Thursday 11 August 2011

262 Doctor Who and the Silurians: Episode Five

EPISODE: Doctor Who and the Silurians: Episode Five
TRANSMITTED: 28 February 1970
WRITER: Malcolm Hulke
DIRECTOR: Timothy Combe
SCRIPT EDITOR: Terrance Dicks
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Beneath the Surface (The Silurians / The Sea Devils / Warriors of the Deep)
Episode Format: 16mm b&w film recording recoloured using 525 off air video

Another Silurian, the old Silurian, stops the young Silurian from attacking the Doctor. The old Silurian explains how they went into hibernation when they saw the moon approaching the Earth but the mechanism failed and they were never awakened until the Nuclear Reactor was activated. The Doctor gets the Brigadier & his men released but the Young Silurian has their scientist poison Baker with a virus and releases him. When he discovers this the Old Silurian gives the Doctor a virus sample to analyse but is then killed by the Young Silurian who proclaims that he is Leader now! The Doctor has Baker held at the centre. Masters returns to London as the centre's doctor moves Baker to the local hospital for treatment. Finding out The Doctor & the Brigadier race there to find Baker dead and the virus spreading.

I can see what Malcolm Hulke's trying to do here showing us the Doctor & Old Silurian Leader trying to achieve peace while everyone else is intent on killing the opposing side by the story just isn't working for me. This is Malcolm Hulke's first solo Doctor Who after writing The Faceless Ones with David Ellis and The War Games with Terrance Dicks. We're on Episode 5 but it's been feeling stretched for a while now.

The scenes at the Hospital were filmed at Milford Chest Hospital near many of the other locations used in the early episodes of the story.

Back to missing Pertwee episodes: As we've seen BBC Enterprises retained Black & White film copies of the first four seasons on Jon Pertwee's tenure as Doctor Who. Black & White film was the easiest method of distributing stories abroad in the seventies as many overseas broadcatsters used different broadcasting systems and not many used colour. The exceptions were Australia, who bought some stories on 625 line video tape and America. America uses a different TV system to us: Ours had 625 lines, refreshed at 50 frames per second and used the PAL method of colour definition. American TV had 525 lines, refreshed at 60 frames per second and used the NTSC method of colour definition. We'll refer to these as PAL & NTSC for the sake of argument. You can convert PAL to NTSC and vice versa but always with some loss of quality somewhere along the line. Public Broadcast Stations in America & Canada took Doctor Who as converted NTSC recordings. Some of the original NTSC master tapes were recovered giving the BBC a copy of the program in colour albeit at less definition and one that could only then be played back on UK televisions by a second conversion this time back to Pal. Finally certain serials, and the Silurians is one of them, were recorded by enthusiasts off of American TV on their initial broadcast resulting in low quality tapes that do contain a colour signal that Ian Levine obtained from his contacts in the states. As these were the only colour versions of these stories the low quality tapes were kept. What happens next is such a piece of crackpot madness that you wouldn't believe it possible....

So for each Pertwee episode because there's such a range we'll be listing what format each episode is currently held in and what piece of trickery has been used to make it look better. Come back for episode 7 and I'll attempt to explain why we now have a decent looking colour copy of this story.

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