The War Machines - DVD

The release of The War Machines sees us revisiting one of the first proper projects as the fledgling Restoration Team way back in 1997. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then - not only do we have access to tools and technologies not available eleven years ago, but we have built up a wealth of experience invaluable in tackling the more problematic restorations. And 'The War Machines' certainly counts as problematic...

 It is probably best for the reader to reacquaint themselves with the background by reading the two articles in the VHS Releases section of the site. As with our previous restoration, the 16mm archive master elements were transferred to videotape, this time by Jonathan Wood on the Spirit telecine. The best quality versions of the final three episodes were generally edited prints ex-Nigeria, although a full unedited off-air audio recording exists. It was our aim this time to restore the story to its original running length by the use of cutaways and various other techniques to replace the missing visuals.

Due to a last minute re-ordering of the release schedule, none of the previous releases include a 'Coming Soon' trail for the story. 2entertain have kindly allowed Gareth Randall's superb promo to be included on this page. If no mini-player window is visible immediately below, click here for a direct link (wmv format, 4Mb). See copyright notice at foot of page.

Note that the promo was edited from the masters from the 1997 restoration. The quality of the new restoration is a considerable improvement on this. Here's how we approached the job this time...

First, Mark Ayres created a full-length template using DVCAM copies of the available visual material and Graham Strong's off-air audio tapes. The aim would be to conform the DigiBeta transfers to this and fill the holes in visual material as seamlessly as possible, hopefully returning the episodes to their original durations. Cuts were identified as follows.

Episode Two

The BBC hold a duplicate negative taken from a print owned by Australian collector David Gee, which is complete and can be used to patch any edits in the Nigerian print. These are:

04:00 approx. About 4s missing, removing the shot of a rag being soaked with chloroform to subdue the Doctor.

09:33. About 17 seconds featuring the murder of the tramp has been removed.

18:45. About 38 seconds removed - the testing of the War Machines weapons by killing one of the workers.

22:59. Approx 4 secs removed from the sequence of the War Machine moving about the Warehouse.

Episode Three

00:35 approx, on cut from overhead to frontal shot of War Machine - 20 seconds and 22 frames (approx) cut from reprise. Three frames are missing from the start of the front shot of the machine on the cut. Repair can be effected by using material from the end of episode 2.

06:56 approx. 4s 01f missing in the middle of the closeup of prof Krimpton. "Machines have been programmed TO DESTROY ANY FORM OF HUMAN LIFE THAT OPPOSES THEM. The order to attack must come from Wotan alone." (Cut section in upper case). The original cut section does not survive. For VHS, the cut dialogue was restored from the offair, with the visual gap covered with cutaways of Wotan. A similar cutaway was used for the DVD.

07:32 approx. 17s17f missing from workers section (Major Green giving orders). Section is on the Australian censor cuts reel, but 11 frames are missing from the start of the cut section, and 4 frames from the end. Given the wildly differing quality and geometry of the Nigerian print and censor clip, it was decided to add a three second cutaway of the War Machine to bridge the gap. Although this artificially extends the episode length, it does allow all of the extant material to be used.

19:00 approx. First of two sections missing from attack on warehouse, 55s18f. There is no cover for this material. Therefore, various shots of soldiers, warehousemen and War Machines were taken from the other parts of the story (plus, for one short shot, a clip from "Blue Peter") and manipulated in various ways, such as zooming, flipping, reversing, altering speed and overlaying smoke. Near the end of the missing section, Major Green calls out "They must not escape". This line is repeated five seconds later when the Nigerian print resumes, so the later shot was re-used with a zoom to disguise the fact. During the commentary recording, the director, Michael Ferguson, did not realise that the shots were not part of his original work, so we probably got away with it.

19:47 approx. Second missing section from attack on warehouse, 37s07f. can be patched from Australian censor clips.

Episode 4

07:19. 9 seconds and 3-4 frames (offair soundtrack drifts a bit here, so not possible to be accurate to the frame!) missing from telephone kiosk sequence. Can be patched from Blue Peter material and offair recording. There is anecdotal reporting that the episode originally featured a close up of the face of the "man in telephone kiosk" as he is killed by the war machine; this could not be reproduced, but there was sufficient coverage from the film insert to patch the gap using a bit of retiming.

08:11. Two breaks in film (9 frames and 6 frames) during the scene of the Doctor and Ben talking. For VHS this was left as was with the sound smoothed over, however this makes the conversation indistinct at this point. For the DVD, the missing frames were recreated digitally using Twixtor in Shake, using splines to guide the complex movement, so the audio could be used complete.

09:32 approx. 7 seconds and 12 frames missing from exchange between Polly, Brett and Krimpton when she reports back to the Post Office Tower. This was not patched for the VHS release, but for the DVD another cutaway of WOTAN was used to cover the gap.


Episode one very grainy throughout. Episode two was very unstable with vertical film recorder gate jitter throughout and was stabilised shot by shot using Furnace. The dupe neg of David Gee's print was grainy, with poor definition and lots of printed-in scratches. Nigerian episode 2 suffered from chemical damage adjacent to cuts made by the NZ censors in 1967 - presumably caused by cement or tape adhesive. Damaged frames (fortunately no more than three consecutive) were replaced digitally.

Film inserts for episode three were taken from 1996 transfer. Blue Peter derived film suffered lots of light tramline scratching (esp crash-zoom to PO Tower). Australian censor clips very grainy and sat-up. No chance of obtaining new transfers - in fact films almost certainly no longer exist. They were due to be disposed of by the Australian Archive in 1997 and there would be no reason for them to retain them after this date. Therefore the 1996 telecine transfers were graded to match the surrounding episodes as much as possible and high levels of noise reduction applied.

All four episodes needed lots of dirt and scratch removal, as expected from "show prints" returned from abroad.

All dirty cuts (frames which are a 50/50 mix of two different shots) repaired.

Finally, although borderline and initially thought to be a lost cause, it was decided that the quality of the episodes after restoration was just sufficient to allow VidFIRE processing.

As usual, titles and credits were replaced with clean versions. The special story/writer/episode plates were greatly facilitated by Robert Franks who kindly supplied us with a suitable "Wotan" font. Originally the dirt pattern on the opening slides for episodes one and two was retained, but Michael Ferguson was quite vocal that this was far from intentional and was simply due to a poorly-cleaned slide scanner in 1966. Therefore they have been presented clean on the DVD at his request.


The extras package for this release consists of:

Commentary with actor Anneke Wills and director Michael Ferguson.

Now & Then (dur. 6' 39" ) - the latest instalment of our irregular feature re-visits the London locations used in the story to compare them as they are now with how they were back in 1966. Produced by Richard Bignell and narrated by Simon Ockendon.

Blue Peter (dur. 16' 15") - A compilation of related articles from the popular children's magazine show. Valerie Singleton shows new stamps of the Post Office Tower. Christopher Trace goes to visit the tower and shows viewers how to build a model of it. A War Machine visits the Blue Peter studio. Schoolchildren bring in a Dalek they built at school.

One Foot in the Past (dur. 7' 36") - Politician and ex-Postmaster General Tony Benn investigates the history of the Post Office Tower and is allowed up to the now-defunct revolving restaurant and onto the roof, in this extract from the BBC2 show.

WOTAN Assembly (dur. 9' 14") - this featurette explains how the story was pieced back together from disparate sources for the DVD release, after falling victim to overseas censorship in the sixties. Produced by Steve Bagley and narrated by Anneke Wills. 

And as usual there's the Photo Gallery, Coming Soon trailer,  Radio Times Billings PDF (plus a very nice pdf of the War Machine design drawings), Programme subtitles and Subtitle Production Notes, plus an Easter Egg.



Copyright Steve Roberts,  13 August 2008. No reproduction allowed without written permission. Trailer courtesy of 2entertain Ltd.  Webmasters: Please link only to this page, no direct links to the video please!