Since the release of The Invasion on DVD in 2006, with Episodes 1 and 4 animated to complete the ‘visual experience’, the debate over photo re-contructions versus animations has raged long and hard.
This hasn’t been helped by the budgetary restraints placed on 2entertain when hiring animators to do the work. Even Cosgrove Hall, who completed The Invasion, admitted in the documentary that the budget was very, very tight. As a consequence, every Doctor Who story that has been completed using animation has looked different to the one before, with varying degrees of success. This has been a strong argument for those who find animation off-putting and prefer it to be near-perfect or not at all. As it happens, I think there’s an almost comforting symmetry in Doctor Who - even as animation – striving to beat budgetary limitations. If there’s one constant in the series apart from the TARDIS, it’s persistent underfunding!
For myself I still think that the Cosgrove Hall’s Invasion is the most polished and stylish with Big Finish’s The Reign of Terror the most jarring. Planet 55′s The Tenth Planet and Qurios’ The Ice Warriors both have their own charm vs quality, and the recent release of The Moonbase (Planet 55) feels almost like a combination of the previous three, and easily takes second place in my favourites.
I found myself agreeing with the decision taken by Dan Hall that animation should only be used if at least half of the story survives on film. Filling in small gaps feels more justifiable than, say, animating all seven episodes of The Evil of the Daleks. When the full soundtrack and photos are available, complete animation seems a bit unnecessary – especially if the budget is going to affect the final product. That may be a bit contrary if you like, but it makes sense in my head!
My personal take is that I prefer watching an animation on TV/DVD to a photo reconstruction. It’s rather nice to have the action continue visually rather than static pictures – but when listening to the narrated soundtrack CDs I now reach for the DWM Missing Episodes Specials, where each one is told in photographic stills. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to offer both options on the DVDs. The photos have been around for a very long time and the soundtracks with narration could be utilised alongside them to create a recon that would keep everyone happy. I can’t see that being particularly expensive to achieve, but then I’m not balancing the budgets…
Still, we have The Underwater Menace to look forward to and then, assuming nothing else has been found behind the fridge in a Nigerian TV studio kitchen, that (as they say) will be that.