THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVELS "DEEP BLUE"
AND "THE KING OF
MICHAEL OWEN MORRIS
WAR GAME &
'EARTH STORY' DVD
BOX SET (BBCDVD3380)
RELEASED IN JUNE 2011.
LITTLE HODCOMBE, 1984.
THE DOCTOR, TURLOUGH
AND TEGAN ARRIVE IN A
SMALL ENGLISH VILLAGE,
LOOKING FORWARD TO
SPENDING TIME WITH
THEY SOON DISCOVER
THAT ALL IS NOT WELL -
IS MISSING AND MANY
LOCALS ARE PARTAKING
IN VIOLENT WAR GAMES
WITH THE PAST MIXED
UP WITH THE PRESENT,
CAN THE DOCTOR STOP
THE GAMES BEFORE AN
EVIL ENTITY HIDDEN IN
THE VILLAGE CHURCH
19th january 1984 - 20th january 1984
The Awakening always feels like a bit of an afterthought. When the series was released on VHS, it was bundled together with Frontios in a double-tape pack for no other reason than that one followed the other on transmission. Now, besides the dubious distinct-ion of being the final fifth Doctor serial to be released on DVD, The Awakening must suffer the added indignity of being lumped together with the ill-famed 1966 story The Gunfighters simply because both stories happened to be set on Earth! This is something of a shame as The Awakening is the strongest of the Peter Davison-era two-parters. Eric Pringle’s script
is furious and charming; it rattles along abounding with razor-sharp dialogue and a genuine sense of menace, and debutant director Michael Owen Morris captures everything ever so beautifully.
Pringle’s story sees the TARDIS crew look into the disappearance of Tegan’s grandfather, Andrew Verney, in the chocolate box village of Little Hodcombe. Unfortunately the villagers’ war games have taken a violent turn, influenced by the malignant alien entity residing in the local church, and a rift has opened between the English Civil War and 1984, compressing the horrific past and the present into one. The story is a little too hurried for its own good, but it’s nonetheless riveting throughout, and buoyed by some bravura performances.
“…makes the fightin’ worse. Makes ‘em hate more…”
Doctor Who veteran Denis Lill (Image of the Fendahl) puts in a terrific performance as the unhinged Sir George Hutchinson, while his Tom Baker-era fellow Glyn Houston (The Hand of Fear) also returns to the series, this time under the guise of the kind-hearted Colonel Ben Wolsey. However it is a young Stig of the Dump who steals the show as Will Chandler – a pubescent urchin thrown forward in time from 1643 to save the day. Will has some brilliant little one-liners, some of them absurdly disquieting - “It better he be dead!” – although from watching the DVD’s bonus material, I understand that the rumours concerning his mooted companiondom may have been exaggerated just a tad. Indeed, as Toby Hadoke points out in the commentary, Polly James would have been a far more sensible companion choice – as was borne out in Kinda, the fifth Doctor works well when teamed up with a strong, mature woman such as this story’s Jane Hampden.
The Awakening might only have
half as many episodes as The
Gunfighters does, but its DVD
boasts twice as many special
features. As I mentioned above,
DVD range regular Toby Hadoke
(Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf) moderates a most enthusiastic commentary with director Michael Owen Morris and script editor Eric Saward. Hadoke is apologetic throughout for his not being Peter Davison, who passed on the opportunity to comment on his entire tenure, yet he imparts far more information than the erstwhile Time Lord probably would have done, had he deigned to participate.
Above: New from Ikea...
The disc’s showpiece documentary, Return to Little Hodcombe, is a gorgeously-shot little feature. Rather than comprise a customary compilation of studio-bound interview clips, this programme’s interviewees recollect the making of the serial in the three picturesque villages in which it was originally shot. Furthermore, in an appositely twee little touch, the musings of those who were involved in the production are complemented by those of villagers who recall the shoot. Lovely stuff.
Of especial interest to many will be the previously unreleased deleted and extended scenes, which, given the serial’s reduction from four episodes to two, are both lengthy and numerous. Of particular note is the Kamelion in the TARDIS sequence, which I understand was cut from the transmitted serial very late in the day.
Above: The Return to Little Hodcombe
This release’s instalment of Now and Then overlaps considerably with the abovementioned Return to Little Hodcombe, but not so much so as to render it redundant, whereas Making the Malus charts the terrifying head’s journey from visual effects designer Tony Harding’s imagination to Paul Burrows’ wall. The final feature is more humorous still, housing not only The Awakening’s notorious blooper – the destruction of a lychgate by an unruly horse – but Peter Davison having to embarrassedly accept a ‘Golden Egg Award’ from Noel Edmonds in appreciation of it.
However, if you don’t purchase this release you won’t be missing anything out on anything heart-breakingly brilliant. A Church gets blown up (yep, another one); Tegan Jovanka nearly gets burnt as the Queen of May; and there are ten points on offer to the eagle-eyed fan who can spot the two subtle changes in Davison’s costume, but ultimately The Awakening is just a whimsical little fifty minute diversion - albeit one that I’m rather fond of.
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