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CAN YOU HEAR THE EARTH SCREAM?!!!
Burn, Doctor! Burn!!!!!
‘Inferno’ is a seven-part adventure by Don Houghton with Jon Pertwee’s Doctor. It was the last story of Season 7 on TV and is probably one of the grittiest and darkest tales to feature in that era. It’s also the first story to feature a parallel universe element. I did enjoy watching this story from start to finish!
This story is on a 2-disc Special Edition DVD. ‘Inferno’ was originally released as a 2-disc set in 2006, but 2Entertain revisited the story in 2013, updating it with an improved soundtrack and colour quality. The Special Edition version of this TV tale certainly looks clearer and sounds better when I saw it again.
‘Inferno’ is set during the Third Doctor’s period of exile on Earth and is basically about him, Liz Shaw and U.N.I.T. observing a special ‘Mohole’-like project to penetrate into the Earth’s crust. They also investigate a series of strange murders when one of the workers turns green and becomes boiling hot.
During the story, the Doctor travels to a parallel universe via his disassembled TARDIS console. He discovers a world under tyranny and about to go up in flames as Project Inferno goes seriously wrong. The Doctor has to get back to his own home universe in order to warn Earth of the impending disaster.
I was excited when I watched this classic ‘Doctor Who’ story about the Doctor visiting a parallel universe. I was familiar with the concept of parallel universes, especially since I’ve previously seen David Tennant’s Doctor visiting a parallel universe in the new series Cybermen stories of ‘Doctor Who’.
It’s fair to say though that ‘Star Trek’ did it first with the whole parallel universe thing in ‘Mirror, Mirror’. In fact, the parallel universe the Doctor visits in this TV story is similar to the ‘Star Trek’ one. Earth is under a tyrannical dictatorship and also features an evil Brigadier; an evil Liz Shaw and an evil Sergeant Benton.
The situation of a ‘Mohole’-like project penetrating into the Earth’s crust is a frightening one and it depicts how humanity can tamper with forces they don’t understand. One wonders why someone would want to penetrate Earth’s crust as the world burns in lava and flames, making it strongly horrific.
The story is well-directed by the late Douglas Camfield who also directed ‘The Invasion’ (one of my favourite Second Doctor stories). Sadly Camfield was ill during the making of the story and was taken over by the producer Barry Letts to direct the story. But it’s still a very well-directed story nonetheless.
Jon Pertwee is brilliant as the Doctor in this last story of his first ‘Doctor Who’ season. I love how Jon’s Doctor is cool, action-packed and elegant all at once. He has a good friendship with Liz and the Brigadier and is pretty opposed to authority and scientists that are blind to reason and make mistakes.
In the parallel universe, the Doctor finds himself alone no friends to help him. He has an unpleasant time, especially as his friends’ counterparts don’t know him. He witnesses the destruction of the world and he hopes to get back to his own home universe and prevent the real Earth meeting the same fate.
Nicholas Courtney is equally excellent as the Brigadier as he delivers a superb performance. He keeps a stiff upper-lip when he’s doing his duty and leading his men. The Brigadier also admits how worried he is to Liz when murders are being committed; there is a mad scientist and the Doctor’s disappeared.
Caroline John is lovely as Liz Shaw, the Doctor’s assistant (or companion). Liz helps the Doctor out with his TARDIS console experiments before he disappears. Liz is worried when the Doctor’s no longer with them, but keeps a cool head especially during a crisis and using her scientific knowledge to a good use.
John Levene is good as Sgt. Benton, who first appeared as a corporal in ‘The Invasion’ before returning as a sergeant in ‘The Ambassadors of Death’. I liked it when he was amused by the Doctor seeing the Brigadier in his youth via a photo. I also liked it when he’s ordered to fetch Professor Stahlman by the Brig.
In the parallel universe, the Doctor meets the Republican Security Forces (RSF). This is an evil version of U.N.I.T. and it’s probably what the Nazis would be if they succeeded in this alternative reality. They’re pretty brutal as they give the Doctor a hard time when they refuse to believe what he is saying.
The Brigadier is no longer the Brigadier in the parallel universe. He’s now the Brigade Leader with no moustache and wears a black eye-patch on his left eye. The Brigade Leader is pretty ruthless and very mean to the Doctor. He gets pretty belligerent to everyone about him and behaves like a Nazi general.
Liz is no longer a scientist since she is Section Leader of the RSF. The Doctor’s pretty shocked when Liz and nobody else recognises him. He gets through to Liz, even though she’s brought up to be rough and tough. He discovers this Liz did want to be a scientist once as she comes round to listening to him.
Benton is completely different in the parallel universe. He’s no longer the nice sergeant since he’s now Platoon Under-Leader. He’s pretty rough and pushes the Doctor around with a rifle in his back. He barks orders a lot to the RSF troops and also salutes the Brigade Leader in a Nazi fashion when ordered.
The guest cast are as follows. There’s Olaf Pooley as the loathsome, unlikeable Professor Stahlman. Stahlman is the man who runs Project Inferno. He’s very unreasonable and doesn’t like advice from other people. He’s pretty obsessive about seeing his project through, which could be the death of him.
There’s Christopher Benjamin, who would later play Henry Gordon Jago in ‘Doctor Who’, as Sir Keith Gold. Sir Keith is in executive charge of Project Inferno. He finds it difficult to work with Stahlman and tries to get the ministry to suspend the project, concerning Stahlman’s erratic, unreasonable attitude.
There’s Sheila Dunn, director Douglas Camfield’s real-life wife, as Petra Williams. Petra is Professor Stahlman’s secretary, who initially believes the professor knows what he’s doing. But she soon has doubts, especially when Sir Keith Gold and Greg Sutton show concern about the professor’s behaviour.
There’s Derek Newark, who was in the first ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘An Unearthly Child’, as Greg Sutton. Greg is an engineer who comes to help on the project. He gets agitated when Stahlman refuses to listen to him regarding safety issues. Greg also shows a romantic interest in Petra Williams in this story.
The rest of the guest cast also includes Ian Fairbairn, who was also in ‘The Invasion’, as scientist Bromley. There’s also Walter Randall, who has appeared in ‘Doctor Who’ stories like ‘The Aztecs’ and ‘The Crusade’, as Harry Slocum. And there’s Derek Ware, a HAVOC stuntman, who plays Private Wyatt.
The monsters for this story are the Primords. They are humans who have touched the green slime coming out from the drill head. They transform into hairy, green skinned and hot-blooded zombies and are pretty terrifying. Benton’s transformation into a Primord in the parallel universe is frightening.
The stunt work and the action sequences are pretty amazing in this. I enjoyed the car chase when the Doctor was driving in Bessie away from pursuing RSF men. I also liked it when the Doctor was up on the gantry facing scientist Bromley and Private Wyatt, who get infected to be green-skinned monsters.
This story is sadly the last appearance of Caroline John as Liz Shaw on TV. Caroline wasn’t asked to come back to ‘Doctor Who’ for the following season. This is a shame as I’ve enjoyed watching Liz Shaw. I would’ve liked to have seen more of Liz Shaw and getting to travel inside the TARDIS with the Doctor.
The DVD special features for the 2-disc Special Edition DVD of ‘Inferno’ are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s a commentary with Nicholas Courtney; John Levene; producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks. There’s also an info-text commentary option to enjoy.
On Disc 2, there’s the making-of documentary called ‘Can You Hear The Earth Scream?’ with cast and crew interviews. There’s ‘Hadoke versus HAVOC’ with Toby Hadoke and an episode of ‘Doctor Forever’ called ‘Lost In The Dark Dimension’, looking at ‘Doctor Who’ being brought back on TV in the early 90s. There’s also ‘The U.N.I.T. Family – Part One’ documentary, which looks into the early U.N.I.T. stories from Patrick Troughton to Jon Pertwee’s first season. There’s a Visual Effects Promo Film; a deleted scene and there’s a ‘Pertwee Years Intro’ by Jon Pertwee on the seventh and final episode of ‘Inferno’. There’s a photo gallery of the story; PDF documents including a ‘Doctor Who Annual’ and a ‘Radio Times Listing’ of the story; and a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Mind of Evil’ with Jon Pertwee. There are also three Easter Eggs to look out for on both discs of the 2-disc Special Edition DVD of ‘Inferno’.
‘Inferno’ is a cracking good and fiery story with Jon Pertwee’s Doctor. It’s pretty intense and certainly has a full amount of high drama; action-packed scenes and gruesome horror. I enjoyed watching this story, especially with the parallel universe element to make it exciting and dramatic for the characters.
‘Inferno’ rating – 9/10
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