THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BIG FINISH AUDIO
"THE DEMONS OF RED
LODGE AND OTHER
STORIES" AND THE
NOVEL "FEAR OF THE
'TIME-FLIGHT / ARC
OF INFINITY' DVD BOX
NYSSA IN THE TARDIS,
THE DOCTOR IS
ATTACKED BY A MALIGN
SEEKING TO CROSS THE
THE INVADER IS
THE TARDIS IS
TO GALLIFREY, WHERE
THE HIGH COUNCIL OF
TIME LORDS SENTENCE
THE DOCTOR TO BE
ANY FURTHER ATTEMPTS
IT SEEMS THAT THERE IS
GALLIFREY. AND WHAT
TEGAN'S COUSIN IN
MUST BATTLE FOR THE
Arc of Infinity
3rd january 1983 - 12th january 1983
“Arc of Infinity” is a DVD release that I am very, very impressed with. Marred only by an atrocious cover (which even cites ‘the Peter Davison Years’ as being 1981-84,
contradicting all the previous fifth Doctor releases!), the second half of the “Time Flight / Arc of Infinity” box set more than does justice to this unique story.
The first serial of the twentieth anniversary season to air, “Arc of Infinity” was afforded an extensive location shoot in Amsterdam. As with “City of Death” a few years earlier, the location shoot lends the serial a distinct visual feel. Despite being just a short hop across
the water, Amsterdam feels exotic; far more so than Gallifrey or Skaro or any other planet fashioned in a small BBC studio does. Of course, as Eric Saward quite rightly points out in the “Anti-Matter from Amsterdam” documentary, the drawback is that any scenes filmed abroad tend to consist of the Doctor and his companions either being chased around by a monster or, as in this case, chasing a monster. In respect of the Amsterdam sequences, there is little to separate Part Four of this serial and the 1985 Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special, “To Hull and Back”!
According to Alistair Cumming (Tegan’s cousin Colin), Johnny Byrne wrote the script for
“Arc of Infinity” over “two afternoons in Mexico, fuelled by tequila” and remarkably – Part Four aside - this does not seem to show; I have always thoroughly enjoyed this serial whenever I have watched it. If I had to carp, I would condemn the incredulous coincides on which the story hangs, but in fairness what else could Byrne have done? Since Tegan had left the TARDIS at the end of the previous season, the task of bringing her back was left down to him and so given the shopping list of Tegan, Omega, Amsterdam, Gallifrey et al, I think Byrne should be commended for producing a script that is not only coherent, but
I was particularly impressed with how Byrne handles Omega. Little more than a bitter, ranting madman in “The Three Doctors”, here Omega is imbued with a little soul. Following his bonding with the Doctor in the last episode, Byrne shows us a little of the joyful man that existed before his entrapment in the anti-matter universe.
Byrne also creates some new characters of his own that are almost as fascinating. The
Time Lord Hedin - portrayed sublimely by the old Toymaker, Michael Gough – is outstanding. Torn between his idol, Omega, and his old friend, the Doctor, Hedin has probably the most remarkable journey of any of the characters in “Arc of Infinity”. I also liked Damon, another ‘old friend’ of the once-mysterious Doctor’s, and of course the brutal Commander Maxil, played by none other than future-Doctor Colin Baker.
“Talk about going after your job!”
- Peter Davison
One of the things that I enjoyed most about this DVD was that both Peter Davison and Colin Baker are on board for both the commentary and the feature documentary. There is a lot of banter between them and much is made of Baker’s character shooting the Doctor, and then Baker ‘nicking’ Davison’s job! It also made me laugh that Davison and the others were mocking Baker’s disappointment at being offered the role of Maxil because he thought that
it would mean he would never be asked to play the Doctor – they think it was confidence in the extreme for him to have this apparently reasonable belief that one day he would be asked! And as for his helmet, ‘Ermintrude’… well, that is another story. In all seriousness, it is a delight to hear the two Doctors recall their experiences in making this story, and in contrast to the “Time-Flight” DVD it is nice to hear Baker stick up for the show against Janet Fielding’s unrelenting onslaught of disparagement.
The rest of the special features are just as good – “Anti-Matter from Amsterdam”, which I have already mentioned, is a classy look at the making of the story presented by Sophie Aldred. The usual suspects from the commentary re-hash their anecdotes in a slightly
refined form, and others like Paul Jerricho (Castellan), Ian Collier (Omega), and Eric
Saward (Script Editor) also add their two penneth. It was writer Johnny Byrne’s comments that I found the most interesting though, particularly those about his disillusionment with the realisation of Gallifrey. Like many Doctor Who fans, I am besotted with the legacy of Gallifrey and hold classic stories like “The Deadly Assassin” and even “The Invasion of Time” in extremely high regard. However, like Byrne I have always been dissatisfied with how Gallifrey looked on screen. With any other planet or any other race I can forgive things looking a bit rubbish, but for some reason I could never quite bring myself to forgive the production team for making Gallifrey look so… dull. It is interesting that this DVD release follows not long after the broadcast of the new series episode “The Sound of Drums”, which features a fleeting flashback to the Master’s youth on Gallifrey. Now that, that is always how I have pictured Gallifrey in my mind’s eye. When reading the books or listening to the audios, that is the sort of majesty that I have always imagined - not the grey corridors of this story.
Above: Sophie Aldred presents "Anti-Matter from Amsterdam" featurette, whilst Johnny Byrne lurks
“The Omega Factor” featurette also really impressed me, and not just because of the high standard of the production. I know it is sad, but I do get really quite frustrated when on these DVD documentaries and on Doctor Who Confidential an alien race or a villain is showcased, yet half their story is ignored because it is not technically ‘canon’ (which in the strictest sense means, for all intents and purposes, televised). “The Omega Factor” is the first featurette that I can recall which openly discusses a Big Finish audio drama as if it were a television serial - audio writer Nev Fountain contributes just as much, if not more than, television writers Bob Baker and Johnny Byrne to the featurette, the front cover of the “Omega” audio play is shown, and even Omega’s development in that story is discussed.
All I can say is ‘finally!’
As was the case with “Time-Flight”, the rest of the disc is jam-packed full of deleted scenes, studio footage, continuities etc and I would be lying if I said that I had sat through them all – I realise that they will be of interest to some people out there, but they do not really get me going at all. Still, I would rather have them on the disc than not. There is also included a
trailer for next month’s release “The Time Warrior” which I enjoyed; the Restoration Team have created it in a ‘new series’ sort of style with the theme music playing in the background which I found very effective, especially when contrasted with the primitive 1980s continuities on this disc! The new CGI effects – just like the ones completed for “Arc of Infinity” – also look very good.
Any bad stuff? Not really. Storywise, Gough’s distinctive voice gives the game away a bit
too early on for my liking, and as I have already mentioned the plot hangs on so many coincidences that it does stretch one’s disbelief somewhat. In terms of the DVD, I do feel that the individual cover art on both “Arc of Infinity” and “Time-Flight” looks unusually poor,
but on “Arc of Infinity” at least the sleeve text is all in the same font and the black outlines around the cut-out characters are not visible!
All things considered, “Arc of Infinity” is a damned good serial and a damned impressive DVD. 2007 has been an exceptional year thus far for classic series DVD releases in terms of both quantity and quality, and with another seven serials slated for release next month, we might yet complete our Doctor Who DVD collections within the next decade…
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.
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.
‘Doctor Who’ is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.