My first experience of The Awakening was when my dad bought it in a VHS double set paired with Frontios. I think it is fair to say that I hated both. Ten years later or so I got my hands on the DVDs. I had bought Frontios and been more than pleasantly surprised – I thoroughly enjoyed it. Whereas The Awakening came in a boxset with Hartnell serial The Gunfighters – a serial widely lampooned in fandom. I had therefore not been in a massive rush to buy the boxset, and slightly dreading what I might discover when I finally settled down to watch.
I will comment on The Gunfighters in due course, but begin by saying that my memory of the serial did not match to my experience of watching the DVD. Okay, the story is short at two parts, and almost overly simplistic. It attempts to harken back to The Daemons but falls short of the magisterial (sorry – forgive the pun!) excellence of that story. But it is not actually unenjoyable – merely underwhelming.
It says a lot about the story that I don’t have a huge amount to say about it. The story can be summarised as: there’s a malevolent power buried in a sleepy English village, and the local Squire is hoping to take advantage of it – but instead the power overcomes him. When the Squire is killed, the creature has no means of escape and explodes – and the Doctor saves everyone by escaping in the TARDIS. And … that’s pretty much it. Of all the stories I have reviewed so far, it is shockingly the most neutral and unmemorable of the lot. It’s not bad for poor acting, or poor production values, or a convoluted story. You don’t sit watching it and think: “Will this never end? It’s torture!” But it leaves no firm impression on the viewer afterwards.
To those who have never watched the story – do watch it! Peter Davison is fully in his stride as the Fifth Doctor, and Tegan and Turlough both get to be proactive in this story – so you feel fully involved with the entire TARDIS crew for once. You will enjoy the story, but I don’t expect you will remember it. But that’s perfectly okay!