'The Lion'

'The Lion', the first episode of the 1965 William Hartnell story 'The Crusade' was rediscovered in New Zealand in January 1999. BBC Video have announced their intention to release the episode as part of a special video boxset in June '99. Steve Roberts tells the story of its rediscovery and plans for its restoration...

[Episode title screen]In the middle of 1998, Bruce Grenville, a film collector in Auckland, New Zealand was attending a film collectors fair when he happened across a 16mm print of 'The Lion' in a pile of bargain-priced films. He was not aware of its rarity value, but bought it anyway, for the princely sum of five dollars! In early January 1999, rumours of the existence of the print reached New Zealand 'Doctor Who' fan Neil Lambess, who was able to arranged for it to be screened for himself and Paul Scoones of the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club, who immediately contacted Steve Roberts by e-mail to break the good news. Paul was able to convince Bruce to loan the film print to the BBC and only eight days later it had arrived safely in the UK.

Strangely, although the episode was found in New Zealand, it was never actually screened there. Research in New Zealand suggests that the story possibly received a 'Y' rating rather than the family-viewing 'G' that other transmitted stories received. BBC Enterprises did send a full set of prints, however, and it seems likely that the rediscovered print is one of those. The film traffic records for this episode, and indeed a number of others, show that it was not returned to the BBC or destroyed by NZBC (now TVNZ), but instead was sent to a mysterious location marked only as 'H S'. Research by TVNZ's technical manager, Nigel Windsor, indicates that this probably means 'Hill Street', a storage facility in Thorndon, Wellington. From there it appears to have gone out to be dumped at a landfill site along with many hundred of other films (no more 'Doctor Who' episodes were among them, sadly), from where it was rescued by film collectors.

The film print is a standard BBC Enterprises 16mm positive print with an optical soundtrack. It is a nice print, but it has suffered some quite severe damage over the years. The main problems are physical damage to the film emulsion. This takes the form of vertical scratches, known as tramline scratches, which are visible to some degree all the way through the film. There is one particularly bad section of about six minutes duration which is both scratched and scuffed and where the film has been punctured by an errant projector sprocket tooth at some point. Several single-frame projector burns are visible and the Director credit has been chopped off the end of the film. This last damage was probably deliberately done to remove the BBC copyright card at the end.

[Tramline scratches and scuffs]Preliminary restoration work was started almost immediately. The film was given two passes through an ultrasonic film cleaner to remove surface dirt and grease and also to remove a film treatment wax that Bruce Grenville had applied. This wax was designed to help smooth running of the sprocket hole area of the film through the projector, but unfortunately, some had spilled over onto the picture. The film cleaning process removed it completely however. The print was then wetgate telecine transferred directly to Digital Betacam videotape. The wetgate fluid rendered most of the superficial acetate surface damage invisible but did not improve the areas where the emulsion had been damaged. No attempt was made to digitally filter any other picture elements such as dirt and sparkle and the soundtrack was left completely unfiltered also.

The film print will be returned to Bruce Grenville, who has indicated that he wishes to publicly auction it. Although not something that the BBC has had to deal with before, the Corporation has stated that as the print was bought in good faith, Bruce should be allowed to dispose of it as he sees fit. Of course, the copyright of the actual material remains the BBC's at all times, but the physical print belongs to Bruce.

[Projector Burn]The later stages of the restoration process will all be carried out using the Digital Betacam tape copy as the source. Normal dirt and sparkle will be removed using an adaptive digital noise reducer, in this case the industry-standard Digital Vision DVNR-1000. The tramline scratches are a more serious problem however. They could possibly be painted out frame by frame, but it would be an inordinately long job and well outside the scope of any budget assigned to the restoration of a single episode. The most likely candidate would seem to be Aurora, a prototype video restoration tool co-designed by a consortium of European broadcasters (including the BBC) and built by UK manufacturer Snell & Wilcox. As well as having the ability to apply flicker reduction, image stabilization, dirt and scratch concealment and a host of other filters, Aurora includes a dedicated tramline scratch filter which can automatically detect and conceal scratches.

The projector burns only last a single frame and are generally on areas where there is not a great deal of movement from frame to frame. These will be dealt with by soft-edged wiping in part of an adjacent frame to cover the damage. The wandering hole caused by the projector sprocket may have to be largely dealt with by hand however. The missing Director credit will be copied from the existing prints of episode three which has always been held by the BBC.

[Next Episode caption]The soundtrack will be copied to Digital Audio Tape and sent to Mark Ayres for restoration. It is generally in very good condition, although there are some audio bumps where the projector burns are. Mark will clean-up the audio and return it on a separate DAT cassette which can be re-laid onto the final videotape master.

This page will attempt to keep readers up to date with the restoration process.


UPDATE: 2 March 1999

Progress is now well under way on the video release of 'The Lion', scheduled for June '99 in the UK. The episode will be released on a single tape, along with the existing episode three and all four episodes of the subsequent story, 'The Space Museum'. William Russell has recorded links in character as Ian Chesterton to introduce the 'Crusade' episodes and bridge the gaps in the story. The tape will be presented in a special box, containing the video in a standard plastic videocase, along with a CD of the soundtrack to the two missing episodes. Unlike the CD contained in 'The Ice Warriors Collection', this will be packaged in a jewel case with a detailed inlay card.

Filming for the linking material took place in late February, in Ian Levine's dining room and library in West London. Under Paul Vanezis' direction, 'Ian Chesterton' recorded a number of links to camera, recalling his adventures in the Holy Land.

The same evening, work began on transferring the episode three of 'The Crusade' and the four episodes of 'The Space Museum' onto Digital Betacam videotape. After viewing a number of prints and negatives, it was decided to follow the same path that we had successfully used for 'The Ark' and 'The Keys of Marinus' - wetgate transfers from the original film recording negatives, as the results we were getting were far superior to transferring the prints.

Problems were encountered with episode three of 'The Space Museum', however. The film recording had been made in 1967 and it was clear that the videotape master has deteriorated somewhat by that point, causing lots of flashing, dropout and occasional frame roll on the film recorder. We also had a print of this episode which had been returned from ABC in Australia. Although of poorer quality in terms of grain and resolution, it had been struck from a negative made some two years before the negative we had already transferred and the videotape had obviously been in much better condition at the time. At present we are still assessing the best way to tackle the problem, although it seems likely that we will electronically repair some of the faults on the neg transfer and perhaps patch more difficult areas using shots taken from the ABC print.

Episode two was also found to have a large two-inch quad VTR geometry error recorded into it, causing verticals to take on a triangular sawtooth effect all the way down the frame. This may be correctable using a DVE to put in an equal but opposite effect, but this may be outside the constraints of our budget at this point.

The BBFC requires the finished tape for certification in early March, so a version has been edited together to allow them to do this. It contains all the material that will be on the finished tape, but some work will subsequently be done to clean up the sound and pictures prior to duplication in late May. Mark Ayres has DAT copies of the soundtracks to the missing episodes and is currently cleaning them up prior to producing the CD master.

UPDATE: 19 March 1999

Unfortunately, BBC Video have told us that they require the duplication master for the video release by the end of this month. Because Aurora is presently in France, we aren't able to use it to try to remove the tramline scratching until after the deadline, so the version released on BBC Video in June won't be quite as clean as we hoped it would be. Because of this, we have employed an alternative method to try to reduce this problem...

It was decided to use the second wetgate transfer as the basis for the restoration. It was slightly zoomed in compared to the first transfer which helped remove some of the film recorder flicker from the very top and bottom of the frame - not that this would be visible on a domestic TV, but we have to consider the possibility that the episode might one day be technically reviewed for broadcast. The first stage of the electronic restoration was 'deblobbing', which is manually repairing any large blemishes such as hairs, single frame scratches, dirt, and in this case the projector burns and a couple of errant air bubbles in the wetgate. A clone of the Digital Betacam transfer was made and this was used for safety. Problem frames were located and a single-frame edit marked at that point. The previous frame to it was grabbed into a frame store and then soft-edged wiped on a vision mixer into the damaged area of the target frame. Small amounts of camera movement could be accommodated by moving the position of the image in the frame store. The repair was then completed using a process called pre-read, where the target frame is read out of the VTR, through the vision mixer to add the repair and is then recorded back onto the same tape in place of the damaged frame in one operation. A large white tramline scratch at the edge of frame in the opening shot was repaired in a similar way, this time using the frame store as a single frame delay and moving its position slightly sideways to wipe in undamaged picture from the area adjacent to it. This was performed as a single three second pre-read edit, repairing the fault in one operation.

The deblobbed tape was then used to make two other tapes. The first was given a pass through the DVNR-1000 at a normal setting, effectively removing the smaller dirt and sparkle problems without causing any image artefacts which tend to make the picture look very smooth, false and smeary. A second tape was then made using the DVNR-1000 at an extreme setting, killing a lot of the black and white sparklies in the tramlines at the expense of degrading the picture overall. This second tape was selectively overlaid in thin vertical soft-edged strips onto the first tape, reducing the tramline damage in only the areas affected. The result was an improvement in the quality of the damaged areas without affecting the quality of the undamaged parts. Without the use of Aurora, this is probably as far as the picture restoration can go without an extremely large budget to enable us to attempt frame-by-frame repairs on Paintbox. Side-by-side comparison showed that all the damaged areas have been either repaired or significantly reduced however.

Mark has now finished cleaning up the soundtrack, which will be reunited with the pictures at an edit on Tuesday evening. At the same edit we will be replacing the neg transfer of episode three of 'The Space Museum' with a composite of the best parts of the neg and print transfers, after which the master will be passed to BBC Video for technical review and duplication.

Steve Roberts, 19 March 1999