The new Doctor Who Magazine, out on Thursday but available now in all premature newsagents, features another Fact of Fiction article by me, this time on the iconic Patrick Troughton story The Seeds of Death.
I’ve blogged before about the challenges and delights of writing these articles. The frustration with this one was that the production notes for the story, on the revisitationed DVD, by acclaimed scholar Martin Wiggins, were so bloody comprehensive. He’d practically covered every inch of ground that I intended to cover. I’d hoped there would be a lot of ‘new’ info to be found, as Andrew Pixley’s archive, back in the day, had not had the space to go into a great deal of detail.
So the challenge for me, the onus, was to find out stuff that Martin Wiggins hadn’t found out. Or – in a few cases – to correct things that he’d got wrong (e.g. the scanner showing an image of Concorde in episode one). And, in my search for new facts I set myself the target of identifying every single piece of stock footage used over the course of the story, something which nobody has ever cared to do before. And I more or less achieved that. Basically by looking at footage and photographs of every single rocket launch from 1945 to 1968 and seeing if anything looked familiar.
For instance, here’s a screengrab from episode six.
Now compare to this clip, from 7 mins 35 secs in.
Or – this is my favourite one – here’s a screengrab from episode three, of a shot used to show the rocket descending to the moonbase.
Which is actually footage of the Apollo 7 capsule separating from its rocket, played in reverse and upside-down (the weird-shaped shadow is the giveaway). Compare it to this clip from 3mins 10 secs in.
Madness, I know. But a fun challenge. And the other area where (hopefully) I’ve broken new ground is in trying to work out which bits of the camera script which aren’t in the finished episodes were cut before filming and which were filmed and cut during editing. A tricky area, it’s hard to be certain, but I make a few informed guesses.
The main frustration with this one is that although there are several very helpful documents in existence (Brian Hayles’ original storyline and scene breakdown with handwritten notes from – I presume - Terrance Dicks) there are still gaps; we know that Hayles prepared a second storyline, which was used as the basis for Dicks’ scripts for the latter episodes, but it doesn’t seem to have been kept. The same goes for Hayles’ original scripts for the story (featuring Nik instead of Jamie).
Anyway, incredibly nit-picky detail aside, the article tells you everything you could ever possibly want to know about The Seeds of Death script and its ‘fiction’.