An Unearthly Child, The Audio Edit

The genesis of this fan edit was rooted in two things. One was the upcoming release of the first set of Doctor Bradley audios from Big Finish, the other was the desire to conduct an experiment…

I’d already done several Soundtrack + Audiobook edits but what I’d found was that the biggest problem was always getting from one to the other. Usually the music would get in the way of a smooth transition or there would be sound effects that I had to add to cover the joins. By the time I’d done the latest one, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, which required multiple loops of background sounds to make the whole thing seem seamlessly whole, I’d decided that I’d had enough of all the hard work they required and would, in all probability, undertake no more of them. But then I had an idea…

As an actor who had started out doing voice work such as radio commercials, why didn’t I just record the narration myself? That way I could have the bits I wanted without having to plough through the entire sound file looking for only the bits my cut down version of the story required. And so I set to work on the one Narrated Soundtrack Audiobook I really wanted to tackle as a test case to see if it would work any better than what I had been doing previously.

An Unearthly Child, the story where it all began, was announced as an upcoming audiobook years ago. A new version by Nigel Robinson and not the Terrance Dicks original, and read by William Russell, it was scheduled for release in February 2015. But then it was pulled and still hasn’t seen the light of day nearly three years later. Not that Russell & Robinson were  complaining as they’d already been paid…

No doubt part of the reason the audiobook was pulled was the legal shennanigans instigated by Anthony Coburn’s son attempting to claim joint ownership of the TARDIS long after the event. The release was doubtless shelved as part of his disputed claim over his late father’s work. It remains unreleased to this day and will probably stay that way until Stef Coburn realises he’s on a hiding to nothing and there ain’t gonna be no grotzits from Auntie any time soon.

And so I set about recording Terrance Dicks’ novelisation myself. The first thing to do was to identify which bits of the book I needed and which I didn’t. I then recorded those sections I’d identified, trying not to make the recording too clean so it would match up with the background hiss of the 1963 tv soundtrack. Luckily my old PC is quite noisy and the recording managed to pick it up. As a result the two sound sources matched pretty well, meaning the transition from one to the other would be more or less seamless. Result!

This Narrated Soundtrack edit follows the video fan edit of the story by cutting out the “Captured, Escape, Captured, Escape” story loop that pads out the third episode. Editing all of the story as one file wasn’t really an option, I always wanted to do an episodic edit. And so the story comes in three parts, with the first part being the An Unearthly Child episode itself, with parts two and three being abridged versions of the next three episodes, The Forest of Fear, The Cave of Skulls and The Firemaker. By cutting out the Story Loop, I was only really left with enough material for two more episodes, so part two, The Cave of Skulls is the bulk of the material from eps 2 and 3, while part three, The Firemaker, is the bulk of the material from the second half of that final episode.  

Having made the recordings, I then exported the narration as one file and the soundtrack as another. Having them as two files initially meant I could do some fine tuning in terms of audio levels before mixing them down to a single file for export.

There’s a slightly amended prologue concerning the policeman who visits the yard at the start of the edit, where I took the opportunity to include a few fanboy references of my own not in the original. See if you can spot them without reading along with the PDF of the Target book! Having done that the next thing to do was the opening music.

I was keen to use the “pilot” version with the thunderclap at the start but I still felt it lacked impact when listened to on its own without the accompanying visuals of the tv title sequence. So I utilised some of the individual theme elements to beef up the opening until I’d got something I was happy with. They were, in order, Scream(Full), Scream(Bubble) and Isolated Spangles(Experimental) if you’re curious.

The next thing to do was to add some reverb to the flashbacks to Susan while Ian and Barbara are in the car waiting for her to arrive. On audio only and without the video this bit of the soundtrack sounded a bit odd. That’s because there’s no aural indication that you’re moving from the conversation Ian & Barbara are having to a flashback. On the telly we get a crossfade but how do you let the listener know it’s flashback time on audio? The answer was to add some reverb so the audience knows they’re listening to their memory of the previous encounters with Susan they relate to each other.

The only really tricky bit was inserting a few loops of background noise when the episode moves inside the TARDIS. Luckily the end of AUC, after the Ship has landed, had a clean section of the interior hum that I could use to patch those sections in the edit where we move from Soundtrack to Narration and back again. Using the sound effect from the episode had the advantage of having the the soundtrack’s original “hiss” present, thus helping patch the transitions more effectively than a clean CD-sourced effect could. Some of the material gets shuffled around to make the edit work a bit better, and to lose Ian’s electrocution, and there are a few minor cuts. Next, it’s three episodes of Dr Who Meets Captain Caveman

Having completed the initial edit of all three eps, I uploaded the first one, only to discover to my horror that some editing errors had slipped through. As I’ve said before, you MUST check your edits by listening/watching all the way through before making them public. Clearly I either didn’t follow my own rule, or wasn’t paying enough attention when I did. Having deleted the error-filled file, I set about correcting my mistakes and took the opportunity to tighten the pace a bit more and tidy things up.

I also hit on the idea of using some music to give the edits a bit more atmosphere. Since this was a faux BBC Audiobook type edit, and the real thing would have Simon Power all over it, I settled on using some Geoffrey Burgon cues as they were as close to the originals of Norman Kay as I could get. Finally I added a free sound effect of a needle at the start of an LP to give you the idea that you’re listening to one of those Sixties Mini LPs…


5 thoughts on “An Unearthly Child, The Audio Edit

    • Just tried them and they work for me… if the problem persists let me know and I’ll move them to Mega instead

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