Saturday, June 29, 2013

50WHO: From Hong Kong With Love....

This is the sixth part of a series of articles celebrating the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. Over the years there are certain stories that mean a lot to me either from personal memories or involvement I had in fandom through the years. These articles are not meant to be close examinations of the plot or production but more about what these stories mean to me on a personal level. Enjoy.

Without a doubt my favourite Doctor Who topic are missing episodes. I find everything about it intriguing. How did they become missing? Where have them been found? What format are they held in? There is always a certain amount of mystery about the episodes. Were there ever missing episode clubs? Did people ever have episodes and knew there value? I find all of this fascinating.

When I got into Doctor Who, the lion’s share of missing episodes to be found in the 1980s had been found. When I got into fandom, The Faceless Ones Episode 3 and The Evil of the Daleks Episode 2 had been found. Those were pretty incredible. I remember buying a beta machine from my friend Roger and the beta tape that we used as the master for those two episodes came with it. The quality was pretty bad and the conversion was really weird. Parts of the line structure would be magnified which meant that some parts of people looked bigger than others. I didn’t care, I was watching an episode of The Evil of the Daleks. It was a time that I felt much of fandom was feeling that episodes would show up on a regular basis. After all they are all out there, right? We just needed to find them.
Of course, it looked like the instincts of fans were right. In 1988 4 episodes of The Ice Warriors were found. That was pretty incredible. It was just a matter of laying back in seeing what would come in next. Now, of course it made sense to be realistic. In round about 1989 I had a serious phone discussion with my friend Jon. We were talking about which episodes we never thought would be returned. I remember we agreed that Marco Polo would never be returned and nor would all the episodes of The Dalek’s Masterplan ever go back to the BBC. The last one we thought no way we would ever see was The Tomb of the Cybermen. No way. The flip side to that was that we were more than likely going to get The Tenth Planet Episode 4 back some day. Even though, we didn’t have the physical episodes, the one thing we did have was the off-air audio recordings.

As Doctor Who fans, we are extremely lucky. We have off-air recordings for all the missing episodes. The majority of these recordings have been made by multiple fans. Some better quality than others but we do have them. Of course when I got into fandom and started to get access to some of these recordings, they were horrible quality. I mean really awful! I had copies of The Web of Fear I got in 1988. It could have been anything. It could have been the first recording of Thomas Edison on the new wire recording medium. There was nothing that sounded like Doctor Who to me on these recordings. Let’s not even talk about Marco Polo. It was so bad! I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was an actual recording of Marco Polo, himself, in Cathay in 1289. It was ridiculous!  There was one audio recording that I had, at least in those early days that always sounded decent. That was The Tomb of the Cybermen.  I was able to listen to that and actually follow along with the story. It was cohesive and made sense. It was funny because I felt the story teased that we were going to see the Cybermen, opposed to actually seeing them in the first two episodes,  so much that it was getting to the point I was actually wondering if they were going to be in the story! Listening to the audio, I was seeing in my mind how the story would look, at least to me. When we get to the cliffhanger for Episode 2, I have in my mind exactly how I think the episode should end with the Cybercontroller stating, “You belong to us, you shall be like us.” I thought it would be cool if it was an extreme close up of the Cybercontroller’s emotionless face. I was delighted to find, of course, that is exactly how it actually was made. That was pretty cool to see Morris Barry and I were on the same page.
Note this camera script extract from the end of Episode 2. The line, "You shall be like us." Is not there.
So, I pretty much thought I had this missing episode thing figured out. One thing that I found early on in my “fan career” was that rumours were abundant. My favourite rumour was that episodes 1 & 4 of The Invasion actually existed. The film prints were owned by Nicholas Courtney but they had no audio. Oh dear! I knew that audio episodes (even though crappy quality) of the two episodes did exist. Why didn’t anyone bring the film print and audio together? Surely I wasn’t the only one who ever thought of that!  Ha! I may have believed that one at first but I quickly caught on to a lot of bullshit rumours people told me at conventions. One was so unbelievable that it couldn’t possibly be true when I went to Visions in November of 1991.

The convention Visions in Chicago is one of the most mystical journeys I have ever made in fandom. There is something almost mysterious about it. I say that because there were a ton of Brits that would go to the convention and just an amazing cross section of people. Chicago is one of my favourite places to go to meet up with Doctor Who fans and I am sorry to say but since Visions came to an end, it has never been the same since. As I mentioned, missing episode rumours fly around all the time. If you remember in Dr. Paul Lee’s 1990s article, Missing Without A Trace, he speaks of this mysterious man named Lei who attended Visions. Lei was the guy who had every episode of the series and was showing missing episodes at the hotel. Well, all of that is true except for the bit about showing missing episodes at the hotel or the bit about a man named Lei. Anyway, back to my story.  At this point, I had made friends with a ton of people in tape-trading so I became wary of rumours. This is where I met a man by the name of Louis.
This leaflet was included in the 1992 PAL VHS for The Tomb of the Cybermen
When I was part of the Whoniversity, we would have room parties there to support our club or conventions we were doing. I met a man by the name of Louis. There is one subject Louis loved which was missing episodes. We had an immediate bond. I am not sure where Louis was from originally but he was incredibly smart and had lived all around the world. If you were to believe Louis, he had seen a few missing episodes or knew someone in one of the countries where the local TV station ran the series and had seen it. I don’t remember the stuff he saw; I don’t remember the episode names. I liked him but come on. Do you seriously believe that I met the one man in the world that has seen missing episodes in multiple countries on their TV stations? I seem to remember he had seen some of a Hartnell in Cypress and some Troughton episodes in Singapore or somewhere. Come on! Then he started to talk about The Tomb of the Cybermen.

He had seen The Tomb of the Cybermen in some country. Or he had seen an episode or something broadcast at some point? I generally have a good memory but wasn’t too clear on this. I found it hard to believe and maybe I stopped paying attention thinking I’ve heard enough of this story. It was about to get harder to believe. Louis told me that The Tomb of the Cybermen had been recovered and it would be announced at the beginning of January 1992. What kind of fool did he take me for? At that time The Tomb of the Cybermen was the most wanted missing story. It was legendary. So, I am left to believe that this man I just met who appeared to have no inside information just casually told me that The Tomb of the Cybermen had been found. No way! Absolutely not!
The Photocopy Louis sent me of the DWM article
So, in March of 1992 DWM announced that The Tomb of the Cybermen had been discovered in Hong Kong. To this day, it still fills me with chills and almost disbelief that this story had been found. There are fans of this series who started to watch it recently who never knew what it was like to not have this story readily available to pull off their shelf to watch. Louis sent me a photocopy of the news item from DWM. It was incredible. I knew I must have that story when it was available. The VHS was scheduled to be released in the UK in May of 1992; the US release was set for October of that year. I couldn’t wait for October. I needed it sooner.

Generally when an episode gets returned, copies get filtered through the fan network to fill our gaps. The same thing happened to me with Airlock and The Underwater Menace Episode 2. I had copies about a month or two after they were returned. The Tomb of the Cybermen was different. This was going to be sold in stores as quickly as possible. It wasn’t going to be coming down the regular channels. I needed to support this release. I didn’t know a ton of people in the UK back then but I did know one. I stayed with his family when I went to the UK in 1990. I made arrangements (through regular mail) for him to purchase the VHS when it came out and send it to me. Early May arrived, The Tomb of the Cybermen was released.
Probably about 2 weeks or so after it was released, I got my PAL VHS. This was my second PAL VHS of Doctor Who. The first one was the Special Edition of The Curse of Fenric. When my tape arrived, it was agony. I didn’t have any PAL equipment back then. I held in my hands a VHS of The Tomb of the Cybermen and I had no way to play it. I couldn’t resist. I still popped the VHS into my VCR. The picture is nothing really but I could barely make out Morris Barry at the beginning. Luckily I had someone kind enough to convert it to NTSC for me. His name was Louis.

Louis and I kept in touch over a few years and he always put the money where his mouth was. He sent me an absolutely amazing copy of The Planet of the Daleks Episode 3, he sent over a really nice colour copy of Doctor Who and the Silurians, and he also made a conversion of The Curse of Fenric. The PAL cover for The Tomb of the Cybermen was really nice. To start off with, all the VHS tapes came in nice plastic cases and not cardboard boxes (like the US) that got cheaper as the years went on in the range. The Alistair Pearson cover was monochrome with just a bit of red. It was fitting for the story plus the title on the front and spine all were in silver foil. It was gorgeous. It truly was special. So, before I sent off the PAL tape, I decided to keep the cover because it looked so nice and was something to look at while the tape was away getting converted. It was a smart move for me as I never got that tape back.  Time passed……slowly waiting for the tape to arrive. It seemed like years. Every day, I couldn’t wait. Finally, after a decade (or 2 weeks) I had a playable copy of The Tomb of the Cybermen in my unworthy hands.
DWB issue 99
My hands fumbled and shook with the disbelief to the feast I was about to give my weary eyeballs. Perhaps while inserting the tape, I may have missed the gap a couple of times with the over eager anticipation. Something that has plagued me all my life. Everything ready to go, the tape begins to play and the picture rolls. I mean it rolls. The picture goes from bottom to top and bottom to top and bottom to top. I mess with the various holds on my VCR and nothing. I mess with the various holds on the TV and nothing. I simply cannot watch it. The rolling is too much. I can’t get anything out of it. We have a ton of VCRs in the house and I take it to each one and the picture rolls. Nothing works. After all this time, am I not able to watch The Tomb of the Cybermen? I then find a crappy 10 inch black & white TV that I hook a VCR up to and for some reason the picture plays fine. The internal weeping has stopped. The throat is a little sore from yelling at every VCR in the house but I can sit down and watch The Tomb of the Cybermen. Granted, until October of that year, every time I wanted to watch that story I had to hook up that damn small crappy TV to a VCR.

These articles are not really about the stories but to me, this story lived up to its expectation. Yes, there are some dodgy moments in there such as Toberman raising the Cyberman and we see the Kirby wires holding the Cyberman up or when Toberman picks up the very obvious “dummy prop” of the Cybercontroller and throws him against the console. Other than that, I love the story. Troughton is at his mischievous best. Listening to the off-air audio, it is really difficult to pick up his nuances as the Doctor. I feel history repeated itself with Episode 2 of The Underwater Menace. On the audio, you are really only getting a portion of his performance. I know that can be said of all actors but I think that statement really leaps out for Troughton as the Doctor.
DWB Cover for issue 101
The Tomb of the Cybermen was released twenty years ago. It was said that if The Tomb of the Cybermen sold x number of VHS tapes that a missing episode office would be set up. This was very exciting because there was absolute momentum. It seemed like this was heralding in the second coming of missing episode discoveries. If The Tomb of the Cybermen could be found, anything could be found. Soon, nothing was found. It all became quiet. Soon I lost touch with Louis. If anyone knows a Louis Singh, please let me know. I would love to say hello to him. Was a missing episode office created? Beats me. It seemed disingenuous that the BBC wouldn’t have put in more effort at that time to find missing television. Everyone’s eyes were on Doctor Who but there is so much more BBC missing programs out there I want to see.

 As for the missing episodes, some had been returned. In fact 4 had been found since 1991. A lot of clips had been found plus crystal clear recordings of the missing audios. Plus, don’t forget telesnaps! A whole lot of them were discovered in 1993 and in some cases the only visual representations of aspects of these episodes.  As for Jon Pertwee episodes, nothing was missing but a lot of episodes existed only in black & white at the time The Tomb of the Cybermen was released. I now own them all in colour. You probably do too. As for the black & white episodes that exist, they all have been restored. Even to the point of returning their original look and feel of videotape to the studio scenes. I had always wanted to see them look like that. So, there are 106 episodes, things aren’t too bad, right or could they get better?
It is very timely that this article is being written as there is a persistent rumour that about 90 episodes of Doctor Who have been found. If this rumour is true, there will only be 16 episodes of Doctor Who missing. The rumour has been denied by various sources. I like to think I am a reasonable human being and perhaps even… Then, why do I believe this to be true? Do I know something you don’t know? Everything I know has also been on the Bleeding Cool articles. This takes me back to where it all started, rumours about missing episodes and the excitement of something possibly being out there. Let’s have history repeat itself……

On November 23rd 2011, I published an article titled Missing You! My Experience with the Missing Episodes of Doctor Who. On December 11th 2011 news broke that 2 episodes of Doctor Who have been returned. This is my new article about missing episodes of Doctor Who and now it’s time for more episodes to show up because I posted this article. I did my bit, now I am ready for the announcement of the 90 missing episodes of Doctor Who being recovered. Go ahead BBC……

Finally, to all film collectors……
Speaking of missing episodes, as we know they are not just limited to Doctor Who, the BBC or British television. Peter J. Greenwood got a hold of me through my Facebook page. He works at Chertock TV. Jack Chertock produced 182 episodes of The Lone Ranger and produced many of the Our Gang shorts after MGM took over. He was executive Producer on My Favorite Martian. A 1964 series called My Living Doll is what we are interested in.

My Living Doll is a series that starred Bob Cummings as Dr. Bob McDonald, a psychologist who is given care of Rhoda Miller, a lifelike android (played by Julie Newmar) in the form of a sexy, Amazonian female, by her creator, a scientist who did not want her to fall into the hands of the military. The series lasted for 26 episodes. 15 of those are now missing. They exist as film recordings and many episodes are thought to possibly exist in Europe. Most film collectors get asked if they have Doctor Who but if you are friends with a film collector or are one yourself, please look to see if you have any film prints of this series. If you do please contact: or myself at to get these prints back.
DWB Cover for issue 99
Next 50WHO article: Doctor Who went off the air in 1989. There were a lot of rumours going around as to if the series was going to return and who would be making it. One strange rumour was the Steven Spielberg was going to be involved. It wasn’t strange nor was it a rumour. In 1996, Paul McGann became the Eighth Doctor and the TV Movie was broadcast on FOX. At that time I worked for FOX, well at least the Twin Cities affiliate. I go into detail about what it was like to work at a network affiliate with something that had high hopes but delivered a crushing defeat.

Next week: I will be publishing an review of the 1975 vintage BBC series North & South released by Acorn Media plus more Midsomer Murders.
Have a great week!
Do you have feedback, article requests or want to talk about a program but do not want to leave a public comment? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Animation Domination: The Tenth Planet Animated Episode 4 Review!

Although The Tenth Planet is 47 years old, I appreciate not everyone has seen it and is waiting for the DVD to come out.  Please note that this article reveals some plot points and spoilers that may ruin the enjoyment of the episode/story. If you do not want to be spoiled please do not read further or read at your own risk.

It is a well-established fact that The Tenth Planet is one of my favourite stories of Doctor Who. I am a massive fan of the Cybermen and I am a massive fan of the Innes Lloyd/Gerry Davis era of Doctor Who. When I get around to writing a 50WHO article on the first Doctor, I will focus that article on The Tenth Planet and why I love it. This article is to look at something different; something I never expected to see in my lifetime, an animated Episode 4 of The Tenth Planet.

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The full bells & whistle release of The Tenth Planet will be released as a 2-Disc DVD set in November. Not only will we get all four episodes but a host of other extras. It is a release I am really excited to get in my hands. On June 24th, the BBC in the UK will release a 6 DVD boxset simply titled Doctor Who: Regeneration. This boxset has the final story of each Doctor. To be more accurate, it will focus on the story the Doctor regenerates in. This is unfortunate for the likes of Colin Baker who shows up at the very end of The Caves of Androzani and is played by Sylvester McCoy at the very beginning of Time and the Rani. In fact, Sylvester McCoy basically regenerates into himself. What I am going to focus on are the four (out of nine) episodes of Disc 1. To be more accurate, I am just focusing on one of the episodes.
As fans of Doctor Who on DVD, we have simply been blessed and this year in particular has been pretty sweet. We have seen a steady release of stories re-released as Special Editions. The picture on these have been vastly improved which is very important to me. Inferno is a great example of this. One of the most amazing releases I could ever hope for was a full colour version of The Mind of Evil. I dreamed of such things as a child but that truly was fantasy and now it is a reality. I have probably watched it about 10 times since it was released. Why? Maybe I am afraid I will wake up and it was all just a dream after all. Something else we got was a dream for many fans….missing episode animations.

In 2006, we got the release of The Invasion with the animation work for Episodes 1 & 4 going to Cosgrove Hall. It was really good and was a lot of fun to watch these episodes “move”. I think my favourite part of these animations were the backgrounds. They looked great. Often they were photos from the actual sets and given a treatment so they could blend better with the animated characters. After The Invasion, animated versions of missing episodes seemed to have died. Slowly word started to spread that more episodes would come on the horizon and I think the choice that was made to restart this was perhaps a little surprising.
In January of 2013 the BBC released The Reign of Terror with The Tyrant of France and A Bargain of Necessity animated by Thetamation which is now Planet 55. I was not a huge fan of the animation for various reasons. To see my reaction, please check out my review. To sum it up, the pacing and energy of the story did not match the episodes around it. I thought that was a problem. There were too many extreme close-ups that are anachronistic to how the episodes were originally made. I felt that the character designs were inconsistent and varied greatly from shot to shot. To find out that Planet 55 was going to animate the final episode of my favourite story worried me.

The Tenth Planet on the Regeneration set has been fully restored. I had thought about jumping straight to the animated episode but the clarity of the other 3 episodes caught my eye. The films always looked in rough shape but here a lot of work had gone into it. Remember, for Episodes 1 & 2 16mm negatives exist and for Episode 3 only a 16mm positive print exists which, according to Wiped!, a 16mm duplicate film negative was made from this print. The funny thing is I could tell that Episode 3 was lesser quality than the previous 2 episodes. That being said, it all looks good. I could see it before, but the VIDfire on the episodes really shows up the eyes in the Cybermen costumes. It is a fantastic feature of this earliest version of the Cybermen. I love all Cybermen but what they are here is really true to their concept. They really are corpses being kept alive through artificial means and their planet Mondas.
I will go into more detail of the first 3 episodes at a later date but the real question is, how did Planet 55 do on animating Episode 4 of The Tenth Planet? I think there is a significant improvement over the two episodes of The Reign of Terror. Is it perfect? No but it’s good enough to actually complete the story for me.

As I mentioned above, there are 9 episodes on Disc 1. Yes, 9 Episodes. That is a lot of content. Episodes 1-3 look great but Episode 4 starts off with a very compressed opening credits. There are a lot of artifact gradients in it. I was wondering if it was going to affect the rest of the episode but it didn’t. To me, it looks like Episode 4 was given the lowest bit-rate on the disc because it is animation.
Unlike the two episodes of The Reign of Terror, I feel that this animation is more sympathetic to the flow of the rest of the story. I love the direction of Derek Martinus. All you need to do is see some of the crane shots he employs in Galaxy Four: Airlock and it is easy to see how imaginative of a director he was for the series. The animation employs shots like those too. There are shots looking down on the Cybermen and other characters of the Snowcap control room. Perhaps it was a little high up of a shot for a 1960s television production but I don’t care because it looks great. It’s a shot that Derek Martinus would try and achieve. It never feels out of place for me.

I have read one comment from someone who says that Planet 55 doesn’t know how to direct an episode because character’s faces get cut-off on screen. I disagree. There are some great half face shots of the Cybermen that are chilling and look really atmospheric. No, shots like that were not originally done on The Tenth Planet with the Cybermen but it still does not look out of place here. There is a shot of Hartnell where he takes up the whole screen but we know that is exactly how it looked from the actual episode as we see it in the 8mm clips. Even in The Tomb of the Cybermen, the cliffhanger for Episode 2 is an extreme close-up of the Cybercontroller. It takes up most of the screen and it looks great so there is precedent for that. This is a very stark turnaround from The Reign of Terror as the close-ups in those episodes were just bizarre. I can also report there are no crotch shots in Episode 4 of The Tenth Planet unlike The Reign of Terror.
The animation helps explains the story for me better than ever before when I watched it. It just goes to show how visual of a person I am. I watched this with my friend Robert who was part of a team who did brilliant reconstructions and even he felt some plot points were made clearer from this animated version. I thought the scene at the beginning of the episode with Cutler threatening to kill the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Barclay was very tense. While he is threatening to kill them, his technicians are warning him that the Cybermen have returned in their spaceship and are approaching the base. Cutler ignores them and up until they return, the action continues to escalate resulting in Cutler’s death. I really thought that was well-done. I love the scene with Geneva calling Snowcap with the Doctor answering. The episode is bleak and tense yet we have this wonderful scene proving to us all, once again, that William Hartnell could do brilliant comedy one last time for the series. Finally, when the Cybermen make one final push to get Ben, Barclay and Dyson out of the chamber where they are working on the Z bomb, the Cybermen are going to gas them. I have seen the reconstruction many times plus listened to the audio but it never hit me that they were going to gas them. It is great and the scene before with the Cybermen in the control room planning their strategy, one has a gas container attached to its back. It’s really brilliant stuff.

This is a very straight forward presentation of the episode which is what I wanted to see. Maybe a little too straight forward since every off-hand sound has a visual such as a wrench being nudged. That’s hardly a big deal at all. It’s really nice to see movement to scenes I have always wanted to experience. This includes when the Doctor leaves the Cybership to go back to the TARDIS. Before he leaves, he softly tells his two companions to “keep warm”. There is no music or sounds to accompany this scene. It is just a sweet moment and I feel like William Hartnell is telling all of us that. It’s his final goodbye to us the viewer. There are a lot of visual questions answered or at least addressed in this episode that I will let you see for yourself such as how they deal with the destruction of Mondas.
Here are some comparison shots between the telesnaps and how Planet 55 realised those shots:

The improvement between The Reign of Terror and The Tenth Planet is immense. After I saw the animation for The Reign of Terror, I didn’t want these guys to touch Doctor Who again. Now, with the Tenth Planet Episode 4, the character designs are great. The way they handled the clothed-faced Cybermen is perfect and I am not disappointed at all. I am a fan and I look forward to what they have for us next! To paraphrase a wonderful character in this episode, in terms of Planet 55 animating more Doctor Who, I really hope it is “far from being all over!” OK, that was cheesy.
Here are some more cool pics from the episode:

Next week: Did you like this article? If so, please let more people know about it and this site. If you like missing episodes, my next article talks more about them.  I look at one of the most incredible and improbable missing episode finds of all time. Many fans dreams came true when it was announced all of The Tomb of the Cybermen had been found. It was announced to the world in January of 1992. How did I know about it in November of 1991?

Have a great week!
Do you have feedback, article requests or want to talk about a program but do not want to leave a public comment? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

DVD Review: Inferno - Special Edition

Doctor Who: Inferno Special Edition 2-DVD Set  (Main Feature: 166 min)
Released by BBC Home Entertainment on June 11, 2013. SRP $34.98 (DVD)
Subtitles: English SDH 4:3 Mono (Main Feature)

Season 7 of Doctor Who is easily one of my most favorites of the entire run of the series. There is a very fresh feel to the series with the new Doctor being exiled to Earth and partnering with the military organization UNIT. I don’t know about anyone else but I do watch Doctor Who in order continuously and when I get to the Pertwee episodes starting with Season 7, it actually takes some time to get used to it because the series is vastly different from what we have seen up to that point. No longer is the Doctor exploring space but can almost be confused as a civil servant working for Her Majesty’s government. Obviously that description is a little overboard but things for the series changed substantially.
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Inferno is the final story of Season 7 comprising of seven episodes. Season 7 itself is quite short only making up 25 episodes. This was the shortest season to date. The William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton episodes took up most of the year with new episodes so this was substantially shorter. Because the Doctor was exiled to Earth, it obviously meant that he couldn’t travel in the TARDIS so the season’s monsters were either from outer space or home grown but the action was based on Earth.

Inferno is the name of a government project that has a team of scientists drilling to the Earth’s crust. There is a special kind of gas, Stahlman’s Gas, which will provide endless amounts of energy. Stahlman’s Gas is named after the man who discovered it Professor Stahlman who is also heading up the project. UNIT is on hand to handle the security arrangements but trouble crops up almost immediately.  There is a murder. Immediately the Brigadier investigates to see what happened but little could he imagine that the murderer is a well-liked repairman who is turning into a monster after touching a strange green substance emitting from one of the drill pipes.
The Doctor is at Project Inferno because he has a different agenda for being there. Not so much to help on the project but more to cypher power from the project to help get the TARDIS back up and running. Since the events of The War Games where the Doctor was exiled to Earth, he has been trying to get the TARDIS working again. He believes that the power from this project can help him. One of Stahlman’s biggest problems is not the drilling (even though everyone tries to tell him it is a problem) but the Doctor. The Doctor and Stahlman dislike each other to the point that Stahlman orders his scientists to make sure the extra power going to the Doctor’s hut to be turned off. This is done at a crucial moment for the Doctor as he is navigating the TARDIS. This leads to disastrous results for the Doctor.

With the power being turned off, this slips the TARDIS to an alternate universe with a couple of very prominent changes from his universe. The drilling on the alternate Project Inferno is further along but the make-up of the government is vastly different. It is a very Orwellian dictatorship. UNIT is not UNIT but the British Republican Security Forces. The Brigadier is the Brigade Leader (with an eye-patch) and Lis Shaw is Section Leader Elizabeth Shaw. The Doctor is now an intruder and is treated as a spy. Meanwhile, the people who have been affected by the mysterious green substance are changing into monsters with Stahlman affected too.
One of the great shames of British television released in the US is the fact that the Quatermass Trilogy has never been released over here. Released in the UK in 2005 this set gives us 3 landmark BBC television series from the 1950s: The Quatermass Experiment (only episodes 1 & 2), Quatermass II, and Quatermass and the Pit. This is noteworthy as a good deal of Season 7 of Doctor Who was influenced by the Quatermass serials written by Nigel Kneale. This story has some strong connections with The Quatermass Experiment and Quatermass II. The idea of a man transforming into something else isn’t Nigel Kneale’s creation but I feel this is an influence with people turning into Primords in Inferno and the idea of the green substance being deadly just like the sludge substance in Quatermass II. Any time a refinery is used as a location immediately recalls Quatermass II and gives the series a gritty look. Those serials really are worth seeking out.

Inferno does have a gritty look to it but it also is incredibly bleak. The alternate universe becomes very bleak as the drilling gets closer and closer to penetrating the Earth’s crust.  As the drilling reaches the crust, everything goes crazy. The Earth heats up and a really nice touch to accentuate it is when we see exterior scenes, there is a bleak red intense filter that gives the sense of sweltering heat. The look of the Primords is quite good with a great example of using make-up and wigs to create an effect rather than put a rubber mask on them. It retains the actor’s features rather than hiding them.
One thing I notice as the story continues is how the sound of the drilling permeates throughout every scene. The low hum becomes louder and louder which makes the situation in the alternate universe feel more impossible to get out of for not only the characters but for the Doctor too. There are 3 chilling aspects to this story: the British Republican Security Forces, The Primords, and the cataclysmic results of the drilling. It is truly an impossible situation for the Doctor as more and more people are turning into Primords. I think one of the most frightening scenes in almost all of Doctor Who comes in Episode 4 as we leave “our universe” and we go back to the alternate universe where the Doctor is trapped. He is asleep in a cell but wakes up to the sound of something in the cell next to him breathing heavier and getting more irate. The Doctor yells to a guard to come in and help. As the guard enters the cell next to the Doctor’s , the thing under the cover becomes more intense. It is Bromley played by the brilliant Ian Fairbairn who gets up, picks up the guard and slams him on the bed. Then it becomes truly frightening as Bromley turns to see the Doctor in the cell next to him, bends the bars with no problem and enters the cell gazing at the Doctor the entire time. The Doctor is completely trapped. It is a truly wonderful and frightening scene.

One of the most disappointing moments in the history of the Internet was when the Doctor Who Restoration Team forum and Web Site came to an end. Now, technically the site is still there but the articles are not really being written anymore. Now before someone chimes in to “educate” me, I know why this site isn’t being updated. I also know that the level of detail put to the original articles was extremely time-consuming. It doesn’t mean that I don’t miss it. It is invaluable to me for research and just general knowledge. I also know, from reading the old forum on a daily basis, that it must have been very tiring for the people involved restoring these episodes and answering questions or criticisms of all kinds. I am sure the criticisms were tiring but also just general questions must have been a time strain. Most questions about restoration, to be answered properly, could not be answered with a yes or no but with some level of detail. Add to that many do not understand the jargon, it needed to be “dumbed down” to be easy to understand. With every new article came all sorts of questions…..and debates. In the end, everyone loses but at least I am grateful for what we got. The last article added was the restoration for the Special Edition of The Claws of Axos which is actually very helpful for this review.
The actual quality of Inferno historically has never looked great. Even when I watched it on PBS in the 1980s, it looked really shakey video-wise. The video never looked particularly strong and was always a disappointment. When it came out on VHS it still looked pretty bad. The only existing color copy had originated from an NTSC 2” video dub converted to PAL. If you bought the NTSC VHS release from CBS/FOX you would have bought a tape (actually double tape) that was from an NTSC 2” video dub, converted to PAL and then converted back to NTSC for VHS. When it came out on DVD, there was a new technology devised that would help bring the fluidity back to those NTSC dubs to create something closer to PAL. That was called Reverse Standard Conversion (RSC). It was exciting because it meant that we could possibly see a really nice looking version of Inferno. Sadly we did not get that. Please don’t get me wrong, I was happy to see it tried and I think RSC has been successful. I thought the original The Claws of Axos was good and I think The Time Monster was a triumph. I have wondered if the quality of the finished results to RSC depended on how many generations down the master was that they used for the process. Were all NTSC dubs of Inferno the same generation as The Time Monster? I would think that one generation off could be an issue but I am no expert. It is a hypothesis.

Finally, with this DVD release of Inferno I see a beautiful picture. Sometimes I can’t believe I am even watching it. The fact that The Claws of Axos was the last article added to the Restoration Team page is significant because I believe that generally speaking the restoration used on The Claws of Axos is much the same used on Inferno. I know at least one member of the Restoration Team occasionally checks out these articles. If what I am saying is completely off, let me know and I will update the article.
Inferno originally was restored using only the 2” NTSC tapes given the RSC process. This restoration would have gone back to the 16mm negative film prints and an HD scan would have been made. Just like the work done on The Mind of Evil, chroma dot recovery would have been applied. Not using the color itself but the colour subcarrier information can be used to generate a map of the geometric distortions present in the recording and identify which parts of the image are chroma and which are luminance. The film prints were cleaned by Peter Crocker and the chroma was overlaid from the RSC master as would have been done from the earliest color Pertwee releases. Of course back then, that chroma was not from an RSC master but domestic off-air recordings. Some of these descriptions are taken word for word from The Claws of Axos article written by Steve Roberts in August of 2012.

If you are someone who does not like the idea of Special Editions, I can understand the hesitation but these have been really worthwhile. Below I will expand on all the extras that are included on this set but for me it always comes down to the episodes themselves. I want these things to look the best they possibly can. I have a keen interest in restoration and to see something like Inferno come to life like this means a lot to me. You can put as many documentaries you want on these discs but to me, it is all about the episodes. Inferno looks the best I have ever seen it. It actually looks like 2” video. There isn’t a weird staticy pattern over the video. The picture isn’t smeary.  I love how these episodes look. For something like Inferno to have such a 360 degree turn around in quality makes this DVD an essential purchase for me.

Audio Commentary: (from previous release) Nicholas Courtney, Barry Letts, and Terrance Dicks. John Leven pops in for a couple of episodes on his own. This commentary was recorded before getting a moderator on these commentaries. There isn’t anyone like Toby Hadoke on it and that is fine at least for this release. It very conversational and fun with Barry doing a great job leading the discussion and explaining some of the production issues facing the story when director Douglas Camfield got ill. John Levene is amusing especially when he talks about his approach to playing a Primord.
Production Subtitles: newly written by Martin Wiggins and they are, as usual, amazing with all sorts of minutia. Incredible!

Can You Hear The Earth Scream? This was on the original release and is a very good making of for the story. It is simply put together, nothing too incredibly fancy which is always a plus for me. I think, production wise, the simpler is the better way to go with making these. It goes into great detail as does the commentary about making this story with the health issues of Douglas Camfield. There may even be a story about eye-patches somewhere in here!
Hadoke vs. HAVOC: This is a new feature and it is fun. Toby Hadoke tracks down all the blokes from HAVOC. HAVOC is a group of men who did the stunts on Doctor Who during the Pertwee era. Have you ever seen in the credits Action by HAVOC? Derek Ware started this group. Toby spends a little bit of time which each member and then brings them all together to help him carry out a stunt. I feel bad as Roy Scammell who is 80 takes a nasty fall when playing some hockey in one of the segments. Are the black & blue marks on his arm from that! It is a very sweet piece and it was nice to see them all back together again.

Doctor Forever! Lost in the Dark Dimension: new feature.  I think more could be made about Lost in the Dark Dimension but there is a lot of information here about how this thirtieth anniversary story was almost a reality. Oddly, there is no Ayesha Antoine who had been hosting the other installments but was narrated by Zeb Soanes who did a fine job but Ayesha brings something different to the program. She is more than just another voice. It is also interesting that Adrian Rigelsford notes the story’s cancellation had nothing to do with Philip Segal wanting to make his own Doctor Who which is at odds with what we heard in the documentary on the TV Movie DVD set called The Seven Year Hitch. Also, the mystery about David burton finally gets answered….well almost.
The UNIT Family  - Part One: On the original release. To be honest, I find these type of documentaries a little uninteresting. I know others really like it but I prefer story specific documentaries. Maybe I am not a huge fan of the idea of the UNIT family? I prefer more archival extras such as the next one.

Visual Effects Promo Reel: On the original release. This was a short film to “sell” the expertise of the visual effects team. This stuff is amazing and a lot of fun to see. I have said time and time again that this stuff is priceless to me.
Deleted Scene: On the previous release. The scene that was kept on the US broadcast of Inferno from the 1970s was deleted from the broadcast version prior to transmission. To me, this has always been part of the story but was quite rightly excised for the DVD and kept as a deleted scene.

Pertwee Years Intro: On the previous release. Jon Pertwee introducing Episode 7 of this story on the VHS release The Pertwee Years. It nicely completes the package.
A new photo gallery and PDFs round out everything. PDFs include Radio Times listings and 1971 Doctor Who Annual.

Packaging: It comes in a standard double disc Amary case with a cover by Lee Binding. The new cover is much better than the original R1 cover but still isn’t quite right. I am a big fan of the R2 cover by Clayton Hickman. I do like the simplicity of the cover but small details annoy me such as the Brigade Leader on the cover is taken from two different photos. The head is out of proportion with the body. At least the spine of the story is spelled correctly unlike the spine for The Mind of Evil. Oops.
Here are some comparative screen grabs between the 2006 R1 Release and this new set. Click on the image and arrow to the next one to see next frame.

Here is a split screen between the original DVD (left) and 2013 restoration (right).  Courtesy of Robert Franks.
I have not felt let down by these Special Editions at all. I love the improved picture on the episodes and I enjoy the new features. This is one story I truly felt needed to be revisited and I was absolutely not disappointed. If you are on the fence about these Special Editions then I think this is a perfect one to start out with to see for yourself.
Next week: It’s time for another 50WHO article. I look at one of the most incredible and improbable missing episode finds. Many fans dreams came true when it was announced all of The Tomb of the Cybermen had been found. It was announced to the world in January of 1992. How did I know about it in November of 1991?

Have a great week!
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