It remains the biggest sin the BBC
has ever committed. Reams of tape, hours upon hours of vintage,
innovative programming, burnt like a Guy Fawkes effigy and turned to
ashes. Unwanted by those who owned them, loved by those who watched
Hundreds of shows that should have been treated with all the care
and attention that went into making them in the first place, wiped.
Never to be seen again.
|A screengrab of the Doctor Who
title sequence from the Hartnell Era.
How the BBC and its cousin stations ever got
away with it we will never know. So many classics, gone.
Dad's Army, Hancock,
Not Only But Also, The Likely Lads,
Top Of The Pops, shows which changed the
television landscape and influenced generations. Then there is the
granddaddy of them all, our favorite show, Doctor Who.
Thanks to the shortsightedness of bosses and normal everyday people
doing what they were told, 106 episodes from the shows infancy remain
missing believed wiped.
Those of you reading this all know the story, but let me refresh your
memory. Up until 1972 the BBC held every single episode of Doctor
Who made up to that point in it’s archives (All except
The Dalek’s Master Plan installment ‘The Feast
of Steven’) all of which were 16mm tele-recordings made
for commercial sale to foreign networks. The original episodes had been
stored on videotape yet since video was at this time a very expensive
commodity; the shows were transferred to film so the original tape could
be used again on future recordings. Both the BBC and ITV were storing
their shows in this way. What happened between 1972 and 1978, however,
is nothing short of a tragedy.
BBC Enterprises, thinking that nobody wanted these
episodes and that other copies had been made and sold the countries who
wanted them, or kept at the BBC Film Library, started systematically
destroying the prints. Other factors including copyright problems and
wrangling's with Equity also contributed to the films
fate. Even the need for space for other shows to be stored, with the BBC
not having a facility to store them in was a key factor in their demise.
These black and white gems were also seen as redundant with the
introduction of colour TV and with no outlet from repeats or a
commercial market to profit from (pre VHS and DVD times) there fate was
It wasn’t until 1978 when the BBC began to catalogue what it had in the
archive that the junking stopped. The intervention of super-fan
Ian Levine (who saved the very first Dalek story among many
others) and the efforts of Sue Malden means that today
there are far more episodes of Doctor Who in existence than
there would have been. Between 1963 and 1969 the BBC recorded 253
episodes of Doctor Who and before the intervention and
recoveries; fewer than 50 were known to exist within the BBC. Within a
few years and following enquiries to other stations plus the
British Film Institute, who returned three complete
Patrick Troughton stories, that figure had doubled.
|A previously missing Doctor Who film
reel from 'The Evil of the Daleks' (1967).
Already, Doctor Who was in a better state than other shows.
Many editions of Z-Cars - nearly 500 episodes
gone - United! and Not Only But
Also were completely missing. Although most of the latter
would eventually be recovered, the former no longer exists.
Throughout the 1980s episodes began to turn up in the unlikeliest of
places. Two episodes of the classic; The Dalek’s Master Plan
were found in a church basement. A film collector bought The
Evil of the Daleks; Episode 2 and The Faceless
Ones, Episode 3 at a car boot sale while The
Wheel in Space; Episode 3 was also found by a film buff.
Those discoveries lead to the prediction that engineers and workers,
horrified by what they were being asked to destroy, literally stole the
prints, saving them from a fiery end. Some fell into the hands of film
collectors who did not know, and possibly still don’t know, the rarity
of their collections.
As time went on more episodes returned from
abroad. Three William Hartnell stories were returned
from Nigeria in 1984 and a few years’ later four episodes from
The Ice Warriors were found in a cupboard in Villiers
House, which the BBC was in the process of moving out of. One was even
in the wrong can and one that should have contained Episode 6 of
Fury From The Deep had something completely different
in it all together. Who knows, perhaps more episodes exist to this day
in unmarked or misleading cans.
By the end of the eighties the recovery of lost Who episodes began to
dry up. It seemed as if the well had truly gone dry until all four
episodes of Patrick Troughton’s The Tomb of
the Cybermen, were returned from a television station in
Hong Kong in 1992. Fans were understandably elated with the news since
it was thought of as one of the all time great stories, and even though
some were disappointed by its production values it’s reputation remains
on the whole untarnished and it is still to this day is the earliest
surviving Troughton story known to exist.
|Publicity still from 'The Tomb of
the Cybermen' (1967).
In 1996 Australian fan turned researcher Damian Shanaman
discovered clips from missing episodes in the Australian archives which
were cut because they were considered too disturbing for younger
viewers. This enabled some clips to be edited back together with
episodes held in the Film Library to make them complete again. 8mm
recordings made by fans were also found, who obtained them by pointing a
camera at the TV monitor as the show was originally broadcast.
Just 3 years later a film collector in New Zealand returned the first
installment of The Crusade (The
Lion). The film was rather scratched but its discovery
meant that there are now currently only 2 episodes from the entire
second season of Doctor Who still missing; ironically both are
from the same story. Further clips were also found in New Zealand in
2002. These were also censor clips and then a year later a reel found at
BBC’s Windmill Road archive led to the discovery of cutting room floor
footage from Fury From The Deep and rather
more intriguing a trailer broadcast the night before the first episode
of The Power of the Daleks. Then eagle eyed
viewers noticed footage from this story in a Tomorrow's
World programme in 2005. These findings were almost as
unexpected as the print of the pilot episode turning up 20 years
Almost five years after the return of The Lion
a former BBC employer announced that he rescued Day of
Armageddon, the second part of The Dalek’s
Master Plan in the seventies when he found it a room of
films to be junked at Ealing Film Studios. Luckily he had kept in very
good shape, which now left only nine episodes missing from the epic.
|Episode title screengrab from the
rediscovered 'Galaxy Four' (1965).
By 2011, 108 episodes were sill missing. Until the best early Christmas
present for all Who fans was announced. I remember sitting in my local
pub, watching my team get cheated out of a win (if you saw Stoke versus
Spurs then you know what I’m on about) when I decided to check
Facebook and see if my friend had uploaded her pictures of our
night out yet.
As I was scrolling down my news feed, there it was in
capital letters. MISSING EPISODES RETURNED TO THE BBC. THE
EPISODES ARE GALAXY FOUR EPISODE 3 AND THE UNDERWATER MENACE EPISODE 3.
MORE NEWS TO FOLLOW. I knew it could not be a hoax; it was from
the BBC Doctor Who website. All of a sudden the end of
seven game winning streak no longer seemed important and I raced home to
witness the proof for myself, two lovely clips of each show. Happy Days!
What makes these discoveries all the more amazing is that the footage is
now nearly 50 years old and the other the earliest surviving Troughton
episode. The episodes have been shown at the BFI Missing
Believed Wiped event earlier that day and the fact that
these episodes will soon be seen again by a new generation of fans is
equally exciting. We can’t wait to see these treasures. A film collector
at a fete purchased them in the early eighties. They will now be
restored to their former glory and we will await their release like a
child on Christmas morning.
Still, it doesn’t seem fair that over 100 editions of Doctor Who remain
lost while another long running programme like Coronation
Street has a full archive of thousands of episodes.
Doctor Who is blessed with an advantage over all the other shows
that were wiped. Thanks to the dedication and hard work of fans, every
single episode from the 1960’s does exist in audio form, recorded on
tape recorders pointed at the television. These recordings have been
painstakingly restored and released for commercial sale adding another
quality to the show. As audio plays, the missing episodes are just as
terrifying as when they originally went out and they encourage the
listener to use their imagination and paint the pictures in your head.
|Missing Doctor Who ReAnimated for
'The Invasion' DVD release (2006).
Some fans have even gone as far as reconstructing the missing stories
through various means. Whether they are through telesnaps or even CGI
(with varied results) the same amount of effort has been put in for no
financial gain. These labours of love can be found on websites and
YouTube and just goes to show the desire to see their
favourite stories again.
With the introduction of DVD as a medium at the turn of the millennium,
the range of Doctor Who stories to be released was obviously
going to be effected by what was no longer held in the vaults. In 2006
Cosgrove Hall, the company responsible for children’s
programmes like Dangermouse and
Postman Pat animated the two missing parts of the 1968
story, The Invasion, which was then released
with the other remaining parts. With the story now complete,
2|entertain have also commissioned Big Finish
Productions and Theta Sigma to animate the two
lost parts of The Reign of Terror. Those
episodes were nearly saved, but the facility that held the only
remaining copies in Sierra Leone was destroyed during civil unrest in
1974. Whether or not these reconstructions have been inspired by the fan
remakes online, they are still one step further to the BBC having a full
archive of Doctor Who again.
Speaking of a full archive, it is a misconception that only the first
two Doctors were affected by episode wiping. When the archives were
audited for the first time in 1978 it was discovered that the videotapes
containing early Jon Pertwee seasons had also been
destroyed. In fact, all of Pertwee’s seasons had at least one story that
was incomplete. However, these stories had been recorded onto 16mm film
and although this now meant that the original colour copies didn’t exist
it does mean that all of the episodes broadcast in the 1970’s onwards
are complete, a luxury which deserted The Goodies
and other shows. Also, since the stories had been broadcast in colour at
home and abroad, colour tapes from countries such as America were
returned and are used as a guide when colourizing the black and white
footage for DVD releases.
There have been many 'so near, yet, so far moments' along the way when
episodes were junked, just before they were saved at the BBC.
The Wheel in Space; Episode 5, The Power
of the Daleks; Episode 6, The Ice Warriors;
Episode 3 and The Celestial Toymaker; Episode
2 were fated to junking as were all four parts of Galaxy
Four (or so we thought) and the fourth part of
The Dalek’s Master Plan, ‘The Traitors’
was never returned after being loaned to Blue Peter and
not the final part of The Tenth Planet as the
fan myth goes.
Of all the episodes no longer in existence the one that is most sorely
missed is that final part of Hartnell’s last story. It is also the only
story to be just one episode away from completion. Episode 4 of
The Tenth Planet, which shows the Doctor regenerate
for the first time, and only represented by a clip and a few poor
quality 8mm film trims, is on the BBC’s top ten most-wanted list of
missing footage which includes the corporation’s footage of the moon
|A surviving still from the lost
fourth episode of 'The Tenth Planet' (1966).
There was, of course, that incident when a Mr. Roger
Barrett (the real name of Pink Floyd’s former
frontman Syd Barrett) claimed he had the episode on
videotape and ended up conning the BBC and Doctor Who fandom
when this turned out to be a hoax. Its whereabouts remains a mystery to
this day. But one day it will come back, yes, one day...
The most disturbing factor in the junking is its sporadic nature.
Seasons 1, 2 and 6 are incredibly well represented, with The
Space Pirates being the only story from season six to be
represented by an orphaned part. The reason behind the lack of episodes
from Seasons 3, 4 and 5 (especially Troughton’s first two seasons) is
that there were less television stations around the world who purchased
them. In fact, only seven Troughton episodes exist from Season Four and
The Tomb of the Cybermen is the only complete
story from his first two years in the role.
Even stories involving the
eternally popular Daleks (The Dalek's Master Plan,
The Power of the Daleks and The
Evil of the Daleks) were destroyed and Season Five, which
has long been described by fans as one of the best in the entire series,
So, what does the future hold in our quest? These latest findings have
given an injection of hope to Who fans everywhere, that more will turn
up, it’s just down to a lot of hard work and luck and getting in touch
with the right people. Richard Molesworth’s brilliant
book; Wiped! Doctor Who’s Missing Episodes,
has shed new light on where the films were originally sold and which
ones are likely to turn up. Furthermore, the discovery of footage
belonging to other shows may also encourage film collectors and TV
stations to look through they’re collections again. A former BBC
cameraman returned footage of a long lost David Bowie
performance on Top Of The Pops the same week
it was announced that Galaxy Four and
The Underwater Menace had been returned. A couple of
years ago, a man purchased a World War One propaganda film made by
Charlie Chaplin over 90 years ago, previously from
eBay for just over three quid! So you never know,
Doctor Who episodes may still be turning up way after our lifetime.
In my own personal view I think it is an impossible dream that the BBC
archives will have a full quota of Doctor Who episodes again.
Having said that, I, like many other fans, still believe that more
episodes are out there. I do think that one day; there will be below 100
episodes missing but not many more after that. Time has passed since
their original broadcast and junking and if episodes are sitting in
attics, garden sheds or cupboards, the condition will only keep
deteriorating as time goes by. Maybe one of the many prints made of
Marco Polo is in a far-flung country? Maybe
the two lost episodes from The Ice Warriors
are in a loft somewhere? For all we know The Tenth Planet;
Episode 4 could still be sitting in an unmarked can
somewhere in London!
So, I implore you dear reader, let’s keep the good work going. Ask
around, take comfort in the fact that so many black and white gems do
exist and in the inspirational good work of Ian Levine,
Sue Malden and Paul Vanezis among
others. Pull your sleeves up – we’re going on a treasure hunt!
Copyright Hayden Gribble & Doctor Who Online, 2012.