Plugging the gaps – Living post #omnirumour

Periodically I will dip into Twitter and look up the #missingepisodes hashtag, in the hitherto vain hope that somehow the key players have sorted out the horrible misunderstanding and I can look forward to explaining away the Doctor’s dubious highland accent to my wife. If you’re looking for medicinal disappointment, I can recommend no better!

I think it is time to face the situation in all its full gravity – to all intents and purposes the omnirumour is dead. And for the dedicated Doctor Who fan, that leaves around 20 empty DVD cases on the shelf placeholding where the DVDs ought to be. At present the only plan is to release The Underwater Menace, presumably with two animated episodes alongside the two recovered episodes. Aside of this, the BBC may consider upscaling the current stock for a bluray release – and we the fans will do our usual protests about being fleeced before resetting to type and crying “Just take my money already!” And … that (if true) … is that. No more. Finito. The end. The moment not prepared for.

But I refuse to believe that this is it. Below are just a few thoughts of what the BBC should consider doing post-omnirumour:

1. Release The Crusades with animated episodes
One of the few things that may keep the omnirumour alive is the complete lack of movement on this Hartnell adventure. Given that other stories have been animated with two missing episodes (longer adventures The Invasion, The Ice Warriors, and The Reign of Terror, and shorter adventures The Moonbase and The Underwater Menace) there is actually no good reason that I can see not to release this story – unless there is a real possibility they’ve found the lost episodes. But given that now seems unlikely – give us what we’ve got!

2. Animate the missing episodes
Loose Cannon is all very well, but we now have the technology to recreate many of these missing episodes – certainly creating computer models for the main TARDIS cast ought to be re-usable across several adventures! If we can’t have the real thing, then this would be a palatable second best. Perhaps with motion capture technology (think the Tin Tin movies, or Keifer Sutherland appearing in the new Metal Gear Solid) we may even get to the point where we could get David Bradley back as the CGI basis for the First Doctor’s missing episodes. Massive legal hurdles of course, to say nothing of cost – but better than nothing?

3. Colourise select episodes
I opined earlier that The Invasion would be an excellent candidate for colourisation – after they tidy up other colourised episodes like Invasion of the Dinosaurs, The Mind of Evil and The Ambassadors of Death. Once we have a complete set to watch through, I think many fans would enjoy certain stories colourised as a fresh interpretation of the show’s history. I personally think The Daleks would be another prime candidate – and of course if the BBC were animating from scratch entirely missing stories (like Marco Polo) they could exercise the luxury of initially animating in colour …

4. Animate certain Big Finish productions
Now this one will have howls of protest! I must confess that I have not listened to a single Big Finish production nor read much of the Missing Adventures literature – partly because it is unclear how it fits into the canon of the show. But there are certain adventures I think it would be great to bring in to plug the gaps – I would love to see the original Season 23 (featuring The Nightmare Fair for example), or a series of McCoy adventures linking between Survival and The Movie. Of course the BBC insist that there can only ever be one Doctor – hence they torpedoed Paul McGann returning for a mini-series, or a series of adventures jointly starring the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. But where there’s money …

What do you think dear readers? In the absence of a full set of Doctor Who adventures, what would you like to plug the gap?

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77 – Mindwarp (The Trial of a Timelord episodes 5 – 8)

As I opined in the reviews of The Ultimate Foe and The Mysterious Planet, I think that The Trial of a Timelord gets a pretty rough ride from fans. I cannot help but feel that if the show had continued in the vein of Season 23, rather than take the direction it did in Season 24, then perhaps the show would have been better ready to survive into the 1990s – although I also opined today that any Doctor Who that survived to the nineties could have featured a guest appearance by the Spice Girls – so perhaps we should count our blessings!

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78 – The Curse of Fenric

As I typed the story title in for this review, I had a vivid sense of fans of the Seventh Doctor reaching for their cutlasses and crying for my blood – evidence (if need more be presented) that I have it in for poor Sylvester McCoy! So let me unashamedly begin by saying that I really enjoy The Curse of Fenric, and as with all stories I am currently reviewing the problem is not that it is a poor story, but simply that I get more enjoyment from the stories above it! And that, really, comes down to personal taste as much as anything else – you will have already noted by the absence of large numbers of Troughton, Pertwee and Tom Baker stories, that their eras are the ones I hold in the highest esteem.

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79 – Destiny of the Daleks

“If you’re the supreme beings of all the universe, then why don’t you come up after us? Bye bye!”

Thus the seeds are sown in this adventure for the producers to demonstrate (ineffectually in Revelation of the Daleks, and with much better effect in Remembrance of the Daleks and Dalek) that stairs need not be an obstacle to Dalek domination. For now however, under the stewardship of Douglas Adams, Baker’s fourth Doctor takes a fiendish delight in taunting the inability of his ancient foes to climb up after him and his escaping party of friends.

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80 – Planet of Giants

Rather unusually for the Hartnell era, this story is a three parter – although it was not originally intended to be so! Instead, the producers decided to re-edit episodes 3 and 4 into one, much faster paced episode, feeling that the original cut was too pedestrian. Does it work? Well, I must confess that at some stage I need to watch the reconstructed four part version to compare it properly – but I was pleasantly surprised and entertained by this three part adventure!

Filmed during Season 1 and shown as the first story in Season 2, this was originally planned to be the first ever story of Doctor Who, until it was wisely pointed out that the technical challenges of miniaturising the TARDIS crew would be somewhat ambitious for a new television programme. By this stage it is more than evident that the crew are completely confident and relaxed around each other – each plays their part, and Hartnell has very much settled into the paternal figure TV audiences had grown to love, whilst still remaining an irrascible old rascal!

The plot, as I have already alluded to, sees the TARDIS crew shrunk to a tiny size after the TARDIS doors accidently open during materialisation. But the adventure is not simply to return to normal size – they find themselves in a laboratory where a corrupt scientist is attempting to manufacture and licence a very lethal form of insect killer – one which in turn begins to impact Barbara, whose resistance is made much lower due to her reduced size. The story plays out with the crew having to foil the scientist despite their size, while somehow surviving, getting back to the TARDIS, and returning to their full size.

In three parts, I found the DVD highly watchable and a great addition to my collection. When I have the time, I will have to see if the original episodes 3 and 4 are worthy of as much lament for their loss as other missing episodes – while appreciating the reconstruction the BBC have kindly provided us with!

81 – Planet of Fire

It’s always been a poorly kept secret that the female companion on Doctor Who was intended to be a bit of a looker, in order to keep elder male viewers interested. This story doesn’t even pretend to treat it as a secret – Nicola Bryant’s first appearance as Peri features her in a bright pink bikini that is so abbreviated it must have had Mary Whitehouse hurrumping into her cup of tea! By his own admission, showrunner John Nathan Turner cast Peri with the view to make Doctor Who more accessible to more mature audiences, and to the American market – and with the same flamboyance of one of his Hawaiian shirts, he proudly unveils Peri as the new companion.

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82 – Frontios

Frontios is a prime example of the type of stories that might have persuaded Peter Davison to stay for a fourth season as the Doctor. While not spectacular by any means, it is clever, intriguing and well produced, and certainly keeps the viewer engrossed from start to finish. Those who have enjoyed the excellent Series 3 episode Utopia will see evident parallels between the two stories – the Doctor and his companions arrive at the end of the known universe, at a point beyond which the TARDIS is meant to travel. On the planet Frontios, a group of human colonists are fighting to survive, unaware of why their planet is being constantly being bombarded by meteorites. Of course, the Master does not appear in this story, and thus the parallels fall somewhat short!

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