The fifth UK release of 2004 is 'Ghost Light', an intelligent and atmospheric three-parter from the pen of Marc Platt. Shot entirely in the studio, it was the last 'classic series' story to be produced by the BBC before the unofficial cancellation of the series.
'Ghost Light' was shot in very low-light conditions, designed to mimic the look of a Victorian house lit by gaslight and candles, and recorded on 1" analogue videotape. Unfortunately, the combination of the low lighting, the ancient Link tube cameras that were still in use in studio TC3, and the multi-generation analogue tape editing conspired to produce some of the worst quality pictures in the show's history. High levels of video noise (especially in episodes two and three) combined with very laggy cameras produce a nasty, blurry mess which is very difficult to improve even with modern digital tools.
Our approach to this problem was to use a Philips VS4 'video sweetener' to calm down the finer noise components, then to use the DVNR tools usually used for film dirt and sparkle to attack the more granular noise, particularly in episodes two and three. Even after this processing, the pictures are not particularly pleasant, but there is little more that can be done when the source material is so badly compromised in the first place.
New opening title and closing credits were made up and added to all three episodes, replacing the noisy multiple generation version on the episode tapes.
Shortly after the story's transmission, all of the studio tapes and the early edits of the episodes were wiped. The only known copies of the early edits were VHS cassettes with burnt-in timecode, supplied to the story's composer (our own Mark Ayres) and to other production staff. However, during work on the DVD, we were contacted by Big Finish producer Gary Russell, who was able to supply us with a non-timecoded VHS of the early edit of episode two, which had been surreptitiously recorded for a friend of his during editing. Three hours of raw studio footage, again on VHS, was also made available - again, surreptitiously recorded by a BBC engineer during the second studio block in 1989 and retained since then.
The early edits also contained much of the raw studio dialogue, preserved on an additional audio track on the 1" tapes. As the music and effects masters were still in existence, it was possible for Mark Ayres to pull together a 5.1 surround remix of the story for this DVD, in addition to an isolated music track.
Unfortunately, because of the timecode burnt into the VHS copies, it was not considered possible to produce an extended version of the story as we had with 'The Curse of Fenric', so the additional material was used to produce a separate 20-minute extended and deleted scenes package.
A commentary was recorded on 28 April 2004 at PostFade, David Taylor's facility at Pinewood Studios, which features Sophie Aldred, Mark Ayres, writer Marc Platt and script editor Andrew Cartmel. Together they provide a lively and informative commentary that helps to shed light on one of the most complicated Doctor Who adventures...
Richard Molesworth and Steve Broster, fresh from their collaboration on 'From Avalon to Argolis' for the DVD of 'The Leisure Hive', teamed up once again to provide the major featurette on the disc, the 38-minute 'Light in Dark Places', featuring newly recorded interviews with Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Sharon Duce, Ian Hogg, Michael Cochrane, Katharine Schlesinger, Andrew Cartmel and Mark Ayres.
'Shooting Ghosts' is a 20-minute behind the scenes look at the studio process, culled from the only recording still known to exist.
'Writer's Question Time' is a 12-minute question and answer session with Marc Platt, recorded at the PanoptiCon convention in 1990.
As usual there will be a picture gallery, production subtitle notes commentary and Easter Eggs.
Copyright Steve Roberts, 29 April 2004. No reproduction allowed without written permission.