Doctor Who Season 8 may have been Jon Pertwee‘s second season in the title role, but it’s here that the Third Doctor era really kicks off. Season 7 introduced audiences to the show’s new earthbound format and Pertwee’s dapper man of action, but it’s here in this sophomore season that the dust settles, as the show introduces a solid supporting cast and starts hitting the right tone after a series of dark, gritty adventures the previous year. Now lovingly restored on Blu-ray, these adventures are available together in stunning HD quality, giving fans the perfect opportunity to either revisit them or discover them for the first time.
The season opens with corker of a story from the legendary Robert Holmes – Terror of the Autons – which introduces both the Master (Roger Delgado) and beloved companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) to the programme. The fast-paced action and contemporary horror on display is of the sort Doctor Who does best, and the adjustments implemented to the regular cast and the tone are demonstrably effective from the off. Much has been written about Delgado’s stunningly menacing performance over the decades, but it bears repeating how utterly unique and immense his presence is from his first appearance.
From there, Season 8 boasts a selection of stories that are equal parts imaginative and exciting. The Mind of Evil is an interesting thriller concerning the Master’s plot to start World War III using an alien mind parasite, whilst The Claws of Axos puts a neat spin on the show’s alien invasion format by introducing the Axons, golden aliens who come to Earth bearing a gift for humanity. And Colony in Space, whilst a tad overlong, has some clever social commentary about the dangers of colonialism peppered throughout its tale of sinister mining corporations and alien doomsday weapons.
The real highlight herein though is The Dæmons, a five-part adventure co-written by producer Barry Letts, which takes all the essential Doctor Who ingredients and blends them together into an entertaining tale of eerie tea-time adventure. The serial juxtaposes gothic trappings with the scenic English Village setting, throws in some engaging characters, and plenty of solid action by HAVOC, resulting in an occasionally silly but ever-entertaining story of devil worshippers, strange witchcraft and alien gargoyles. It’s one of Jon Pertwee‘s absolute best stories, one which gives all six regulars a fair crack of the whip and showcases some of their best performances. A definitive must-own!
The Blu-rays themselves are a must-own too, representing some of the best restoration we’ve seen yet across these Collection sets, with the picture and sound massively improved upon since the episodes were last released on DVD almost a decade ago. The extra features are as plentiful and entertaining as expected too, with particular highlights including superb new optional CGI Effects for Terror of the Autons, an extended version of Episode One of The Claws of Axos, and three new feature-length documentaries. Each of these are incredibly enjoyable and insightful, especially Terrance & Me, which explores the life of much-missed Doctor Who legend Terrance Dicks, and The Direct Route, which reunites some of Season 8’s directors and takes them on a road trip to revisit the various filming locations they used fifty years ago. There are also further instalments in the Behind the Sofa series of featurettes spread across the discs, which this time include current Master actor Sacha Dhawan and The Sarah Jane Adventures star Anjli Mohindra, who sit down together to watch and discuss Delgado’s performance and the episodes themselves.
Season 8 is iconic for multiple reasons in the Doctor Who canon, and on Blu-ray, it truly receives the love it deserves. Five excellent stories, twenty-five thrilling episodes lovingly restored in gorgeous HD quality, and countless bonus features scattered across the eight discs as a further complement. Five Stars Rapid!