The Five Doctors - Special Edition

In 1995, Paul Vanezis was contracted by BBC Video to produce a 'Special Edition' version of the 1983 twentieth anniversary story 'The Five Doctors'. This story is unique in that all the studio and location material shot during production had been archived for posterity. This offered the intriguing possibility of being able to go back and restructure the programme for a nineties audience, using current effects technology and surround sound….

In 1999, the story has once again been revisited, this time as the first Doctor Who story to be released on DVD. See the bottom of the page for more details.

Paul Vanezis takes up the story, from his articles published in 'Doctor Who Magazine' and 'Dreamwatch' in 1995.

The Making of 'The Five Doctors - The Special Edition'

(Originally published in 'Doctor Who Magazine')

The updated version of 'The Five Doctors' first started life in May 1993 as a potential restoration project similar to the work on 'The Awakening' and 'The Sea Devils'. As a then videotape editor at BBC Pebble Mill, part of my job included transferring master material onto modern formats for editing purposes. In response to a request from the Broadcast Archives at Windmill Road to report faults on 2" videotape master material, I was actively looking out for problems, particularly problematic 'Doctor Who' recordings.

One such recording to pose a problem was 'The Five Doctors' which had been booked for a transfer to VHS for 'Telly Addicts'. Although not serious, there was some light scratches throughout the first three minutes of the tape. The recording was also a 72 version and close examination of the paperwork revealed it to be a mixture of second and fourth generation video material. Checking the Windmill Road database revealed the existence of the entire recording block of 'The Five Doctors', including all the studio recordings and gallery sessions. This particular story was the last 'Doctor Who' to be made entirely on 2" videotape and this was the first problem that had to be overcome.

2" videotape cannot be visual searched. The tapes, which are mainly 90 minute recordings, are very heavy and bulky and once on the machine required an extensive line up procedure to retrieve the best quality from them. All the recordings were transferred onto VHS and logged. It was at this point that I realised that an extended version could be released utilising all the benefits of going back to the original material.

I was considering two options regarding the longer version. The first was re-editing the extra material back into the transmission version of the programme and smudging the sound. This would have meant music disappearing and reappearing as it did in the 'Silver Nemesis' video release that BBC Enterprises did. I didn't want to do this as it would have been too much of a compromise. The second option was a complete re-edit of the entire programme from scratch with the possibility of replacing the 1983 video effects with 1995 versions. It became obvious that a reworking of the music in stereo was essential. This was obviously the option that I favoured and the only one offered to BBC Worldwide. The possibility of an extended version was included in a document concerning all the 'Doctor Who' recordings, which was put together by my colleague Ralph Montagu, who is the head of the restoration team.

It wasn't until February 1995 that Sue Kerr, senior producer at BBC Video, contacted Ralph about the project. She wanted a budget proposal and a production timescale which they could use to plan the release date of the title.

I worked out a budget for editing, graphics, video effects and mixing the sound in stereo, plus an extensive reworking of the music. With the go ahead given at the beginning of June, I was left just ten weeks in which to complete the project. BBC Video had also decided to release 'The Kings Demons' with 'The Five Doctors' in a double video pack.

A first edit of the programme does exist, which was a useful pointer as to what extra material there was. This version runs an extra seven minutes longer that the transmitted version and I could have just used this version. However, I did not like the arrangement of some of the scenes and there was even more material in the studio recordings and film sequences I could include. One of the problems with the original version was the rather lack lustre opening in the TARDIS console room and the twinkly music that went with it. This didn't strike me as a traditional opening to a 'Doctor Who' story which usually begins with a teaser for the rest of the story, then followed by an introductory scene with the Doctor et al. I felt it better to start the new version with the Dark Tower and Richard Molesworth, who also helped research much of the archive material on 'Thirty Years in the TARDIS' suggested a look inside the Tower using extra material from the Tower interior studio recordings. This would act as a taster for the as yet unseen Tower later in the story. The audience already familiar with the original version will, I hope be surprised and rather pleased with the new opening, whereas a new audience will hopefully wonder what this tower is and what its significance is to the Doctor.

Much of the extra material has been reinstated from the beginnings and ends of scenes which were shortened in the original version for timing purposes. Also, many of the opening scenes involving the obelisk/timescoop have been rearranged. I have put almost all of these scenes back into script order as I feel it makes much more logical sense to the viewer and improves the flow of the story. What this actually means is that the scenes involving the 'grabbing' of Doctors' one, two and three are followed immediately by the timescoop scene where they are positioned on the gameboard. Only then do we see Doctor five (Peter Davison) react.

[New Borusa scene]The first completely new sequence originally shot for the story occurs 17 minutes into the programme. This is a sequence showing Borusa making his way to the conference room prior to his first meeting with the Castellan and Chancellor Flavia. I wanted to make something of Borusa's entrance. He is, after all the Lord President and it somewhat irritated me that there wasn't some sort of fanfare to introduce him. Peter Howell came to my assistance here, providing a suitably regal theme counterpointing Philip Latham's rather understated performance.

There is also an extra TARDIS console room scene inserted after the scene where Doctor three rescue's Sarah Jane. This features Doctor five attempting to send a signal to the Time Lords. There were two extra console room sequences and both have been incorporated into the new version.

Other scenes have been re-edited using different takes, particularly the scene where the Commander presents the Lord President with the Black Scrolls. Other scenes involving different takes are more subtle and difficult to spot. I'll leave the discovery of those to the seasoned Doctor Who viewer. Similarly, there are extra shots cropping up in all sorts of scenes, including the Dalek chase and the Cyber slaughter with the Raston Robot. An extra, rather comical scene involving Sarah Jane and the Cybermen is also included just prior to Doctor three lassooing the Tower battlements.

In other sequences I have actually removed shots or tightened them up to heighten the dramatic impact. This is noticeable in the sequence where Doctor three is confronted by the phantom Mike Yates and Liz Shaw. However, generally the pace is a little more relaxed and hopefully a little easier to follow.

[New 3D-modelled timescoop]Overall, there is just over an extra ten minutes more in the Special Edition than in the original version but extra material isn't the only reason why this version is different. All the video effects have been reconstructed, the obvious ones being the obelisk which has been given a more three dimensional look. Rather than a flat black box shape, it is more like a glass cone with the image inside distorted as if looking through real glass. These sequences were 3D rendered in the computer graphics section at Television Centre by graphic designer Jo McGrogan using a Silicon Graphics workstation and Abekas solid state video recorder. The rendered images and the associated mattes were then edited and added to the final D3 recording using the Charisma DVE. Use of the Charisma allowed me to give the obelisk a trajectory and also reverse the image when seen in the mirror of the Doctor's car. The obelisk has also been keyed so that it moves behind the trees in the reflection in the mirror.

[Cybermen killed by energy beams in the Dark Tower]All the video effects with the exception of the cyber guns have been remade - the Dalek chase sequence has a 'Remembrance of the Daleks' style extermination effect which has been slightly toned down to match the original a little more. This was created on a Harriet paintbox by designer Alison Rickman and animated by Dave Chapman in the video effects workshop, again using the Charisma DVE. Dave worked on the original version of 'The Five Doctors' and was keen to improve on the then 'state of the art' effects. The Chessboard sequence was more of a problem - I wanted an effect similar to one used in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', where beams of light punch through the Nazi soldiers at the end of the film. The original effect had been created on a BBC Micro. Obviously, budgets at the BBC are small, but Alison Rickman came up with a light beam which she animated on the Harriet. The end result is brief and frenetic and a fitting effect to all those dead Cybermen.

The other sequence to pose problems was the Raston robot sections. This was shot on film on location and some sections of it were very poor. On some of the joins where the robot is seen to jump and disappear, there is an obvious bounce in the picture. All of these sections have been re-edited to remove the bounce, without changing the length. Also, there were some annoying blue flashes which have been removed. Finally, the whole sequence was colour matched to correct faults in the original colour grading.

Some major changes have been made to the end of the programme. Rasillon now appears in a slight ripple and has a deep booming voice and the section originally used from 'Shada' has now been changed for an alternative shot. This is more in keeping with the idea of the new obelisk/glass pyramid as a timescoop device which can work both ways, 'grabbing' and 'depositing' people and objects anywhere in time and space. In the transmitted version, the reason that the 'Shada' sequence was added to the end was to see all five Doctors leave in the TARDIS. This idea didn't make sense to me as only Doctor five is seen to arrive on Gallifrey in the TARDIS. I now have all the other Doctors taken away by the obelisk/glass pyramid.

Music has always been important to the way 'Doctor Who' works and Peter Howell has been more involved than just about anyone, having provided the first rescoring of the original theme to be used in the programme and countless pieces of incidental music. There were over fifty pieces of music in the original version of 'The Five Doctors' and Peter realised all but one. He has been involved in the project from the very beginning and his help and advice has been invaluable. Luckily Peter had kept a safety copy of the original music, as BBC Enterprises had lost the original tape of the first reel of music. I had two sessions with Peter which were mainly exercises in fitting the old music cues to the new positions in the programme and then working out if any extra editing was needed or if music needed extending. There was also a requirement for some new pieces of music and all of it had to be remixed for stereo. This process took just over a week and I am very pleased with the end result, particularly the opening of the programme. The only music cue that Peter had no involvement in, was the music heard on the punt in the first 'Shada' sequence. Only one document in the production file indicated what it was, which was an old recording entitled 'The Whirl of the Waltz'. When I tried to order the disc from the music library I was told it was an archive recording on a 78 and I could only use it if it were transferred to audio tape.

This music, as well as Dick Mills original sound effects, the dialogue and the stereo background sounds are currently being matched to pictures in readiness for the audio mix which is being done in the dubbing theatre at BBC Pebble Mill. BBC Video have signed a trademark agreement with Dolby laboratories so that the programme can be mixed in Dolby Surround. I have high hopes for the soundtrack and the final version, but it may be worth remembering that there are only so many things that can be improved when dealing with studio and film material twelve years on. This is not an excuse for rewriting 'Doctor Who' history, but an attempt to offer an alternative version for a more discerning 90's market, so if there is anybody out there who buys the video and is disappointed, you can always go back to watching the original.


(Originally published in 'Dreamwatch' magazine)

The new version of 'The Five Doctors' was edited from scratch using the original studio material. This meant that I wasn't restricted by previous decisions concerning editing and I was also free to stick more or less faithfully to the script. Scenes which were rearranged by the 1983 production team were put back into their original script order and all the studio material was re-edited. Many of the earlier sequences featuring the game board have been enhanced by re-editing.

The bulk of the extra material utilised in this version has been used simply to extend scenes which were shortened for time. This includes several TARDIS console room scenes throughout the story. There are also two extra console room scenes which were not included in the original version.

The most striking difference to the new version is to the opening. Richard Molesworth, who viewed all of the studio material looking mainly for out-takes, suggested that I use empty corridor shots in conjunction with an unused Dark Tower exterior that I was already going to use at the top of the show. I then incorporated the idea that we would hear the whispering sounds of the trapped immortals in the tower and some muted screaming and wailing along with some sort of harmonic theme. This sound would then segue into an updated version of the Eye of Orion music which introduces Turlough to the story. When Peter Howell first saw the edit of the programme, which, incidentally, didn't feature any video effects at this point, he was very positive and enthusiastic about the whole project. I suspect that he was a little wary of the motivation behind doing a long version. I had an initial viewing of the programme with Peter and we discussed various options and the specific changes I wanted to make, where the old music was not quite right, or needed extending. Peter supplied the whispering effects and the wailing screams for the opening and worked this into a music sequence. This was to eventually mix into a new Eye of Orion piece which was completely new. The second problem with the opening was the need for stereo title music. I wanted to retain the original zapping sound effect when the 'Doctor Who' logo appeared, but Peter only had the radio version in stereo which did not feature the effect. He had to create a new zapping sequence just for 'The Five Doctors', so purists among you will find even the opening title music slightly different.

The whispering and wailing effects that Peter created are also used to good effect later in the show, where our various heroes are making their way through the tower towards the Tomb area. This was intended to be quite subtle, but I also felt that there should be some audio/visual evidence for the various companions to feel frightened as they progressed deeper into Rassilon's lair. Good use has also been made of the Dolby Surround soundtrack. Virtually all the scenes have some surround element, even the conference room interiors. This has been added to add 'space' to the soundtrack. The problem is that the sound on the original tapes was not perfect, but all the extra sounds we were adding were generated almost entirely on digital equipment and were therefore noise free. To cover edits on the soundtrack and holes in the soundtrack, we had to add electronic white noise to create a satisfactory mono dialogue track and then beef it up with stereo music (where applicable), stereo background effects for the exterior sequences on film and more constant stereo bass backgrounds, which are more commonly used on surround sound feature films. For these we used some sound effects from the Hollywood Edge sound effects library. The scenes involved were the timescoop control room, the conference room, the tower corridors and the Tomb area. We also added stereo echo to all the voices in the tower corridors and the Tomb scenes to create a bigger, more stereo sound. Many of the extra background sounds have been pushed to the rear speakers, so only those viewers with surround equipment will be able to hear them to their full effect.

[New Dolby Surround credit in Special Edition]The soundtrack to 'The Five Doctors' - The Special Edition was mixed in the film dubbing theatre at BBC Pebble Mill at the beginning of August 1995. The bulk of the sound effects were laid in by Andy Freeth, one of the two dubbing mixers working on the programme. He treated virtually all of Dick Mills original sound effects, making stereo versions of them and storing them in a digital library. He also made edited versions for specific scenes and created new sound effects for other area's of the programme. Most of the TARDIS console beeps are newly created sounds from Andy. Benedict Peissel was the main dubbing mixer on 'The Five Doctors'. He had to mix over twelve different sources and mix round problems on the original studio recording, although the first scene involving the master proved to be a real problem. There was some mechanical clicks on the soundtrack of the best take. I then had to lip sync all of the affected dialogue, replacing it with the sound from a different take. There is still a clicking problem over Borusa's lines in this scene which could not be removed because the clicking was much worse on this line in the only other take!

The most complicated task facing the sound team was to make Rassilon seem more like the god like Time-Lord he appeared to be. I had tried to make him more ethereal in appearence by adding a slight ripple to him. This made him look more like a projection than a solid object. But this on it's own was not enough and I decided to treat Rassilon's voice. Firstly, all his dialogue was edited into the digital editor. Then the voice was pitch corrected down to make him sound a lot deeper. A reverse echo was added to make him sound slightly unreal and finally some surround reverberation was added so that his voice echoed round the Tomb chamber. This creates a slightly spookier scene than the original which relied on the music and Philip Latham's performance to carry it.

I hope everyone enjoys this new version of 'The Five Doctors' but remember, you still have the original if you prefer that.

Paul Vanezis, September 26th 1995

Please see the article UK Duplication Problems regarding faults with this title.


The Five Doctors - Special Edition on DVD

In mid-1999, BBC Worldwide decided to include a Doctor Who title in the first batch of BBC DVD releases. The Restoration Team were asked to make suggestions and, along with the story's executive producer, Sue Kerr, recommended 'The Five Doctors - Special Edition' as the ideal choice. This decision was based on exploiting the full benefits of the DVD format, especially its excellent video quality and multi-channel surround sound capabilities. The initial suggestion was to digitally remaster the pictures to remove video noise and film dirt and to remix the soundtrack into full six-channel Dolby Digital 5.1 format, include the entire clean music score as a second audio track, cast and crew biographies, television trailers, behind-the-scenes footage and effects comparisons of the original and Special Edition. Much of this extra material was dropped, due to tight timescales and additional costs which owing to the relatively small UK DVD market might never be recouped. However, the picture clean-up, DD5.1 remix and clean music options were retained and although the DVD authoring work was to be done outside the BBC at specialist authoring house Electric Switch, the Restoration Team were asked to carry out the required pre-mastering work.

It would have been nice to be able to go back and retransfer the original film sequences, but the costs of doing this were prohibitive, so all the cleanup work was carried out digitally from the D3 videotape master. The PAL composite original was digitally comb-filter decoded and the new master was produced on Digital Betacam videotape. The pictures were processed through the DVNR-1000 digital dirt and scratch remover, alternating between film and video cleanup modes as required. This removed a lot of the electronic camera noise from the studio sequences and dirt, sparkle and grain from the film sequences. This sort of pre-processing is vital for DVD or digital broadcasting applications because the MPEG-2 encoders can then concentrate on coding the picture information not the noise, which leads to a reduction in the number of visible coding artefacts. Larger problems such as blobs of dirt and tape dropout were painted out frame by frame. The end title sequence was amended to reflect the fact that the soundtrack would be Dolby Digital rather than Dolby Surround, and to include all the contributors inside the main credit sequence, rather than in a short 'Special Edition' sequence tagged on the end as it was in the VHS release. A new version of the opening 'swoop', where the timescoop effect from the original transmitted version removes the BBC Worldwide logo, was made up, as the logo had changed since 1999. This was vetoed by the bosses at Worldwide however, so has been removed.

The soundtrack was totally remixed at BBC Pebble Mill by the same dubbing mixers who had produced the Dolby Surround version in 1995. The new mix uses the full potential of multi-channel sound to aggressively steer sounds into every corner of the room and includes a full low-frequency effects channel. A timecoded DA-88 eight-track digital audio cassette was produced, which contained each of the six discrete channels in the DD5.1 package as a separate track, plus a stereo downmix of this version into standard Dolby Surround in case it was required. A timecoded DAT copy of the clean music was also produced. It was originally intended that the clean soundtrack would run in sync with the main audio and that the listener could jump between them at will. However, as only around a third of the story features music, the producers wisely decided to remove all the gaps and include the soundtrack option as a separately accessible menu item, with its own chaptering. This allows the consumer to listen to the entire music soundtrack without pauses, just as if it were an audio CD.

Although the running time of 102 minutes put the programme well within the generally accepted limit of 133 minutes for a single layer disc, the Restoration Team lobbied strongly and successfully for it to be done dual-layer instead. Field-based video images are harder to compress than frame-based film images and tests showed that the quality on a single-layered disc would be very borderline. A dual-layered disc allows the video bitstream to be run to the maximum limit of the format, ensuring the best possible picture quality. We also recommended that the Dolby Digital soundtrack was encoded at the higher 448Kb/s rate rather than the lower-quality 384Kb/s standard.

The disc also contains subtitles in six European languages, including English for the Hard of Hearing. It was originally intended for release in the UK on October 4th, 1999, but problems with the pressing of the discs delayed it until the beginning of November.

Some reviwers have commented that the closing music begins in mono and expands into full 5.1 surround halfway through and have queried whether this is a fault. In fact, it is completely deliberate and ties in with the Doctor's closing comment about continuing just as he began. Therefore the music starts in mono, just as it would have been originally, before expanding to envelope the viewer. This same effect was utilised on the VHS release in 1995, but was timed to occur as the Composer credit appeared on screen. Unfortunately the credits have been re-ordered for the DVD release and the two no longer occur at the same point.

One major problem was only discovered after the discs were pressed and copies made available to the Restoration Team. Due to an error at the authoring house, the music-only soundtrack runs approximately 10% slow. We assume that they wrongly imported our 48KHz DAT music master into their system at the lower 44.1KHz sampling rate used for CDs. There is also a small problem reported on some DVD players when trying to access the music-only option after cycling the player through stop mode.


Copyright Steve Roberts, November 1999