10 January, 2019

Rescuing the Lion (Archived Interview from 2001)

Last week I celebrated the 20th anniversary of the discovery of the film print of The Lion, an episode of Doctor Who from 1965 that was among the series' missing episodes until Neil Lambess and I found it still existed in January 1999.

In revisiting some of the material associated with the find, I noticed that one of the interviews I did many years ago about the discovery disappeared off the internet at some point. The website that hosted the interview, Whoniversity.co.uk, is no longer active, but I was able to retrieve the interview I did in 2001 using the Wayback Machine.

I'm no longer in contact with the writer of the interview, Mark Parmerter, but I trust he won't mind me preserving the interview here.

Rescuing The Lion 
Written by Mark Parmerter 
May, 2001

Many Doctor Who fans may be hesitant to admit the fact, but be honest: who hasn't fantasized at least once about being the next to discover the whereabouts of a missing episode and successfully returning it to the BBC and fans around the world? For two New Zealand Doctor Who fans, this fantasy became reality in January of 1999 when Paul Scoones and Neil Lambess located the otherwise missing first episode of a 4-part William Hartnell adventure first broadcast on BBC-1 on March 27, 1965. The dramatic story of how The Crusade, Episode One: The Lion was rescued and loaned to the BBC for copying purposes is related in great detail in an article written by Paul Scoones for the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club; here in this article, however, Scoones has kindly agreed to further discuss The Lion's rescue, highlighting his initial reactions to the find, remarking upon the worldwide attention generated by the discovery, and speculating upon the possibility of future missing episode returns.

Very early in 1999, Scoones was contacted by fellow New Zealand Doctor Who fan Neil Lambess, who asked Paul to bring his video camera and join him in a visit to private film collector Bruce Grenville. Acting on a lead, Lambess had reason to believe that The Lion was included in Grenville's 16mm film collection. Scoones explains that prior to this event, "I had spent a great deal of time over the last 12 years researching Doctor Who screenings on New Zealand television (we were the first country outside the UK to screen the series), and I knew from what myself and other NZ researchers had found that most Doctor Who film prints in NZ had either been exported or destroyed many years ago, so I didn't hold out much hope of ever finding anything. Neil Lambess had always clung to the belief - long before The Lion was found - that there were missing episodes here. He still hasn't given up searching."

When Paul and Neil sat down with Grenville, who was unaware of The Lion's rarity having bought it cheap at a film collectors fair, they watched the 16mm film print in question and knew immediately that they were viewing a genuine missing episode. Paul's first thoughts during these exciting moments? "My first thoughts were along the lines of "Oh my goodness - what are we going to do?" I think when I was sitting there watching the episode that first time what was running through my head was how to get it back to the BBC. At that time we weren't sure if Grenville would even loan it out. I was really worried that he might very well decide to hoard it away, and the only copy anyone would ever get to see would be my handi-cam version recorded off the screen. Fortunately, that wasn't the case." After contacting Steve Roberts of the BBC's unofficial Doctor Who Restoration Team, negotiations were underway with Grenville for the BBC to borrow the film print for copying, and news of the discovery literally spread around the globe.

The Season Two historical adventure The Crusade has always been highly regarded and praised. In Peter Haining's twentieth anniversary book Doctor Who - A Celebration (1983), Jeremy Bentham writes "Director Douglas Camfield pulled off a considerable coup with this story. Armed with what he considered to be the finest script he has ever worked with, he managed to persuade big-name actor Julian Glover to play the part of King Richard I - Richard the Lionheart. The grand confrontation between Glover, as Richard, and up-and-coming actress Jean Marsh as Joanna made for one of the finest moments of television drama ever witnessed in Doctor Who." In the Doctor Who Handbook - The First Doctor, authors Howe, Stammers and Walker exclaim "David Whitaker's scripts are brilliant, Douglas Camfield's direction immaculate and Barry Newbery's sets superb. William Hartnell...turns in one of his best ever performances as the Doctor." And upon its discovery, Gary Russell proclaimed in Doctor Who Magazine #275 that The Lion "Is an example of historically detailed Doctor Who at its very best, with charm, wit, style and conviction."

Scoones admits he was quite surprised at the time by the worldwide attention which The Lion generated. "It was a surprise, yes. For a few days, it was like what I imagine it must be to be a minor celebrity. My phone rang constantly with local and overseas TV stations all wanting an interview, and I was on both television news channels here in NZ, as well as the story appearing on the front page of the newspaper. The media attention was remarkable."

Even more remarkable is the colorful history behind the film print of The Lion. Research has revealed that this particular film print somehow managed to survive near-burial at a Wellington rubbish tip in 1975, thereby passing from one New Zealand film collector to another for the next quarter century, persevering through owners ignorant of its worth and poor storage conditions. As Scoones illustrates, "It is a remarkable story. Its survival is a combination of good luck and dedication on the part of the film collectors who originally rescued it from the dump. What's worrying, however, is that until 1999, no one whose hands the film passed through had any awareness that the film was in any way rare or valuable. Hopefully, due to the high media exposure its recovery received, film collectors are now aware to look out for Doctor Who film prints."

Hopeful fans would like to believe that perhaps more missing Doctor Who material is waiting to be discovered elsewhere in New Zealand, either via film collectors or TV archives. Scoones cautiously believes "It's always possible that something will show up, but I think the news stories about The Lion's discovery which circulated the globe probably did more to raise awareness than any BBC orchestrated campaign could have ever done, and if there were episodes in private hands its likely we'd know about it by now. And I don't subscribe to the belief that there are selfish film collectors knowingly hoarding away missing episodes. I think that's a fan myth. I'd like to believe that sooner or later, human nature would prevail, and the owner of any missing material would come forward and allow the BBC to take a copy. There's far more prestige in being a generous benefactor than a secretive hoarder."

And as for the likelihood of lost episodes still residing in New Zealand's TV archives, Scoones reveals that "TVNZ's own archives have been thoroughly catalogued and we know from internal records that no missing episodes survive there. About a decade ago, Graham Howard gained permission to go through a Wellington film store of old television episodes, and although he found two film cans labeled with missing Doctor Who episodes (Marco Polo Episode 7 and The Moonbase Episode 3), the film cans had unfortunately been reused and no longer contained the original films. I think if there are any more missing episodes to be found, they'll be residing in as-yet uncatalogued television vaults somewhere else overseas."

Once owner Bruce Grenville realized the value of his missing episode film print, he announced plans to sell it at auction. Initially, his plan was to auction The Lion in September 1999, but this event was canceled due to a surprising lack of interest. A second attempt to sell the print at auction was successful, and the print was sold by Grenville to another New Zealand collector for US$850. This same collector then auctioned The Lion on eBay.com with the final price reaching an astonishing US$3150! However, the winning bidder never paid up, and The Lion was offered again on eBay between January 1-15, 2000 (almost a year to the day that the episode was found). 43 bids were received, and the final price at which the film was sold was US$1275. Neither the buyer or seller's identity was disclosed...

The story of The Lion's dramatic rescue did not end, however, with its discovery. That was just the beginning, as Scoones discovered once attempts were made to transfer the film print from New Zealand to the BBC. "I'd always believed that the BBC would be prepared and set up to smoothly handle the recovery of missing episodes, but the reality is surprisingly different. I spoke at length in an article for The Disused Yeti over the problems I had with receiving reimbursement for mailing costs and the debacle over the crediting of the people involved in the find. I was for a time very pissed off about the whole thing; not so much for myself, but for my friend Neil Lambess, who actually tracked down the episode in the first place, and received negligible recognition. His name appears nowhere on the UK packaging or credits of the video." And what was the BBC's response when Grenville announced his intention to auction the print off? "Incredibly, the BBC threatened legal action over his ownership of the print - how's that going to encourage people to come forward with missing episode prints? Sheer incompetence, really." The BBC later reversed course regarding its threatened legal action, but the damage had perhaps already been done.

One may assume that the BBC has since developed new policy for facilitating the return of missing episodes, but Scoones does not believe this to be the case: "I recently was contacted by a BBC producer searching for missing episodes of Dad's Army, who sadly informed me that nothing has changed and that there's a very real risk that members of the public who approach the BBC through their general phone lines about missing episodes would be turned away through ignorance. It's a sad situation, but the BBC is a huge corporation full of people who don't care about the wider picture and are only interested in their particular area. Any approach to the BBC about missing episodes - unless made through people who care, such as The Restoration Team - is likely to fall on deaf ears."

On a positive note, fandom may now enjoy another long-lost look at Doctor Who's prestigious past while hope has been renewed that further lost episodes may still exist somewhere, waiting to be found. Justifiably, Scoones feels great pride in his and Neil's contribution to fandom: "Whenever I come across a mention of the story or The Lion in particular, in articles or reference books, it always provokes a tingle down my spine, knowing that I helped to recover it. I'll never forget the night before I sent the film print off to the UK; it was a strange sensation to have the film print sitting on my desk at home and thinking how unique it was, and how many hundreds of fans around the world would just love to get their hands on it!"

03 April, 2018


Our much-loved cat Monty died today.

He joined Rochelle and me at the beginning of 2006 when he was just a six-week-old kitten who had never been away from the rest of his litter. When we went to pick him out he stood out from his tabby siblings because of his distinctive black and white tuxedo markings and his amusing half-moustache.

It was immediately apparent to us that this kitten had an adventurous nature. While we were still deciding whether to take him, he made the decision for us by making a bee-line for the front door even though he’d never been outside, as if to say, ‘What are you waiting for? Let’s go!’ The people we got him from had called him Sylvester, but we decided to name him Monty, short for Montgomery Horatio Scoones.

We got Monty as a companion for our other tuxedo cat, Chester, whom we’d had for many years. Chester was elderly and wasn’t expected to last much longer, but he hung in there, and the pair had two years together before Chester died in April 2008; coincidentally, ten years ago this month. In Chester’s absence, Monty soon asserted himself as the ‘alpha cat’ of our neighbourhood, and befriended or bested every other feline in the vicinity.

We later acquired two female kittens to keep Monty company but these free-spirited young cats were barely tolerated by him, and the threesome took quite some time to work out how to share the same house.

Monty had so much personality and was hugely affectionate. He would immediately rub up against most human visitors and demand to be petted, even complete strangers.

He loved to go for walks around the block. He never wore a collar or lead, he just happily trotted alongside us. When he got tired, he’d just flop down on the ground and was content to be carried the rest of the way.

Monty was a large, heavy cat with a corresponding appetite. His all-time favourite food was fresh beef heart. His hearing was keenly attuned to the exact sound made by the kitchen scissors as we cut the chunks of beef heart up for him. Even if he was roaming a neighbour’s property, he’d immediately come charging inside and demand to be fed. We had to be very careful never to use those scissors for anything else!

Over a year ago, Monty had surgery to remove cancer from the end of his nose. He initially seemed fine but complications later developed and our vet put him on medication. This kept him in good health for many months, but we were aware that he was on borrowed time.

His health rapidly declined in recent days and, after a particularly bad patch over the weekend, we realised with great sadness that it was time to let him go. We took him to the vet first thing this morning and he was peacefully put to sleep. We’ve buried him in a sunny patch in our garden alongside his old pal Chester.

03 March, 2017

Colour Cave Monsters

Whenever the Jon Pertwee story Doctor Who and the Silurians has screened on New Zealand television, the episodes have always been in black and white. March 2017's screenings on The Zone channel is the very first time that this story has been broadcast in New Zealand in colour.

Colour television began in New Zealand way back in October 1973, but many programmes were still broadcast in black and white for a while afterwards.

Doctor Who and the Silurians was first broadcast here in April - May 1975, a full five years after the UK. It was the last Doctor Who story screened in black and white before colour episodes (beginning with Day of the Daleks) were seen later the same year.

Doctor Who and the Silurians story was originally made in colour but the BBC junked the colour recordings of this story in the early 1970s. Australia had previous screened the story in black and white, and it seems likely that New Zealand's copies were sourced from that country.

Doctor Who and the Silurians was next seen here a decade later, in May - June 1985, at which time only black and white copies were available. The story was repeated in this form in August - October 1991.

The fourth screening, and the first time the story was seen on Prime, was in September - October 2000. By this time the BBC had produced colour-restored copies of this and other Jon Pertwee stories but the episodes supplied to Prime were in black and white.

I alerted Prime to the existence of colour-restored copies of this and later Pertwee stories, and as consequence colour episodes were sourced and screened, but it was too late to do anything about the Silurians story which had already screened.

Consequently, March 2017's screening of Doctor Who and the Silurians is the first time it has been seen in colour on New Zealand television.

07 February, 2017

Twin Peaks in New Zealand

Twin Peaks screened on New Zealand television in 1991. I was in my early twenties and watched every episode as it went out, read the books, and frequently discussed the plots with similarly obsessed friends. I haven’t thought about Twin Peaks in a long time, but the anticipated arrival this year of a television revival and continuation has re-engaged my interest in this much-loved cult classic. A long-time friend and fellow New Zealander, Morgan Davie, has created a Twin Peaks re-watch blog at The Ruminator that counts down to the new series debut.

Morgan notes on his blog that Twin Peaks arrived in New Zealand in April 1991, a year after the show’s US debut. Despite this long delay, and incredibly for a series that was slow to divulge its twists and turns, I didn’t find out who killed Laura Palmer until it unfolded on screen. This was of course years before the internet became commonplace, so perhaps this wasn't so remarkable. Good luck trying to avoid ‘spoilers’ when the new series airs.

This renewed interest in Twin Peaks got me thinking about my memories of watching the episodes on their original broadcast, so last week I decided to look up the screening dates in the New Zealand Listener. This weekly magazine, which has been around longer than television, most usefully publishes comprehensive television schedules. (The Listener was an enormously useful resource many years ago when I researched the entire transmission history of Doctor Who in New Zealand.)

Leafing through the bound volumes of 1991 issues, I discovered some interesting, long-forgotten facts about how and when Twin Peaks was screened here. The episode billings had descriptions, but not episode names or numbers so a bit of head-scratching and cross-referencing with online guides was necessary to work out exactly which episode screened on any given date.

Twin Peaks screened on TV3, New Zealand’s first privately-owned television channel. In 1991 it was still relatively new, having launched in November 1989. The pilot episode was scheduled to air on Tuesday 2 April 1991, in a two-hour primetime slot from 8:30-10:30 pm. The Listener took the unusual step of including a note in the billing: "At press time, TV3 were unwilling to confirm that Twin Peaks would definitely play at this time on this day."

In spite of this uncertainty the magazine promoted the screening with the front cover strapline, “Twin Peaks, Weirdsville, USA”, and a two-page article entitled ‘Strange Crew’ by Shelley Howells, profiling each of the main characters. This was the first of several feature articles about the series that appeared in the Listener that year. The others included interviews with Peggy Lipton and Julee Cruise, a look at the Autobiography of Dale Cooper book, and an item about Twin Peaks fandom.

As it transpired, the Listener were right to be uncertain: the pilot did not screen on this date, and instead went to air exactly a week later, in the same timeslot on the evening of Tuesday 8 April 1991. That date is curious because it is exactly a year to the day after the US premiere. 

Something prevented TV3 from screening Twin Peaks when originally advertised. No explanation was provided for the delay in the Listener, but I suspect that there may have been an embargo in place that prevented the series being screened here any earlier than the one-year anniversary. In their promotion for the series, the Listener mentioned the re-edited home video version of the pilot episode, advising viewers to “watch again – the telly version has a different ending”. So given that the video release was already available in New Zealand, were the rights surrounding this perhaps responsible for holding up the television broadcast?

Having effectively lost a week, TV3 seemed keen to make up lost ground, scheduling the first and second episodes of series one back-to-back in another two hour timeslot the very next day. From the following week, the series settled into a regular schedule of one episode a week on Tuesday evenings.

There was no break between seasons 1 and 2 as there had been in the US, which meant that NZ went from a year to only eight months behind. The double-length Season 2 premiere (episode 8) was split into two regular-length episodes here. A month later, the reverse occurred with two episodes (13 & 14) screened back-to-back. This reason for this appears to have been tied to the revelation of Laura Palmer’s killer at the conclusion of the latter episode.

The resolution of the ‘Who killed Laura Palmer?’ storyline in episode 16 appears to have put a massive dent in the series’ popularity, at least here in NZ. Episode 17 screened as usual on 22 July, but the following week Twin Peaks was abruptly absent without explanation (at least in the pages of the Listener). Taking its place was an episode of the new US crime drama Law & Order. TV3’s decision to yank Twin Peaks from the schedule might also have been precipitated by its recent cancellation in the US, with the final episode screening there on 10 June 1991.  

Twin Peaks was off air for nine weeks, and when it returned it looked as if TV3 had lost all confidence in it. The series resumed without any fanfare on Monday 30 September, shunted into a graveyard timeslot of 11:05-12:05, as the last programme screened before the channel’s midnight closedown. Effectively it had been buried in the schedule. The final 12 episodes screened in this fashion, with the last episode going to air on 16 December, just over six months after the US. 

An ignominious end for what had been, earlier that same year, a heavily-promoted primetime series.

Twin Peaks on New Zealand Television - An Episode Guide

(Episode descriptions from the Listener)

Pilot: ‘Northwest Passage’
NZ: 8 April 1991 (US: 8 April 1990)
A surreal murder mystery series which probes the secretive lives of the townsfolk who live in Twin Peaks, a small US northwestern timber town. Pilot: FBI agent Dale Cooper is called to Twin Peaks to solve the brutal murder of Laura Palmer, the high-school homecoming queen.

Episodes 1 & 2: ‘Traces to Nowhere’ & ‘Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer’
NZ: 9 April 1991 (US: 12 & 19 April 1990)
Cooper and Truman find out more about Laura’s secret life, and release James from jail – along with the malevolent Mike and Bobby. At the sheriff’s department Cooper demonstrates an unusual deductive technique.

Episode 3: ‘Rest in Pain’
NZ: 15 April 1991 (US: 26 April 1990)
Cooper uses the deductive powers of his unconscious mind to break open the case, the townsfolk gather for the funeral and Truman reveals the secret of the Bookhouse Boys.

Episode 4: ‘The One-Armed Man’
NZ: 23 April 1991 (US: 3 May 1990)
Cooper tries to match his dream with Sarah’s vision; Hawk stalks the one-armed man; Hank goes before the parole board and Audrey decides to conduct her own investigation of Laura’s murder with help from Donna.

Episode 5: ‘Cooper’s Dreams’
NZ: 30 April 1991 (US: 10 May 1990)
Cooper and Truman meet the Log Lady and find a gruesome crime scene in the woods. James and Donna take Madeline Ferguson into their confidence.

Episode 6: ‘Realization Time’
NZ: 7 May 1991 (US: 17 May 1990)
Agent Cooper and Ed pay a special visit to One-Eyed Jack’s while Audrey Horne works undercover as a host there.

Episode 7: ‘The Last Evening’
NZ: 14 May 1991 (US: 23 May 1990)
Cooper and Truman’s investigation moves towards a terrifying end, Dr Jacoby’s meeting with “Laura Palmer” has bizarre consequences and Hank Jennings’s evil spreads to Josie Packard.

Episode 8 (part 1): ‘May the Giant Be with You’
NZ: 21 May 1991 (US: 30 September 1990)
Scorching questions remain in the mill fire’s aftermath; Jacques Renault is found dead; Audrey becomes a terrified prisoner and Donna puffs cigarettes.

Episode 8 (part 2): ‘May the Giant Be with You’
NZ: 28 May 1991 (US: 30 September 1990)
The community is shattered as several lives hang in the balance, Audrey is taken prisoner and Donna receives a strange message.

Episode 9: ‘Coma’
NZ: 4 June 1991 (US: 6 October 1990)
Agent Cooper gets some uncalled-for help, and some unwelcome news; Audrey is in more trouble than she thinks; Donna plans to meet a stranger; and a distressed Leland Palmer makes a frightening discovery.

Episode 10: ‘The Man Behind the Glass’
NZ: 11 June 1991 (US: 13 October 1990)
The trail to Laura’s killer takes a new turn; Blackie O’Reilly sees a golden opportunity; James Hurley and Madeline Ferguson strike an unforeseen chord; and Dr Jacoby undergoes hypnosis.

Episode 11: ‘Laura’s Secret Diary’
NZ: 18 June 1991 (US: 20 October 1990)
Ben Horne baffles Agent Cooper when he asks him to save Audrey’s life, Donna goes on another picnic, Lucy’s love life becomes difficult and Josie introduces her cousin from Hong Kong.

Episode 12: ‘The Orchid’s Curse’
NZ: 25 June 1991 (US: 27 October 1990)
Cooper tells Truman where Audrey Horne is, Donna and Maddy plan to steal Laura Palmer’s secret diary and Benjamin Horne gets a surprise visitor and a business proposition.

Episodes 13 & 14: ‘Demons’ & ‘Lonely Souls’
NZ: 2 July 1991 (US: 3 & 10 November 1990)
Cooper and Truman raid One-Eyed Jacks, Donna and Maddy are at the mercy of an angry Harold Smith, Shelly and Bobby “welcome home” Leo and Cooper’s bureau chief stops in Twin Peaks. With some vital help from the one-armed man, Cooper and Truman’s investigations finally uncover the identity of Laura Palmer’s killer!

Episode 15: ‘Drive with a Dead Girl’
NZ: 9 July 1991 (US: 17 November 1990)
The one-armed man helps Cooper and Truman’s search for Bob, Lucy returns home with company and Bobby sets out on a new money-making venture.

Episode 16: ‘Arbitrary Law’
NZ: 16 July 1991 (US: 1 December 1990)
Cooper asks Truman to give him 24 hours to prove who murdered Laura Palmer, Deputy Andy surprises Donna with his knowledge of French, Mrs Tremond disappears and Ben Horne’s fortunes hit an all-time low.

Episode 17: ‘Dispute Between Brothers’
NZ: 22 July 1991 (US: 8 December 1990)
Agent Cooper and Truman bid farewell and a wake is held for Leland Palmer. Nadine may be able to go back to high school, Tremayne embraces fatherhood, and Audrey tells a new-found friend all about her ice cream preferences.

Episode 18: ‘Masked Ball’
NZ: 30 September 1991 (US: 15 December 1990)
Truman defends Cooper’s activities at one-eyed Jacks, Mrs Briggs worries about Garland’s disappearance and Nadine is besotted with Mike Nelson.

Episode 19: ‘The Black Widow’
NZ: 7 October 1991 (US: 12 January 1991)
Cooper’s white glove test yields a clue, Deputy Andy and Dick Tremayne are concerned about little Nicky’s past and Bobby makes a quick buck.

Episode 20: ‘Checkmate’
NZ: 14 October 1991 (US: 19 January 1991)
Cooper and Truman arrange a trap for Jean Renault, Deputy Andy and Dick Tremayne pry into Little Nicky’s background and an old lover interrupts Ben Horne.

Episode 21: ‘Double Play’
NZ: 21 October 1991 (US: 2 February 1991)
Cooper tells Truman about the tragic history of his former FBI partner Windom Earle, Audrey sets up a business deal with Bobby Briggs, Leo Johnson comes back to vicious life and James is confused about Evelyn Marsh.

Episode 22: ‘Slaves and Masters’
NZ: 28 October 1991 (US: 9 February 1991)
Truman and Cooper try to track down Cooper’s former partner, Windom Earle, Ed Hurley cooks for Norma, Dr Jacoby changes the course of history, and James Hurley gets in trouble with the law.

Episode 23: ‘The Condemned Woman’
NZ: 4 November 1991 (US: 16 February 1991)
Truman watches as Cooper pleads with Josie for the truth, Ben Horne has a change of heart about the future of Twin Peaks, and James Hurley and Donna Hayward say goodbye.

Episode 24: ‘Wounds and Scars’
NZ: 11 November 1991 (US: 28 March 1991)
Agent Cooper and the sheriff’s department investigate caves at midnight, Truman wakes up to the murderous embrace of a naked woman and Audrey Horne and Donna Hayward witness a strange meeting.
(The wrong billing information was published - this was for episode 25. The error was noted in the Listener the following week)

Episode 25: ‘On the Wings of Love’
NZ: 18 November 1991 (US: 4 April 1991)
Cooper investigates caves at midnight, Truman wakes up to a murderous embrace and Audrey Horne and Donna Hayward witness a strange meeting.

Episode 26: ‘Variations on Relations’
NZ: 25 November 1991 (US: 11 April 1991)
Cooper and Truman try to understand the hieroglyph found in Owl Cave, and the local beauty competition draws hot competition.

Episode 27: ‘The Path to the Black Lodge’
NZ: 2 December 1991 (US: 18 April 1991)
Cooper and Truman continue their investigation of Owl Cave, Windom Earle takes a captive, Cooper and Annie find their romance blooming, and Donna discovers a scrapbook full of surprises.

Episode 28: ‘Miss Twin Peaks’
NZ: 9 December 1991 (US: 10 June 1991)
Cooper and Truman unravel part of the secret of the Black Lodge – but it might be too late. And the townsfolk gather at the Miss Twin Peaks pageant.

Episode 29: ‘Beyond Life and Death’
NZ: 16 December 1991 (US: 10 June 1991)
Cooper and Truman attempt to head off Windom Earle at the Black Lodge to save the life of Miss Twin Peaks. Nadine Hurley enrols in the school of hard knocks.

01 June, 2016

Adventures in Hardcover

My collection of Doctor Who hardback novelisations
The Doctor Who novelisations are to me powerful objects of nostalgia. Just a glance at the cover artwork has the power to trigger a memory of where and when I first acquired my copy of that book. These slim paperbacks were an obsession throughout my teens, as I gradually built a much-loved collection of the novelisations.

The books taught me to read, and by extension, to write. My mother gave me a paperback copy of Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters when I was probably about eight-years-old. I remember that the book seemed daunting at first. It was long with many unfamiliar words and small type. I was intrigued by the fact that it was related to the television series I'd been watching. I read it many times over.

I then found to my delight that my local library had some of the books in hardback. I regularly borrowed these. I don't remember all of the titles they had, but I vividly recall that one of them was Doctor Who and the Time Warrior, because the disturbingly life-like cover artwork of Linx the Sontaran gave me horrible nightmares.

Around the end of 1980, I noticed a display bin full of Target Doctor Who paperback books in a local bookshop. My grandmother offered to buy me one, so I picked Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks because it looked exciting and had Daleks. I got this book days before my family went off on a two-week summer camping holiday. During that time away, I made it my mission to look for more of the books in any shop I could find. By the time I returned home my collection had grown to seven books.

This was the beginning of my obsession. I had an overwhelming desire to own every book in the series. There were so many to collect (around 60 were available by the end of 1980), and I didn't have very much pocket money so limited myself to only getting the Tom Baker Doctor books at first. Once I had almost all of these, I set my sights on the rest.

Eventually I caught up. By mid-1984 I had around 80 titles but there were still three I was having great difficulty tracking down: The Abominable Snowmen, The Ice Warriors and Four to Doomsday. Months of fruitless searching culminated in a triumphant discovery - I chanced across all three sitting together on the same shelf, newly stocked in my local bookshop. At last I had a full set! Thereafter it was a matter of building up the collection at the rate of one a month as each new Target title appeared in the shops.

My interest in collecting the novelisations was re-energised in the late 1990s, long after I'd completed a set of the full run of Target paperback books. I had fond memories of the hardback editions of the novelisations that I had first encountered in the library before I started collecting the paperbacks. The first three hardbacks had been published in the 1960s. Two more were issued in early 1974. Thereafter, the books were only issued in paperback until late 1975 when the hardbacks resumed, beginning with Planet of the Spiders. The ten books that had only been published in paperback were all later issued in hardback editions. The hardbacks and paperbacks initially appeared simultaneously but from 1983 onwards the hardbacks were issued several months in advance of the paperbacks. The hardback range ended in June 1988 and the last 22 novelisations were only issued in paperback.

I'd acquired a handful of the hardbacks from secondhand bookshops and fellow fans. It was only when I started using the Ebay auction site that I realised that it might be possible to collect a set of these editions. Ebay had many of the hardbacks listed reasonably cheaply and also often in even more cost-effective assortments of four or five titles. The condition of the books varied wildly, from much-scuffed and faded ex-library editions to immaculate never-been-read copies, but this variable quality simply adds to the charm of the collection.

 Although I was placing low bids for these hardbacks, I rarely lost an auction. There was only one title that I had to pay well over the odds for, and that was The Wheel in Space, one of the rarest of the novelisations. The last hardback in publication order, The Smugglers, was exceptionally difficult to find. I noticed an auction that described the book as a paperback but featured a photograph of the hardback. Possibly due to the misleading description no-one had placed a bid, so I took a chance. It was only when the parcel arrived in the post that I knew for certain that I'd got the right edition!

I collected the hardbacks at just the right time. In the late 1990s interest in Doctor Who seemed to have diminished, something that was reflected in the prices of secondhand merchandise associated with the series. A couple of years later, possibly fuelled by growing interest in the DVD releases and then later the new television series, the prices for these hardback editions shot up dramatically, and many of them are now impossible to find.

I have one of every novelisation issued in hardback. The Crusaders and The Auton Invasion are the 1980s reprint editions, but otherwise the books are as originally published.

12 November, 2015

Acting in overruns - setting the record straight about Planet of Fire

Mark Strickson as Turlough in Planet of Fire (1984)
On The Underwater Menace DVD is a documentary called The Television Centre of the Universe - Part Two in which actors Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson and other personnel reminisce about their memories of working on Doctor Who at the former BBC Television Centre studios in London. During the documentary, Strickson, who played the fifth Doctor’s companion Turlough, recalls an incident that occurred on Planet of Fire, his last story, when he had to perform a scene with seconds to spare at the end of the day’s recording.

BBC Television Centre had a regulated shutdown each night at ten o’clock. The studio lights would be turned off at exactly that time regardless of the production’s progress. It was therefore imperative to finish recording before this deadline or else have the lights go out abruptly in the midst of recording a scene. Special arrangement could be made to go beyond ten o’clock if deemed to be absolutely essential, but these so-called ‘overruns’ were required to be documented in writing by the programme’s producer with an explanation as to why each instance had occurred.

The studio recording for Planet of Fire took place in two blocks totalling five days: 26 and 27 October in the large Studio One; and 9, 10 and 11 November 1983 in the much smaller Studio Six. It was a particularly demanding production for the crew, led by the highly-experienced director Fiona Cumming, because of the number of complex effects shots and difficulties with operating the robot prop Kamelion. These factors and other technical issues contributed to overruns on three of the five studio days.

Thursday 27 October, the second of the two days in Studio One, suffered the most significant overrun, lasting 35 minutes past ten o’clock. The scenes scheduled for recording on this date included all that take place on the Hall of Fire set. The overrun was necessary to complete these scenes because it would have been costly and impractical to not only retain and re-erect the large set on the next available studio day, two weeks later, but also re-hire the large group of extras playing the Sarns in these scenes. The Hall of Fire material was scheduled to have been completed early enough in the evening to subsequently record four scenes in the wrecked Trion spaceship and a further eight in the Master’s Laboratory, but due to the delay all of these material had to be rescheduled for a later date. The sets had been erected for these scenes in Studio One were dismantled without having been used.

The abandoned scenes were added to the next block of recording days, and provisions were made to erect the required sets in Studio Six. Fortunately the plan had always been to split the Master’s Laboratory scenes over the two studio blocks so additional room only had to be found to accommodate the Wrecked Ship set, which was erected alongside the TARDIS Console Room.

The Wrecked Ship scenes were now scheduled to be recorded last thing on the evening of Thursday 10 November, the penultimate studio day. On The Television Centre of the Universe documentary Mark Strickson recalls that these were the final scenes he recorded for the series. This was not the case: he was back the very next day, Friday 11 November, to perform scenes on the Ruins set, culminating in his final scene in story order, in which Turlough bids farewell to the Doctor and Peri outside the TARDIS. Once this scene was completed, recording continued with scenes in the Master’s Laboratory and on the Master’s TARDIS Console Room set. Turlough was not involved in any of these scenes so Mark Strickson was released from the production early on his last day.

On the previous evening it was a very different state of affairs as the cast and crew worked against the clock to complete the scenes on the Wrecked Ship set. Ten o’clock passed, and the production was again into overruns. As producer John Nathan-Turner noted, in a memo dated 15 November, the overrun on 10 November ran to 15 minutes ‘in order to complete scenes in a set that had to be struck [i.e. dismantled] over-night’. He was of course referring to the Wrecked Ship set.

Internal BBC memo from Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner, dated 15 November 1983, to explain the overrun on the evening of Thursday 10 November.

Recalling the the pressures they were under on the DVD documentary, Strickson says, ‘[it] was the last scene in the studio and the director Fiona Cumming said, “Look, get it in Mark. I don’t know how you’re going to do it, you’ve got so many seconds, the scene lasts this.” So I had to physically, as I was acting, cut lines because I knew the lights were going to go out.’

This was by no means the first time Strickson had told this particular anecdote about his final story. On the Calling the Shots feature on the Planet of Fire DVD, he says, ‘… we were running very, very late, we had something like thirty seconds left before the lights were turned out and Fiona Cumming … said to me, “Mark, I don’t care how you do it, get the lines in, get the plot down because we all lose light in thirty seconds”, and I just edited and cut it as I went, and almost the moment we finished the whole of television centre went black.’ The incident is also mentioned by Strickson on the Planet of Fire DVD commentary (during the first Wrecked Ship scene in Part Two). Furthermore, when Jon Preddle and I interviewed Mark in 1990, he said, ‘This scene lasts about a minute and a half in the script and there was about forty-six seconds of studio left to get it in. So we started this scene and Fiona says, “I don’t care what you do, but get the plot in.” We just went for it - and I got the plot in.’

Mark Strickson (Turlough) and Jonathan Caplan (Roskal) in the final scene recorded on the Wrecked Ship set on 10 November 1983

The common thread running through these accounts is that under pressure Strickson improvised the last scene to some extent in order to get the relevant details across in the briefest time.

So what was altered in the heat of the moment? The camera scripts offer a detailed record of what was to be performed in studio. A comparison between the scenes on the Wrecked Ship as written and on screen reveals a surprising fact. They all play out as scripted. There is one dialogue edit, a cut lasting four seconds, at the start of Part Four’s Scene 22 (Roskal: ‘Is it still working?’ Turlough: ‘I don’t know.’), but these lines were definitely recorded as evidenced by their inclusion on a longer, time-coded edit of this episode.

Pages from the camera script for Planet of Fire Part Four, showing the last two Wrecked Ship scenes
(click on the image to enlarge)

The scenes in the Wrecked Ship were recorded last thing in the evening, just before the studio shut down. In that respect Mark Strickson’s recollection is undoubtedly correct. However the notion that this was his final work on Doctor Who or, more significantly, that he cut lines and edited dialogue on the fly in order to complete one or more of these scenes in the time available is wrong. All four scenes were all performed as written in the camera scripts. What Mark Strickson deserves credit for here is of course that he did a sterling job of managing to deliver the lines accurately under such pressure.

Stephen James Walker offers his recollection in response to my article... ‘I was in the studio when those wrecked ship scenes were being recorded at the end of the day, and they certainly were done very much under time pressure. I remember Mark accidentally dropped the Trion pendant prop at one point, and had to scrabble around on the set to retrieve it, while still acting.’

10 September, 2015

Ever Decreasing Delays

Good news! Prime has announced that Series 9's episodes of Doctor Who will be screened in New Zealand at 7:30pm on the Sunday after the UK Saturday broadcast. That means that we are only a matter of hours behind. A simultaneous broadcast would be 6:30am, so Prime’s screening will be 13 hours later.

Although one-off specials have appeared on Prime soon after the UK in the past, this will be the first time that a full series of Doctor Who has aired here so promptly.

Looking back over the past decade of Doctor Who, New Zealand fans have not always been so fortunate.

Back in 2005 when the revived series launched with Rose in the UK on Saturday 26 March, there was no indication of when New Zealanders would get to see it. The series finally arrived here on Thursday 7 July, 103 days later.

If this long delay seemed intolerable, there was worse still to come. The first Christmas special, introducing David Tennant’s Doctor, was delayed by more than six months. The Christmas Invasion was held back to open the second series, so New Zealand finally got to see it on Thursday 6 July 2006, 193 days later! Series 2 (New Earth to Doomsday) began screening the following week, 89 days after the UK. This was a slight improvement on the treatment of the 2005 series, but only by two weeks.

In 2007 the Christmas special was again held back by Prime and stuck on the beginning of Series 3. Whereas the first two series had both opened in July, Series 3 did not commence until late August, resulting in an even longer gap between UK and NZ transmissions. When The Runaway Bride screened on Sunday 19 August 2007 it set a new series record delay of 237 days.

The first six episodes of Series 3 (Smith and Jones to The Lazarus Experiment) had a delay of 148 days. This gap was reduced by a week to 141 days for the latter half of the series (42 to Last of the Time Lords) simply because the UK took a one-week break mid-series.

2008 was the last to have such long delays for a run of episodes. Once again the Christmas special was held back to open the new series. Voyage of the Damned screened on Sunday 13 July 2008, a delay of 194 days. The first half of Series 4 (Partners in Crime to The Unicorn and the Wasp), had a gap of 99 days, that reduced by a week to 92 days for Silence in the Library to The Stolen Earth, and a further reduction to 85 days for the series finale, Journey’s End, as the last two episodes were screened back-to-back in New Zealand on 28 September 2008, 12 weeks after Series 4 concluded in the UK.

There was no new series in 2009. The Next Doctor, 2008’s Christmas episode, was scheduled as a one-off special on Prime, however it still suffered a long delay before screening on Monday 13 April 2009, a delay of 109 days.

Thereafter, the situation began to improve as Prime gradually moved its screening dates closer to those in the UK. The lack of a full series in 2009 to have to find room for in the schedules may have helped in this regard. The next special, Planet of the Dead, aired on Monday 1 June 2009, 51 days after the UK.

The gap closed considerably for The Waters of Mars, which aired on Sunday 29 November, just 14 days after the UK. In fact New Zealand appears to have been the very first country outside the UK to screen this story (Australia first screened it a week later, and Canada and the US both aired it the following year).

David Tennant’s last story, the two-part The End of Time, wasn’t quite as prompt to arrive here, screening on 7 and 14 February 2010, 44 days after the UK.

The arrival of Matt Smith’s Doctor saw Prime making further inroads into the delay for a run of episodes. Series 5 (The Eleventh Hour to The Big Bang) screened from Sunday 2 May 2010, 29 days behind the UK.

A Christmas Carol was slightly more delayed, screening on Sunday 30 January 2011, 36 days later.

The 2011 series was split in half for both the UK and NZ. The first half, The Impossible Astronaut to A Good Man Goes to War, screened here from Thursday 19 May 2011, a delay of 26 days. The second half, Let’s Kill Hitler to The Wedding of River Song, screened from Thursday 15 September and had only a 19 day gap.

The next Christmas special, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, screened here on Thursday 19 January 2012, 25 days after the UK.

The first half of Series 7, Asylum of the Daleks to The Angels take Manhattan, screened from Thursday 13 September 2012, a gap of just 12 days, which was at the time the shortest delay NZ had experienced with the new series.

Even better than this, the 2012 Christmas special The Snowmen screened less than a day after the UK, on the evening of 26 December. This next day arrangement has been repeated for successive Christmas specials.

The latter half of Series 7, The Bells of Saint John to The Name of the Doctor, was again a 12 day delay, with the run of episodes commencing on Thursday 11 April 2012.

The 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor, was simulcast in many countries around the world, but New Zealand was very slightly delayed. Had this country joined the simulcast, the story would have aired at 8:50am but instead it went out just 10 minutes later, screening at 9am, on Sunday 24 November. This time delay was apparently because Prime's schedules dictated that the programme started on the hour.

The 2013 Christmas special, The Time of the Doctor, screened less than a day after the UK, on the evening of 26 December.

Peter Capaldi’s first series, Deep Breath to Death in Heaven, screened from Sunday 31 August 2014, only a week after the UK.

Finally, Last Christmas screened less than a couple of hours after the UK, going out on Prime at 9am on 26 December 2014, and making New Zealand once again the first country outside the UK to screen the story.

Which brings us up to date. Until now, next day screenings (which are effectively the same day given the timezone difference), have been the province of one-off specials, but with Series 9 screening from Sunday 20 September, Prime has committed to giving full series the same treatment. The time when New Zealanders had to wait days, weeks or even months to see new episodes of Doctor Who are hopefully gone forever.