THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
TV STORY "TERMINUS"
AND THE BIG FINISH
'THE BLACK GUARDIAN
TRILOGY' DVD BOX
RELEASED IN AUGUST
MATERIALISING ON AN
YACHT, THE DOCTOR AND
HIS COMPANIONS FIND
THEMSELVES CAUGHT UP
IN A MYSTERIOUS AND
DEADLY RACE. THE PRIZE
IS ENLIGHTENMENT - THE
WISDOM TO FIND YOUR
HEART'S DESIRE - AND IT
CLEAR THAT ONE OF THE
CREWS WILL LET
NOTHING AND NO-ONE
STOP THEM CLAIMING
VICTORY. AS THE BLACK
TURLOUGH TO COMPLETE
HIS SIDE OF THEIR
MURDEROUS PACT, IT
SEEMS THAT THE DOCTOR
MAY NOT SURVIVE TO
CROSS THE FINISH LINE...
1st march 1983 - 9th march 1983
When the specifications of The Black Guardian Trilogy DVD box set were first made public, I was quite surprised to find that Enlightenment had been afforded a two-
disc release. After all, such luxuries are usually reserved only for lengthy serials, or those of significant enough worth to warrant a veritable flood of special features. And though Barbara Clegg’s captivating tale certainly brings Season 20’s Black Guardian Trilogy to a fulfilling and in some ways really quite highbrow finale, it has never really struck me as being a landmark story.
Enlightenment, however, is undoubtedly a landmark DVD release. Until now, only The Curse of Fenric and Battlefield DVDs have included especially produced ‘special edition’ movie versions of the serials, and whilst a growing number of releases have been afforded a CG makeover, we have never really been treated to an out-and-out fusion of the two. This release, however, gives us the four original episodes of Enlightenment, remastered to the Restoration Team’s typically high standard, together with all the usual bells and whistles and a ‘special edition’ movie version of the story that truly warrants use of the term.
The special edition is essentially a complete re-edit of the story, and one that I have to say brings it to life with much more zest and spectacle than the original television version ever could. DVD Producer Brendan Sheppard and original director Fiona Cumming have metic-ulously re-assembled Enlightenment shot by shot, bringing the production bang up to date with some of Rob Semenoff’s (Davros Connections) terrific CGI.
“Winner takes all.”
The CGI speaks for itself, really. Anyone familiar with the original serial will attest to what a dazzling visual concept the race of the Eternals was when it was conceived back in 1983, however more than a quarter of century later ‘sailing ships in space’ is very much old hat, and for Enlightenment to endure as it deserves to it really needed to have its effects work revisited.
I was also pleased to see that rather than pad the story out with material from the cutting room floor (which in the vast majority of cases wound up there for a reason), Sheppard and Cumming actually excise a good deal of the story’s extant padding. In particular, much of the story’s ‘Part 3 lag’ is nowhere to be found in the new 75-minute movie, really injecting the latter stages of the story with a sense of urgency that they never really had before.
Above: The special edition of "Enlightenment" comes complete with new CG effects
What really impressed me about the special edition though was the level of detail – for instance, every shot has been re-framed to appear in 16:9 widescreen. Like many people, I have my television set to automatically zoom in on 4:3 pictures, but this is far from ideal as I lose nearly a quarter of the bottom of the picture as well as a little bit from the top. A true widescreen picture, however, together with a 5.1 surround soundtrack really brings Enlight-enment up to today’s standards.
However, whether you decide to view the original four episodes (which come with an illumining commentary featuring Peter Davison, Mark Strickson, Barbara Clegg and Fiona Cumming) or the shiny new edit, you are in for a real treat when it comes to the story itself.
“What is love? I want existence.”
For me, the Eternals of Enlightenment are its real selling point, which I think says a lot when this story is primarily the conclusion to a three-story arc with its own villain. A stupendously powerful race of beings that would over the years insidiously worm their way into the upper echelons of Doctor Who mythology, the Eternals are portrayed very interestingly here, part-icularly when compared to how they would later appear. Though they do possess godlike powers here, these Eternals still need the minds of ‘ephemerals’ to give them purpose and existence – they are just empty slates otherwise. Clegg demonstrates this best of all though the ‘Mariner’ Eternal (superbly played by the unblinking Christopher Brown) and his disquiet-ing obsession with Tegan.
Of course, the Eternals would later be shown in a very different light in many books and in
the new series. In his books, Paul Cornell (Father’s Day, Human Nature) went so far as to posit that many Gallifreyans worship Eternals as Gods and, more recently, both Russell T Davies and Gareth Roberts have mentioned the Eternals in their stories, with Davies even speculating that these apparent Gods of Gallifrey watched the last Great Time War from afar and “…despaired of this reality, and fled their hallowed halls, never to be seen again.” I wonder if Clegg knew what a significant race she was creating when she wrote this script?
However, as compelling as the Eternals are, their silent menace does not sit at all well with the serial’s more pantomime elements. Valentine Dyall’s booming Black Guardian, for instance, is the archetypal panto villain; deliciously hammy in isolation, but when juxtaposed with an altogether more intelligent threat, he is really shown up for what he actually is. Lynda Baron manages to gives a slightly more measured performance as the contemptible Wrack, Captain of the Buccaneer, but even so, when compared to the rest of the Eternals, her more theatrical tendencies are really brought into sharp focus. Nevertheless, Dyall and Baron are nothing if not engaging; Baron’s over-the-top performance even goes some way towards atoning for her Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon way back in The Gunfighters. Only some way towards, mind.
The serial’s finale is corny to say the least, yet still works quite charmingly. Everything rests on the shoulders of Turlough and, looking typically smug, the Doctor simply stands back and trusts him to do the right thing… and he does. Turlough hurls “the jewel worth more than a galaxy” at his former paymaster (who promptly bursts into flames) and chooses Enlighten-ment. “The boy with the wolf in him” chooses to stay with the man that he was contracted to murder and the Ozzie Sheila who clearly can’t stand the sight of him…
The DVDs’ bonus material presents an impressive selection of features. The highlight of the first disc is the twenty-four minute Winner Takes All which, like its corresponding features
on the Mawdryn Undead and Terminus releases, is narrated by Floella Benjamin and sees most of the cast and principal crew recall their memories of the making of the serial. Cast-ing Off! is, for all intents and purposes, a ten-minute extension of this, with the onus shifted onto the story’s guest stars.
Above: A beardy Peter Davison recalls the making of this story for the "Winner Takes All" documentary
Re-Enlightenment is the second disc’s most sizeable offering, and whilst it is far from dynamic, this fifteen-minute fly-on-the-wall overview of the special edition‘s conceptual
stage is fascinating to someone like me who is riveted by how they do these brilliant things.
Other notable featurettes include Single Write Female, of which Enlightenment writer Barbara Clegg (quite a hottie back in the day, evidently) forms the focus; an awfully garish clip from Russell Harty’s 1982 Christmas Party; and a brace of features focusing on the careers of Mark Strickson and Sarah Sutton respectively, both before and after Doctor Who. The latter is arguably misplaced, as Sutton’s Nyssa doesn’t feature at all in Enlightenment, but the former is both appropriate and compelling – snake-hunting Strickson really should get some sort of award for having the most exciting companion career post-Who!
The only featurette that I felt a little down by was The Story of the Guardians, which really should have been called The Story of Cyril Luckham and Valentine Dyall. I was hoping for an indulgent, mythology-laden exploration of what the Guardians are and where they come from, but sadly only the Guardians’ limited appearances in the television series are covered; the preponderance of the feature is taken up with looking at the careers of the actors that played them. I could understand (but not agree with) the Chronovores and the Lux Aeterna et al not getting a look in, but not referencing Jonathan Morris’ recent Big Finish audio drama The Destroyer of Delights is a crime.
the DVD colourfully refers to it) DVD is an astoundingly impressive release; in fact, it’s hard to imagine a more propitious climax to The Black Guardian Trilogy box set.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007, 2009
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