Vengeance on Varos - DVD

The first DVD release featuring Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor, 'Vengeance on Varos' is the story of a society held mercilessly in check by a ruthless corporation, public torture and the power of television...


'Vengeance on Varos' was made in 1985 on one-inch videotape, as two 45-minute episodes, an experimental format that was used for all of season twenty-two before subsequently being dropped in favour of the traditional 25-minute episode.

Both episodes of the story had already been transferred to D3 videotape as part of the ongoing one-inch archive project within the BBC. The normal path from digital composite video into digital component video is through a digital comb-filter decoder, usually the industry standard Techniche DX-210. However, the decoding is not particularly good on horizontal boundaries between saturated colours, which often produce a distracting dot pattern along the edge. This had been eliminated during mastering of 'Remembrance of the Daleks' by using a borrowed Snell & Willcox 'Golden Gate' decoder, which was unfortunately no longer available to us. Experimentation by the BBC Resources DVD Authoring Centre and BBC Research Department had shown that the analogue PAL decoder built into Sony's Digital Betacam recorders produced exceptionally good decoding, so we elected to follow a path first used during mastering of 'The Caves of Androzani' and dub the D3's to Digital Betacam via an analogue composite link. These Digital Betacam tapes were then used as our source tapes for the remainder of the remastering process.

The episodes were given a noise reduction pass through the DVNR to smooth out the normal video noise. Although only 1dB of adaptive noise reduction was applied (the minimum setting on the DVNR), the improvement was very noticeable. The only film sequences in the story are the generic titles and shots of a desert around the junctions of episodes one and two. A large white blob of dirt was manually deblobbed from the opening titles of both episodes and the desert film sequences were cleaned up in DVNR, followed by manual deblobbing to remove the remaining dirt and sparkle. Black dirt on the flash to white at the end of both episode credit sequences was manually painted out also. One of the desert shots has a superimposed foreground video shot of the Doctor, which was soft-wiped back in to protect the video elements from being damaged by the DVNR working in film mode to clean the film background.

Around one hundred videotape dropouts and other tape damage artefacts were repaired in episode one and a further twenty or so in episode two. A timebase corrector hop, which caused the picture to shift sideways halfway through a shot in episode one, has been repaired by moving the second part of the shot horizontally back to the correct position.

In episode one, there is a technical fault with some shots of the gun used to torture Jason Connery. Inside the gun is a red light, which was too bright and caused an illegal video signal, overloading the FM modulator in the one-inch studio recorder and causing a severe black bearding effect on the light. To overcome this, a Philips VS4 noise reducer was put into a mode which severly blurs the video in both horizontal and vertical directions. This was then matted back in over the original problem area, giving an uneven, dirty red light effect where the bearding had averaged out into reds of various levels. The uneveness was then removed by locking onto that particular shade of red using the Pogle secondary colour corrector and then turning the saturation up so that the red went into clipping and removed any level variations.

A one-inch studio recording spool for the story still exists, which has been used as the basis for a five-minute featurette which shows a problem scene and how the director used multiple retakes to give him the shots he needed. A number of outtakes from this recording will also appear on the disc. Early 71 edits of both episodes exist on timecoded U-matic dubs (of the director's VHS copies) in Ian Levine's collection, which Ian has kindly loaned to us. A total of ten deleted or extended scenes from this recording, running to approximately ten minutes of material and including an unused ending set in the TARDIS control room, will be included in the extras. All the VHS sourced material was of poor quality, with much dropout, tape creases and other damage, and has been cleaned up somewhat by heavy use of DVNR and manual deblobbing.

A BBC1 trail for each episode and continuity announcements and BBC globes from the episode starts, all ex VHS (as broadcast copies no longer exist), will appear on the disc.

In a departure from our previous three DVD releases, it was decided not to include an isolated music soundtrack on this disc. This was purely because the music was used so sparsely throughout the story that we felt it did not work in the synchronous-use form for which we held the rights. It will no doubt be available as part of the ongoing Doctor Who music range on CD. A small number of clean music cues have been compiled onto DAT so that the disc producer can use the music for the moving menus on the disc. However, the full production sound (ie studio sound before music or sound effects have been added) was found to have been retained on the edited masters and will be offered to the disc producer as an interesting alternative. Some people may like to use this as a basis for adding their own music and sound effects to the story, for example.

A commentary was recorded on 29th March 2001, featuring Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Nabil Shaban. All three provided an amusing and informative commentary, with Colin Baker particularly keen to counter the accusations of violence during his era.

Richard Molesworth has once again been commissioned to provide a subtitle production commentary for the disc and Ralph Montagu is again compiling a photo gallery.

Once again, we would like to thank Matt Dale for supplying detailed information on the differences between the early edits and the transmitted versions, which was used during compilation of the extended and deleted scenes section.

Due to an error in authoring, the production text subtitles on the initial region UK pressings of the disc disappeared at the layer change (approximately ten minutes into the second episode). BBC Worldwide has kindly allowed us to include the episode two notes here (Rich Text format). Please note that the region 4 (Australia / New Zealand) disc has been corrected and as this version is also dual-encoded for both regions 2 and 4, buyers can import this disc and play it in the UK without problems.

Steve Roberts, 3 July 2001