For Animated Doctor Who Reconstructions
By Garrett Gilchrist
Not for commercial use
There are 108 lost episodes of Doctor Who. Let's bring them back.
This artwork was created by Garrett Gilchrist. Doctor Who is copyright the BBC, and no infringement is intended. These images are not intended for commercial use or profit.
WhoSprites in the Press
Page 36 of the September 2008 (no. 173) issue of SFX magazine.
Featured on the WIRED Magazine blog
Doctor Who Fans Use YouTube to Save Show's Past
By John Scott Lewinski - April 06, 2008
"Now, fans around the world are using YouTube to restore episodes from the show's distant past once thought lost to the BBC's own carelessness. ... Fortunately, the soundtracks of these lost episodes still exist, and a growing community of online fans are using their own PCs, basic animation or photo software to build visuals faithful both to the audio and to the show's original vintage appearance." (A Youtube clip is embedded from the WhoSprites Evil of the Daleks.)
Article in The Guardian. Thursday June 26 2008.
Charles Norton wanted to write an article about my WhoSprites and other fan animations of lost Doctor Who episodes. The article was printed in the popular UK paper The Guardian. Online we've got a picture gallery with a generous five images from my work, and a video clip at the bottom which is mostly my work along with some of MonkeyTennis' lovely Daleks.
Regenerate! Fans revive 60s Doctor Who
An army of enthusiasts is recreating lost instalments of the Doctor's adventures with hand-drawn and computer animations
The Guardian, Thursday June 26 2008
A glimpse of lost Doctor Who episodes artfully reconstructed by an army of fans
The BBC lists 108 episodes of Doctor Who from the 1960s as officially "missing" from its archive. That's because the original videotapes were either erased or destroyed by the BBC in the 1970s, to make shelf space for newer programming. A catastrophe for fans. But Doctor Who - as fans of the show will know - is luckier than most.
The programme has always had a very loyal, and often talented, fanbase. It was its dedicated fans who in the 1960s weren't hiding behind the sofa, but holding microphones up to their televisions week after week, that meant that all of the missing 108 instalments still exist as audio recordings; and it has been today's fans who have, over the past few years, been working on bringing these "lost" recordings back to life through animation.
In 2006, James Goss, a producer working with the BBC's interactive arm, took two audio-only episodes from the 1968 story The Invasion to the animation studios Cosgrove Hall to produce an all-new black and white animation, lip-synced to the original audio - in effect, bringing back to life two lost gems from the BBC archive. The episodes were released on DVD and went on to become one of BBC DVD's most successful Doctor Who releases.
Invasion of the fans
However, since The Invasion project, no further episodes have been given the animation treatment by the BBC.
Dan Hall, commissioning editor for the Doctor Who DVD range, says: "Unfortunately these things have to be paid for, and animations are very expensive. The Invasion ... was a co-venture that was majority-funded by the BBC, and they've decided not to invest in them any further.
"I would love to do another animation. It's just a matter of finding a way that it can be done affordably. It's nowhere near affordable, and it's not one of those things where you can ... just make a smaller profit on it."
Now dedicated fans from around the globe have entered the scene to work on their own animations of lost stories, entirely separate from the BBC.
Garrett Gilchrist is a director and artist based in the US, where he has produced a series of low-budget movies. For the past eight months he has been working on an ambitious project to restore to life an episode of the lost 1967 Patrick Troughton epic, Evil of the Daleks.
"The Invasion DVD was such a gift to fans, such a wonderful project," he says. "The first thought in everyone's mind was, 'So, when are you animating the rest of them, then?' "
Working from a basis of hand-drawn 2D animation, Gilchrist has created a series of artworks of all the main characters needed and has worked them into the animation.
"I use a very painstaking method, working very closely from photos," he says. "Everything has to match the original photo perfectly. I wanted my animations to look like a painting come to life - looking just like the original actors, only with cartoon lines around them."
Gilchrist's efforts, and those of others, benefit from the cooperation of an online community of fans; already Gilchrist's work, on what he calls the WhoSprites project, is nearing the completion of an entire episode.
But while the work of Gilchrist and that of The Invasion DVD relies on traditional 2D animation, many more projects are working in the more complex field of 3D CGI. Much of this work is concentrated around the loose collective of the WHO3D group.
Established in the 1990s with the bold aim of producing professional-quality CGI animations from early Doctor Who audiotapes, the project has produced some surprisingly accomplished products.
"Done in the right way, CGI could breathe life into 60s Who in a way that we may never otherwise see again," says Marc Taylor, a member of the group. He is working on a large-scale CGI realisation of Patrick Troughton's first story as the Doctor, the six-part Power of the Daleks, made in 1966.
"We are just over six months in," says Aaron Climas, an Australian-based animator working on the project. "It is a little complicated, but animation isn't just something you sit down and do, in the same way you don't build a house by getting some wood and start nailing."
Taylor agrees: "You can spend literally hours trying to figure out the sets and how everything is laid out. There are many variables involved. Not least, how good your computer is. I can't tell you the frustration that you get from waiting ages on a slow machine ... A complex scene, in the console room, is a good 30 minutes to get a render back - because there's a lot of glass refraction and lighting."
In spite of the time involved in creating these episodes, however, attention to detail is still held to be paramount. "They have to match the original episodes as closely as possible, and feel like the 60s Doctor Who, not updated," says Gilchrist. "Just recreated with new technology. Recreated, not updated."
Of course, all of the many projects in production are independently produced, and although many of the artists involved have actually worked in some capacity for the BBC's Doctor Who ranges (on cover illustrations or DVD features, for example), the whole endeavour is an entirely amateur one, albeit often with professional flair. And yet, with no further official animations planned by the BBC, it is easy to see why those involved have such zeal for their work.
Recipe for success?
"The audio for these productions exists, with many, many images from filming and camera scripts. All kinds of materials are sitting there waiting like a set of cooking ingredients," Climas says.
Gilchrist agrees: "It's up to us now to take the superglue and put these broken episodes back together. Perhaps this is the sort of thing that should ideally be done by a fan - a fan with talent, but a fan nevertheless."
Whether any of the productions worked on will bring about a professional commission is yet to be seen, but BBC DVD is open to suggestions and, even if the money is lacking, the goodwill is still there.
"Certainly, I've been offered lots of alternatives," Hall says. "I don't think any of them have been up to the quality that I think the market deserves ... but it's an idea I'm always keeping an eye open for. When people write to me and say 'Can we do a test?' I will gladly look at it and schedules are always movable. You can always make room for things, if something good crops up."
Incidentally, here's the full, uncut email interview I did for the Guardian article. This is what the quotes were extracted from.
My name is Garrett Gilchrist. I'm a filmmaker living in Los Angeles, California. I have directed eight low budget feature films such as Gods of Los Angeles (2005).
There are so many great British television programs that have been lost over the years, but Doctor Who is unique in that its fanbase has worked so hard to keep memories of these missing episodes alive. If you buy Mark Ayres' BBC CDs of the lost episodes, and watch fanmade reconstructions, such as the ones by Loose Cannon, you really feel like you've seen these lost Doctor Who stories, and what becomes clear very quickly is that many of the episodes that are missing are true classics, crucial to the history of the show and better stories than a lot of the episodes that survive!
Patrick Troughton was the most influential actor to ever play the Doctor - his performance inspired every other actor who played The Doctor after him in the classic series. Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy have all said that Patrick was "their" Doctor, and the Doctor who inspired their performances. Yet most of his stories are missing or incomplete - legendary stories that people still remember today.
We're lucky that we can still hear these stories on audio CD, and watch reconstructions, since they're just great pieces of classic television which have stood the test of time. With most other shows, if something is lost, it's simply lost, but Doctor Who fans are a different breed - they've kept the memory of these missing adventures alive all these years. Even for a new or younger fan, it's easy to find and enjoy the soundtrack or reconstruction of a missing classic.
However, you still can't watch these stories on DVD. It's fine for fans to watch a reconstruction, but your average viewer won't sit down to watch just audio and pictures. It was an audacious idea for the BBC to animate the two missing episodes of The Invasion. It really brought that story to life like never before. I found myself enjoying the animation for its own sake .... It can't quite replicate the subtlety and realism of having the real episode back, but animation has charms all its own. The Invasion DVD was such a gift to fans, such a wonderful project to undertake.
To fans, it represented a whole new world of possibility. The first thought in everyone's mind was, "So, when are you animating the rest of them, then?" Finally, here was a means of bringing these lost episodes back to life in a way that everyone could enjoy, from the hardcore fan to the casual viewer.
Everyone was expecting more animations. All over the internet, everyone still keeps asking when the next animation is going to be produced.
The problem, as always, is money. The budget for a Doctor Who DVD release is fairly tight, and the Restoration Team do wonders with what money they have. They've done really amazing things. The documentaries and commentaries are top notch. We get restorations using the original film sequences, when available, and the episodes look pristine, like brand new. We've seen early Jon Pertwee episodes restored to full color, combining a clean black and white film recording with a low quality color copy someone taped off the TV in America 35 years ago. We've seen episodes that were in the worst possible shape, made to look sparkling and clean on DVD.
What the Restoration Team don't seem to have is money for more animations. Animation is an expensive thing. The Invasion piece was done as a one-off, for a website project that was abandoned, I believe. It wasn't part of the DVD range originally.
To get the budget to do a full series of 108 missing episodes as animation, it would really have to be picked up by the BBC for screening on television. I would love to see the BBC commission a new television series called "Doctor Who: The Missing Years," in which the lost stories would be animated and screened on television. The animations would have to be faithful to the original episodes, using the original soundtracks and actor likenesses. I wouldn't want to see them done in widescreen, shortened and changed for a younger audience.
I'm not sure if the BBC would ever get behind that - you don't exactly see William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton stories repeated on the BBC these days! But that would be the ideal way to do it - If it was screened on national television, the budget would be there to do all the stories and do them right.
A major goal of my WhoSprites project was to show that animation could be done cheaply and well. I've done this project mostly alone, and I've done it for no money - If I were properly paid to animate an entire episode, I could do it for a small fraction of what Cosgrove-Hall cost to animate The Invasion episodes.
I've shown my drawings to the original actresses Deborah Watling and Anneke Wills, and they seemed to quite like how I'd portrayed them!
For me this would be a dream project. It feels like the right thing to do - for Doctor Who fans it's such a sadness that so many of their favorite episodes no longer exist. As Patrick Troughton's Doctor once said, "People spend all their time making nice things, and other people come along and break them." It's up to us now to take the super glue and put these broken episodes back together. It's just what Doctor Who fans everywhere have been wishing for for decades.
How did the Whosprites project first come about and why did you set it up?
I've created several animated pilots of my own, and I was designing an animated series for a friend of mine one night, when I suddenly felt like drawing animated versions of the lost Doctor Who stories. I drew pictures of The Doctor, Ben and Polly, from Power of the Daleks, and that was it, really. I wound up spending several months on the project, because the idea of it was so inspiring. After all the hours of entertainment Doctor Who had given me, it felt like I could give something back - bring The Doctor back to life. It helps that I just love these stories, like Power of the Daleks, Marc Polo, The Daleks' Master Plan, The Myth Makers, Evil of the Daleks, The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve, the Faceless Ones, the Web of Fear ... you could go on for ages, it's a roll call of classic television. What classic Doctor Who fan wouldn't want to see these episodes again, existing for the first time since before a lot of us were born?
The internet has been a powerful thing. It's given me a lot of feedback. Much like my time in film school, when I post a drawing I've done and see it up there on the internet for anyone to see, it becomes very clear very quickly which drawings work and which don't. My drawing and animation on this project seemed to improve one hundred percent every week, over the six, eight months I was doing it. I knew it had to be good, and I knew it had to keep getting better. Real people are a difficult thing to animate well. There's a goal in my work to make them as realistic and recognizable as possible. When something is as much of a challenge as this is, it's a great motivator to do it well and keep doing it better. And it's Doctor Who - that's the greatest inspiration. The characters and storylines are full of ideas, great actors, great performances, so there's always something there to inspire. Perhaps this is the sort of thing that should ideally be done by a
fan - a fan with talent, but a fan nevertheless. I think the Restoration Team do such good work because they're fans and care so much about the material.
Who else has been involved in Whosprites?
If the BBC can't afford to do animation right now, the fans might be the greatest hope for the future. If fans are creating quality animations, and can prove that they can do so cheaply and do so for the official DVD range, then everyone wins. My goal with WhoSprites wasn't just to create characters I could animate, but to create characters anyone could animate. I call it an animation system - I post the finished artwork at my website, and anyone can download it and create their own animations with it. It's not too difficult if you have any animation or video editing skills. Creating the artwork is the really hard part, and that's the part I handle. A bunch of people have helped out. Adam S. Bullock has helped out a lot, creating CGI backgrounds and characters like the Emperor Dalek. John Dolan has done some lip sync. I'd like to find more fans who can do the lip syncing animation work, and get some of these episodes finished. I'd like to prove to the
BBC that this is possible. Perhaps it's the next natural evolution after the Reconstructions .... Fans created those, and maybe now fans will be creating animations of entire lost episodes to fill their collections. Indeed I've seen fans complete entire episodes on their own, and their work hasn't been up to professional standard yet, but it could be. I'm working on completing Evil of the Daleks 7 right now, and it will be completed.
I've animated a huge chunk of Evil of the Daleks episode 7. You couldn't ask for a better episode to animate than this - Patrick Troughton battles the Dalek Emperor - there are humanized Daleks and Dalekized humans and it results in the total destruction of the Daleks - "The Final End" - what a story. Jumping from 1966 to 1866 to the far future on Skaro, it's a true epic and one of the all time classics. Russell T. Davies based his first series finale on this story. I chose the final episode so that fans could finally see this epic climax, the destruction of the Daleks - "The Final End" .... Also, it's a story that BBC are unlikely to tackle themselves anytime soon. I feel it's fairly likely that the BBC might tackle The Tenth Planet episode 4 sometime in the future, and perhaps the missing episodes of The Ice Warriors. Maybe even The Reign of Terror, though I understand the sound is probably too poor for animation use. With Evil of the Daleks you have
six episodes missing, and that's too many for the BBC to animate right now, so I thought I'd give it a try. I did do some animation of The Tenth Planet 4, Marco Polo, The Wheel in Space, and Power of the Daleks as well. Power of the Daleks is another big one - it's Patrick Troughton's first story, it's full of good characters and people love animating Daleks in CGI - I do too. It's one of the classics, and I heard that (several other people were)/(Daryl Joyce and Aaron Climas were both) trying to animate it, so I decided to stop working on it and concentrate on other stories. We fans have to stick together - I wouldn't want to spend months animating an episode someone else is already working on.
I've animated lots of material from both the Hartnell and Troughton eras. I've drawn all their companions and worked on material from dozens of different stories. I've created CGI bodies for the companions to work in dozens of different missing stories, from Web of Fear to The Macra Terror to the Celestial Toymaker to The Moonbase.
I don't feel that CGI is a good way to go. I'm a live action filmmaker, and I always feel like CGI is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. Human faces simply do not work in CGI. I've never seen a convincing realistic human face work in CGI - even with a hundred million dollars at their disposal, the Hollywood studios try to do this and it just ends up looking creepy. Your brain looks at a CGI human and sees it as being wrong, like a wax dummy come to life - like an Auton. All the characters in Beowulf look like Autons. Mannequins come to life. Our brains look closely at the subtleties of the human face, and when a face is almost human but not quite, we feel we're looking at a human who has something deeply wrong with them, like looking in the face of a serial killer. It's called the "Uncanny Valley" and I wanted to avoid that effect. What two dimensional animation drawing is good at is human likenesses. I was always a good hand at caricature
so I simply draw what I see. I use a very painstaking working method, working very closely from photos of the original actors. Everything has to match the original photo perfectly. I wanted my animations to look like a painting come to life - looking just like the original actors, only with cartoon lines around them. It's realistic enough to capture their personalities, but it's artful enough to not seem creepy.
What CGI excels at is creating monsters. Daleks are perfect in CGI - so are Cybermen, Ice Warriors, Macra crabs, any monster you can name. CGI is a tool that everyone should use in animating these stories - to an extent. I like to use CGI for backgrounds, monsters, inanimate objects, even the bodies of my characters. Never their faces, but giving a character a CGI body can be a real timesaver in terms of animation. My characters are so realistic that they can integrate with CGI and photographic elements quite well.
>>To what extent do you see it as important to stay true to the visuals of the original television episodes that you work on?
I try to stay as close as possible to the original episode. I want to bring this episode back to life, to the point where those who saw the episodes back in the 1960s can now feel like they've seen them again. I want the actors, costumes, props and sets to look just like they did back in the day. However, I'm not a slave to the original camera angles that were used. Since my method of animation is somewhat limited, there are things that are easy to do in live action that take a lot more effort to do in animation. I look at the telesnaps which survive from the episodes, and I try to match those as exactly as I can. I hit the major moments of the episodes and I match the angles and appearance exactly. But for your basic scene of two characters talking, I do whatever I like with it - whatever seems to work in animation. You do take some shortcuts, but I've noticed that the more work I do on an episode, the less shortcuts I take, and the animation starts to
play out more and more like the original episode did. It takes a bit of work to recreate an episode well, but you get there in the end.
I watch the reconstructions and I'm really impressed with what Loose Cannon managed to do with episodes that have little or no photo material remaining them them, like The Myth Makers, The Massacre, and much of The Daleks' Master Plan. I would love to animate those episodes based closely on what Loose Cannon did.
I love stories like Power of the Daleks, Marc Polo, The Daleks' Master Plan, The Myth Makers, Evil of the Daleks, The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve, the Faceless Ones, the Web of Fear, and I hope that one day I can say I've animated all of them.
>> Your work on Evil of the Daleks has been in full-colour; is this a deliberate artistic choice?
I think a lot of fans are afraid that if the BBC animated the episodes for television, they would "update" them - making them color and widescreen and not looking like they did in the 60s, editing them down to a third of their original length so they feel like the new series, maybe even having David Tennant's Doctor star in them instead! That would be such a crime. I don't think the BBC would do it; there would be such a fan outcry. What made The Invasion work for me was that it was in black and white, and wasn't widescreen. You rarely see animation in black and white, and it showed a sensitivity to the original source material. It FELT like the original episodes, and I think being black and white had something to do with that.
If these episodes are to be animated, they have to be done right. They have to match the original episodes as closely as possible, and feel like 60s Doctor Who, not updated in any way, just recreated with new technology. Recreated, not updated.
I don't animate in widescreen, but I do animate in color, which was a tough decision. I started out animating in black and white and I was very adamant that these episodes had to be black and white to be sensitive to the originals. But one day I was creating a large poster of some of my artwork, and for this poster I had to put everything in color. And I was so struck by how much more alive everything suddenly seemed. I realized my artwork looked about a thousand times better in color, and so my only option was to work in color from that point on. I knew that people who didn't like it could just turn down the color on their televisions and get a black and white show again. My work just looks better in color - maybe other people's work would look better in black and white. My feeling is that as animators, and limited animators at that, we can't achieve the full range of subtlety and performance that the original live action would have. There are things
live action can do which animation can't, and vice versa. I think we need to cheat a little to make our work better - we need to pull out every trick in the book to make our animation work and be entertaining, and color is a major trick we can use. There's so much color in Patrick Troughton's performance, he doesn't need to be IN color. A drawing of Patrick Troughton might work better in color though, so why not? I try very hard to get that kind of subtlety of performance into my animation, and color really helps me achieve that, because the human eye perceives more subtle changes and expression on a color face than a black and white one. It's a trick to fool your brain - if the animation looks better, you perceive more emotion and acting in it.
>>With a number of other Whosprites having been created, what have your thoughts been about working on other stories?
I'd love to do any of them. I hope one day I can say I've done all of them, and done them for the official BBC range. It's a big goal, but anyone who knows me would tell you that once I've set my mind to something there's no stopping me. So we'll see what happens.
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This artwork was created by Garrett Gilchrist. Doctor Who is copyright the BBC, and no infringement is intended. These images are not intended for commercial use or profit.
Would you like to join our team? You can get permission from artist Garrett Gilchrist to join us in animating and use this art in animated work, as long as you give credit to Garrett Gilchrist and WhoSprites and the BBC, and as long as you are legitimately using it to animate lost Doctor Who episodes from the Troughton and Hartnell eras for no profit. You can write me at tygerbug (at) yahoo.com. You must be over 18, and your work must be approved by Garrett Gilchrist before posting at Youtube or elsewhere. We reserve the right to approve or deny approval of individual projects depending on their quality. But if you can animate these images well, you can join our team!