THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
TV STORY "TERROR OF
THE ZYGONS" AND THE
'PLANET OF EVIL' DVD
RELEASED IN OCTOBER
THE DOCTOR AND SARAH
DISTRESS CALL THAT
TAKES THEM TO A FAR-
FLUNG PLANET AT THE
EDGE OF THE KNOWN
UNIVERSE - ZETA MINOR.
ARRIVING AT THE SAME
TIME AS A RESCUE TEAM,
THEY SEARCH FOR
SURVIVORS OF AN
BUT WILL ANYONE BE
ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE
Planet of Evil
27TH SEPTEMBER 1975 - 18TH OCTOBER 1975
Prior to this DVD release I had not watched Louis Marks’ “Planet of Evil” for a long time, but after watching its spectacular trailer included on last month’s DVD release I was actually quite looking forward to it… but then I remembered why I had not watched “Planet of Evil” for such a long time.
“We buy our privilege to experiment at the cost of total responsibility.”
Simply put, “Planet of Evil” is a serial that has always thoroughly failed to grab my attention. An amalgamation of the movie Forbidden Planet and Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, this four-parter details the gradual transformation of Sorenson - a determined scientist - into a voracious anti-matter monster. And in fairness, at times this distinctive blend does work quite well - Frederick Jaeger is
very imposing as Sorenson, and there are a few other standout performances too from the likes of Michael Wisher, Elisabeth Sladen, and of course, Tom Baker. Regrettably though, save for the odd few gripping scenes and some really quite remarkable electronic effects, I have always found the whole production to be quite torrid.
The DVD is not one of the best that the Restoration Team have ever put together either. The cover artwork looks great from a distance, but up close it looks like a bad bit of colour separation overlay. What is more, the feature documentary is, for some reason that escapes me, divided into two parts. The first is entitled “A Darker Side” and focuses heavily on the production team’s input. There are some really fascinating parts that look at the evolution of the script, for example, but inevitably a lot of the 26-minute running time is eaten up in discussing Roger Murray-Leach’s celebrated design for the jungles of Zeta Minor.
The second part is 13-minutes long and entitled “Planetary Performance”. This featurette offers less insight into the mechanics of the production, but as is habitually the case with these things, the actors share a few charming anecdotes in relation to the actual filming of the story (although most of these can also be found within the entertaining commentary). However, the most interesting thing that I learned from the special features on this disc was that when this serial was first broadcast in 1975, something like one in six Britons watched it. Philip Hinchcliffe took great pride in this statistic but, quite comically, Baker was gutted!
And so in all, “Planet of Evil” is neither a story nor a DVD that I am ever going to rave about. It is my least favourite serial of an otherwise astonishing season, and it is also probably my least favourite story ever to be penned by Marks. Most damningly of all though, I asked my fiancée (a lay person so far as Doctor Who is concerned) whether she thought “Planet of Evil” stood up well today, and her answer contained no less than six expletives.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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