The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Another World

The following article was written for a fanzine back in 2001 – thanks to Neil Corry for keeping it. As it’s about 14 years old, some of the details regarding missing episodes have (thankfully) changed in the meantime!

Rumours circulate that copies of The Daleks exist in Iraq.

Missing You Already

It is a sad and oft-repeated fact that much of the early years of Doctor Who is missing, with the videotapes of the episodes in question having been long-since wiped and all film copies destroyed. Whilst we all hope against hope that some more episodes may one day be returned to the BBC archives, with each passing year the likelihood grows ever smaller. It looks as though there will always be 144 lost episodes of Doctor Who.

Fortunately much of the material that does exist from the Hartnell and Troughton years has been released on home video, and this article aims to provide an overview to what material does exist and what unfortunately no longer remains.

Amongst fans, the most missed story would undoubtedly have to be the very first Doctor Who tale, An Unearthly Child (indeed, the first episode of this story is included on the BBC’s ‘Top 10 Most Wanted Missing Programmes’ list). However, it must be said that much of the enthusiasm for this story is due purely to its historical value, as the tale in question has little substance and is not particularly dramatic. The first episode has a certain novelty, as we are introduced to the main characters as they explore the mysterious junkyard and meet the equally mysterious anti-hero known only as Doctor Who, but the following episodes, judged from the surviving audios, would seem to consist of little more than grunting cavemen sitting in a cave.

The second story, The Daleks, is also much-missed, due of course to its significance as the first television appearance on the megalomaniacal pepperpots. Certainly the audios would seem to substantiate the high regard in which this story is held, with some extremely atmospheric music from Tristram Cary. However, on audio a lot of the appeal of the later episodes is lost, and the telesnaps can hardly do justice to the fondly-remembered journey through the swamps and caves to the Dalek city.

Of course, it is a commonly-held misconception that the first episode of The Daleks exists. However, the print which is held by the BBC (and which has been released on video) is in fact an earlier take of The Dead Planet which was considered unfit for broadcast. This is obvious from the rather shaky nature of the camerawork and the jungle, not to mention the under-rehearsed lead performances! Some fans, whose opinions of this episode have been based on this existing footage, have unfairly come to the conclusion that the whole story was an extremely shoddy, amateurish and over-rated production, when, in fact, the re-mount of this episode was undoubtedly much superior. This rejected version of The Dead Planet was eventually broadcast on BBC 2 in 1993 as part of the BBC’s Lime Grove celebrations, leaving viewers on tenterhooks at the sight of the menacing plunger gliding towards the screaming Barbara.

Very little remains from Hartnell’s first season. Whilst some stories, such as The Edge Of Destruction and The Sensorites, are deservedly overlooked due to the lack of photographic material and rather uninspiring audios, the loss of some other stories is more keenly felt. The Keys Of Marinus was, for all those who remember it, a spectacular production, and The Aztecs has one of the finest scripts of the Hartnell era (it has, of course, been released on audio with linking narration from Carole Ann Ford).

The two episodes that exist of The Reign Of Terror would seem to give the impression that this story was an out-and-out farce, though in actuality the missing open and closing episodes are much more serious and lay to rest the popular fan myth that this was a comedy. Indeed, in the context of the story, the much-celebrated ‘jailer sequences’ seem incongruous in their levity.

It is perhaps unfortunate that the only complete story from this season that exists is one of the lesser stories. Marco Polo (one of the first BBC video releases) is a slow and stagy production which is at least three episodes too long. The production is static and consists of long sequences of characters simply sitting and telling stories, and the plot itself is over-padded, slow-paced and repetitive. Admittedly, the sets and costumes are excellent, and the final swordfight does redeem the story to some extent, but anyone watching this story will sorely regret the loss of the two far superior stories that followed it.

Only two complete episodes remain from Hartnell’s second season, and much of the high regard for this season must stem from the undoubted high quality of these episodes; the second and fourth instalments of The Crusade. Who can forget the celebrated comedy sequence from The Knight Of Jaffa as the Doctor outwits the clothes seller? Or the scene as Ian is knighted? Or the dramatic flight through the forest in The Warlords?

Planet Of Giants: Will we ever see these amazing sets again?

The only other material known to exist are some unused sequences from the first story of the season, Planet Of Giants, though the footage (now released on the Missing Years video) is largely concerned with the police constable and his wife and is admittedly very dull. However, before judging the story on the basis of these clips, we should remember that these sequences were deliberately removed from the finished story for reasons of pacing. The broadcast story was undoubtedly much more fast-paced and exciting; the telesnaps indicate some spectacular visuals.

Of the other missing stories, some have slipped into near obscurity. Although The Rescue was one of the highest-rated Doctor Who stories of its time, very few fans have any memories whatsoever of this eminently forgettable tale (though the telesnaps seem to indicate that Koquillion was a very well-realised monster) . Similarly, the soundtrack of The Space Museum gives the impression of a very bland story indeed, with its first episode being particularly poor. The recent audio release of The Time Meddler (with narration by Peter Purves) has gone some way to redressing this tale’s reputation, however, featuring as it does the introduction of the much-loved Meddling Monk.

But to anyone who has viewed the two extant episodes of The Crusade it is obvious that much of this season was some of the highest-quality Doctor Who ever made. The Romans was a gripping and dramatic tale, with spectacular sword-fights (including a dramatic and extremely tense sequence where Vicki drives away a would-be assassin around the room by clubbing him with a vase!). The Chase also contains two of viewers’ favourite sequences from the 60’s, with the Daleks materialising first on the top floor of the Empire State Building and then, later, on board the Marie Celeste! But perhaps two of the most sorely-missed stories from this year are The Dalek Invasion Of Earth and The Web Planet. It is with much regret that we acknowledge that we will never again see the Daleks gliding through the streets of deserted London or making their way across Westminster Bridge with the Houses Of Parliament in the background. We will never see the horrifying Slyther as it smashes its way into the mining hut, strangling all who stand in its path. And, most disappointingly of all, we will never see the spellbinding Zarbi, the scuttling Venom Grubs, the spectacular Animus (and its web-strewn tunnels) and the Menoptera flying gracefully over the awe-inspiring Crater of Needles. Amongst those who remember this story, it is quite rightly regarded as one of the true pinnacles of Doctor Who.

By contrast, Hartnell’s third and final year is much better represented in the archives, albeit with some more unfortunate omissions. Galaxy Four has not yet been released on video, due to the fact that about a quarter of its first episode is missing (a crucial sequence where the Doctor and his companions first meet the Drahvins) and, given the rather uninspiring nature of the production – who can forget the ridiculously unconvincing Rills! – it is unlikely to see the light of day in the foreseeable future.

Mission To The Unknown (included on the BBC triple video of The Dalek’s Masterplan (sic)) is quite rightly regarded as a classic episode of terror and suspense. On the other hand, The Myth Makers (repeated on BBC 2 in 1992), is a rather slow-moving tale, with the rather overstated nature of the performances detracting from the script. Hartnell, in particular, is mugging shamelessly to the camera throughout. It is also rather obvious that the legs of the Wooden Horse that appear in the studio are nothing like those on the model (the sequence of the horse entering Troy being featured on Noel Edmonds’ Telly Addicts as an example of how shaky Doctor Who was during the ‘60s).

It is very easy for us to take The Daleks’ Masterplan for granted, and indeed much as been written in recent years about how this story fails to live up to the expectation, heightened by nostalgia-tinted fan memory. Certainly it is too long, and the fact that the two missing episodes are crucial to the plot doesn’t help matters. The least said about The Feast Of Steven and its equally hackneyed follow-up Volcano the better. Hartnell’s absence through the latter episodes due to illness is rather conspicuous, as are the studio hands operating the Varga plants! There are also some small cuts in this story – Kert Gantry’s death, the Dalek’s setting fire to Kembel and, most noticeable of all, the dramatic scene leading up to Katarina’s sacrifice (in the video release, this scene is rendered incomprehensible as a result, as it appears that Katarina and Kirksen are ejected into space for no apparent reason!). Nevertheless this is a fine and enjoyable Dalek story, and gives some idea of how exciting and tense The Chase must have been.

The Massacre has of course been released on video and is quite rightly regarded as the best existing Hartnell story, with Hartnell’s performance as the Abbot being surprisingly subtle and convincing – particularly when taken in comparison to his fluff-prone performance as the Doctor.

The only surviving shot of a fearsome Monoid from The Ark.

Nothing remains of little-remembered The Ark or The Gunfighters; the widely-held view of the latter story is that it was an embarrassing farrago, with a tiny studio set representing a street in the Old West. The audio, however, is surprisingly enjoyable, with the song providing a useful commentary on the visual aspects of the narrative. Amongst all the missing stories, this one is perhaps the most overdue for a release on CD.

Up until its release on video The Celestial Toymaker was considered something of a nightmarish, atmospheric classic, though now the consensus is that it is merely a very slow-moving and cheaply-made filler with some atrocious performances and risible special effects. Hartnell is, of course, absent, and the lack of the final episode is barely noticeable, as few people will have manage to endure that far into the story anyway. Michael Gough is the only aspect of this childish story which deserves praise.

The Savages and The Smugglers have both been released on video, but are largely forgotten due to the rather lacklustre nature of their storytelling and visibly tired lead actor; though The Smugglers does at least have some impressive location filming (the only existing print of this story was returned from Australia and is therefore missing some sequences excised by their censors). But it is a great shame that these stories exist whilst The War Machines remains missing – the one minute of footage that is held by the BBC would indicate that this was a spectacular and highly-convincing tale of robots running amok in modern London.

Fortunately the final Hartnell episode, The Tenth Planet 4, does exist, having been accidentally misappropriated by a member of the Blue Peter production team. Included in The Hartnell Years video, one can only wonder at how spectacular the earlier, missing, episodes must have been, with the Cybermen slowly walking through the snowstorm at the end of episode 1. Sadly, the final regeneration sequence is truncated, so we don’t actually see Patrick Troughton’s first appearance as the Doctor.

In contrast to his predecessor, Patrick Troughton’s tenure as the Doctor is much better-represented in the BBC archives, and indeed the majority of his episodes have now been released on video. Admittedly, and frustratingly, many of his stories are not complete, either with odd episodes missing or cuts due to Australian censors, but nevertheless one is able to enjoy almost his entire first two seasons.

The Power Of The Daleks is particularly badly cut by the censors, with scenes from the climax and the infamous ‘production line’ sequence missing. Watching the story now, it is hard to understand how it obtained its reputation as a classic. Admittedly the scenes with the Daleks have a certain thrill, but far too much of this studio-bound story is concerned with the colonists and their political machinations. Troughton’s eccentric performance is also rather bewildering, not to say ill-judged.

Watching The Highlanders on video now, it is not difficult to see why the historical stories were abandoned, as the attempts at both gravitas and comedy fall resolutely flat. Patrick Troughton’s performance is even more wildly inappropriate, as he dons the disguise of a washerwoman in one of the most embarrassingly inept ‘comedy’ scenes in the programme’s history.

Both The Underwater Menace and The Macra Terror are extremely stagy productions held in fandom’s low esteem. Enjoying The Underwater Menace, it is easy to forget that there is an entire episode missing, as the story works perfectly well without it! Some fan commentators have, however, pointed out that the missing episode contains the ‘dance of the fish people’ sequence which is apparently the only saving grace of this feeble tale. The Macra Terror is missing some short sequences with the Macra, but given what does exist of these slow-moving monstrosities, this is probably something of a blessing!

The beginning of the magnificent sequence where the Cybermen are launched into space. 
 
The Moonbase, rightly regarded as the best story of Troughton’s first season, is unfortunately missing its second and last episodes, so we can only imagine the scene where the Cyberman are sent spinning into space from the surface of the moon. What does exist, however, is a magical and atmospheric tale. One can only wonder at how magnificent the horror masterpiece The Tomb Of The Cybermen must have been – though it is hard to believe it could live up to the standards set by this classic tale. The two episodes were released on the Cybermen – The Early Years video.

Two words come to mind when describing The Faceless Ones; ‘the hat’. Although this story has two episodes missing, those episodes were largely run-arounds and all of the essential information is included in episode 2 (which also features the hilarious ‘hiding in the photo booth’ scene). However, it does share a problem with many of Troughton’s stories – the latter episodes are superfluous, padded, slow-moving and, by its inevitable anticlimax, the story is seriously outstaying its welcome.

Before its release on video, The Evil Of The Daleks was considered one of the greatest Doctor Who serials of all time. It is therefore sobering to note that in the recent DWM poll, it barely scraped into the top one hundred. This is undoubtedly due to the following four Dalek factors; firstly, the painful realisation that the missing episode 2 is probably the only episode from this lacklustre tale with any real plot development. Secondly, the utter, repetitive tedium of the middle three episodes, which consist of little more than Jamie walking down the same dark passageway (not to mention some egregious racial stereotyping). Thirdly, the embarrassing ‘trains’ sequence – on paper, this could have been horrifying, but unfortunately Troughton plays the whole scene for inappropriate laughs. And finally, the ‘final end’ of the Daleks, which consists of little more than a couple of derisory Louis Marx Daleks being blown up.

Unfortunately, much of Troughton’s second season continues the decline, its reputation as being full of classic ‘monster’ stories having evaporated in the light of video releases. After a reasonably opening episode, The Abominable Snowmen quickly descends into tedium, as there is patently not enough plot to sustain it beyond part 3. The Ice Warriors is something of an improvement, but listening to the audios of the final three episodes is a wearisome experience – one can only wonder how the viewers in the 60’s endured the endless arguments about glaciers, computers and ionisers.

The only story which stands up to modern viewing is the enthralling The Enemy Of The World, with Troughton giving consummate dual performances in this tightly-plotted political thriller.

Apologists for The Web Of Fear often claim that the first episode of this story (the one that is missing) is a masterpiece of atmosphere and suspense. However, viewers who have sat through the stilted and slow-moving opening episodes of Fury From The Deep, The Wheel In Space and The Abominable Snowmen would have good reason to be sceptical of this claim, particularly in the light of the following five episodes of this drab tale. There are only so many times a character can leave a room, run away from a ridiculously slow-moving Yeti and then return to the same room before it gets tedious. The Covent Garden battle sequence is the sole highlight of the programme (though it does make one wonder how much better-realised the similar scenes in The War Machines and The Invasion must have been). On video, in place of the opening episode we see Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling walking through the BBC archives, recounting anecdotes and explaining with great incredulity how this particular story was returned from Trinidad - AND TOBAGO!

Fury From The Deep is the only complete story from Season 5 to exist (albeit with some scenes trimmed or omitted due to Australian censors). Fans coming to the video after enjoying the novelisation and expecting an exciting and moody thriller will be left disappointed, as much of the production fails to live up to its potential. The foam monster is laughable rather than threatening, and the performances are almost as wooden as the ‘metal’ impeller shaft in a story which once again revolves entirely of an argument about whether to turn a piece of machinery on or off.

It is a cruel irony that, with the excellent The Wheel In Space, we finally see Troughton settling down in the role after a year of relentless over-playing and a year of bland going-through-the-motions (with only The Enemy Of The World breaking the pattern – what is it with evil duplicate stories?). The cruelty of the irony is that much of Troughton’s third (and undoubtedly best) season is missing from the BBC archives.

Of course, few mourn the loss of The Krotons (listening to the audio, one can only wonder how the cast kept a straight face at those accents!), though some elder statesmen fans have recounted fond memories of these chilling creatures – presumably their appeal was mainly visual. And it is a great shame that the only story we do have, The Space Pirates, is yet another over-padded studio-bound affair (and again with quite ludicrous accents!).

However, watching the two remaining episodes of The Invasion (released on the Cybermen – The Early Years video, even though they contain almost no scenes with the silver giants at all!) one can only wonder at how magnificent the latter parts of this story must have been – in particular, the famous and unforgettable sequence as the Cybermen stalk down the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. (A small amount of home-movie footage does exist from this story, released on The Doctors video, though sadly it only shows an actor emerging from a drain).

The Dominators: A 'highly-charged political satire'.

With few photos and a poor-quality soundtrack, little is known about The Dominators, though it has become regarded as a highly-charged political satire (see The Discontinuity Guide), tackling, as it does, pacifism. It is a shame we cannot see the Quarks marching resolutely across the lunar landscape of Dulkis, as they sound quite terrifying, with their hideous, high-pitched gurgling voices.

But it is another cruel and bitter irony that we have nothing whatsoever from the two greatest Troughton stories – The Mind Robber and The War Games. Much has been written about The Mind Robber – ‘the ultimate mind-blowing psychedelic masterpiece’ being five words that Gary Russell has used to describe it in DWM. The telesnaps would seem to support this view, as the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe land in a white void, and then find themselves in a forest encountering giant toy soldiers, a unicorn, Medusa, the comic-strip Karkus and the Minotaur. Some sequences defy the imagination – for instance, the chilling cliff-hanger where Jamie and Zoe are crushed to death within the pages of a storybook. And how did they manage to show Jamie scaling the walls of the fairytale castle on screen? Unanimously, those fans who remember it describe this story as Troughton’s finest almost-two hours.

Which brings us to The War Games, Troughton’s final tale, of which nothing whatsoever exists (unless you count the short film sequences from Fury From The Deep and The Wheel In Space that were recycled in the final episode). Of course the story is too long, but it is Hulke and Dicks’ genius that the relentless pace never flags, and each episode is brimming with excitement, confrontation and breathtaking plot twists. Listening to the soundtrack, it is spine-chilling to hear the music as the Warlords use their special hypnotic glasses. It is a deep shame that we can only listen as the Roman chariot bursts out of the ghostly mists at the end of the second episode. And, most frustratingly of all, we cannot see the Doctor’s final confrontation with the Time Lords, possibly the greatest and most spectacular sequence in the show’s entire history.

It must be said, however, that as we mourn what material sadly doesn’t exist, it is easy to take those episodes which do remain in the archives for granted. There is much to enjoy in every episode – even those from Fury From The Deep! – and it is all too easy to overlook the fact that some of Hartnell and Troughton’s better stories do exist and available on home video for all to enjoy.

It is also easy to slip into the pattern of assuming that the missing episodes are automatically better than what we do have, as we allow our imaginations to fill in the gaps. To inappropriately conflate two adages; the grass is always greener when viewed through rose-tinted spectacles. In a metaphorical sense, we put a bit of ourselves into the missing story; we imbue it with our own enthusiasm and excitement and personality. That is not something to regret; rather it is something to celebrate. Whenever we listen to The Daleks or The Web Planet or The Mind Robber we do so with our enjoyment and imagination unfettered by poor production values and wobbly sets and unconvincing monsters to distract us and puncture the illusion. That can only be a good thing.

And finally, to end on a controversial thought. Imagine The Chase were recovered tomorrow; maybe it wouldn’t be the masterpiece we are all expecting, but would in fact turn out to be a poorly-realised sequence of half-baked ideas?

No comments:

Post a Comment