My article about Doomwatch and its current lack of availability on DVD is one of the most read posts on this blog. That does seem to confirm that many people are still very interested in this classic early 1970’s series.
So it’s extremely welcome news that a six disc Doomwatch set will be released by Simply in April 2016. It will contain all the existing episodes (including the untransmitted episode Sex and Violence as well as a documentary – The Cult of Doomwatch).
In all, twenty four episodes remain in the archives. They are as follows –
The Plastic Eaters
Tomorrow, the Rat
The Devil’s Sweets
The Red Sky
Train And De-Train
The Battery People
You Killed Toby Wren
No Room for Error
By the Pricking of My Thumbs…
The Iron Doctor
Flight into Yesterday
The Web of Fear
In the Dark
The Human Time Bomb
Waiting for a Knighthood
Sex and Violence
As can be seen from the above list, the archive status for series one is pretty good (eight out of the thirteen episodes exist), series two is complete whilst series three is by far the patchiest (only three of the twelve episodes remain, although it’s slightly curious that one of the survivors – Sex and Violence – was never transmitted. You’d have assumed It would have been one of the first to be wiped).
As I discussed here, when it comes to picture quality, what we have left is something of a mixed bag. Ten episodes exist on their original format – 625 PAL videotape and so should look pretty good (although the film inserts will no doubt have deteriorated over the past four decades). The remaining fourteen episodes were returned to the BBC from Canada and it’ll be interesting to see what they look like.
The Canada episodes would have been converted from 625 PAL to 525 NTSC before they were sold, then converted back to 625 PAL when they were returned to the UK. It was these converted copies that were broadcast on UK Gold in the mid 1990’s (and a couple of episodes were also released on VHS a few years prior to that).
The conversions from PAL to NTSC and back again to PAL would have degraded the picture somewhat, although a process developed several years ago called RSC (Reverse Standards Conversion) has been applied (this should restore something of the original PAL look). Examples of RSC can be seen on various Doctor Who DVDs, although I have to confess that the results haven’t always pleasing to my eyes (especially the three episodes on The Sea Devils release).
As it’s doubtful that Simply will have a particularly large budget for restoration it’s probable that the RSC episodes will look a little rough around the edges, but if it’s a choice between having them in a less than ideal state or not at all then it’s a no-brainer.
Update 25/3/16 – My DVD review can be found here.