TME > Video
The 1996 TV Movie

Alternate versions of Doctor Who overseas was nothing new by 1996.

In the 1970s, for example, early edits of episodes of Carnival of Monsters and Frontier in Space were accidentally sold to the Australian market and broadcast... The anniversary special The Five Doctors had been aired in a slightly shortened edit in the US in 1983... But never before had such major alterations to a story been made than when British and American producers teamed up to revive our favourite show as a made-for-TV movie.

Join TME as we take a definitive look at the various different edits of the "two-hour" (or should that be "90 minutes"... or 86?) Fox telemovie...

There are, substantially, three different versions of the 1996 TV movie:

There is also a rough cut of the film, leaked into fan circles. For the most part, we will not be covering that here - it is full of unfinished effects shots, extra sequences and alternate music, which requires a whole article of its own - although our guide to the gun battle does include references to it...

The Opening Credits

The caption "Based on the series originally broadcast on the BBC" was only present on the International Version.

This was initially removed at the request of the BBC in 1996, and then again by the Restoration Team when working on it in several years later, as it was felt to make little sense mentioning this to the UK market.

For the DVD release, the footage had to be dropped in from a lower quality source, so the image quality drops briefly during this one shot.

(Hover over the image, left, to see both versions).

Gun Battle Sequence

Possibly the most notorious of the changes detailed here is the cutting to shreds of Chang Lee's introductory scene.

On March 13th, 1996, Scout leader Thomas Hamilton entered Dunblane Primary School carrying four guns. He murdered sixteen children (injuring many more) and one teacher, and finally shot himself. The UK was in shock, and action had to be taken out of sensitivity to those in mourning. One such victim of this brief period of censorship was the telemovie, due to open with a thrilling battle between two rival Chinese gangs.

The sequence unfortunately made very little sense in the new cut, with two of Chang Lee's friends apparently vanishing at the crucial moment.

What follows is a shot-by-shot guide to the scene, using the following code:

UK Original Version
International Version / UK Unedited Version

...and also, for this breakdown only:

Early rough cut, which features even more moments of trigger-happy youths.

What the above breakdown does not show, however, is that individual frames appeared at certain points (synchronous with the sound of gunfire on each occasion) which were designed to subconsciously disorientate the viewer. Until one is aware of what one is looked for, these cannot be seen by the naked eye (and indeed, the following analysis was put together simply by watching the sequence frame for frame), but have the effect of confusing the brain.

Most of the flashes coinciding with gunfire are genuine 'live' effects, that occurred during the filming, however in seven occasions they were not.

We will briefly break with convention here - rather than differentiating between the International, UK Original and UK Unedited versions, we will be looking at the following:

The Rough Cut: The longest cut of the film made. The copy used is in original NTSC format, and images were taken using purely NTSC equipment.

The NTSC Prints: A broadcast master, in NTSC Betacam format, of the version shown in America, grabbed and run through a Time Base Corrector, in order to avoid any field-merging that occurred during the NTSC-PAL transfer.

The PAL Prints: Despite different edits being put together in PAL (ie the Australian and UK versions in 1996), all PAL versions are near-identical as they all originated from the same conversion from NTSC. The sole exception to this is...

The UK DVD: ...which was reconverted from the master, so has slightly different features.

1) The Mysterious Face I

This occurs just after Chang has realised something is happening, before we go to a close ups of the shooters, between the two shots displayed to the left and right.

Note that after the rough cut, the images representing the 'mysterious face' (probably the first gunman) are changed, and Lee is also added for a single frame. In the PAL versions, the white-out does not appear exclusively, but the shot of Lee is much paler as is the following frame of the fourth gunman looking confused. For the UK DVD, the frames all mix together - with Lee's scene smudging over the mysterious face and the additional Lee clip smudging into both the white-out AND the image of the fourth gunman.
Rough Cut
NTSC Prints
PAL Prints

2) The Alleyway

This appears just after Lee's massive gurn, before we clip to the long shot of the TARDIS appearing.

Note that the NTSC version of the image is much better defined, and that neither the PAL or rough versions fully white out. In all three cases, however, the following frame does not feature any merging of the whiteness.
Rough Cut
NTSC Prints
PAL Prints

3) False White-Out

When the first gunman is shooting at the TARDIS, a single white frame appears.

In the UK DVD version, the white frame spreads across two identical frames of the gunman.
Rough Cut
NTSC Prints
PAL Prints

4) The Shooters

While the second gunman is shooting at the TARDIS a lightened shot of all the shooters was inserted.

Note that after this, the rough cut features a white frame, the NTSC print an identical frame to the first and the PAL print an extremely brightened version of the first. In the case of the DVD, the bright frame fades across to the images of the second shooter.
Rough Cut
NTSC Prints
PAL Prints

5) The Ghost Hand

In the rough cut, during the third gunman's shooting, a single frame of a bizarre ghostly hand appears. Even more bizarre is that this hand (after having been taken out for the NTSC copy) reappeared in the PAL versions.

Yet again, the DVD version is less temporally defined, and the whiteout is almost entirely lost.
Rough Cut
NTSC Prints
PAL Prints

6) The Mysterious Face II

When the fourth gunman shoots, the face from the first flash-frame sequence reappears, much better defined. Note that in the broadcast versions, the second face frame is not sequential to the first. Note also that although the white frame does not exclusively appear in the PAL versions, the next frame of the gunman is extremely pale, and in the DVD version this paleness extends across to the next frame of the gunman.
Rough Cut
NTSC Prints
PAL Prints

7) The Doctor is Shot

After the Doctor has stepped out of the TARDIS, the gunmen raise their guns and fire.

Representing the shot is a very similar image of them standing, and the Rough Cut also includes a single white frame. The PAL transfer caused a slight blurring of the single frame onto the previous frame, and the DVD version even moreso.
Rough Cut
NTSC Prints
PAL Prints

The Seventh Doctor's Death

To those of us that had followed Sylvester McCoy's travels for the last nine years, the death of the seventh Doctor was a morbid and tragic affair stooped in great sadness...

...if you were watching the UK Original version that is. The BBC sensibly requested his final scene be shortened by many shots, to remove a rather silly scream that somewhat undermined the whole event.

The cuts comprised 18 seconds, and required a change to the audio in the latter half of the sequence...

End of Act One

The first commercial break appears after the Master and the Doctor have been reborn. McGann falls to the floor screaming "Who... am... I?". In all versions, the screen fades to black - this would be the only full fade-to-black (or 'FTB') that would make it outside the International Version.

End of Act Two

After the Master and Chang Lee meet, Lee asks what's in it for him. "You get to live", the Master replies... In both UK versions, the final shot crossfades into the next scene.

End of Act Three

The Master arrives at Grace's door. She asks if he knows the way to ITAR. "Of course I do", he says. In both UK versions, the shot quickly cuts to the opening shot of the next act.

End of Act Four

The Doctor and Grace arrive at ITAR, but the Master is already there... The UK versions then crossfade into the first internal at ITAR, where the International has an FTB.

End of Act Five

Although in the International Version, after Grace knocks out the Doctor with the neutron ram, there is an FTB, the UK versions have a poorly-placed freeze frame of Grace allowing a slow crossfade.

Lee's death

The original UK version cut Lee's death slightly to avoid seeing the moment where his neck actually snaps. Only the third of the four images below was missed.

End of Act Six

Screaming "This can't be... how it ends... stop!", Paul McGann screams into the penultimate commercial break. The US version explodes to white, then slowly fades back up from black after the adverts - in the International version, the action cuts.

End of Act Seven

Before the final goodbyes, one last commercial break - an FTB for the international audience and a crossfade for the UK.