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Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space(TV) (1970)
Digitally remastered Doctor Who classic Spearhead from Space! Exile! The Time Lords have banished the newly regenerated Doctor to Earth. But the Doctor isnt the only alien to have arrived.
For more about Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space and the Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space Blu-ray release, see Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 21, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker
Director: Barry Letts
» See full cast & crew
Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space Blu-ray Review
"We've drawn attention to ourselves, Miss Shaw."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 21, 2013
Lifelong Who fanatics and curious series fans will gravitate to Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space. Most everyone else will find Spearhead to be a tougher sell, no matter how many firsts it entails. Specifically, its four episodes represent the first Doctor Who serial or season to be broadcast in color. The first to be shot entirely on film (16mm). And the first to feature Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor. It also represents one of only two productions from the classic Who era (1963-1996) eligible to receive a proper release on Blu-ray, as it isn't hindered by standard definition source materials and the need for upconversion. (The second production being the 1996 television film starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, which was shot in 35mm.) Even so, the Third Doctor's introduction hasn't aged very gracefully, and doesn't exactly stand the test of time. There's still plenty to enjoy, Pertwee for one, just not enough to send fans of New Who scurrying back through time, eager to explore our dear, brilliant Doctor's earliest regenerations and adventures.
Having been forcibly regenerated and exiled to Earth by the Time Lords at the end of The War Games (1969), the Doctor (Pertwee) collapses outside of a disabled TARDIS and is promptly taken to a nearby hospital, where he awakens and soon encounters an old friend: UNIT brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney). Faced with a man who looks nothing like the Doctor, the Brigadier has trouble believing the stranger's story. But when an emerging crisis -- a disembodied intelligence crashes to Earth and begins creating deadly artificial constructs called Autons -- leaves Alistair with little choice but to accept the new Doctor's claims, the military man asks for help. With the Brigadier and UNIT scientific advisor (and soon-to-be companion) Liz Shaw (Caroline John) at his side, the Doctor must stop the ancient alien menace from staging a full-scale Auton invasion.
Even some forty-three years after its broadcast debut, Spearhead from Space delivers in large part. Oh, there are some early pacing problems, a stutter-stop momentum to the first two episodes, some wooden action and supporting performances, and an unintentionally hilarious final confrontation between Pertwee and a tangled mess of loose rubber tentacles. Guilty on all counts. The real travesty, though, is that the series' all too apparent growing pains will probably prevent a swath of 21st century Whovians from latching onto Pertwee's charming, ever-dependable Doctor, or from enjoying his time on screen with Courtney and John. And yet slow and steady as the Doctor's race to defeat the Nestene Consciousness may be, it's clear what kept '70s television viewers coming back, episode after episode, all those years ago. The fact that the crafty Time Lord saves the day without his trusty TARDIS or sonic screwdriver is an even greater testament to what makes the Doctor such an enduring hero.
No, Spearhead isn't definitive Who. That's a difficult defense to mount, although I'm sure there are a few of you out there who came to the series in its golden age and could mount a spirited case. (Come! Let us away to the Reader Reviews!) But the building blocks of the phenom that is modern day Doctor Who are certainly in place, as are the heart(s) and soul of an iconic character that has continued to grow and thrive in the cultural consciousness for five decades. (On this side of the Pond and the Other.) While not everyone will come around, I'm confident that by Spearhead's end, most skepticism will be laid to rest, most nostalgia will be affirmed, and most fans, new and old, will come away itching to track down or revisit other classic episodes of the series.
Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space Blu-ray, Video Quality
Before tackling Spearhead from Space, be sure to watch the short but revealing "Restoration Comparison" high definition featurette included on the disc. Not only will your appreciation of the results be heightened, your faith in the serial's restoration will be bolstered. However, before I dive into the many merits of the resulting 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation, it's probably wise to warn most of you to avoid setting your expectations too high. Shot in 16mm, the episodes aren't exactly striking, at least not in the traditional sense. Purists will be more than thrilled with what they see -- the film-like nature of the grain field will be enough to win over most videophiles -- while some casual viewers are likely to pass early (and uninformed) judgment on a restoration and transfer that deserve nothing but praise. Colors may be bland overall, but primaries and skintones are accurately saturated, black levels are satisfying, and contrast is just right, without any unfortunate crush or delineation issues to report. Detail isn't revolutionary but it is noticeably improved, as is the clarity of the presentation, which doesn't have to fend off macroblocking, banding, aliasing or other alien threats. By Spearhead's end, I found it difficult to imagine a scenario where the four-episode serial could look much better than it does here.
Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There isn't anything all that remarkable about Spearhead's DTS-HD Master Audio mix, but there also isn't anything nefarious or out of sorts either. Dialogue is generally clean and clear, without any debilitating hiss or noise floor, and effects, although decidedly cheesy and canned, sound about as good as bleeps and whirs from a '70s sci-fi television show could. The LFE channel and rear speakers aren't employed in any capacity, of course, which I'm sure will lead to some grumbling. And the tinniness, hollow interior spaces and flat soundscape will draw just as much criticism. Still, this is Spearhead from Space at its finest, and I doubt it could sound any better than it does here without a major high-dollar overhaul or remix. Even then, the only real "improvements" to be made would be superficial and, worse, distance the serial from the tone and tenor of its original sound design.
Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space includes a number of new high definition extras, detailed below. Unfortunately, it's also missing a chunk of content from its Special Edition DVD counterpart, most notably two audio commentaries and two lengthy behind-the-scenes featurettes, among other material. It's a strange and unexpected disappointed that mars an otherwise impressive supplemental package.
Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space won't convert the unconverted, or convince many new series' fans to take the plunge into the classic era. However, given a fair shot, the Third Doctor's introduction is capable of doing just that. If nothing else, Pertwee is a good deal of fun, and his Doctor solidifies his appeal even some forty-plus years after his reign began. BBC Home Entertainment's Blu-ray release is even better thanks to a terrific restoration and faithful AV presentation... so long as you approach it all with appropriate expectations. Spearhead's supplemental package has a lot to offer too, the only caveat being that it's missing audio commentaries and behind-the-scenes featurettes that are included with its DVD counterpart. Still, Spearhead from Space and its Blu-ray debut earn a not-so-hesitant recommendation, flaws and all.
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Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space Blu-ray Detailed - June 5, 2013
BBC Home Entertainment has officially announced and detailed the Blu-ray release of Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space. The 4-part debut of the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) was not only the first of the series to be produced in color, it was shot on 16mm film, which ...
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