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Case Number 11503

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Doctor Who: New Beginnings (The Keeper Of Traken / Logopolis / Castrovalva)

BBC Video // 1981 // 294 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // June 5th, 2007

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All Rise...

Who new? Judge Eric Profancik, that's who.

The Charge

"It's the end, but the moment has been prepared for."

Opening Statement

In an odd moment of irony, as this latest Doctor Who DVD comes to the market, ominous word has leaked from England that the new series headed by Russell T. Davies could be cancelled after its fourth season. (It's currently airing its Third Season across the pond.) With the joy of this "New Beginnings" boxset, we have to wonder why anyone would consider axing the new series at its prime. It's doing well, pulling in a solid audience, has won fan and critical fame. People simply love the show and want it to continue as its predecessor did. So what's going on? Why can the original go on for decades and the new one dematerialize so soon? Let's just hope that "The Sun" has jumped the gun on this report and we'll have many more decades to relish the travels of the Doctor.

Rewinding the clock to the classic era, I consider myself a Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison, All Creatures Great and Small) guy. Though I came on board during the infamous Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker, teeth, curls, and a scarf) era, I wasn't completely pulled into the series until I saw my first regeneration. With Tom morphing into Peter, I was hooked. This twist galvanized my love for the show, and I've watched it ever since. Well, as long as PBS would allow it.

What I didn't immediately realize at the time, or, honestly, until this release, was that something else was going on. At the forefront was the historic transition from one Doctor to the next, but there was also the Doctor's best enemy doing the same thing; hence, the genesis of the "New Beginnings" boxset. Though not truly named this in official canon, this well-named release of three stories is a welcome addition to the DVD family.

Facts of the Case

"I'm going to stop him if it's the last thing I do."

The "New Beginnings" set marks a dual transition. While the primary focus of the story marks the end of a successful seven-year run for the Fourth Doctor, it also gives a rebirth to the Doctor's greatest foe. The three stories that comprise this set are "The Keeper of Traken," "Logopolis," and "Castrovalva."

"The Keeper of Traken":
The Fourth Doctor and his companion Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) have just escaped from E-Space and are near the star Metulla Orionsis, home to the renowned Traken Union. For generations the Keeper has used the power of the Source to bring peace and harmony to the Union. No evil has been able to survive in the Union, but a great and powerful force has found a way. Seeing the collapse of his civilization drawing near, the Keeper visits the Doctor inside his TARDIS and implores him to help save his people. The Doctor agrees and soon finds himself battling an entity called the Melkur. Soon, however, the Doctor realizes that the Melkur is not a living being but is a TARDIS, the Master's TARDIS. Nearing the end of his twelfth and final regeneration, the Master hopes to use the power of the Source to lengthen his own life.

Feeling the oppressive weight of entropy bearing down upon him, the Doctor decides it's time for him to fix the faulty chameleon circuit on his TARDIS. For too long has his time machine looked like a British police call box, and he thinks it's time to blend in better with his surroundings. As he lands on Earth to begin repairs, he finds that his TARIDS is mixed up in a bit of dimensional instability. It appears that his TARDIS has landed on top of another TARDIS, which is a nasty affair. The second TARDIS turns out to be the Master's, who has usurped the body of Tremas of Traken. As the Doctor ponders how to fix this mess, he discovers a mysterious, luminously white being observing all his actions. Realizing he needs help to fix his TARIDS, the Doctor heads off to Logopolis. The Logopolitans are mathematical geniuses, using block transfer computation to create physical objects from pure mathematics. But in going there, the Master follows, wanting to know their secret. While the Doctor works with the Logopolitans, the Master kills them one by one, irreparably destroying their important work. It turns out that the people of Logopolis are actually preventing the collapse of the universe, but with the Master killing them, not enough of them remain to compute the mathematics to prevent the end of the universe. Realizing the enormity of the situation, the Doctor and the Master work together to save the universe. But the Master is still the Master, and he takes the first opportunity to attack the Doctor, who is forced into a regeneration.

The regeneration isn't going well for the Fifth Doctor, and he fears that it may completely fail. As he tries to recuperate within the TARDIS, companions Adric, Tegan (Janet Fielding), and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) worry and wonder about what is going on. What they don't realize is that the Master was able to manipulate Adric to set several traps within the TARDIS. The first was sending them to Event One, the creation of the universe. In barely escaping that, the next trap sends them to Castrovalva, a place known for its simplicity. Needing something simple, the Doctor is taken by Tegan and Nyssa to the city, only to discover that it is nothing more than a creation by the Master, using Adric's mathematical abilities. As the Doctor slowly transitions into his new body, he once again must fight the Master and escape the recursive properties of an Escherian Castrovalva.

The Evidence

As it's well known already, Tom Baker was an awfully popular Doctor for his seven years. During that time the show took its ounce of flesh and by the end, he was decidedly tired. In Cincinnati, I am fortunate enough to have classic Who still airing on my PBS station, and we're up to Tom's "The Face of Evil." Watching him progress from "Robot" to "The Face of Evil" to "Logopolis" you can easily see the years have taken their toll. He went from vigorous and vibrant to cantankerous and winded. Tom was "ready" to retire and take some time to relax. Coming in was fresh-faced and excruciatingly young Peter Davison. All bright-eyed and blonde-haired, Peter had a lot of work to do to come close to living up to the enormous legacy handed down to him. I believe he did a great job, and consider Peter to be "my" Doctor—not necessarily my favorite, just "mine."

That regeneration, that unique twist in the series, is such a great concept that it's amazing it hasn't been exploited more. Whatever its magical effects upon me, I've always found "Logopolis" and "Castrovalva" as must-see, favorite episodes. And here we have this release: one big set with those two great stories and a third. "The Keeper of Traken" hadn't particularly stood out in my mind, so it was a delight to see this episode and learn how good it was.

All three of these episodes are excellent stories, standing the test of time, and rising to the top of decades of materials in the Whoniverse. As mentioned, I didn't quite realize that we had an arc, a trilogy, going on. For me, it was all regeneration. But I love now learning about the arc, seeing it, and having a better view of the series. Because not only do we have that regeneration, we have the rebirth of the Master. Originally played by Roger Delgado, the Master was a suave Time Lord who gave the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) all sorts of trouble. Then the Master disappeared for a while, and it wasn't until Tom's "The Deadly Assassin" that he made a brief reappearance. But in this historic episode, a story that changed the foundation of Who lore, it put the Master on the cusp of death. He was a skeletal figure, with mere shreds of flesh clinging to his dying body. But again the Master disappeared, and four seasons later he finally emerges in "The Keeper of Traken," desperate to live. Anthony Ainley (bearing an uncanny resemblance to Delgado) now plays the part, and the Master went on to torment the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Doctors in the classic series. In fact, the Master fought the Doctor in the last Sylvester McCoy (classic) episode, and he came back as the antagonist in the blasphemous Eighth Doctor movie.

So as the Doctor had a new body, so did the Master. It was a glorious new beginning for both characters, allowing energetic changes to the old series.

The strongest of the lot is, contrary to my memory, "The Keeper of Traken," which laid the foundation for a fantastic and well-deserved sendoff for Tom Baker. In this story everything clicks just about perfectly. There's fun acting, nice splashes of humor, a great concept, and solid execution. It quickly washes away the weaker stories from the E-Space trilogy—even though we're still stuck with Adric.

Not as strong is "Logopolis," which has excellent ideas that don't completely gel. It's quite ambitious in its tale with dimensional instabilities of a TARDIS within a TARDIS and the Master causing universal havoc. But something is missing. Is it Ainley's campy cackling? Is it too many companions? Is it the weak set design? It's hard to pin down what's missing. Luckily, while the story is soft, the actual regeneration scene is absolutely perfect. From the music to the cinematography to the acting (actually just Tom's acting), it's a simple and wonderfully touching goodbye to the Fourth Doctor.

Then we have "Castrovalva," a story that is perhaps even more confusing than "Logopolis" yet it still captivates me twenty-five years later. Is it simply because we have a new Doctor that I'm riveted, or is it because of the Master's latest convoluted plan to destroy him? It's that and more. Again, everything comes together in the story from acting to script to direction to create a great start for Peter. What gives this story is an edge are the supporting characters in this one: Shardovan, Mergrave, and Ruther. Not only do they wonderfully portray their parts, their vocal inflections are rich and melodious. (I've always enjoyed good voice work.)

Put it together and you have an excellent set of historical significance.

But you already knew all this. You also probably already know of the great work done by the Restoration Team in putting these releases together, but you're curious if they've maintained their standards? Of course they did. This set is another excellent release from our dedicated friends, and you have another must-have for your collection. And I do mean must-have.

The audio and video work done by the Team makes these episodes look and sound better than they have in decades. With the full frame video, the increase in detail, contrast, and sharpness combined with more accurate colors and blacks is remarkable. Check out the Restoration's site (link to the right) for an astounding before and after comparison of a scene from "Castrovalva." Their work is, as always, impressive. I did not detect any significant errors on the transfers and found them very pleasing. For the Dolby mono track, all of the audio is within acceptable tolerances, with usually clear dialogue from the center. The other speakers are, due to the source material, used barely if at all. I did have some concerns with some scenes in "Logopolis," specifically a hollow, hard to hear section or two. But in reading the site, they detail the problems they had with these scenes and mention it's the best they could do. So any problems one does find in the transfers is not a problem with the transfer but simply a limitation of what could be fixed.

The delicious frosting on these releases is the wonderful bounty of bonus materials. This set is no exception. Filled with lots and lots of good stuff, you'll see material you've never seen before and learn all sorts of new things. With this set, I made a grand revelation. In the other Tom Baker releases, I had this odd sense of Tom as an "old man." He just wasn't…the Doctor. On his commentaries he seemed grouchier than and just not as happy as I would think. In the bonus material on "New Beginnings," I finally learned what an ass Tom is and was. I simply had no idea what a prima donna control freak he was during his tenure, and how that's still carried on all these years. Oh, he certainly realizes that and accepts what he was, but me, the Whovian who never really delved that deeply into the info behind the series, was certainly surprised.

Because of the amount of bonus material, I am simply going to list it without going into detail on every item. Most are self-explanatory but do look for a few basic notes on some items. More importantly, I wish to point out the crème de la crème of the goodies; ones you may wish to do first. At the top are the commentaries, both audio and text. Having the actors who played the Doctors available for two out of three make them the better ones to listen to. Again, I'm still partial to Peter and "Castrovalva," so that is my favorite. The text commentaries are overflowing with tons of wonderful nuggets of trivia. "Being Nice to Each Other" is the best choice on "The Keeper of Traken," with an entertaining and thorough look at the making of that story. "A New Body at Last" is the best item on "Logopolis" and the best featurette of them all. It's a wonderfully candid look at the regeneration and Tom's tenure. Great stuff, too bad it's only fifty minutes long. "Castrovalva's" disc doesn't have the best material so, surprisingly, the Swap Shop bit is the most interesting.

Here's the disc-by-disc breakdown of the bonus items:

"The Keeper of Traken":
• Audio Commentary with Anthony Ainley, Sarah Sutton, Matthew Waterhouse, and writer Johnny Byrne.
• Text Commentary
• Isolated Music Score
• Sarah Sutton on Swap Shop (11 minutes)
• "The Return of the Master" (9.5 minutes)
• "Being Nice to Each Other" (29.5 minutes)
• Trailers and Continuities (6 minutes)
• Photo Gallery
• Doctor Who Annual
• Radio Times Listings

• Audio Commentary with Tom Baker, Janet Fielding, and writer Christopher H. Bidmead
• Text Commentary
• Isolated Music Score
• "A New Body at Last" (50 minutes)
• Nationwide—Tom Baker (4.5 minutes): A horrible interview with Tom, but he does try to make it as good as possible.
• Nationwide—Peter Davison (3.5 minutes)
• Pebble Mill at One—Peter Davison (12 minutes)
• News Items (2 minutes)
• Continuities (2.5 minutes)
• Photo Gallery
• Doctor Who Annual
• Radio Times Listings

• Audio Commentary with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Christopher H. Bidmead, and director Fiona Cumming
• Text Commentary
• Isolated Music Score
• Swap Shop—Peter Davison (20.5 minutes)
• Blue Peter—Peter Davison (9 minutes): The oddest pick of them all, this bit has tons of stuff I had never seen before; bits from the early Hartnell and Troughton eras. So in the nine minutes, the first six and a half is all introduction and background info leaving a mere two or so minutes to talk to Peter!
• "Directing Castrovalva" (11 minutes)
• "Being Doctor Who" (13 minutes): Nice combination of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.
• "The Crowded TARDIS" (11 minutes): A bit thin on info and too abrupt an ending.
• Deleted Scenes (1.5 minutes): Two little scenes both of no consequence.
• Continuities and Trailers (5.5 minutes)
• Theme Music Video (3.5 minutes): Much ado was made of this 5.1 remix of the Baker/Davison theme as it was left off the region two release. In listening to it now, it's a nice mix but I wasn't wowed by it. I was wowed by the perfect 5.1 remix of the original theme, available of "The Beginning" boxset.
• Photo Gallery
• Doctor Who Annual
• Radio Times Listings

I could only find one egg across the three discs.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Perhaps the only quibble—and it is quite a minor one—is that the bonus material gets excessively repetitive. I know every detail of the regeneration scene by heart, know Peter was twelve when he started watching Doctor Who, his favorite Doctor is Troughton, and—well, you get the idea. It's all good stuff, but some of the duplication should have been trimmed.

Closing Statement

"A new body…at last!"

Whether you examine the stories or the DVDs, the "New Beginnings" boxset is an absolute winner. Three great stories, treated with love and care by the Restoration Team, making them as clean, crisp, and vibrant as possible, and flooding the release with a wonderful assortment of bonus material combine into a set worth every penny. If you're a fan of Doctor Who, odds are you're a fan of Tom Baker, so you know the quality of this material. Tie into that the regeneration and a fine start by Peter, and it's something you must add to your collection. Buy this set and you'll be very happy indeed.

The Verdict

Doctor Who: New Beginnings is hereby found not guilty of entropy.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 82
Audio: 80
Extras: 85
Acting: 90
Story: 85
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: BBC Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• English
Running Time: 294 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• All Ages
• Foreign
• Science Fiction
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Audio Commentaries
• Text Commentaries
• Isolated Music Only Tracks
• Sarah Sutton on Swap Shop
• "The Return of the Master"
• "Being Nice to Each Other"
• "A New Body at Last"
• Nationwide -- Tom Baker
• Nationwide -- Peter Davison
• Pebble Mill at One -- Peter Davison
• Swap Shop -- Peter Davison
• Blue Peter -- Peter Davison
• "Directing Castrovalva"
• "Being Doctor Who"
• "The Crowded TARDIS"
• Deleted Scenes
• Theme Music Video
• News Items
• Trailers and Continuities
• Photo Galleries
• Doctor Who Annuals
• Radio Times Listings
• Easter Egg

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