Peladon Tales - DVD Boxset

The UK's first release of 2010 is a three-disc boxset of two Jon Pertwee stories from seasons nine and eleven - 'The Curse of Peladon' and 'The Monster of Peladon'. Despite being made only two years apart, the problems faced in the restoration of these stories were quite different...

Due to a re-ordering of the release schedule, the previous DVD release does not include a 'Coming Soon' trail for the story. 2entertain have kindly allowed it to be included on this page. If no mini-player window is visible immediately below, click here for a direct link (wmv format, 4.5Mb). See copyright notice at foot of page.

Both 'Peladon' stories were made in the traditional way, with 625-line studio video intercut with 16mm film sequences. However, although all six episodes of 'The Monster of Peladon' still exist on their original transmission tapes, the same sadly cannot be said for the four episodes of the first story. All four were destroyed in the tape purges of the mid-seventies, leaving only 16mm black and white film recordings in the BBC Enterprises library. Subsequent searches by BBC Enterprises customers around the world were rewarded by the recovery of colour copies of all four episodes from Canadian broadcaster TV Ontario, albeit as fairly crude video standards conversions to the North American 525-line NTSC system.

As regular readers will know, BBC Research and Development came up with a system called Reverse Standards Conversion specifically to aid the reconversion of these types of tape back to something as close as possible to their PAL originals - see the article on 'The Claws of Axos' for more details of this process. Although the fundamental RSC process has remained the same since the early work we did, the amount of post-processing work (specifically in the application of digital noise reduction) has improved dramatically, enabling very good results to be obtained.

There was, however, one problem. When 'Curse' was originally returned to the BBC, it was found that the 2" NTSC tape of episode three was in a very poor condition. In fact, it was so bad that the tape would continually clog and even be sliced in two by the replay heads when the engineers tried to play it. It was agreed that the only way they could transfer it was to play it in sections, stopping as necessary to clean and repair the tape. It was decided to run the machine's output directly through an NTSC-to-PAL standards convertor and record the entire session back onto PAL tape, then edit that tape to produce a continuous episode. The NTSC tape was then officially junked, leaving only the PAL copy, which is what we call a double-conversion, having been through PAL-->NTSC and NTSC-->PAL processes.

This was a problem. Firstly, RSC depends on access to the original 525-line NTSC conversion. Without it, we are stuck with the double-conversion. Secondly, this double-conversion not only contained all the artefacts from the seventies PAL-->NTSC conversion, but on top of that, all the artefacts from the eighties NTSC-->PAL conversion. The result is a very muddy mess of muted colour, blurred and jerky motion.

All was not lost, however. Although the NTSC tape had been officially junked, collector Ian Levine had been allowed to take it away rather than see it go into a skip. Ian retained the tape for over two decades and kindly allowed us access to it. In light of the tales we had heard of how problematic the tape had been in the eighties, we initially had no intention of trying to recover video off it. Instead, we wanted to play it again simply to recover the audio from the longitudinal audio track, which would potentially give us two generations better magnetic sound than we currently had available. To this end, we decided to have the tape 'baked', a carefully controlled process in which the tape is warmed for a period of time in a special oven in order to reduce moisture content and make it less prone to shedding and clogging. Tape baking is a very specialised area - the tape has to be brought to within a few degrees of the Curie point, the temperature at which the magnetic pattern on the tape - and hence the recording itself - will be spontaneously lost. However, it has proven the only way to recover many thousands of priceless audio and video tapes over the years.

Given that the baked tape had to be played back on a 2" quad videotape recorder anyway, it was decided that it would be sensible to record onto a 525-line Digital Betacam video recorder just in case any pictures could be recovered, although expectations were not high. The tape was played back on an Ampex VR-2000 at the BBC's archive facility at Windmill Road in West London, with the BBC's most experienced quad operator, Edwin Parsons, at the helm. To the surprise of everyone concerned, not only did the tape play back ok, it looked surprisingly good! After going through RSC processing, a PAL version of the tape was available to match the other three episodes.

Jonathan Wood was responsible for grading and initial noise reduction as usual, which was carried out at Television Centre. Although no film sequences exist in the library, two sequences do exist in private hands. The latter half of the cliff-climb sequence from the opening of the first episode was loaned by collector John Ainsworth, and the pit-fight sequence from episode three by Tony Walsh, son of stuntman Terry Walsh, who had doubled for Jon Pertwee in that scene. Jonathan transferred both pieces of film on the Spirit telecine and, as can be imagined, they provided a massive quality increase over the versions on the RSC tapes.

From there, the graded tapes went to SVS, where Peter Crocker performed the intensive manual picture cleanup, removing dirt and sparkle from the film sequences, repairing dropouts and other image problems and providing new title and credit sequences. Unsurprisingly, episode three suffered from severe tape dropout throughout, consistent with its chequered history. One section of tape was so badly damaged that the base layer literally had holes in it, although serendipitously this section was during the pit fight which we were able to replace from Tony Walsh's film. Another badly affected scene of Ssorg patrolling a corridor was very badly corrupted. Consideration was given to patching this from the film recording (as had been done for a section of 'Inferno') but, this was found to suffer from marked vertical jitter and softness, so the VT was repaired as well as possible. Peter also applied more digital noise reduction, specifically targeting artefacts of the RSC process, resulting in much cleaner images than we have previously been able to achieve from this workflow.

For 'The Monster of Peladon', the videotaped sections presented no particular problems, but all the film inserts were polygonal prism ('polygon') telecine transfers. This meant that each video field had a portion of picture which was double-imaged (like an out-of-phase film recording), with the affected area inverted on the adjacent field. These film inserts were deinterlaced to isolate the single-imaged areas, and these were aligned and blended using a soft wipe around the join. Some retouching was necessary to reduce residual blurring around this area.

The advanced production schedule for the DVD range means that we delivered masters for these Peladon titles well over a year ago, in July 2008. And, in fact, Mark Ayres had already restored the sound during 2007 for audiobook release. However, new software, and the need to solve synchronisation problems that were irrelevant for audiobook, meant that the work was extensively revisited.

'The Curse of Peladon' was relatively straightforward, despite some major noise issues and numerous dropouts which were manually patched.

For both stories, titles music was replaced as usual, along with standard de-noising. Levels were inconsistent throughout 'Monster' especially, so were standardised and legalised.

For 'Monster', episode one's cliffhanger, and its reprise at the start of episode two, had a number of inconsistencies. Firstly, Jon Pertwee is seen to mouth, in close-up, "what the blazes is that?" at the appearance of Aggedor (this sequence shot on film), but his words are not heard (they are there, but very, very low in the mix). Amazingly, a complete set of location audio spools exist for this story, so Jon's line was extracted from the rushes and synchronised with the pictures so that it is now heard. Secondly, Blor's screams were not heard at the start of episode two, whereas they were at the end of episode one. For the audiobook, and to help the story-telling in an audio-only medium, Blor's screams were added to the start of episode two so that the versions were consistent. For DVD, however, the two edits were left as they were originally transmitted.

There was a lot of distortion on Aggedor's roars and growls, and the sound of the Doctor's spinning mirror. This was carefully filtered. Numerous edits were resynchronised in episode six, and a persistent whine throughout this episode also filtered where possible. All episodes were out of sync by one to two frames, so this was corrected.

Another pleasant find on the location audio recordings was a "deleted scene" from part one, in which Eckersley and Gebek discuss the death of Vega Nexos and reaction to it. The accompanying pictures are long- lost, but the scene was reinstated for the audiobook version. For DVD, it is presented as a "deleted scene", with photographic reconstruction.


Extras for this release include:

The Curse of Peladon:

Commentary with actor Katy Manning, producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks and production assistant Chris D'Oyly-John. Moderated by Toby Hadoke.

The Peladon Saga - Part One (dur. 23' 24") - Cast and crew recall the making of both Peladon stories in this two part documentary from John Kelly. Part one opens with a look at the socio-political climate in the UK in the early seventies and its influence on the storylines. With actors Katy Manning, Donald Gee, Nina Thomas and Ralph Watson, producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, production assistant Chris D'Oyly-John, sound designer Brian Hodgson, visual effects designer Peter Day, costume designer Sylvia James and make-up supervisor Elizabeth Moss. Narrated by David Hamilton.

Warriors of Mars (dur. 14' 54") - a brief history of the Ice Warriors in Doctor Who by the people who designed and brought them to life. With actors Sonny Caldinez, Alan Bennion and Bernard Bresslaw (voice only), producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, director Michael Ferguson, make-up designer Sylvia James, sound designer Brian Hodgson and visual effects designer Peter Day. Narrated by Donald Gee.

Jon and Katy (dur. 7' 06") - looking back at one of the most fondly remembered Doctor / Companion pairings in the show's history - Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor and Katy Manning's scatty UNIT agent, Jo Grant. With Katy Manning, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks.

Storyboard Comparison (dur. 2' 16") - Comparing visual effects designer Ian Scoones' hand-drawn storyboards for the story's opening sequence with the finished version as seen on screen.


The Monster of Peladon:

Commentary with actors Nina Thomas, Donald Gee, Ralph Watson and Stuart Fell, producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks and, for episode four only, a commentary by fans Rob Shearman, Mark Aldridge, Kate Du-Rose and Philip Newman. Moderated by Toby Hadoke.

The Peladon Saga - Part Two (dur. 22' 08") - Cast and crew recall the making of both Peladon stories. Part two looks at the characters and monsters featured in the stories. With actors Katy Manning, Donald Gee, Nina Thomas, Ralph Watson, Stuart Fell, Sonny Caldinez and Nick Hobbs, producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, production assistant Chris D'Oyly-John, sound designer Brian Hodgson and make-up supervisor Elizabeth Moss. Narrated by David Hamilton.

Deleted Scene (dur. 1' 42") - a recreation of a deleted scene based on a surviving audio recording.

Where Are They Now? (dur. 2' 27") - David Jacobs interviews actress Ysanne Churchman, who provided the voice for alien ambassador Alpha Centauri in both Peladon stories, in this extract from the 1980 television series.

On Target - Terrance Dicks (dur. 21' 25") - writer and script editor Terrance Dicks novelised many Doctor Who stories for the Target book range over the years. With Terrance Dicks, writers Paul Cornell, Gareth Roberts and David J Howe, and former Doctor Who Magazine editor Alan Barnes. Featuring readings by Caroline John, Katy Manning and David Troughton.


• Plus of course the usual PDF materials, Coming Soon trailer, Programme Subtitles, Subtitle Production Notes and Photo Galleries.


Copyright Steve Roberts,  31 December 2009. No reproduction or republishing of text or video content allowed without written permission.