The Reign of Terror Boxset

November 2003 sees not only the show's fortieth anniversary, but also the release of a boxset which will complete BBC Video's mission to commercially release every single surviving Doctor Who episode on VHS. The anniversary boxset includes all four of the remaining episodes of the six-part William Hartnell historical adventure 'The Reign of Terror', plus the last three orphaned episodes from the Patrick Troughton era, 'The Faceless Ones' episodes one and three and 'The Web of Fear' episode one.

The episodes contained in this boxset are, from an archival viewpoint, a bit of a mixed bag. The four episodes of 'The Reign of Terror' were recovered from Cyprus in the form of 16mm suppressed-field film recordings. In addition, two episodes exist in private hands as quick-pulldown film recordings, which are technically of a higher quality but the prints are in much worse condition. To complicate matters further, one of these film prints is no longer accessible to us, although we have D3 copies of wetgate telecine transfers of both original prints.

Episode one of 'The Faceless Ones' has always been in the BBC archive, although an edited copy was also returned from ABC in Australia. Episode three was famously recovered by Gordon Hendry when he bought it at a car boot sale in the mid-eighties, along with episode two of 'The Evil of the Daleks'. The print is in very poor condition, with numerous splices and small missing sections throughout due to print damage. To assess the amount of missing material, Mark Ayres synced up a transfer of the soundtrack from this print against an off-air audio recording of the original transmission. The results were worse than expected - a total of 27 separate film breaks, ranging in duration from a single frame to nearly three and a half seconds. In total, over twenty seconds of the episode was missing.

Episode one of 'The Web of Fear' was found at BBC Enterprises during a visit by the then BBC Archive Selector, Sue Malden. The prints is generally in very good condition, although there is a certain amount of printed-in vertical instability.

BBC Resources' senior colourist, Jonathan Wood, agreed to take on the task of telecining and rebuilding as much material as possible, prior to clean-up and VidFIRE processing by Peter Finklestone. Here, Jonathan describes the work he had to do...

"The collector's prints of 'The Faceless Ones' episode 3 and 'Evil of the Daleks' episode 2 were borrowed once again from Gordon Hendry in order to make new one-light telecine transfers on the Spirit datacine - the latter episode being for archive purposes only as it isn't included on this release. 'The Faceless Ones' episode was badly damaged at some point (probably on a projector) with these sections being removed, consequently there is now a considerable amount of missing material ranging from single frames to several seconds at a time with some important lines of dialogue curtailed. While the print was available some sections were also telecined with a variable amount of zoom in the hope that new cut-away shots could be created to help the editing of the pictures to a complete off-air soundtrack at a later stage.

In addition to these transfers the library 16mm negative of 'The Faceless Ones' episode one,  and the master prints of 'The Web of Fear' and 'The Reign of Terror' episodes were put on the Spirit. Unfortunately, episode 1 of Reign exhibited a rather nasty scratch throughout which would have been impossible to conceal completely, so the library negative of this episode was called up. With this story, the negatives are dupes from the recovered prints, however the negative was unscratched and luckily didn't appear to show any generation loss either so this was used as the source for the pictures. This raises the unpalatable point that the archived print was damaged since the point at which the BBC made the dupe negative... The soundtrack on the other hand had suffered considerably in the copying process so the Digibeta recording of the print was used as the audio source while the negative was transferred on the Spirit to another tape.

All these one-light transfers were later graded on the Pogle, with variable amounts of DVNR applied, and edited onto another Digibeta tape with many small edits to remove dirty cuts at shot changes. The first one tackled was the negative of 'The Faceless Ones' episode one, which was fairly stable level-wise except for the film inserts, with some shots being rather dark. It was also noticeable that the inserts may have been improperly developed at the labs, suffering from vertical chemical streaking which tracks dark objects in the picture. The picture phase of these inserts varies throughout the episode but for once more are in phase than out, with the most noticeable example of the wrong phase being when Polly runs out of the Chameleon Tours hanger. Near the end of the episode, just when the Doctor and Jamie see Polly again after her disappearance, there was an original film break in the negative (also on the print). This was cleaned up but would require further stabilisation work.

At this point copies of the soundtracks of the three Troughton episodes were made on DAT for Mark to process while work continued on the "Reign Of Terror" episodes. As this is a VHS release, and the overall quality of the prints was somewhat poorer anyway, it was decided that the soundtrack to this story would only go through the simple filtering available in the grading suite. There were some bad film recorder off-locks in this story mainly during episode six, however some other prints were transferred to D3 several years ago and when these recordings were checked it was discovered that they didn't suffer from these problems, and in fact were quick-pulldown recording rather than suppressed field, indicating they were from a later film recording session. Although these alternative prints may have been preferable originally they were now in a worse state condition wise, with considerable dirt and splices, and the telecine transfer was zoomed in as well. Therefore only isolated shots were used as necessary, with the D3 routed via the grading system and DVNR in an attempt to match the new transfer as closely as possible, replacing most of the off-locks. Some others were fixed use the grading suite's vision mixer while others required more complex work.

The cleaned up 'Faceless Ones' episode one   soundtrack from Mark was laid back onto the edited Digibeta master, while with 'Web of Fear' the DAT master was played in sync with the one-light transfer tape during the grading/editing stage. With 'The Faceless Ones' episode three , the process was similar but obviously at the points of damage the pictures would now go out of sync with respect to the complete soundtrack on the DAT. Mark had supplied a handy list of the seconds and frames missing from the print, but frames were also being removed from all the dirty cuts as usual, so to help make sure sync was maintained the feed to the speakers in the suite were split so that one monitored the DAT, with the optical soundtrack on the other. At each point where material was missing I would usually back off the pictures the appropriate amount, and perform an edit (equal to the damaged length) while using the vision mixer to flag this section as damaged. This was achieved by the often used "pink triangle" usually put across the top left corner of the screen - the colour chosen doesn't blend into 99% of programme material and is therefore easily visible even when spooling a tape. The idea was to go through the entire episode, laying down the full soundtrack and then go back and deal with these problem points. In reality, some of the 1 frame discrepancies were "ridden out" if they were hardly noticeable due to rather static action at that point (pulling up the sound between lines of dialogue). Also, some missing sections were shortened where possible if the extra soundtrack was purely ambient sound, meaning that a lesser amount of "filler" material would have to be found later.

Originally it was thought that some use of telesnaps might be employed to bridge the gaps on occasions, but then it was realised this would definitely put the "brakes" on the viewing experience and so running film is used throughout. Although some shots had been transferred zoomed-in on the Spirit (to create cut-aways) more were required and these were generated via the ARC. As it turned out there was very little difference in the resulting quality between these methods because of the limited quality and line structure of the original film. Several seconds of material are missing near the start of the episode when the Doctor enters the inner room of the Chameleon Tours hanger just as a vent panel closes. The actual action of it closing is missing from the print (it simply jumps from open to closed), so the vision mixer's frame store and keying capabilities were used to construct a sliding panel that shuts just before the Doctor comes in.

One of the worst sections of a successive amount of damage was during a continuous shot of an air stewardess walking through the cabin handing out sweets, where there was about four chunks of picture lost one after the other. There were no shots to another part of the cabin available as cut-aways, so the only possibility was to alternately vary the shot size on each section. A jump cut is far less noticeable if the shot size changes as well, in fact most cuts in any film production can have bad continuity between them but they work because of this. The audio was pulled up as best to keep in sync with the edit. Obviously in places, the presentation of this episode no longer bears much resemblance to its original shot construction as the director intended, but it's probably as complete as it's ever going to be."

After the work Jonathan did at Television Centre, the episode were sent to Peter Finklestone for cleanup and VidFIRE processing. Peter describes the work he had to do...

The Faceless Ones: 1

The negative was generally in good condition so the work mostly consisted of deblobbing of minor dirt and scratches, and one off-lock repair near the end of the episode where the Doctor and Jamie are sitting near the immigration desk. The end credits were remade to make them sharper and with the correct geometry, as they would have appeared on the original broadcast.

The Faceless Ones: 3

The surviving print is considerably damaged. Even ignoring the missing sections, there is marked scratching (tramline and major) with emulsion damage. Extensive deblobbing was required. Four short gaps (less than 4 frames), identified by Jonathan’s pink triangle, were repaired using a combination of interpolation and paintbox techniques.

One of Jonathan’s zoomed-in cutaways showed Patrick Troughton with discordant facial expressions so a few frames were retouched to give the shots either side of the new “cut” a better match.

One slowed down shot, from stock footage, of the plane in flight had been slowed down by Jonathan using frame blending. Unfortunately, the combination of the film being dirty, scratched and out-of-phase meant that artefacts were often spread over up to 4 frames (with added interlace artefacts) and, as a result, the slow motion was painfully obvious. The existing film was 129 frames long and the original insert lasted for 179 frames. Therefore, the 129 frames were cleaned up as much as possible and then time-stretched using interpolation to give a smooth version of the correct duration.

Another problematic shot was where Ann Davidson closes the bulkhead door between the passenger and crew cabins. This is completely absent from the existing print. Jonathan had used a cutaway of a zoomed-in intercom panel but, arising for no good reason in the scene and lasting a little over a second, I felt it was little less distracting than the jump cut. Therefore a combination of interpolation and paintbox techniques was used to create a composite image of Ann actually closing the door, as seen on one of the Chameleons’ monitors. While not perfect (as the shot is still short) it is now more sympathetic to the flow of the scene.

Again, the end credits were remade.

The Web of Fear: 1

There was quite a lot of black tramline scratching throughout the episode, which must have been printed in from the negative (and consequently was not hidden by the Spirit’s light source) to be painted out. There was also a fair amount of emulsion damage and printed-in dirt which was deblobbed.

Sod’s law strikes again with the film inserts. Despite about a third of the episode being pre-filmed, only one short section lasting a few seconds (of the Yeti near the end of the episode) is in phase.

The end credits are especially blurry on this episode (an artefact of stored field film recordings and a fairly fast roller speed) so have been remade to match the original broadcast look. The opportunity was taken to transfer the raw footage of the “web” which still exists, so at least the last 10 seconds of the episode looks as good as (if not better than) the original transmission!

The Reign of Terror

Despite all being prints returned from foreign broadcasters or collectors, there was surprisingly little physical damage to the episodes, so an average amount of deblobbing was required.

Several offlocks were repaired using interpolation and paintbox techniques.

Interestingly, the alignment of phosphor holes and presence of repetitive black tramline scratching down the left border of the picture (unlikely to be seen on VHS due to overscan on TV sets – and therefore repair not attempted) suggests that at least 2 of the episodes were film recorded at the same session on the same faulty equipment. The phosphor hole was especially intrusive on episode 6 so was painted out. However, it was only selectively removed on the other 3 episodes.

Episode one suffers from an intermittent (but annoyingly regular) distortion where the image size shrinks slightly for a frame. This could be tackled with interpolation (similar to the technique for repairing a full off-lock) but was totally beyond the budget and time available for this VHS release.

Episode beginnings for parts one to three were remade using a better transfer of the opening titles. Where feasible, the end credits were remade to eliminate geometric distortion on the film recorder screen. This was not possible with episode 6, which ends with a slow zoom out over a starscape, so these credits retain the distortion and instability, although VidFIRE makes them scroll smoothly. Episode 1 was also left – it would have been possible to retrieve a clean version of the flame background with lots of time and effort, but it was not felt to be feasible at this time.


Ed Stradling was asked to provide a linking sequence to cover the missing episodes four and five. Here, Ed explains the background to these links...

"With no telesnaps existing from episodes 4 & 5, a full or even partial reconstruction was not going to be possible. Initially we were going to shoot a new sequence similar to "The Crusade" release, but then I had a look at JNT's 1993 links sequence presented by Carole Ann Ford and came to the view that we could do without new links - the cost of re-shooting them would have outweighed the benefit. So I had the Beta SP tape of the 1993 links transferred to DVCam along with the few 8mm off-screen cine film clips which has been discovered a few years ago. I also had various stills available from different sources.

I lifted various audio soundbites from some of the key scenes to illustrate Carole's narration and then edit these into a 3-4 minute links section using stills, 8mm shots and a few short clips of the existing episodes where necessary.

I also re-edited the introductory sequence from the 1993 links, but we were less happy with the results and in the end it was decided not to use these but to go straight into the link sequence at the end of part 3"


Copyright Steve Roberts, Jonathan Wood, Peter Finklestone, Ed Stradling 6 October 2003