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Doctor Who: Inferno (Story 54)
Doctor Who Inferno
Story 54
Actors: Jon Pertwee, Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney, John Levene
Director: Douglas Camfield
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Cult Movies
NR     2006     2hr 46min

An unsuccessful trial run with the Tardis console throws the Doctor into a parallel universe where his old friends are rather nasty characters.


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Movie Details

Actors: Jon Pertwee, Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney, John Levene
Director: Douglas Camfield
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Cult Movies
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Drama, Science Fiction, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Studio: BBC Video / Warner Bros.
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 09/05/2006
Original Release Date: 09/29/1975
Theatrical Release Date: 09/29/1975
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 2hr 46min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 15
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

So, free will is not an illusion after all.
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 10/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The last story of the Doctor's seventh season is the 7-part Inferno, one the best in the show's history. At a research facility, the Doctor is observing the efforts of the arrogant and unpleasant Professor Stahlman as he attempts to penetrate the Earth's crust in order to gain alternative energy source known as Stahlman's gas. The problem is, his efforts might lead to the destruction of the Earth, but it's all about him and forget the others, including Sir Keith Gold, the administrator in charge. Then there's a greenish ooze that when touched, causes people to turn green and into murderous ape-like Primords, and radiate such intense heat that whatever they touch feels as if it came from a furnace. That is what the Brigadier and UNIT are here for. All this time, penetration zero is hours away from happening, and to make matters worse, Stahlman is infected with the ooze and also sabotages the computer so he cannot be opposed by the Doctor, UNIT, or Sir Keith.During an experiment, the Doctor is propelled into a parallel Earth where Britain is ruled by a bureaucratic and fascist dictatorship: "Proper bureaucrat, aren't you? Can't shoot me unless you fill in all the forms?" He is horrified to see his friends Liz, Benton, and the Brigadier in Nazi-type uniforms, and far from the pleasant people he knew on his Earth. The most striking effect is the Brigadier, here the Brigade Leader, sans mustache, with a black patch over his left eye, a scar running down his left cheek. The Stahlman of that world succeeds in penetrating the Earth's crust, which eventually causes the planet's destruction. It is up to the Doctor to return to his Earth to avert such a disaster from happening. As he tells the parallel Earthlings, "compared to the forces that you've unleashed, an atomic blast would be like a summer breeze."Episode 5 is the most sobering one. The facility starts blowing up, green stuff oozes from the output pipe like a sore, and the fully metamorphosed Primords appear. They are frightening at times, goofy-looking the next, but when they touch someone, that someone becomes one of them, like the parallel BentonThe chaos near the end of Episode 6 are also sobering. The atmosphere is tinted red, people are fleeing in terror or are dazed. And the rivers of molten lava starts flowing. Inferno indeed!Some of the cliffhangers are effective here. The one for Episode 4 has Stahlman pointing a gun at the Doctor while the countdown voice goes "5, 4, 3, 2, 1..." and then, end credits. The music is eerie and weirdly space-like, and that gives the story its ominous and gripping edge.All the regulars are terrific here, but Nicholas Courtney gets extra applause for playing the level-headed Brigadier and the vicious and cowardly Brigade Leader. Derek Newark as the authority-flouting Aussie consultant Sutton is particularly splendid, and Olaf Pooley pulls an extra-effective effort at making Professor Stahlman so petty, crazed, and dangerous. Incidentally, Sheila Dunn, who plays Petra Williams, is the wife of Douglas Camfield, who directed this masterpiece.7-part episodes were abandoned because of their overlength, but it works for Inferno, mainly because of the story. Inferno warns of the dangerously obsessive egomaniacs like Stahlman and also of the terror of nuclear power, of abusing Mother Earth itself. But the story brings hope. When the Doctor learns that Sir Keith survived an auto crash instead of being killed like he was in the fascist Earth, he realizes, "so not everything runs parallel. An infinity of universes, ergo an infinite number of choices. So, free will is not an illusion after all. The pattern can be changed." I'm hoping that's what Nostradamus' prophecies of World War III are-a prediction for a parallel Earth that foolishly and tragically destroyed itself. Well, I hope it's not the fate of this Earth. With our free will, we can prevent that from happening."
Thomas E. O'Sullivan | Knoxville, Maryland United States | 09/09/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Before VHS, before DVD, syndication was the only place to watch DOCTOR WHO and for years (decades even) INFERNO was in black and white. The color masters had either been wiped or lost, leaving us with a complete story - but sans the rainbow - and until a complete color copy had been found in Canada - it looked as if either the story would have to be colorized or remain forever in black and white.

When I picked up INFERNO on DVD I wasn't sure which version I was getting. I knew that a color version had been found, but wasn't positive what condition it would be in - so when I looked at the back of the box for more detail I was surprised to find that all the images from the story were in black and white, while the details listed it as being in color. Curious... but not to worry, INFERNO has been restored and returned to its original broadcast glory... better in fact. This new reworking of this "lost" color print snaps, crackles and pops on screen. The colors are vibrant, the image clean and clear - it looks fantastic, and yet I can't help but miss the old black and white version now.

INFERNO is a great story drawn out just a touch too long. But only just... the story is all countdown, beat the clock, capture and escape and battle against the monsters - add in a dash of romance, scientific hubris (both the Doctor and Professor Stahlman are guilty here - Stahlman with his quest for personal glory, and the Doctor in his quest to escape - both risk all at any cost and both pay a terrible price in the end), and order above reason and you have so much that even at seven episodes it never fits the format, yet leaves you wanting an eighth to complete some of the plots. It's a great story well told, packed with good characters and actors and everyone is having a ball.

As with all these releases they have gone the extra mile in packing it with extras - and again, they are all very good. It's a minor complaint that some of these extras are almost exact copies of other extras also on the disc - the difference between the commentary track and the CAN YOU HEAR THE EARTH SCREAM? MAKING OF... is very narrow. A lot of what you hear there is heard on the commentary track... save for Caroline John, who could make it for the MAKING OF..., but sadly, not for the commentary. Which is a crime, as this was her final full story with DOCTOR WHO (she would cameo in THE FIVE DOCTORS) and from the MAKING OF... it's clear that she still has a wealth of untold tales from her time on DOCTOR WHO (her comments about the quality of location shooting, toilets and rats is hands down one of the best behind the scenes lines from the series ever put to DVD).

Commentary is included - and like the Doctor, it switches between one reality to the other with somewhat more mixed results. WARP 1 contains Nick Courtney, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks and is very good. Nice background on production, insights and memories - they are having a good time watching INFERNO and remember it fondly. WARP 2 features John Levene all alone - and, while he is vibrant, happy and excited to be talking about his time served on DOCTOR WHO he falls into the old trap of not wanting to talk about something until it appears on screen, name dropping (yes - it's true, he used to live right next door to Anthony Hopkins), and repeating what has already been said in WARP 1 - so, at times it becomes a grind. I'm not sure who or why decided this was the way to go with this commentary - but it must all come down to ego and politics. It should be clear which applies to which when you listen for yourself. Overall though - a better commentary than most. Both Courtney and Dicks shine here. Text commentary is tight and heavily detailed and worth your time.

In the end INFERNO was a groundbreaking piece of work on DOCTOR WHO. While the concept may have been getting old even back then of ANOTHER EARTH it was still fresh enough for DOCTOR WHO to have some fun with it - in fact, it's still fresh enough to be used even now in the new series (Rose - we miss you! We will not stop looking for a way to bring you home!), so we may just see it again... and in fact, we have... a sequel was written to INFERNO by David McIntee.

THE FACE OF THE ENEMY is a DOCTOR WHO story without the Doctor - but instead features The Master, UNIT and Ian and Barbara in a quest to stop some castaways from INFERNO Earth now living on ours. Danger... perils... The Master, a hero? The plot thickens.

I'm happy the color version has been found - it's keen to see it as it was meant to be seen - but at the same time I mourn the loss of the WARP 2 version of INFERNO. While in black and white failed to energize the main story (set in WARP 1), it packs a punch in WARP 2. It matches the hard edges, rough talk and black hearts found on the Brutal Earth - it's like looking into Orwell's 1984 set in the DOCTOR WHO universe - where you could easily see the Doctor as BIG BROTHER.

You won't go wrong in picking up INFERNO - it's top notch and full bore. A must have for any DOCTOR WHO fan."
Kevin J. Loria | New Orleans, LA USA | 06/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)


JUMPING JEHOSOPHAT! Imagine a sci-fi story with twice the potential for world armageddon, and that's what you have in INFERNO, a 7 part Dr. Who serial from Jon Pertwee's run as the interfering Timelord. Usually the story arcs longer than 4 parts, suffer from attempts to stretch out the episodes with padding and material that neither advances the story nor does it serve any real purpose. INFERNO, I'm happy to say is not one of those stories.

The top-secret drilling project called "Inferno", is intended to penetrate the Earth's crust and release limitless energy for the world. Hungry for success the "powers that be " ignore warnings about the possible dangers of the project, some warnings coming from the Doctor, currently in his 3rd incarnation and exiled by his people, the Timelords,to Earth of the 20th century. While the Doctor still hopes to escape the confines of one planet, one time, by borrowing some of the power from the "Inferno" project. As unpaid scientific adviser to the paramilitary organization UNIT, or the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, he is frequently in the position to help them save the human race, most often from themselves. Although this is one time he only half-succeeds in averting world destruction. While the project proceeds in its attempt to drill over 20 miles through the Earth's crust, to tap the gas beneath it, a series of events begin leading to the end of the world, maybe two. A technician's contact with an enigmatic subterranean ooze, followed by a motiveless murder and a madman on the loose are mere opening clues for the Doctor, his brilliant assistant Liz Shaw and the project's head of security and UNIT's CO the Brigadier, to solve the unfolding mystery. But the Doctor's own agenda has him distracted: he is testing the console from the TARDIS (his immobilized time/space ship).
More attacks occur involving the altered technician, through some "retrogressive mutation" he and anyone he's touched suffer a transformation into animal-things. More of the ooze is discovered from the drilling outpipe, at first the substance defies analysis, while the project head, Prof. Stahlman conceals that he has touched it. He continues to ignore all warnings to stop drilling, those from both the Doctor and the computer, the later which he sabotages himself. Becoming increasingly obsessive as he regresses further, he orders the Doctor's power supply cut-off at a critical juncture in his experiments with the TARDIS console. This caused the Doctor to travel "sideways in the time/space continuum" to a parallel universe. He's on earth right when and where he was but things are a bit askew, UNIT is not longer managing security, replaced by RSF (the Republican Security Forces), the Brigadier is now the eye-patched and mustacheless Brigade-Leader (scars and facial hair are always major factors in reality shifts), Liz is now Section Leader Shaw. As it happens the project is marginally more advanced than the Doctor's universe, Prof. Stalman is just as dangerously obsessed and infected, but the Doctor never existed, so he is promptly thought a spy, a saboteur, arrested and tossed in a cell with an infected technician. After the Doctor escapes, he tries again to stop the countdown, but it is too late Prof. Stalman is to far gone and others don't believe him until it is too late, as the Doctor puts it, "Listen to that, it's the sound of this planet screaming out its rage!...Compared to the forces you've unleashed, an Atomic blast would be like a summer breeze!"

What is always Dr. Who at it's most frightening is when the Doctor, the ever-present voice of optimism and internal hope ...when the Doctor gives up. That is when Dr. Who is just plain spooky. The Doctor says: "Sorry, we're past the point of no return, you've uncorked the genie from the bottle and there's nothing I can do." The parallel players consign themselves to try to help the Doctor to escape. Seriously, that's it, they begin hoping against hope that they just might be able to send him off alone on the off chance that his Earth might avoid the same catastrophic blunder (except for the Brigadier's counterpart, who hopes to force the Doctor into using the TARDIS as a interdimensional lifeboat).

INFERNO really is one of the best that Jon Pertwee's era has to offer. Thankfully BBC video has taken this opportunity to really clean up the footage (most color originals of Inferno were listed among the BBC fire causualties, the American reruns most of us saw in the 80's were all shaky BLACK & WHITE back-up reels, AND WE WERE THANKFUL FOR IT!).

INFERNO'S length allow for a greater development of character and relationships that serve the dual roles of the major and minor players, while confirming their natures by contrasting them (like the hot/cold between the crass but brave, in any universe, Drilling Consultant SUTTON and the all-business Assistant Director Dr. PETRA WILLIAMS.
Like the Doctor says, "Fascinating, so many similarities, yet so many differences."
The Liz Shaw and the Brigadier of "Universe B" are really just versions of themselves behaving as they would in a world dominated by fascism, but no one is "evil" in this story. Even Project Director Prof. Stahlman, the man whom which this disaster(s) would not be possible without, is merely obsessive and arrogant, then out of his mind, but even the monsters aren't evil, just kind of "hot & bothered."

Robert A. Heinlein author of "STRANGER in a STRANGE LAND" and the universe-shifting novel "JOB: A COMEDY OF JUSTICE" cites H.G. WELLS as having invented all of the basic fantasy themes, including the parallel universe, specifically: MEN LIKE GODS. Of course, the Sci-Fi channels loaded with them, including spoofs in Futurama, and just this year (probably the BBC's real motivation behind this release) the brilliant second season of the new Dr. Who features the 2 parter "AGE of STEEL/RISE of the CYBERMEN" in which the Cybermen are reborn (or rebuilt) on an alternate Earth. My point is INFERNO is a good story in good company, but not without it's clichés & faults.
The monsters in this one are alittle on the poor side of Lon Chaney and the Doctor, literially defeats the same ones over and over again, but I recommend adding this DVD to your Dr. Who collection.

One of my favorite experiences linked w/ DW is gathering w/ friends to watch, debate & other nefarious purposes.... So here is some INFERNO clichés for drinking games. Drink when:

--Someone is accused of traitorous talk/ behavior or sabotage

--The Doctor drives "Bessie" seemingly w/out purpose

--You see possible stock footage (of molten materials)

--The universe changes P.O.V. to an alternate one

--The Doctor calls authoritarian figures rude names

--You experience any feeling of Déjà vu (in any universe)
"Free will is not an illusion after all!"
Brian May | Australia | 01/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This could possibly be the best Dr Who story ever made. It's a compelling, disturbing and very human tale that, although 7 episodes long, never drags (in fact, it seems very rushed). The performances are all topline, the direction by Douglas Camfield superb and the music and sound effects very jarring. The parallel Earth scenes, in which England is run by a fascist government (a "what if the Nazis won" scenario), have a depressing, sterile, Orwellian feel; all the central characters have two roles, their "normal" selves and their parallel personas give them all added depth. Top marks to the Nicholas Courtney as the Brigade Leader. Small touches, such as certain pieces of conversational dialogue played out twice, once in the normal Earth and once in the parallel world, make a substantial impact on the viewer. The Doctor being placed in a situation where he cannot save the Earth (or one Earth) is quite haunting when you consider that "saving the day" becomes predictable to the point of cliche. At the end of the story you can't help feeling emotionally drained; the deaths of well defined characters and their parallel selves surviving plays with your feelings, making you both mourn and rejoice. Like the case with much of Dr Who, the monsters are not often well realised. The Primords have their moments, but just try not to think of the Bee Gees when they start rampaging in the later episodes! Best moments - the cliff hanger to episode 4 and the "doomsday" sequences at the end of episode 6. This is must own Dr Who!"