The Mark of the Rani

The fifth UK release of 2006 was intended to be a Peter Davison story - and indeed work was well advanced on both remastering the episodes and creating special features for the planned release - until Davison's exceptionally busy work commitments meant that we had to put that title on hold. Instead, we decided at very short notice to substitute the popular Colin Baker story 'The Mark of the Rani' - a decision which presented us with a rather unique opportunity on the Special Features front...

'The Mark of the Rani' was shot in the traditional Doctor Who manner, with studio video sequences (by this stage the production had moved over to recording on 1" C-format videotape) and 16mm location film work. Fortuitously, another BBC production had to let some of their filming requirements go and so producer John Nathan-Turner was able to extend the amount of time his crew were on location. First-time Doctor Who director Sarah Hellings was able to make full use of this extra time to shoot some imaginative location work, including the use of cranes, hand-held cameras and point-of-view shots to take full advantage of the Blists Hill Victorian Village 'living museum' setting that she had chosen to represent the northern town of Killingworth. In 1979, Hellings had shot a Blue Peter item about the Ironbridge Gorge museum, which includes the Blists Hill site, so she was familiar with the location.

Picture cleanup was completely straight forward. The PAL D3's were decoded to component using the BBC Research Department's Transform PAL decoder, graded by Jonathan Wood, and noise, film dirt and grain reduced using the Digital Vision DVNR-1000. Remaining dropouts and film dirt were subsequently painted out manually. The tapes were generally in slightly better than average condition for 1" of that era, with comparatively little dropout and the film inserts were also relatively clean although grainy.

Despite the action being shot in studio on videotape, early sequence in the bath house needed extensive deblobbing due to sparkle on the film overlay of smoke used throughout the scene. Some instances of film warping leading to the image going out of focus could not be fixed - unfortunately the film sequences themselves no longer exist, so all work had to be done from the videotape masters.

Some picture instability due to severe tape damage as the Doctor and Peri prepare to enter the bath house has been fixed as much as possible (Peri still goes slightly out of focus for a few frames). Furnace was used to stabilise the basic image and then the background from earlier in the scene was added back in to repair the distortion. Artificial film grain was added back in to help 'sell' the shot.

CSO shots of the Doctor's gadget and the Luddite falling down the mine shaft have been treated to match the film background more effectively. At start of episode two, the scene of the Doctor on the trolley as he is stopped by Stephenson was originally speeded up by 50% with video varispeed, leading to jerkiness in the image. The original frames were retrieved and retimed properly as a film sequence using Furnace. A video still frame of the Rani's landmine under the Doctor  as he hangs suspended between two trees in episode two was very obvious due to static grain and noise; therefore moving grain and slight artificial film weave added to match surrounding shots.

Finally, the opening and closing titles/credits were remade using clean background, to improve the clarity of the lettering, which was not terribly well keyed originally and which had picked up some ringing on the edges due to multi-generation dubbing.

For once, the audio side was also a comparatively straightforward job for Mark Ayres. Opening and closing titles music was replaced as a matter of course, and a gentle denoise removed the light sheen of tape noise with ease. The main problem was fairly frequent dropout (in episode one especially) and some electrical clicks; all were drawn out or patched. The commentary, likewise, was fairly straightforward, with only a couple of minor edits to correct fluffs or factual errors.

A visit to the BBC archive saw Mark armed with all of the original music and effects tapes for the story, which he transferred to 24-bit digital files for use on featurettes and so on. Derek Handley was charged with creating the Photo Gallery and sent over a DV cassette of it to which Mark added appropriate effects before sending it on to Steve Roberts for compilation to the final Digibeta master tape.

It was decided that there was sufficient incidental music to include  an isolated score track for the story. Having been transferred from 1/4" tape, the music cues were offered up against the episodes, checking sync with reference to the finished mixes and the original cue sheets. Once levels were checked, the tracks were played out to timecoded DAT cassettes for delivery.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the release of this story opened up the possibility of including a most unusual and interesting extra... Mark Ayres takes up the story.

"It is fairly well known that a composer by the name of John Lewis had initially been commissioned to provide the music for this story. At this point in the programme's history, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop had been providing the scores exclusively for a number of years, but producer John Nathan-Turner was looking to broaden the palette slightly, and a precedent had been set by the continued commissioning of Paddy Kingsland on a freelance basis after his departure from the BBC. Brian Hodgson had recently returned to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, leaving his company Electrophon in the hands of his business partner - John Lewis. John and Brian had issued two albums together under the name "Wavemaker" ("Where are we captain?..." and "New Atlantis"), and Lewis had also found fame with Robin Scott under the name "M", with whom he had released the smash-hit single "Pop Muzik". It was therefore Hodgson who recommended Lewis to John Nathan Turner.

By all accounts, the commission did not start well, with director Sarah Hellings expressing disappointment with the music. Nevertheless, Lewis completed writing and recording for episode one, and had started work on sketching episode two. By this time, however, he had begun to feel unwell, and was suffering from headaches which made continuing work almost impossible. So Brian made the difficult decision to ask Jonathan Gibbs of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to take over and, indeed, to restart the project from scratch. Lewis's health deteriorated rapidly, and he died soon after. As can be imagined, it was a difficult time for all involved.

It had been mentioned to me by Brian that John's music still existed so, as soon as we started work on "Rani", I tracked it down, and John's estate were kind enough to send me the original master tape and a file of John's original manuscript sketches. To start with, I transferred the music and checked its synchronisation against the episode so that Steve Broster could refer to it as part of his "making of" programme, but then Steve Roberts came up with the idea that we should present an alternative soundtrack to part one, with John Lewis's score as an option, and I readily agreed to give it a go.

The main thing I wanted to avoid was redubbing the entire episode. This story has a pretty rich dub, with a lot of "period" sounds added to the mix (horses and carts, children playing, dogs barking, mine workings and so on) which would have been hard work to emulate, and I was already relieved we had not decided on a 5.1 mix for this one. So I decided to use the original transmission mix as a basis. Nevertheless we did have a copy of the 71 edit of episode one, kindly supplied by Ian Levine, which, apart from being the source of a couple of nice deleted scenes, also contained the undubbed soundtrack.

To start with, I went through the episode punching holes in it to remove any section that contained Jonathan Gibbs's music. Then I filled these gaps with audio taken from the 71 edit and rebuilt effects behind these sections using loops and the Radiophonic Workshop archive. Then I mixed in John Lewis's music to complete the mix. The result is pretty convincing, though you may notice the lack of an occasional sound: the odd dog bark, the scream of the Doctor's attacker falling down the well, the birds startled by Lord Ravensworth's gun, and the scarecrow Master's chuckle as he climbs over the fence...but we did not have these elements and I felt that as this was a dub merely to show "what might have been", it was not necessary to be completist, nor to reach for the effects CDs. It is, I hope, an interesting bonus for those interested in music and sound, the way that a television programme evolves during production, and how our perception of the visual image is altered by music.

Nuendo timeline of alternative soundtrack to episode one

The screenshot above shows the Nuendo workspace on completion of the new dub. The orange section at the top is the original (remastered) episode soundtrack for reference. About half way down you can see the same thing with the Jonathan Gibbs sections punched out and muted. The two lanes of orange chunks are the "filler" sections from the 71 edit (two mono tracks panned centre to reduce noise, level waver and dropout), while the blue line underneath them is the automation for the volume fader riding those sections to ease transitions in the mix. The blue markers at the top are to remind me to add sound effects that were removed along with the music, while the four tracks of blue sections below that are the actual effects I added (these being mainly Radiophonic). At the bottom, the green sections are John Lewis's music cues with the automation line underneath riding the levels under dialogue. Again, the finished result was supplied on timecoded DAT.

Nuendo timelines showing placement of Jonathan Gibbs's (top) and John Lewis's (bottom) scores for episode one

This screenshot shows the rendered isolated scores tracks for episode one, the Gibbs music is at the top, with Lewis's below - it is interesting to note where they each chose to add, or not to add, music."

Deleted scene of Peri in the TARDIS at the beginning of the storyA full package of  Special Features has been put together for this release.

The commentary for the story features actors Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Kate O'Mara. Director Sarah Hellings was asked to join both the commentary and interview teams, but unfortunately was unable to attend on the only day available, much to her disappointment. Commentary producer Steve Roberts was somewhat worried that the presence of three lead actors with no production input to balance them out might lead to a somewhat 'luvvy' commentary, but Colin Baker proved to be an excellent lead, displaying a depth of knowledge about the production of the story which would shame many on the other side of the camera!

Lords and Luddites is a 43-minute 'Making of...' feature, produced by Steve Broster and featuring interviews with actors Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Kate O'Mara and Gary Cady, writers Pip and Jane Baker, script editor Eric Saward and composer Jonathan Gibbs. As a slight nod to the more feminine production values of the story in the absence of Sarah Hellings, the feature is narrated by the lovely Louise Brady.

Steve Bagley follows in the footsteps of locations expert Richard Bignell, producing the fourth in our irregular locations visit series, Now and Then, with a visit to Blists Hill Victorian Museum to see what has changed in the last twenty years and to show how the production team made clever use of a very compact location. Louise Brady once again provides the narration for this piece.

Deleted & Extended Scenes package features additional material from the first episode, courtesy of a timecoded copy of an early edit of the episode kindly supplied by Ian Levine. This includes the excised  TARDIS scene from the beginning of the story, in which the Doctor and Peri are seen to be on their way to the Royal Open Day at Kew Gardens.

Sarah Hellings' 11-minute Blue Peter item on the history of Ironbridge Gorge is included, as is an excerpt from an edition of Saturday Superstore during which the Doctor and Peri receive an unexpected phone call from an old adversary they thought they had seen the last of...

There is an isolated music track of Jonathan Gibbs's score for both episodes, plus the alternative soundtrack for episode one, featuring John Lewis's music. Jonathan Gibbs is also the subject of Playing with Time, a 9-minute interview about his work composing the music for this story.

As always, a full photo gallery is included as well as a subtitle production text commentary. PDF versions of the 1985 Doctor Who Annual and the Radio Times billings for the original transmission are included for PC and Mac users.

'The Mark of the Rani' commentary team - Nicola Bryant, Colin Baker & Kate O'Mara


Copyright Steve Roberts, Mark Ayres, 20 May 2006. No reproduction allowed without written permission.