The Television Movie

The sixth title to be released on DVD is the 1996 TV Movie, starring Paul McGann as the eighth Doctor. Originally planned as a pilot for a whole new series of TV adventures to be produced jointly by BBC Worldwide and Universal Television, the TV Movie was as far as McGann's Doctor went... on screen at least. Since then however, the eighth Doctor has gone on to appear in a continuing series of popular book, comic-strip and audio adventures.

The TV Movie has been seen around the world in a number of slightly different versions, including two variants shown by the BBC. The edited BBC version lost some violent content in order to make it suitable for a pre-watershed transmission slot in 1996 and this was also the version released on VHS by BBC Video. The full uncut BBC version to be released on this DVD is essentially the same in content as the version transmitted by Fox in the US and transmitted by BBC2 as part of 'Doctor Who Night' in November 1999.

The movie was shot on 35mm film at 24fps and then the negatives were transferred to 30fps, 525-line videotape using the normal '3:2 pulldown' technique which inserts twelve repeated video fields per second (two fields equals one video frame) in order to bridge the gap between the two standards. This give a characteristic slight stuttering effect on motion, particularly noticeable on camera pans. The show was edited on video from these neg transfers, so the final movie only exists as a 30fps video master - there is no complete physical film print. In 1996, the movie was initially delivered to BBC Worldwide as a normal video standards conversion from the US video master. As well as retaining 3:2 pulldown artefacts, this also showed the normal problems associated with video standards conversion, such as motion blur and judder. On advice from the Restoration Team, BBC Video producer Sue Kerr asked for a DEFT conversion to be supplied instead, and it is this conversion that forms the basis for all of the released and screened BBC versions.

DEFT (Digital Electronic Film Transfer) is a special standards conversion process that can only be used with material originated on 24fps film which has been telecined with 3:2 pulldown to 30fps video. Essentially, the process works by analysing each shot and working out which are the repeated fields inserted by the 3:2 pulldown process. It then removes these fields, effectively giving 24fps video. The 525-line video frame is then interpolated up to 625 lines and recorded on a specially modified VTR running at 24fps. The tape this VTR produces is completely standard when played back in a 25fps, 625-line VTR. The 3:2 pulldown artefacts have been removed and each video frame comes from just one film frame of the original negative. Because of the speed-up from 24fps to 25fps, the running time of the DEFT conversion is 4% shorter than the original US video master, just as it would be if a 24fps feature film was transferred to tape at 25fps, as is the standard practice.

The full BBC version of the movie was edited to remove advert breaks in 1996 using the D3 composite digital tape format. This is not the best format to use as a source for DVD, as it is PAL encoded and requires decoding back down to the basic component video format used in DVD. The US video mastering was done using D1 component format, so the best results would be achieved from a component DEFT conversion from this D1. Luckily, the DEFT conversion requested by Sue Kerr in 1996 was a component video master delivered on Digital Betacam. It included fade-down and fade-ups for the insertion of adverts. It was decided to edit a new Digital Betacam DVD master exactly matching the uncut version produced on D3 in 1996. Although we didn't particularly want to generate a third BBC version of the film, we felt that the caption 'Based on the original series broadcast on the BBC' in the opening credits was out of place in a BBC Video release, so this section was replaced by the relevant section from the 1996 transmission master. The clean textless backgrounds supplied by Universal were not DEFT conversions, they were motion-interpolated standards conversions that had then been speeded up to match the speed of the DEFT conversion. Hence some degradation of image quality and movement rendition can be noticed in this section of the titles, giving a brief example of the superior quality of the DEFT process. A small amount of regrading was also carried out to pull more detail out of the blacks and to bring the whites nearer to 100%, which helps make the pictures lose a lot of their characteristic 'American neg transfer' look.

Promotional material for the movie was produced by  Creative Services at Fox, the US broadcaster who aired the movie. This was in the form of an Electronic Press Kit, or EPK, which included interviews with production personnel and the four main actors, clips from the movie,  'B-Roll' footage of some of the location shoot and special graphics - almost an hour of material in total. BBC Worldwide issued a cut-down fifteen minute version locally. Ironically, given the BBC's lack of care holding onto old episodes of the series, when we came to look for the EPK, no copies could be found anywhere in the BBC. However, the Sci-Fi Channel had retained theirs and were able to make us a copy. Following an appeal on the internet, Greg Bakun in the US was kind enough to provide a Digital Betacam copy of the full Fox EPK, which we standards converted locally for use on the DVD.

Initially we wanted to make our own featurette using the raw EPK components, but this was vetoed on cost grounds by BBC Video. Instead, the interview and behind-the-scenes components from the EPK will be presented almost 'raw'. The four-minute Fox featurette from the EPK has beeen offered, although it may be dropped if it incurs extra clearance costs. Two short sequences sourced from a VHS copy of the BBC promo reels produced by Universal TV Canada will be included. These are an alternative version of Grace and the Doctor in the hospital lift, and a deleted scene with the motorcycle cop.

The Worldwide library also had three DAT audio cassettes listed against the movie. These turned out to be two cassettes of the M&E (ie music and effects, no dialogue - to allow for the movie to be redubbed into other languages), plus the complete music soundtrack recording. The disc will include a full isolated music track. This has once again been put together by Mark Ayres and was slightly complicated by the fact that the music was supplied to match the US video master and needed to be time squeezed by 4% to match the DEFT conversion. It may even be possible to include the M&E as a separate audio option if the DVD producer wishes.

Four stand-alone music items have been tracked down and will be accessible via a separate menu option on the disc. The first is the song 'In a Dream', which is playing on the gramophone in the TARDIS during the opening scenes. The subject of much debate and interest since the movie was screened, 'In a Dream' is a piece of production music which had been taken from CD during sound dubbing but the details of its origin had been lost. We are very pleased to be able to give the song its first commercial release. Also included are two tracks heard playing on radios -   one in the morgue and one at the New Year party - plus an unused arrangement of 'Auld Lang Syne' which was originally intended for the end of the movie.

Although the majority of the assets were delivered by the agreed date in mid-February, BBC Worldwide Creative Services (the people that take the assets and turn them into a disc) kindly agreed an extension on the final delivery to allow for the inclusion of possible additional interview material and a commentary track. Steve Roberts shot a ten minute interview with executive producer Philip Segal whilst attending the Gallifrey One convention in Los Angeles, which addresses many of the problems that some fans (especially in the UK) had with certain aspects of the TVM. On 8th March, director Geoffrey Sax joined us at a somewhat bomb-damaged Television Centre to record our first single-person DVD commentary, which is a fascinating look at the technical side of the production. Both Philip Segal and Geoffrey Sax were very enthusiastic about the production and very happy to have been asked to contribute to the disc.

Two of the eight BBC TV trails will be included (there were two different trails, simply re-versioned with the required graphics to make a total of eight trails), as will the caption tribute to the late Jon Pertwee which was broadcast with the movie on BBC1 in 1996.

Richard Molesworth has once again supplied a subtitle production commentary. A photo gallery has been prepared by Ralph Montagu.

During preparation of the chapter points for the DVD, disc producer Ross McGinley queried a two-frame flash shot that occurs immediately before the TARDIS materialisation. Closer examination shows it to be a shot of a wire fence being lit up. At first glance this looks like an editing error made during production, but as it exists on both the video release and both transmitted versions of the movie, we have left it in. However, Matt Dale has detailed the flash frames in this sequence here and proposes an alternate explanation...

The Restoration Team would like to thank Matt Dale for supplying detailed background information used in the preparation of  this release.

Steve Roberts, 4 June 2001.