Doctor Who is today celebrating 58 years since the premiere of its first episode and, in a way, not much has changed in nearly six decades.
Sure, over a dozen people have played the Doctor, and huge leaps in technology mean we’re a long way off from the appearance of the first-ever episode, but at its heart, the show’s message remains the same.
And the work from one long-time fan is making this abundantly clear.
Rich Tipple’s passion project has seen him put months of effort into bringing the classic series to life, through restoring footage, upscaling and colourising clips from when the show’s stories were told entirely in black and white.
A producer, director and colouriser, and (most importantly) a Doctor Who fan, Rich, 35, has previously worked with the BBC to reconstruct damaged colour for their release of Jon Pertwee’s series 8 Blu-Ray collection.
In 2019, Rich founded Dr Hue, a massive team effort which saw the black and white William Hartnell episode The Daleks’ Master Plan completely remastered in colour, and which aired at the Los Angeles Doctor Who convention Gallifrey One.
But colourising the classics to bring them into the modern age ‘makes something that I’ve seen hundreds of times before feel different and new and fresh’, which is ‘so exciting’.
‘A lot of fans just won’t watch the black and white stuff,’ he said, adding that ‘as someone who adores that era I find that difficult to cope with!’
Rich’s first Doctor Who episode as a young child was in grainy black and white, after his dad bought a VHS boxset.
‘It’s probably why I want people to like [the era] as much as I do,’ he noted.
‘In my opinion, it is the golden age. It was full of these incredible sci-fi ideas, but not necessarily with a budget to pull it off.’
And, while the difference between the modern series’ production scale is ‘night and day,’, Rich has insisted that ‘the soul is still the same’.
The Doctor Who expert explained that so much of what is still central to the programme today was apparent in that very first episode, from the Doctor’s dynamic with his companions to the Tardis appearing as a police box, and, of course, the adventures in time and space.
The reaction to Rich’s work has been ‘amazing’, and his restoration of The Daleks even convinced some who had been adamant they would not like the black and white episodes to go back and watch them.
Doctor Who’s entire premise makes it ‘the perfect organism to keep growing and evolving,’ he added. ‘The show’s lead role changes constantly and you don’t even blink.’
The sheer amount of work and time needed to bring even just a few seconds of classic Doctor Who to life means that, for now, it’s probably not a feasible project for the BBC to colourise the black and white series in its entirety, and though it does remain a ‘fantasy’ of Rich’s, it is still up to the fans for now.
Boasting one of the biggest and most active artistic communities of any fandom, Doctor Who ‘naturally inspires fans’ creativity because it’s dealing with abstract concepts, but very human situations,’ according to Rich, who insisted there is ‘something for everyone’.
Fanart, he said, has ‘kept the show going’ while it ‘was on life support’ during its long hiatus, and now, with the show thriving, fan creations are as popular as ever, as proved by the thousands who have viewed Rich’s works.
From fanfiction to fan-made merchandise, art, podcasts, colourisations and web series, Rich is as inspired by fans’ creations as he is by the show itself, particularly by YouTuber Josh Snares, who makes documentaries about the show’s lost episodes, and artist Sophie Iles.
Rich’s next project will see him tackle a complicated scene from one of the most famous episodes of the classic series, The Aztecs, a scene he chose because ‘it looks really difficult’.
Still determined to show people the ‘magic’ of the back and white series, Rich ‘definitely’ recommends starting with this story if you’re interested in trying the black and white era, saying ‘it’s just got everything’.
As Rich’s stellar work takes months to complete, we may be waiting for The Aztecs for a while – you can keep up with his work on Twitter and Youtube.
Doctor Who continues on BBC One this Sunday at 6.25pm.
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