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DVD Review: Doctor Who – Underworld

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Doctor Who is a long-running British science fiction television series featuring The Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey whose adventures see him travel through time and space. Over the years, different actors have starred in the role, and to compensate for the realities of the television business Time Lords were given the ingenious ability to regenerate their bodies when they die.

Underworld is the 96th story of the Doctor first broadcast in four weekly parts from January 7th to 28th, 1978, on BBC 1. "Part One" finds the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) joined by companions Leela (Louise Jameson), a primitive Sevateem warrior descended from an Earth colony ship, and K-9, his robotic dog, as the TARDIS appears on the R1C, a spaceship belonging to the Minyans, a species the Time Lords encountered 100,000 years ago, which ultimately resulted in the Time Lords enacting a non-intervention policy, though obviously not all observe it. Led by Jackson, the crew members of the R1C have been traveling for just about that long regenerating their bodies. Their quest is to find the P7E, a sister ship that left their homeworld before them and contained the DNA banks of the Minyan race, which were to be used to populate a new planet.

The P7E's signal sends the R1C to a planet where the populace known as the Trogs lives underground, works like slaves, and is ruled by the Oracle, a cruel leader who controls the Trogs' numbers by causing things to fall from the ceiling in people. The Doctor takes on multiple tasks as he works to help both the Minyans and the Trogs, which he does a little too easily. The manner of the Oracle's eventual defeat is unbelievable considering it basically falls for its own trick.

While Underworld wouldn't top my recommendation list of Fourth Doctor adventures, it has undeniable charms. The story should be a lot of fun for viewers familiar with Greek mythology as the episode is based upon Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece. There are many clues throughout and the Doctor even calls Jackson "Jason" at one point, which Leela points out.

The pacing is a bit slow at times, particularly as the Doctor, Leela, and a Trog descend a zero-g shaft. One scene was enough to get the idea across, but their descent is shown multiple times. The planet caves are created through a blue screen process, which along with most the other special effects, though state-of-the-art of the time for the BBC, looks extremely dated and artificial. But this is something fans of Classic Doctor Who have long dealt with.

The extras start off with an audio commentary by Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, and episode co-writer Bob Baker. "Info Text" is a great feature that provides a running commentary about the episodes through on-screen captions. It makes re-watching the entire story worthwhile. "Into the Unknown" (31 min) is a making-of featurette with those involved that details the links to the story of Jason and provides a lot of information about the special effects. "Underworld – In The Studio" (17 min) is for serious aficionados as black and white timecoded clips of the shoot are presented. There is also a Photo Gallery (6 min) and when placed in a DVD-Rom player, a PDF file provides a bit of time travel through reprinting the Radio Times listings for the episodes.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • Amelia

    Although it look like a supernatural & science fiction yet it contains natural flow & perfect direction, which make it my favorite movie.