Rant Of The Day THIS RANT 01/03/99

Rant Of The Day is where I get to mouth off about whatever I feel like for however long I like. Theoretically, I'll update my whinge/opinion piece every weekday; in practice, maybe not so often.

Ice Warriors defrosted

Considering how much money the BBC has made from Doctor Who fans over the years, it still pains me to think how cruel and stupid they were when they junked large numbers of episodes from the program back in the 1970s, apparently convinced that there was no further commercial application for these lost classics. While my two favourite doctors (three and five) fortunately escaped most of the hacking, it's still a source of regret that all that early stuff has gone.

Over the years, the BBC (now in a more commercially oriented frame of mind) has issued an awful lot of material from stories that are not available in their entirety on such types as Cybermen: The Early Years and Daleks: The Early Years. Late last year, a more ambitious project was released: the classic Patrick Troughton story The Ice Warriors, even though two of the six episodes are missing.

How'd they get away with that, I hear you ask? Episodes two and three are replaced with a 15-minute reconstruction of the main plot points, illustrated with publicity stills and with audio taped from the original episodes. (A number of Who fans did audio tapes of every episode in the 1960s, little realising what a valuable archival service they were performing.) A CD of the two missing episodes (sound only, natch) is also included, along with a booklet detailing the Ice Warriors' history.

I'd have written about all this before, but because the video comes with all that paraphernalia, it's priced at $39.95, and apparently this led the local video distributors to substantially underestimate demand. But anyway, how does it all measure up?

Well, the reconstruction is pretty neatly done, complete with faux credits and all (although having only audio somehow seems to emphasise just how often the Doctor's early female companions, Victoria in this case, used to scream). In fact, what it serves to emphasise more than anything is a critical point that's been made before: many six-part Who stories could quite easily have been compressed into four episodes. After zipping through three episodes worth of plot in a little under 40 minutes, the second half does drag a little.

There are also lots of incidental joys in this story: despite the story being set in 3000BC, everyone has very sixties haircuts, and it's impossible to hear Bernard Bresslaw in the lead Ice Warrior role without thinking of a Carry On movie. But there are much worse things to be reminded of.

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