Welcome to Altered Vistas
   The Amaryll Challenge (AV03)
The Amaryll Challenge AV03

The fourth story, The Amaryll Challenge, details the Daleks first journey into space and their first landing on a new world. Unfortunately, they don't impress the local intelligent plant life of the planet Alvega quite as they had hoped. Did you expect anything else?

Here's a selection of images from this story, our version of which was released in 2004.

DVD and CD-style covers and disc labels for the production can be found here.

   The Amaryll Challenge: Gallery
Titulars, doncha know...The Emperor speaks
Dalek listensDalek in jungle
Daleks in cave
Emperor does a little entertaining...
Scary monsters and super creepsPeoples of the universe...
When saucers attack...Daleks' listening device
Dalek in clearingBig wormy thing...
Daleks in ruinsRed Alert!
Daleks on saucerThe Emperor's address
Dalek listens attentivelyEmperor on saucer
Emperor in lab
Dalek confrontation
   The Amaryll Challenge: Reviews

Gerry Briody writes:

This is superb, the best yet. I love the idea of the hippy, peace-loving, flower-power planet up against the evil of the greedy Daleks.

I remember this story quite well even from my distant childhood. It's a nice Sixties anti-Vietnam type parable. Overall the production is excellent and the 3D CGI stuff well integrated with the photographs of the planet. The Dalek and plant voices are also well done, as is the music. All in all it has the polish of a professional production rather than a fan product.

The only effect I didn't find all that convincing was the part where the Dalek ship was supposed to melt. Also some of the Dalek movement could seem too fast or awkward. Apart from these fairly minor quibbles, I thought it was brilliant and the sort of work I've been waiting to see for ages.

I think it will be an inspiration to those who would like to reconstruct missing stories or produce original stuff. Thank you very much.

Dave Aldridge writes:

Finally got the chance to watch The Amaryll Challenge, and was equally as impressed. I even like the fact that it is in two episodes, creating your own in-built cliffhanger! Everything seemed so sleek, and the lifeforms on Alvega were unnervingly believable. I cannot wait for more!

Thanks again.

Bryan McCormack writes:

One very interesting way of watching Stuart’s handiwork is in your favourite chair armed with a nice hot cup of coffee and a copy of DWM’s Dalek Chronicles 1994 Summer Special. This is where you will find the original 60`s comic strips that are now being brought so brilliantly to life. It’s very interesting to compare the two. In almost all cases the AV adaptation really is superior to the original.

This is the first AV production to be split over two discs as a result of expanding the printed story somewhat. The first episode goes into the Daleks' attempts to create a viable spaceship in much more detail than in the printed version. Just compare the two. What takes seven frames in the strip is expanded to nearly half the first episode, but never does it seem like padding.

This story also gives us our first cliffhanger. Whilst not in the same class as Barbara Wright’s first encounter with a sink plunger, it is nonetheless suitably dramatic. If this really was a weekly serial on the telly I would be back next week. And I’m sure you would too.

Daniel Pegg writes:

I've got to mention the background music again - this one has the best score yet, especially when the Daleks get to the alien world. All the string plucking sounds (or is it a harpsichord) and the whispering voices is really spooky. It all builds towards the final showdown so well, and the moment when the big brain creature is revealed is awesome. I also really like the battle with the worm monster and the Daleks fire bombing the planet. There's more of those cheeky Doctor Who in-jokes too. I won't spoil the biggest and best of them, but I was well impressed that you even thought of doing it, let alone went ahead and did it!

On the strength of these three releases, I can't wait to see Power Play, and all the other Altered Vistas productions that you've planned. Keep up the excellent work - all of you.

RetroRobot writes:

Disc 1: The Amaryll Challenge – episode one (24:30)

Disc 2: The Amaryll Challenge – episode two (19:50)

<no bonus> what?! No interesting extras!? Boo-hiss! (ain't we a greedy lot out here in 'FreebeeLand', eh? – spoilt, that's what we are!)]

Episode Four review: "Re Chlorophyll Damage"

(OR "beat your greens – they're bad for you!" … apologies to Dalek Mutants)

With AV03 we see Stuart's work now being on a par with the 'illustrious' AV04(Ep.2). The visual style is lush and animated (pun there) with all the extra detail of surfaces, screens & instruments/indicators that made #4 such fun to look at. The extended (in comparison to the 9 panels of original art covering the same ground) sequences of Dalek Spaceflight development are a feast of technobabble and spaceship designs – once more faithfully and imaginatively extrapolated from the originals (although – BEWARE! 'The Quibbler'! – the rather 'unmelty' treatment of The Melting Of Proto Nine [great Title, eh?] was a letdown).

Lo! And witness the introduction of a new Dalek Slogan: "DESIGN, IMPROVE & BUILD!" – which would seem to be a Stuart Palmer Original? (I couldn't find it in the comix) and which certainly adequately describes his own work, esp. viz-a-viz the aforementioned Dalek Space Vessels!

And speaking of Stuart's image-building work, with reference to "conquering the Light Barrier", I am reminded to mention something I was impressed by very often during my 1st viewing of AV's 01-04 and that is the beautiful sensibility of Lighting that permeates the series. There are constant appearances of lovelyly(!)-lit Daleks (and scenes) throughout. (One day I'll steal a few for T-Shirt Transfers – only for my own use I hasten to add!) And it is only proper to also mention the fine colour-sensibility on display as well.

At last we arrive at "Proto 13", the classic Dalek-Saucer (combined Pithelmet + Sombrero), a longtime favourite form used (in versions) many times throughout Fan Productions over the years and finally ending up as an updated CGI model, as a "selectable extra" replacement for the D-Saucer in the DVD version of 'The Dalek Invasion Of Earth'. Here we have the AVersion of the Original Creation from its appearance on the pages of TV Century 21 in May 1965.

The Amarylls themselves are brilliant! They look and sound great and benefit from a useful behavioural similarity with Daleks (and thus something the audience is already cued/'conditioned' to relate to as a way of animating non-facial beings) that being their parallel to Dalek'EyeStalks' in terms of 'motion-of-looks'. This imbues the Amaryll Flowers with a surprising degree of 'personality'animation to go with their excellent voicing and the (once-again well chosen) backing score.

(WARNING! 'The Spoiler'! [Who-reference"in-joke"revealed]) Yahoo! The return of the Dalek-Pyroflamaniacs – one of the most enjoyably silly visuals from (surviving) TV Dalek-footage* makes its Return here. Although, given the fact that these were first seen in November 1965, whilst the Daleks torching "scoutpaths" thru the Amaryll jungle appeared in TVC21 in May of the same year (though not with the same design detail), their appearance in AV's reconstruction effectively 'TimeTravels' them into being a 'First' appearance!

[* although these scenes would have been wonderfully alarming when they were first shown! ]

I noticed an interesting effect in the imagemix of the transition down from the surface of the Amaryll planet (Alvega – hmm… shades of 'Varga' there!) to its "Controller" Core: rather creepy face-like 'subvisuals' (reinforced by the deep voice of the core). Was that intentional? or just an experience of the psychological propensity to see faces in organic patterns?

And in my by now established "psychological propensity" for Scriptoid Pedantry I'm pleased to report a return to 'faithful form' in preserving all the original dialogue in this script!

The Amaryll Challenge (AV03) also introduces (or increases) more very nice touches of sound design of the kind that significantly enhanced the effect (subliminally for most listeners, but as an audiophile something i delighted in attending to) of the pleasure of Episode Two (AV04) which has set a standard for Stuart(&Co)'s future releases to maintain or advance.

More Power to your Pixels and Bits AV! (Um, well, you know what I mean, I'm sure)

Richard Dadd writes:

I know I've enthused about the other releases, and I greatly enjoyed Duel of The Daleks, but this first disc (I haven't watched disc 2 yet) was really something else. The quality of this instalment was particularly high. It was perfectly broadcastable. Half an hour of this on CBBC would be top quality after-school animation. Exactly what I would have loved when I was a kid. I hope that sounds like a compliment, because it's meant as one. Brilliant!

Steve Swales writes:

A.K.A. kill the hippies! In the midst of all this flower-power, the Daleks decide to do some punk gardening.

Actually the original strip predates the Summer of Love by two years so sadly the satire theory falls flat but this again is a humanoid-free zone and so adapts beautifully to the production techniques.

The Daleks have finally made it off Skaro at last and the Emperor gives an Oscar-winning propaganda speech to inferior species everywhere from their flying saucer. There's a lovely in-joke with the Dr. Who titles video-feedback on the Daleks' monitors.

Highly effective and unusual to see Daleks in lush sunlit greenery, which is later contrasted with a monstrous looking "end of level" guardian-type flower root at the end.

Nick Mellish writes:

The Amaryll Challenge is one of the highlights of the epic saga that is The Dalek Chronicles. Based around an attack by some vicious plant life, this instalment tells of the battle the Daleks fight in order to remind the Universe that the Daleks are here, and that they are reluctant to take any flack whatsoever from anyone…

Stuart Palmer's adaptations of The Dalek Chronicles have thus far impressed me greatly, and this one was no exception. In fact, I would go as far to say that this was the most impressive instalment yet. Despite being made before Power Play, the animation here is, in my opinion, better overall- perhaps it's the lack of humanoid characters, but in terms of animation I could spot no flaws whatsoever.

The short sequence where the Amaryll seeds spew forth from a Dalek's casing is as visually stunning here as it was as an iconic image in the original comic strip.

The Dalek Saucers too look very nice indeed, as do the set designs, the blending of CGI and real-life imagery, and… well, basically everything here.

The script adaptation is once more superb. Palmer has excelled himself with the brilliant pre-credit sequence, and if you were not aware that about the first ten minutes of this Episode was new material, you would never have guessed it.

One thing that did rather amuse me about the script was the high amount of exposition. My favourite example of this comes with an interior shot of a Dalek Saucer, in which a Dalek announces what his job is to the Emperor Dalek for no real reason - perhaps the Emperor Dalek was inspecting his minions like a dominating metallic teacher or some such authority figure!

No disrespect is intended in these comments, and they certainly did not diminish my enjoyment of the Episode at all; rather they once again reminded me of just how difficult a task Palmer has undertaken in adapting these Episodes from strip to screen.

This Episode has been split into two Parts of roughly twenty minutes length (Part One runs a little bit longer than Part Two), something that I am extremely grateful was done. The whole instalment now has the epic feel it deserves; by splitting these into two Parts, the fleshing out of the comic strip has been allowed to expand further than before, and Part One especially benefits from these changes.

As usual, the voice acting is great, with Louise Da Silva and Paul St. Marter being very impressive in particular.

The music by Empire 639 (Palmer himself) is brilliant, and at times very reminiscent of the score for the Season Seven Jon Pertwee adventure Ambassadors Of Death. As with the other Episodes, the overall sound design is very nice, and the Dalek voice modulation is as strong as ever.

There are no extras on this VCD, though I would strongly argue that the separation of The Amaryll Challenge into two parts is more than enough added value. The actual menu design is rather nice here; I liked the inclusion of screen grabs from the Episode itself.

In all, Palmer has turned in yet another superb adaptation of yet another brilliant episode of The Dalek Chronicles. The Episodes improve with each release and despite my conscious awareness that things can only get better, it feels like we have already reached the peak.

David John Barker writes:

I have not encountered any problems with the single disc edition and am pleased not to have to change discs in the middle of the action.

You have expanded on the material well while incorporating the necessary dialogue. Using the rather annoyed Emperor to speak the narrator's dialogue cataloguing the early spaceship failures was inspired.

The Dalek voices are distinctive and easily recognisable (e.g. the "panicky" Dalek in the underground caves) which adds character. The whispers of the plants were effective, as was the menacing voice of the Amaryll Controller. Also the twang of the background music is effective and atmospheric. The sound of the doors on the Dalek saucers and their animation is also well realised. However whenever a Dalek is seen going through a door they seem to revert to a 2-D cut-out appearance, aside from this they look very realistic throughout the production.

Scenes worthy of special mention are: the look the Emperor and Dalek controller exchange at the beginning when the ship is about to explode (uh-oh). The blips on the Emperors board winking out one by one on Alvega. The Dalek under attack by spores. And of course the fight with the worm (can you hear something?…). These scenes are all exceptionally animated and full of tension.

Overall a very good adaptation.

Anthony Culverwell writes:

I am writing to say how much I enjoyed the adaptation of The Amaryll Challenge, and how the people I’ve showed it to cannot believe you do the animation on your own. Some of it suffers slightly from the 2D-cut out effect used in places, and it is understandably difficult to get the saucer’s melting effect, but the highlights far outweigh these.

The script is nicely expanded, especially the firm basis of the original being made clear. The voices are also brilliantly done, the synthesiser is chillingly suitable and gives its own distinct quality. I thought perhaps altering the rapidity and tones may help to characterise some Daleks a little more. (I’m thinking in particular of the first movie where the black Dalek speedily asks “Which will it be?”) I thought the Amarylls were reminiscent of the Cryons from Attack of the Cybermen, but talking slower. I particularly enjoyed the little moments of characterisation in the second part. The anxiety started by the destruction of the scout (beautifully animated as well). The claustrophobia and fear of the planet being undefeatable are matched by the scout leader’s strict adherence to the Dalek hierarchy – “it is the Emperor’s decree!” Even better is the spouted propaganda, and the Dalek realises it should just get on with it!

The homage to Daleks’ Master Plan is very enjoyable, the action being recreated scene-for-scene, as well as the drilling section of the saucer and the fight sequence with the snake creature.

Tops animated Captain Scarlet any day!