Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Doctor Who and the Zarbi - in colour!

The original scan
of the article
Photographs from the early days of 'Doctor Who' hold a special visual record of the era. Often it is because some of the many episodes produced during the 1960s are no longer in existence having been wiped or destroyed by a BBC too impoverished at the time to be able to store or keep them for posterity. The rise of home video and the internet now means that these errant TV programmes are now more sorely missed than ever before.

But for the case of the episodes that DO exist, old photographs can offer up a different perspective on the murky black and white recording of the actual shows themselves. They can reveal the detail of William Hartnell's wig and the sticky tape holding together the Cybermen's invasion force. Colour photographs can also supply us with the richness of the cloth used to clothe the actors in such productions as 'Marco Polo' and 'The Crusades'.

It's widely been known in 'Doctor Who' circles that colour photos existed from 'The Web Planet' - the only serial to feature the fondly remembered Zarbi and Menoptera. They were published by the Australian Woman's Weekly in 1965 and showed not just the eponymous monsters but also their creator - writer and former journalist for the magazine Bill Strutton. 

There has been much debate as to whether these stills were actually colour and had not been "colorised"  most recently on Roobarb's forum. Reasonably high quality scans of the page featuring the photographs appear on the 'AWW' archive website but these are quite yellowy and betray the age of the magazine itself. The photos also suffer from the poor printing of the period. These factors coupled with the fact that the Zarbi, the Menoptera and the planet Vortis weren't exactly the most colourful subjects for a colour camera have added to the opinion that the images may have been post-coloured monochrome images. 

Before and after comparison
I've had a close look at these pictures. I've zoomed into them and studied every mark on them - far too much some might say to remain sane. I did originally think they were coloured - abeit lightly - and that they originated on black and white film. 

However, I've now run them through some colour correction processes in Photoshop and have revised my opinion of them. They are real colour images. 

The yellowy-orange pall is consistent with photos taken in a television studio at the time. There's similar colour photos with the same 'tint' from other stories of the period. The colours are consistent throughout the images.

I've taken the liberty and attempted to restore the images to their 'original' colour and also to remove as much as possible the yellowy TV studio lighting. This I believe has left us with a more 'true' colour of the subjects. I don't profess to be an expert of this sort of restoration but I think I've made them look a bit more like proper photos rather than poorly printed pictures from a 50 year old magazine.

Sadly, the colours reveal very little... The Zarbi are black and the fur trims on the Menoptera appear to be white - or at least a very pale yellow. The only real revelation from this little project is the astounding fact that one of Vortis's moons is pink...... ish!

Click for larger image

No comments:

Post a Comment