2006 kicks off with 'The Beginning', a three-disc boxset containing the three stories that started it all back in 1963 - 'An Unearthly Child', 'The Daleks' and 'The Edge of Destruction'. Originally intended for an aborted VHS release in 1999, 'The Beginning' finally comes to DVD accompanied by a sumptuous package of special features...
All three complete stories plus the studio recording of the Pilot episode of 'An Unearthly Child' were remastered by us back in 1999, but telecine and digital clean-up technology has moved on a long way even in those few short years. After comparing the results from 1999 with those attainable now, there was no question that we should start again from scratch to get the best possible results for the demanding DVD format.
All thirteen episodes plus the Pilot recording were telecined on the Spirit Datacine from the best available 16mm masters in the BBC library, the majority of which were original film recording negatives. Much of the information regarding the various problems inherent in the films can be found in the 1999 article written for the VHS release which was originally intended for November of that year. Telecine and DVNR work was carried out Jonathan Wood at BBC Resources, digital cleanup and VidFIRE processing by SVS and audio remastering by Mark Ayres. Whilst the problems with the pictures have already been covered in the VHS article, Mark hadn't previously done any work on the stories for the VHS release, so his notes are more extensive.
"The Beginning" was a major project, so I made extensive notes as I went, often whiling away those moments where the computers were doing some offline processing.
As usual, the first job in any restoration is to get all of the sources together and work out what is what. Sound sources for the episodes comprising this set were varied: mag tracks and optical both print and negative, sometimes all three. At times I had to make some tough decisions as to precisely what to use.
My first task technically was to reconform the raw unedited soundtracks to the edited versions produced by Jonathan Wood (i.e. after the removal of dirty cuts). Although Jonathan does edit the sound as he goes, I can be far more precise with the audio editor, carefully placing edits between syllables, or subtly shifting things to make it work. Here, this took a long two days for the fourteen episodes, but I feel it to be worth the effort.
I started with the pilot episode and immediately found myself thrown in at the deep end. I had two tracks: magnetic, and optical sound from the negative. Despite the ground noise from the negative, the mag was hissier, probably due to its age, but had a better frequency response and was considerably less clicky, hence I used this as my main source. It is unlikely that any of the mags are original, but are simply safety mags made from the optical soundtracks on the print versions of the episodes. We had decided to leave the pilot "warts and all", presented in its full unedited glory; hence I gently denoised it, and merely removed obvious technical faults which were medium, rather than production, based. Thus, although I removed some clicks and pops, and some obvious surface noise from the 78rpm sound effects disk that was used for the stone age wind at the end, I left bangs, knocks and so on untouched. I also did not replace the theme music, so this is "as was", and is - as originally - slightly clipped at the start. I also left one major recurring technical fault unrepaired: by the sound of it, there was a loose connection, "dirty pot" or "dirty jack" on one of the playback 1/4" tape machines. This can be heard both times the TARDIS dematerialisation starts up, and at the start of the "false start" second take of the second section of the episode - the sound seems crackly and inconsistent. Then to the end of the closing music on the final take, the same thing happens: the level drops and the sound becomes very scratchy - normally this kind of thing would be very high on my "fix" list. It could also have contributed, along with another sound "oddity" I will discuss later, to the decision to remount the episode.
Having done this basic remaster (it took around half a day), I bounced it down to a 16-bit file for delivery to the picture team where it would be married to the restored pictures and laid back to the master assets tape. I also saved a 24-bit file for future use. Again, more on this later.
Now on to the four episodes of "An Unearthly Child". Again, there were two soundtracks to choose from but this time, the choice between the two was much harder. While the magnetic track should have been the best, I found that is was slightly boomy, crushed on some sibilant peaks, and (episode four especially) with a seemingly reduced dynamic range. Hence, after much deliberation, I chose to go with the optical tracks, using the magnetic versions for repairs where necessary. As before, general declicking and denoising was performed, along with more manual cleanup especially around edit points. For instance, there is an edit after Susan's line "I like walking through the dark, it's mysterious" - presumably a pickup due to an error later in the scene; a large double click was removed at this point. I also tidied up the double cut on the audio as Barbara enters the TARDIS and, where possible, reduced the occasionally rather prominent talkback bleed-through. Although I know this to be controversial, I also re-timed a couple of miscued sound effects where such mistiming was an obvious mistake that distracted from the action.
The most interesting repair I made in "Forest of Fear" was towards the very end, as Ian and co. reach the TARDIS. There were two edits here, the first being a cut to Susan's point of view of the TARDIS with the Tribe of Gum surrounding it, the second a cut back to Ian saying "Back, back, go back!". Unfortunately, the sound edit was offset by a few frames each time, the result being that Ian's first "Back!" was entirely lost, with William Russell "goldfishing" at the camera. This would never have been right, not even on first transmission. A couple of edits repaired both cuts, and reinstated the lost word.
For The Daleks episodes 1-3, 5 & 6, we have the original negative sound, and a print. I judged the print to be preferable in all cases except episode 3, with lower ground noise and less "grit". For episode 6, I actually used a mixture of the two sources. For episode 5, the print was preferable to the mag track. For episodes 4 and 7 we only have the prints. As before, the "other" soundtrack, where is exists, can used for patches and repairs.
The start of episode one was a telecine re-play of the end of "The Firemaker", so I copy my restoration of that episode across to match, saving at least two generations in the process. I perform a similar exercise on later episodes.
At about nine minutes into episode one, there is a similar faulty edit to that in "Forest of Fear", where the start of another of William Russell's lines ("(I) think this is the way we came") was missing. Again, this has been reinstated. Similar fixes were made to episode two (at around 6.20, as the Doctor, Ian and Susan are taken to join Barbara in the cell, their Dalek escort is heard to say "stop here!"; the "stop" was almost entirely lost as the sound mixer did not have the correct microphone faded up) and episode seven (the start of one of the Dalek "countdowns" was lost on an edit).
Throughout, edits are tidied up, and the occasional sound effect is re-timed. Some extraneous studio noise (the clank of a camera pedestal, the bump of a microphone, or an off-screen cough) is toned down or sometimes removed entirely. Levels are made "legal", though I allow through the occasional high peak (explosions or storm effects, generally) that would have been limited on original transmission - DVD can take the level and the greater dynamic range is good!
In episode 3, at 20.10, the Doctor's line "If he's on time, we have three minutes" is post-synchronised, dropped-in during post-production; this is very unusual for the time. It will take a better lip-reader than me to work out what William Hartnell originally said, and why it was necessary to re-dub. Apart from the slightly loose sync (which I have corrected as much as possible), the game is given away by the electrical clicks that mark the point where they dropped back into the original track. These clicks have of course been removed.
The Daleks episode 5 provided a small problem in that it was obvious, visually, the the audio/video sync was very loose. This is fairly common in these film recordings and in order to fix it I usually try to find something in the episode that I can use as a makeshift clapper board: a door slamming, a practical gunshot or such-like. This episode is very talky, however, and I was stuck for something to use: no guns are fired, the doors are already badly-synced sound effects, nobody claps their hands or steps heavily onto a rostrum. Even the one violent act, when Ian is punched, is a "pulled" punch with the sound made out of sight. In the end, I found what I was looking for - a Dalek colliding with the set! This confirmed my hunch that the sound was consistently two frames early, so this was corrected. Interestingly, the "punch" effect was the one thing that seemed in sync previously, so I wonder if some leaders had been lost and it had been used as a sync point at an earlier date - I cheated and dropped it back into its original position as it looked better. Having used the Dalek's mishap as a sync-point, of course, I reduced its level to make it less obvious! Other studio noise and off-camera coughing at points is similarly made less distracting.
In episode six, there is some confusion in the soundtrack around the point where the Thals are reflecting light onto the Dalek city: the studio sound fades up, down, then up and down, the "Thal Wind" sound effect does likewise. I suspect that an edit at this point also rather messed things up. I have added some additional wind over the entire scene to smooth it out, which is probably how it was originally meant to be.
Towards the end of episode six, the action of Ian, Barbara and co. jumping the underground ravine is accompanied by a sound effect which appears to have been cut into the master tape after recording; there is an obvious "drop-in" click each time which I have removed.
The two episodes of "The Edge of Destruction" came last and, as is often the case, a job one initially thought would be fairly quick turned out to be anything but. Unfortunately, long sections of this story are played out with many a meaningful glance and much pacing up and down within a silent studio. With no dialogue or effects to cover these passages, every little wrinkle and smudge on the 16mm optical track is massively exposed. The automated tools cannot deal with the soft-edged optical bumps, so these have to be painstakingly removed by hand - many thousands across these two episodes. One particularly bad 15-second section in episode one (around where Barbara is tending to Susan) took well over an hour to fix (another 5 minute section of "The Brink of Disaster" took a day) - if this had been extrapolated across the entire episode, it would have taken ten full ten-hour days to deal with. As it was it took around three days each episode. But at least you can perhaps now believe Susan's comment that "it's so silent in the ship".
"The Brink of Disaster" starts with what is either an almighty boo-boo, or a massive compromise, in that the filmed reprise from the end of the previous episode is completely silent - just film noise. It's hard to understand why this reprise was played in from film in any event, as it involves only two of the regular actors and the TARDIS set, and picks up exactly where it left off. There are two possible reasons as to why it is silent: firstly, that a technical fault or operational error meant that there was no sound from the telecine or, secondly, they did not wish to start the episode with a music cue. The sound comes in again on the pickup shot of Ian with his hands around the Doctor's neck and the edit is quite abrupt, so I wonder if the actors were in fact supposed to provide the sound to the silent telecine and that this was also lost. We will never know. Either way, I felt that I could not leave it entirely silent. I did try adding in the end of the previous episode including the music, but although it worked we felt that some pedants might consider it a step too far. So, in the end, I have in effect foleyed the start, adding in appropriate sounds and studio background, but leaving the music off - this is the nearest technically correct approximation to the original transmission.
The Doctor's speech about the birth of a new planet at around 13 minutes into "The Brink of Disaster" is accompanied by a piece of music entitled "The Day the Sky Fell In" by Desmond Leslie. I thought I would try to replace some of this, so as to cover the off-camera clanking and coughing that rather spoils the effect, but initially could not get it to fit. It turned out that the original 78rpm disk had been played at 45rpm, and once I mimicked this, everything worked! This was another episode that took a lot of work to remove most of the film noise on the very quiet studio scenes - it was something of a relief when the TARDIS background returns around 15 minutes in, as it covers a multitude of sins. Sadly, the last few minutes of this story only exist as a poorer quality transfer than the rest, and I used the soundtracks of two alternative prints to patch it. There is a noticeable drop in quality which I have tried to disguise by adding a long dissolve from one track to the next, rather than leaving it as an abrupt cut.
Finally, all of these episodes were finished and bounced down to AIF files for delivery.
As well as featuring the full unedited pilot recording with all its takes, it had been decided to include an edited version of the pilot - i.e. to present the recording in the form in which it might have appeared had they not decided to remount it. In the past, a VHS release of the pilot married the start of the episode to one of the takes of the final section, while a transmitted version had used the alternative take of the TARDIS scenes. Paul wanted to see what would happen if you did a "proper" edit using the best of both takes. I was sceptical about this, but the results exceeded my expectations. The final edit came back to me for audio conforming, and so I dug out the 24-bit file of the unedited pilot that I made earlier. As well as compiling a "best of" of the second half of the episode, Paul has edited around a couple of mistakes in the first part, including a fluffed line from Susan which needed a little bit of digital animation of the image to cover and a correspondingly nifty sound edit. To cover an edit that Paul had made to the start of Susan's first scene (to remove the obvious shot of Barbara getting stuck in the door) I also rebuilt the sound, replacing the music (library track, "Two Guitars, Mood II") with a new transfer of the original recording, making a slight edit to fit, and remaking the studio sound and the noise of the door opening behind Susan. These digital fixes are obviously way beyond what would have been possible in 1963, but it is interesting to see the pilot presented in such a form, and the unedited version is also on the disc for comparison.
Where the second part of the episode is concerned, the edits Paul had made showed up another production problem, which undoubtedly contributed - in part - to the changing of the TARDIS interior sound to the smoother hum heard in the transmitted version and subsequent episodes. The original sound was a constantly-evolving wash of delayed feedback that proved near-impossible to edit; certainly, in 1963, any edits would have stood out like a sore thumb. Here, I have used various tricks including split edits, loops, and long cross-fades to get around the problem. As this is a "fine" cut, I have also gone further in the remastering than I did for the unedited recording, replacing the theme music at the start and end, repairing the dropouts in the TARDIS sound effects, removing a couple of coughs and camera clanks, reducing the impact sound of the camera hitting the set in the junkyard, and filling in the holes in the TARDIS exterior hum in the junkyard scene where the effects tape obviously ran out and had to be rewound. Again, the final master was bounced to an AIF file and sent to Paul for synchronisation with his pictures.
Finally, I prepare simple remasters of two foreign language tracks: a Spanish "Doctor Mysterio: - The Rescue" and an Arabic "The Brink of Disaster". I left these pretty much "as was", other than a gentle denoise and correction of levels. I also made make a "one-off" correction to the sync which, for the Spanish episode in particular, is eccentric to say the least. However, as they were post-produced (the English versions having been recorded almost entirely "as live"), the use of music and effects is often far more elaborate in these foreign versions. "The Rescue" in particular makes far greater use of Tristram Cary's music, and adds library tracks to the mix including Eric Siday's "Suspended Animation" (used on the original English soundtracks of "The Moonbase" and "The Tomb of the Cybermen") and Trevor Duncan's "Mutations No.2", best-known as the music accompanying the terrified Sladden at the end of episode four of "Quatermass and the Pit". And you have to love the "romantic" music used at the end of "The Brink of Disaster". Due to space considerations (there was already a commentary intended for 'The Rescue'), only the Arabic version of 'The Brink of Disaster' has been included in this release.
On the picture side, most of the problems met in 1999 had to be dealt with once again, but at a much more precise level to allow VidFIRE processing to be applied. The VidFIRE process used is the new version first seen on the Quatermass boxset and subsequently on the DVD release of 'The Web Planet'.
The Pilot Episode was a very good quality film recording, except for some light leakage causing a cyclical pattern of streaks affecting the left edge of the picture throughout but worse for about the first seven minutes. This was laborious but straightforward to remove using conventional paintbox techniques. As they were created using video cameras, the opening titles and the TARDIS take-off scene were VidFIREd for this episode as a one-off.
The first episode of 'An Unearthly Child' was very grainy indeed and clean-up was not helped by the dark, swirling fog in the opening shots in the junkyard. Despite going back to what appears to be the original film recording negative, this is the worst quality episode in the set. Luckily, the remaining episodes were quite good quality. Clean-up was generally straight-forward but it was not possible to replace the end credits on the third episode seamlessly with new digital versions because of the long fade over Jeremy Young's moving face.
'The Daleks' was somewhat more of a challenge due to the mix of film sources. At the beginning of the first episode, the electrical disturbance on the picture as it dissolves from the initial "burnt-out" appearance back to normal has been smoothed out. Episode two starts in very poor quality, but was not replaced as the shot of the Dalek approaching Barbara is the only surviving material from the original, scrapped, recording of the episode, which was remounted for technical reasons.
In the third episode, there are two short sections of segmental picture distortion caused by head alignment problems on the original quad videotape recorder (probably after physical edits) where the recorder takes a few seconds to correct. These have been reduced as much as possible. A large amount of Quad tape dropout and scratching during this episode was removed. Several severally distorted frames were replaced using Furnace to recreate new replacements.
Episode four's opening scene is again poor quality but was not replaced as it contains shots not seen in the previous episode. The scene may have been reshot after the end of episode three but examination suggests it is an unedited recap. Episode three is over 25 minutes long so the final scene of that may well have been edited to bring it closer to its target length. A major film recorder offlock occurs during the scene at the top of the Dalek building where Ian walks around the sculpture. This was very difficult to fix due to amount of 3D movement between coherent frames, but a satisfactory (rather than invisible) repair was made using a combination of interpolation and Paintbox. Some frames of film damage during the model shot of the lift advancing were replaced using Furnace.
The opening scene of episode five was not replaced (despite episode four being much clearer) because although it looks identical, in actual fact it is a different take – it is so similar to the end of episode four that it must have been re-shot immediately after then end of that recording to allow the caption for "The Expedition" and "by Terry Nation" to be superimposed over the action, leaving a simpler start to part six. The best master for this episode is a suppressed field film recording, with marked scratching and dirt damage throughout. The same scratching can be seen printed into the copy of this episode which was returned to the BBC in January 2004 along with the missing episode two of 'The Daleks' Master Plan', so this negative must have been scratched back in the sixties! A sequence of four shots of the Daleks in the control room was replaced by a 35mm film recording of that section, made in 1964 for an edition of 'Blue Peter'. This roll had been retained in the library and fitted exactly cut-to-cut into the 16mm transfer, providing for a brief but welcome increase in picture quality.
Ironically, episode six is probably the sharpest and cleanest episode of the story, but also the most problematic. Frequent losses of field sync cause many frames to appear with distorted double images. 112 frames or pairs of frames were repaired using Furnace and/or Paintbox techniques, equating to around once every 10 or 15 seconds.
Episode seven is another suppressed field recording, with severe scratching. Where necessary or possible, the previous repair from an older 1" transfer was improved further with re-touching - see the VHS article for more details on this sad story!
The first episode of "The Edge of Destruction" was fair quality with no major issues. The fade to black and start of end credits had a bad edit, which has been repaired. As noted in the previous article, the last five minutes of the second episode are from a different, suppressed field recording for some reason.
All of the suppressed field recordings were treated with a motion-compensated vertical filter to to reduce the amount of 'jagglies' caused by the half-resolution recording process. The new filter reduces this effect whilst maintaining real picture detail and greatly helps enhance the believability of the VidFIRE process.
Because of the importance of these first three stories, it is only natural that their DVD release is accompanied by an extensive and comprehensive Extras package, which was put together on an incredibly tight budget.
Because of the budget constraints, it was decided to record commentaries for just six key episodes. Gary Russell once again acted as moderator on the commentaries, which were as follows:- The unedited Pilot recording (director Waris Hussein, producer Verity Lambert); 'An Unearthly Child' episode one (Verity Lambert, Carole Ann Ford, William Russell); 'An Unearthly Child' episode four (Waris Hussein, Carole Ann Ford, William Russell); 'The Daleks' episode two (director Christoper Barry, Verity Lambert); 'The Daleks' episode four (Christopher Barry, Carole Ann Ford, William Russell) and 'The Daleks' episode seven (director Richard Martin, Carole Ann Ford, William Russell). It was decided not to record any commentaries for 'The Edge of Destruction', as this story was comprehensively covered by its own documentary.
Five brand-new documentary features were commissioned for this release, which along with the other extras are spread over the three discs..
'Doctor Who: Origins' is the flagship documentary for this boxset. Produced by Richard Molesworth and superbly edited by Steve Broster, this 54-minute documentary tells the story of Doctor Who, from the first vague ideas of a new Saturday tea-time show through to the transmission of the first story. This fascinating tale is told though the original production documents held by the BBC's Written Archives, many archive clips and brand new interviews with the original stars and production team. We were extremely lucky to be granted access to a unique 1985 interview with the show's creator, the late Sydney Newman, in which he talks frankly about those early days.
'Creation of the Daleks' is a 17-minute documentary produced and edited by John Kelly, looking at the genesis of the monsters which would quickly become icons in their own right.
'Over the Edge' is a 30-minute documentary produced by Ian Levine and edited by Adi Denney which takes an in-depth look at 'The Edge of Destruction', a story often overlooked but which contains many important factors that would go on to influence the show right into the 21st century...
'Inside the Spaceship', again produced by Ian Levine and edited by Adi Denney, is a ten-minute piece looking specifically at the TARDIS through the eyes of the cast and crew.
'Masters of Sound' is a 13-minute documentary looking at the creation of the theme music and special sound effects for the show. Produced and edited by Kevin Davies, it is based on unused interviews with Dick Mills, Brian Hodgson, Verity Lambert and the late Delia Derbyshire that Kevin recorded for 'More than Thirty Years in the TARDIS' in 1994.
It was felt that this release should also include something about 'Marco Polo', the seven-part historical story which followed 'The Edge of Destruction', sadly completely missing from the BBC archives. Mark Ayres takes up the story of this exclusive 31-minute feature...
"Finally, a little featurette I am very pleased with. I had long felt that the fourth "Doctor Who" story, Marco Polo, was very much a part of "The Beginning". Although it was the first story in the second commissioning cycle for the series, it resolves the cliff-hanger at the end of "The Brink of Disaster", and finishes without a cliff-hanger itself. Indeed, had Doctor Who not continued, those first four stories would have made a splendid run in themselves. And, of course, Marco Polo is the first of the (sadly) "missing stories". Hence I felt that we really needed to cover the serial in some way, here. The solution we came up with was to present a half-hour "Reduced Marco Polo" using the surviving telesnaps and, after some discussion, it was decided to approach Derek Handley (who had already done a complete amateur recon best not discussed here!) to make it for us. Ralph Montagu acted as Derek's producer for the Restoration Team, wih me as sound supervisor. Of course, half an hour is barely enough to scratch the surface of a seven-part serial, but Derek has done us proud, giving a broad outline of the story even if much of the detail is lost (the adventures in the Singing Sands and the Cave of Five Hundred Eyes are missing entirely). Nevertheless, we hope that it might point a way to what might be possible in the future. Once Derek had assembled his picture edit and Ralph had helped him to refine it, I was sent a reference copy to use for the reconforming of the sound. Unfortunately the system Derek was using was incapable of exporting a dubbing file or EDL that any of my software could read, so I had to manually reconform the whole thing from my remastered audio files which were being used as the source. This took a long day, but was most definitely worthwhile."
Mark also provided a unique opportunity to listen to the full-length version of the original theme music in mono, stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 versions! "A couple of years ago, while remastering the original Doctor Who theme for the umpteenth time (actually, when I was preparing my pitch for the new series), I made a 5.1 surround mix of the original "single" recording alongside a corrected version of the stereo mix that appeared on the CD "Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop Volume 3" (I had noticed a slight editing error in the bass line). I have long wanted to let fans hear this mix, and "The Beginning" provides an ideal opportunity. Hence, one of the features on this release is the chance to hear the theme in either 5.1 Dolby Digital surround, stereo, or the original mono, accompanied by images drawn from the original titles test film. For this I prepared the mono master, to which I cut the pictures in Final Cut Pro, and submitted this on a DV-CAM tape along with an 8-track DTRS cassette containing the surround and stereo mixes. It should be noted that the 5.1 mix is actually quite subtle, as I worked exclusively with the elements of the original recording - nothing added, nothing taken away."
Four comedy sketches are included, mostly based around the early years of the programme. 'The Pitch of Fear' (slightly edited at the writer's request) and 'The Web of Caves', written by and starring Mark Gatiss and David Walliams, were originally screened as part of BBC2's Doctor Who Night in the late nineties. Both are included, along with the third sketch 'The Kidnappers', as Mark Gatiss felt that they should be kept together. The fourth item is 'The Corridor Sketch', a 1991 Reeltime Pictures production, produced by Keith Barnfather and directed by Kevin Davies.
Three photo galleries are included, the third includes many pictures from 'Marco Polo' as well as 'The Edge of Destruction'. PDF documents containing the Radio Times billings and articles for the four stories plus the complete original script for the Pilot are included, adding the finishing touches to what is undoubtedly a fitting tribute to the genesis of Doctor Who.
Copyright Steve Roberts, Mark Ayres 15 November 2005