This is the first Doctor Who serial I’ve owned, and I’m quite excited, so forgive me if I review it twice. I haven’t finished watching it yet, but I wanted to discuss the animated episodes: Part 1 & 4.
As is well documented, the BBC wiped the masters to many of their series before they realised their value, and two of the episodes of this series have never been recovered. On a previous release, linking narration was provided, but since the soundtracks survive (thanks to fans who placed tape recorder mics up against their TVs), the episodes have been reanimated by Cosgrove Hall (who produced the BBCi Doctor Who: The Scream of Shalka serial).
The animation, in black and white, is impressive. It has a different “feel” to the live action episodes, and clearly the animation isn’t photorealistic and doesn’t resemble live action, but whilst it’s two dimensional the images have depth, thanks to to almost photographic but blurred backgrounds. The excellent cinematic musical cues enhance the stunning, highly contrasty visuals; it looks really good in a way that much live action Who can’t because of budget constraints.
The animators faced a dual challenge: as well as animating a soundtrack (rather than visa versa) they had to establish characters in the first episode who had to be recognised in the flesh in the second. The former is quite successful: at its best it is entirely possible to get lost in the animation, especially in episode 1 (where the audio quality has survived better than part 4). However it there are some awkward edits, and its often obvious that the performers were not just acting with their voices and you feel the frustration of not being able to view the facial expressions. The transitions from one episode to another are especially interesting, because the ending of one is repeated at the beginning of the next, so you can see both live and animated versions of the same scene. Animated characters are easily recognisable from their live counterparts, making the transition as seamless as could be hoped.
It is a pleasure to have the episodes as voiced by the original cast. It would have been nice to present alternatives, such as viewing the telesnaps with the soundtrack; and I hope one day the origianl episodes will be recovered. At that time, the animated episodes will make a very nice extra. It is a testament to their quality that you might opt to view them anyway; and I can imagine plenty of scenes in other serials where you might wish there was a well animated alternative to a special effects disaster!