AUDIO DRAMA
Doctor Who Reconstructed: The Power of the Daleks

Starring: Patrick Troughton
BBC Audio
RRP: 19.99
ISBN 0 563 50417 X
Available 06 June 2005


Before the astonished eyes of his companions Ben and Polly, the Doctor's whole body has apparently been transformed. Can they trust this stranger who claims to be their friend? That's the least of their worries, however, as the TARDIS has landed on the Earth colony of Vulcan, where a scientist has discovered a crashed space capsule - containing Daleks...

How's this for a conspiracy theory? We are told that the BBC junked dozens of 1960s episodes of Doctor Who because no one foresaw their future commercial value. However, the Beeb knew that certain classic stories could generate even more cash if they were wholly or partially wiped.

I don't believe for a moment that the above is true, but it makes you think. The incomplete Crusade has now been released more times and in more formats that most existing stories. And the MP3-CD of The Power of the Daleks marks this serial's fourth commercial release. Originally issued on cassette in 1992, narrated by Tom Baker, it was re-released on CD, remastered and with new narration by Anneke Wills (Polly), as part of the limited edition Daleks tin in 2003. The CD was then reissued as an individual unit a year later, and now we have this MP3-CD.

But this is far more than your average MP3-CD. This is the first in what promises to be a series of "reconstructed" classics. In my review of Tales from the TARDIS Volume 2, which contained a "TARDIS viewer" slideshow of images, I asked the question: "How about releasing some MP3-CDs of soundtracks to partially or wholly missing stories, with telesnaps [off-screen stills by John Cura] to illustrate them?" Well, that's exactly what this release is.

Though fan groups such as Loose Cannons have been making similar reconstructions as not-for-profit videos for years, the images and sounds were never as high quality as here. And, while it is possible to construct your own slideshow using telesnaps presented on the BBC's own website, James Goss and his fellow "reconstructors" have repeated, reversed and otherwise doctored (no pun intended) certain images to help provide coverage and keep the show as lively as possible. This leads to some lapses of continuity - for example, the Doctor's hat sometimes disappears and reappears, as does his Examiner's badge - but this is forgivable when you consider that only around 70 telesnaps exist for each of the six episodes. The team have also added some special effects, such as negative images for the exterminations and simulated movement for some Dalek's-eye-view shots.

However, though the clips that exist from this story have been sourced for static images, they have not been included as live action. This is a great shame, and it begs the question: why couldn't this reconstruction have been put together for VHS or DVD, thus allowing the inclusion of such clips? That way, fans who don't have all the necessary technology to view this presentation (128 MB of RAM, Internet Explorer, Flash 6, etc) need not have been excluded?

What will happen when BBC Audio get to the stories that are only partially missing? Will they go to the trouble to reconstructing entire existing episodes, just because they cannot present video footage in Flash? Will they miss out those episodes, assuming everyone already has them on video or DVD? Or will they simply not bother with partial stories?

Another downside of the Flash presentation is that you cannot pause it. If the phone rings or you need to nip to the loo in the middle of an episode, you have to find your place again using the progress bar. Also, each episode is divided into two parts, and in each case the transition has been sited roughly 20 minutes into the show, even when a less obtrusive transition point occurs elsewhere.

Furthermore, the soundtrack used is that of the previous CD release, complete with Anneke Wills' narration. But we don't need narration on this version, since we have the telesnaps and any other details could have been conveyed using on-screen captions. Why couldn't we have had the unadulterated soundtrack?

I shan't bother to comment here about the relative merits of the classic serial itself, since I have already done so in my review of the CD. Suffice to say that the original production's strengths shine through as never before.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this presentation very much, but at 19.99 it might as well - and should - have been a DVD.

Richard McGinlay

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£19.99 (Amazon.co.uk)

All prices correct at time of going to press.