Patrick Troughton

The Macra Terror

MACRA TERROR CDDr Who Macra Terror Radio Timesmacra clawThe Macra Terror, or Dr Who And The Giant Crabs From Space, is probably my favourite of all the missing stories, and the one I’d most like to see returned, after Power & Evil, obv. It’s so reminiscent of The Prisoner, with all that enforced jollity hiding something sinister going on underneath, that you wonder if McGoohan caught this and filed it away until it was time to head to Portmerion. I doubt it, but it’s a nice idea. And it’s a shame that it’s only on audio, as it looks pretty good for mid-sixties Who, even allowing for the budgetary limitations, from the few clips and telesnaps we do have. Please can Flip Maurice find this one next time? Ta much.

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This edit was originally made from the cassette release narrated by Colin Baker that was put out back in the Nineties. They were as big a revelation in many ways as the VHS tapes of the existing stories were back in the day but there wasn’t nearly enough narration and what there was did a poor job of conveying what was going on at many points in the story, with far too many gaps. Those early audio releases had other Doctors doing the narrating instead of the companions of the time, with Colin doing this, Jon doing Tomb, Tom doing Power, Evil and Fury. What a shame they didn’t use those Tom Baker narrations for the subsequent CD releases, especially Power, which was done “in character” as the Doctor.

The Macra prop, which I have now officially named as Molly The Macra, looks a heck of a lot better in the Shawcraft footage on the DVD of The Chase than it does in the telesnaps or that clip of it grabbing Polly. Shame they never managed to build the crab legs for it or put some teeth in its mouth, and I’m not entirely sure about the lightbulb eyes but overall it’s a cracker of a build. If only the New Series would do a Jubilee/Spare Parts/Human Nature on this story and revisit it, as monsters I reckon the Macra would be right up there with the spider-y space germs in the scare stakes [The Gridlock ones with the oversize claws were faintly ridiculous].

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Following her defeat by the Doctor, Molly the Macra retired to the Shawcraft Home For Aged Aliens in Uxbridge, where she and her friend Dolly the Dalek had great fun together scaring the bejesus out of the local kids. Mwahaha!

As far as the mk2 CD version goes, its a real relief to finally have some decent narration to let you know what’s going on. The original narration wasn’t up to much at all, and whoever wrote it wants sending to the danger gang! There were too many obvious narrative gaps where there was nothing to tell you what’s going, when you would expect there to be something telling you what’s going on, meaning that there were quite a few moments where you were left wondering just what the hell it was you were listening to, which just pulled you out of the story as you try to work out what’s happening without the benefit of narration. Okay, so this was one of the first ever releases, but the narration was shockingly bad and the lack of it where you would ordinarily expect it got really bloody annoying after a while. Luckily second time around there are no such problems and you get a sense not just of what’s happening but how its happening. Doctor Who minus the pictures isn’t radio.

Macra Terror by Paul Vyse DWM170Although the improved narration helps, there’s nothing that can be done about the annoying music, which sees cuddly Dudley Simpson in his early twiddly synthesizer phase and shows the beginnings of what we would get with Pertwee in a few years time. It’s somewhat, “distinctive” shall we say, which ruled out the usual soundtrack replacement. Macra is a story that I think would have been better without any music at all, as what there is here is about one step up from Carey Bloody Blyton. And it would certainly have been better for me when it came to editing it! Even making the usual allowances for the budgetary limitations of mid-sixties Who, the music is probably the only thing that lets the story down, as it lacks any sort of atmosphere due to everything being played way too far up the keyboard of that awful farty Stylophone-style synthesiser Dudley’s using. In the original version I included some additional music to help with the atmosphere, as the lack of narration did nothing to build any sort of tension. The only music I could think of using, in the places where I felt it was needed but absent, was some of the Early Pertwee from the 11-disc set released for the Fiftieth, and so I pressed the cues from The Claws of Axos and The Mutants into service where possible, since they at least sounded a bit similar. But this time around, I’ve left them out.

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The Macra Terror by Ben Willsher DWM491

Storywise, things only really start start to pick up when Ben gets nobbled, and it’s interesting to hear how his cockney accent drifts into RP afterwards, something that I’m sure was deliberate. It’s not entirely a surprise that Ben submits to the brainwashing, given that he is a sailor and it tends to be the case that military personnel obey orders, sort of goes with the job. And it must have been fun for Michael Craze to play something a bit different too. 

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Of course, once the Doctor works out that the Macra depend on the gas the colony work to supply them with, the story is pretty much over, as all he has to do is to turn the gas tap off. Or rather, tell Ben how to turn the gas tap off. The idea that the Macra are parasites infecting the colony, like germs infecting a body, is a nice idea but one that would have worked a lot better if it had been thematically present through all the episodes instead of just bunged in at the end. And it’s a shame Peter Jeffrey’s pilot is largely absent for the bulk of part four, as he’s by far the most interesting character we meet in the story. I must be honest, though, and say I was quite relieved when that hysterical bugger Medoc bought it!

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Brigadier, Sarah Jane, Sontarans

Enemy of the Bane


Enemy of the Bane is the last of our irregular edits of The Sarah Jane Adventures.  Having edited the SJA stories with both Doctors 10 and 11 and now the Brig, Whoflix’s work on this bit of the FanEdit Whoniverse is done.

It’s grand to see the Brig and his tum back for one last stab at defending the Earth, with Lis and Nick Courtney reunited on screen for the first time since Downtime.  With Samantha Bond returning as the treacherous Mrs Wormwood along with old Sontaran scarface Kaagh [why hasn’t Anthony O’Donnell joined Dan Starkey in voicing the potatoheads for Big Finish yet?] it’s a real reunion story only let down by how little the Brig is actually involved. His only real plot function is to get Sarah access to the Tunguska Scroll, after that he’s pretty much just along for the ride. 

Old Skool Who was, on the whole, four parts of 25m each, and TSJA echoed that format, but instead it was two parters. It was as if a four part story had been condensed into two episodes and you can imagine that, had Doctor Who continued on the BBC post-Survival, it would have probably ended up being pretty much like SJA was. And that’s probably not such a bad thing.


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Sarah Jane

A Girl’s Best Friend


Long, long ago, when the Whoniverse was less than half its present size, Jayne Entee made possibly the only half-right decision of her entire time in charge when she brought back Sarah Jane Smith. K9 & Company, A Girl’s Best Friend was Doctor Who’s first spin-off show and its importance lies not in the show itself but the legacy it left behind, as the template for The Sarah Jane Adventures, which pretty much got everything right that this gets wrong.

girls-best-friend-dwm-archiveAGBF was broadcast on December 28th 1981, between State of Decay and Warrior’s Gate and nearly two years before the Twentieth Five Doctors fanfest. It’s the usual humdrum tale of witchcraft and devil worship that wouldn’t have been that out of place in a Tom’n’Lis season but it’s all stuff we’ve seen before in stories like Image of The Fendahl and The Stones of Blood, only this time with the tin dog in it and Hecate instead of the Cailleach.

Despite it’s major structural failings, you can see the roots of TSJA in there, only there are no aliens and no defending of the Earth. Brendan is played by a better child actor than Adric but he’s still annoying enough for you to hope against hope that Sarah won’t get there in time to rescue him from the Devil-worshippers. He’s also the proto-Luke, but that doesn’t stop his “honking” at K9/canine being one of the things that got cut.sarah-k9-time-team-dwm-373-adrian-salmon

girls-best-friend-time-team-dwmAGBF is a curious mix of Juliet Bravo, which had just finished its second series when this went out, a Christmas ghost story and a big dollop of nostalgia that doesn’t quite work. If Hecate had turned out to be an alien then that would have been more like it, but instead we get SJS doing her first bit of investigative journalist-ing since The Time Warrior & The Dinosaur Invasion, only this time with a tin dog and an annoying smartarse as sidekicks.

However it did pave the way for The Sarah Jane Adventures as it proved that Sladen was well capable of handling the lead role in a series of her own, which is why we never got The Jo Jones Adventures instead. The status of Lis Sladen as the Doctor Who Girl, testament to her skill as an actor, is why she was the only Classic Series companion who had to make a return in the New Series.

As far as cuts are concerned, we manage to knock off the usual ten minutes to tighten things up and bring this fan edit in at just over forty minutes. And since this is the first real Sarah Jane Adventure we use the SJA title sequence instead of the terrible one used in the original, as well as a recap of the end of The Hand of Fear as a pre-credits to give the Doctor’s gift some context.

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Daleks, David Tennant

Evolution of the Daleks


Sometimes a story you hadn’t really thought about tackling will suggest itself, like this one did. Three things happened in quick succession to lead me to editing Daleks In Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks.

complete-history-1The first was my picking up issue one of Doctor Who – The Complete History, which features this story alongside Gridlock and The Lazarus ExperimentAlthough I’m still not entirely convinced that shelling out a total of £788.20 for what is essentially a collection of rewritten DWM Archives is really worth it, the books do contain the rather wonderful photoshoppery of Lee Johnson, of which Whoflix has long been a fan.

The second thing that happened was that the latest DWM at the time – 491 – had the Evolution artwork as a poster so when the Daleks were revealed as being in the series nine opener The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar it was clear to me that I ought to tackle this one next, so I did. However, working on this edit proved to be so frustrating that I left it to work on the orphan episodes of The Underwater Menace, The Space Pirates and The Crusade, as well as Face The Raven, before returning to it for another try. Sometimes the best thing to do with a difficult edit is to leave it and come back to it, which is what I did with this. Luckily, second time around, I was able to nail the bugger and get something I was happy with.

daleks manhattan evolution lee johnsonPoor old Helen Raynor really got it in the neck from Fandom for this one but if you look at her IMDb profile she seems to have emerged unscathed from the experience. In truth, you can’t really lay all the blame for it at her door. Remember, everyone with the singular exception of The Moff, got rewritten by RTD, so he has to take his share of the blame too. And the main problem with these episodes is that they overload the story with multiple instances of the same thing. Thematic unity is a sound storytelling principle but when done incorrectly, as it is here, you end up with something that doesn’t enhance the dramatic unity of the piece but instead has the opposite effect.

Mr Diagoras, whose name sounds like a hybrid between Pythagoras and Diagram, gets absorbed by Dalek Sec, who wants to stop being a Dalek octo-blob and become a Kaled-esque humanoid. Why they couldn’t just inject Diagoras with something and mutate him I don’t know, but instead of stopping there, with Frankenstein making himself the monster, the story ploughs on and repeats itself. And as a result it diminishes the impact of the Dalek Hybrid with Pig Slaves and Dalek Humans.  

Laszlo, and events at Hooverville, tell us that, instead of taking pigs and upgrading them into humanoids, the Daleks are taking men and making them into humanoid pigs, in a gene-splicing Human + Pig DNA combo. Fair enough, but my first question would be where do they get the pigs from in the centre of New York? And if their plan is to turn humanity into Dalek Humans, why make the Pig Men in the first place?

The whole thing is a bit reminiscent of the Humans With Dalek Minds nonsense we got in the Pat Troughton story The Evil of the Daleks and it didn’t work any better there either. Having two examples of the same thing, as we have here, is a bad idea as the one diminishes the impact of the other. Either have Pig Men or Dalek Humans, not both.

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And while we’re on the subject, why don’t the Pig Men speak? Even the bloody Ogrons spoke! Silent enemies in Doctor Who are nearly always a bad idea and the fact that all the Pig Men can do is grunt and squeak, like genuine pigs do, only serves to make them a bit silly. If we can’t hear them saying anything, they can’t interact with the Doctor and their only story purpose is therefore to provide some striking visual imagery. They do that all right, but for the wrong reasons.

Their appearance is a bit rubbish, as Pig Men in overalls is a bit silly and not at all Animal Farm. They look a bit scary I suppose, when lit correctly but imagine how much more menace they could have had if they had been able to speak. Think back to that scene in the sewers where they first meet one of the Pig Men. Now re-imagine that scene with the Pig Man talking! How much better is that scene now!

The fact that they don’t talk also robs the story of the potential for a conflict between the Pig Men and the Daleks if the Pig Men resent the Dalek Humans taking their place. Yes, I know the story is meant to be about evolution and change & adaptation but that’s exactly what’s wrong with it. Bidmead tried taking scientific principles as a basis for Doctor Who back in JNT’s day and we all know how well that turned out. Social development, a growing awareness of your place in society and the worth that society places on you as a result, is a story thread with far more dramatic potential these episodes never even consider, let alone attempt to explore.

evolution of the daleks by Adrian Salmon DWM 460In a story over-stuffed with examples of characters undergoing physical change, the only ones who go on some sort of emotional journey are Tallulah and Laszlo. It was the Laszlo subplot that was the real bugbear from me with these episodes. The poor bloke’s been turned into a pig-man, so having a subplot whose resolution isn’t him sacrificing himself to save Tallulah – tree ells anan aitch – but having him live out his days as The Pig Man Of Central Park is just nuts. That’s what made this edit so frustrating to do. There was no way to excise him from the story completely, so this turned out to be another one of those frustrating edits where things you wanted rid of stayed, just cut back to the bare minimum. As for what happens to him once the story is over, we leave that off-screen on the assumption that he simply snuffs it soon afterwards.

Having come back to the edit and managed to complete it, I had the idea of doing trying to do something a bit different with it. We all know that Terry Nation’s proposed Dalek series never got made and so I thought why not edit this as if it was an episode of The Daleks instead of an episode of Doctor Who

Both Altered Vistas’ animations and Big Finish’s audios have shown that a Dalek TV series could actually work and that idea proved to be the key to the edit. And if I was going to edit this as an episode of The Daleks, then I would need to come up with a title sequence. Knowing I would have to do that at the end gave me all the motivation I needed. Sometimes you need that extra reason to keep going during the editing process, which can sometimes be a bit of a slog, as it was with this one. Coming up with the title sequences for The Enemy of the World and The Talons of Weng-Chiang, to name but two, was as satisfying to do as the edits themselves. I really fancied the idea of doing something different to the usual Series 3 opening credits for this one, and doing something different is what fan editing is all about!

daleks big finish destroyersThe first thing I did was to use the theme music from Big Finish’s release of The Destroyers which seemed appropriate, and then it was a case of trying to think of something that could be a bit like a Sixties ITC type title sequence. To that end I spent a bit of time looking at the opening titles of lots of old ITC shows such as Man In A Suitcase, Randall & Hopkirk etc and then tried to come up with something that evoked that, whilst still being reminiscent of the “proper” title sequences.

After a fair bit of trial and error I settled on a series of Dalek silhouettes, whose origin I’m sure you’ll recognise, set against a vortex of stars. It’s a simple idea and evokes the feel of yer JNT titles whilst simultaneously having the sort of Sixties TV feel I was after. The central creative conceit was that this is the episode of The Daleks that comes between Doomsday and The Stolen Earth. I also used the Hartnell font and ran the closing credits against black for added authenticity!

Something else I did that was different was to take out Murray Gold’s music altogether. There were several reasons for this. One was simply to see what the episode was like, and how different it was, without the additional atmosphere the incidental music provides. The other was to allow my fellow fans the opportunity to add their own soundtrack to the edit. I’ve always been keen to encourage fans of my fan edits to do their own, and I think putting in your own taste in music is a good way as any to start on that journey.  I’ve been putting additional music into these edits for years – now its your turn!

As with most New Series episodes, I managed to get these down to roughly half an hour each, bringing in the 71 Edit of two of the weakest Dalek episodes for a long time at just over an hour and two minutes. I then added the new opening closing credits for the 72 Edit and then the opening credits for the 73 Edit. For the 74 Edit more of the final cuts and trims were made to the first episode since that’s where most of the padding and setup takes place, which brought the final running time down to fifty-seven minutes.


Patrick Troughton

The Space Pirates

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Having fan edited the entire Classic Series I can tell you that the general rule of thumb is that the longer it takes the Doctor to turn up in the story, the worse that story’s going to be. It’s a rule that applies, mostly to poor old Colin’s time in the role, but it also applies equally well here. After finishing The End of Time, I fancied something a bit simpler for my next project – and what could be simpler than The Space Pirates! I had already edited most of season six, so it felt like the right time to get its only incomplete story out of the way. And what better challenge than to try and make something worth listening to out of probably the most tedious Classic Who story ever? And boy do I mean tedious, in the first episode it takes a full fourteen minutes before the Doctor finally shows up and part two is just as bad. See what I mean about that “The Longer It Takes…” rule?

When I first edited this story it was on audio, since only the dire aforementioned part two survives, along with some film trims. Once I’d got my hands on it, the Doctor turned up in less than five minutes in the audio edit instead of the fourteen it took him on telly. Yes, I understand that Pat, Frazer & Padders were knackered by the time they were getting to the end of Year Six but this is a Doctor Lite story that forgets that the Doctor is still meant to be the focus of the action. It’s a lot of tedious buggering about in spaceships with a lot of equally tedious and irritating characters clogging up the screen instead of The Cosmic Hobo, Jimmy McKilty and Little Miss Cleverknickers. Yawn.

space pirates coversLike other audio Fan Edits before it, this one benefited enormously from keeping the focus on the Doctor. I mean, who needs all that bollocks with Hermack and Milo bloody Clancy, possibly the two most irritating characters in the show’s entire run. Clancy is an appallingly bad version of the Old Prospector character from countless Westerns and is more cringe-worthy than comic relief. And Hermack is far too fruity for his own good but then that`s Jack May for you. He`s the same in Adam Adamant Lives! and sounds as if he`s wandered in from a rep season of Noel Coward and Terrance Rattigan. With bad actors giving bad performances from a bad script, The Space Pirates doesn’t stand a chance, and if ever there was a story that, beyond any reasonable doubt, could be used to justify the concept of The Fan Edit then it`s gotta be this one…

It`s hard to imagine that this was written by the same man who would give us Spearhead From Space only a few months later but I guess everyone has to start somewhere, Robert Holmes included. The scripts he was asked to produce aren`t helped by the fact that the story seems purposely written to give the main cast a bit of a breather before the final epic slog that would be The War Games. So I`ve tried to keep the focus of the edit on the Doctor as much as possible, mainly because the rest of the cast are so uniformly awful!

At fifty minutes, the audio edit of the entire story is one of the shortest Edits yet for a six parter but on the plus side if you`re on a Viewing Marathon, at least with this version you can get on to Pat`s swansong a damn sight quicker!

The edit is preceded by a short intro clip from JNT, who worked on the story, taken from his Big Finish memoirs.

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space pirates episode 2When I set out on the Fan Editing Odyssey that would see me completing the entire Classic Series in just six years [!] I never had any intention of tackling the Orphan Episodes. If a story was incomplete on video then the whole thing got edited on audio instead. Then I got round to The Underwater Menace and changed my mind. Given that the Beeb had put that story out without the missing episodes as animated versions, that screwed up my plans for the video edit of that story. And so I decided to edit the two existing episodes together, as if I was tackling the middle of a complete story edit, and forget about trying to do a Loose Cannon style cut down telesnap reconstruction. Too much time and too much effort for too little reward. But it did get me thinking that it might be fun to tackle the orphan episodes after all, so why not start with the worst of them, that way things can only get better!

So. Episode Two of The Space Pirates… 

Blimey but it’s bad. The Doctor and the kids don’t turn up for ages, triggering the application of the aforementioned The Longer It Takes Rule and on those terms, this one’s a stinker. It takes about twelve and a half minutes before Hobo, Kilty & Cleverknickers get their first proper scene, and there ain’t that many more of them before we hit the cliffhanger after possibly the longest twenty-four minutes in the show’s entire history, except for maybe episode three.  On the plus side, Padders is wearing an outfit that could lead to a change of nickname from Cleverknickers to Cameltoe, and she’s put on her kinky boots from The Krotons again. Enjoy it while you can as next time out it’s jodpers and a trenchcoat.

complete second doctorIf you take a look at The Complete Second Doctor and compare the production Schedules of Pat’s last few stories, you can start to see that maybe part of the reason why this load of old cobblers is so Doctor Lite is to give the regulars a bit of a breather before the final push for the finish line. That goes some way towards explaining why The Space Pirates is the way it is, but that still doesn’t forgive how bad it is! The regulars don’t appear at all in the final episode, except on pre-filmed inserts, so they can bugger about on a rubbish tip for a fortnight for The War Games instead. 

I can’t help but think that maybe episode two wouldn’t be quite so bad if Michael Hart had done a better job of casting the thing. If you’re going to ask actors to do dodgy accents, at least make sure they can do them properly. Take General Hermack, played by the gravel-voiced Jack May. If you listen to him in his early scenes, he has a slightly Germanic accent, which he quickly gives up on and defaults to his own fruity tones for the rest of the ep. Milo Clancy is just bad beyond belief and poor old Donald Gee doesn’t exactly cover himself in glory either. 

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And the dialogue is atrocious as well, with some real stinkers like “that would be like looking for a single speck of dust at the bottom of an Argonite mine”. So nobody talks about needles in haystacks in the future then? Just what the hell are “martian missiles”? And don’t get me started on Clancy’s woeful wig or that Issigri woman wearing a plant pot on her head…! It’s also rather curious that they reused the music from The Seeds of Death, the previous story, as well as all that dodgy warbling from The Ice Warriors, which seems well out of place for a space story. All that music complicated some of the cuts but for the most part I was able to work around it, with the help of some additional cues from both of those Ice Warrior stories.

I managed to include the shot of the pirate ship leaving the beacon from the “film trims” stuff on the Lost In Time DVD, but the problem with that shot was that it was for Beacon Alpha 1 instead of Beacon Alpha 4. So stage one was to create a “4” to cover up the “1”, and then lay that over a shot of the beacon. Stage two was to make that image a PNG file, with a transparent area where the door closes. Stage three was to get the timing right so that it looks as if the door is rising up and closing. In the original the beacon recedes from the camera but getting Beacon Alpha 4 to match up with Beacon Alpha 1 was impossible. Having just put myself through 700+ frames of animation for Underworld I wanted to find a simpler solution. I found it by cutting away to the beta dart reversing, cutting back to the beacon reversing, a simple zoom out effect on the screen grab of Beacon Alpha 4, before cutting back to the pirate ship finishing its reverse and turning right. In the original we don’t actually see it zooming away but in the fan edit it does. Other than these fixes the rest of the edit was a case of cutting everything that didn’t have Pat in back to the bare minimum, and making the rest of the spaceships shift a bit quicker instead of having them crawl slowly across the screen. Thunderbirds this ain’t!

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After the opening credits, instead of going to The General and his boyfriend Ian [why else would he refer to him by his first name in a military outfit?] we go back to the beacon section where the Doctor is trapped. Splitting the scene, with the aid of a short section of “silence” from earlier in the scene to help cover the cutaway, gave me the chance to keep things on track but lose as much of the early guff as I could. In order to get to Hermack and Clancy as quickly as possible I made up a shot of the LIZ79, grabbed from the shot of it on telly on the V41’s flight deck, and with the call sign helpfully written on the side, to go before the shot of V41 that originally came after the episode caption cards. That enabled me to cut a lot of the stuff before Clancy’s ship gets boarded and he joins Hermack.

The gun Clancy shoots Jamie with is another one of those cheap BBC space guns that don’t fire a beam, so I stuck one on the close up shot as he  shoots Jamie.  After that it was a case of fixing the end credits so that they faded out to my closing version of the titles instead of running against black.

The Space Pirates is evidence that a Space Western is a bad idea. Or at least a Space Western as badly structured as this one is. Did no-one remember the proper Western they did with Hartnell a couple of years earlier, and how bad that was? As far as Space Westerns go, Frontier In Space and Colony In Space are bad enough but this is even worse. I think the real problem lies in the fact that it tries to be earnest and take things seriously, when the better approach might have been to go more for a Carry On Space Cowboy approach, given how grim the next story is going to be for the regulars and the audience. The Space Pirates is what happens when you are desperate for scripts and have to put something on screen, even if you know it’s going to be as bad as this. Luckily this version only runs for twelve minutes!

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Patrick Troughton

The Underwater Menace

Dr Who Big Finish Underwater Menace
Underwater Menace Radio Times

Underwater Menace by Ben Willsher DWM443For a story that was already notorious enough within Fandom, the shenanigans around the eventual DVD release of Dr Who And The Fish People took that notoriety to even greater heights. Like the release of The Web of Fear before it, there was no animation for the missing episodes, just a trip back in time to the days of Loose Cannon and some telesnaps & audio. Even some sort of Motion Comic, like the start of the DVD’s photo gallery, would have been better than that. But no. And so the Dr Who DVD range came to a somewhat ignominious end, with an unsatisfying release of a dreadful story that’ s only a few steps a way from Meglos in terms of sheer awfullness. I’d made plans for the fan edit of the story when the DVD was first announced on the assumption that the missing eps would be animated like The Moonbase and other stories before it. But then we got The Omnirumour Omnishambles and 90 episodes turned out to be just 9 and it was telesnaps & audio for Dr Who Goes Underground Part 3, since some bugger had nicked it. And then it all went quiet on the Fish People front… and now we know why!

Yes, The Underwater Menace is bad, but it’s not as bad as Timelash. Most of the criticism the story comes in for is either for the Fish People or poor old Joseph Furst, who gets the piss taken out of him by fandom, unjustly in my view, for his performance as Professor Zaroff, the archetypal mad scientist. Yes, the performance is OTT but that is more the fault of both the script and the director than it is Furst. Watch him in some of the other things he’s been in, like The Saint, and he’s a perfectly competent actor. in this he’s giving the performance he’s been asked to give by the Director, a performance that was then sanctioned and approved of by the Producer. And I defy even Paul “Mind Probe” Jericho to deliver a melodramatic line like “Nothing in the world can stop me now!” and get away with it.

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Very little about the story is up to scratch. Look at the costume design and the make up, they’re both atrocious, as are the sets. There’s no way you can create fish people on a Sixties BBC budget without them looking ridiculous, so why so it at all?  And why on earth do all the Atlantean men have those bushy Androgum eyebrows? And why is it just the men?

It’s as if everybody involved with the production knows it’s a clunker and can’t be arsed. There are plenty of other occasions in Doctor Who‘s history where the story is half-decent but badly realised but here you have a bad story equally badly realised, and the result is pretty disastrous. This would be quite at home as a Graham Williams story, but thankfully we’ve got Pat and not Tom sharing the screen with Zaroff.

Back when we were still waiting for the eps to come out on DVD, I thought that if the Beeb aren’t going to give us a release of the story this side of the sixtieth anniversary, then why not do one of my own? Having tracked down the unreleased and unrestored episode two on Dailymotion, I had the idea of doing a soundtrack & colourised telesnaps combo edit but then the Beeb let it be known that yes, the story would be coming out on DVD sometime soon so that put paid to that idea.

But all the hard work I did on my planned video version didn’t got to waste as, instead, I put together my own TV Comic version, which I call a Telecomic, and posted it over at Whopix. Knowing the anniversary of part four was rapidly approaching, I took the decision to edit the soundtrack CD, since an audio edit was the only real option at the time.


Both The Underwater Menace and The Ark are nothing more than TV Comic done as live action. Both stories are badly-scripted melodrama and would both work just as well as comic strips with John & Gillian, if not maybe a little better. The first two eps are got through in about half an hour, with pretty much everything in there, only tightened up and trimmed back as much as possible. My approach was to see the audio edit as a dummy run for when I finally got to tackle the eps on DVD, whenever it finally saw the light of day. Come episode three, we get out first major cut, losing the kidnapping of Zaroff. That required a slight re-ordering of the audio in order to make it work, meaning part three only lasts about eight minutes!

When it came to part four,  there was nothing for it but to stick with Ben and the Doctor, leaving Jamie & Polly out of it until we need to rejoin them. We don’t hear any more from Sean & Jacko and Damon & Thous either as it’s the Troughton v Furst finale that’s much more interesting to listen to. Ten minutes later and it’s all over. Hooray! 

The Moonbase edit was done long before The Underwater Menace and the mk1 version of that story started with the crew exiting the TARDIS onto the moon’s surface, so we could get straight into the adventure. At the time I thought ending this story with the start of the next one, where they see the moon on the scanner before we get a closing “Next Time: The Moonbase” caption, was a better way to do things. I’m a big fan of running the end of one thing into the start of another and my inner completist was happy with the original way we went from Atlantis to the Moon. But it wasn’t to be and so I had to go back to the original and keep the cliffhanger. 

download underwater menaceUNDERWATER MENACE CD REAR


underwater menace itunesThe mysteriously scheduled then pulled DVD release, and the fact that everyone involved at the time seemed to be operating under the Official Secrets Act, only added fuel to the Omnirumour fire. Why was the story scheduled for release, with a Coming Soon trailer, only for it to then vanish from the schedules? Personally, I thought the reason was that Philip Maurice thought he knew where the other two eps might be and the Beeb were holding back until they knew for sure. Then they’d put it out in a Box Set with Enemy of the World and Web of Fear, complete with all the VAM for those two stories missing from the original vanilla releases. Which just goes to show you how wrong you can be…

Of course, now we know that the real reason we had to wait the best part of four years from Episode 2 being rediscovered to the DVD being released was that the Beeb wouldn’t stump up the grotzits to do the animation, the miserable lot. That in turn meant that my original plans for the video edit were out the window, with the result that this was going to be something of a patchwork edit.

When it came to editing the story for video, the first problem I had was how to tackle the missing episodes that bookend the story. A while back I’d had a bash at the start of The Power of the Daleks and did some rudimentary animation to cover the missing sections and, while it wasn’t ideal, it worked well enough for me to be happy with it. And being happy with your work is half of what being a creative is all about. If there isn’t a satisfying end result, then it gets binned and you either start all over again or move onto something else. Of course, if the episodes had been animated, as we all expected they would be, then there would have been no problem.

My thinking originally had been to start with telesnaps for part one, move to video via the first of the two Australian Censor clips from the Lost In Time box set for parts two and three, then back to telesnaps for part four and the second LiT clip for Zaroff’s demise, before finishing off with the animated opening of The Moonbase. But the Beeb screwed me over on that one by not animating the missing episodes of The Underwater Menace, meaning I would have to redo The Moonbase and reinsert the original opening.

Underwater Menace by Ben Willsher DWM493When it came to trying to cover the missing material for episodes One and Four, I would have liked to put together some sort of cut-down recon in the same way that the Beeb did for Marco Polo and Galaxy 4, both of which are little more than “official” fan edits anyway. But with just the Telesnaps and the narration from the CD release of the TV Soundtrack to work with for this one, try as I might, I just couldn’t come up with a shortened version of those eps that I was happy with. If that disappoints you, then remember I work solo on these edits, there’s not a whole team of us collaborating on them, and the pain has to be worth the gain. For this story it simply wasn’t. In the end I settled for editing the middle two episodes together as if they were part of a full-length version of the story. If I can find a way to edit the missing episodes, perhaps as some kind of motion comic, like the Beeb did for Death Comes To Time, then I’ll revisit them. But that’s another project for another day!

I approached the two middle episodes in just the same way I would if I had been editing all four. You can’t really lose the sacrifice in the temple so all the references to it get left in. And on audio I was able to cut the kidnapping of Zaroff but on video it had to stay. Both eps run about 15m each which leads me to believe that the whole thing would run about an hour.

There are only two surviving clips from the missing episodes and I decided to utilise the clip from episode one – of Polly being grabbed and forced onto the operating table – at the start of the video edit instead of the TV opening of Damon’s “one tiny jab”. Sometimes fan editing isn’t always about taking stuff out, and putting that scene in meant reordering the rest of the material in order to put something in-between the two Damon & Polly shots that we now had instead of just one as per the original. The only option was to bring forward some of the Ben & Jamie/Sean & Jacko material to plug the gap. Unfortunately the bloke who plays Jacko isn’t an actor, he’s a Bad Actor who’s clearly graduated from the same dodgy drama school as Cotton from The Mutants. Why they didn’t cast another Irish actor and have Sean & Jacko as a proper “Paddy & Murphy” double act I don’t know. Anyway, once the lads settle on their escape plan we don’t see them again until they turn up in the temple, losing all those padding scenes in the tunnels.

underwater menace dwmPart 2 ends with Thous giving Ramo & the Doctor his answer at about 16m in and here was the next problem – how to get from the end of part 2 to the start of part 3. As was the way back in the day with Sixties Who, the cliffhanger was re-enacted the following week, which sometimes results in a nasty jump cut when you try to cut the two versions together, which is exactly what happens here. In the end, the answer was to cut the final scene in the temple from towards the end of part 2 in half, that way Zaroff could turn up at the end of part 2, we cut away to the second half of the temple scene and then cut back to the start of part 3.

Part 3’s most problematic scene was Sean convincing the Fish People to go on strike. Apart from the sheer pantomime awfulness of their design, the other problem with that scene is that there are clearly some fish people who are more fishy than others. A couple of them are nothing more than peeps in leotards with a set of swimming goggles on, not looking even remotely fishy. You have to wonder why they didn’t make that look consistent. The usual reasons of time and money probably explain that one, but the problem is that the more human fish people make the more fishy fish people look even more ridiculous than they would if everyone was equally fishy! Thankfully I managed to cut that scene down in such a way as to lose the human fish people, and also ditched their underwater ballet sequence. 

The only tricky part was the transition from ep2 to ep3, which involved a bit of jiggery pokery with the sound of Zaroff’s footsteps and a cut away from the end of ep2 to Ben & Polly in the temple before returning to the start of ep 3. Apart from that it was a fairly simple edit to do, and since this is only marginally less bad than The Ark, I gave another run out to my Lost In Space version of title sequence. It’s more or less the same as the version I used on that load of old Monoids except this time I decided to use the Pat titles instead of the Hartnell ones on the original. As before the sequence features LIS-style “Starring” clips for the regulars and Furst.

About the only really notable thing about the story is that it’s here that Pat arguably starts to play the Doctor for the first time. With Zaroff being so over the top, there was no way Pat could top his performance. And so here he does the only other thing an actor can do and starts to underplay it, making his Doctor just a bit darker than he has been in his first couple of stories. Okay, so he still dresses up, but at least it’s the last time he hides behind his clobber and starts to step forward as the lead actor, a process that he completes next time out with Morris Barry in The Moonbase.

And finally, I think the best line of the entire show isn’t that oft-quoted one of Zaroff’s. No. It has to be Polly telling Damon…

POLLY FISHdownload underwater menace

Peter Capaldi

Face The Raven

FACE THE RAVEN CDSeries Nine came to a close with a trilogy of episodes – Face The Raven, Heaven Sent and Hell Bent – that I could only really envisage tackling as one epic edit. Fan editing the stories individually held no appeal for me whatsoever, so a Movie Edit was always the only option. That presented certain challenges as none of them lead directly into each other but, given the circumstances of Clara’s departure in Hell Bent, the only realistic option was to start with the pre-credits section of that episode and then race through Face The Raven and Heaven Sent to get back to the diner as quickly as possible.

Since I was inspired to start editing once the finale was over, I started work from the TX versions, which I downloaded from the usual sources on the net and worked from those instead of waiting for the DVD Box Set.

Face The Raven

Stuart-Manning-Face-the-Raven-posterThe first cut to this ep was to lose the scenes in Riggsy’s flat and get him straight into the Tardis after his phone call, for reasons of pace. We lose the Doctor’s prompt cards, which I always felt were crass and pointless, in what was a tricky little section to cut together. We also lost all those the tedious shots of the cast wandering up and down the streets.

I initially cut the maps sequence as well but had to put it back in as it’s the only explanation of what a Trap Street is. That was typical of this ep, lots of sequences were retained that I would really rather have cut. That said going from one Tardis scene to another with nothing in between makes for an awkward jump cut so it’s probably just as well the map scene stayed. Try cutting it out yourself and see what you think. Better with? Or without?

Once we get to the Trap Street we lose the gratuitously self-indulgent and fanwank-y “Spot The Dr Who Monster” cameos, and the old bloke who gets Raven’d is no longer a Cyberman [sorry, but WTF?]. With this one there’s only so much you can cut before things stop making narrative sense but this was edited from the TX version, so it came out longer than I’d like. 

Clara’s death is a bit of a tearjerker, and it’s well handled by all concerned, with Clara’s pride, arrogance, and over-confidence proving her undoing. In some ways its a shame that the end she gets here isn’t her end at all but there is a certain inevitability about what happens as a result. As for who’s really responsible for her demise – Clara, Riggsy, Ashildir, Rassilon or the Doctor – isn’t really what’s important. What matters is that she got a brilliant leaving scene, and the closing shot of the bracelet falling to the floor led straight into the teleporter and Capaldi’s arrival in the confession dial…

Heaven Sent

Stuart Manning Heaven Sent PosterWhilst Capaldi is excellent in this ep, all we really need him to do is to solve the puzzle of where he is and get to Gallifrey so the fun can really begin. Capaldi going solo works incredibly well, making him the first solo Doctor since Tom in The Deadly Assassin.  As an idea for having a solo Doctor story it works really well and I wouldn’t mind more solo flights for Twelvy in the future – mind you, must’ve been weird for Peter at the readthrough, with him the only bugger on his side of the table!

It’s a pity that the return of Gallifrey was spoiled by the official synopsis put out by the Beeb themselves but even if it hadn’t been, the minute the Doc arrives on a planet with an orange sky, we knew exactly where he was. And was I the only one who guessed that it was the Doctor in the pre-credits before the opening credits rolled? 

It was while I was editing the opening of this ep that I thought that it would be better to use the pre-credits sequence as the closing scene of a two-part edit rather than a movie. The movie edit was going to turn out to be so long, due to the problems with cutting this back, that I concluded it would be too long and so settled reluctantly for a two part edit, utilising the closing scenes of Raven and the pre-credits of Heaven Sent as the opening of Part Two, the bulk of which would be the third episode in the Clara’s End Trilogy.

Hell Bent

Stuart Manning Hell Bent PosterIf you were a DWM reader, you would know that Clara was back in this ep, despite having died a fortnight earlier. So her appearance in the diner wasn’t quite the surprise it could have been. Quite why they chose the same diner from The Impossible Astronaut I don’t know, it all seemed a bit fanwank-y to me. But then that’s the tightrope the episode walks the entire time it’s on screen. Fan pleasing moments such as the return of the Classic Series TARDIS, nicked from An Adenture In Space And Time and painted white, were balanced against more WTF elements like the Sisterhood of Karn popping up on Gallifrey for no apparent reason. 

I can see the attraction of Maisie Williams and Jenna Coleman running off together to star in their own lesbian version of Doctor Who, but I don’t think Clara & Me is a series that is going to run and run, even if it does hold out the possibility of the intergalactic Thelma & Louise returning for the Sixtieth Anniversary.  I’m sure in time they’ll return via Big Finish if nothing else!

hell bent clara me tardis

Joining the start of this onto the end of Heaven Sent meant going from the shot of Twelvy pocketing the confession dial and looking up, at the end of Heaven Sent, then cutting to the opening shot of Gallifrey in Hell Bent with a mask over the lower half of the shot to cover up Twelvy walking away from the citadel and towards that bloody barn. In order to match the two I had to up the brightness & contrast on the Heaven Sent clip to match the Hell Bent one.

Next thing to go was the tomato soup scene, which I never got the point of. And where does granny come from anyway? There isn’t a single building for miles around the barn, so where do her and the rest of the wild west extras appear from? And why is the barn still standing when the orphanage it was attached to is long gone? Assuming it was an orphanage as the awful Listen seems to suggest.

When Twelvy spots the Riggsy graffiti TARDIS after Clara & Me have left, that gave me the idea of going right back to the start of the part two edit and adding in the shot of Riggsy finishing off his artwork and walking away from the end of Face The Raven. That helped tie the end of the edit to the beginning and was a neat way of summing up what had gone before without having to compile a “previously” recap.

But then I began to have second thoughts…

capaldi clara classic series tardis

Face The Raven was originally going to be a compilation edit of the final three episodes of Series Nine, tracking The Life And Death And Life of The Impossible Girl. Having revised that to go for a two part edit, as a result of the problems caused by the slow pacing of Heaven Sent, I realised that it was only this second episode of the trilogy that was causing me problems. If I was being compelled into formatting the edit in a way I didn’t really want to, maybe the answer was to think of another way of tackling Capaldi’s almost solo turn as the Doctor, trapped in his own confession dial.

Only he’s already given a confession dial to Ohila to give to Missy, so given that he pockets the one he was trapped in, is this the same one or a different one he gave to Ohila??? And is the Doctor really the Doctor any more or just a duplicate copy, given how many times he had to “kill” himself?  Yes it’s a very cleverly constructed episode, but when you stick it straight after Raven it slows things down far too much. If a two-parter wasn’t making me happy then maybe the only other option was to edit all three episodes as cut-downs, something I did think about but that would have been even less satisfying. In the end I came up with another, altogether neater, solution to my problem.  

Hell Bent isn’t without its pacing problems either. The opening section takes forever, and the old baldy bloke playing Rassilon, him from The Sea Devils and The Wheel In Space, only makes you long for Timothy Dalton instead. Only once he’s been got rid of do things start to get interesting, and do we really need to see that bloody barn again? And then it came to me.

The answer was to use Riggsy’ spray painting of the Tardis from the end of Face The Raven as a teaser scene at the very start, bookending the edit with the scene where all that paint falls off at the end of Hell Bent, then go from Riggsy to Twelvy arriving at the diner from the start of Hell Bent, flashback to Face The Raven and then when, Clara sticks her tits out in the street as the aforesaid raven is about to smash into her…

clara oswald tits

cut straight to the Doctor’s rescue from Hell Bent, and avoid Heaven Sent altogether! 

It was such an obvious and elegant solution to my problem that I wondered why it took me so long to think of it. 

In the TV version of Hell Bent, the minute we see Clara in the diner we know that she didn’t really die a fortnight earlier and the question then is how did the Doctor rescue her and why doesn’t he recognise her? In this version the question is why doesn’t the Doctor know who Clara is? As well as why are they in the diner from The Impossible Astronaut!  We don’t really need to know what happened to the Doctor between Clara dying and his rescue attempt, and this way it’s as much of a mystery to us as it is to Clara. It’s a simple, neat, quick way to get from Face The Raven to Hell Bent without losing anything important along the way and I like it a lot better than any of the alternatives.

Once that was done the only thing left to do was to sort out the opening credits, which are from Face The Raven and credited to Sarah Dollard. Only this version is also written by Steven Moffat, so how to add him in? The simple answer was to redo the credits and overlay that text on top of the footage so that the new text masks out the broadcast version. But it’s only when you do that on the normal footage that you spot that the text actually moves slowly towards the viewer, giving the game away. So the only way around it was to loop that bit of the titles before the Tardis arrives and  then time it so that the sequence cuts to the episode before the text starts to move forward. And the it was just a case of crediting both directors at the end and Face The Raven 2016 was done!