‘Vengeance on Varos’ (TV)

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‘VENGEANCE ON VAROS’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Nice or Nasty? – The Doctor and Peri on Varos with Sil

This review is for my best friend from school, Stephen, who loves this story.

“One of my best, you will love it! Many say it’s a classic…Great news, though. This one has extra features! EVEN MORE OF ME!” – Colin Baker, ‘The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot’.

‘Vengeance on Varos’ is a 2 x 45-minute episode story by Phillip Martin. It is now on a 2-disc Special Edition DVD, with Disc 1 containing the story and Disc 2 containing some brand-new special features.

This is a classic ‘Doctor Who’ story from Colin Baker’s first season as the Doctor, shown in 1985. This is an extraordinarily grim; thrilling adventure, as it depicts a society that’s pretty violent with its game shows and reality TV. It reflects on how society is depicted between the state and the media.

I gave a DVD copy of this story to my best friend from school, Stephen, as a Christmas present. I’m pleased that I did as he enjoyed it very much. He considers ‘Vengeance on Varos’ to be one of his favourites. He loved the story’s atmosphere and setting and especially Sil with his horrible laughter.

‘Vengeance on Varos’ has the Doctor and Peri travelling in the TARDIS until they stall in space. With the Doctor depressed, Peri tries to brighten up his spirits by looking in the TARDIS manual. Soon the duo is on their way to the planet Varos, where they hope to get some Zeiton-7 to refuel the TARDIS.

When the Doctor and Peri arrive, they discover that Varos is under the tyrannical reign of video violence. They’re soon on the run. Meanwhile, a reluctant governor is making a dodgy deal with the grotesque Sil of Thoros Beta. Can the Doctor and Peri survive this dangerous adventure unscathed?

Phillip Martin is well-known for writing the political thriller series called ‘Gangsters’. This is his first and bold attempt to write a ‘Doctor Who’ story. He does a pretty good job here as he depicts a society that’s so sadistic in its morals and values and is on the verge for out of control video violence.

In the story, the TV audiences take the violence casually at home which is very shocking. They act like they’re watching a dangerous reality version of ‘Big Brother’. Some of the story is very gruesome and it’s so hard to believe that this story was shown in 1985, especially with the acid bath sequence.

Colin Baker is great as the Doctor in this story. I’ve met Colin at conventions and I enjoy sharing how much I like his stories. I have sympathy for Colin as he didn’t get a fair chance to do his Doctor on TV. This is the volatile; abrasive Sixth Doctor who bickers with Peri and he has an amoral view on things.

This is an adventure where the Sixth Doctor is not entirely nice and friendly as he tends to be violent. I liked that moment when he says “Mind if I don’t join you” to the men who fall in the acid bath scene. But he displays concern for the condition of Varos and is pretty opposed to their violent ways.

Nicola Bryant is sexy as Peri, in glamorous costume and all that. I’ve had the pleasure of first meeting Nicola at a ‘Doctor Who’ convention in Weston-super-Mare with Colin in July 2014. I enjoyed chatting to her, although I must admit I was very in awe of Nicola when I first met her. We get on well now!

I enjoyed Peri’s scenes with the Doctor in the TARDIS, when they seemed to be bickering with each other and yet they still like each other. I liked it when Peri shows some sympathy for the Governor as he’s about to be ‘voted’. Peri gets transformed into a bird-creature which was quite shocking for me.

The story’s villain is Nabil Shaban as the slug-like Sil, a Mentor from the planet Thoros-Beta. I really enjoyed Nabil’s performance as Sil. He makes him so grotesque, horrible and funny at the same time. Nabil is a disabled actor in real life and it’s great he gets to play a ‘Doctor Who’ monster in this.

My best mate Stephen loves Sil. We both liked it when he does that guttural laugh which only ‘he’ can do well. We also liked it when Sil gets angry. Sil became a popular character and would return to ‘Doctor Who’ in the stories ‘Mission to Magnus’; ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ and ‘Antidote to Oblivion’.

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The rest of the guest cast are also pretty good in ‘Vengeance on Varos’. There’s Martin Jarvis as the Governor of Varos. Martin did the voice of God in the Audio Bible and has appeared in two ‘Doctor Who’ stories before this. He delivers a splendid performance as the very reluctant Governor in this.

There’s also the couple watching the TV violence at home – Stephen Yardley as Arak and Sheila Reid as Etta. Both are funny in scenes together. Although it’s shocking that they’d watch these executions and scenes of torture on TV. Sheila would later play Clara’s Gran in the new series of ‘Doctor Who’.

‘Vengeance on Varos’ became a story of much debate at the time it was shown in 1985. It was criticised by the public for being too violent. Certainly the acid bath scene and the torture scenes prove that to be the case. Many stories of Colin Baker’s first season were criticised for being violent.

The violence issues became one of the contributing factors for Michael Grade and Jonathan Powell of the BBC to make the decision to ‘rest’ the show for 18 months. It’s a shame really, as this is a quite gripping story. It also does very well in stressing how very important to oppose embracing violence.

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‘Vengeance on Varos’ was originally released on DVD in 2001 with very limited special features. But in 2012, the story was re-mastered; restored; repackaged and re-released as a 2-disc Special Edition DVD with brand-new DVD special features contained on it. It’s good this story was revisited on DVD.

The DVD special features are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s a commentary with Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Nabil Shaban. There’s also an isolated music option; a mono production audio option; a 5.1 audio option and a 5.1. isolated music option. There’s also an info-text commentary option.

On Disc 2, there’s a making-of documentary called ‘Nice or Nasty?’ with cast and crew interviews. There also ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’ looking at how ‘Doctor Who’ uses television in stories. There are also some extended and deleted scenes and a remake of the ‘Acid Bath Scene with Alternative Music’.

There’s also some ‘behind the scenes’ footage that looks into how the story was made. There also some ‘outtakes’; there are some ‘trailers’ for the two episodes and there also are some ‘continuities’.

There’s also ‘Tomorrow’s Times: The Sixth Doctor’, presented by Sarah Sutton (the highlight of the DVD for me), a BBC News report on Colin Baker’s casting in ‘Doctor Who’; a ‘Breakfast Time’ interview with Colin Baker and a ‘Saturday Superstore’ interview with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant.

There’s also an amusing ‘French and Saunders’ comedy sketch; a photo gallery and PDF materials including a ‘Radio Times Listings’ and a ‘BBC Enterprises’ Sales Sheet’. There’s also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Ambassadors of Death’ DVD with Jon Pertwee, Caroline John and Nicholas Courtney.

I enjoyed ‘Vengeance on Varos’ as a ‘Doctor Who’ story and in terms of its production values. I’m so pleased that 2Entertain have done a grand job in re-mastering and re-packaging the classic story with a brand new 2-disc special edition DVD as it’s so impressive compared to the original 2001 DVD.

‘Vengeance on Varos’ is a good one with Colin Baker as the Doctor and Nicola Bryant as Peri. It also features a brilliantly funny and vile performance from Nabil Shaban as Sil. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one! Just remember though! Make sure that you don’t fall into any acid baths. That could be so fatal.

‘Vengeance on Varos’ rating – 7/10


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3 thoughts on “‘Vengeance on Varos’ (TV)

  1. Dark, twisted horror, reality tv gone wrong i love Vengeance On Varos, this was ahead of it’s time with interactive shows like X-Factor, BGT were public decides the winner were very few Opportunity Knocks & New Faces were the only shows i remember & New Faces i think you had to post your vote & it was revealed who won in next weeks show lol.

    I love this story, Colin Bakers performance stands out in this & i like the dark humour injected into the story by Philip Martin.

    Sil terrified me as a kid & that laugh Nabil does still sounds creepy.

    That acid bath scene caused a storm, Mary Whitehouse wet her pants & was soon complaining about how this evil show was traumatizing kids Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, i actually liked being scared by the show, told you i was a strange child didn’t i lol.

    Tim you given a great review on Vengeance Of Varos with your synopsis on characters, story & special features, I’d have rated it slightly higher at 8/10 but on the whole you summed up this story perfectly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The TV violence/entertainment on Varos did put me in mind of Big Brother, especially with that couple in the house commenting on what was happening with the Doctor and Peri. They should make Big Brother like that today, shouldn’t they? 😀

    Colin Baker stands out very well in this story. I love his moments of comedy in this story including the remark he made to those men in the acid paid. ‘Mind if I don’t join you’ indeed! 😀 I also liked the Doctor’s concern for Peri and the lives on Varos when they’re subjugated to this violence. A good balance of drama and humour by Phillip Martin definitely.

    I laugh out loud whenever Colin Baker forced his family to watch ‘Vengeance on Varos’ on DVD in ‘The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot’.

    I love it when Sil does that laugh. It’s very creepy and Nabil Shaban does a good job at being both funny and menacing at the same time as Sil. My best mate Stephen loves it when he’s laughing; being angry and shouting his head off.

    I’m sure you made that story up about Mary Whitehouse wetting herself when she saw this story. 😀 I’m sure you did tell me that you were a strange child back then. 😀

    Many thanks for your comments, Simon. Glad you enjoyed my DVD review on ‘Vengeance on Varos’. Glad you enjoyed how I rated the story, characters and DVD extras in the story. Tim. 🙂

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  3. I know Mary complained a lot through this season & Lyttons blooded hands & acid bath scene in this was her main gripes but she was always a complaining ole busybody lol.

    I always loved horror since i was a kid even though it scared me & Doctor Who was deemed terrifying back in the 80’s especially this series where the Doctor is unpredictable.

    I remember watching this on tv when it first aired as i was drawn into the story & being gripped by the story, Colins “you are phantoms” line still gives me goosebumps, i laughed too at Colin in the Fiveish Doctors it cracks me up when his family try to escape from watching this, it shows what a great sense of humour he’s got.

    Liked by 1 person

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