If you ever doubted the amount of work that goes into animating missing episodes of Doctor Who, you could do a lot worse than read the story of how producer and director Charles Norton went about his colossal task of bringing The Power of the Daleks back to the screen.
Astonishingly, it was only at the start of 2016 that Norton’s pitch to follow up his earlier project to animate lost Dad’s Army episode A Stripe for Frazer with Doctor Who animations sparked the interest of BBC Worldwide. As Norton says of his discussions with executive producer Paul Hembury:
“The options ranged from relatively small-scale ones (animating just one or two lost episodes), to incredibly ambitious and expensive ones – like animating all six episodes of Power of the Daleks. It was admittedly quite a surprise when Paul came back to say that they were most interested in the incredibly ambitious and expensive option!”
Knowing that the final deadline to have the story ready for release simply had to be the 50th anniversary of the Second Doctor’s debut in November, Norton set to work on camera scripts before he had been formally commissioned. Though the episodes themselves are long since lost, as all fans of the programme’s history know there are other surviving resources which give an indication as to how the story looked on the screen: original camera scripts, off-air tele-snaps, a limited number of production still images, and whatever brief snippets of footage that were recovered over the years.
But a certain amount of guesswork and artistic licence had to be engaged to fill in the gaps (Norton found, for example, that there was no surviving comprehensive script for footage shot at Ealing Studios).
“Additionally, at some point, you just have to put the original camera script to one side and also start thinking about it in terms of a production in its own right. What will and will not work as an animation? For instance, there’s quite a few shots in the original that are done very wide. Now we’ve kept some of these. However, given the time we had available, many have been re-framed as medium close-ups. If we kept them all on wides, it would be much more time-consuming.”
The painstaking work of storyboarding, drawing, and shading the images and characters that make up the finished animation was done by Daryl Joyce, Martin Geraghty, and Adrian Salmon (familiar names from the pages of Doctor Who Magazine and other publications) before compositing all the elements together ahead of paintings of the sets from the story.
A Herculean effort, then, to revive a lost classic which depicted the Daleks at their most sinister and calculating:
“It gives them back a lot of the character that they had originally. It wasn’t the most expensive Doctor Who story made that year. However, it plays to that and builds up a really tense and well-thought out narrative – high on claustrophobia and suspense. It’s exceptionally well-staged too – the stuff they shot at Ealing Studios, especially.”
Read the full story behind the new animated version of The Power of the Daleks at BBC Store.