Reviews selected from TV Zone #136

Reviews online this month (ratings given are out of 10):
• The Daleks' first Doctor Who story remastered on VHS
Voyager's Harry Kim is let off the leash in Nightingale
• Four seasons in - one day Buffy's quality may start to flag...
and The X-Files fails to sparkle without Mulder

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BBC Video, Cert U
• BBCV6960
VHS PAL, Out 26 February 2001
order from Black Star , Postage Free!
Reviewed by
Jan Vincent-Rudzki
They’re back, and it’s clear that they’re just as nasty…

Remastered DaleksIt is a strange aspect of Doctor Who fans, and maybe fans of other programmes, that there are supposedly some absolutes concerning the object of their appreciation.For instance, some stories are ‘recognized’ as being classic, and others as being beyond all hope. It’s almost as if nobody is ‘allowed’ to like them! As with the old chestnut of Who having wobbly sets – just watch Fawlty Towers to see this was not unique – so another complete myth is that the old black and white stories were dark, gloomy and hardly watchable. Nothing could be further from the truth – and if you want to see how the programme would have been seen, take a look at the DVD releases of Twilight Zone, they contain excellent video recordings made three years before Doctor Who started.

With this new release of the second Doctor Who story, we are offered a ‘re-mastered’ version of the recordings made on film from the original 1963 video tapes. Although not reaching the quality of the originals, they are nevertheless a vast improvement on anything we have seen released before and are impressive indeed. There is perhaps what appears to be a slight tendency for the picture to look over-sharpened, but this is probably more a consequence of the source material.

The big mystery is why something as good as this was not released on DVD. It deserves to be. It is also a shame that we have been deprived of these excellent versions for so long. Some time ago BBC Worldwide had intended to release this story and the equally excellent re-mastered preceding and following stories in a box set, but a misguided vocal minority foolishly complained, arguing that they did not want to pay for the two episodes included that had previously been unreleased. A shame they could not realize that these new copies are almost like watching new episodes.

The story itself? OK, I give in, it is a classic. This is simply good television drama, asking the viewer to think, assuming he or she can, and providing a story with intelligence and thought.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cert: 15 • Out: 12 February 2001 • ASIN: B000056HS5 Reviewed by
Mark Wyman
California scheming

Having established the Initiative as the fourth season’s focus, this back half of Buffy’s first college year succeeds best when it steps away from that core theme.

Buffy Season 4 Box Set IITake this set’s delightful overture, A New Man: the sidelined Giles becomes an unintelligible demon courtesy of wicked Ethan Rayne, in an energetic diversion which reveals many underlying tensions. Giles’ antipathy towards Buffy’s new mentor proves short-lived, since The I in Team sees Professor Walsh overcome by her own creation, Adam. Walsh’s willingness to sacrifice Buffy for the Initiative’s good is thrilling here, but diluted by later events. For example, Goodbye Iowa, a turgid (by Sunnydale standards) exploration of Riley and Adam’s reactions to the Professor’s demise, lacks both dexterity and intensity. Yet the thrills resume promptly when rogue slayer Faith reawakens in This Year’s Girl. By the time a staggering plot-device activates its cliffhanger, we’ve had an exhilarating hour.

Tape Two resumes with Buffy and Faith’s forced body-swap in full effect, eliciting superb work from Dushku and Gellar, their reversed portrayers. Still, Who Are You? is no one-trick runaround, skilfully setting Faith on the tortuous road to redemption. Equally audacious, but funnier, is Superstar, which drops us into an alternate Sunnydale where the once-suicidal Jonathan is master of all. Marvellous character details, but no marvel overall. With its poorly-handled frat-house phenomena, Where the Wild Things Are is this tape’s makeweight, unless you believe in the intensity of Buffy and Riley’s passion (but few fans seem to). New Moon Rising restores the quality threshold with a sensitive, bittersweet exploration of unfinished business between Oz and Willow, complicated by Tara and the Initiative.

So to the season’s concluding trio. The Yoko Factor sees Spike playing some clever mind games to fracture the Scooby Gang, without wholly convincing results. Angel’s brief return - and face-off with Riley - is more effective. Primeval surprisingly concludes our business with Adam and the Initiative, in arguably the series’ most action-packed and visually dynamic hour yet. Reuniting the gang convincingly is its other triumph. The season’s coda is the indescribably rich four-part dreamworld of Restless, which rewards repeated viewing so much that it almost makes this set’s purchase necessary all by itself.

selected from TV Zone #136
© Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction
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