All About The Doctor Who Reconstructions
The reconstructions are an attempt to recreate the missing episodes of Doctor Who. They are produced by combining the original audio soundtrack, as recorded off air when originally transmitted, with suitable visual material to create a video representation of the original transmission.
Doctor Who was first shown in the UK in November 1963. The series was a success and was soon seen in countries all over the world. By the 1970's the show had moved to colour and the old 60's black and white episodes were becoming less popular to show as more and more foreign TV stations opted to show the newer colour stories instead. The copies distributed abroad were supposed to be either destroyed or returned to the BBC after use. Believing that the BBC film archive held copies of all Doctor Who stories, BBC Enterprises decided that their old black and white film prints would no longer be required for overseas sales and their destruction began in the early 1970s.
It was later discovered that the film Archive did not keep copies, all the original prints and negatives had been passed to Enterprises. By the late 1970s virtually all the 60s episodes had been destroyed. Copies of many episodes have subsequently been found in other BBC archives and returned from foreign TV stations and private collectors. 108 episodes are still missing. If anybody has any information on any missing episodes, please let us know so that we can get the episodes safely returned to the BBC, it will also save us a lot of work!
The first stage in producing a reconstruction is to gather of all available source material. The audio is the backbone to any reconstruction and is often the only "original" part of the episodes remaining. Audio recordings exist for all the missing Doctor Who episodes, taped by fans upon their original transmissions in the 1960's. These audios vary in quality and completeness and it is often necessary to combine pieces from several different sources to gain a complete copy of the audio track.
The reconstructions use whatever suitable visual material is available to represent the pictures that would have originally be shown on screen. These can take a variety of different forms depending on what is available for each episode.
Short video clips do exist for a few stories and these have been incorporated into the reconstructions in the correct place.
During the 1950s and 60s a freelance photographer called John Cura was commissioned by the BBC to take photos from a TV screen of various series. These covered most scenes in a story and amounted to around 70 stills per episode. They were used as a visual and continuity reference to the episodes by the Doctor Who Production Office and copies were often retained by directors and occasionally cast members as a record of their work.
The standard format that the telesnaps were printed in was as 'contact strips'. The individual pictures are very small, approximately an inch across, but very clear. Occasionally copies of individual telesnaps were ordered, these were enlarged to about 2 inches wide.
It is thought that almost all early episodes of Doctor Who were covered by telesnaps, however the BBC Written Archives only holds copies from The Gunfighters through to The Dominators. Only one episode is missing from this run: Enemy of the World episode 4, it is unknown why this episode is not covered. Other telesnaps have emerged from private hands, most notably from the serial The Crusade, which were rescued when they were about to be thrown out of the Production Office in the late 1970s. Most recently our very own Derek Handley recovered telesnaps from six episodes of Marco Polo that he discovered director Waris Hussein had retained.
Other photos of missing stories exist that were taken "behind the scenes".
For many of the missing episodes (especially where no telesnaps exist) authentic visual material from the story can be extremely limited. For some stories only a handful of pictures exist and there is often no visual reference for some of the main cast members. It is obviously impossible to reconstruct a story with no visual material, therefore in these cases we try to find suitable images either from other Doctor Who stories (usually for the Doctor or his companions) or even from other sources for other characters or sequences. When there are no (or insufficient) authentic pictures of a character we endeavour to find images of the correct actor from other sources to ensure the reconstruction is as accurate as possible, but without becoming too repetitive.
Composite images play an essential role in stories where no telesnaps exist or where the authentic material is extremely limited. However, even telesnap reconstructions require composites from time to time.
Composite images are pictures that are electronically built up using multiple layers to hopefully produce convincing looking fake pictures. This technique is a computer version of using scissors to cut out parts of one picture to paste into another. It is effectively an electronic version of collage making. Composites are used to supplement a reconstruction wherever authentic visual material is not available.
At the basic level, cutting out a character and pasting them into the correct setting for a scene would be a typical scenario for making a composite. This would of course only be necessary if appropriate authentic pictures do not exist for the scene or if we wish to supplement authentic pictures to add variety to the reconstruction. In the more advanced case, composites consist of very many layers, one for each of the independent sources being used. The background layer could be a set, an appropriate costume as one layer, the correct actor's head as another layer, etc, etc.
Whenever possible the likeness of the correct actor is used for these types of composites. As a typical example, for the Mission to the Unknown reconstruction, this process was necessary for every single shot featuring the main cast as no telesnaps or authentic pictures of them survive at all. The composites use whatever source material is suitable in order to represent the pictures that would have originally be shown on screen during transmission. The source material can come from a variety of different places depending on what is available and what can been found and deemed appropriate for each episode.
The use of specially created material can take a variety of forms. For some reconstructions it is impossible to obtain the images that we require from any readily available source. This is usually the case when the action that would have been seen on screen during transmission is quite specific. Rather than present the viewer with many screens of lengthy text explaining what is happening, if possible, we attempt to recreate what was shown during the original transmission by the use of costumes, props, models and sets.
Our first experiment with specially created material was in the Myth Makers reconstruction using props for the construction plans for the Trojan horse, the parchment dart scene and we also obtained permission to use and film the original prop of the Trojan horse for some sequences outside the city. These new features were very well received and certainly helped to supplement sequences in the story that would have not been so interesting using only text captions. Since then, the use of specially created material (both still and moving images) has played a major role in many of the reconstructions. To date, the Galaxy 4 reconstruction exhibits the most ambitious use of special material. It includes many newly filmed sequences of the TARDIS on the alien landscape, numerous props, a Drahvin, a Rill, and even Chumblies.
Although the BBC kept some of the sound effects and music used from the 60s episodes, the full soundtracks were not recorded separately. However, several fans did record the stories on reel-to-reel audio tape from their televisions upon their original transmission, most notably David Holman, Richard Landen, David Butler and Graham Strong. Most of the audio recordings that were taken had the opening and closing credits cut out at the time of recording to save on tape, so although all the episodes do exist on audio, there are a few seconds at the start or end of some episodes that are missing. For this reason it is often necessary to combine several different versions to produce a complete soundtrack and the exact start/finish points of episodes are often difficult to determine.
Wherever possible, the reconstruction attempts to represent scenes using visual material. However in many instances this is simply not possible. For the sequences where the action is unclear from the audio alone, text captions are included to provide the viewer with information on what is happening.
Text captions generally appear as scrolling captions (which are a trademark of all Loose Cannon reconstructions). Occasionally pop up captions are used if the corresponding action is fast or if the caption is brief. Text captions are an essential part of every reconstruction.
Where possible copies of the original camera scripts are used to ensure that the images displayed on screen match what were used in the original episodes.
We use a video editing program called Media Studio to combine the pictures and soundtrack together. Media studio allows you to lay down an audio track displayed as a waveform and to add still images or video clips over the audio. Once the episodes are completed they are rendered as a video avi file and copied to videotape.