Death To The Daleks

Doctor Who Big Finish Death Daleks

This edit was initially made last year from the the VHS as the story wasn`t out on DVD at the time. Death To The Daleks was one of those stories that I really wanted to tackle and, judging from the votes it got in the first site poll, other people wanted to see it too. I remembered the story clearly from my childhood, particularly the cliffhanger to part two, but the other memorable thing about it, and the one thing that stood out for me above everything else, was the bloody awful soundtrack.

I`m sorry but WTF was Barry Letts thinking of? Didn`t he learn his lesson with The Silurians??? I mean think about it. Mike Briant comes to him and says can he use someone other than Dudley Simpson for the music. Letts asks him who he has in mind. Briant says Carey Blyton. Letts says, oh yes I remember him, he did a fantastic job for Tim Combe on The Silurians, by all means use him again…!? And to think Briant almost got away with it again on Revenge of the Cybs a year later, until Hinchcliffe rumbled him and got Peter Howell to do some musical damage limitation…

So, much as I love Barry Letts` work on Who, the use of Carey Blyton counts as one of his few serious lapses of judgement [along with The Delaware Version]. Sorry, but I think Blyton`s music is shite for all three of his Doctor Who stories and the main reason for doing this Fan Edit was to get rid of the bloody thing!

First time round, the editing of the episodes themselves wasn`t too difficult, being the usual process of cutting down the padding and tightening up the action. The next step was to go back through the edit and cut out all the music that had no dialogue or FX. This meant I now had a soundtrack file with large chunks of silence. The advantage of this was that I could see at a glance if a music track I was thinking of using was the right length to fill the gap or not.

When the completed Fan Edit was made available for download I promised I would update the visuals when the story was released on DVD. That finally happened on Monday 18th June this year and on Friday 22nd I started work, the first task being to rip all four episodes from the DVD alongside the footage from the Studio Recording feature, just in case!

The completed initial Edit had been sat on my Hard Drive for about a year before I revisited it, which is always an interesting process – sometimes you look at the editing choices you made and know that you wouldn`t do that now. 

On the whole I was pretty happy with my original take on the story but this new one isn`t just that original VHS Edit version with the original sound and better DVD visuals, it’s a completely new edit. I had kept the original editing file, with all the original cuts and cues but in the end I decided to edit some scenes slightly differently, which meant the original music no longer fitted. This in turn necessitated using different cues in certain places so in the end starting again from scratch was the easiest option. And if I was happy with a particular section from the original, all I had to do was copy the cues across to the new edit file.

If anything I think the initial version was a bit too tightly edited so here I`ve reinstated some scenes and footage missing first time round, balanced by making some cuts to things I initially kept in. For instance, the Doctor`s escape from his captors and initial meeting with the MSC wasn`t in the original – in the latter scene you can tell the rock is polystyrene and that it`s not Jon Pertwee grappling with Galloway. But looking back at the original it did seem a bit of a jump for the Doctor to just appear at their camp so I decided to reinstate it but cut it back as much as possible.

death to the daleks coversOn the other hand I cut the business with the torch in the Tardis and all that stuff about photosynthesis and petrified life forms, purely to keep the pace moving a bit faster. An Edit is a reflection of your choices at the time you do it and, if I was to revisit this story again in a year`s time – which I can assure you I won`t! – then I`d probably make slightly different choices again.

Just to take part one as an example, all in all there`s only 44 seconds of a difference between the VHS and DVD edits of that particular episode, which isn`t bad considering they were made a year apart and both took over 40 individual cuts to get the running time down by ten minutes. And I don`t even want to think about all the work that went into the audio!

There are numerous moments in this edit that are new, compared to the previous version, such as the moment when the Daleks exit their ship. I knew it was a good idea to rip the Studio Recording feature as I was able to use it to really improve this sequence. When the Daleks exit their ship, that awful music is all over Jon`s line “Daleks!”, meaning I had to cut away quickly in the original Edit. But this scene exists on the feature with just the raw studio sound, meaning I could keep the original line in this time. You`ll also notice, right after Jon`s line that I`ve dropped in a new shot from that feature of the Daleks exiting their ship. Like losing the torch in the Tardis, it`s not necessary, it just makes things work that little bit better.

The Studio Recording footage also came in handy for fixing the scene where the Doctor says cheerio to Sarah and heads off to the city. There`s a cracker of a Discontinuity involving Bellal [noted over at Whopix!] which I used this footage to fix. The other thing to note about the footage on this feature is that the colour balance is completely different to the takes included in the finished programme, so I had to correct the new shots to match.

DEATH DALEKS CD 3 - original by Lee Binding

There’s a fix to the scene where the Doctor and Bellal have their senses assaulted by a Catherine wheel of lights…

If you look closely you can tell that the scene has been shot in a sheet of Mirrorlon as it`s clearly reversed, a fact given away by Pertwee`s hair and the ring on the hand he runs through his hair. So I flipped the shot to make it the “right” way round. I also added some motion blur to tone down the strobing effect of the lights, which I always thought was a bit much.

Because there were so many different sound cues used in this edit – at one point I had seven different audio layers – it put a real strain on my poor old single core Pentium D processor PC. As a result I edited the file in three sections, exported those as three individual files which I then combined into a single file!

In Part One, the Doctor asks Sarah to turn on the scanner and when she does we see Pertwee`s face illuminated in the light from the screen. The colour of that light is green as there`s green fog on the screen. But when the scanner circuits get drained of power, the scanner goes dark but there`s still a green glow lighting up the console!

So I`ve fixed that, using the smoke overlay from Dalek Masterplan colourised green to make a new, longer, clip to help cover the join. I then used that fog clip to match up the surface of Exxilon with what we saw on the Scanner. I made a longer loop of the initial fog clip I`d done for the scanner and then slowed that down and exported it again. I then used that file at a very low opacity for any scenes set on the planet`s surface at night, helping to make the scenes a bit more atmospheric and consistent with each other.

I also took the opportunity to colour correct the colour mismatch in Part One between the location footage and the studio sequences. When the Doctor and Sarah exit the Tardis in the studio, the scenes are tinted green but when we move to the location footage it has more of a blue tone to it. So I spent a bit of time colour correcting the location footage to make it greener, an effect that was helped along by having that new fog clip handy.

Despite these and other differences in editing choices, one thing that stays the same in this new version is the music. When I initially came to replace the soundtrack I did think of doing the obvious thing and using that Heathcliffe Blair CD – again! – But, you know what? I fancied doing something a bit different with this one. And whatever music you were to put over this instead certainly couldn`t be less atmospheric or more out of place than what was on it originally! And I knew exactly what I wanted – Keff McCulloch.

dwm death to daleks
The incongruity of a mid Seventies story with a late Eighties soundtrack really appealed to me. And you know what? It really works! And it`s still better than Carey bloody Blyton! The majority of the music is from Remembrance of the Daleks, thought there are some cues from Silver Nemesis and Battlefield in there too.

In the original music pass, the 72 Edit, I simply plugged the silences on the soundtrack and the 73 Edit was to put in music to add atmosphere to scenes – for instance, when the Exxilons attack the Dalek – where there was no music but really should have been, though I`m relieved there wasn`t! For the new version I simply copied over the original cues I`d used and dropped them in the same places in the new Edit where things were still the same. The only really tricky bit was where Bellal introduces himself to Sarah. The music continues underneath the dialogue, so since it was impossible to remove I had to find a piece of music that fitted with the end of the original cue. Not easy!

The only other sound-based issues were a bigger explosion for the destroyed Dalek and some machine gun FX for their guns, which were both a bit wimpy in the original. I also managed to mask the sound of the polystyrene rock and made up some atmosphere loops for the night sequences at the start. In the original the music simply played over silence which looking back makes it a bit too obvious the studio sound has been cut. The whole ethos of Fan Editing is that you shouldn`t be able to tell, from a technical point of view, that a cut has been made. It`s always nice to be able to find a better way of doing things than you came up with first time around, and that`s the difference an extra year`s Fan Editing experience can make!

On the whole I think I`ve got a better balance of music to soundtrack in this version than I had in the original. I think in all honesty there were pretty mixed results first time out but this version of Death To The Daleks is a great improvement on my first attempt – and as far as the music is concerned, anything`s better than the original!



5 thoughts on “Death To The Daleks

  1. This is one of my favorite Who stories, would love to see your work on it. The download button just goes to a jpg on a page that says “download”, is there any other way to view?

    • click underneath “download” on the small title screen that says “Death To The Daleks”. That will take you to Oboom where you can download that edit. Hope you like it!

  2. Damn, you did some impressive work on the soundtrack, a lot of stuff from “Remembrance”, which doesn’t always seem too out of place. I’ve always hated the original music so this will definitely be my preferred choice to watching this story! I like the new machine gun style to the Dalek weapons and the way that you sped up the “catch up sequences” in the temple actually makes the scenes more intense (side note: music cue for the temple guards is stunning!) You cut a lot of rubbish out of this story too including that bloody “Root”, which looks a cross between the old 1950s War Of The Worlds Martian heads and an old vacuum cleaner…Ah, the creativity of the 1970s! Once again, thank you for this!

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