Tuesday, 6 March 2018

"Yes! Yes! They've turned me into sausages!!!"

"Yes! Yes! They've turned me into sausages!!!"

The 'Doctor Who' DVD range is rightly praised for its technical innovation in picture restoration and the like. The first time we saw the results of the VidFIRE process was really quite gob-smacking and being able to bring colour back into 'The Mind Of Evil' is more magic than science.

But one feature that doesn't get as much attention as it deserves is the continual stream of facts and figures that the production notes provide.

Now I've been knocking around fandom for a while and have read all the good non-fiction books on the series (plus a few of the bad ones), but the DVDs have demonstrated there's always more to learn about a story that you thought you knew backwards. So hurrah for those tireless researchers who ferret through files like good 'uns!

But when it comes to the proudly amateur productions I've been involved with, there's no equivalent of the BBC Written Archives' Centre. There might be a brief diary entry or two ("Filming with Paul on Sunday - remember to bring indoor fireworks and 'Blake's 7' gun. (Paul will provide inflatable Santa Claus)" might have been a typical one for me) but I cannot begin to imagine how large the pile of paperwork would be for a project as long-running as 'Sutton Park'...

Paul and Nick are attempting to preserve as much of the series as they can and although some of it brings back memories there's a fair chunk of stuff that I've never seen before. The show is now proving itself to be a valuable chronicle not just of What We Did In The 90s, but also How We Used To Live.

There are references to the music, films and celebrities of the period and changing technology is documented with varying computers in the background along with the way the episodes themselves were recorded.

But if there ever was a DVD release, I'd be tempted to suggest doing some production notes in the style of the series itself. Last night, in conversation with Paul on Twitter (@shyyeti) we came up with a few possibilities and now I just want to put some of them on record...

"Look closely at the scene and you might notice that the Jelly Monsters are in reality simply pots of jelly with some eyes drawn on them!"

"That is not a UFO in the top left-hand corner of the picture, but some Monster Munch that got lodged in the workings of the camera..."

"Although the Mystic Egg and its contents are real, the village of Avebury is actually a glass shot..."

"Sadly, the surviving production file gives no indication as to what date these scenes were taped..."

The above one did actually let me learn a new thing - although the datestamp says 1990, that's not even correct. 'Sutton Park', of course, started production in Septenber 1992 and Paul pointed out that 1990 was simply the factory setting on those old cameras!

See, we've started off being silly, but actually found out a Mildly Useful Fact!

But daft production notes might liven up a few other series, as well...

"Blakey's hat in this scene is the less detailed one usually used for location work. The normal hat reserved for studio work could not be found that day, but was later found abandoned in a hedge.. For overseas 16mm copies of this episode, the studio hat was overlaid on the picture by Stuart Allen using an experimental technique that involved holding it in front of the film recording equipment. Sadly, this looked rubbish..."

I could rattle these off all day, you know...

However, you'll be glad to know that a terrifying rampaging dinosaur has started to gnaw at my vitals...

So I`ll need to fend it off with a devastating weapon of some sort...

(By Andrew Trowbridge)

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