Read Along With TV’s Nellie Alison Arngrim

Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson) and Sarah Uthoff (Sarah Uthoff)
Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson) and Sarah Uthoff (Sarah Uthoff)

As part of her continuing efforts to spread peace and good cheer (check out her really positive Facebook video show), actress Alison Arngrim has launched a campaign to read the “Little House” series. Every day (weekdays and weekends) she makes a Facebook live session on her Facebook page reading one of the books in the series. She reads a couple of chapters everyday as many as she feels like. Most days it’s at 1 PM and 1:30 PM. Arngrim leaves prior readings on her page so you can catch up.

Arngrim reads the book and makes comments from her perspective as a modern day Californian. Many of those comments are hilarious, but some of them are warnings that things in the book wouldn’t meet today’s expectations. Every day Arngrim wears another bonnet of a different color. You can buy a signed bonnet from her.

During the sessions chat is available and it’s drawing people from all over the country and some foreign countries. Lots of questions and answers go by during the readings. So check her out. Read more in this article from Forbes magazine.

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos,   listen to her podcast,    look at her photos, and find her on Facebook ,   Twitter ,   LinkedIn ,   SlideShare,   and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

2014 Little House Cast Reunion

Cast on Stage Courtesy of Linda Starbuck
Cast on Stage
Courtesy of Linda Starbuck

It’s a big anniversary for the TV show again this year (2019) and once again the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and the Pageant in Walnut Grove are hosting a reunion. The first episode of NBC’s Little House on the Prairie TV show aired September 11, 1974. In 2014 the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove and the Walnut Grove Pageant hosted a reunion of 11 cast members. For those of you who are looking forward to the reunion and those who will be left behind, take a virtual visit to the 40th reunion back in 2014. Here’s the top things to know.

If you enjoy this blog, here is a directory to my TV show themed posts and for the real town of Walnut Grove, Minnesota.

Medical Mishap

During 2014 I attended the reunion. While I was there I took an unusual route to get around a group of people and tripped. I went straight down and scraped up my face pretty badly as you can see in the videos. People who were there that time are probably going to remember me because of that and the huge bandage on my face. If you would have a similar problem while you are there, Walnut Grove doesn’t have a hospital. They do have an EMT unit and although its members will be doing other things, stop at the museum as a first stop for basic medical needs and they should be able to grab an EMT for you if necessary for evaluation for needing further care. Band-aids, etc. are for sale at the town grocery. If it’s a BIG emergency, dial 911 like you would normally do.

Although it was a nasty fall and ruined several of plans for the day and broke my camera, I’m happy to report that I recovered fully. I didn’t break my nose or any teeth and no scars.

2014 Podcasts

Find descriptions of my 2014 Reunion podcasts with descriptions and alternate ways to listen.

2014 Videos

In addition to my video a class took videos that they hoped to release as a DVD. They didn’t, but did post it on YouTube. Sadly they’ve since been pulled down, but my navigation notes will tell you what was covered.

I’ve put my video diaries into a playlist. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Finally find this round up on Walnut Grove posts and videos from 2014 that needs updated. LOL

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

TV Show The Big Bang Theory Finale

Big Bang DVDs

Unfortunately The Big Bang Theory finale was aired the same week as the Games of Thrones finale and while TBBT got more build-up during the year, this actual week what I’ve seen is more people talking about GOT (and what was wrong with it) than The Big Bang Theory‘s finale and what they got right. (See Note 1) So I want to talk about them being right.

Near Perfection

The Big Bang Theory‘s finale knocked several contenders on my personal best endings list down a notch. Guiding Light is, of course, my favorite over all. But this takes down my previous top sitcom pick, I Married Dora, which ended with the best joke in the entire series. It also seriously challenges my favorites in the drama category. The winner there is the last episode of classic Doctor Who, “Survival” which just an average episode in most respects, but is where the Doctor gives one of the greatest, most Doctor Who-iest speeches of the entire series (including classic episodes and reboots ). (See Note 2) The only recent one I can think that MIGHT have given it a run for its money in the drama category would have been if the episode of the penultimate season of Castle, which was written as the series finale and really should have been, had stayed the finale. As it is I think The Big Bang Theory is now number 2 under all time, all categories.

All Night Long

A few series have been such a big deal when they showed their finale that they made it a major all night event. Normally this totally crashes and burns, badly. I direct you to Cheers and later Seinfeld (not even the great accompanying Greg and Dharma episode could save it). However, this time they pulled it off.

The finale had been really started in the third to end episode when Leonard finally comes to terms with his mother. I think that was a key development to one of the main events in the final episode. Then they split the actual hour long finale into two parts, for ease of syndication, but it was really an hour long episode. It was followed by the half-hour season finale of Sheldon which played into another theme of the last season of The Big Bang Theory by having him wanting someone to win the Nobel Prize and feeling alone when they didn’t. The tag was the adult Sheldon saying how alone he felt at that moment and how grateful he was to have found his friends which then montaged them where they were at that same time, ending with a young Amy reading a copy of Little House on the Prairie. Then one more half hour with “Leonard” and “Penny” on the set before they tore it down with memories of the series and a semi tour of the set, ending with a slow pan across the main set of both apartments with the hallway in between. In addition there was a build of stories on Entertainment Tonight and the cast appeared on Late Night (all dolled up as if to look as deliberately different from their characters as possible). There was a show they threw in there at 9pm CDT to probably get it a goose in ratings, but all and all it was perfect. (See Note 3) Then they aired both halves of the finale on Monday nights in the alternate time slot the show often aired in and it was just as moving the second time.

So What Did I Like

First, I was glad that we got one last look at the biggest recurring characters doing typical things: President Siebert, Kripke, Bert, and especially Stuart got a chance to be a small part of it. They even had one more random sci fi actor, Sarah Michelle Gellar shows up on their plane to Sweden and agree to accompany Raj.  I’m sorry they couldn’t fit in a few others, Wil Wheaton or Professor Proton, spring to mind, and I would have loved to see Sheldon’s mom and Penny’s dad find out both about the Nobel and the Lenny baby, but you can’t have everything. And a lot of them did get mentions.

Second, they accomplished things they had set up all year. We start with a montage of important moments from the series, Sheldon and Amy won the Nobel. Leonard and Penny both had gotten a promotion at work. We finally see Howard and Bernedette’s kids. Each character has had a set clothing pattern, Leonard’s included a hoodie and jacket, he finally explained he always wore one because he was always cold because Sheldon wanted the thermostat too low. The DNA in the corner fell apart with a crash fore-shadowing the take down of the set. (When they put it back together Leonard says it was a fun 139 1/2 hours – the runtime of the show.) And most importantly, they fixed the elevator. The other big news, that Penny was pregnant and so not drinking, was kind of a departure from where the storyline had been going, which while I wanted a baby for them I think deciding not to have kids is a legitimate choice and this kind of rushed to undercut that. But I especially liked the dialogue leading up the baby reveal where you were catching your breath as they circled around it, is she, she can’t be, is she really pregnant? And she was. While it did run counter to this season, when Leonard first met Penny he said their babies would be smart and beautiful and it was a line that was repeated on the show a couple of times, so while it wasn’t holding true to this season, it did complete a loop back on the official pilot.  I also held my breath when Sheldon said each person’s name in his thank you speech, including the honorific astronaut before Howard’s, hoping for Penny’s maiden name, but nope they skipped that. Frankly though what I was looking for most was an Amy-Sheldon Nobel prize win and the elevator to be fixed and those both happened, so I’m good. 😉

Third and most importantly, they completed the character arc for Sheldon. Both Howard/Bernadette and Leonard/Penny couples considered leaving due to Sheldon’s behavior and instead they forgave him. Then in an epiphany set off by Amy’s words, Sheldon realizes how much the support and work of his friends have helped him and they deserve part of the credit for the award and he asks them to stand and be named. He even included Astronaut for Howard since he didn’t have a PhD to mention. Cut to a shot of them back in Leonard’s apartment where they are eating take out, no words just a slow melancholy version of the show’s theme song while Amy and Sheldon wore their medals. It was even more touching than the “It’s A Long Way to Tipperary” moment in The Mary Tyler Moore Show with more respect and class. They completed Sheldon’s arc specifically and reminded us how far each of the other characters developed and became better people through their friendship.

Why I Like the Show As a Whole

That connection and becoming better people through the friendship was what I liked best about the show all along. Sure there were more immediate comic pay-offs along the way, but that central theme was why I really liked the show. It was reinforced by their real life by when the initial stars of the show took a substantial pay cut to free up money to pay the late comers to the core group more. (I mean they were still making $900,000 an episode after the cut so they aren’t hurting for money, even the late comers where making substantial coin already, but they didn’t HAVE to do it to make things more fair for their friends.) I also liked how even the supporting characters were consistent and they really did a nice job of world building (yes, the differences were small – prominent full professors at universities don’t make a pile of money, taxis only rarely exist, Disney lets adults dress up as princesses at the parks), but there was a complete community there.

And I must admit I enjoyed geeking out to their references. I really loved people talking about cool stuff on the show and treating it as important.

Problems With the Finale

There really isn’t a lot to complain about. I understand that they want to focus on the immediate cast for the last two episodes, but I think after everything they went through Sheldon’s real family should have gotten to be there to see him shine. If not they could have at least had something like an ice storm hitting Texas or an attack of food poisoning or the like to explain their absence. In fact if they really want to marry the two shows, him seeing his Dad would be very fitting. At the very, VERY least he could have said their names instead of just mother, father, sister, brother, Meemaw when he said his thank yous. I think a shout out to Arthur Jefferies would have been appropriate, too. (Take that Bill Nye, the Science Guy.)

I also was a little irked by the fact that in order to get Stuart in to the show they had him fail at taking care of the kids and Bernadette’s parents having to step in. I mean Stuart took care of the kids all the time and I don’t think they even said Bernie’s parents had the kids before. Why would Stuart suddenly been unable to care for them?

And that’s all I can think of after watching the episode twice. I got misty both times.

Note 1: There were comparisons made between the Game of Thrones finale and the Seinfeld finale which I agree was awful although a recent tweet by Jason Alexander explained what they were going for a lot better which helps. Why they didn’t spell that out at the time – which they didn’t or at least I didn’t see it – I have no idea. It was still awful though. The only part I liked was that the last scene was a repeat of the first scene which in a world of never ending reruns was a nice little meta moment.

Note 2: Found at the link in the main text above:
The Doctor:
“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning,
where the sea’s asleep and the rivers dream,
people made of smoke and cities made of song.
Somewhere there’s danger,
somewhere there’s injustice
and somewhere else the tea is getting cold.
Come on, Ace, we’ve got work to do.”

Note 3: I’m especially grateful that the “surprise all Big Bang fans will want to see” wasn’t Sheldon’s dad dying which everyone I talked to thought it was with the shot in the ad preview of him climbing a fairly shaky ladder up to the roof.

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs,  schedule one yourself,  watch her videos,  listen to her podcast,    look at her photos, and find her on    Facebook ,   Twitter ,  LinkedIn ,  SlideShare,  and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

Jackanory

I love it when I find a bit of Laura Ingalls Wilder tucked in an odd corner. This one seems extra odd. From 1965 to 1996 the BBC produced a children’s TV series called Jackanory. (It’s from the BBC’s children’s department about that same time as Doctor Who, so even though I’ve never seen Jackanory I’m quite ready to believe it was amazingly cool.)

4 covers of British edition 2 Little House in the Big Woods and 2 Little House on the Prairie
British Editions of the Little House Books

I found this blog post talking about this show:

Out In The Dark

Jackanory was a daily weekday series where they read book across days. The host was Red Shiveley. Original producer Joy Whitby would have the set decorated to the style of the book. Special, original illustrations were provided by Mina Martinez who was frequently used by the BBC.  The music for this span of episodes was provided by Jack Fallon, a jazz violinist, and Rick Jones, a singer.

“Broadcast by BBC1 on Tuesday 25th October 1966, the two hundredth edition of Jackanory was nothing more significant or celebratory than “Out In The Dark,” the second of a five part adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 1932 autobiographical novel The Little House In The Big Woods.”

They don’t have a recording of any of the Laura episodes, but this blog post does a great job of explaining it what it was and you never know. They still occasionally find another episode of Doctor Who, maybe the Jackanory version of Little House in the Big Woods will turn up sometime.

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on  Facebook , Twitter , Google+LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

Who Was Laura Ingalls Wilder First Book Now TV Show

In the 1950s and 1960s there were several fun biography series for kids. My favorite was the Landmark Series. These have long been out of print, but today there are two joint series, Who Is…? and Who Was…? with a similar purpose at a lower reading level. The former series being about living people and the latter about those who have passed on. 

Lately my nephew has been tearing through them with his favorites being Who Was Thomas Edison?, Who Was Henry Ford?, and Who Was Mark Twain?. There was one that attracted my attention of course:

Demuth, Patricia Brennan. Who Was Laura Ingalls Wilder?. Penguin, 2013.

Who Was Who Books

The series have expanded to also include Where Is….? and What is…..?. There are more than 200 books in the collection. The covers with big head bobblehead looking versions of the people they are about are designed to look like the former style of covers of the New York Times Book Reviews.  Learn more: http://www.whowasbookseries.com

TV Series

So having an interest and having bought several titles from the series, I was rather delighted to read in Publisher’s Weekly that they were going to create a TV show based on the series. I was especially pleased that they were starting with the pilot short featuring a six-minute show in which Laura Ingalls Wilder meets Andy Warhol.

The show was picked up by Netflix. They describe it as: “Fresh voices bring some of the most famous names in history to life. A live-action sketch comedy show based on the series of best-selling books.” (Looking through their list of shows I discovered that Netflix originals have some super strange stuff that I never even heard off, some of it based on children’s books, AND Benji – I love Benji.)

So far the show has 13 episodes in Season one. If you subscribe to Netflix or just want to learn more about the individual episodes:
https://www.netflix.com/title/80184379

Find more production details:
https://usa.newonnetflix.info/info/80184379/s

Series Description

So far they haven’t done a full episode on Laura Ingalls Wilder yet. I haven’t seen a full episode, but based on the trailer and some descriptions it reminds me of KIDS Incorporated (♪♫♪ Kids Incorporated – K- I – D -S ♫♪♫) with a sole focus on history and a much bigger budget. I hope they get back around to Laura soon and that I get a chance to see it.

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

De Smet Event 2017

It’s FINALLY here! Today starts the De Smet Event 2017 (July 14-16). Below find links to my interviews about it and other places you might want to know about. I’ve also written up summaries of the interviews if you just want to scan them instead. (Oh and by the way, I looked it up and first De Smet Event was 2005.)

Horses and Covered Wagon
Horses and Covered Wagon at Ingalls Homestead

De Smet Event

I interviewed Tessa Flak back in May. Here’s all the scoop.

Find the Schedule

Dean Butler and Alison Arngrim will start with the paid autographs at 10:30am. They will break at noon and will cut off the line ahead of the break. Everyone who buys a ticket will get signed.

They’re not going to do photos during the signing because they want people to attend the autograph session on Sunday morning with a photo session.

On Sunday they are going to do a Confession from Prairies show with Alison Arngrim. It’s the family friendly version of her show. It will be at 2pm  and include a reception. Tickets are required.

Nancy Koupal is a Memorial Society board member from the 1990s. She’ll talk about the Pioneer Girl Project and Bill might jump in.

Judy Thompson is the artist behind covers of Pioneer Girl and Pioneer Girl Perspectives. She’s present and demonstrate drawing. Her original artwork will be on display.  The prints of the covers are available for sale.

William T. Anderson is the main Laura authority. He’s going to talk about how he got involved with Laura and his history with De Smet.

All programs will be varied so not the same each day.

Programs will be held in a tent in the museum’s park which is besides the city park with the one-room school that serves as a hands on discovery center. The street between the Surveyors House and Gift Shop and the park will be closed.

Dean and Alison signatures will be $6 per item signed. You want six signatures, you need six tickets. There are no official limits on what to sign. If you don’t have anything you want signed, they will have photos available for sale in the gift shop.

At the pageant Dean and Alison will have a question and answer session before the pageant starting at 7pm. They will only take cash and check. The pageant starts at 8pm. There is food available on grounds and a gift shop.

Tip bring own chairs. The food is like what you would find at a high school sporting event.

They will have additional wagons on the grounds this summer. When you go through the gate. You get a prize drawing slip, a wagon riding ticket, a newspaper of the event. They will do a state roll call. The rule is you have to yell for your home state and EXTRA loud for Iowa.

New to the Memorial Society’s collection is the restored 1880s covered wagon and 3 new archival cases.

The gift shop has the Surveyors House Cookie Cutter. There is also going to be a new, updated, and extended edition of the Ingalls Family of De Smet in honor of the 60th Anniversary of the museum.

Dean Butler

I also interviewed Dean Butler about the De Smet event.

Dean Butler was interviewed previously on the show in 2014 in honor of the TV show’s 40th anniversary event.

I was glad to welcome him back to talk about some of his most common “Little House” questions, what signing events are like in general, and what’s going to happen in De Smet in particular.

A note about the sound. It’s a little low so you’ll want to turn it up, but be aware there are a couple places where it will suddenly pop loud. Unfortunately the connection could have been better.

Dean Butler, a died Pepsi person, who played Almanzo on the NBC version of The Little House on the Prairie TV show. He started actin in High School in a production of Once Upon a Mattress. (Fun fact: I was also in a completely different high school production of Once Upon A Mattress – made famous by Carol Burnett – as a unnamed and unnumbered lady in waiting.)

His big break was in a movie version of Forever by Judy Blume. Michael Landon’s daughter was a fan and helped get him an audition. He was hired two weeks before graduation. Later he would appear as Moondoggie in The New Gidget and Buffy’s dad on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He was associated with several iconic young woman characters and is honored to have those associations.

He thinks people like the Chicken Cinnamon episode is popular because it’s a good example of Laura’s gumption. Almanzo’s favorite food was really Liver’n’Onions.

Almanzo-Almonzo Dean has finally been convinced to pronounce it Almanzo the clincher being the recording of Laura saying his name. You can buy the recording, it’s called Laura Ingalls Wilder Speaks. Find it at any of the homesite museum giftshops online or in person. He always points out Lucy Lee Flippin was the first to pronounce it that way and he got pounded by fans for pronouncing it wrong from the beginning.

Dean attends a couple of signing events every year. He has 6 scheduled this summer. It’s important to be out there and keep the show alive to pay back the fans for their investment and support. His wife always says he’s going off for another weekend of adoration. One of the best parts of signing is the multi-generational component. He often signs books for daughter-mother-grandmother.

It’s a different signing experience at homesites and much better. Once at a mall a teenager got very aggressive and drew attention to how there really is trust between signers and signee. There is also a balance in signing how to make a connection with each person, but not to let them monopolize your time. Signing body parts doesn’t phase him, but he doesn’t like signing things people probably won’t keep like a wadded up napkin or a ratty piece of paper. He prefers something solid, like a book or a photo.

Dean’s programs are extraneous and focus on his experience with the TV show. The cast mostly gets together at appearances. He has been to the location of the exterior of the show set many times since the show ended. You can really tell where the Ingalls homestead was, but the town site is completely grown over. The last time he was there you could still find some debris from the big explosion and it took him right back to the day they watched it explode. I asked a follow up about the covered bridge with open sides. He says it’s on the Disney ranch. Besides, Little House look for that bridge on shows like The Dukes of Hazzard, Remington Steele, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, NCIS, etc. Those are off the top of my head, feel free to add to the list in the comments below. Keep an eye out for it. Info on visiting the site.

 

Movie: The Power of the Daleks

Last night I attended a special showing of a Doctor Who story arc. Normally before I write about a movie I like to see it twice, but this is more of a so you know this exists than a full write up so I thought I’d go ahead and share.

Sarah in TARDIS
Sarah in TARDIS

Fandom

I used to think if you said you were a fan of something and somebody else said they were a fan of something you meant the same thing. I have since learned I was wrong. There are lots of Laura Ingalls Wilder fans who mean a lot less than I do by the term and there are a lot of Star Wars fans that mean a lot more. So with Doctor Who I’d say I’m a medium fan. I don’t go to cons and I haven’t built my own TARDIS, but I’ve been watching faithfully on Iowa Public Television my whole life, I have a sonic screwdriver and used a TARDIS key keychain all the way through high school and years after (I actually wore out a couple of them and they were metal), I had a great sunshade for my car that said TARDIS heatshield, I wore a bring back the Doctor pin on my coat for the entire 18 month shut down after…. well you get the point.

Watching Along

So I have to say while I wasn’t as anxious to see this as the people they interviewed for the Making Of special they showed afterward, the second Doctor is my third favorite Doctor and I was happy that I got a chance to go. This was a country wide release in limited theaters – a much larger pool than the 50th, but still limited for one night only. I was delighted to see on Facebook both before and after many friends around the country were watching “with” me – same time, different place.

Destruction of the Daleks and All the Rest of Doctor Who

If you don’t know, the labor/union movement was stronger in Great Britain than it was here. Early on in the industry people behind the scenes pictured a world where television would be nothing, but repeats or at least mostly repeats so they made a deal with the BBC that required them to pay the salaries of everyone as if they had just reshot the video instead of just replayed it. So with this contract in place showing repeats of older series wasn’t cost efficient. Old films were shipped to a storage facility that was pushed to overflowing. Sometime later a fire marshal inspected was horrified and told the BBC they had to enlarge and update the facility for that number of films. Instead they decided to throw out huge quantities of episodes of old TV shows.

They had a system, but they weren’t very good at it and what is lost is mostly haphazard. Mostly it favored fine art over  what they saw as lower class entertainment and for one reason or another destruction of episodes continued until the late 1970s. The haphazard system meant that only single reels of some episodes were lost, in some cases all that were left were black and white copies that had originally been shot in color, and some entire stories were missing. Other copies were shipped off to TV stations around the world that could show the episodes in other countries and forgotten about. Ever since the late 1970s aka when someone with good sense realized this was happening and stopped it, the search for the 152 single episodes that were completely missing was on. Over the years in sometimes strange and mysterious ways 55 of these episodes have been rediscovered leaving 97 undiscovered.

“Never Give Up, Never Surrender!”

OK that title comes from the wrong sci fi fandom, but it describes Doctor Who fans to a T. Back in the pre-VCR days some fans loves their shows so much that they would record the episode on tape so they could at least listen to it again whenever they wanted. Some at least of these recordings have been collected giving someone very smart the idea of “restoring” these episodes. If you can’t find the real thing, you could at least make use of those sound only recordings of the original episodes.

Using knowledge of the characters actions and facial expressions, publicity stills and fragmentary existing footage efforts were put together to fill the gaps in some existing stories creating animated visuals to go with the sound. That’s what the “missing, but animated” notations mean on the list I linked to in the last section.

Movies versus Episodes

Traditionally Doctor Who was broken into story arcs that would stretch over weeks. That was a familiar format on dramatic radio shows where you would follow a storyline for a few weeks before the show moved on to another story. Doctor Who episodes were traditionally shown in 30 minute episodes. A single story might have as few as 1 or as many as 12 week’s episodes. More recent efforts show these arcs of episodes strung together in one big movie. For instance right now PBS stations around the country are showing the Tom Baker “movies.” There’s a bit of pacing problem with that. It swoops to a cliffhanger every 30 minutes instead of having one long arc besides having to deal with the tags. NuWho abandoned this entirely have self-contained or two parters of roughly 50 minutes each.

“The Power of the Daleks” Format

So the big event was the debut on the big screen of the storyline or “movie” of a second Doctor episode that had been entirely lost. Taking a sound track (and either it was exceptionally well recorded on a very high end machine or they did a near miraculous job of cleaning it up) and adding animation for the entire story arc of the six episode “The Power of the Daleks.”

The animation was a little different than what I was expecting. I thought they’d do it in color, but nope it was gray tones all the way through. I also thought they would maybe drop in what footage they had or at least a little preview that showed what the characters really looked like from existing footage. It’s all animation though.

The Daleks themselves are 100% plus spot on. They were just perfect and you couldn’t want more from a Dalek. You saw them using their suckers for something other than helping push doors open. The voice was terrific especially when they tripped themselves up being sneaky “Daleks are bet…different than humans.”

The people while they still looked like themselves were animated in a 1970s comic book style. The backgrounds were great, the clothes and hairstyles reflected publicity stills perfectly, but their movement was marionette like at best. A few more face close up shots when they were moving might have looked better. Their face movements or slight movements when standing talking looked much better.

The First Regeneration and Reflecting Backward

This was the first episode of the second Doctor and shows the very first regeneration of the Doctor. This brilliant idea kept the series going, but it was a new idea to viewers and the writers don’t have the details we know about the process done yet. They do a very nice analysis of how they did this.

I also think they reflected back some of what has been developed in the meantime. For example the look of the Dalek creature inside the case is what has been established in nuWho not what we’d seen before. Also, the look of the effect of the Dalek ray is from more modern Who.

Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down

If you are Doctor Who fan enough to have watched some of the black and white episodes with the second Doctor, you’ll enjoy this. It does take a bit to get used to the style of animation of the people, but it’s definitely worth watching. If you don’t already know the second Doctor’s facial expressions and how he moves I think you can safely give this a miss. I’m looking forward to seeing it come out on DVD, especially to hear the commentary tracks which looked really good in the Making of special.

Let me know what you think.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,  LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.