The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Sweet Little Mystery


The Mystery of the Telesnap that Didn’t Fit

Over the last year or so I’ve written a few telesnap ‘commentaries’ for Doctor Who Magazine specials, going through the off-screen photographs of missing episodes taken by John Cura and trying to work out, to the best of my abilities, precisely when each photograph was taken during each episode; indeed, to identify (using the camera shot) precisely which shot each telesnap is of and what line of dialogue was probably being spoken at the time. It’s a tricky process, involving a great deal of deductive reasoning and a soupcon of educated guesswork. I’ve blogged about that before and again with reference to The Power of the Daleks.

However, when I was doing the commentary for the final episode of The Tenth Planet (the only episode from that story which, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, is missing) something odd came up. A telesnap that didn’t seem to fit.


This is the run of telesnaps in question, which I’ve numbered for convenience (you can click on it to make it bigger). As you can see there is a break between telesnaps 40 and 41 – this is quite normal, as the telesnaps were printed/pasted in strips of four photos each, in this case photos 37-40 and 41-44. Very occasionally the telesnaps were pasted onto the page in the wrong order but that hasn’t happened here and, like images on a photographic contact sheet, there is no possibility whatsoever of them being printed out of order. I mention that or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am about to relate.

So the process was of trying to identify the shots seen in each of these telesnaps. Telesnap 37 (not shown) is of the monitor screen in the tracking room, which the camera script identifies as shot 108, scene 7. Telesnap 38 is a medium close-up of Cyberman Krang, which is shot 109 of scene 7 (as he says the speech beginning ‘Listen to me’ – the precise line he’s saying in the photo is impossible to identify!)

We then cut to scene 8 in the radiation room, where Krang appears on a monitor screen, as seen in telesnap 39 (this is shot 110, though it’s not quite as described in the camera script which has it as ‘monitor R, Dyson L’). Krang is saying the speech beginning ‘If you help, we will take you all back to Mondas with us.’ So far so good. There is then a brief scene in the tracking room, scene 9, where the Doctor is led out, from which no telesnaps appear to exist (this scene consisted of one shot, shot 112, which moved from a medium close-up of Krang to a 3-shot of Krang, Jarl, and the Doctor).

The next telesnap (40) is a little trickier to identify. It shows someone in the radiation room near a blank monitor, which suggests to me it comes from scene 10, which begins with the screen in the radiation room going blank (in scene 8, the monitor showed Krang, as previously mentioned). Ben says the line ‘That’s really done it’. So either this telesnap is of that moment, shot 113, or, which I think is more likely, of the moment slightly later in the episode where Ben says ‘Yeah, but there must be something we can do’ as he ‘rips out of the lead wire’ of the communication system. This would make it shot 117, a mid-shot of Ben. Either way, the blank monitor means it’s from scene 10.

After scene 10 comes scene 11, which is inside the Cyberman spacecraft and which opens with an establishing shot of the Doctor and Polly in the restraints. This is shot 120 and corresponds with telesnap 42. Polly is probably saying ‘Doctor? Doctor?’ at this point to wake him up. The next telesnap is of the Doctor; now, the camera script doesn’t mention a shot of just the Doctor on his own, just a shot (121) of the Doctor and Polly and a shot (122) of Polly, so it looks like another shot was added (or, less likely, either shot 121 or 122 was replaced). The Doctor looks like he’s deducing something so my best guess is telesnap 43 is of him saying ‘This spacecraft receives its energy from Mondas. Perhaps it's absorbing too much.’

So, to recap, telesnap 38 is from scene 7, telesnap 39 is from scene 8, there are no telesnaps from scene 9, telesnap 40 is from scene 10 (because the monitor is blank), and telesnaps 42 and 43 are from scene 11.

So what about telesnap 41? That’s the question. Now, it’s quite easy to see what it’s of. It’s a close-up of a Cyberman holding the Cyber-transmitter (a device comprising of six flashing glass cylinders seen later in the episode, and in The Moonbase too for that matter, where they use it to control their converted humans). In The Tenth Planet the Cyber-transmitter is located in the tracking room. But – and here’s the rub – there isn’t a scene in the tracking room at this point. We cut straight from scene 10 in the radiation room to scene 11 in the spaceship. Checking the off-air audio recording, there is a direct cut from Ben saying ‘Now this is what I think we should do...’ to the sound of the interior of the Cyberman spaceship (for about 7 seconds) followed by Polly saying ‘Doctor?’ So it’s not as if a scene in the tracking room could have been added as a last-minute thing.

So could it be from scene 11? It isn’t clear whether there is a Cyberman present in this scene - according to the camera script one enters right at the end and Polly reacts (with the unscripted line ‘I’m scared’). But up until this point, according to the camera script, they are alone.

Or are they? Because the only explanation I think of for telesnap 41 is if there was a change of plan and scene 11 began with a close-up of a Cyberman on board the spaceship holding the Cyber-transmitter and then panned left to the (scripted) establishing shot of Polly and the Doctor (shot 120, telesnap 42). I think what you can just about make out in the top left corner of the photo is the restraints and the top of the Doctor’s hat (compare it to far right of telesnap 42). That’s what I think is happening in those 7 seconds before Polly says ‘Doctor?’ The Cyber-transmitter doesn’t appear in any telesnaps until scene 20, so maybe this scene opens with Jarl fetching the Cyber-transmitter from the spaceship (which he brings into the tracking room in scene 22 with the triumphant words ‘Records, Krang!’) (Note: the animated version of the episode avoids the problem by filling those 7 seconds with an unscripted establishing shot of the Cyberman spaceship, even though the audio is of the sound of the spaceship interior. In the magazine, I avoided the problem by not including the telesnap, to my eternal shame)


But that’s just my best guess. I have no way of proving it. And unless the episode turns up (which doesn’t seem likely) we will probably never know. Unless anyone has some other ideas?

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