Who’s Next? Why I think the BBC are going to animate The Abominable Snowmen

It is widely recognised in fan circles that The Power of the Daleks animation is a gamechanger – the first classic adventure of Doctor Who to be entirely animated. It could have flopped, but instead it was a magnificent success. We must recognise this is partially due to the strength of the story itself, and not least of Pat Troughton’s marvellous debut performance, but the animation team showed that it is possible to reconstruct the lost stories in a credible and watchable format, and for fans to enjoy them. The question has now become a case of ‘What next?’, rather than whether more are coming.

In my last blog post I shared the responses of Doctor Who fans to which current missing episodes they most wanted to see animated. The moral of the story is that there were not many surprises – the Dalek stories were at the top, along with other predictable big hitters such as Fury from the Deep.

Of course, the BBC are not going to choose the next animation based only upon what fans want – though they will almost certainly take popular interest and demand into account. Most probably, they will be driven by the profit margin – which is fair enough, given that the BBC owes us nothing, and they are hardly going to invest in a programme with a negative return!

That being the case, I am prepared to make a confident guess that (possible returns notwithstanding) the BBC will probably choose The Abominable Snowmen as their next animation project.

So let us begin by reviewing what is missing:

The Entirely Missing Serials

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The Orphaned Episodes

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The Mostly Missing Serials

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As you can see, the remaining stories can be classified three ways Рa large number that, like Power of the Daleks, are completely missing. In a sense, these are the best prospects for the BBC in that they do not have to incorporate existing material, and so the animation team can start with a clean slate and imagine the serial however they want. There are also some highly anticipated stories in the mix, not least Marco Polo, The Macra Terror, and Fury from the Deep. The danger however, is that there are also several adventures in there that are less than hotly anticipated. Would it be a worthwhile risk for a second animation?

Meanwhile, the opposite problem exists for mostly missing serials. Unlike the orphans, which to all intents and purposes are basically missing, a substantial amount of content survives. With The Crusades and The Underwater Menace we have the comparable release of The Moonbase to demonstrate that combining animation with existing footage can work – but not necessarily easily. To put it another way – a release of The Wheel in Space with 66% of it animated might prove a risk.

Orphaned episodes on the other hand are an interesting case. The Power of the Daleks was the first animation to be produced in widescreen, taking advantage of the otherwise lamentable fact that no footage survives to be incorporated into the story. Presuming that future animations would follow this trend, it would be extremely tempting for orphaned episodes to animate the entire story, releasing the orphaned episode with the animation as a bonus.

My theory, for what it is worth, is that the BBC will be very tempted to release an animation that features an orphaned episode as their next venture. Power of the Daleks demonstrated that you could animate an entire adventure and make it work. I think the next theory that the BBC will want to test will be whether the animators would be able to lift aspects of the existing footage to incorporate into animated footage. Not being an animator, I have no idea if what I am proposing is impossible – though I am tempted to think not, given the extent to which The Moonbase animation incorporated existing footage from surviving episodes and The Tomb of the Cybermen. If the BBC could successfully incorporate (for example) the footage from episode 2 of Evil of the Daleks into a brand new animation of episode 2, it would demonstrate that the process could be successfully replicated for other orphaned adventures, and potentially even for mostly missing adventures.

That being the case, the question on everyone’s lips is ‘Which orphaned adventure would the BBC choose?’ Almost immediately, I am minded to discount three adventures – Galaxy 4, The Celestial Toymaker, and The Space Pirates. None of them are highly regarded, so why would the BBC take a risk on an adventure that might flop like a lead balloon? That leaves us with two adventures: Evil of the Daleks and The Abominable Snowmen. Notwithstanding my own conviction that The Abominable Snowmen has been found, I think the BBC would be jolly tempted to choose the debut of the Great Intelligence for their next release. While Daleks are guaranteed sellers, and Evil is a very hotly anticipated release, I think that’s rather the point – they know Evil will sell well, even if it follows up a less well received release, so they lose nothing by delaying it.

This is supposition on my part – the BBC may equally be thinking that a colour version of Marco Polo is the obvious next step, or to release The Wheel in Space animated in a similar style to The Moonbase. But if I were sitting in BBC Worldwide right this moment, and had nothing to indicate any more material was returning, I think I would be tasking my animators to bring the second adventure of Season 5 back to life.

Addendum

Next week I’ll be breaking down the animations type by type, and giving my thoughts on how quickly the BBC is likely to animate these adventures.

Where next for #missingepisodes animations?

Like most Doctor Who fans, I have been absolutely blown away by the outstanding job the BBC have done on the Power of the Daleks animation. The quality of the animation has been so good, and the reaction so uniformly positive, that fans are positively clamouring for the BBC to press ahead and animate the remainder of the missing back catalogue – the best of good news!

When the Power animation was announced, I did a reader survey asking respondents on their preference order for animations – all the way from their first choice to their 19th. What this uniquely reveals is the extent to which fans really want a classic adventure returned – some stories you would expect to do well are still highly ranked, but are lower because not every fan rates the story that highly.

Below are the results – the number represents the average score for the story, so if (for example) a story was ranked 2nd by everybody, then the score would be exactly 2.0.

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Unsurprisingly the two Dalek stories top the poll – even if they are not necessarily everyone’s first choice, it is clear everyone would want both Evil of the Daleks and The Daleks Master Plan animated fairly quickly! Of greater interest is the relatively low performance of Marco Polo, and especially of The Massacre – the latter even more baffling, as the absence of telesnaps would make an animated reconstruction extremely helpful to fans! Conversely, nobody will be surprised that The Underwater Menace has finished bottom of the pile, given the rather lacklustre DVD release. You can also see that there does not appear to be much difference between completely missing adventures (in orange) and partially missing adventures (in green).

If you want to delve deeper still, the bar chart below shows how many respondents gave different values for each story:

ME_Animation_2.png

Again, it comes as no big surprise that 80% of respondents have put Evil of the Daleks in their top three. What is truly fascinating is that every story had at least one fan – even The Underwater Menace! The 60 odd responses I received showed that fandom remains as varied as ever in its classic Doctor Who tastes – and that while different fans want different stories, there is a clear appetite to see all of these stories released in some format. If nothing else, the prospect of a complete Doctor Who catalogue is something worth celebrating!

Some notes on the survey:

There were 67 responses to the survey. Some respondents did not use all 19 ranking options, and some ranked the stories as either ‘1’ or ‘2’, as forced ranking was not possible through the survey design.