The Claws of Axos - DVD

Beautiful golden aliens land on England's south coast, bringing with them the promise of a wondrous power source, but the Third Doctor and Jo discover that all is not as it seems...

We previously tackled 'The Claws of Axos' back in 2005 (see original article here), the first candidate for the Reverse Standards Conversion technology pioneered by BBC R&D. Although we have continued to improve the way we deal with RSC material, the recent spin-offs from the Colour Recovery technique developed by Richard Russell and the continued refinement of our VidFIRE process gave us cause to consider a different way of tackling the problematic middle episodes for a revisitation of the story. Instead of using the RSC directly as before, we would step back to one of our earliest techniques,  combining luminance from the monochrome film recording held in the BBC library with the colour from the RSC process, but with a few new tweaks to the process.

The first thing we had to do was to have the original 16mm film recorder camera negatives scanned at HD as we would do if we were going to use the Colour Recovery process. Although we would not be using the colour itself, Richard Russell's process can give us two other major benefits.

Firstly, the colour subcarrier information can be used to generate a map of the geometric distortions present in the recording, which would have been introduced by the lenses and scanning linearity errors in the film recorder (and indeed in the modern telecine transfer, though these should be negligible) . From this, Richard can derive an inverse warp which when applied to the scan has the effect of flattening the image back out to "square" again. This means that the colour from the RSC process can drop directly onto the luminance from the film recording without any of the complex warping of one to fit the other which we previously had to carry out.

Secondly, by identifying which parts of the image are chroma and which are luminance, Richard's technique can subtract the former (removing the familiar dot-pattern caused by the colour subcarrier) and leave us with a much cleaner luminance image to work with.

This all worked fine for episode three and for the first five minutes of episode two, but then Richard ran into a problem. The remainder of episode two just wasn't undistorting properly. Closer examination revealed a splice in the negative at this point and it appeared that the second part of the recording was actually from a different film recording run from the first. Richard generally needs a very good quality, highly saturated image to pull the distortion map from (usually the colourful title sequence), but he could find no suitable image in the second part at all.

All was not lost, however. By sheer good luck, one of the sequences from the second part of the film recording also appeared on the surviving PAL studio tape, allowing a comparison to be made between the two. During the development of Colour Recovery, Alex Weidmann of the Colour Recovery Working Group had developed a method that compared the same image from two different sources and enabled one to be elastically deformed to match the geometry of the other. Richard was able to utilise a version of this technique to generate the required distortion map by matching images from the film recording and studio tape. Although the results were not quite as accurate as with Richard's Colour Recovery-based process, they were sufficiently good to enable the luminance and chroma to be matched together without problems.

Richard delivered the undistorted images, now down-converted to standard definition, back to Peter Crocker at SVS, who then had to clean them up as normal, before overlaying the chroma from the RSC master. Once the two were joined together into a single colour image, the VidFIRE process was applied to return the live studio video look to the studio sequences. As with the previous release, any shots in the first two episodes that could be taken from the studio recording were utilised to ensure the best possible picture quality. Once everything was to length, the episodes were taken to Jonathan Wood at BBC Studios and Post Production for grading.


Disc 1

• 4 x 25 mins approx colour episodes with mono audio.

Commentary with actors Katy Manning and Richard Franklin, producer Barry Letts.

Deleted and Extended Scenes (dur. 26’ 58) – the original edited-but-annotated version of the studio recording which is included on this new release in its entirety. Option to view with text commentary.

Disc 2

Axon Stations! (dur. 26’ 39”) – cast and crew look back at the making of the story. With actors Katy Manning, Paul Grist, Bernard Holley and Derek Ware, director Michael Ferguson, co-writer Bob Baker, script editor Terrance Dicks.

Now & Then (dur. 6’ 35”) – A look at the locations used in ‘The Claws of Axos’, contrasting how they appeared in 1971 with how they are now. Narrated by Katy Manning.

Directing Who (dur. 14’ 44”) – director Michael Ferguson recalls his work on ‘The Claws of Axos’.

Studio Recording (dur. 72’ 50” ) – the entirety of the earliest surviving Doctor Who studio recording, presented “as is”, complete with studio chatter, recording breaks and VT run-ups.

Living with Levene (dur. 35’ 09”) – comedian Toby Hadoke spends a weekend in the company of the enigmatic John Levene, the actor who brought the character of Sgt Benton to life and the man who might have been James Bond. Can Toby break through the bluster and eccentricity to discover the real John Levene? Join him for an unforgettable weekend in John’s hometown of Salisbury, meeting John’s friends, family and the odd bemused passer-by, all polished-off with a round of golf…

• Plus of course the usual PDF materials, Coming Soon trailer, Programme Subtitles, Subtitle Production Notes and Photo Gallery.


Copyright Steve Roberts, 16 August 2012. No reproduction allowed without written permission.