Category Archives: reconstruction

Episodes that were only available to watch as reconstructions, using surviving images or clips to accompany the audio track. Various incomplete serials still exist between 1963 and 1969, due to the BBC wiping its tapes, although exported copies are still being unearthed.

Shada (Not Televised)

I wasn’t sure whether to cover Shada, the cancelled sixth serial of season 17. Unlike the reconstructions from the sixties, Shada was never actually finished, and has to date never been aired on TV. However, rather than worry that it would make the events of the story irrelevant and not expected to exist within established continuity, instead I thought “well, why not?” and watched it anyway. Approximately 50%-60% of the serial was made, and an older Tom Baker narrates the events that occur inbetween.

Romana, K-9 and Parsons are trapped in a prison cell - one of the few scenes aboard the ship that were finished.

Romana, K-9 and Parsons are trapped in a prison cell – one of the few scenes aboard the ship that were finished.

Shada actually explores the Time Lords’ history and lore. I have no idea if any of this is revisited in future stories, but Shada is the name of their prison planet, which was purposely hidden from official records by one of the former inmates, who went into hiding on Earth as a professor at Cambridge. When a maniac with a god complex goes looking for this professor and the prison planet, the Doctor and Romana get caught up in a plot to take control of every mind in the Universe!

Skagra, looking for information on Earth.

Skagra, looking for information on Earth.

Due to the nature of TV production, the existing scenes are all from the same locations, so watching this now can lead to visual fatigue. As much fun as it is listening to Tom Baker talk, he does whizz through his descriptions of the missing scenes all too quickly. Some animation or artwork of these scenes would have helped to break up the repetition. Still, it’s interesting to see where production stopped back then. There’s a fair bit of outdoor location shooting, some interiors of the spaceship were shot, and the rest is from the professor’s room (which it turns out is another Tardis). Sadly, there is very little existing footage of the villain, Skagra, or his monsters, the Krargs.

So, apparently Doctor Who did the "invisible ship lands in the park" thing years before Star Trek IV (and later copied by Red Dwarf).

So, apparently Doctor Who did the “invisible ship lands in the park” thing years before Star Trek IV (and later copied by Red Dwarf).

While watching Shada is a frustratingly incomplete experience, overall I was glad to see it. It hasn’t got the same level of silly humour as Douglas Adams’ other episodes (although it does have some), but it still touches on some big concepts and has some fun with the universe and characters. This would have been a pretty good season finale.

The Space Pirates

At first, this story is only tangentially related to the Doctor and his companions. The writer seems more interested in setting up this new sci-fi universe, filled with history, politics, corporations and… pirates.

The evil space pirates doing evil piratey things... in space.

The evil space pirates doing evil piratey things… in space.

Attacks on government satellites have finally caught the attention of the Space Corps, who track down a band of pirates who have set up an argonite smuggling operation with a seemingly legit mining company. The Tardis lands in the middle of a raid on one of the satellites, and the Doc and co find themselves shuttled back and forth, caught up in a sting operation, facing death at the end of each episode (although miraculously surviving, the big teases!), and eventually averting atomic disaster and stopping the pirates.

Captain Posh and Commander Yank. Maybe, I can't remember.

Captain Posh and Commander Yank. Maybe, I can’t remember.

A colourful cast of characters helps flesh out the story, with a bizarre mix of accents. The captain of the Space Corps cruiser sounds either ridiculously posh British or German. Or both, I’m not sure. The old timer space trucker Milo Clancy has one of the worst American accents I’ve heard since… well, since the wild west Doctor Who episode! Then there’s the woman in charge of the mining company, whose father is secretly still alive, and the evil pirate boss uses him as leverage to ensure her cooperation, because, y’know, he’s so evil. This sort of self-involved storytelling reminds me of some of the older William Hartnell episodes, except this has the advantage of being futuristic instead of some boring historical setting.

Milo Clancy sits down to eat breakfast in his cockpit.

Milo Clancy sits down to eat breakfast in his cockpit.

The ships and sets and practical special effects are impressive for their time. The show seems to be using more miniatures recently, daring to be a bit more ambitious with its scenarios, which is good. I think Clancy’s old rocket ship might be the same one from The Seeds of Death, but I can’t be sure.

Only one of the six episodes remains complete – the rest are reconstructions and therefore a little harder to follow. If they were all complete, I think the story would be more bearable, but as it stands, it’s difficult to fully recommend it.

This is, thankfully, the last reconstruction I will have to watch. Every episode from here on is complete. This is quite a relief! Next is the final serial of Patrick Troughton’s adventures as the Doctor…

The Invasion

The second Doctor seems to attract Cybermen like a magnet! Now, I did see some images from this serial prior to watching, so the big reveal at the end of episode 4 was sadly not a surprise.

Oh, spoilers! Again! Sorry.

This time, we’re back on Earth, just a few years after the events of the The Web of Fear. The Colonel (now a Brigadier) Lethbridge-Stewart from that London Underground yeti attack now heads up a brand new government force called UNIT. A Cyberman invasion is in full swing and the stakes are high. This is certainly one of the more exciting storylines yet!

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart heads up the brand new UNIT.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart heads up the brand new UNIT.

Unfortunately, like many of these old serials, it suffers with being too bloody long! I don’t mind giving a story time to breathe, but eight episodes is just too much. Four or five would have been sufficient. It’s good, but it just can’t sustain suspense and drama over that length, although it does try.

The villain of the piece isn’t really the Cybermen, but the maniac who wants to bring them down to Earth and control them, use them as a force for conquering the world. Tobias Vaughn runs an electronics company with its innocuous-looking devices now installed all over the world, which instantly reminded me of 2006’s Cybermen two-parter (although this plays out quite differently).

Vaughn and the Doctor.

Vaughn and the Doctor.

Vaughn is one of the more entertaining villains to watch. He’s deliciously evil, almost inhumanly so. But, despite his thorough planning and preparation, he is betrayed by the invading army and its commanding computer brain. Fortunately, his failsafe device, a machine for overloading the Cybermen with ‘emotional force’, acts as a successful weapon, and the Doctor is able to help UNIT to coordinate an attack on the Cybermen, blowing its attack ships out of the sky with missiles.

The Cybermen design changes again - note the new 'earmuffs'. I like these ones the most so far.

The Cybermen design changes again – note the new ‘earmuffs’. I like these ones the most so far.

There’s a lot to like here. Being set on Earth again means relatively higher production values, on location filming and outdoor action and setpieces. If anything, the direction lets it down a little – some of the Cybermen attacking just look a bit pathetic. There’s a sequence where Jamie is trying to get one of them off his leg as he pulls himself out of a sewer, and it’s just so blandly shot it looks daft and not the least bit menacing. Maybe they should have set the invasion at night, it might have looked better.

The Cybermen invade!

The Cybermen invade!

The UNIT characters are likeable chaps, as are the other extras – Isobel, the photographer and her uncle, Professor Watkins (whose house they visit looking for Professor Travers). The world of Doctor Who starts hanging onto familiar faces and enemies, setting in a sense of continuity while also opening up into bigger things. Certainly, this mission is too much for the Doctor alone, but he’s making a name for himself on Earth now.

The missing episodes, 1 and 4, animated by Cosgrove Hall studio.

The missing episodes, 1 and 4, animated by Cosgrove Hall studio.

A word on the restoration. For its DVD release in 2006, the BBC commissioned for the two missing episodes to be restored using 2D cartoon animation. Although they look a little like a cheap Flash animation at times, the art style is nice and some of the imagery is really striking. So much so, that when it reverted back to live action for the next part, I really missed it. A much nicer experience than watching telesnaps, although those are available too.

The Wheel in Space

I like the Cybermen episodes so far because they’re unannounced. Aside from ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’, they’ve all taken me by surprise. Unlike the Dalek episodes, where you know it’s a Dalek episode because it has “Dalek” in the title, you’re not just waiting around for the Cybermen to show up, they just suddenly appear. You see those unmistakable helmet handles and then “surprise! It’s a Cyberman episode!!”

Ooops, spoilers!

The Wheel's control room.

The Wheel’s control room.

The Wheel in Space is set on a wheel… in space. A rotating Earth space station that monitors stellar phenomena, and is armed with a laser for deflecting meteors and such. Doc and Jamie materialise aboard a seemingly abandoned spaceship that’s heading towards the Wheel, and only narrowly avoid being shot down by them as an off-course rogue ship.

The Cybermen are brought over in caskets.

The Cybermen are brought over in caskets.

Once aboard, things take a turn for the strange. Cybermats manage to get through the hull and sabotage the laser’s fuel rods, requiring a salvage operation aboard the rogue ship. This gives the Cybermen, who were hidden aboard it, their chance to get aboard the Wheel and start brainwashing the crew. The Doctor wasn’t anticipated in their rather convoluted plan to conquer the Earth (The Wheel provides a safe gateway to Earth, for some technical reason given in the eleventh hour), and his knowledge of the Cybermen is enough to fend them off. They’re blasted into space and their ship is blown up.

The Cybermen take control of the Wheel personnel.

The Cybermen take control of the Wheel personnel.

This story struck me as rather similar to a lot of others in this series. It was perfectly enjoyable, but once again we have the corruptible power-hungry leader, the hidden enemy who no-one believes at first, the brainwashed humans acting against them in secret, and so on. Fury from the Deep, The Ice Warriors, The Moonbase… it’s a formula they seem to be sticking with. As I say, it’s perfectly fine, and there’s plenty of strong performances, but it’s getting a bit old.

Astronauts under 'cyber-control'.

Astronauts under ‘cyber-control’.

One of the station staff, the emotionally-crippled brainiac wondergirl Zoe, decides to stick with the Doctor and Jamie. Isn’t it a funny coincidence that new companions always join them on the very first mission after the previous one leaves?

Zoe and the Cybermen.

Zoe and the Cybermen.

Six episodes seems to have become standard practise again, and this one does drag a little. It takes an entire episode just for the Doctor and Jamie to get off the spaceship!

Only two completed episodes of this serial exist, but Loose Cannon’s reconstructions are some of the most thorough I’ve seen so far (these are available on Youtube). Aside from the usual telesnaps and composites, they’ve reused bits of clips from the two available episodes wherever possible, and they even made some CGI sequences of the little robot, the Cybermats, the Cybermen and even the astronauts walking around. Impressive work, team!

Noteworthy mention: When interrogated about the Doctor, who is absent for episode 2 (having hit his head!) Jamie says his name is John Smith, seeing it on a label on a piece of equipment. The Doctor sticks with it as his name for the rest of the story.

Another noteworthy mention, not specifically about this story but classic Doctor Who in general… the supporting cast of characters are portrayed as actual intelligent and believable human beings. In modern stories (certainly in most ‘New Who’), the hero is the clever one, maybe the sidekick too, but the supporting cast are slow and dimwitted in order for the story to proceed and the hero to be seen as clevererererer. That doesn’t really happen here. It’s not all about the Doctor, he’s just a cog in the machine. Anyway, just an observation.

Fury from the Deep

Another monster storyline, which are becoming very prevalent in this series! I’m also noting a lot of research or science facility locations, often with power-hungry or corruptible leaders, and people infiltrating them or working undercover. Common themes here. I’m not complaining just yet, I prefer these types of stories.

The Doctor listens to the thumping sounds from the pipes... and then uses his sonic screwdriver for the very first time!

The Doctor listens to the thumping sounds from the pipes… and then uses his sonic screwdriver for the very first time!

This one sees sentient seaweed creatures spreading across a network of natural gas rigs on the north sea by travelling through the pipes and spreading foam and poisonous gas everywhere. The gas controls the workers and the workers spread more of the seaweed around to infect other people.

The Doctor in the refinery control room.

The Doctor in the refinery control room.

They really tried to scare the pants off you back then. The pulsating heartbeat noises from the pipes are just as effective today – the creature (what I could make out of it from the images and surviving clips) was obscured enough by all the foam to remain scarily hidden. And the possessed people… oh my. If I was eight years old watching that clip of the wide-eyed ‘Mr. Quill’, bellowing out gas from his open mouth, face contorted in terror, I’d probably have had nightmares. Who needs CGI monsters when you have that?

The terrifying Mr. Quill.

The terrifying Mr. Quill.

Victoria screams a lot in this story, which for once actually turns out quite useful, as the sound of her scream apparently kills the seaweed creatures. They amplify her scream and send it through the pipework in order to kill the nerve centre and it works! It’s an abrupt solution – it’s previously mentioned that they’re also weak against pure oxygen, and it looked like a plan was being put into place for that, but it never went anywhere. It’s possible the ending was shortened, lengthened or rewritten entirely, but I don’t know. It just seemed a bit abrupt to me.

The head of refinery operation, Robson, is caught by the evil foam!

The head of refinery operation, Robson, is caught by the evil foam!

Notable in this story is the first ever appearance of the sonic screwdriver! Unbelievably, it was actually used to remove a screw (using soundwaves)! It’s also the first time I’ve seen the Tardis physically ‘land’ anywhere – it literally descends from the sky and hovers over the sea, then leaves again the same way (instead of dematerialising first).

Also notable is the first time a companion has remarked on how often they seem to arrive in England – Jamie mentions it shortly after they arrive on the shore. Another nod to the series tropes is when Victoria complains about how they always get into one spot of danger after another and never seem to land anywhere peaceful. It’s true enough – the Tardis must have some sort of “Adventure Detector” that guides it!

This final point actually pushes Victoria to the brink. Deciding she cannot take anymore ‘excitement’, she elects to end her adventures and remain behind. The final episode winds down a little earlier than normal as the Doctor and Jamie say goodbye to her.

This six-part serial was made up of all six reconstructions, again incorporating clips of the scary footage that was cut out from the overseas broadcasts.

The Web of Fear

Bizarrely, this serial follows on from the 2012 Christmas special, the future incarnation of the Doctor having given the past incarnation of the Great Intelligence the idea to come to London and conquer the Underground system with his army of yeti robots. Yes, this really happens.

An older Professor Travers meets the Doctor again.

An older Professor Travers meets the Doctor again.

It seems to start as a disaster episode: London is evacuated! Corpses in the streets! But actually the crisis is confined to the tunnels and rooms of the Underground system, so the story doesn’t swell out into a bloated epic. The core characters (mostly army personnel, although the scientist from the previous yeti story is back as an old man) have their own unique personalities and quirks, and the story stays pretty tight, much to its advantage. The timid Evans always looking out for himself provides some light relief. We don’t discover who is helping the Intelligence (unwillingly) until the end, so there’s a bit of mystery and guessing too.

Yeti advancing through the underground tunnels.

Yeti advancing through the underground tunnels.

Also, a lot of web. I don’t know whether the title of the serial is related purely to this or also the web-like nature of the London Underground, but a core danger throughout the story is the yeti’s web-like fungus guns (yes, this also really happens) filling up the tunnels and trapping the people in.

The yeti themselves have had a slight design change since last time (on the outside, anyway – they still have the shiny control spheres inside them and make the same noise), with browner fur and scary glowing eyes. Clearly much of the footage of them advancing through the dark tunnels was considered too scary for the overseas censors, hence much of these retrieved shots have survived the BBC’s deletion! Additionally, one completed episode exists. The other five are reconstructions. That said, they’re done well (I watched Loose Cannon’s versions, they tend to do the best work on these).

The timid Evans.

The timid Evans.

The Great Intelligence is thwarted by the Doctor’s technical skill in reverse-engineering its equipment, however it manages to escape in non-corporeal form once again… so maybe it’ll come back for a future episode. Presumably, the people of London are brought back in once the crisis is over and nobody ever mentions it again!

On the whole, I enjoyed this. The setting was unique, the evil was scary, and the Doctor was a genius. I wouldn’t rank it as a favourite but it was certainly entertaining. Just a shame so many episodes are missing in action.

The Enemy of the World

In an undisclosed future date, the ‘zones’ of Earth are under threat by a sinister world leader, using natural disasters and subterfuge to gain control and leadership and rule the world. He is called Salamander, and by an astonishing coincidence, he looks exactly like The Doctor. No surprise, then, that the arrival of the Doctor and company sees the people trying to overthrow Salamander turn to The Doctor for help in impersonating him and uncovering evidence of his evil-doing.

Salamander, an astonishing likeness of the Doctor.

Salamander, an astonishing likeness of the Doctor.

A previous serial had an unexplained double of the Doctor, with William Hartnell playing the Abbot of Amboise in the (entirely missing) four-parter The Massacre. Whether there is some speculative fiction on the origin of these inexplicable doubles (something about Timelords regenerating into the bodies of real people?), I don’t know. I’d imagine it was intended just as a coincidence, which, given the vastness of time and space, seems entirely appropriate. Frankly, this was probably another excuse to have Troughton put on a funny accent. He’s meant to be Mexican or something, but it’s amusingly bad or brilliant, I can’t decide.

Jamie is recruited as one of Salamander's guards.

Jamie is recruited as one of Salamander’s guards.

Anyway, I enjoyed watching Troughton play both parts, and the plot left a lot of guessing until the end. Is Salamander really ‘evil’, or is there more at work here than it seems? The Doctor is initially skeptical without hard evidence. He also continues to uphold his non-violence stance and is reluctant to bring harm to Salamander, despite all he has supposedly done to the world.

Victoria helps out in the kitchen.

Victoria helps out in the kitchen.

In the end, a final moment of confusion sees Salamander in the Tardis, moments before dematerialisation, and he gets sucked out of the doors into the ‘void’. A dramatic and sudden end.

This six-part serial could easily have been four parts and not lost anything. It wasn’t bad, just not particularly interesting, aside from the Troughton double performance. Five of the six episodes are reconstructions, which certainly doesn’t help. I’m looking forward to episodes that aren’t just audio with pictures and captions – it’s the future, apparently! Not to mention in colour! Although I will be sorry to see Troughton’s run come to an end – I’ve enjoyed his performance so far. I think I even prefer him to modern era Doctor Who. He’s weird, yes, but he’s just so… nice.