The Power of the Daleks animation (I)

DWM Story preview


Perhaps the most astonishing, most radical and most important Doctor Who story ever produced - brought back to life after 50 years!

[Preview for the animated version of The Power of the Daleks, published in Doctor Who Magazine #505 (Panini UK Ltd, October 2016), pp. 14-15. Posted here by kind permission of editor Tom Spilsbury.]


WRITTEN BY David Whitaker
DIRECTED BY Christopher Barry
STARRING Patrick Troughton (Dr. Who), Anneke Wills (Polly), Michael Craze (Ben), Martin King (The Examiner), Nicholas Hawtrey (Quinn), Bernard Archard (Bragen), Robert James (Lesterson), Pamela Ann Davy (Janley), Peter Bathurst (Hensell), Edward Kelsey (Resno), Gerald Taylor, Kevin Manser, Robert Jewell and John Scott Martin (The Daleks), Peter Hawkins (Dalek voices)

What has happened to the Doctor? His companions Ben and Polly have found a stranger in the TARDIS – a peculiar, gurning man in a sort of parody of the Doctor's own clothes. To Ben's astonishment, Polly suspects that this man might actually be the Doctor, somehow – impossibly – transformed. But before they can be sure, the TARDIS lands on the desolate planet Vulcan where a nightmare awaits them... then again, who better to tell if this man really is the Doctor than his oldest and deadliest enemies...

DR. WHO: “I'd like to see a butterfly fit into a chrysalis case after it's spread its wings.”
POLLY: “Then you did change!”
DR. WHO: “Life depends on change and renewal.”
BEN: “Oh, so that's it. You've been renewed, have you?”


“Oh, it gave me goosebumps!” enthuses Anneke Wills of the trailer for the new animation that recreates otherwise lost episodes of Doctor Who from 1966. Anneke played the Doctor's plucky companion Polly in 36 episodes of Doctor Who between 1966 and 1967. However, like so much of 1960s Doctor Who, two-thirds of her episodes are today missing from the BBC archives. That includes all six episodes of a story with a crucial place in the series' history.

The Power of the Daleks was the first one with Patrick Troughton,” Anneke explains. 'The very first Doctor, Bill Hartnell, well, he couldn't carry on in such a demanding part – so they replaced him with Pat. And that's where it all started: the idea you could have a new Doctor, the idea he wouldn't be just the same as the last one. And clever old Pat made it work. Without him, without this brilliant story, the series couldn't go on. There'd be no Doctor Who now.'

It was another eight years before the series gave a name to this process – “regeneration” – which occurs at regular intervals. But in 1966 replacing the series' lead actor was a bold and untested move. “Patrick was under a huge amount of pressure,” says Anneke. “He felt a huge responsibility because if it – if he – didn't work then the whole show would come crashing down. But they really pulled out all the stops to support him. They got the best writer to write it, and a brilliant cast. And of course they had the Daleks.”

So The Power of the Daleks isn't just an important story: it's a really good one, too – smart and eerie and chilling, the Daleks never more sneaky and sinister. So, of the 97 missing episodes of Doctor Who, the loss of these six is felt particularly keenly.

“Oh yeah,” agrees Charles Norton, who is the producer and director of the new animated version. “People have been talking about this story for a very long time.”

Charles had been a freelance journalist working for The Times, The Guardian, BBC History Magazine and Doctor Who Magazine before starting at BBC Audiobooks on such projects as new stories for classic thriller serial Dick Barton – Special Agent. In 2009, given this experience and his work in researching old telly, Charles began pitching a project to animate lost episodes of a classic and much-loved TV programme.

“Yeah,” he says, “Like Doctor Who, there's a lot of missing [BBC sitcom] Dad's Army. I spoke to BBC Two, BBC Four, BBC DVD, all these different people, talking about how there's this big following for Dad's Army, and these soundtracks of missing episodes, and how we could provide animation to go with them...”

After much persistence, Charles was finally commissioned in 2015 to animate the lost 1969 Dad's Army episode A Stripe for Frazer. With a limited budget and a schedule of just a few weeks, his team delivered the episode which was released for download on BBC Store on 4 February.

“It got a lot of attention and it must have done well enough,” he says, modestly. “Because then I was talking to Paul Hembury at BBC Worldwide – who oversaw the Dad's Army episode – about what we might do next. I remember sitting in the cafeteria at Television Centre, talking about Doctor Who. I was outlining missing episodes that would be easiest to animate – not necessarily the best ones. And I said something along the lines of, 'Although, if we had enough resources then obviously the best one to do is The Power of the Daleks...'”

The best one to do – but also one of the most challenging?

“I expressed various concerns,” Charles nods. “How difficult it would be to do a story where all the episodes were missing [previous animations of missing Doctor Who have been limited to one or two episodes from parially complete stories]; how big the budget would need to be; and how many different parts of BBC Worldwide would have to co-operate to make it happen. And Paul just said, 'Why are you worrying about that? That's for us to worry about.' So I put a proposal together, hoping Paul might come back and say, 'Sorry, no, but let's talk about some of those easier ones you mentioned...' But Paul championed it through BBC Worldwide, and various things all came together at the right time. As a collaboration between BBC Store as well as BBC DVD and BBC Global, it's a practical project. And then, partway through production, BBC America expressed an interest as well.”

This was in March, which left little time if the animated The Power of the Daleks was to be released to coincide with the story's 50th anniversary in November. “We just had to get cracking,” says Charles. “So, as with Dad's Army before it, I essentially stole the Doctor Who Magazine art department! Our lead character artist is Martin Geraghty, who also worked on Dad's Army with us. The character shading is done by Adrian Salmon and our in-betweening and other bits of artwork such as the props by Mike Collins – all three of them comic strip artists for DWM. Our background art is from Daryl Joyce, who has also done a lot of artwork for DWM over the years and the booklet for the DVD has been written by [DWM archivist] Andrew Pixley.”

Next issue, when readers have had a chance to view the animation for themselves, DWM will investigate in depth how the team produced it. For now, the most that many of us have seen of the animation is a 26-second trailer, officially released on 6 September. Much of the material in this trailer seems based on the small amount of surviving footage from the original episodes – such as the army of Daleks chanting, “Daleks conquer and destroy!”

“Yes,” agrees Charles. “We used the available footage, and we slotted the telesnaps [a series of photographs from each episode, taken directly from the TV screen at the time of broadcast] into our animatic [guide]. We managed to match up about 95% of the telesnaps, but there are many more shots in an episode than there are telesnaps. Then there are the camera scripts [ie the scripts used at the time of recording the original episodes], which are a wonderful resource because they're essentially a storyboard in written form. But there'd occasionally be a shot in the camera script that conflicts with a telesnap, so isn't how it was recorded. And there are also some quite large sections in the camera scripts for which there are no camera directions at all.”

Even so, it sounds as if Charles and his team have endeavoured to reproduce the original episode as accurately as possible. That scene of the Daleks chanting, for example...

“We've used the footage of that scene, we've shot it from the same angle and in the same style. But they only had four Dalek props when they made it. So to make a room full of Daleks they put those four in front of a wall of black-and-white photographic blow-ups. That wasn't an artistic choice on the production team's part: they just didn't have enough props. Our Daleks aren't photographic blow-ups, they're proper Daleks, in the same places as they are in the original but moving a little bit.” So Charles has improved on the original? “I don't know about that,” he says. “The approach has been to be faithful to the original intention.”

The dedication to detail is very impressive – as we'll see next issue. Presumably, if The Power of the Daleks does well, Charles and his team could be animating more lost episodes of Doctor Who...

He laughs ruefully, with weeks still to go on this current, huge project. “To be honest, The Power of the Daleks is all I can think about just now! But obviously, the better it performs, the better the case is to look at what we might next...”