Ocean in the Sky
1979, London, England, Super8 film format, colour, sound, 75 minutes long.
Ocean in the Sky is the great lost epic fan film. It’s not the earliest documented fan film – that honour goes to Kevin Davies ‘Doctor Hoo’ a three minute animated short from 1977. Before that there’s a rumour of a fan film called ‘Son of Doctor Who’ from the late sixties or early seventies. But Ocean stands out as a milestone for the sheer level of ambition – 75 minutes, as long as a serial or movie feature, and for the ambition of the production, featuring Daleks, monsters, genuine actors, special effects, and as many as fifty people involved in the production. So far as we can determine, it was shown in its entirety, only a single time, in 1979.
The story, what we know of it from personal communication with Marc Sinclair, involved Daleks at a base on Mars, attempting to invade the Earth through a blue portal in space, thus the title ‘Ocean in the Sky.’
A newspaper article posted by Richard Bignell elsewhere refers to multiple ‘blue holes’, and monsters called ‘Ancholi’ and assorted ghouls. Accompanying pictures depict gauze draped ghostly figures attacking or chasing the Doctor. One set of pictures shows the Doctor fleeing a tentacled columnar thing that might have been an Ancholi, or perhaps an Emperor Dalek. The Dalek Mars base was shown, by using, according to Sinclair, “a hospital corridor on a model set.” I’m not sure what that means, but I assume it was a miniature. The ‘stars’ were two Daleks, nicknamed ‘Fred’ and ‘George’. Looking at the available pictures, it’s very hard to say. From what we can see, these Daleks look pretty good. In clips, there is a red one and a black one. In some of the photographs, the black ones silhouette and appearance doesn’t seem right, too narrow around the neck. They look slightly different, as if from different builds. There’s definitely signs of serious wear and tear in some pictures, with collar rings misaligned and the lower skirting along the base of one seems seriously damaged. Who they were, where they came from, we can only guess. Sinclair mentioned that they had a third unit, an Emperor Dalek. If true, it’s possible that this was an third original build, separate from at least one, possibly both. Or it may have been cannibalized or adapted from one of their existing Daleks, perhaps just a bit of ‘dressing up’. As to the ghouls, nothing much stands on them. Steal someone’s gauze curtains, wrap it a round an extra there you go. The Ancholi may have been more ambitious, but we don’t know much about that costume. At the same time that Sinclair obtained at least one of his Daleks, in the early to mid-seventies, he also acquired a Tardis shell. There was apparently a Tardis interior/control room, was constructed by Reg Spillett, costing about three hundred pounds to construct, which shows the scale and ambition of the project.
The Doctor was played by Leo Adams, a local actor with the Manchester Repertory Company, then 69 years of age. He would pass away at the age of 92, having hopefully lived a life as full as it was long. – perhaps fifty people were involved with the production, at various points and in various ways. Adams and Woodley were the only credited cast members known.
The project attracted Mark Ayres, then studying music at Cambridge, for Music. Ayres would ‘go pro’ in the late 1980’s providing musical scoring for serials during the Sylvester McCoy era.
Kevin Davies participated, and seems to have formed a separate second unit/special effects unit who operated on their own, together with David Beasley, Jon Saville and Peter Cox. Davies would go on to direct Shakedown, two episodes of Space Island One, as well as Dalekmania, 30 Years in the Tardis, and numerous Doctor Who themed documentary shorts.