INFLUENTIAL early sixties TV sci-fi series Pathfinders is to be released on DVD for the first time after the one missing episode was discovered – in the ITV archives.
Until recently it was long thought that episode 1 of Pathfinders to Venus, “SOS From Venus”, was lost save for the soundtrack.
But earlier this year the entire eight-part 1961 serial was found complete within the archives and will be released this December by Network DVD along with earlier series Pathfinders in Space and Pathfinders to Mars.
One of ITV’s earliest dramas written specifically for children, Sydney Newman’s Pathfinders series has been described as the “missing link” between seminal BBC radio show Journey Into Space and Doctor Who, the latter of which Newman also created.
Over three series broadcast during 1960 and 1961 the Pathfinders journeyed to the moon and other worlds, facing drama at every turn – from space hazards to Venusian dinosaurs.
With intelligent and engaging scripts by Malcolm Hulke and Eric Paice, and a strong cast including actors Gerald Flood (Conway Henderson) and George Coulouris (Harcourt Brown), the series proved tremendously successful with the viewing public and even got into the regional top ten – unheard of for a children’s programme.
In addition to all 21 episodes, The Pathfinders in Space Omnibus DVD also features an image gallery and production booklet by noted archive television historian Andrew Pixley. It is released on December 31, 2011.
WHEEL MEET AGAIN: A promotional photo from The Wheel in Space showing the Cybermen and new companion Zoe (Wendy Padbury).
A NEW CGI trailer for classic Doctor Who story The Wheel in Spacehas become an internet hit.
The clip imagines what the sixties adventure would have looked like if made by Alien director Ridley Scott.
Lasting two minutes, the “creepy” black and white animation features scenes of popular Who foes the Cybermen set to the soundtrack of Scott’s acclaimed 1979 horror film.
The video has had thousands of views on YouTube since being uploaded on New Year’s Day and shows how far reconstructions, or ‘recons’, of missing Doctor Who episodes have come.
Animator Iz Skinner made the trailer as a ‘taster’ for a forthcoming recon of the Patrick Troughton story and says she was trying to reinstate the “scariness” of the episodes.
She said: “When I read that Ridley Scott had actually worked for BBC Television in the 1960s, I thought it would be fun to imagine how he might have made a trailer for this great story.
“I felt that the Alien soundtrack in some way reinstated the scariness of this episode for the modern generation who might not know how terrifying and exciting these stories were when they were first broadcast.”
Originally broadcast from April 27 – June 1, 1968, only episodes three and six of this six-part story are currently held by the BBC.
Telesnaps and fan-made audio recordings of all episodes, however, do survive and have been utilized by Iz and fan-group Loose Cannon Productions to recreate as much as possible the look and feel of the show.
“The trailer is made up of a small selection of the clips I’ve been animating for the upcoming Loose Cannon release,” said Iz, who has based her work on continuity stills and the “expert advice” of fellow LC members Derek Handley, Dean Rose and Russ Port
“I do think a semi-photo realistic episode is entirely doable,” added Iz.
“I say semi-photo realistic because for the most part I’d say that you would still know it was CG, particularly with the characters.
“I now have a motion capture set-up in my living room which allows me to act out scenes and give a more natural movement to my characters.”
Restoration experts are in the final stages of converting all seven episodes back from black and white, and hope to deliver the recolourised copies to the BBC “within weeks”.
A DVD release of the 1970 story, starring Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, is expected to follow.
Though originally made on two-inch colour videotape, six episodes of Ambassadors were only retained in the BBC archives as inferior 16mm b&w film recordings.
New technology, however, has revealed that these and some other black-and-white telerecordings still retain information that can lead to the restoration of the missing colour.
Steve Roberts of the Doctor Who Restoration Team, an independent group contracted by the BBC, has been overseeing the painstaking process of unpicking the colour signal and bringing one of the Time Lord’s vintage stories back to life.
Speaking to Wired magazine, Roberts, 35, said: “It seemed almost impossible. But when they made the black-and-white recordings, they didn’t filter off the colour carrier, which for the last few decades has been nothing more than an annoyance.”
The technique, developed from an idea of James Insell, a preservation specialist at the BBC’s Windmill Road archives centre in west London, has already been successfully applied to episodes of Dad’s Army, Are You Being Served? and another Doctor Who story – episode three of Planet of the Daleks.
But recolouring episodes 2 – 7 of The Ambassadors of Death (tx March 21 – May 2, 1970) has proven the Restoration Team’s biggest challenge to date.
With much dedication and skill, team member Richard Russell used the weak signal on the films, appearing as a pattern of faint ‘chroma’ dots, to reverse-engineer raw colour pictures that could then be retouched frame by frame.
“It’s very, very labour intensive – several hundred man hours’ work every episode,” said Roberts, who is the team’s supervisor and a BBC senior engineer.
He adds that a new “quadrant editor” is helping them to produce better source material upfront and that they hope to deliver the Ambassadors episodes to the BBC “within weeks”.
A DVD release is expected to follow, though it is not currently on schedule for 2011.
Prior to 1978, the BBC junked many vintage episodes of Doctor Who featuring actors William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee in the lead role.
Today, 108 episodes are missing.
Episode one of Ambassadors is the oldest episode of Who surviving on its original transmission tape.
The only remaining copies of the other six episodes were b&w film recordings and poor-quality domestic colour NTSC recordings made from a US broadcast in 1977 and severely affected by a rainbow-coloured pattern of interference.
Material believed to be among the footage include additional scenes from the Dawn of Man opening sequence; more footage of the Jupiter Expedition astronauts onboard the Discovery; a scene showing HAL breaking off contact with Earth before the computer alerts the crew that the AE-35 antenna has “malfunctioned”; and more footage of Frank Poole outside Discovery trying to fix the damaged antenna.
The discovery was announced by 2001‘s effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull during a talk before a movie audience in Toronto, Canada.
The visual effects legend, who was presenting a 70mm print of Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece, revealed Warner Bros. had discovered the complete and perfectly preserved component negatives of the lost footage in a Kansas salt mine, where it had been stored and forgotten for the last four decades.
Warner Bros. is said to be considering how best to use the footage.
According to Wikipedia, Kubrick filmed several scenes that were deleted from the final film.
These include a schoolroom on the moon base (a painting class that included Kubrick’s daughters); additional scenes of life on the base; Floyd buying a bush baby from a department store via videophone for his daughter; details about the daily life on Discovery; additional space walks; astronaut Bowman retrieving a spare part from an octagonal corridor; a number of cuts from the Poole murder sequence including the entire space walk preparation and shots of HAL turning off radio contact with Poole – (explaining the non sequitur of HAL’s response to Bowman’s question); and notably a close-up shot of Bowman picking up a slipper during his walk in the alien room – the slipper can still be seen behind him in what was then the next shot.
The most notable cut was a 10-minute black-and-white opening sequence featuring interviews with actual scientists, including Freeman Dyson, discussing extraterrestrial life, which Kubrick removed after an early screening for MGM executives. The text survives in the book The Making of Kubrick’s 2001 by Jerome Agel.
If the music intro and outro are included, 29 minutes’ worth of film were excised from the theatrical version.
Kubrick’s decision to cut the film was to tighten the narrative. Contemporary reviews suggested the film suffered too much by the radical departure from traditional cinema story-telling conventions.
Regarding the cuts, Kubrick stated: “I didn’t believe that the trims made a critical difference. The people who like it, like it no matter what its length, and the same holds true for the people who hate it”.
According to Kubrick biographer Jan Harlan, the director was adamant the trims were never to be seen, and that he “even burned the negatives” – which he had kept in his garage – shortly before his death.
Former Kubrick assistant Leon Vitalli confirmed the destruction not only of the 2001 footage, but also that of material from a number of his other films
Speaking to DVDTalk.com, he said: “I’ll tell you right now, okay, on Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Barry Lyndon, some little parts of 2001, we had thousands of cans of negative outtakes and print, which we had stored in an area at his house where we worked out of, which he personally supervised the loading of it to a truck and then I went down to a big industrial waste lot and burned it. That’s what he wanted.”
Douglas Trumbull was one of four special effects advisers on 2001 and helped create the realistic and immersive effects that give the film a sense of realism and scale befitting Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s epic screenplay.
He had been working on a new documentary with David Larson about the film, 2001: Behind the Infinite – The Making of a Masterpiece, but confirmed at the Toronto screening that Warner Bros. had “pulled the plug” on the project.
The duo are now putting together a book featuring Trumbull’s recollections of working on the movie, plus a number of behind-the-scenes photos.
A NEW fanzine celebrating the 40th anniversary of TV seriesDoomwatchis now available.
Doomwatch Fanzine is described as the “perfect introduction” to the groundbreaking show, which dealt with a scientific government agency responsible for investigating and combating various ecological and technological dangers.
Over a year in the making, the 24-page glossy colour magazine features an exclusive full series synopsis, “Embryonic Nazis on Four Legs”, as well as new articles and artwork.
It is being released by website Doomwatch.org as a limited edition, priced £6. Proceeds will go to charity Cancer Research UK.
Publisher Scott Burditt says he expects the fanzine to “sell out fast”.
He added: “This is the perfect introduction to the series for those who are unfamiliar with it and would like to find out exactly what Doomwatch was all about and why it caused such a stir in the early 1970s with its prescient storylines.”
Doomwatch was created by writers Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, who also devised the Cybermen in Doctor Who, and was produced throughout its original TV run by Terence Dudley.
In three series aired between 1970 and 1972, the Doomwatch team, led by the incorruptible Dr. Spencer Quist, dealt with threats including killer rats, a plastic-eating virus and nuclear weapons.
A feature film was made in 1972 by Tigon British Film Productions and a further TV movie, Winter Angel, was screened by Channel 5 in 1999.
As well as the series overview by Tony Darbyshire, Doomwatch Fanzine also includes contributions from Richard Thomas who looks at “Transhumanism in Doomwatch”, Michael Seely with his views on Season 3, and Stephen Dudley (Terence Dudley’s son) provides his thoughts on the series in “A Letter from the Front line”.
Scott Burditt has designed the entire fanzine and Brian Gorman has provided the illustration of Dr. Spencer Quist that appears on the front cover.
Presently, out of the original three 13-episode series of Doomwatch only season two resides complete in the BBC archives.
Five episodes from season one are missing along with nine from season three.
One of the biggest losses is season one’s thrilling finale “Survival Code” (tx 11/05/70), which is still remembered today for its shocking ending where main character Toby Wren (played by Robert Powell) was killed.
Doomwatch Fanzine is priced£6 (including postage and packing) and is available from Doomwatch.org.
READ ON: Scott Burditt and Anthony Brown have previously written an article on Doomwatch for Wiped, which you can find here.
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