Inferno

Special Edition:
DVD NTSC
Region 1

DVD PAL
Region 2
VHS Video
NTSC
PAL
(Doctor Who Story No. 54, starring Jon Pertwee)
  • written by Don Houghton
  • directed by Douglas Camfield
  • produced by Barry Letts
  • featuring library music tracks by Delia Derbyshire and others
  • 7 episodes @ 25 minutes each, colour
Story: Workers on a project to provide Britain with energy from drilling into the Earth's crust begin to become infected, mentally unstable, and violent. What are they turning into? The Brigadier and U.N.I.T. go from providing security to investigating the project and its stubborn instigator Professor Stahlman, while the Doctor's experiments to regain the freedom of all time and space lead to horrific examples of the consequences of their choices, examples that may provide answers for their survival and the future of the Earth.

Don't miss this 1970 television directorial tour-de-force from Douglas Camfield and Barry Letts!


Original DVD Extras include:

  • Audio commentary by Nicholas Courtney (The Brigadier), John Levene (Sgt. Benton), producer Barry Letts, & script editor Terrance Dicks.
  • "Can you hear the Earth scream?" making-of documentary (35 min.), adding Caroline John (Liz Shaw), Ian Fairbairn (Bromley), and
    HAVOC stunt arranger Derek Ware (Private Wyatt).
  • "The UNIT Family, part 1" featurette (36 min.), with UNIT creator Derrick Sherwin and all of the above participants except Fairbairn.
  • Visual effects promo film (6 min.)
  • Deleted scene (2 min.)
  • introduction/narration from "The Pertwee Years" VHS Tape (3 min.), featuring Jon Pertwee (The Doctor).
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery (6 min.)
  • DVD ROM 1971 Doctor Who Annual PDF

Special Edition DVD extras add:

  • NTSC colour & PAL BW film recombination restoration.
  • "Doctor Forever - Lost in the Dark Dimension" featurette (27 min.) about the 15 years between seasons 26 and 27.
  • "Hadoke vs. HAVOC" featurette (27 min.) - Derek Ware, Stuart Fell, and other stuntmen attempt to teach Toby Hadoke how to do a stunt.
  • more Easter Eggs

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)


This story is a true achievement. The Jon Pertwee Era appears to be peaking early, and I'm going to wholeheartedly agree with high-profile Doctor Who reviewer Gary Russell that this is Pertwee's all-time best Doctor Who story - even if my criteria are different from his, "Inferno" still wins hands-down. This story is almost as environmental and "green" as "The Green Death" (story no. 69), yet it cleverly disguises itself in oranges and reds instead. Director Douglas Camfield literally burnt himself out turning this into a real masterpiece. But most importantly, "Inferno" makes a serious metaphysical statement, somewhat underplayed by the dialogue perhaps and not foremost in the conscious mind of the average viewer as a result, but through superb demonstration it hits home on the emotional and subconscious levels.


"Listen to that! That's the sound of this planet screaming out its rage!"

Just what metaphysical statement am I talking about? It has been said that our Earth was headed for destruction had it continued down the same timeline it was on throughout most of the 1970's, and that some time around 1981 - 1982, the human race chose a new path with a more successful resolution of old issues. Many of these old Jon Pertwee stories from the 70's showcase the sadness and frustration felt by those who grasped the reality of where we were headed socially: into a global apocalypse of conflict. Malcolm Hulke's work as a whole stands out particularly well on this issue. However, no one story truly encapsulates the idea better than "Inferno". I could elaborate a bit more on this point and many others, and spoil the plot for those who haven't seen the story, but here at Lyratek, we only do that in the In-depth Analysis version of a review. Click on it at your own peril.

"The TARDIS console slipped me sideways in time...."

Also, if the Doctor's character can be seen to grow and develop throughout the 30+ year history of the show, it is here in "Inferno" that he demonstrates his biggest breakthrough. John Lucarotti's novelization of "The Massacre" (story no. 22) makes plain the early Doctor's "fatalist" view of time travel, a limiting trait that can be seen to bring out some of the most anti-heroic behaviour from the Doctor in nearly every old historical story of the program's history. The story dynamics improved as this old conundrum was abandoned along with the historical settings that usually brought it on. However, there's no better medicine for that fear of changing history than what the Doctor discovers during this tale. It still remains to be seen, however, how well the Doctor truly understands it, or how long this impression will last in him.

"Yes, of course, of course.... an infinite number of choices.... So free will is not an illusion after all!

The Time Lords may have conquered Time and Space, but they still have something to learn about freedom of choice. "Inferno" makes a pioneer out of the Doctor, as he leads this exploration of a new frontier. And ultimately he is a much better hero because of this new philosophy.

"What did you expect? Some kind of space rocket, with Batman at the controls?"

No complaints about the TARDIS in this story, with it making plot-critical appearances in six out of seven episodes. The familiar dematerialization sound is most often present and mixed in with other excellent Brian Hodgson creations both old and new, and for the story's only true materialization, the satisfyingly reversed and over-echoed sound from "The Invasion" (story no. 46) is used once again.


"Well, I didn't know he'd go off like that! The man's so infernally touchy!"

As excellent as "Inferno" now is all the way through, it is interesting to watch the quality of the dialogue evolve with each episode. The guest characters are a bit on the stereotypical side in this story, which is not particularly a bad thing as the script and the production team know what to do with them, but they're not quite as fully or as sympathetically developed as those in "The Silurians" (story no. 52). Early on we get a lot of short-tempered clashing between them, and when faced with this situation, the Doctor appears to be choosing to aggravate matters often instead of coming to the point of his argument. He's only humanoid, after all.

As the story runs its course, however, the dialogue gets better and better - the arguments get to the point, and rely less on empty style and flourish. Also, the characters here make much better progress at learning to see the world from the eyes of those around them.

"You know you really do look better with that moustache!"

Nicholas Courtney's performance as the good old Brigadier is as enjoyable as ever, and he even manages to remain extremely charming when yelling an order to Sergeant Benton to drag in Professor Stahlman. Courtney also does a good job as the Brigade Leader, although this is not quite as polished.

Jon Pertwee is at the top of his form all the way through, and Caroline John also turns in top notch performances. John Levene has appeared twice before as Sergeant Benton in "Doctor Who", but this is the story in which he truly earns his place as a series regular. We get to see a lot of what makes the good Benton tick, and from this story onwards, Benton would remain recognizable to the mainstream audience.

Derek Newark, last seen in "An Unearthly Child" (story no. 1) as Za, is much more civilized and enjoyable here as Greg Sutton, and possibly even more energetic to boot. The director's wife, Sheila Dunn, has graduated from bit roles like Blossom LeFavre in "The Dalek Masterplan" (story no. 21) and voice-over roles like the receptionist computer in "The Invasion" (story no. 46) to bring Dr. Petra Williams to life, solidly and sympathetically. Dr. Williams is a strong character, deflecting Sutton's obnoxiously obvious early come-on in episode one with a great deal of charm, learning to take charge when necessary as the high position she has earned allows her to, and having the most crucial, proactive role of technical expertise in the main plot throughout one of the most critical episodes - she is a showcase of the best of women's lib, while remaining female in character and likeable to boot. Christopher Benjamin, perhaps better known for his role in "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" (story no. 91), is I think even better here in "Inferno" where he seems perfectly cast as the likeable, almost over-sensitive Sir Keith Gold. Olaf Pooley gives a tour-de-force performance as Professor / Director Stahlman. Even though the mad scientist is scripted to be a little one dimensional, he greatly succeeds as a character where Zaroff of "The Underwater Menace" (story no. 32), or even Robson of "Fury From the Deep" (story no. 42) do not. His motivation to succeed in producing energy for the British government is easily understandable, as is his emotional vulnerability if his theories should be proven wrong.

And let's not forget the minor character of John Bromley (Ian Fairbairn), who manages to become something of an iconic symbol for the story. The image of him is captured on the cover of the edition of the novelization that I happen to have, helping him to stand out even more in my mind.


Director Douglas Camfield gave his all on this story, providing it with much of its edge, ensuring that the acting is on par, that the action remains gripping and exciting, that even without Dudley Simpson the soundtrack contains the right mix of music and ambience to convey the right mood for each scene and sequence, and that the cameras are always in the right places at the right time to give the audience an interesting and understandable view of a story that keeps moving at a good pace. In fact, he focused so much of his energy on this project that he made himself ill, and producer Barry Letts had to take over to finish up much of the studio recordings. Which scenes are Barry Letts'? For years, I wasn't been able to tell; they match up so seamlessly with all that had gone before. Only with the recent acquisition of Andrew Pixley's archive notes have I been able to set myself straight. A truly excellent directing job by both participants!

If Delia Derbyshire ever deserved a credit for Doctor Who, it is here for "Inferno". Not only is she the mastermind behind the realisations of the infamous theme song from 1963 to 1979, her "Delian Mode" track sets the mood for the disturbing explorations in this adventure, while her "Blue Veils and Golden Sands" track helps back Stahlman's obsessions in episode two. Also of note is a "heat" track ("Battle Theme") of low white noise with slow, steady, metallic percussion which gets used very often and, along side "The Delian Mode", best symbolizes the story musically.
Let's see, how many times have Delia Derbyshire's
"Blue Veils and Golden Sands" and "The Delian Mode"
been aimed at us Doctor Who fans...?
Audio CD - Doctor Who - Earthshock
Silva Screen FilmCD 709

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Audio CD - Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Volume 2
with:
"TARDIS Control On & Warp Transfer"
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11-disc Doctor Who
50th Anniversary Collection, with:
"TARDIS Control On & Warp Transfer"
and: "Battle Theme"
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"There's nothing we can do! Is that right, Doctor?"

"You're seriously ill; you've been infected!"

Once more, the third Doctor displays several of his least effective traits, but thankfully these are kept to something of a minimum in this story. His "Doomsayer" tactics are evident once more, emphasizing the eloquent statement of problems as though that is more of an achievement than it ever really is, and secondary hero Greg Sutton is quick to jump aboard the bandwagon with him. However, the unique plot of "Inferno" makes the "Doomsaying" not quite as out of place here as in other stories, and the Doctor does promote solutions as well where appropriate.


"Nothing like a nice happy ending, is there?" "Now come along, dear fellow. Put on a smile!" :-)

The season comes to a close with a scene full of humour, good cheer, and comical conflict for the series' regulars. The Doctor attempts his usual heroes' exit, but thankfully the results are a little atypical this time around, lending to greater entertainment value. A great finish for a classic.



"....Degrees in medicine, physics, and a dozen other subjects. Just the sort of all-rounder I've been looking for."

Season Seven has got to be one the most successful years of the Doctor Who program, especially in raising the maturity level of the show's content, scripts, and production values. Although the writers felt they needed to replace Liz Shaw with an assistant who requires constant, simpler explanations from the Doctor, I don't truly believe this really was to help the audience understand what was going on. Season Seven just didn't have that problem, and is probably the most easily understood year of stories in any of the first three Doctor's eras. Liz Shaw's assistant character worked extremely well for the audience, but probably required more effort from the writers. While they opted for a simpler and easier assistant character to write for, they also sadly left the peak of the maturity level of the scripts behind as well.....


Season Seven Rankings:

Best Story:

  1. Inferno
  2. The Silurians
  3. The Ambassadors of Death
  4. Spearhead From Space

Best Director:

  1. Douglas Camfield (and Barry Letts)
  2. Timothy Combe
  3. Derek Martinus
  4. Michael Ferguson

Best Writer:

  1. Don Houghton
  2. Malcolm Hulke (The Silurians / The Ambassadors of Death 2-7)
  3. Robert Holmes
  4. David Whitaker
  5. Trevor Ray (The Ambassadors of Death 1)

Best Music:

  1. Dudley Simpson (The Ambassadors of Death)
  2. Delia Derbyshire, Brian Hodgson, and other library tracks (Inferno)
  3. Dudley Simpson (Spearhead From Space)
  4. Carey Blyton (The Silurians)

"Inferno" is now available on DVD and VHS video:
Original release:
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
VHS Video
NTSC for North America
PAL for the U.K.

New Special Edition re-release:
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
NEW for June 11, 2013.
DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
NEW for May 27, 2013.

Additional DVD extras include:

  • NTSC colour & PAL BW film recombination restoration.
  • "Doctor Forever - Lost in the Dark Dimension" featurette (27 min.)
    about the 15 years between seasons 26 and 27.
  • "Hadoke vs. HAVOC" (27 min.) Derek Ware, Roy Scammell, Derek Martin and Stuart Fell attempt to teach Toby Hadoke how to do a stunt.
  • more Easter Eggs

Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

Contact page


LYRATEK.COM


Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "Terror of the Autons"



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