As most readers will be aware the first and fourth episodes of The Invasion no longer exist in the BBC archives and so here are presented as full length animations carefully produced to match the original soundtracks and surviving episodes.
Animators Cosgrove Hall – who also produced The Scream of the Shalka – have opted to blend stylised depictions of the characters with photographic backdrops gleaned from the surviving episodes. This is a brilliant concept which ensures locations are consistent throughout the episodes and reduces any ‘jarring’ effect as the story moves between animated and live action episodes.
Equally successful is the way in which the animators have captured the essence and personalities of the characters especially Patrick Troughton’s Doctor and Kevin Stoney’s Tobias Vaughan. The end result is so effective that long before the end of the first episode I’d completely forgotten that I was watching an animated version.
Clearly no animation is going to look lifelike but the animated episodes are superb and this is an unqualified success and left me hoping for more animations of other incomplete or lost stories.
Whilst deservedly praising the animation it would be unforgivable if the restoration of the live action episodes went unremarked; the clarity of the picture on internal scenes look as if they were shot yesterday and although some of the external shots are less good look they are miles ahead of the original VHS release.
The commentary accompanying the main feature includes contributions from James Goss of BBC.co.uk, sound restorer Mark Ayres and the animators of Cosgrove Hall on episode one with later episodes commentated by cast members Frazier Hines, Wendy Padbury and Nicholas Courtney plus Assistant Floor Manager Chris D’Oyly John.
In addition to the main feature this two-disc release is packed with extras. First up is Flash Frames in which Goss and Cosgrove Hall discuss the genesis of the project plus the challenges of producing animated episodes which must be able to sit alongside the live action ones and adhere to the existing soundtracks.
The second feature is Love Off-Air which pays well deserved tribute to fans who, before the days of home videos, recorded TV soundtracks for future enjoyment. It’s these recordings which have ensured that the soundtracks for the missing episodes of The Invasion exist in turn making this great DVD possible plus allowed fans to enjoy the BBC Audiobooks releases of otherwise missing or incomplete stories.
Rounding off the first disc are animated trailers for the story featuring the iconic scenes of the Cybermen emerging from sewers and descending the stairs in front of St Paul’s and Character Designs, a short feature which shows off the animated character drawings.
In a world of instant celebrity courtesy of the X Factor and Big Brother Disc Two’s Evolution of the Invasion has some interesting things to say about Patrick Troughton’s desire to separate character from actor. The feature takes an honest look at the background to the story including script issues with other serials and growing dissatisfaction on the part of Troughton with the general quality of storylines.
Doctor Who DVDs have long been a cut above most archive TV releases but The Invasion really highlights how spoilt we fans are both by the Restoration Team and 2|Entertain. Anyone doubting this need only watch the included linking clips from the 1993 VHS release which now look far from satisfactory.
One can only hope that The Invasion marks the beginning of a new direction for presenting missing Who on DVD.
The Invasion is available from BBCShop.com’s Doctor Who store
priced 12.49 GBP.