The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Power

As Doctor Who fans, we are desperate to find out the truth about the missing episodes. What were those misplaced William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton stories actually like? Were they as good as the novelisations, audio soundtracks and camera scripts make them seem, or were they even better?

Well, one way of getting a good idea is by purchasing the latest Doctor Who Magazine special, out tomorrow, which features the ‘telesnaps’ of the first six stories of Patrick Troughton’s tenure. I’ve blogged about telesnaps before; for this magazine I’ve researched ‘commentaries’ for the missing episodes of The Power of the Daleks (sadly, all of them) and The Moonbase (one and three) as well as writing little introductions for each story which hopefully will be of interest to readers both old and new.

Researching the commentaries, once again the process involved going through each scene of each episode and trying to work out what line was being spoken at the exact point each telesnap photo was taken. Sometimes straightforward, sometimes impossible, but for each photo I made my best guess, based upon the soundtrack and in particular upon the existing camera scripts. The camera scripts describe who was in each camera shot, and whether it was a close-up, mid-shot or wide, and by working through each scene (usually starting at the end and going backwards) it’s possible to narrow down the possibilities. And then I wrote the commentary based around whatever line was being said in the photograph, even if it occasionally made my life very difficult in terms of telling the story; it would be much easier to pretend different lines are being said in certain photos in order to fit the story better, but I was determined not to do that.

The problem is that while some parts of each episode have quite extensive coverage, other parts do not. There are several scenes from The Power of the Daleks which have no telesnaps taken at all, and others where the photos miss the crucial action; for instance, in the scene where a Dalek lays a power cable in Bragen’s office there isn’t a single telesnap which shows the actual Dalek. Sometimes it seems the film ran out early; for the cliff-hanger of The Moonbase part three, the last telesnap is from over a minute before the end, depriving us of shots of the Cybermen walking across the moon (though we get a good idea what those shots would be from the reprise of part four).

But by far and away the most difficult section to write a commentary for was the end of part four of The Power of the Daleks, where Lesterson sneaks into the Daleks’ space capsule and discovers that they are mass-producing. While there are plenty of telesnaps for this final sequence (despite the fact that this episode has fewer telesnaps than usual) they don’t correspond to the shots outlined in the camera script, the shots and the content diverging quite drastically once Lesterson has entered the capsule. The camera script, for instance, describes the newly-built Daleks being sprayed as they pass through an arch (which almost certainly didn’t happen in the broadcast episode) while it makes no mention of the foam-covered Dalek mutant in a glass globe that appears very prominently in several of the telesnaps; it also doesn't include any of the dialogue about Daleks being completed or them boasting about being a new race of Daleks. So clearly, when directing this sequence – a film sequence shot at Ealing Film Studios – director Christopher Barry went off-script. Unfortunately there isn’t, as far as I know, a camera script of what he did shoot available (a list of shots that were developed may exist, but that's all).

So instead I had to perform a little detective work. Fortunately in addition to the telesnaps the audio for this sequence exists, as well as three short clips which exist due to having been used in Tomorrow’s World and/or an Australian TV show called Perspective. Interesting, the clips only feature the Daleks and don’t show any of the human characters, possibly because the clips were being used to illustrate documentaries about robots/computers and possibly to avoid paying Lesterson actor Robert James a repeat fee. It’s almost as if the makers of Perspective went through the story and picked out just the scenes with Daleks in.

Previous commentaries of this sequence had just used the camera script (such as the one for the BBC audio release) but, as well as the non-existent spraying sequence and lack of mention of the mutants, it also bugged me that it was never clear quite how Lesterson could see all this through one window at once. My deductions and observations follow (note: these telesnaps are from the BBC site and are of inferior quality to those reproduced in the magazine):

Starting on page 25 of the magazine, the first three telesnaps follow the camera script reasonably closely as the first two cover a scene recorded during the studio sessions. Then:

Telesnap four – Lesterson in the capsule. Note that he is in a version of the set which will later be used as the Dalek meeting chamber at the end of the episode (this whole sequence uses sets not seen elsewhere in the story, save for very briefly in another film sequence in part six). But it’s not supposed to be the same room; there are white metal struts. However, the existing clip of the Daleks in their meeting chamber reveals the circles in the wall to be portholes.

Telesnap five – Now, this is very similar to one of the existing clips (included in the Lost in Time DVD) of two Daleks in their control room. But note that the shot is being viewed through a porthole; i.e. Lesterson is peering through one of the portholes and we’re seeing what he’s seeing.

NEW INFO: I am indebted to Simon Ayers who has pointed out that there is, in fact, a porthole in the door leading to the control room, which is visible (albeit covered) in this production photo.

So Lesterson is looking through a porthole in the door.!

After this, I suspect there was a cut back to Lesterson’s reaction, followed by the (existing) clip of the two Daleks leaving the control room through the sliding door on the right:

On the audio CD, the Dalek exiting is at one minute into track 10. We then hear a second door opening at 1.07. This, I think, is the sound of the door opening beside Lesterson allowing him to enter the control room, closing after him. He then looks through one of the trapezoid-shaped panels in the control room (visible in the telesnap and the clip).

Telesnap six – the bottom halves of the Dalek casings on the conveyor belt. The whirring from 1.20-1.26 is, I think, the sound of the bottom halves gliding into view.

Telesnap seven – Lesterson looking out through one of the trapezoid-shaped panels. A Dalek is reflected in the glass indicating that he’s looking out into the Dalek reproduction chamber (not visible in full until telesnap eleven, but I suspect this shot comes before or after an establishing shot).

Telesnap eight – A close-up of the newly-gestated Dalek mutant in the glass globe. The bubbling gurgling sound at 1.36-1.50 corresponds. For a better view of the glass globe, it’s visible just before it explodes in one of the existing clips from episode six:

Telesnap nine - One of the Daleks scoops the mutant out of the globe. It can be heard squealing from 1.55 onwards.

Telesnap ten – The mutant is inspected/measured and – possibly corresponding with a computer bleep at 2.12 –the mutant is inserted into a Dalek.

Telesnap eleven – At 2.14 there’s a sound very similar to the effect used for the door opening, but I think it is actually the sound of the top half of a Dalek casing being lowered, followed by the completed Dalek gliding off and another two halves gliding in. The process then repeats, with the telesnap being taken just after the two halves have arrived; at 2.41 we hear the gurgling/squealing of a second Dalek mutant. There isn’t a telesnap of the Dalek mutant being placed in the casing from this episode, but there is one in the reprise of part five, pictured below (it seems likely the reprise used exactly the same film sequence, the first two telesnaps of the reprise are virtually identical to telesnaps from part four):

I base my inference that the episode must show two successive Dalek mutants being prepared on the fact that there isn’t a Dalek mutant visible in telesnap eleven and hence it must come from an intervening point; it’s possible, however, that this telesnap shows the Dalek with the spatula attachment about to collect the mutant from the measuring receptacle (which is out of shot) and that the sequence only shows one mutant being prepared (and doesn’t include the top half being lowered at all). Either way, you have to wonder why neither of the Daleks notice Lesterson!

Telesnap twelve – A shot of Lesterson in the control room, reacting, biting his fingers. We know this shot immediately follows a shot of a Dalek mutant being placed in the casing because telesnap four on page 26 was taken mid-way through a cross-fade and Lesterson’s face is visible (it seems the camera pulls out of an extreme close-up to a close-up as he bites his fingers). The telesnap which follows this on page 26 is virtually identical to this telesnap. Note that the small panels of indicator lights behind/beside him in this shot correspond with those in telesnap five and the existing clip of the two Daleks in the control room; Lesterson is definitely in the same room the Daleks vacated.

Following this, there is the existing shot of the completed Daleks on the conveyor belt, which I think coincides with the sound effect from 2.49 to 2.57. Alternatively, it may form part of a montage as the Daleks are gathering, so it’s possible it occurs after telesnap thirteen and not before.

Telesnap thirteen – Completed Daleks enter the meeting chamber, with the first entering at 3.02 (saying ‘check’ as it enters). At this point we’re no longer literally seeing what Lesterson is seeing; he can't see into this chamber.

Telesnap fourteen: Then there is the existing clip of the Daleks in the meeting chamber, which coincides exactly with the last telesnap being taken.

If you’ve got this far, well done. I hope this gives some idea of the amount of time, thought and effort that goes into making sure these telesnap commentaries are as accurate as possible. Please let me know if you think I’ve got it wrong (particularly if you remember watching the actual episode!) Did we see the top halves of the Daleks being lowered or not?

Unfortunately, unless by some miracle the episodes turn up, we will probably never know. But to get as close to knowing as it is possible to get, I recommend picking up the Doctor Who Magazine: The Missing Episodes: The Second Doctor, Volume One, out now.

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