Monday, January 4, 2010
Meglos has perhaps one of the least inspiring beginnings of any Doctor Who story ever. It opens with The Doctor and Romana performing some repairs on K-9, necessary after his run-in at Brighton Beach in the opening moments of The Leisure Hive. But what a tepid few shots to open with - no establishing shot of the TARDIS in flight, just a cold opening in the TARDIS console room, catching The Doctor and Romana almost mid-sentence in their banal conversation. How dull!
What isn't dull, though, is the realization of the Screens of Zolpha-Thura with the aid of a then groundbreaking technique called Scene-Sync. Scene-Sync was an advanced CSO technique that, instead of keying in a static background behind actors standing in front of a blue screen, superimposed actors over shots of a live model which was shot with a camera slaved to the camera shooting the actors. When the camera covering the actors moved, the slave camera did the same thing over the model shot. Doctor Who was used as a guinea pig to try out this new technique in preparation for its big debut in a BBC production called The Borgias (although another stellar example of Scene-Sync can seen in the opening episode of Carl Sagan's landmark series Cosmos in a sequence where Sagan walks through a model of an ancient library in Alexandria).
The results of Scene-Sync in Episode 1 are no less impressive. Grugger and Brotadac look as if they really are on a distant planet, dwarfed by massive screens that they walk in front of, behind, and even interact with. It's a shame Scene-Sync was never used again after this story. Even though it's 1980 special effects, it still looks impressive today.
Posted by Steven at 1:44 PM