Doctor Who: Lost In Time
More on Doctor Who
Looking back and resurrecting some classic TV reviews that we've run in earlier incarnations of The Digital Fix
It’s hard to imagine, given the availability of past TV programmes on “gold” channels as well as on DVD and video, that it wasn’t so long ago that things were very different. BBC2 arrived the year I was born (1964) and anyone of around my age will remember a time when there were just three channels to choose from. (Channel 4, in 1982, made it four.) But, even more importantly, the schedules determined when you watched something. Although video tape recorders existed in the 1960s, they were very much rich men’s toys. The video cassette recorder arrived in 1978, but the first ones were expensive and it wasn’t really until early in the next decade that they caught on with a large public and revolutionised home viewing. Before then, although programmes were repeated, you often had one chance to see it and that was at the time it was scheduled. You could miss a masterpiece by being stuck in traffic. Television drama, good or bad, was a one-off event.
Doctor Who was from the outset pre-recorded as much as possible “as live”, on 405-line videotape. Recordings were made on 16mm film for selling abroad (to get past compatibility problems with different TV systems), but the original tapes were routinely wiped to be reused. The film copies were either returned to the BBC, passed on to another country for use, or junked. But in the 1970s, the BBC archive destroyed many of these film copies to save space and to reduce fire safety risks. By this time, colour TV had arrived, and no-one saw a use for old black and white material any more. This continued until 1978 until a change in policy caused the BBC’s archiving policy to be rethought..
By this time many episodes of Doctor Who (along with episodes of other shows) no longer existed in the archives. Instead of destroying old material, the BBC has since then tried to recover as much of it as possible. Episodes were recovered from old BBC buildings, from film copies held in private hands, even in some strange locations such as the basement of a church. One of the biggest finds was the return of all four episodes of The Tomb of the Cybermen from a TV station in Hong Kong. Thirty-seven episodes of 1960s Doctor Who have been recovered, with 108 still missing as I write this in December 2004. (As an aside, some Jon Pertwee episodes, filmed in colour, only exist in black and white. Many of the “colour” episodes were recolourised from off-air NTSC tapes.) Inevitably, the return rate has slowed, with only two episodes in the last five years, and you have to question how many more, if any, will be found. Some of them seem tantalisingly just out of reach. The seven-episode Marco Polo, from the very first season, for example, was sold to more countries than any other missing story, so surely copies must be somewhere? The Traitors, Episode 4 of The Daleks’ Master Plan. was borrowed by Blue Peter so that they could choose a clip from it for a feature on the programme (which you can see on the DVD of The Three Doctors). They then lost it, and you can’t help wondering – hoping – that it will turn up mislabelled in a Blue Peter archive somewhere. Soundtracks and scripts of all missing episodes do exist, and in many cases telesnaps (off-air still photographs) and short clips. That’s certainly better than nothing, but even so, not being able to see the complete episode does distort judgement: we can’t appreciate the director’s contribution of course, and it does limit our ability to judge the actors’ as well. (Tomb is the only complete story with Victoria as a companion, for example.) Also, our judgement of missing stories is inevitably compromised by its unavailability, and the faulty memories of those old enough to have seen them first time round. Look, for example, how Tomb was hailed as an all-time classic – an opinion that was revised downwards once people had a chance to see it for themselves. But the hard fact is that, unless time travel or broadcast-quality memory retrieval becomes a reality, the great majority of these episodes are gone forever. I would love to be proved wrong, of course. [UPDATE: This was written in 2004 and is of course now out of date, as of now (August 2014). Two episodes were found in 2011 and nine in 2013.]
Lost in Time gathers together the eighteen “orphaned” episodes from the Hartnell and Troughton eras of the 1960s. This set does not include stories where more than half the episodes exist: namely, The Reign of Terror (four out of six exist), The Tenth Planet (three out of four), The Ice Warriors (four out of six) and The Invasion (six out of eight). Presumably these stories will be released on DVD in the future. For the two stories where half the episodes do survive, The Crusade and The Moonbase (two out of four in both cases), the soundtracks of the missing episodes are provided.
Inevitably this is a package aimed at existing Who fans than the general public. It’s in black and white for one thing, but more particularly for most of these episodes there is no contextual information. Take The Faceless Ones, for example, of which we get the first and third episodes of a six-parter. No doubt the intended audience for these DVDs will have access to episode guides or other reference sources, so they will know, for example, where Ben and Polly have gone to, and what Pauline Collins is doing in it. Non-aficionados may well be simply bewildered. A second observation is that you live in hope that this DVD set might become obsolete at some future date…though I don’t doubt that any future missing episodes that turn up would find themselves as extras on the next available Hartnell or Troughton adventure on DVD.
However, if you are a fan, then you will certainly want to buy this set. Unless you were old enough to see it on its TV broadcast in 1965, you won’t have seen “Day of Armageddon” before, as it was only returned to the BBC this year. Most of the episodes are enjoyable even in isolation, and some of the extras are fascinating – not to mention tantalising!
Normally in a DVD review I would discuss the feature, picture and sound quality and then the extras. However, with this set, the boundary between feature and extras is much less clear-cut, so I’ll simply go through each disc one at a time.
Lost in Time consists of three dual-layer DVDs, all encoded for both Regions 2 and 4. In the USA and maybe other countries too, Disc One (the Hartnell episodes) and Discs Two and Three (Troughton) are available separately.
All the episodes are in black and white and presented in their original 4:3 aspect ratio. I’ll comment on specific picture quality where appropriate, but I’ll make some general comments here. With one exception, all the episodes have been subjected to the Restoration Team’s VidFIRE process, aimed at restoring a video “look” to the film recordings. There’s certainly a considerable increase in quality to these episodes, particularly when comparing them with previously-available video versions. There’s a slight “net curtain” effect to some of the 16mm material (much less so with that derived from 35mm transmission prints). There’s also an inevitable quality jump with the later episodes (The Enemy of the World onwards) as the BBC had changed from shooting in 405-line video to 635-line.
The soundtracks are all mono, and no complaints from me. All are well restored where necessary, with dialogue, music and effects all well balanced. We’re talking professional TV standards here.
Subtitles are provided for the hard of hearing for all the episodes, plus the commentaries and the extras. However, informational subtitles are not present this time. That’s a shame, but I’d imagine to logistics of researching and subtitling eighteen episodes might have been impractical.
The Crusade: The Lion (24:52)
Up until 1966, Doctor Who episodes had individual titles, rather than the more usual convention of overall story title plus episode number. “The Lion” is Episode One of The Crusade, written by David Whitaker. It was the last but one missing episode recovered to date, found in New Zealand in 1999. That film copy was quite damaged, and some but not all of that damage has been repaired for this DVD, more so than on the original video release: there’s a noticeable scratch down the right hand side of the frame through most of the episode. For this reason, this is the only one of the eighteen episodes in this set not to be VidFIREd.
The Crusade is a story held in high regard, and shows how good Hartnell-era historicals could be. David Whitaker’s dialogue is highly literate and Douglas Camfield’s direction muscular. Also, being a period piece (always a BBC strength), it looks less dated than some of the more futuristic Who episodes.
The Crusade: The Knight of Jaffa (23:18)
Episode Two is presented audio-only, with a still from the serial as a background. It should be noted that the four audio-only episodes in this set are the pure soundtrack without the narration that features on the BBC’s audio releases.
The Crusade: The Wheel of Fortune (24:53)
Episode Three is the remaining surviving episode, in noticeably better condition than Episode One, as it was never lost. Jean Marsh appears as King Richard’s sister Joanna. She would later play Sara Kingdom in The Daleks’ Master Plan and marry Third Doctor Jon Pertwee.
The first of this set’s six commentaries for this episode. Julian Glover (who plays King Richard), interviewed by Gary Russell. Glover looks back fondly on this story and director Camfield, while finding William Russell (Ian) and the late Jacqueline Hill (Barbara) rather more approachable than William Hartnell. He also says he would have loved to have played the Doctor, which is intriguing to say the least.
The Crusades: The Warlords (23:44)
The missing Episode Four is presented audio-only. If you click “Play All” from the main menu, you can play an introduction and linking material recorded by William Russell in character as Ian, from the 2000 video release of the story.
The Daleks’ Master Plan: Day of Armageddon (24:20)
This is the most recent find, returned by a BBC engineer in January 2004, and it’s a good one. Master Plan, at twelve episodes, was for many years the longest Doctor Who ever, and despite some oddities (such as Episode Seven, effectively the show’s only Christmas special) it’s a very strong, and epic story. It hinges on the theft of a taranium core from the Daleks, and this second episode is where the Doctor steals it. There’s some strong villainy from Kevin Stoney as Mavic Chen, Guardian of the Solar System and in league with the Daleks and fine work from the regulars. Douglas Camfield’s direction is pacy, coming up with some striking imagery, including a scene where the Daleks burn down the jungle.
This is the only surviving episode featuring Katarina, the shortest-lived of all the companions. She replaced Vicki on the TARDIS at the end of the previous story, the Trojan War-set The Myth Makers. It was soon realised that she would not work out as a companion, so she is killed off in Episode Four, the first of only two companions to die in the whole twenty-six year run. (I’m not counting Sara Kingdom here, as she’s a guest character for this story only. However, she does fulfil the “female companion” role in the last eight episodes.) Adrienne Hill played Katarina, and it’s fair to say she makes little impression. Also notable are Kevin Stoney as arch-villain Mavic Chen, and Nicholas Courtney in his first Who appearance as Bret Vyon (also due to be killed off). Courtney of course went on to play Brigadier (originally Colonel) Lethbridge-Stewart, and you can see the roots of that character here.
This episode has a commentary with Peter Purves (Steven), Stoney and Raymond Cusick (designer for six of the episodes, and the man who originally designed the Daleks). Purves moderates this commentary with enthusiasm that’s infectious. Let’s hope he’s called back when other stories he features in appear on DVD.
The Daleks’ Master Plan: Counter Plot (24:05)
The Daleks’ Master Plan: Escape Switch (23:36)
Episodes Five and Ten were recovered from the basement of a Mormon Church in 1983. After the excitements of the previous episodes, with the deaths of Katarina and Bret Vyon, we’re introduced to Jean Marsh’s rather butch Space Security Service agent Sara Kingdom, who begins by shooting Vyon (her own brother) before changing sides and joining the Doctor and Steven in their fight against Chen and the Daleks. Episode Ten also features The Meddling Monk (Peter Butterworth), a fellow Time Lord, who had previously been seen in pre-Conquest England in The Time Meddler. All tense stuff, and I hope I live long enough to see more episodes of this story.
The Celestial Toymaker: The Final Test (23:50)
The Celestial Toymaker is a story whose reputation has gone up and down. When it was entirely lost, many held it up as a surreal masterpiece (rather like the Troughton story The Mind Robber, due a DVD release in 2005). Then Episode Four was found, returned by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1984, and its reputation was revised downwards. Steven and Dodo (Jackie Lane) play electrified hopscotch with the very Billy Bunter-like Cyril (Peter Stephens), while the Doctor plays the Trilogic Game with the Toymaker (Michael Gough). The games aren’t too well visualised, no doubt due to BBC budgets, but the guest acting is good: Stephens turning from chumminess to malice in an instant, and some memorably suave villainy from Gough.
The extras on Disc One include surviving clips from the first four episodes of The Daleks’ Master Plan (7:13). Viewers of a certain age may recognise Play School presenter-to-be Brian Cant, looking sweaty, unshaven and dishevelled, getting exterminated by a Dalek.
Some footage from missing episodes exists in the form of 8mm film clips, recorded by fans at the time of broadcast simply by pointing the camera at their TV set. As you might imagine, the quality is dreadful, but it’s nice to see clips of the following, running 6:11 in total: “The Tyrant of Fortune” and “A Bargain of Necessity” (Episodes Four and Five of The Reign of Terror), “Four Hundred Dawns” (Episode One of Galaxy 4) “Temple of Secrets”, “Small Prophet, Quick Return”, “Horse of Destruction” (Episodes One, Two and Four, respectively of The Myth Makers), Episode 4 of The Savages and Episode 4 of The Tenth Planet. Amongst other things, you see Vicki and Steven’s departures, and William Hartnell regenerating into Patrick Troughton.
This regeneration sequence (1:24) is reprised from BBC-held video material as a separate extra, “The Tenth Planet Surviving Clips”. The previous story, The Smugglers is entirely lost, but clips from Episodes One, Three and Four were located in 1996 at the offices of the Australian censors, having been cut from the broadcast version there. These run 1:41. Also included is 2:17 of silent colour 16mm film shot on location for this story. There is a “Play All” option included on the submenu for The Smugglers material. Finally, there is a trailer (4:18) for the BBC audiobooks for the missing stories (the original soundtracks plus narration).
There is an Easter Egg on Disc One. Highlight the Doctor Who logo on the main menu and you will get the countdown clock for “The Wheel of Fortune” (0:31). I found this easier to do with a mouse on my PC DVD-ROM drive, rather than using a remote control on my DVD player via my TV set.
The Underwater Menace: Episode 3 (24:09)
This four-part story has a terrible reputation, largely due to Joseph Furst’s rampant overacting as Professor Zaroff. (All together now: “Nozink in ze vorld can stop me now!”) The sets look cheap and the Fish People are, in more ways than one, wet. You also see why 60s female companions look retrograde nowadays: in most surviving footage of Polly (Anneke Wills) she does little but scream. (Much the same can be said for Deborah Watling’s Victoria.) The director is Julia Smith, only the second woman to direct Doctor Who (the first being Paddy Russell), who later went on to create Eastenders.
The Moonbase: Episode 1 (24:14)
In which the Cybermen attack, in the only other half-complete story in this set. The first episode is audio-only.
The Moonbase: Episode 2 (24:33)
This, like Episode 4 was never lost. It begins with a delirious Jamie threatened by a Cybermen he takes to be his clan’s Phantom Piper, come to take him away to the afterlife. This is neither the strongest nor the weakest story in the story, being mainly a rewrite of The Tenth Planet with the setting changed from Antarctica to the Moon.
The Moonbase: Episode 3 (26:13)
The Moonbase: Episode 4 (23:19)
This begins with one of the series’ most memorable cliffhangers, as the Cybermen march across the Lunar surface.
The Faceless Ones: Episode 1 (23:46)
The Faceless Ones: Episode 3 (22:57)
Troughton’s first story set on contemporary Earth, a six-parter which writes Ben and Polly out of the series. Pauline Collins’s Samantha Briggs was intended as a replacement companion, but Collins declined to continue in the role. After a strong opening where the TARDIS materialises on the runway at Gatwick, this becomes rather bland. Episode 3 suffers particularly from being seen in isolation.
The Evil of the Daleks: Episode 2 (25:09)
This seven-parter is high on many fans’ wish lists, but sadly only this one episode survives, recovered in 1987. It introduces Deborah Watling as new companion Victoria. It’s a fine episode which makes you hope that you might see more of it some day. Marius Goring, John Bailey and a pre-Likely Lads Brigit Forsyth make up a strong supporting cast.
This episode has a commentary available, with Deborah Watling interviewed by Gary Russell. The two spend much of the time flirting with each other, but some interesting if surface-level anecdotes do come out.
The extras on Disc Two comprise surviving footage from The Macra Terror Episodes 2 and 3 (0:55 in total) – giant crabs on the rampage and more screaming Polly. There is also 1:24 of footage from Episodes 1, 2, 4 of The Underwater Menace – Polly faces an operation to transform her into a fish and Zaroff drowns. 0:52 survives from Episode 1 of The Highlanders, Jamie’s first story. The initial clip includes a clapperboard and the director calling “Action”.
“The Last Dalek” is an 8mm film (9:35) shot during the filming of the climactic Dalek battle in Episode 7 of The Evil of the Daleks with a dull commentary from special effects men Peter Day and Michaeljohn Harris. If you have the DVD of The Tomb of the Cybermen you will already have part of this footage, and all of it if you own The Seeds of Death.
The material from the first Troughton story, The Power of the Daleks is in two parts. First there is a trailer (0:52), followed by clips from Episodes 4, 5 and 6 (1:56). There is a “Play All” option. 8mm off-screen footage (3:21) is provided from Episodes 1 and 2 of The Power of the Daleks, Episode 3 of The Macra Terror and Episode 2 of The Faceless Ones.
This DVD set’s second and final Easter Egg is on this disc, and can be found in the same place as it was on Disc One. When The Ice Warriors was released on video, with a reconstruction and soundtrack of its two missing episodes, also included were a documentary “The Missing Years” (see Disc Three details, below), and a bonus “orphaned” episode. (It was the one from The Underwater Menace, but you can’t have everything.) This Easter Egg runs 0:37 and is Frazer Hines’s introduction to that episode.
The Abominable Snowmen: Episode 2 (23:15)
The Yeti were key monsters of the Second Doctor’s era, but only two episodes from their two stories remain. It’s likely to seem a little confusing unless you know the plot of the serial, so doesn’t stand too well alone. This episode has another commentary or mutual flirting session, from Deborah Watling and Gary Russell, during which some interesting information does arise.
The Enemy of the World: Episode 3 (23:08)
This serial is something of an oddity. Taking place on near-future Earth it contains no monster, and Patrick Troughton plays the villain, a dictator called Salamander, the Doctor’s double. The storyline involves James Bondian antics and a surprising amount of globetrotting. Much of the story is set in Australia, but as location shooting went no further than Littlehampton, local colour is provided by hiring Aussie actors like Bill Kerr and Reg Lye, who were working in Britain at the time due to the lack of opportunities back home. This is good, pacey stuff.
The Web of Fear: Episode 1 (24:50)
This is one of the best episodes of the entire set. It begins with our heroes struggling to close the TARDIS doors (a follow on from the end of Enemy, where Salamander was sucked into space). Meanwhile, back on Earth, the Yeti are wandering the London underground. There’s an electrifying Yeti revival scene, made more effective by the use of some music by Bartok. By all accounts, seriously scary stuff. The commentary is the previous team of Watling and Russell, joined this time by script editor Derrick Sherwin, and is much better than the previous two.
The Wheel in Space: Episode 3 (24:24)
The Wheel in Space: Episode 6 (23:05)
The Cybermen attack again, this time a space station. This story was notable for the introduction of new companion Zoe Heriot, played by Wendy Padbury, one to get the guys watching. (The girls were already watching Jamie.) Episode 6 features a commentary from Derrick Sherwin and director Tristan de Vere Cole, which is more production-based than other commentaries on this set.
The Space Pirates: Episode 2 (24:56)
Many people reckon that Robert Holmes was one of the finest writers to work on Doctor Who, but certainly by the time he wrote this, his second serial, he had yet to hit his stride. This story is by all account six episodes of tedium with some fine special effects and incidental music, and this one surviving episode does little to change that impression.
On to the extras. Clips are provided from The Web of Fear Episodes 2, 4 and 5, (running 1:09) and The Wheel in Space Episodes 4 and 5 (0:34). If these sound familiar, they are: this footage was recovered from the New Zealand censor’s office and was previously included on the DVD of The Seeds of Death. Also present are 19 seconds from Episode 4 of The Abominable Snowmen along with 3:37 of 8mm colour film taken during the location shoot in Snowdonia (standing in none too convincingly for the Himalayas). Newly discovered film trims from The Space Pirates (2:44), shots of the model work and special effects, round off this section.
None of the six episodes of Fury from the Deep survive, but the story (a seaweed monster attacks an offshore gas refinery) has a high reputation as one of the scariest of all Who stories. Surviving scenes, such as the one from Episode 2 as two weed-possessed technicians attack a woman, certainly bear this out. Included on the DVD are 8mm colour film (2:55) shot at Ealing studios, 3:42 of raw film trims, and 4:35 worth of clips from Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6. There is a “Play All” option.
Finally, there’s the documentary “The Missing Years” (37:12). A shorter version appeared on the VHS release of The Ice Warriors as noted above. The documentary, introduced by Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling, gives a run-through of the story of how the episodes came to be missing and later found. It includes interviews with archivists, collectors who found missing episodes and prominent fans. There’s also a substantial amount of clips from the missing episodes. Most of this is available elsewhere in this DVD set, but one that isn’t are six minutes from the Galaxy 4 episode “Four Hundred Dawns”. A brief postscript brings the story up to date with the discoveries of “The Lion” and “Day of Armageddon”. It’s certainly an interesting watch, though Watling’s delivery may well be a matter of taste.
And that’s it. There’s plenty of fascinating material on these three discs, though also some repetition. You do get to see episodes you might never have seen otherwise, which may – save for the diligence of fans, and plain luck – may have been lost forever. Mourn the loss of those that are gone, probably for good, tantalise yourself with the fragments that remain…but if you are a Doctor Who fan, particularly of the Hartnell and Troughton eras, then buy this DVD.