Saturday Waffling (June 15th, 2013)

(48 comments)

Howdy all. I'm in New York this weekend visiting friends (Alex Reed, actually, and his equally fabulous wife Meredith), and also seeing Frankenstein Upstairs by Mac Rogers, the fine gentleman I did those Slate pieces with. So that will all be very fun.

Also, you may notice that there's now a TARDIS Eruditorum page up top - that includes a live-updating table of contents, an explanation of the project, and a very half-assed stab at the oft-requested glossary of idiosyncratic terms. Thanks to Anna Wiggins, who is ostensibly hacked together in Perl, but is actually mostly written in Lisp.

Let's chat.

Obviously there are rumors of a "massive" missing episode find. That's interesting. But none of us know anything, and nobody who does know anything tells the likes of us anything, so there's not much to talk about in terms of the mechanics of the missing episode hunt as a phenomenon.

Still, let's think for a bit about the idea of the missing episodes. At this point we have audio releases and reconstructions of all of them. It is trivial to watch a missing story. No, you don't get the original story, but you get something that tells you a lot about what happened in the original story and is perfectly fun to enjoy. It's easy to have informed opinions about Enemy of the World without seeing more than the 25 minutes that exist. It's perfectly reasonable to believe Power of the Daleks to be one of the great television stories of the 1960s, and deserves to be mentioned along with Cathy Come Home and The Prisoner.

It's also possible to watch and enjoy them. My wife and I watched Power of the Daleks. She loved it. It was a fun way to spend a few evenings. The reconstructions are perfectly enjoyable things to watch. They are lacking, yes, but they are not inadequate. And this is an important thing to realize about the status of the missing episodes.

All of which is to say that just about the least interesting thing about the missing episodes is that we can finally watch the stories, as though that is some magic and enjoyable event. If you want to watch Evil of the Daleks, go do it. It's easy. Don't wait until November. Yes, the publicity of a big release would get more eyes to the stories, and that's neat, but the interesting thing about a missing episode find is not the release of new fun into the world.

It is instead the addition of information to the history. The fact of the matter is that the people these are of interest to right now are knowledgeable fans with research interests, whether professional or hobbyist. What we're interested in are things like what the Rills looked like and which delegate is which, or the subtleties of Hartnell's acting in The Massacre. Or seeing that Zaroff/Troughton scene in The Underwater Menace Part Two.

Which is to say, quite separate from the question of what Hartnell and Troughton-era stories you like or don't like, and without speculation of whether we're ever going to see any more missing episodes, what are your thoughts about the idea of a massive episode find? What does it mean for what we know about the program?

On a less dramatic note, James has sent me some fabulous design work for the Hartnell book and for the mug/t-shirt version of the Hartnell design that the Kickstarter funded. More on that soon, but for now, other than mugs and t-shirts, is there any sort of TARDIS Eruditorum merchandise you desperately want? Do you have a burning need for a print of James's Troughton cover, or have you always felt the Pertwee design would look amazing on a throw pillow? Knowing to ask these questions is now part of being a writer. Tell me your answers.

(As a guide, we're going to go with a Zazzle storefront, and can in theory make anything they make. If you think a TARDIS Eruditorum iPhone case is a thing that should exist in the world, you can basically make it happen by saying you want to buy it.)

Comments

Jack Graham 4 years, 1 month ago

There are some missing stories that I actively hope are *not* found. The Macra Terror, for example, attains peculiar extra dimensions as a result of being an aural spectre. It makes the Macra themselves - who are weirdly both under-and-over-described - even more nebulous.

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Not That Matt Smith 4 years, 1 month ago

Your point about the recovered episodes being instrumental in us filling in the details of the history is particularly apt, but there's a part of rubbish camp that I find I can't get enough of that can only come in the Classic series.

See, part of what tickles my interest is watching the mad ambition of the show run headlong into the show's limited practicality. The reconstructions as they exist can only paint a partial picture, one obscured by our budgetless imaginations, where everything that goes down happens on the finest sets, with the best blocking, and the most intricate mis en scene we can think up.

But the truth of the matter is, the show is not that. It's horribly limited, and it's fantastic to watch moments that work in theory end up drastically different because what's on the page is more or less unproduceable. And while it is kitschy and wonderful, I find that I love it because no one EVER set out to make bad Doctor Who and it's really just a step to make the show as good as it possibly could be given all of its constraints. These moments make me laugh. They make me appreciate the show. They remind me why I love it so.

And it's because these moments and such are lost in translation via the audio recordings that I want the episodes back. Well. Also because it's more fun to watch TV than a slideshow, but that's really a given.

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Eric Gimlin 4 years, 1 month ago

"What are your thoughts about the idea of a massive episode find? What does it mean for what we know about the program?"

It depends quite a bit on what episodes we find, actually. The big thing about a "massive" find would be that we hit more important bits than otherwise, and with few exceptions we don't know what the important bits would be. Your essay in the Troughton book actually covers the obvious points pretty well, but there's even more that we couldn't know until we saw it. A big find on season 3 in particular might actually be the most informative; the lack of telesnaps really does cut down on our grasp of the show in some ways. Both Airlock and Day of Armageddon had bits of imagery and direction that were surprising even with the information we had going in.

And, of course, ANY Troughton episode would be worth finding just to see Troughton's performance. We can watch and enjoy the episodes as recons but we're still missing a lot.

My suggestion on the revised Hartnell book, should the rumor be true, by the way: ask the sponsors what they want. I can tell you my vote on that would be influenced by what you say you think is best, but it seems like a good starting point. I don't want you to rush a deadline just because it's there when something major happens to impact the situation. And to be honest, I'm still only giving the rumor about a 20% chance of us getting back even one episode. (Mind you, that's about 40x greater than any other rumor I've ever heard: there's some interesting if slight corroboration out there, both positive and with one or two people who haven't said anything where you might expect them to be shutting it down...)

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Bennett 4 years, 1 month ago

I find the missing episode rumours instructive in their own way as they give us an insight into what fans want to believe so much that it disables their credulity. That's why every rumour seems to be about The Evil of the Daleks Part 7 or The Tenth Planet Part 4 and never about the just as likely scenairo of The Faceless Ones Part 5.

(On a similar vein, my one-episode wish would be for Temple of Secrets from The Myth Makers - though I feel guilty about not choosing a Troughton as he is clearly the worse off.)

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John Callaghan 4 years, 1 month ago

What rankles with me is the idea that things have been lost. I hate the idea that hundreds of people put in thousands of hours of effort into works which have been taken from existence. I know that TV was thought of as more like theatre (one night only and if you miss it then too bad) - but in modern life *everything* is made permanent. I hate that there's more of a record of Instagram users' dinners than there is of three years of Patrick Troughton (or Pete & Dud, or Dennis Potter plays, or you-name-it). In a strange way, it's as if my memories (that I never actually had) have been erased.

But I'm surprised that a subculture of lighter-hearted fans haven't recreated the canon with shadow theatre, sock puppets, origami etc.

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encyclops 4 years, 1 month ago

And, of course, ANY Troughton episode would be worth finding just to see Troughton's performance. We can watch and enjoy the episodes as recons but we're still missing a lot.

This is a hugely important point. It's the acting I want to see, way more than the actual story, particularly in light of Troughton's reputation.

I'd be willing to grant that a good recon can be okay to watch, but I'd say "perfectly enjoyable" is really overly generous. :)

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Wm Keith 4 years, 1 month ago

You can find an am-dram Mission To The Unknown on Youtube. And a Manchester pub theatre has done live productions of Robots of Death and Midnight.

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David Anderson 4 years, 1 month ago

A burning question to which I've been wanting to know the answer for a couple of weeks now:
If Phil'd reached Alien Bodies after The Name of the Doctor, would he still have gone with the same title for the blogpost?

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

On the subject of lost episodes, I've recently completed blogging the two-plus-a-bit surviving episodes of the almost-entirely-lost first season (1961) of The Avengers: http://diabolicalmasterminds.blogspot.com

(So it took me over a year to cover fewer than three episodes. What can I say, I'm a perfectionist. Or a procrastinator. Something beginning with P.)

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

So, apparently the scene of Eleven regenerating into Twelve has already been leaked.

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goatie 4 years, 1 month ago

Agreed. Last week I saw a screening of Jason And The Argonauts, unaware that Patrick Troughton was in it. The man was incredible.

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George Potter 4 years, 1 month ago

See, part of what tickles my interest is watching the mad ambition of the show run headlong into the show's limited practicality.

Exactly the same here. I'm a film/television production buff and visual storytelling oriented, so that's one of my favorite aspects of the classic show.

And, meaning no offense to the reconstruction teams who do their thing out of pure love and devotion, I find the recons almost impossible to watch. That's not a criticism of their skill but simply an admission of my own subjective preferences. I actually prefer to just listen to the audio of lost episodes.

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

But I'm surprised that a subculture of lighter-hearted fans haven't recreated the canon with shadow theatre, sock puppets, origami etc.

I recently came upon a cache of fan-made animated reconstructions. One or two of them are pretty cool. Most of them are nightmare fuel. So far, I've seen one that appears to have been done in mspaint, one that was done as 3D animation with telesnap images textured onto the 3d objects (So that all the characters look disturbingly like barbie dolls with photos of actor's faces screen-printed onto them.), and one where they took the telesnaps and did a computer-generated Roger Ramjet effect on their lips, digitally compositing separately captured mouth-movements onto the faces.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

That was not quite what I expected...

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

I maintain my view from before: I see this as only a positive.You can sit down and watch Power or Evil or Tenth Planet as a recon. But...it can also be a real slog sometimes. I really want just one episode of The Massacre back. Anything else is gravy.

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Spacewarp 4 years, 1 month ago

To be fair to the BBC, at the time most video recordings of TV programmes were only allowed to be repeated once. This was written into the contract with the actors and writers. So most of what the Beeb had on tape was useless to them after a while. In hindsight we in the 21st Century now know what a massive market there is for old TV from one's childhood, but no matter how forward-thinking you were in the 60s and 70s, I'm sure nobody could have predicted a future where people would want to see these things again.

Programmes like Doctor Who, The Avengers, Dixon of Dock Green, and Steptoe and Son were seen as disposable then as Eastenders and Coronation Street (or maybe Neighbours and Home & Away) is now.

Not only did the BBC have a different mindset 40-50 years ago, but so did the audience. I was discussing Season 18 with a friend recently, who couldn't understand why there wasn't a sudden increase in viewers for Tom Baker's final story. Surely this was history in the making? Yes, I pointed out, but it was up against Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and this was in the era when if you missed something, you missed it for ever. There was no TIVO or VCR to record it for posterity. So if you were choosing between a Doctor Who you'd never be able to see again, or a Buck Rogers, which would you pick? Although to the average Doctor Who fan it would be a no-brainer, the majority of viewers weren't Doctor Who fans. They were just people what wanted to watch the most interesting, flashiest, exciting thing on. So they watched Buck Rogers. And in their shoes, post Star Wars & BSG, I'd probably do the same!

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Toby Brown 4 years, 1 month ago

This. Troughton is by far my favourite Doctor largely due to the incredible performance in what few episodes we have. If a large chunk of the gaps got filled in, I doubt I'd ever want to watch any Doctor Who story without Patrick in them ever again.

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elvwood 4 years, 1 month ago

Curse you, spoiler-mongers! I couldn't resist clicking, and now MY LIFE IS RUINED!

I must admit I thought they'd go with someone younger. And British. Still, they'll probably garner viewers from a part of the American audience I wouldn't have expected...

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elvwood 4 years, 1 month ago

I'm with George: I find it really hard to sit through a recon, and would much rather listen to the narrated soundtrack. But better still is animation (so long as it's better than, say, Dreamland), and best of all is the actual episode itself. So while I doubt very much that this is true, I really hope it's at least partially true.

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

Remember, television didn't evolve directly from film, but was sort of a parallel evolution from the common theatrical ancestor. The BBC quite likely had it in mind that if, five or ten years later, people wanted to see these shows again, they would make them again. With more up-to-date costuming and currently-working actors.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 1 month ago

My concern would be an extended release schedule if rumors of a truly massive haul are true - something where these will be trickling out for two or three years. At that point I don't want to delay the book that long - it's unfair, and, more to the point, sticks me with a poorly edited first volume that's missing a chapter, which is a problem with knock-on effects for the entire Eruditorum line.

But no point speculating on rumors. And my plight is an utterly trivial detail in this story if it's true. :)

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

Understood, but I wonder why networks didn't recognise sooner the monetary value of having a show already made rather than having to pay money to make a new one. BBC might have had a nonprofit ethos, but The Avengers, for example, was ITV. (I understand about the contract stipulation, but if the networks had cared about that they could have renegotiated it.)

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George Potter 4 years, 1 month ago

...and best of all is the actual episode itself.

Same here. To use The Invasion as an example, while I quite enjoyed the animated missing episodes, I was extremely happy that my two favorite moments ("Look, Jamie! Sandwiches!" and Zoe verbally coding the computer to death) were in the actual episodes and acted by the actual actors -- because most of the joy in them was the product of the actors facial expressions and subtle body language. Even the finest animation has trouble with those things.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 1 month ago

I agree, but equally, this seems to me to be a slightly more extreme version of getting a crisp and shiny Blu-Ray of something that previously existed only on twenty-year old VHS. Lovely, yes, and much more fun to watch, but still moving along an existing scale of quality.

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Nightsky 4 years, 1 month ago

I don't know. On the one hand, I agree that *watching* a story is not always the most important part. On the other hand, I saw "Air Lock" (Galaxy 4 part 3) at last Gally, and was struck by two things:
1. some wonderful reaction shots and physical comedy involving the titular airlock, as Steven and mooks get trapped on various sides of it, and
2. the main baddy's monologue in which she plans to leave the planet to explode and gloat from afar, kind of ordinary-sounding in pure audio, but absolutely riveting visually, due to the director's unusual shot choice and the actor's performance.

So, sure, the bulk of the story was there, but I think the story is very much enriched by the recovery of the visual information.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

From the original Star Trek episode "Who Mourns For Adonais?":

"In spite of Apollo’s bag of tricks, he comes up essentially normal with just a few variations. However, there’s an extra organ in his chest that I can’t even make a guess about."

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Ed Jolley 4 years, 1 month ago

For a long time, the missing episode I've most wanted returned is The Savages 3, to see if Frederick Jaeger's Hartnell impersonation picks up on his physical mannerisms as well as the vocal tics.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 1 month ago

If we do get that massive haul, I wouldn't mind a third edition three or four years down the road.

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Corpus Christi Music Scene 4 years, 1 month ago

I think you just stick to your release schedule as planned . Should this not be a hoax and we do get several missing episodes , it will take a while for these to be released to the public. You can always add a follow up book as a coda to your others containing the new reviews as well as some other value added material .Maybe a look at the DVD extras ? I would suggest not publishing these on the blog so the book would have more of a "Previously Unreleased" appeal.

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Spacewarp 4 years, 1 month ago

The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there. One thing they were aware of was that they were living in a time of rapidly increasing technical progress, which rapidly made broadcast television obsolete. Only a few years ago most television went out live so preservation was unheard of. They would transfer video to film for foreign sales, sure, but again only within a limited window. With Doctor Who into it's third season with Patrick Troughton for example, no other channel would be interested in broadcasting Hartnell episodes, and with colour on the horizon nobody would be interested in old black & white TV, in the same way that nobody was interested in silent movies when Talkies arrived. That time had been and gone. They would no more have thought about preserving television programmes for the future (even if they could afford it, which they couldn't) than we would consider preserving used sweet wrappers.

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Spacewarp 4 years, 1 month ago

I fear we may be entering a period of widespread fan rumour, where the rumour actually only has one source (the link posted above), and yet will gain credibility by repetition on forums, until it appears in The Sun...which will then legitimise it further ("it must be true, it was in the papers!").

We've been here before. Watch this space.

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jane 4 years, 1 month ago

Go ahead and do the Revised Hartnell volume, planning on no new missing episodes being recovered. If the massive haul turns out to bear fruit, sometime down the line (after all the announced episodes are released, and preferably after you've blogged the Smith years) do a Hartnell Revisited volume.

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Eric Gimlin 4 years, 1 month ago

A further thought on a "massive" find: I think in some ways we would be better served by the finds being spread out. If they announced today that two episodes had been found, I would be elated. But I don't think I would be quite as thrilled as I was when the Airlock / UM 2 announcement was made (depending on specific episodes); in no small part because for practical purposes UM 2 is still "lost" to me minus a few clips. I'm still in the "waiting to see a previously lost episode" stage, and two more being announced won't change that happy status that I've got something to look forward to.

Similarly, if they announced today that 40 episodes had been found, it would be wonderful. But it wouldn't be 20x better than 2 being found. And there's a real chance that the "lesser" episodes wouldn't get the attention they might deserve if there is a huge find. There was a lot of neat stuff to notice in Airlock now that we can see it. But would I- or any of us- have given it the attention it deserves if we threw it in right after seeing Evil of the Daleks?

Like I said, I would love it if we get a massive find. But I wonder if a massive find is really the best way for us to appreciate what's in the actual episodes.

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Anton B 4 years, 1 month ago

And of course the Hartnell (and possibly Troughton) revisited volume can include a retrospective commentary on the way these rediscoveries have impacted on our previously held opinions and attitudes; an extension if you like of your thoughts as expressed in this post and comments. I think it would make the perfect end volume to the series. A much better summation actually than just 'stop at the 50th'. It'll give you the opportunity to address the mercurial ever changing nature of the show as a recieved signifier whose past still has the ability to be affected by its future.

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J Mairs 4 years, 1 month ago

" I wonder why networks didn't recognise sooner the monetary value of having a show already made rather than having to pay money to make a new one. "

Because the amount of money it would have cost to keep everything they were getting rid of often dwarfed the amount they paid to make those programs? It would have been more economical to chuck Evil of the Daleks and remake it down the line than it would have been to store it on the off-chance they could show it again at some point.


The BBC dumped *hundreds* of things at this time that nobody gets wound up about - there's probably things that they got rid of that nobody actually remembers. That it is a shame that DW episodes are missing is only obvious in hindsight - you know, after a decade or so of the showing remaining on and being a Big Deal rather than a disposable piece of entertainment. ;)

The loss of "The Tenth Planet" ep 4 and "Power of the Daleks" is only significant in hindsight. At the time, it is, if we're going to be brutally honest, a rather desperate bit of poorly explained retooling to enable the show to carry on without the risk of it's lead actor dying on the set every other week.

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IG 4 years, 1 month ago

I've watched and enjoyed a number of recons, but I think the difference is qualitatively different to VHS to blu-ray. These are episodes of a TV series intended to be watched as moving pictures with actors, you know... acting. A slideshow is only ever going to be a rough approximation of the original, with a lot of guesswork (especially where no telesnaps exist). I too would oftem prefet just to listen to the narrated soundtrack, which at least can be enjoyed as something like a radio play. Whereas a recon is really neither one thing nor the other.

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Dan 4 years, 1 month ago

Of course being in the Sun almost guarantees it's not true.

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 1 month ago

Hey, where's the bloody "Sunday Pancaking"? :-(

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Multiple Ducks 4 years, 1 month ago

Phil only does that when something new comes up that he might have missed on Saturday.

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 1 month ago

But I LIKE "Sunday bloody Pancaking"! :-(

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Bob Dillon 4 years, 1 month ago

Then make your own!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/mar/03/how-to-cook-perfect-pancakes

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Spacewarp 4 years, 1 month ago

Actually no. Apparently there's evidence that the Sun is right with it's Doctor Who scoops about 50% of the time. Unfortunately we only know in hindsight when these times are.

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ferret 4 years, 1 month ago

I can't agree with this - a TV show is more than a script, more even than a soundtrack - I think it does anyone involved in the visual aspect of TV shows something of a disservice to say otherwise. The editor, for instance is not going to be well represented even by John Cura's photographs, and to say their contribution to end product of the art form of television is irrelevant is tremendously rude.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

@ Philip, do you really mean to say that the difference between an actual human performance and a cartoon approximation is no more than one of resolution? Because to my mind they are totally different things. Now if you're saying the difference between watching a telesnap recon and the actual episode is merely one of quality, then you're on safer ground. However, the jump from one frame every 10 seconds to 30 per is pretty significant.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

And as I think about it more, the difference between telesnaps and the actual recording is not just one of "resolution." It's more like the difference between listening to an opera on CD and seeing the actual performance. It really makes a world of difference.

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the-axel 4 years, 1 month ago

BerserkRL - the restriction on repeats was hugely important to actors. From their point of view, if programs could be repeated then broadcasters could build up a stock of shows and stop recording new ones and so threaten their livelihoods.

I very much doubt that BBC or the ITV affiliates would have been able to negotiate a viable deal prior to the advent of home VHS sales.

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GarrettCRW 3 years, 2 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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GarrettCRW 3 years, 2 months ago

Anyone familiar with American TV (where, thanks to I Love Lucy and Desi Arnaz specifically negotiating for rerun rights, the concept flourished) sees what the BBC and ITV did to be a bit cracked (as the damage to America's TV history is significantly less outside of soap operas, talk shows, and game shows not made by Goodson-Todman). That's generally where the disconnect lies.

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