The Caves of Androzani - DVD

The fourth DVD release has now been confirmed as the superb final Fifth Doctor story, 'The Caves of Androzani' from 1984. This dark, gritty story presents several technical challenges to the Restoration Team...

'The Caves of Androzani' was made on one-inch videotape and at least one episode is four tape generations down from the original studio video. Much of the story was shot in low light conditions and as such, there is a very great deal of video noise present throughout, which required careful use of high levels of DVNR to reduce to acceptable levels. Additionally, the master tape of episode four was damaged several years ago and has a tape scratch present throughout most of the episode, which gets worse as the episode progresses. Off-air VHS's from the 1984 transmission also show this scratch, so it was either damaged during transmission or possibly during an earlier tech review. The scratch is for the most part fairly innocuous, but shows up very badly during the scene with Morgus, Stotz and the gunrunners just prior to Stotz killing Krelper. During this scene, the scratch crosses a diagonal part of the set and causes the edge to 'tear' noticeably, as well as appearing as an unstable, highly saturated line across the picture. Dave Hawley has manually repaired the tearing by replacing small sections of the picture from previous frames, but the saturation problem may be too costly to fix easily.

The story's director, Graeme Harper, was enthusiastic when we told him that we would be in a position to remake the planet surface process-shots which did not work back in 1984 due to limitations of the 16mm telecine process. The idea was that the top part of the planet background was painted-in electronically, but unfortunately the foreground film is so unstable that it ruins the effect. However, a private collector has loaned us the original 16mm film sequences from the story and we have transferred it on the Spirit telecine. The results are much more stable, but still not good enough to use in a process-shot, so the tape has been digitally image-stabilised in the BBC's Video Effects Workshop. Dave Chapman, who was the video effects supervisor on the story back in 1984, has rebuilt the matte shot for us, although he is keen to stress that the original matte compositing was not carried out by him, but was done in the VT edit. The background painting has been taken from the transmission tapes and put through a long frame-averaging process to remove the smoke overlay effect that was added in post production. This left an almost clean matte painting which Dave then cleaned up in Paintbox, removing dirt and smoothing out the original join between the painting and the foreground, thus extending the painting downwards slightly to produce a new area in which he could composite the new foreground onto.  The two were then composited together using a soft-edged wipe and three separate layers of smoke overlaid to reproduce the look of the original. Smoke overlays were also added to the other film sequences in this block, which had been replaced with the new film   transfer. We are aware that some fans may see this as tampering with the programme, but it is something that Graeme Harper strongly felt that we should rectify. We have offered the original version of the sequence to the disc producer, so there is a possibility that seamless branching could be used to allow viewers to choose to watch the original or new versions of the episode one film sequences and matte shots.

All of the film sequences, excepting those beginning or ended in a mix, have been replaced by the new transfer as it presents a definite quality improvement over the original. Dave Hawley has spent a lot of time manually deblobbing the film sequences and has also corrected a picture hop that is noticeable in the scene where Davison rolls down the hill in part four. Additionally, the film roll contains a previously unseen sequence which follows immediately on from Krelper spitting out Stotz's 'suicide pill' and serves to underline Stotz's hold over the gun runners. This scene will be presented in its entirety as an extra on the disc, with a commentary.

Nearly two hundred tape dropouts and scratches were repaired over the four episodes. Several technical errors in the original editing were spotted and corrected. The most noticeable of these were a one-frame zoom into the picture just prior to a cut near the end of episode three, which was corrected by repeating the previous frame, and a sideways hop halfway through a shot in episode two. The latter was quite tricky to fix, as the entire shot moved to the right halfway down one field and then stayed in this position for the rest of the shot. There is another occurrence of this in the same episode, but unfortunately it has the holographic communications screen superimposed over it, so it was impossible to fix the displacement of the background without affecting the superimposed foreground element.

A 75-minute isolated camera recording from the last studio session exists (an 'iso' recording is generally designed to capture alternative angles that are not always being covered by the main cameras and provide additional shots for the director to use in post-production)  and includes the shooting of the regeneration from Peter Davison into Colin Baker. Paul Vanezis has been responsible for putting together the extras for the disc, including a seven minute 'Regeneration' featurette based on this material, which   is accompanied by a separate commentary.

An audio interview with the late Christopher Gable, who played Sharaz Jek in the story, was loaned to us and forms the basis of a separate five minute featurette entitled 'Creating Sharaz Jek', which also includes previously unseen photographs from Gable's own collection, rehearsal and iso camera material from the last studio recording session, and extracts from the finished show.

Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant and Graeme Harper met up in Dubbing Theatre Y at Television Centre on Monday 25 September 2000 to record an extremely lively, amusing and informative commentary for the entire story. Nicola's recent back injury meant that she had to spend the whole session standing and in some pain, but was still able to give her all. Special mention should be made of the efforts of Jason May in the BBC's Commercial Rights department, who spent many hours trying to mix and match dates to allow us to bring these three people together for the recording, which all of us felt should only be done with all three or not at all.

Mark Ayres prepared a synchronous copy of Roger Limb's excellent soundtrack score, which,  as with 'Remembrance of the Daleks', is presented in its entirety as an isolated soundtrack. Some of the music cues used in the story do not appear on the music masters archived in the BBC Library due to last-minute changes back in 1984. Mark  searched the Windmill Road libary  for these missing cues, but has been unable to locate four very short Sharaz Jek themes from episode two. Other than these, the soundtrack is complete.

A BBC1 trail for part one was located on VHS and has been remade in broadcast quality.

Three news items are also presented on the disc. The first is from the One O'Clock News, reporting the announcement that Peter Davison was leaving the show. The second is a Kate Adie interview with Peter Davison from the Nine O'Clock News on the same day. Finally, there is an interview with John Nathan-Turner and Peter Davison from the following day's 'South-East at Six'.

As with the previous releases, a photo gallery and a subtitle 'text commentary ' are also included.

Our work on this project is now complete and we have handed over the masters to BBC Worldwide.

'The Caves of Androzani' was due to be released on 9th April 2001, however it has now been pushed back to 13th June 2001 following a general review of the release strategy across all of BBC Video's DVD range.

Copyright  Steve Roberts, 30 November 2000