Archive for the ‘REVISIONISTA!’ Category

Levine La Vida Loca

Friday, March 25th, 2011


 Any fan who lived through Doctor Who‘s Wilderness years (that’s everyone who reads Zeus Blog for a start -Ed.) will recall a time when seeing the Doctor on screen was a desperate search and trawl through the mundane, the ridiculous, and the frankly bizarre. The series as we knew it was dead, and trawling out old (and even the current) Doctors to feature on other shows, advertise various everyday objects and foods on the strength of their nostalgia factor, became an exercise so obvious it began to look rather pitiful by the mid-Nineties.












We’d already come to a pretty pass when video fandom took on. Slow to start with the likes of Sgt Benton’s Wartime, the Stranger videos and 1993′s non-canon, out of character reunion The Airzone Solution, after another five years things got decidedly more earnest with some more daring spin-off media featuring Yetis, Sontarans, the Brgadier and Sarah Jane Smith – Shakedown, Downtime and the Mindgame and  Auton trilogies became the new benchmarks for fan enterprise.



After another five years fans had a PC game, Destiny of the Doctors, to struggle through, with what became Anthony Ainley’s last ever recorded role as the Master. With the game play being at best sticky, most agreed that Ainley’s contributions were the highlight of a reliably duff product. And in any case there wasn’t much else to celebrate – the TV Movie had flopped where it mattered, and our next big hope was a Comic Relief skit featuring Rowan Atkinson. 






 You’d be forgiven for thinking that with the new series now firmly part of the TV establishment the rough likes of the Nineties could be quietly retired and filed alongside the New Adventures under ‘Worthy, but really – Watch This Space’. Only now they’re coming back, weirder than ever. This month on the eve of his trip down to Enzed for the biggest movie role of his career, Sylvester McCoy let slip news of some other old business he’d been sharing with superfan Ian Levine:

Ian Levine’s putting together a piece of work that didn’t get completed over the years, and I was there as The Doctor to kind of ‘Doctor Who’ them up. There are pieces that have been done too for The Brigadier and The Master that were never quite completed, so that work will make them a rounded whole. Also there’s the 30th anniversary show of Doctor Who that was never made, and we’re going to do a cartoon version of that. I was doing my role in that as well.

…there were a couple of projects that we were doing. One was actually filming to beef up a piece that’s already been done, and the other was recording voices with camera so they can do a lip-sync for the cartoon.

Later, pictures of McCoy in costume during the green screen filming surfaced on the same site. You can find them here. The resulting news, rumour and innuendo is a heady mix of money, opportunity and fanboy dreaming – a re-edited Downtime (to which Levine scored the DVD rights as part of his producer’s fee) featuring the Doctor. An animation of Adrian Rigelsfor’d notorious would-be anniversary story The Dark Dimension. A strange mash-up of bits of Destiny, McCoy’s parts in Search Out Space, possily also Mindgame and what looks to be new footage with a recast Celestial Toymaker, Padmasambhava (likely for Downtime 2.0) and (somehow) a Voc Robot. The mind boggles.

Levine’s past dream projects have been mixed in their success – a reconstruction of Power of the Daleks is yet to appear, his attempt to fund a recolourisation of Ambassadors of Death also disappeared, allegedly after the project became too taxing on resources. This scattergun apprach to the current projects – Levine has an animation of Shada on the boil as well – does little to waylay concerns one might have over their ever being fully realised. But it’s a hell of a dream to chase, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out, if it does.

In the mean-time though, questions. So many questions…

The Revision Thing

Friday, July 10th, 2009

I have a minor obsession, and in fandom I don’t think I’m alone in this. There’s a great part of me that, while enjoying past stories and the series’ long and mostly noble on-screen history, can’t resist wondering how it would be if things were ‘tweaked’ a little. By this I don’t mean CG-ing the Menoptra (not really a high priority) or adding a laugh track to Terror of the Vervoids (hmm…), but actually reinventing what we’ve seen and known for years – decades in some examples.


I’m also not talking about change for the sake of change, or as a would-be marketing ploy. I really like the new CG work on the Remastered Star Trek I’ve seen – usually as stills (which for me has never been a forgiving medium for CGI), but I’m aware that some fans have called the move gratuitous and little more than another opportunity to flog stuff die-hards have owned for years. A similar argument was made for the Red Dwarf re-releases. The important thing here is that neither series was greatly changed beyond some cosmetic dabbling. Of course, one might argue that this sort of change isn’t minor at all, and that a story’s looks DO have a bearing on the reception, even in a revisionist sense. Go too far, tweak too much even in defending one’s ‘artistic vision’ and you get the remastered Star Wars trilogy (after which, George Lucas went on to do the reverse of the above and re-release the ‘originals’). Some fans would decry any molestation of a past story to be an affront to its original creators and audience.


Die hard fans get proprietary over the look and feel of the past – in a way we’re as much anchored to it as we are to Billyfluffs and Zarbis colliding with camera equipment. We’ve become so used to them in the early episodes we accepted for years the ‘it was done live!’ defence and forgiven the old series’ shortcomings because some of those same shortcomings have become an essential ingredient of their period. For years Doctor Who was identified by its apparently ‘wobbly sets’ and squeezy bottle spaceships. We’ve become nostalgic for the slightly shoddy, and the new series with its whistles and bells looks strangely uninvolving at times, possibly because it’s too smooth, or doesn’t yet betray these endearingly organic elements. Which brings me to a major observation over the past few years on the late-lamented Restoration Team Forum: namely, what to ‘fix’ and what to leave. For every ‘revisionist’ fan who covets a VidFired Seeds of Death with a nicely silenced Ice Warrior/door lintel head-butt there’s another ‘preservationist’ fan who baulks at those imperfections being airbrushed over and wants to see that boom-mike in shot that they’ve relied on spotting for years. There’s a line between the two, and the RT to my mind do their damnedest to please either side of it – so we get ‘alternative’ CG effects as well as the (often duff and mis-staged) originals. Both the revisionists and the preservationists were on the board vying for the attention of a group of professionals – fans themselves – who just wanted to present old stories in their best light, on a limited budget.


Some fans go even further of course, and take matters into their own hands. Recent history provides memorable examples – negative fan reception to The Phantom Menace begat several versions of The Phantom Edit, a re-cut, retooled version of Lucas’ prequel that removed some of the comedy and exposition (not to mention Midichlorians), reduced baby Anakin’s ‘whoopee’ time and turned Jar-Jar’s patois into believable alien language. Re-edits and ‘corrections’ were also made to Highlander, Matrix and Dune movies. For some time on fans with technical know-how and strong opinions talked of recutting The Lord of the Rings into a narrative that more closely matched that of the book. Budding CG artists have reworked bits of The Five Doctors and some early regeneration scenes and put them on YouTube. Some, regrettably, have been since removed, reminding us that this sort of thing is of course not actually legal, although in the spirit of mash-ups the BBC have largely been understanding over smaller efforts.


So then, I want to save Timelash. I really do. I awaited the new DWM eagerly just to see what this issue’s ‘Fact of Fiction’ covering the story would reveal about it; what was cut from it (and in some cases we could assume, blithely recorded over with Coronation Street by a VHS-recycling JNT), and how the story flows. The answer, although the article is charitable, is that lots was cut in the editing suite and lost forever (seven minutes, but hey they kept the safety belts scene), and there are two endings and neither of them work. The story is flabby in places and its overseas edits had some awful non-cliffhangers fabricated to match a broadcast duration that the BBC wasn’t using itself in 1984. There are duff performances, fragile sets and Santa’s Grotto as a location – but there’s also a story in there I like, and among such small fare as the Colin Baker era, would dearly love to rehabilitate. Timelash isn’t a bad story after all – it’s just a mediocre one written by an amateur, script-edited at gunpoint by a man near the end of his tether, enacted by about fifty-percent of its cast and finally edited in post-production amid some agitation between its director and its producee. Some might say not an atypical Doctor Who story then. My ambitions involve a shorter story, more Herbert, some better modelwork, a topping and tailing of some scenes, perhaps some CGI or lens-flaring on the dreaded box of tinsel, and maybe even a re-score. Lose the seat belts and some of the rebels, tighten the story up. The end result would be not-Timelash, for better or worse. But my question is, to use Timelash purely as a fan exercise – is this sort of thing enough to ‘save’ a story, to ‘improve’ it, or re-tell it in a new and interesting way?


And if not Timelash, then what story would you like to be locked in an editing suite with?
(longer replies may be considered for a follow-up posting!)


Update: and we have an addition already! Here’s Al:


Rewatching Invasion of time recently I couldn’t help but notice that there are a few scenes during Leela and Rodan’s sojourn to outer Gallifrey which are just crying out for that lovely Mill Capitol to be plonked in the background. When the girls first appear on a quarry ridge line there’s acres of empty sky behind them for the duration of a lengthy scene – and similar matte-friendly shots later on as Leela leads the charge back to the Capitol.

Of course, there’s much more to re-editing than just adding a special effect. My own pick for an extensive rework would be ‘The Mutants’ – I’ve always felt that there’s a good story here, buried under a couple of surplus episodes worth of padding.