Abbreviations used –
WW – BBCWorldWide
Eps - episodes

In September,  2004,  Elise Harris interviewed Steve Roberts and Paul Vanezis of the Doctor Who DVD restoration team.

Elise: Hello. So, what do you do on the Restoration Team?

Steve:  Well I basically project manage all of our DW work, which means I’m ultimately responsible for looking after all the re-mastering, getting together all the extras including budgeting, making sure everything is delivered on time to me, so that we can make sure everything is packaged properly for the tapes, and then making sure that the tapes get delivered to WorldWide. I don’t tend to do any technical work anymore as there are people whose job it is to do that on a daily basis who are much better at it than I am so it’s much more of a management role now.  But I am, with Paul, also involved with the whole process of deciding what is going to be released, or putting forward a proposal for what will be release every year.  For the moment we are looking at about 6 releases a year  - 5 single disc releases and usually a box set for Christmas.
Paul: Shall I explain the process of what we are going to release and how that stands with WW?  What we try to do is assemble titles for the DW range which fall under lots of criteria; are they going to complement what’s already there? So, for example, you wouldn’t want to release 6 Dalek stories a year because it would be Dalek overload, and equally you wouldn’t want to release 6 Tom Bakers a year because there are Sylvester McCoy fans, and William Hartnell fans, and so on, and so it’s trying to get a balance across the range with the advance releases that you are proposing of various different stories which might have certain themes, and also WW do look at the sales of various titles which have been deleted for some time on VHS and they may say “why haven’t you suggested this?” and, if we haven’t got a good reason, sometimes go with that.

Steve: One of the things we are quite fair on is that at the rate of 6 a year it’s going to take a long time to get stuff out and we need to make sure that the range is going to continue to be balanced and have a longevity right to the end, so you don’t want to get the good stuff out and suffer the dregs at the end, which is sort of what happened with the VHS range, so, people might think some of the choices we make for the releases occasionally are a bit odd.  I mean Timelash is not a very popular story but it’s got to come out some time. And I think that even with the least popular stories we are managing to pack them with so much extra content that they’re making people a bit more aware of the stories, that they’re seeing different things in the stories than they’ve seen before.  For instance The Leisure Hive was always a sort of middle running story for a lot of people, including me; it was all right, nothing special.  But after working on it I just think it’s a fantastic story. And I know from being on the newsgroups that people do get a lot more out of the stories when they are given all the background information, the commentary and the featurettes.

Paul:  It’s a new appreciation really.  People look at these things that they’ve only seen on VHS, or on UK Gold, or the Americans have only seen them on the PBS channels, or the Australians on ABC, and they haven’t always been watching the best prints; they certainly haven’t always been watching the best prints on VHS. Because there are only 6 releases a year and they want to buy them all because they’ve got the extras on and they want to see the features, hear the commentaries, and they are tending to concentrate much more on the actual story so they often do get a new appreciation from that.

Steve: That’s another difficult thing.  Some people are buying the DVD’s simply because the quality is better.  Some people are not interested in that – they’ve already got the VHS, so to get those people to part with their money we have to pack the extra features on the disc.  A lot of people are buying them simply for the extra features. If they weren’t there they wouldn’t bother upgrading. So I think it’s important for us that we always try to get a balanced release with the best quality pictures and sound plus a really good set of features.  Previously, before we came along and started working on the VHS’s and DVD’s – and we’ve been doing it for a long time now; I think I started working on them about ’92, and Paul about ’94. Basically what happened was when WW wanted to release a certain story, they just rung up the library and say “we’re gonna release Day of the Daleks, can you send me some tapes?” And if they happened to be on tape, whatever format was most convenient for them they would take, and they didn’t really think about how many generations it might be down or where it came from. And with the colour stuff it was less important when you were talking about VHS as there is a bit of a quality drop anyway, but with the film stuff, there are some absolutely awful film prints in the library that were being transferred without any real regard.  And that’s one of the reasons we stepped in saying “we think that you are not being served very well, we think we can do a better job for you, and we think we can do it cheaper”. And we built up a really good relationship with the librarians, to the point now that we have access to original film, which nobody else has access to.  It’s only very special reasons that they let those out, usually only to make film prints, but we actually do telecine transfers with them.  And that’s why people see these stories in really good quality now.  And I think people are really surprised because they are used to looking at these old stories and in really crap quality, and they think they are crap quality because they are old, and it’s not true!  When you actually see what the stuff can look like it’s quite breath taking really.  And so that’s our ethos – just to make everything look and sound as good as possible.

Elise: Were there any that were not released on VHS at all because they were too bad?

Steve: No.  They were all released.  Even the odd episodes.  

Paul: The first was released in 1983, and the last was out last year. So, a long time.  They did release a box set of the remaining black and whites, and I know there’s a lot of pressure from the American market now for season box sets on DVD  because that’s how TV programs are sold in America, but it isn’t really something we can do over here in the UK simply because of the costs in terms of clearances and things.  A lot of those (American) shows are either bought out or they have the video release element built into the original production costs. So, the original production costs include all that whereas certainly DW never had commercial exploitation built into it. So it’s really quite expensive to clear one DW story for video, then you’ve got to make all the extras, and there is a huge market out there for people who are interested in buying DW for the extra’s because they’ve got all the VHS.  You could release season box sets over here, but what people have to realise is that the extras would be very limited, so again, story specific extras; four featurettes on a release  – we couldn’t do it.

Paul; and it wouldn’t be good value as they’d end up paying as much money for six stories as you would for Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 1 with very few extras. WW would have to charge a lot of money for a season boxset in order to make the profit they’d need to guarantee to continue the range, and I’m not convinced that fans would be prepared to pay that, not even with the online discount.

Steve: The other thing that the fans don’t realise is that DW is not actually as popular as they’d like to believe.  We are producing discs which are extremely well reviewed, universally lauded, but they don’t sell on the scale that certain releases do.  

Paul: The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy DVD for which I produced the extras, that sold about 50 k copies  and it is a continually popular release, and I’m sure that will have sold about  70 or 80k copies eventually, and DW isn’t really in a position to touch that.  The advantage releases like that have is that you can go out and buy it and that’s all the HHGTTG right there, the complete works, if you like.  But DW isn’t going to sell in those quantities – but for now, at least, WW continue to want to put in the extra money for every single release.  But certainly with the market as it currently is we can afford to – if there were a move to reduce the RRP to £15.99 for example rather than £19.99 that would have in impact on the sort of extras we could include.

Steve: Although we are extremely frugal, we produce the extras for a very small budget and the way we do that is we do a lot of the work at home, and if we need to shoot an interview we’ll use our own cameras, or maybe hire in for a day, but then a lot of work is done at home and I think we get really good results with people who are often, essentially, really talented amateurs. At the end of the day my job is to make sure that it looks professional.

Elise: Which one do you think you are most proud of, of all that been released so far?

Paul: I think for me it’s most probably Peter Davison’s The Caves of Androzani. It didn’t have a huge amount of extras on it, but what was there was really interesting behind the scenes material which people hadn’t seen before.  Also it was just a really, really good story, and it had a really, really good commentary.  So, I think the extras supported a really very good adventure story that people could sit down and enjoy.  I think anyone could watch that story – not necessarily be a DW fan – but watch that DVD and know that you are watching a really high quality drama.  Which you can’t say for every DW that’s ever been made. However, I think that probably  as a package – and I didn’t have a great deal of involvement in this one – but as a package I think the Seeds of Death DVD.  Because it looks amazing compared to the VHS release in the mid ‘80’s (it was the first black and white release) which was of pretty poor quality.

Steve: Yeah, I think Seeds was probably the one where people thought we could really improve upon the first time on VHS.

Paul: Yeah, I think even we were amazed by the restoration we achieved on that one.  And the commentary as well.  Because making an audio commentary of one of these stories is not just a case of sitting people in front of it and setting the recorders off, you do have to produce them.  And that was the first one where we knew that people’s memories were not fantastic, so we did take quite a few liberties with which episode people commentated on – we didn’t have everyone doing every episode but spread things out a bit (that was one of the first ones we tried that on) and it seemed to work really well, and has now become a model for longer stories so we can keep the commentaries more interesting because you are two episodes in and suddenly a new person will give their perspective at an important point in the story.

Steve:  Its a problem we did have with the very early stories which are up to 40 years old - people don’t necessarily have very clear memories. So we brought in knowledgeable DW fans to act as moderators, which is great as you have someone who can ask leading questions which will bring people’s memories out.  In terms of releases I think the best for me is Dalek Invasion of Earth because it is really early but it  looks fantastic {ed – this one they provided CGI alternatives for certain fx such as the Dalek saucer}, and we had a really good range of extras.  And something like The Leisure Hive which I mentioned earlier, because it just completely changed my opinion of the story.  And I think it has changed other people’s as well.  And the other person who isn’t here today who I think is the third wheel to the team is Mark Ayres who’s our audio expert, and he’s done some amazing work doing 5.1 digital remixes from the stories – he’s a really talented conversion audio engineer.  I think the releases would be diminished without him.

Elise: What releases are coming up in the next few months?

Paul: The Lost in Time boxed set is the big Christmas release.

Steve:  Lost in Time is basically a collection of 18 orphaned episodes.

Paul: They’re basically episodes that are part of stories that aren’t complete.

Steve: Stories where less than 50% of the episodes exist.  

Paul: So, for example, we’ve two stories where we have four of the six episodes, crucially including the first and last episodes – so those stories don’t appear in the collection because we will be able to release those episodes as DVD’s in their own right with links for the missing bits.  So the LiT collection is six William Hartnell episodes, and 12 Patrick Troughton episodes, including on the first disc an  episode only rediscovered in January.

Steve: This really was the whole reason that the set came about.  LiT was pencilled for that slot, but when this episode turned up it was the spur to make it happen.

Paul:  It seemed an obvious thing to do because the last episode before that to be rediscovered was five years ago, and then suddenly one more appears, but the likelihood of all episode being discovered is getting more and more remote.  So, it seemed obvious to exploit that, and also the fans were going to want to purchase any DVD with that episode as they won’t have seen it before, unless they were around when it was first on.  So, that was indeed the spur. Then we had to consider what extras to put on. Well knowing you’ve got to fully remaster the episodes that does take…

Steve: I think that’s difficult as remastering from film is about twice as expensive as remasetering from video tape.

Paul:  All the B/W eps only exist as B/W film recordings and some inserts, so apart form the Telecine time which is expensive, more expensive than VT time, you’ve then got manual cleanup because it’s not VT but film, so there are imperfections such as dirt or marks on the negatives and all of that has to be taken away. The we use a process {ed – called VidFire} to try to convert the film back to the video look.  We are trying to make the eps look, as best we can, as they did when first broadcast.  So we can convert back to the video look those sections that were recorded in the studio originally on VT.

Steve: I think it’s important for people to realise that DW was shot as Eastenders is on video in the studio, but location work was shot on film so you’d see a different quality of look to it.  But all of those episodes ‘60’s episodes that existed originally on VT have all been wiped.  What exists now are film prints where the video was transferred to film for overseas sales, but in doing that you’ve lost the characteristic smooth motion of the VT and replaced by the more jerky motion of the film.  So, we developed a process a few years ago that’s called VidFire, which we created to reverse that process and make the film appear with that characteristic smooth motion again, and I think it’s been successful, quite well received – although there are a few people who think it makes it all seem cheap. But we are trying to restore it what it was originally.  And having looked at original B/W VT the results we are getting are surprisingly close.

Paul:  So, once we’ve established that there is a certain amount of restoration that needs doing and we’ve done that restoration, we then try to look at other extras and the obvious ones that we put on are commentaries for the stories, and what we call production subtitles (a subtitle stream of info about the stories)

Steve: We were the fist people in the UK to use that feature on a DVD actually – although I did steal the idea from the Abyss!

Paul: It was actually suggested at the same time by a chap called Martin Wiggins who is a fountain of knowledge on all things DW, and also an English professor.  Over the years he’s collected magazines and fanzines and books and cuttings and collected a mass of background on stories, so between him and Richard Molesworth they provide the production subtitles.  Now, with this particular release we were going to have production subtitles, but really they are there to explain how a story is coming together, and you can’t really do that if you only have one ep form a story.  And anyway, we weren’t going to be able to afford 18 commentaries.  So, we limited it to 6 eps, 2 eps per disc.

Steve:  Although it didn’t work out that way in the end due to unforeseen circumstances! Some of the people we approached for commentaries didn’t pan out so it wasn’t as tidy as that, and we wanted to retain the eps in chronological order. So the expected mix of commentaries changed from 2 per disc to 2 on one, 1 on the next and 3 on the third.

Paul:  I think the only people who will lose out are the Americans.  Over there they are selling LiT as 2 volumes.  

Steve: As well as the set, yeah, the Americans – it’s quite ironic really – the Americans are always pushing for the idea of Boxsets, we put together a box set, and they decide to release it over there as separate volumes!

Paul: That is a bit batty!  That just leaves, apart from commentaries and production subtitles which are going on there, a booklet which has more information on why things were thrown away to make more sense of things.  And then there were other things that we felt we could put one which we’d already got banked and which had previously been released on VHS, because the DW fans – if you released a story which had an extra feature on it, an intro which was on the VHS release, they would expect that to be on the DVD so they can throw away the VHS because they are completists.  If you are a collector almost by definition you are a completist, or what would be the point of collecting?  So we released a VHS about 6 years ago called The Ice Warriors which was incomplete (it had some linking narration)  and we released it as The Ice Warriors Collection with a documentary called The Missing Years, which explained the reasons why there were eps missing, including two (out of six) from The Ice Warriors. We felt that the Missing Years was well suited to this release particularly, although extended to account for two further episodes and some clips having been found since it was first made.

Steve: The rest of the stuff on LiT is stuff that was effectively free to us.  A lot of clips from missing stories.  Some of them are in broadcast quality; they were censored by overseas broadcasters but kept in their vaults; there’s another load of clips that were filmed directly off of a TV screen using a hand held camera by a guy in Australia in the 70’s; little bits of behind the scenes cine footage filmed by a guy called Tony Curnow who shot two very interesting films behind the scenes at Ealing on the stories Evil of the Daleks and Fury from the Deep: Andrew Martin recently discovered a trailer for Power of the Daleks and some trims (second camera alternate takes) from Fury from the Deep which Paul has put together into a little featurette. So there’s a lot of stuff on Lit.

Paul:  It’s the definitive release of missing episodes really, with all the related missing episode material that exists.  So, for example, on the first disc there are 6 William Hartnell eps and three of them are from The Dalek Masterplan, which was originally 12 eps long, so it’s only got a quarter of the story.  But also on there are the film inserts from ep one as well as an extract, about a minute and a half, from ep 3, and another minute from ep 4.  These clips survived in eps of Blue Peter.  So we are able to put these elements in context with the surviving eps so people can see all that there is together.  We’ve also, for the first two discs, put on the surviving sound tracks for two stories.  On the first disc the William Hartnell story The Crusade has two eps of the four surviving – 1 and 3 – but we also include the soundtracks for eps 2  + 4 so you could follow that one story completely.  And we’ve done the same, on the second disc, with the Patrick Troughton story The Moonbase, where we’ve got eps 2 + 4 and included the soundtracks for 1 + 3.  So you get a good idea of two complete stories in this one release.  And I think the advantage of DVD is because it is such a flexible format the material can be presented in a way which is unique – you couldn’t do this with VHS which is linear.  DVD is non linear - the viewer can decide how they want to experience it.  And they will have the appropriate supporting notes in the booklet to explain why they can’t watch the missing eps.  So it’s quite a package.

Elise: The one that was found in January – what was that called?

Paul: that was called The Day of Armageddon and it was ep 2 of The Dalek Masterplan story, broadcast in 1965. It was a fairly unique DW story.  It lasted for three months over Christmas 65 into 66, and was regarded by some as the best DW story ever. Certainly one guy who has been very involved in recovering missing DW, Ian Levine, regarded it as his favourite, and I rang him up to tell him it had been found and he became quite emotional. He said that if there was to be one ep found it would be from that story, and then either eps 2 or 11 as they were the best of the story. So, what a fantastic find.  And you watch it and it is!  It’s not a traditional ep because it’s the second part of a story that was completely different in the history of DW.  It was unique to find, it has William Hartnell at his best, Nicholas Courtney who is remembered as the Brigadier in DW is in it – not as the Brigadier, another character – you have the Daleks being spookily evil and some very alien delegates being, well, very alien. So, it’s a really unusual ep, fantastic to find. It looks brilliant - the restoration has worked really well, and it’s a brilliant thing to find after 28 years.

Elise: So they didn’t’ get rid of then until the 70’s then?

Paul: Some of them went in the late 60’s - the VT had all gone by ’72.  Most of the film copies – the ones they sold abroad – were gone by 1976.

Steve: Well Masterplan is quite unique anyway as it was never actually screened anywhere else.  Australia, for instance, who normally bought the stories, regarded Masterplan as too violent.  They had a look at it, but rejected it. It only ever saw transmission in this country.  The reason it came back to us was because was that a guy who was the chief engineer at Yorkshire TV contacted me to say he had a couple of film prints since he’d worked at the BBC in the ‘70’s and he thought he should give them back.  One was an ep form the first Dalek story which we already had, and the other was this missing ep.  And the story was that, as a unit engineer,  he’d been sent to clear out a room at Ealing, and found these two cans of DW film. He quite liked DW and was in this film society and so he took them, and kept them for all these years.  Thank god, really!

Paul: It’s weird how these things turn up.

Elise: There are still 108 missing eps?

Paul: Yeah, still 108 – I think the general public don’t realise that there are so many eps of TV from the 60’s generally missing.  And to be honest, most aren’t bothered, because if they all existed that would be more potential for repeats!  In the case of DW 108 eps missing is a heck of a lot to not have.  So to miss that much from a period instrumental in establishing that sort of drama is a real shame.  You can understand now why things weren’t kept, although in an environment where the general public have a VTR or DVD and they can go to their local video shop some people don’t understand why they threw some things away – they get quite indignant!  “Why – why did you throw these things away?  We’ve paid for this, how can the BBC destroy these things?”  But the fact is there was never a mandate to keep material that was made for one original broadcast and one repeat and then was meant to be thrown away, or sold abroad.  It was never meant to be repeated twice in the UK. Once the rights had expired you could see why things weren’t kept, because it took up space, and it had to be maintained, and money had to be spent on that, and if money was spent on maintaining a library instead of making new programs then I’m sure the public would have been moaning about that! But now things have changed.  And there are eps out there right now, I’m sure still, which are sitting in people’s sheds, or garages, or attics, or in film societies…

Steve: I mean you’d hope there are, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any really solid proof of stuff.

Steve: No, I know.  But the reason that I think things do come back is because someone has this material and has decided that the best place for it is back at the BBC where it belongs.  I don’t think we are going to get 108 eps returned.  But there will still be the odd one or two out there.  It doesn’t matter if they’re damaged, or whatever – anything that builds a picture of these stories is welcome.  And also we might be lucky and get an episode from a story for which we don’t have any episodes.

Elise:Are there any you can name offhand?

Steve: Well, The Massacre.

Paul: Marco Polo.

Steve: There are certain things where we have very little visual documentation at all.  The Massacre is one.  The thing about DW is that although there’s lots of missing eps, there is lots of other material.  We have all the scripts; we have off-air audio recordings for all the eps; we have a lot of off-TV stills taken by a guy called Tony Cura who provided a service called Telesnaps which, in the days before VCR’s, enabled anybody on the production team who wanted a record of their story to buy a series of 50 or so photographs of the program as transmitted, and the BBC kept most of the Telesnaps that they had.  So where we don’t have the actual episodes we have sometimes the Telesnaps and always the audio and scripts.  But there are a few where we don’t have even Telesnaps, The Massacre being one.  Marco Polo which is the 4th story, until last year didn’t have Telesnaps, but it turned out that the Director, Warris Hussein, had a set of six – the six eps he directed (there was one ep he didn’t direct). So there is a lot of material even if we don’t have the eps themselves.

Elise: So you’ve got audio for every missing one?

Steve: Yes. They were recorded off air by fans, by a variety of fans.  Some just putting a microphone to the TV speaker and you can hear mum in the background saying “can you pass the ketchup?”, but some were more sophisticated.  A guy called Graham Strong who we met a few yeas ago; he lived in a block of flats which had a communal TV system and he could actually wire his recorder straight into audio without going through a microphone, and he produced a lot of very high quality recordings, and suddenly a lot of eps which didn’t have any audio for were made available to us.  I think over the years we now have everything.

Paul:  I think we have a few eps that lose a small amount of dialogue in the transition between eps where people have cut out the credit’s music, but we can reconstruct that from the scripts. There’s actually an instance of this on this release; Episode 2 of The Abominable Snowmen.  When we looked at the film recording there is a small section of Patrick Troughton’s dialogue which is missing at the start.  So we then went had a listen back to the off air recording it became clear that it was missing from the original episode as aired.  What seems to have happened was a technique called “carding” was employed during the editing process – they would place a piece of card over the heads of the machine so as to facilitate the cut.  Mark Ayres had, however, already noticed, and had, for the release of the soundtrack of the Abomniable Snowmen, looked at the script and assembled the missing sentence from other snippets of Troughton’s dialogue in other episodes!  So we grafted this audio reconstruction onto the episode.

Elise: Thanks very much.

The Lost in Time boxset is available on DVD from BBC Worldwide

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