A Sunderland sci-fi fan has helped regenerate a piece of lost TV history.
University of Sunderland graduate Rob Ritchie is the creative force behind the recreation of a missing Doctor Who adventure, Power of the Daleks.
The serial was originally broadcast in 1966 and subsequently destroyed, alongside many episodes of classic shows such as Steptoe and Son, Hancock’s Half Hour and Dad’s Army - in the days before home video, the assumption was that once programmes had been screened and possibly sold abroad, there was no reason to retain them.
But now one of the most significant stories in the history of Doctor Who has been recreated, using a recording of the original soundtrack and off-screen photographs for reference.
Power of the Daleks is the first adventure to star Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor, and set the template for the characters’s regeneration which has guaranteed the show’s long life.
“There are 97 missing episodes of Doctor Who from 1963-1969 and there have been attempts to animate the odd episode,” said Rob, of Doxford Park.
“But the BBC had previously stated that animating an entire story – four to six 24-minute animated episodes - would not be financially viable.”
Rob graduated in 2012 with a degree in Media Production and shortly afterwards was approached by a BBC producer who had spotted examples of his work on YouTube.
He worked on Inside Out, providing animations and visual effects – and was then asked if he would like to help recreate another lost classic.
“Our next project was animating a lost story of Dad’s Army,” said Rob. “We took the surviving audio and recreated the visuals with 2D Animation. I was brought on board to recreate the famous title sequence in HD Widescreen, and later asked to help with character animation.
The feedback has been fantastic. I just can’t believe the scale of it.Rob Ritchie
“The Dad’s Army animation sold incredibly well via the BBC Store, so naturally the BBC were eager to look at recreating other lost shows – and they turned their attention to Doctor Who.”
In February, Rob was asked to create a demo reel to pitch a recreation of Power of the Daleks to senior producers, blending 2D character animation with 3D animated Daleks.
He delivered a trailer featuring Daleks and a monologue by the Doctor and the project was given the green light just a month later.
“I was initially only brought on board to make the trailer and animate the Daleks for the story but when we worked out the logistics of the production, I was quickly promoted to CGI animator and Lead Compositor, a job that entailed piecing the whole project together taking the character animation and placing the characters in correct places, adding the backgrounds and creating visual effects,” he said.
As well as the DVD release, there are 750 cinema screenings planned in the U.S. and 150 in Australia.
“The feedback has been fantastic,” said Rob. “I just can’t believe the scale of it.”
As part of his Media Production degree, Rob studied The Science Fiction & Fantasy TV module, which covers science fiction, horror and fantasy.
Principal Lecturer John Paul Green said: “We look at everything from Quatermass, through to Doctor Who, Star Trek and The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. It helps students not only develop their interest in the genre, but challenges them to apply their own knowledge and subject specialisms to the vast world of telefantasy.
“We discussed the ‘lost’ episodes of Doctor Who and the BBC’s policy of wiping episodes. We used a small surviving clip of The Power of the Daleks during the lecture Rob attended.
“From next year, thanks to Rob, I’ll be able to show new students all of this lost classic.”
The latest project is no lifelong Doctor Who fan Rob’s first experiecne of creating CGI Daleks.
He was one of five winners in a competition run through the BBC’s website last year, which challenged fans to create their own short Dalek-inspired adventures– and his prize was a chance to visit the show’s studio in Cardiff, tour the Tardis set, and meet the Time Lord himself, in the form of 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi.