The Tomb of the Cybermen - DVD

The first black and white story chosen for DVD release is the Patrick Troughton story 'The Tomb of the Cybermen', which opened  season five - the classic 'Monster Season'. Missing completely from the BBC Archives until 1992, when it was returned by a TV station in Hong Kong, 'Tomb' is widely regarded as the best complete Troughton story in the archive...

'Tomb' was returned from Hong Kong as 16mm black and white film recordings, the standard format for overseas sales of monochrome Doctor Who stories. Generally, the prints themselves are in fairly good condition, but unfortunately the same cannot be said of the original videotapes used to make the film recordings in the sixties. The prints show a huge number of flashes, dropouts and film recorder off-locks, all of which need to be repaired for the DVD release.

The original Hong Kong prints were loaned to us by the Archives, ultrasonically film cleaned and then transferred completely raw by Senior Colourist Jonathan Wood on the Spirit telecine for optimum quality - and also to provide us with a source of pictures for  'before and after' shots which would form part of a featurette on the remastering processing.

Each episode was then dubbed down from the raw Digital Betacam compilation master onto separate Digital Betacam episode tapes. A modest amount of DVNR was applied at this stage to reduce the film grain and to take out the smaller bits of film dirt and sparkle. Most of the scene changes appear to have been done by physical tape edits on the quad studio recordings, which produce one or two-frame off-locks on the film recorder at the cut point. Rather than covering the bad frames by repeating last or first frames of the shot as we had done when remastering the first three stories recently (and which some people found noticeable), we elected to cut the frames out completely, tightening each affected shot by a frame or two. The audio edit was offset from the vision cut in order to make it fall between words or music so that it would not produce a noticeable audio jump.

Once the episodes were to length, the soundtrack was been lifted off onto DAT and sent to Mark Ayres for audio restoration work. Unfortunately, Mark immediately discovered a problem with the optical sound transfer, caused by a fault in the telecine's optical pickup. All four episode's soundtracks were once again transferred on another telecine and sent to Mark. However, because these soundtracks did not include the edits we had made for picture problems, Mark's job was made somewhat more difficult as he also had to duplicate our edits as well as cleaning up the material. The main tools Mark used were ProTools running on a Macintosh computer, along with Sound Designer II software. Plugins for cleanup included Digidesign Intelligent Noise Reduction, Waves Q10 (audio equaliser), Waves L1+ (Limiter and Noise Shaper), Waves C1 (Dynamics Processor). Clicks and pops were mainly redrawn by hand, or patched using tiny snippets of matching sound from elsewhere. Meanwhile, the major task of video repair and cleanup commenced.

Conveniently, BBC Resources had just taken delivery of an Edifis Sting with Scratchbox. This is an uncompressed hard disc recorder (Sting) with a built-in film retouching tool (Scratchbox). Programmes are recorded into the Sting and can then be retouched in Scratchbox using a pen and graphics tablet interface. The operator selects the frame to be repaired, then by using the pen he can simply rub away the film damage on the foreground layer to reveal the previous frame below on the background layer (this is the default - any frame on the disc can be chosen as the background). In the majority of cases, this is enough to conceal the fault totally. In cases where the background is positionally different to the foreground, the background can be panned horizontally and vertically in order to give the best match. Once the operator is happy with the repaired frame, a button push records it back to disc in place of the damaged frame. Once a complete sequence has been repaired, it is dubbed back off to tape.

Several items were put together for inclusion as extras:-

Debbie Watling and Frazer Hines recorded a commentary in Dubbing Theatre Y at Television Centre on Monday, 21st May 2001. Both actors found the experience very enjoyable and insisted on doing the first three episodes without a break!

Once again text production notes and a photo gallery is included on the disc.

The introduction by the director, the late Morris Barry, which was specially shot in 1992 for the VHS release, has been included.

A thirty minute featurette has been put together by Paul Vanezis and Peter Finklestone, using material recorded at the BAFTA 'Tombwatch' video launch event in 1992, in which many of the stars and production crew  talk  about the story after seeing it for the first time in twenty-five years.

A colour 'Late Night Line-Up' feature on the Visual Effects department from 1967 has been edited down to a three minute feature that concentrates on Doctor Who. Joan Bakewell interviews Jack Kine about the department and many Doctor Who props make an appearance, including 'Tomb' Cybermats and a Yeti which shoots a Cybergun at a Cyberman who then discharges foam from his innards! Ironically, this interview was not rediscovered until after the recovery of 'Tomb' in 1992! This feature also includes the two brief extracts from 'The Abominable Snowmen':4 which were inadvertantly left out of 'The Missing Years'.

Another three minute featurette has been put together from the various tests and final elements that were used in the creation of the Troughton title sequence, including the unused 'whirlpool' effects and different title graphics. Mark Ayres has supplied an extended version of the Doctor Who theme to accompany it.

It was originally intended that Tony Cornell's 8mm film 'The Last Dalek' , shot in Ealing Studios in 1967 during filming of 'The Evil of the Daleks', would be included. However, it has been decided to drop it from this release so that more time can be taken to prepare a fuller and more satisfying presentation of it for a future DVD. Instead, 'The Final End', a revamped version of the short sequence originally put together for 'The Missing Years' will be included. This sequence combines parts of 'The Last Dalek' with  extracts from the programme soundtrack of episode 7 of 'The Evil of the Daleks' in order to give a flavour of the climactic Dalek battle from which 'The Tomb of the Cybermen' follows directly on.

A five minute featurette showing examples of shots before and after cleanup is included, with the 'before' shots taken from the master used for the 1992 VHS release in order to include the improvement that scanning on the Spirit has made. This also features a text commentary.

Cleanup work using the Scratchbox commenced on 6 May 2001, with all of episode one being cleaned up. Around 2000 blemishes were corrected in the space of six hours, a rate which would be unheard of using our conventional deblobbing method. Most of the repairs were to film  dirt and sparkle, but there were quite a few original VT dropouts as well. It appears that the episodes have at some point been broken down into two rolls and then rejoined, as there is a great deal of visible dirt around the twelve minute point. There was also a burst of dirt over a few frames in the scene where Victoria is rescued from the revitalisation chamber, but this has all now been repaired. The original VHS release from 1992 clearly shows very bad tramline scratching on the first exteriors shots (where the title appears). These scratches were not evident in our new transfers, presumably because the diffuse illumination system employed in the Spirit was able to mask them. Picture stability during this episode is very poor due to either a faulty film recorder or optical printer back in the sixties and unfortunately it is unlikely that this can be repaired, as the movement is non-linear within the frame - ie some parts of the frame are steady, whereas other parts are not. All current image stabalisers work by analysing the entire frame and working out the general motion vector, then cancel it by moving the picture in opposition. This technique works well for linear instability where the entire picture is moving vertically or horizontally. However, the non-linear instability on episode one would cause severe problems for an image stabaliser, probably making some unstable areas even more so.

Episode two exhibited a completely different set of problems, this time consisting mostly of quad videotape dropouts and large horizontal flashes across the screen, along with quite a lot of dirt and sparkle. 2500 frames were repaired in this episode.

Episode three contained mostly quad tape dropouts and white sparkle, with over 2300 frames being repaired. Some severe film scratches (particularly in the scene where Kaftan finds the gun and threatens the others) were manually painted out. This could never be an invisible mend, but the result is certainly less distracting than the huge white scratch! A bad head tracking error on the opening shot of the Cyberleader's head was disguised by repeating frames from either side of the shot, then adding some motion blur and short mixes to help carry the shot.

Episode four is in the worst state of all of the episodes. It contains a huge number of mutiple quad dropouts - the videotapes must have literally been falling to pieces during production of the film recording. Over 4500 frames were repaired. Kaftan's death scene was particularly problematic, as it was covered in mutliple dropouts which had had the knock-on effect of causing the film recorder to off-lock several times. Painstaking retouching was required to repair this shot. Most of the work was done on Scratchbox and then Jonathan Wood worked on it further using a frame store and vision mixer to blend the repairs together into a more coherent shot.

Up to three further Scratchbox passes were made on all episodes, with many more faults being found and repaired on each pass - and undoubtedly there will be some that even now have been  missed. The total number of repairs now stands at over 16,000!

A new transfer of the 35mm title sequence film was made and cleaned up, then laid back in place of the film-recorded sequences for optimum quality. The 35mm print used was actually the one struck for use on 'The Invasion', according to the ident on the film leader.

It was assumed that the poor quality pictures at the beginning of episode two, the reprise of the final scenes of episode one, could be replaced using the better pictures from episode one, with new captions overlaid. However, it was discovered that the reprise is actually a combination of the original takes as used in episode one and some retakes, with subtly different performances and effects. Up until the point where the gun pushes into shot, the pictures are identical to episode one, therefore those shots were reinstated, with new captions cut out of the original episode two opening and overlaid by Dave Chapman in our 3-D Effects department. The shots from the gun pushing in,  to the zoom onto the the Cyberman's head, were left as original, although the quality is noticeably lower. The programme production file indicates that a 35mm film recorder was booked for the last part of the first day's studio session, so it appears that the last scene and a retake of it were film recorded, edited and then played back in to the episode two studio session from telecine.

Once cleanup was mostly finished, several 'difficult' repairs were compiled off onto a separate tape for the attention of the 3-D Effects department and were mostly fixed by Ian Simpson on an SGI Illusion. These included:-

The completed masters were delivered to BBC Video on July 16th and the anticipated UK release of the DVD is 14th January 2002 - ten years to the month since the story was returned!

Steve Roberts, 16 July 2001