Category Archives: opinion

Help Atlantis Rise! Saving The Underwater Menace!

A few days ago I came across a post online regarding the status of The Underwater Menace on DVD. BBC WW seem to have no plans to release The Underwater Menace any time soon. Fans are up in arms with the delay and want reassurance that the story will be physically available at some point. Enter Chris McAleer. He has started a petition on change.org to get the story released. I asked Chris a few questions about the whole thing.

Why did you start this petition Chris?

I started the petition because, at present, it’s incredibly unclear as to whether BBC Worldwide still intend to release The Underwater Menace on DVD. Since its announcement, it’s previously at least held a place in the DVD release schedule – even if only an intended year of release – but as far as I’ve seen, this is the first time it’s been removed from the schedules altogether. This was a potentially worrying development as it leaves no clear indication of when or if the title is planned to release. Additionally, there were suggestions that the viability of the release itself was being looked into, and with the rest of the classic Doctor Who range complete there seemed a very real danger that this release could slip through the cracks and never see the light of day. So I thought it would be useful to try to organise a way to demonstrate to BBC Worldwide the release is indeed viable, and that there is still support from fans for a DVD release of The Underwater Menace!

The decision to remove The Underwater Menace from the schedule was revealed in an email from the BBC DVD enquiry line. What led you to email them in the first place?

The DVD release of The Underwater Menace already has a history of delays. The plan to give it a standalone release with animation for the first and final episodes was originally announced in 2013, and at the time fans seemed hopeful for an early 2014 release date. It was later confirmed for a 2014 release by the BBC and even advertised on the DVD release of The Moonbase – however, subsequently no firm release date was forthcoming. The Restoration Team made it clear that work on restoration of the existing episodes had been all but completed, and that all DVD extras had been produced and were just waiting for delivery. I saw a lot of uncertainty amongst fans as to what was happening with the release, so I decided to e-mail the BBC DVD enquiry line to see if I could get some answers. At the time, the official word was that the release was still planned and was under active development.

2014 passed without any sign of the release, barring a statement given to Doctor Who Magazine in December that the release had been pushed back to 2015, and that it was still planned to animate the two missing episodes. However, with no more word since then I’d started to see a lot of uncertainty amongst fans, including frequent queries as to whether the release had been cancelled outright. For this reason, I decided to e-mail the enquiry line again for an updated statement. Given that only two months previously BBC Worldwide had stated their commitment to the release, I was incredibly surprised to hear that the DVD had been removed from the release schedule, and that the viability of the release itself was being worked on.

What do you hope to accomplish with your online petition?

My hopes for the petition are two-fold: to demonstrate to BBC Worldwide that there is definitely a market for this release, and hopefully to get a firm confirmation that they still intend to release it. Although work on the existing episodes and DVD extras is all-but-complete, there’s no indication that work has progressed on any animation or reconstruction for the missing episodes 1 and 4, so whatever form they would take, time would of course need to be spent on these prior to any release. But as far as I’m concerned this isn’t a “we want it now” situation – all we want is for BBC Worldwide to confirm that they will definitely issue The Underwater Menace on DVD and are not cancelling the previously-advertised release.

How many signatures are you hoping to get?

To be honest, as many as possible! Our current goal is 1,000 signatures, and I think it’s really important for us to break that four-figure barrier in order for BBC Worldwide to take the petition seriously. But beyond that, the more the merrier – the higher the number of signatories, the better it illustrates that there’s market demand for the release.

Why is it so important for the BBC to release The Underwater Menace on DVD?

There are many reasons this DVD’s release is important for Doctor Who fans. The most obvious reason is it would give fans he chance to own Episode 2, recovered in 2011 and still unreleased officially. It’s the earliest surviving episode featuring Troughton’s Doctor, and offers the only visual glimpse of the slightly-different take on the character from his first three serials, where he was a little more prone to clownishness, and had a pronounced love of both hats and disguises, all of which pretty much disappear as of The Moonbase.

Also, while I’m aware The Underwater Menace doesn’t exactly have a stellar reputation among fans, in my opinion if people are content to let Episode 2 slip through the cracks and remain unreleased it could set a precedent for future releases. Hunts are still ongoing for further missing episodes, and there’s always the potential for more finds to come to light. So if you’re someone who isn’t that bothered just because it’s The Underwater Menace, ask yourself – would you feel the same if the unreleased episode was one orphaned from Marco Polo, The Power of the Daleks or one of the other better-regarded missing serials? Another reason it’s important is that the Restoration Team have already completed work on restoring the episodes and creating DVD extras, and DVD is definitely the best format on which to enjoy the full fruits of their labours. If, for example, it was decided to shelve the DVD and release the story as a digital download, comparing the iTunes release of The Enemy of the World to the DVD shows that the full extent of their restoration work isn’t done justice through the digital release, thanks to a combination of lower resolution visuals and a non-interlaced format, the latter of which destroys the effect of their VidFIRE process for restoring the fluid motion of scenes originally shot in studio. Finally, BBC Worldwide have actively advertised the DVD release of The Underwater Menace on the DVD of the following serial, The Moonbase – since they’ve advertised the product, I feel it’s only fair that they deliver it to market.

Who are you hoping will sign this petition, just fans of the 2nd Doctor?

Not at all! Fans of Patrick Troughton’s Doctor will of course have a great interest in this release, not least because it would be the first official release of his earliest surviving episode in the role. However, they’re by no means the only group that this petition is meant for – anybody with an interest is encouraged to show their support! Any fans of Doctor Who are more than welcome, as are fans of sci-fi, of archive TV in general, or anyone else for that matter! The more people who show their support, the better we’ll demonstrate to BBC Worldwide that the release of this DVD is still viable for them.

Besides signing the petition, what other ways can people let BBC WW know they want to see Underwater Menace on DVD?

It’s very important that, as well as signing the petition, people also take the time to send a direct message to BBC Worldwide, if possible, expressing their interest in this release. Although the petition is a great way of showing support in numbers, it’s less likely to be noticed right away by BBC Worldwide. However, through my contact with the DVD Enquiry line I’ve been informed that the number of direct enquiries they receive regarding specific titles are periodically passed on to the relevant departments; so the more individual enquiries they receive regarding The Underwater Menace, the more of a potential market they’ll see for its release.

With this in mind, I’d strongly suggest that anyone who signs the petition also sends a message to BBC Worldwide in one or more of the following ways:

  • Send a polite letter expressing your interest to the following address: BBC Worldwide 33 Foley Street London W1W 7TL UK
  • Send a tweet to @bbcwpress and @classicdw stating your support for the release, including the hashtag #SaveTheFishPeople

If fans who sign the petition also take the time to directly messaging BBC Worldwide in this manner, I’ve no doubt the voices of fans who want to see this DVD released will be heard!

Thanks Chris for the interview and good luck with the petition. If you haven’t signed it yet, you can head over to change.org  and do so right now.

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Capaldi Marco Polo Introduction Debunked?

For the last little while there has been this rumour going around that Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman have recorded an intro for the missing story Marco Polo.

The scene features the pair of them in front of a blackboard full of writing (now released as a promotional shot, though at the time of the rumour it hadn’t been publicly released) with both in character, the Doctor explaining to Clara and the audience about who Marco Polo was. The idea behind it being that an introduction featuring the Doctor might entice new series and younger viewers to purchase the story.

Then the rumour exploded with more details, Tennant and Smith had recorded intros together and separately, Dan Starkey had recorded an intro as Strax. A couple hours later those with sources back tracked on their info and said it was all for the new series. Well, most of it. The consensus remained that an intro for Marco had been recorded.

Fast forward to today. The BBC announces their new Doctor Who: Extra companion programme. Apparently the show will

“take a quick dip into the archive for every edition, reflecting on how Doctor Who’s history is echoed in this current series.”

And I immediately thought that this would be the perfect explanation for the blackboard and whatever scene was recorded. Maybe something in the new series will tie into Marco? It makes more sense to me than it being an intro to a previously missing story. I guess only time will tell though. Stay tuned, we only have to wait 12 weeks to know if that ‘Marco intro’ was for one of this Extra segments.

Interview With Stuart Milne

Did you know that Stuart Milne reviews stuff? If you’ve ever been to his blog (appropriately titled Stuart Reviews Stuff) you would indeed have known that. Recently Stuart collected all of his Doctor Who reviews from the entire classic era and put them out as an e-book. I had a chance to talk to the opinionated man about his book and Doctor Who.

Troughton Is My Doctor: Your blog Stuart Reviews Stuff has been around for a few years now, how did you get started reviewing stuff?

Stuart Milne: At the end of each year, you always see these “Best of” review type articles and TV shows. I found that when I looked back on the movies I’d been to at the end of the year, I’d draw a blank on the ones I saw between about January and March. So I decided to start writing down my reviews of the movies I’d been to based on that. Initially it was just something to share with my friends as we tend to have wildly differing ideas on what makes a good film. But one day after I wrote an article on the Doctor Who audio, The Holy Terror, I noticed my readership suddenly spiked, and since I was about to start watching Doctor Who from the start again, it seemed like an fun thing to do. People were interested in reading my thoughts on it, and I was happy to share those thoughts.

TIMD: And that naturally culminated in an e-book collecting all your Doctor Who reviews…

SM: Absolutely. I knew from quite early on that an ebook would be my ultimate goal. It’s not that I wanted to make a load of money from them – if I had then I wouldn’t have put them up on the blog as I wrote them – but I just thought it’d be a nice achievement to look back on. I’m proud of it.

TIMD: What’s your favourite Doctor Who story?

SM: Now that would be telling. I have my own rankings of all the Doctor Who stories that will be released in my second book.

TIMD:  Fair enough, but let me ask you this, was your favourite story also your favourite to review? Or did you have another review (even though it might not be your favourite story) become your favourite to write?

SM: A large part of the reason for me wanting to actually review Doctor Who was that I felt certain stories have been badly maligned by the received wisdom of fandom. The likes of the Keys of Marinus, Revenge of the Cybermen and The Underwater Menace all get rough treatment from fans of the show, mainly because it’s the done thing to be critical of them. The biggest example of that for me was The Gunfighters, which is a story I absolutely adore.

TIMD: Well we agree about that, I think The Gunfighters is a riot!

SM:  When I got round to reviewing that, my aim was to show how ridiculous fan views of it were. At the time, I found reviews of it on Amazon that said stuff like “I enjoyed watching this, but I know it’s a bad story so I’ll give it 2 stars”. That doesn’t even begin to make sense. So I feel I got my love of the story across, and what’s more, the nature of that review shaped the format for all the other ones I’d write in the future.

TIMD: Do you have a favourite Doctor or era in the shows history?

SM: Again, I don’t want to give much away in terms of my overall rankings of the stories, but here are some statistics for you…In the 1960s, there were 50 stories. Of those 50, only 4 rank in the Bottom #50 of my rankings, with 18 featuring in my Top #50. Compare that to the 1980s, which conveniently also had 50 stories in it. Of those 50, a massive 20 feature in the Bottom #50 and a paltry 3 feature in the Top #50.

So I think it’s clear that the 60s was a better time for the show than the 80s.

TIMD: On your website you review of Enemy Of The World and Web Of Fear after seeing the newly recovered episodes and compare your new opinion to what you thought before, going on just the reconstructions and surviving episodes. How awesome was it to really see those stories for the first time?

SM: It was fantastic. Literally, it was a dream come true. I remember loading up the trailer of the Web of Fear and just thinking “This is a….mazing” when the “new” footage appeared. I’ve been holding out hope for missing episodes to be returned since I was about 6 years old in the 1980s, when I read about the missing stories in the 25th Anniversary book. These are exciting times to be a Doctor Who fan.

TIMD: How do you think future recoveries will impact the opinions we have of missing stories?

SM: It depends on the story, I suppose. If there’s a lot of existing footage/pictures from the story, then that won’t have as much of an impact as one where the footage doesn’t exist. Web of Fear is a great example of that. We knew most of the sets from Episode One, and a lot of the story was just the characters talking in those same sets. So I don’t think many people’s opinions were changed. It would be the same if episodes of The Moonbase, The Invasion, The Crusade or the Reign of Terror showed up.

Enemy of the World was a completely different situation though. We only had the sets from Episode 3 to go on, so everything about the other five episodes felt new, fresh and interesting. And moreover, scenes like Salamander smoking his cigar and going down to the bunker were completely lost to any reconstruction.

TIMD: What about one story that, if seen in full, would change fandom’s opinion of it for the worse? One for the better?

SM: I think people assume Fury from the Deep is a better story than it actually is. People talk about it like it’s one of the all time classics, but I wonder whether they’ve actually watched the reconstruction. For me, it seems as though it’s six episodes of people having a conversation at a gas plant. And – and I could be wrong about this – the most iconic moments still exist in the form of the censor cuts.

Similarly, I’ve never understood why fandom desires the return of the Tenth Planet episode 4. The only bit that matters still exists. The other 23 minutes are just an extension of a boring story.

As for one for the better, I think that there are some stories that fly under the radar with people being indifferent to them because they’ve got nothing to go on. I reckon stories like The Savages, The Smugglers, The Highlanders and The Myth Makers would be held in higher regard if they were to be seen in full.

TIMD: Is there a story that you would like to see more than all the rest?

SM: It’s got to be either the Myth Makers or Marco Polo for me.

TIMD: This is book one, covering the entire classic era, but you another book planned…

SM: Absolutely. In Book Two, I deal with the Modern Era of the show, from the Christopher Eccleston Era onwards. Like I said earlier, that book is the one that ranks all the stories from worst to best, so anyone who had read any of my reviews should buy that one.

TIMD: When can we expect that to be released?

SM: Well in theory, I could release that tomorrow if I wanted to, but seeing as we’re under a week away from the Peter Capaldi season beginning, I might well hold off until that has finished and include his stories in the book and the rankings too.

TIMD: So what do you think of Capaldi?

SM: I’ve not seen any of his episodes yet, even though I know there have been leaks. Call me a traditionalist, but I’d rather watch it on TV in its proper intended quality than watch dodgy screeners.  But without having seen him, I’m still very excited about it. Capaldi is great in everything he’s appeared in, and I’d like to think Doctor Who will be no exception.

TIMD: Where can fans find your e-book?

SM: You can find my book over on Amazon. I hope you enjoy it, even if you don’t agree with my thoughts on your own favourite story.

Thanks Stuart for taking the time to talk to us, and good luck. Can’t wait to hear what he thinks of Series 8! If you want to stay in touch with all things Stuart Milne, you can follow him on twitter @SGMilne , check out his blog and don’t forget about that book!

Planet 55 Never Started UWM Animation?

The Underwater Menace seems to be the lynch pin in the entire omnirumour and that’s why information surrounding the animating of the missing episodes is such a big deal. Well, hold on to your hat because Planet 55, the studio thought to be animating episodes 1 and 4 has recently released a statement on their Facebook page.

There have been many queries about Planet 55 Studios’s work on ‘Doctor Who’ and whether we are doing any more. To date, Planet 55 Studios has completed work on three ‘Doctor Who’ animated reconstructions for BBC Worldwide’s DVD range: “The Reign of Terror”, “The Tenth Planet” and most recently “The Moonbase”. We really enjoyed creating those but they are the only ‘Doctor Who’ stories Planet 55 Studios have worked on and there are no plans to work on any more. At the moment the company is focused on animation projects completely unconnected to ‘Doctor Who’.

So there you go. But it does raise a few other questions. Were they never commissioned to do UWM in the first place? This would go against everything that we had been hearing for the past 7 or 8 months. Why then did they wait this long before making a statement regarding the UWM animation? Why not put us out of our misery months ago? There are still plenty of ways you could parse that statement, but to me I find it pretty unambiguous.  Throw in here that we have a fairly recent Doctor Who Magazine article stating that UWM would be out later this year. What then? Recons? That has been suggested over the past couple of weeks, but there is still no evidence of a UWM dvd with recons on the horizon.

So for now it seems like the Underwater Menace remains in limbo, with episode 2 being the only episode of Doctor Who still awaiting a dvd release. How much longer will the fans have to wait?

PHIL MORRIS Q&A ON THE FACEBOOK PAGE

Fans who have been following the missing episode saga are in for a treat tonight. Phil Morris himself has offered to do a question and answer session on the Doctor Who Missing Episodes Discussion Group page on Facebook.

They set up a thread to take some questions for Phil in advance of tonight’s event. Unfortunately, the deadline for questions was earlier this morning (blasted different time zones) and they are already done with that process. Not that it really matters. Honestly, there’s only a few questions most of fandom are breathlessly anticipating. The Q&A is set for 9pm UK time, 4PM my local time. Be sure to be on the facebook page all day for updates in case the start time changes. If you haven’t joined yet, seriously, what are you waiting for?

UPDATE: as an administrator for the Facebook group, I have been asked to moderate the  debate. I am honoured and can’t wait for the action to begin!

Missing Episodes Update July- UPDATE

I will preface this by saying that I don’t have any sources, I only know what has been reported on the forums and to me in private.

July 17th is a day to mark on your calendar. Will there be a reveal of some sort then? Well… maybe, probably not, but maybe. In case you didn’t know, that’s the day the BFI are announcing the details of their Sci Fi season. The season will take place from October 2nd until January 2015.

From the BFI’s website:

Expect incredible one-off events, extra-special guests and a unique BFI perspective on the genre with screenings of key sci-fi films including Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Alien (1979), Planet of the Apes (1968) and the eerily prophetic British classic The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961).

Nothing in there about Doctor Who, yet. The current rumours flying around are suggesting that perhaps the BBC will announce some of the non TIEA finds at that event, topping the speculated list so far are Power Of The Daleks and The Tenth Planet episode 4. Now, this would directly contradict previous reports that Power is slated to be one of the last releases.

There are two great things about this rumour. One, it won’t be long before we find out. July 17th is just a week and a bit away, so there isn’t going to be a prolonged and excruciating wait. Having said that, there’s always the possibility that they release the schedule with some blank spots for events To Be Determined that will have us salivating and speculating until Christmas. Two, even if there is no Doctor Who connection here, as a fan of one vintage science fiction show, surely there will  be something else scheduled by the BFI to capture our interest. So, either way, I am looking forward to July 17th!

On a side note, if you have fallen off the omnirumour bandwagon over the past few months (ever since nothing happened at Easter) now might be a good time to start diving into the forums again. It seems like things are heating up again and people are getting excited once more. Maybe, just maybe, we’re nearing the end. Just an opinion.

UPDATE:

Well, the day has come and gone with nothing ME related, though I hear there is going to be a screening of Peter Cushing’s Dalek Invasion Of Earth movie. But, omnibelievers, don’t get disheartened. The BFI’s sci fi season hasn’t even started yet, not until October, so there is plenty of time for something to happen.

How much Doctor Who are we getting this year?

Series eight of Doctor Who is almost upon us, and we’ll soon get to find out if Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor is a good man.

The BBC, as usual, are being very secretive about anything but guest stars and writers, with info slowly being drip-fed in anticipation of a big launch in August. One thing that remains shrouded in mystery, however, is the actual number of episodes we’ll be seeing this year.

Since 2005, the norm has traditionally been fourteen a year, albeit sometimes split into two shorter runs across the year. In series seven the usual fourteen episodes were joined by two more specials, but split across two years.

Back in October Steven Moffat stated that there would be “at least thirteen episodes” this year. However, it’s unknown whether this includes a Christmas Special or not.

When details of Matt Smith’s exit were leaked early by e-mail last year, the number of episodes for this year was stated as a slightly reduced twelve.

Another interesting factor is the announcement of ‘feature length’ opener Deep Breath. Feature length can mean something the length of The Day of The Doctor (75 minutes), but it could mean longer, perhaps a double-length episode to act as a big tentpole intro for Capaldi?

What is known, is that filming on the two-part finale is underway, bringing the total filmed for this year to eleven. It could be just secrecy, as the production team are playing it closer to their chests this year, particularly after some of last year’s problems with leaks, but, if you pick through what we have been told, no mention has actually been made of any further episodes yet to film. A lot of the round-ups going round at the moment online are more fan supposition based on filming photos and scant information, than cold fact. The truth is, there’s nothing firm been said.

There could be an episode or more yet to go before the cameras, from earlier in the series. Some round-ups suggest an episode ten, written and directed by TBA and TBA. If there is, we know nothing about it; who is writing, directing, who is in it…….it could be a Neil Cross episode that’s been mooted, or, less likely, a Neil Gaiman one. Or one by Frank Cottrell Boyce. If all three, then there’s your fourteen, and that’s presumably not including any Christmas special, as Moffat writes those….

Anyway, before I get carried away, until we hear it from the production team, it’s just conjecture.

So, if there is , say, one other episode to come, that makes twelve.

If a Christmas Special is to follow, then we’re up to thirteen. Does Deep Breath‘s ‘feature length’ status, mean that we will get the same run-time as fourteen episodes spread over thirteen?

Some fans argue that if there is a shorter run, we might see a leaner, more focused series. I’m on the fence about the benefits of that, but it’s also possible that we might have a season the same length as usual, but in a different format.

Whatever happens, it’s going to be exciting finding out. Who keeps count when you’re having fun, anyway?

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