At Light Industry in Brooklyn, the artist Paul Slocum recently exhibited a re-constructed 1966 Dr. Who episode which long-time fans of the series feared was “lost in time” following a spat of sweeping reductions from the BBC’s entire television archive during the 1960s and 70s.
The BBC’s discarding of this particular Dr. Who episode was not personal, but economic—they were looking for a way to save money on media storage.
In the current epoch of media storage technology, though, the data cloud affords ample room to archive and database this or any other Dr. Who episode.
And, indeed, in response to this hunger, fans of the show and, eventually, the BBC itself have subsequently played the role of the “time-lord,” travelling back in time and re-constructing several of these lost episodes.
As one views-through this particular episode re-construction, which was conducted by the BBC, one listens to an original audio track and views two key visual elements:
1. The first is the rough-hewn re-construction of the episode itself which consists of explanatory text as well as black-and-white production stills and video footage scraps depicting low-budget sci-fi sets and costumes intermingling with actors frozen in time.
There’s a surrealistic, dreamy quality to the visual rhythm here and the lack of clear connection between the images on the screen to the soundtrack reminds one of, say, the Chris Marker film La Jetée which is, likewise, a time-travel story told through an audio track and a series of black-and-white still frames.
2. The second key visual element in the re-construction, though, is the shifting background of solid colors intermingling with random number and letter strings under which this episode re-construction plays-through.
This shifting background imagery reads as “tech” or “sci-fi future” or “futurity”; however, it does so in a notably different way than those same words would find their meaning in the imagery of the episode re-construction—(they read here—not as better or worse—but simply as if from a different era—perhaps the mid-1990s [there’s something Gattaca about the background’s look]–in any event, equally historically dated–dead).
At the end of the episode’s narrative, the Doctor (one vision of the future) “dies” and is—then—re-generated into an entirely new Doctor (another vision of the future) with an entirely new take on the role of the “time lord” who will, nevertheless—play-out an old story:
Like the Doctor before him—this new Doctor will die and be re-generated and, then, that Doctor will die and be re-generated and so on and so on and so on and so on.
Slocum’s further re-contextualization of the episode re-construction itself provides an even deeper layer of re-generation:
One views here neither the obsolete imagery of the episode re-construction nor the obsolete imagery of the background of the re-construction nor the collision of the re-construction and its background, but rather an endless chain of dead re-generations of the future extending forever.