Doctor Who - The Caves of Androzani

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DOCTOR WHO: THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI - Dr Who Meets the Phantom of the Opera

Jan 4, 2008 (Updated Jan 7, 2008)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

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Pros:Perfect in nearly every single way....

Cons:Well, except for that blasted Magma Beast. Guess there's always a flaw.

The Bottom Line: When you need to convince someone that Doctor Who really is an outstanding show, this is the disc you should reach for.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

This is the best episode of Doctor Who period, hands down, end story. Better than Genesis of the Daleks. Better than the Talons of Weng Chiang. Even better than The Doctor Dances - and that's a MIGHTY tall order. No, in all 40 years of the history of the show, you will never hold a better story in your hot little hands than the Caves of Androzoni.

I'd leave it at that, but Epinions requires 200 words for a review, so I'll have to expand on that. But first, a primer for those of you in the audience just joining us:

From 1963 to 1989 (and a couple of false starts thereafter) the BBC ran an immensely popular family program called Doctor Who. The main character is called The Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. He travels the universe in the TARDIS, a wondrous spaceship that can go anywhere in time and space - provided that the Doctor can steer it correctly. During his adventures, he and his companion (usually a young human female with weak ankles and good lungs) combat evil and injustice wherever they find it. Key to the longevity of the series - Doctor Who can do what the James Bond movies have done several times. When fatally injured, Time Lords have the ability to regenerate, totally changing their faces and personalities, allowing the ability to swap out the lead roll when the actor wants to leave the series. So there have been several Doctors with different faces (ten, so far), but all of them the same character.

Oh, and the name of the show is Doctor Who. The main character is simply called The Doctor.

So what's all the hub-bub, bub?

The TARDIS lands on Androzani Minor, the twin planet to aptly named Androzani Major. Investigating a series of nearby caves, the Peri falls into a sticky substance that the Doctor (the one with the celery and cricket sweater) quickly dismisses as harmless. Things, as they tend to do, go off the rails when around the next corner the Doctor finds piles of weaponry belonging to a gang of gun runners moments before being captured by a military team from Major.

Sentenced to execution by firing squad as traitors, the Doctor and Peri are rescued at the last moment by the sinister (and fairly insane) Sharaz Jek, who makes it plain that he intends to keep Peri sequestered away in the vast cave system to savor her beauty for all time (hey - who wouldn’t). Unfortunately for Jek, the forces from Major are closing in him and his spectrox refinery (a precious fluid in high demand back on Major for it's restorative and life span increasing properties). More unfortunately for the Doctor and Peri, they contracted spectrox toxemia from touching unrefined spectrox.

With gunrunners hunting Jek's spectrox closing in from one side, the military from the other, with political double dealings and power plays back on Major, with an insane mastermind and his robot army making every turn in the cave system lethal - can the Doctor dodge the forces against him, save Peri, recover the only known cure for spectrox toxemia, and escape back to the TARDIS before explosive mudbursts cover that entire side of Androzani Minor - or is this the end of the road for the Doctor?

Frankly the summery doesn’t do it justice. There's so much going on in this episode - political infighting, power plays, traps, traps within traps, betrayal - it's not an epic episode by any stretch though. There are no worlds that need saving, no threat of invasion or robotic genocide - just the survival of our heroes, plain and simple.

Christopher Gable is note perfect as Sharaz Jek, channeling a classic Phantom of the Opera bad guy. His obsession with Peri and and his obsession for revenge is played with just enough insanity to really make you scared, but restrained enough to make you really, really scared. Morgus the greedy and ruthless businessman pulling the strings back on Major is played by John Normington as totally flat and emotionless - and it works perfectly. You hate the guy from the first time you lay eyes on him to his evitable comeuppance. Stoltz the gunrunner (Maurice Roeves, one of the very few actors to appear both in Star Trek and Doctor Who, by the way) is the real face of danger for our heroes - a crafty thug who gets all the best lines and really can chew up the scenery.

And he gets one of the best cliffhangers in the shows entire run. His ship (with the Doctor on the way back to Major) is spiraling out of control and is about to crash back on Androzani Minor. The Doctor has locked himself on the bridge trying to escape as Stotz cuts his way through the door. "Come on Doctor, this won’t do you any good," he says cutting through and finally getting the drop on the Doctor, "move away from the controls!"

"Why?" retorts the Doctor, wrestling with the controls.

"Because I’ll kill you if you don’t!"

"Not a very convincing argument, because you see I’m going to die soon anyway… but I owe it to my friend. . . " the Doctor proclaims, "I owe it to my friend to find the antidote. I got her into this - so you see, I’m NOT going to let STOP ME NOW!!!!!" as the ship careens to the surface of the planet. Cue cliffhanger scream and roll credits.

Really, I'm not doing it justice here. But this is some top shelf stuff.

The whole last episode is wonderful stuff - the plot finally comes to a boil, with unexpected reveals and paybacks ten fold for the torment you caused me! And the funeral dirge feeling of the music, the tension - the action with the Doctor's escape from the gun runners. And the ending - wow. Drama, action, comedy and tear-jerker - there's a little bit of something for everyone. Writer Robert Holmes (who gave us some of the best stuff in the show's history) and director Graeme Harper (who would go on to direct some great stuff in the new series) manage to hit everything just perfect here.

If the show had been this good for the rest of the run, it wouldn’t have gone off the air when it did. If it were this good - well, it would be the current series, wouldn’t it?

Oh so much better now. The Restoration Team is hitting their stride now, with this seventh release. The basics are down with some nice audio and video re-mastering. We also get some wobbly effects fixed (at the request of the director, mind you - so purists put the torches and pitchforks down), and it just looks great.

Even better? The RT goes on to excel at this high standard with later releases.

The extras are still lagging behind what we normally get, and they're all pretty short. We get some extended scenes featuring Stotz and the gun-runners, a handful of news features focusing on Peter Davison, the original trailer from BBC1 (wow! Look at the eighties!) plus the usual extras like a commentary with Peter, Nicola and Graeme just watching and having a grand old time, a photo gallery, isolated score and the always wonderful subtitle production notes.

Also included are a couple of behind-the-scenes bits, focusing on creating Sharaz Jek and the Baker transition.

The best show Doctor Who has to offer. Nothing more needs saying.

* The Beginning
* Doctor Who and the Daleks
* The Aztecs
* The Lost in Time Collection
* Tomb of the Cybermen
* Spearhead From Space
* The Ark in Space
* Genesis of the Daleks
* The Pyramids of Mars
* The Robots of Death
* The Five Doctors
* The Caves of Androzani
* Vengeance on Varos
* Revelation of the Daleks
* Rememberance of the Daleks
* The Television Movie
* Doctor Who - Series One
* Doctor Who - Series Two
* Torchwood - Series One
* Doctor Who - Series Three
* The Infinite Quest

Recommend this product? Yes

Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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