item delves not only into Davros' TV appearances in the original Doctor Who, but his audio drama "appearances" as well.

This last documentary is, perhaps, an odd inclusion in this release as Davros, though he does appear in the story is not on screen, nor discussed, for a terribly long period of time in "Remembrance of the Daleks." It appears as though its inclusion here is due to the fact that this Special Edition was originally released in England as a part of a set of Davros stories.

The holdover bonus features from the original DVD release include a feature commentary track by McCoy and Aldred, the original stereo mix of the story, a music-only audio option, two sequences which allow the viewer to change the angle they're watching from, bloopers, trailers and introduction sequences (some of which, apparently, are new), and a PDF with the original newspaper listing for the episodes if one puts the disc into their computer.

All in all, it is a pretty impressive set and one that collectors will quite enjoy. The intra-Dalek fighting and lore included in the episode is quite intriguing and the references to the series' own history fun. It is these self-referential, "inside-baseball," elements of the story that are the most interesting. Not being able to compare audio and video quality of the two releases side-by-side, this reviewer is unable to state how much better the Special Edition might look and/or sound, but no one watching will have any complaints about either the visual or auditory aspects of the new version.

"Remembrance of the Daleks" is a solid, though not spectacular, Doctor Who tale, and the release it has been given here is certainly worth considering a double-dip for those who already own the first version (even if that Dalek does manage to climb the stairs).

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.