Review By Paul Mount, 3 out of 5
Quick rant. With nearly thirty years worth of television DOCTOR WHO adventures to chose from – classic Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker yarns especially – it? frustrating to see BBC Worldwide expending time and energy releasing lightweight fluff like ?The Visitation? when they could (and should) be releasing quality DVDs of stories people actually remember and love. There are dozens of them and you?e probably all got your own favourites. So the BBC? insistence on representing each television incarnation of the Doctor in a near-identical ratio continues to annoy when the schedule is continually clogged up with bloodless, dreary, self-aware claptrap like ?he Two Doctors? ?esurrection of the Daleks? ?engeance on Varos? These shows were barely-watched when they were on TV and it? hard to imagine anyone but the most committed (and I mean that word in every possible sense) fan rushing out to snap up filler material like ?he Visitation? So pull your finger out, BBC, and start releasing those really memorable WHOs; here? a few examples for you – ?ay of the Daleks? ?he Sea Devils,. ?nferno? ?eeds of Doom? ?orror of Fang Rock? Maybe not all of these would stand up visually to the harsh scrutiny of modern eyes but they were all bloody good stories and a damn sight better than stuff like ?he Visitation? Rant over.
Hailing from DCCTOR WHO? nineteenth season, with new boy Peter Davison trying to find his feet in the role he was surely not born to play, there? really not much wrong with ?he Visitation? judged by 1981 standards. It? about as ordinary as a DOCTIOR WHO story can get. It? DOCTOR WHO by numbers, written as author Eric Saward admits in one of the features, by a writer who hasn? watched the show for years. The TARDIS pitches up in 17th century England, a country in the terrifying grip of the Great Plague. Rogue aliens are afoot, planning to wipe out Mankind so that their own kind can take over the earth. The Doctor and his chums face a final reckoning with the bad guys in a tiny London Baker? in 1666 where something very inflammatory is about to happen?
Clearly writer Eric Saward wrote his story around two events – the plague and the London fire and it shows. There are precious few supporting characters, not much of a story and very little quality acting on display. But it remains enjoyable because of its simplicity rather than despite of it. It? brash and colourful, silly ,cheap and obvious in an entirely inoffensive way. Not exactly an essential addition to the DOCTOR WHO canon – more a reminder that there? far better stuff lurking in the BBC Archives waiting for a high-powered DVD release.
THE DISC: Rather half-hearted extras reflecting the half-hearted story itself. Director Peter Moffatt (never regarded as a great director, even by WHO standards) remembers the half-dozen shows he worked on. There? a brief interview with Eric Saward (who, annoyingly, repeats the questions he? been asked off-camera before answering them), a few pointless film trims, a dreary interview feature with incidental music composer Paddy Kingsland, the usual trivia tracks and photo galleries. Best of all is a loud and lary commentary by Davison, Moffatt and Fielding, Sutton and Waterhouse. More enjoyable than the story itself, it sometimes descends into a shouting match, but it throws up the odd fascinating behind-the-scenes titbit and it? sometimes hysterically indiscreet.