The Power of the Daleks

doctor-who-big-finish-power-daleks
Power of the Daleks Radio Times Cover

The Power of the Daleks is probably the one story that above all others we wish had survived the infamous archive purge that made so many stories Missing Believed Wiped. Prior to 2016, although we had the telesnaps, the soundtrack and some clips, I couldn’t help but feel that if it was returned in full one day it might not be so highly regarded as it is. Not that it would matter, so long as we at least got just the first episode back.

The fact that such an important episode in the show’s history was, and still is, missing is what makes us so interested in seeing it, but I doubted there would be half as much attention paid to the story, outside of part one, if we had all six episodes on DVD.  And since we didn’t have all six episodes on DVD, back in 2012 I fan edited the Anneke Wills narrated soundtrack instead. 

Power Daleks Radio TimesAnd then Flip Maurice made his famous 2013 haul of Troughton eps, leading us all to re-evaluate our opinions of The Web of Fear and The Enemy of the World, especially the latter. Our joy at the eps being returned was tempered by the knowledge that 1] some selfish bastard had nicked episode three of TWoF before Maurice could rescue it, 2] the Beeb putting out both stories as vanilla releases with no VAM but charging us the same price, and 3] The Underwater Menace finally being released but with neither of the missing episodes animated. And speaking of animation…

As well as Tenth Planet #4 and Power of the Daleks #1 being The Ultimate Missing Episodes, part one of the latter is, without exception, the story that holds the record for the Most Attempted Reconstructions. Hell, I even had a bash at it myself. But like others before me, I soon gave up when I realised just how much work was involved, although I did manage to get Part 1 done first, running to a little over eight minutes.

And then the online rumours started about an animated version of The Power of the Daleks and a test clip surfaced on the net. A clip that was rapidly pulled from YouTube by a BBC copyright claim, lending the rumours some credibility. If it was true, and that clip certainly made it look like it was true, then all those fanmade recon attempts cluttering up YouTube would all be redundant and only of interest to future researchers in Fan Studies. As for the recent Re-Imagined version, the one with the awful and over-rated Nick Scovell as the Doctor, Whoflix didn’t like that at all and couldn’t get past the opening few minutes since it’s a complete dud in almost every respect.

And then the rumours about an animated version of all six episodes of The Power of the Daleks turned out to be true. Permission to Squee? Granted!

power-daleks-covers

And so this is a fan edit I never thought I would do. By the time this was released, every Classic Series story had already been edited, on video and audio. As far as I was concerned, my work was done and all Whoflix would have in its future would be a meander through the less successful bits of the New Series. So the news that the story was going to be released as an animation meant I could have another go at editing it, only this time working from the animation instead of just the audio.

doctor-who-complete-history-34If this had been part of a second Flip Maurice haul of other missing Troughton eps, then this would have been a very different edit, especially part one, but animation brings its own challenges and there were plenty of those with this release. The main advantage to working with animation when you’re doing a fan edit is that you can move shots around to replace ones you don’t like. I did a lot of this in the edit for The Reign of Terror and as early as episode one of this story I knew I would have to do some of that again, which ended up being doing a lot of that again…

Yes, that first episode is the most important one of the six but, in terms of animation, it’s sadly the worst of the set, with some really dodgy bits. Take the “it’s over” section for instance, along with the bit where Troughton feels his new face. They are both done in a style that’s completely different to everything else in the episodes, jarring so badly and drawing so much attention to themselves that they pull you out of the story. They remind me of Adrian Salmon in his “rough art” phase with the DWM Time Team and how they stayed in the final cut of the episode is beyond me.

power-of-the-daleks-by-stuart-manning

Then there’s the Examiner’s badge which appears and disappears at random, along with the Doctor’s shirt collar that can’t seem to make up it’s mind whether it’s too long or not and numerous other “production errors”. Clearly there wasn’t enough checking between the individual animators’ work to make sure there was a consistent look across the eps, which is a shame. But then, given the short timescale they had to put it together, it’s sad but perhaps not surprising that avoidable mistakes were made. Let’s just hope the next one, if there is one, does better in terms of quality control!

So from the off I knew that the opening installment would need more work than those that came after it but in the end it required more fixing than the rest of the story put together! It’s a real shame that the opening scene in the Tardis is so rough in places as, for us fans at least, it’s the most important part of the entire bloody thing. What a pity they botched it, as it meant more work for Whoflix, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job in doing our best to fix the worst of the avoidable errors and improve the storytelling.

Power Daleks DWM

The first thing to do was to combine all the eps into a single “movie” edit. Cutting together the conclusion of each episode with its reprise from the following one was fairly easy to do, although the first three eps were a bit tricky to cut together as the start of the following week’s episode was slightly different from the cliffhanger it was re-enacting, requiring a bit of jiggery-pokery to get from one to the other without you being able to spot the join. Doing all that reduced the running time by about fifteen minutes, giving me a movie of two and a quarter hours, a 71 edit that I then had to try and get down to something of a more watchable length. The 72 edit reduced that by a further 45m, coming out at just over an hour and a half, the equivalent of losing two whole episodes worth of padding

It would have been easy to get bogged down in all the fixes I wanted to do right at the start, but I couldn’t let the “it’s over” section go without fixing it first. To change it to something more in keeping with the rest of the animation I had to locate a section where the Doctor’s head was in a close-up that was almost the right size to lay over the terrible original. I found what I was looking for in one of the later eps and used those frames to create a new section of animation, timed to go over the original soundtrack.

power-daleks-animation-fan-edit-whoflix-1

Apart from “it’s over” the next worst bit was the fact that the animators hadn’t recreated the 8mm “remember what he said in the tracking room” clip accurately. If you look at the telesnaps, initially Polly is on the right & Ben is on the left, but when you get to the 8mm clip, Polly has moved to the left of Ben. Yet the animators left her on the right. Why didn’t they move Polly behind Ben in the earlier shot to get her in the right position? That really annoyed me. If you’re going to go to all the trouble and expense of recreating something that’s lost, the least you can do is get the bits that do exist right!

power-daleks-animation-fan-edit-whoflix-2

And so I had to create a shot from scratch where Polly does what the animators forgot to get her to do and move behind Ben so she’s in the right place. That meant finding a clean version of the Tardis wall she’s stood against so I could move her. Luckily the section where Ben says “it’s time we sorted this out” uses the same background and has him move out of shot completely, leaving a clean wall for me to screen grab. Next it was a case of isolating the figures of Ben & Polly from the background and then animating Polly myself so she moves behind Ben to get to the right place to match the 8mm footage. Why the animators couldn’t have done that I don’t know… and why don’t we see the Doctor get up off the floor and stand to his feet? There’s an existing photograph of him doing just that, so why leave that out?

power-daleks-animation-new-whoflix

Having got Polly to where she ought to be, it was time to make a start on the first of several scenes where I had to fix the annoying shirt collar that grows and shrinks. Every time the damn thing appears, for me it’s the animation equivalent of a boom microphone in shot in live action footage. Awful. Getting rid of it meant it had to be masked out using the lapel from the other side of the Doctor’s jacket in much the same way as I used to mask out Davison’s celery stick over at Whopix, and in the Five Doctors telecomic. 

Blotting out that damn shirt collar was the reason why the first two episodes took me two months to complete. The most time consuming fixes were the shots where the Doctor is moving, so I had to use a combination of cutting back that movement to the absolute minimum or using different shots to replace the ones that collar is in.

If I’d got rid of every single appearance of that collar, I would have lost the will to live and the edit would never have been finished. Instead I had to settle for getting rid of the worst of them but it’s sadly still there in a few shots where there was too much movement to justify the time and effort it would have taken to mask it out.

power-daleks-animation-fan-edit-whoflix-3

Another mistake appears when Bragen first meets the Doctor, Ben & Polly. Before Hensall suggests they get some proper clothes, they momentarily appear in their colony outfits before suddenly changing back into their own clothes. It’s easy to miss when you first watch the episode, as your brain is still coming to terms with the fact that you’re actually watching the story instead of listening to it. I never even considered trying to mask them out with a shot of them in their “proper” clothes, and like the infamous Hand of Sutekh, I simply cut the offending shot altogether.

power-of-the-daleks-animation-blooperThe costume continuity cock-up happens again in the capsule when they discover the missing third Dalek, something made even more obvious by the colourised version. Ben & Polly are in their colony outfits, then they’re in their own clothes, then they’re back in their colony outifts. It’s the same mistake as made earlier in the episode and I must be honest, it passed me by until I saw it in colour.

Of course, once I’d spotted it, I couldn’t leave it in. So, as part of the final 73 edit I took the opportunity to screengrab a full length shot of Ben & Polly from when they approach the capsule, following the Doctor, and used that to mask out their “wrong” outfits. And rather than go to all the effort of masking the background out as Pat moves across the screen I simply replaced that shot with the new static image, like so:

power-daleks-capsule-costume-blooper-corrected

I’d already completed the 72 edit by the time the colour version was released online at the BBC Store, and I never gave any thought to using that version instead of the original. Given that the project was intended and commissioned as B&W, and that it’s replacing missing B&W footage, it didn’t feel right to put together a fan edit using the the colour version. Apart from anything else, colour makes all the previously mentioned errors in the production even more obvious than they are in monochrome… 

Another annoying omission came after the initial examination of the capsule. We see Hensall & Quinn leave the room but not Bragen, so I used a shot of Bragen walking past Lesterson from part two and dropped that in so he no longer vanishes!

Since there were already plenty of inconsistencies from shot to shot in the episodes I didn’t worry too much about some of my fixes creating new ones. As an example, I changed the shots in the scene in the Doctor’s quarters where he wants to go see Hensall prior to the radio room scene in part two. Working around that annoying shirt collar involved using a reverse of the shot where the Doctor takes his hat off, even though we don’t see him put it on, and cutting the shot where he walks from in front of the wall to the middle of the room. That meant the background in the final shot of the scene, where he says he’ll radio Earth, is clearly different from the previous one but there were already plenty of instances where that happened so it didn’t bother me too much, and it was better than leaving the original intact. 

Apart from all those fixes to that bloody annoying shirt collar, and working around the Doctor’s “Examiner” badge being in one shot and not in the next, such as in the radio room scene with Bragen & Quinn, the rest of the edit involved the usual cuts and trims to scenes in order to get to the bit of the story we’re looking forward to the most: the Daleks all powered up & exterminating the colonists and Lesterson realising what a complete knucklehead he’s been and losing his marbles as a result.  

The last four episodes took just three days to edit compared to the two months it took to complete the first two, which gives you some idea of the amount of work involved in editing them. Those final eps were mostly just a case of cutting things back and changing shots around, but there was one final piece of creative editing for the sequence where the Doctor gets Quinn out of the cell. All I’ll say is that I managed to find a way to cut the sequence together so that the Doctor can get Quinn out without having to be locked up himself to do it. After that all I had to do for the final episode was to mask the Examiner’s badge to get rid of it after the Doctor & Polly are reunited with Ben, to stop it appearing and disappearing between different shots. 

All the frame by frame work that went into this fan edit was time consuming but well worth the effort in helping create what I genuinely think is a superior cut-down compilation version of the story compared to the episodic source material, with the final 73 Edit, after the usual cuts and trims to tighten things up a bit, ending up being the equivalent of four episodes instead of the original six and half an hour longer than the earlier audio edit of Anneke Wills narrated soundtrack.

Pleased as I am with the edit, given what I had to work with, my inner fanboy can’t help but be sad at the missed opportunity, at how much better this animation could have been if the Beeb had given the animators a bit more time and greater quality control. That said, the very fact that this exists at all is something to be celebrated. And the Dalek production line sequence is outstanding, no inaccurate models, no cardboard cut-outs, just loads and loads of Daleks, making it the one instance where the animation looks better than the existing footage, something that sadly can’t always be said for the rest of it.  Shame.

power-of-the-daleks-by-ben-willsher-dwm-507

So, now that we have an animated version of the missing episodes, instead of just telesnaps, the soundtrack and innumerable fanmade recons, is Power of the Daleks all it’s cracked up to be? The answer has to be a resounding yes. The animation certainly helps you visualise the story much more clearly in your head, and that headversion will always be the best one until the eps themselves turn up, if they ever do. The only other downside of the animation actually existing at all, outside of all the unforced errors, is that it makes the loss of the episodes on video all the more annoying.

And so, with this edit, Whoflix’s fan editing odyssey through the Classic Series of Doctor Who comes to an end. Again. Whether this turns out to be the final end or not remains to be seen, but I doubt I’m alone in hoping that if we do get more animations then The Evil of the Daleks is next… 

power-of-the-daleks-cd-rear

downloadpowerdaleks

 

Advertisements

One thought on “The Power of the Daleks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s