Doctor Who-Vengeance on Varos (1985)

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Released 7-Jan-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Theatrical Trailer-2
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Audio Commentary-Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant & Nabil Shaban
Gallery-Photo
Outtakes
Featurette-Continuity Announcements
Alternate Audio-Production Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 89:37
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ron Jones
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Colin Baker
Nicola Bryant
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $34.95 Music Ron Grainer
Jonathan Gibbs


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Alternate Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
English Information
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    After Peter Davison quit Doctor Who in 1984, things didn't seem to go quite right for the production team, and the ratings soon fell off to a point where some say the show never returned from. Indeed, Davison's replacement, Colin Baker, walked onto a show where even the running time of episodes, and the number of episodes in a serial, were under constant mutation. Nonetheless, everyone involved with the show soldiered on, and it kept children watching the episodes every afternoon as far as I was aware. Indeed, Vengeance On Varos was one of the first Doctor Who serials I watched as a repeat on the ABC some years ago, back when there was quality programming on that channel in the mid-afternoon timeslot.

    The plot of Vengeance On Varos concerns itself with the TARDIS having yet another power failure, although this one is more serious than just the normal annoyances used for humour. As the TARDIS stops functioning as it normally does, the Doctor (Colin Baker) informs Peri (Nicola Bryant) that he needs some Zeiton-7 in order to restore the TARDIS to working order. Meanwhile, on the planet Varos, a young rebel named Jondar (Jason Connery) is chained to a wall, where he struggles to avoid emitted beams of energy as a miner and his wife watch this event on television as entertainment. This world, Varos, is where the Doctor must get his Zeiton-7 from, and it is not long before the TARDIS lands right in the middle of Jondar's scheduled execution.

    Varos is run by a union of miners that is headed by a Governor (Martin Jarvis), who spends his introduction being strapped into a chair for a referendum which does not go his way (and thus he is bombarded with cell disintegration rays). Varos' miners are concerned because the aliens they sell the Zeiton-7 to in order to make money are cutting their rations down to the bone, but the Governor is urging them to keep holding out for a better price. The aliens in question are from the Galatron Mining Corporation, which is represented by a rather repulsive thing who calls himself Sil (Nabil Shaban). The question is whether the Doctor can repair his TARDIS without being destroyed by the rather heartless and almost insane inhabitants of Varos.

    John Nathan-Turner is reputedly the worst producer that Doctor Who ever had, and while I am still making up my mind about that one, the two serials he has worked on that I have watched so far (the other being The Caves Of Androzani) have so far been of lesser quality plot-wise than the earlier versions. Still, we have the benefit of an interesting story and some truly repulsive villains, so this is one serial one can sink their teeth right in.

    Technical Note: Timing information was not displayed on this DVD, so all the times quoted in this review are taken from a stopwatch and should be considered approximate.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Everyone who is familiar with Doctor Who will know the old song and dance about how the BBC have failed to shoot and keep this series in a manner that will keep it presentable for generations to come, so we'll skip that part. What is amazing about these DVD releases is the standard that the restoration team has managed to bring them back to. You can read my interview with Steve Roberts, one of the men behind this team, here.

    Vengeance On Varos was shot entirely indoors on video. It is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced.

    The sharpness of this transfer is good considering the limitations the serial was shot under, although it won't satisfy the detail junkies out there. Suffice it to say that the shots are sharp enough when clarity or focus is needed. The shadow detail is quite average, although there is enough to discern movement in the shadows of the tunnels shown in this serial. There was no low-level noise.

    The colours in this transfer are well-saturated, with all the primary colours having a nice depth to them that makes the picture very watchable. No colour bleeding was noticed, but cross-colouration was occasionally apparent between the stripes on Colin Baker's trousers.

    MPEG artefacts were not apparent in this transfer, and part of this can be associated with the fact that the bitrate often rises as high as nine to ten megabits per second (by comparison, The Caves Of Androzani hovered around four to five a lot). Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some minor aliasing on such things as a desk at 14:35 in Episode One and another desk at 26:13 in Episode Two, as well as the TARDIS manual at 15:37 in Episode One. No film artefacts were noted during this transfer.

    Again, the English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles appear to be about ninety-five percent accurate to the spoken dialogue.

    Somewhat unusually, this disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change occurring at approximately 10:01 in Episode Two. This is during the scene at the gallows, and is somewhat noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Considering that this is a relatively modern Doctor Who serial, it is somewhat disappointing that we don't get a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, but them's the breaks (the interview explains why this is the case).

    There are three soundtracks on this DVD, all of them in Dolby Digital 2.0 with a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second. In order these are the original English dialogue, an English Audio Commentary, and an English Alternate Audio soundtrack, which is the production sound. I listened to all three of these soundtracks, but mostly stuck with the original English dialogue.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at almost all times. I don't recall any specific instances of mumbling or poorly-recorded dialogue in this serial, but I am sure there might have been one or two which escaped my attention. I did not detect any problems with audio sync.

    Aside from the usual theme music by Ron Grainer, the score music in this serial is credited to Jonathan Gibbs. This score music is fairly typical of Doctor Who, and sets the overall tone quite nicely for the onscreen action.

    The surround channels were not used by this soundtrack, and neither was the subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Again, we have quite a vast collection on this disc. All of the video extras are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Menu

    The menu features an animated introduction, animated backgrounds, a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Audio Commentary - Colin Baker (Actor), Nicola Bryant (Actor), Nabil Shaban (Actor)

    This Dolby Digital 2.0 audio commentary features Colin Baker's and Nabil Shaban's voices coming out of the left channel while Nicola Bryant's voice comes from the right. They all seem to enjoy recapping the trials and tribulations of shooting this serial.

Theatrical Trailers

    These are actually trailers broadcast on the BBC 1 network at various times before the two episodes were actually broadcast. The trailer for the first episode runs for twenty-four seconds, while the second episode's trailer runs for nineteen seconds. They are both of quite poor quality, both visually and aurally.

Deleted Scenes

    A collection of deleted and extended scenes that run for ten minutes and twenty-two seconds. Thankfully, this collection is of better quality than the trailers.

Featurette - Behind The Scenes

   A four minute and forty-two second featurette comprised of what appears to be B-roll footage.

Photo Gallery

    A collection of unannotated stills.

Outtakes

    A three minute and seven second collection of not very amusing outtakes.

Featurette - Continuity Announcements

    Essentially, these are the pre-broadcast announcements that the BBC used to hype the viewers up for the imminent broadcast of the next episode. Similar in concept to the listings of the next few programs that Australian commercial networks use between programs, if you like.

Alternate Audio - Production Audio

    Essentially, this is the soundtrack that was cobbled together, presumably for use with editing, before the final mix was delivered. It is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, and worth maybe one listen.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Again, there does not appear to be a Region 1 version of this disc. There does not appear to be any reliable descriptions of the Region 2 version, although the Doctor Who Reference Guide does indicate that we get a few more extras than in Region 2. The local version would appear to be the version of choice.

Summary

    Vengeance On Varos is about ten minutes too short for my liking, but it is a nice entry into the Doctor Who canon that provides ninety minutes of cheap effects, revolting monsters, and likeable heroes. I still recommend that newcomers to the series try out the earlier Doctor Who adventures before giving this one a spin, but long-time fans will doubtlessly lap this one up.

    The video quality is a good representation of (very) slightly better source materials.

    The audio quality is good, and there are much less mumblings to worry about this time.

    The extras are very comprehensive.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Friday, January 11, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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