Sunday, 26 February 2012

Alistair Fergus: Chatty Man

"Get ready to head behind the sofa as Doctor Who and his trusty assistant Jo pit their wits against the evils unearthed by an archealogical dig at Devil's End, in more brilliant space travel..."

My cliche counter just exploded. Oh, and space travel? Really? I'd hardly class a short ride up to a creepy village in a knackered old yellow car as space travel...

It's the morning of Saturday 26th March 2005 and the first brand new Doctor Who adventure in almost nine years is about to materialize on BBC1. Satellite channel UKTV Gold are joining in the celebrations by screening five complete stories from what would we'll soon be calling the 'classic series'. It's 10.20am and early risers have just enjoyed a re-run of The Time Meddler (1965) - next up: The Daemons (1971)... so, what on earth could give viewers the Devil's Hump?

As you may already be aware, all five episodes were originally recorded to videotape in 1971 in full colour. By the end of the decade, only the fourth episode had survived on tape, leaving the BBC with inferior black-and-white film recordings of the remaining episodes. Luckily for us, the survival of a priceless off-air colour recording made by an American fan during the 1970s means that we'll soon be able to enjoy a fully restored, VidFIREd colour edition of The Daemons on DVD. There is magic in the world, after all.

The first attempt at colour restoration was successfully completed in 1992; BBC2 showcased this version in the weeks leading up to Christmas 1992, prior to a home video release the following year. So why on earth were UK Gold still showing the redundant B&W version in 2005?

When The Daemons received its first UK Gold screening in August 1993, all five episodes were presented in black-and-white, but the restored colour version had been located for the next showing in May 1995. However, in 1997, UK Gold showed the first four episodes in black-and-white, before switching to the restored colour for the finale! This was odd, unique, and still the case in March 2005; although the full colour version was shown once more as part of the channel's anniversary celebrations in November 2003.

Sadly, the quality of UK Gold's copies was rather disappointing. You'll surely notice from the clips how the picture is ravaged with dirt, and constantly juddering up and down. It's particularly ironic then that clips from the PAL colour videotape of episode four were used in the 'Story of Doctor Who' preview programme!

Speaking of irony, the most recent broadcast of the story was on BBC Four (October 2007), in full colour... so mote it be. Of course, The Daemons is famous for coming up with the idea for BBC Three, over 30 years before the station launched on digital television. Sadly if you tuned in at 11.45pm these days, you'd most likely have to sit through some soul-destroying reality bollocks like Sun, Sex And Suspicious Parents (if you ask me, I'd rather watch the rugby with a plate of corned-beef sandwiches).

That's it, thanks for reading. Before I go though, I'd just like to point out that this blog recently reached its 2nd birthday, and I'd like to thank everyone who has made that possible - you know who you are, and I'm really very grateful... and who knows, maybe we'll celebrate down the pub sometime...

...five rounds rapid, naturally. See you on Sunday March 4th for more WhoGold.


  1. I remember that 1995 broadcast. The black and white version was scheduled to go out, but being a fan and already knowing it had been colourised meant I knew a oolour copy existed. So I asked the librarian to get onto the Beeb and see if we could have it. One phone call was all it took! Yes we could have it.

    I can only assume that no paperwork from the scheduling people was changed, so each time afterwards, they would just order up from the old list.
    Well thats what I reckon :)

  2. I should have thought to have asked you, Glen! Thanks for the info :-)

  3. KinggodzillakFebruary 26, 2012

    Odd this, considering that the all-colour version was the one they'd shown during the 40th anniversary weekend just two years earlier. Surely when they dusted off their copy of The Time Meddler for this 2005 day they should have found the colour Daemons sat right there next to it? :)