Telling the Tale
Many Doctor Who fans can recall the first occasion during which they were introduced to the shocking fact that not all of the televised Doctor Who adventures dating back to November 23, 1963 still exist in the BBC Archives. Some fans were perhaps dealt the blow at conventions, or local fan group meetings, or through their favorite fanzine. During the mid eighties I had been devouring Doctor Who as it was broadcast on not one but two local PBS stations (WSKG in Binghamton, NY and WCNY in Syracuse, NY), and my local bookstore was well stocked with the latest Target novelisations. However, it was not until my first Doctor Who convention in Buffalo, NY in 1986 that I was first introduced to Doctor Who Magazine; I bought a few issues and wore them to a frazzle with repeated readings. A few months later my parents returned from a vacation with an unexpected surprise: my father had purchased for me a collection of used DWM issues – over 150! - from a comic book store. I was in heaven for months, absorbing more about Doctor Who and its illustrious history than I had ever thought possible. It was during this time that I read horrifying articles discussing the gaps in the archives and joy filled news regarding the latest discovery of long-lost episodes in foreign countries. I literally experienced an introduction to, the peak of, and the depreciation of the entire missing episodes saga in the span of a few months time. For many years after I eagerly waited for each subsequent issue of DWM to arrive in the mailbox so that I could immediately flip to the Gallifrey Guardian news section and look for information regarding the latest lost episode find. For Doctor Who fans, DWM was and still is the single most reliable and accurate source for missing episodes news and information, and here we shall chronicle the history of the missing episodes saga as reported over the last 20 plus years by DWM...
October 17th, 1979 marked the publication of Doctor Who Magazine's very first issue, although at this time it was known as Doctor Who Weekly, but it wasn't until the 1981 Winter Special that the missing episodes plight was discussed in great detail. The topic was discussed as part of an in-depth interview with Sue Malden, the Archive Selector for the BBC Film Library. The article introduced not only the subject of missing episodes, but also provided a first-hand glimpse of the BBC Archives, explaining that "There are thousands upon thousands of film cans housed on processions of metal racks stretching almost as far back as the eye can see. Because of the strict lighting, humidity and temperature controls (the vaults are maintained at an icy 55 degrees Fahrenheit) needed to preserve the film copies in pristine condition, the interior of the archives tends to resemble some huge Pharaoh's tomb - a storehouse of treasures kept safe from the ravages of time." Sue Malden proceeded to describe the reasons why episodes of Doctor Who were initially junked and how many were later rescued from BBC Enterprises, including much of the first two seasons in the form of 16 mm film telerecordings.
The article also praised Malden, who "Made the hunt for missing Doctor Who something of a pet project. Often the work is arduous, checking and cross checking cards and index files, and occasionally it can be physically demanding - literally involving wading through can after can ensuring that the label on the outside agrees with that stuck on the spool inside." Malden revealed that by just such means she discovered the unscreened Pilot episode, and on a visit to BBC Enterprises was astonished to find that The Web of Fear Episode One was among a pile of film cans recently returned from overseas. Ending on a positive note, Malden concluded the interview by stressing that "If anything, the hunt for old material...has never been more intense than it is now," and that any readers who might know of any leads that could result in old and presumed missing BBC programs being returned to the archives were welcome to contact her. The article served as a fascinating introduction to the BBC Archives and missing Doctor Who material; fandom was now on the alert...
Regrettably, it would be almost five years before DWM would again provide a feature article discussing the state of Doctor Who in the archives. Instead, readers settled for news of missing episode recoveries in the ever popular Gallifrey Guardian news section. DWM 62 (March '82) announced the return of The Abominable Snowmen Episode Two by a private film collector, leaving the missing episode count at 135, then DWM 68 (Sep. '82) reported that Episode Six of The Reign of Terror had also been returned to the BBC Archives by a collector. Episode One of the color Jon Pertwee adventure The Invasion of the Dinosaurs was found on 16 mm black-and-white film accoring to DWM 79 (Aug. 1983), while DWM 80 (Sept. '83) reported that ABC Television in Australia had returned to the BBC color videotape copies of Terror of the Autons, Claws of Axos, Colony in Space, The Curse of Peladon, The Sea Devils, The Mutants, The Time Monster, Frontier in Space and Planet of the Daleks (It is known today, however, that this original report was riddled with errors, as some of these episodes were not recovered from Australia but Canada, British Columbia and the United States!). But the biggest news of the year came in DWM 82 (Nov. '83) when it was announced that "Not one but two black and white, 1965 William Hartnell episodes have been returned to the BBC! The two episodes in question are both from The Daleks' Master Plan, Episodes Five and Ten. The story of their recovery began when an assistant for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Wandsworth was cleaning out the basement cellar and found six cans of film [One episode of Warship, one episode of Adventure World, a couple of Schools Programmes and two episodes of something called Doctor Who!]. The assistant phoned the BBC and asked if they would like them back...Not long after, the films were taken to Brentford Film Library. The prints were immediately and carefully examined and were found not only to correspond with their labeled insignia but to be in near perfect condition. They were then sent to the laboratories to be cleaned and copied and by now should be sitting proudly on the library shelves awaiting the prodigious authorisation for rescreening."
The next missing episode recovery reported by DWM turned out to be nothing of the sort. DWM 88 (May '84) featured an article entitled Who'd Have Believed It? in which writer John Wakefield reported that not only had the last, lost installment of William Hartnell's The Tenth Planet been found (by the BBC's Features and Talks department during their post Christmas "throwing out binge"), but the newly discovered episode would be colorized by a Canadian company! Several hints sprinkled throughout the piece confirmed what a few readers had guessed - it was nothing more than an elaborate and fictional April Fools joke!
Much good news, however, was right around the corner. DWM 89 (June '84) announced in The Return of the Toymaker that "No, it's not a rematch between the Celestial Toymaker and the new Doctor, but an episode of their original fight back in 1966! ABC TV in Australia have recently uncovered the episode The Final Test and returned it to the BBC where it now lies in the vaults, bringing down the number of missing episodes to 126." The following month DWM 90 (July '84) revealed that both Jon Pertwee's Inferno (in color) and Episode Three of Patrick Troughton's The Wheel in Space were back in the BBC Archives. The Troughton episode had apparently been returned by a private collector after DWM 87 (April '84) reported that an anonymous collector in Portsmouth possessed a missing Patrick Troughton/Cybermen/Cybermat episode. To conclude the year DWM 95 (Dec. '84) provided holiday cheer with the news that "Six episodes of early Doctor Who have been returned to the archives at the BBC...Episodes One, Three and Four of The Time Meddler and One, Two and Four of The War Machines...The episodes have been returned, would you believe, from Nigeria, after four months of extensive research by fan Ian Levine, with help from the authorities of Nigerian State Television Service." In retrospect, 1984 had been quite a year for missing episode recoveries. Interestingly, discussion of the Inferno discovery included the comment that "Whilst we in England are unlikely to see it, at least our Australian readers, used to such repeats, may get a chance to view it." If the prevailing belief at the time was indeed that UK fans would not directly benefit from missing episode returns, it is easy to see why some UK fans possessing lost material might not have been eager to return it to the same BBC that junked the episodes in the first place...
January 1985 began with DWM 96 providing the first feature article on the topic of missing episodes since the Sue Malden interview in 1981. In Richard Marson's BBC Archives Update, BBC Archive Selector Steve Bryant reviewed the return of many color Jon Pertwee episodes previously held in only black-and-white form, discussed the threat of color loss and film quality deterioration, and highlighted what clips from missing episodes exist in the vaults. For example, "Fortunately, a huge number of Blue Peter editions were retained and among these are short clips from shows like The Power of the Daleks, The War Machines and The Daleks' Master Plan as well as the greater proportion of the Hartnell/Troughton regeneration." Once again, Bryant asked to hear from anyone who could help return missing material to the BBC.
During the 1980's the BBC actively made inquiries to many countries which had previously purchased Doctor Who, in the hope of locating lost episodes. This resulted not only in the generous finds from Australia and Nigeria in 1984, but a surprise in 1985 from Cyprus as DWM 97 (Feb. '85) reported that Episodes One, Two, Three and Six of William Hartnell's The Reign of Terror were found and returned to the UK by the BBC's Roger Brunskill, "Who had telexed many countries asking for any missing Doctor Who material to be returned to its rightful home...The list of missing episodes is now down to 120, and the message from Steve Bryant is, as ever, keep on looking!"
DWM 101 (June '85) provided a timely update on those episodes recently returned to the archives, reassuring fans that "They've all been inspected, and where necessary cleaned up, and are now safely interred at the BBC's Brentford Library. Episodes One to Three of The Reign of Terror are said to be in extremely good condition, possibly the best of all those episodes so far returned...As to future returns, William Hartnell stories still stand more chance of discovery than poor old Patrick Troughton's, because Hartnell's episodes were sold abroad in greater quantities than those of his successor." Following this, however, fans had to wait until late 1987 for the next noteworthy episode find, but it was well worth the wait. DWM 127 (Aug. '87) stated that The Faceless Ones Episode Three was reported to be in existence, then DWM 130 (Nov. '87) declared that "The trail that started some months ago with a screening of a missing Patrick Troughton episode at a convention has finally led to this and another episode from the same Doctor's era being returned to the BBC Archives. The first is The Faceless Ones Episode Three...But perhaps the most exciting news comes with the knowledge that alongside this episode, the BBC have now also got Episode Two of the Dalek epic The Evil of the Daleks. This really is a find, as it is undoubtedly one of the best stories of the Second Doctor, and certainly one much loved and remembered by fans...BBC Archive boss Steve Bryant announced "Both episodes have been cleaned up, which is something we always do when material is returned and I'm particularly delighted with the quality of the Evil of the Daleks episode. The episodes were bought some years back by a film collector from a car boot sale in Buckinghamshire and once approached, he proved most forthcoming in returning them..." Bryant went on to thank those responsible for the find - including Paul Vanezis, who today continues the missing episodes search as part of the BBC's unofficial Doctor Who Restoration Team - and reminded readers that the missing episode count now stood at 118...
DWM 138 (July '88) marked another visit to the BBC Archives and an interview with Adam Lee, Steve Bryant's successor. Richard Marson once again delved into the issue of why Doctor Who episodes had been junked and how BBC efforts to retrieve that material were proceeding. Entitled Missing Episodes - The Hunt Continues!, the article revealed that the archives contained a 70 minute studio recording spool featuring scenes and re-takes from the Jon Pertwee adventure The Claws of Axos, complete with the original opening sequence of the story and the never-used title The Vampire from Space. Regarding the return of old material from both foreign archives and film collectors, Lee explained that "We obviously can't threaten to prosecute, because that way we'd never get anything back but by the same token, private film collectors can be very difficult to deal with." Lee also pointed out that the BBC offers unique conditions for storing material in the best conditions possible, and that films in the hands of collectors is susceptible to deterioration: "You can - and do - clean up what material is returned, but there is a stage where the damage becomes virtually irreversible. If there is material out there we don't have, of course we are interested. We've done all we can to assure fans and collectors that all we want is a copy and that no legal repercussions will ensue as a result of a discovery. We can do no more except hope that whoever can help, will help, before it is too late."
The missing episode count stood at 118 until DWM 143 (Dec. '88) dramatically proclaimed that "Four episodes from the missing Patrick Troughton story The Ice Warriors were returned to the BBC Archives in September...According to sources, the episodes were found during demolition work at the BBC studios in Ealing. BBC Archive Selector Adam Lee explained to DWM that Episodes One, Four, Five and Six had been found." The article included comments from Director Derek Martinus, who beamed "First we get The Evil of the Daleks [Episode Two] and now, what with The Ice Warriors returning, my past really does seem to be haunting me! All the same, I'm extremely delighted they're back!" In addition to the news story, DWM 143 also included an article entitled The Ice Warriors - In from the Cold! written by Adrian Riglesford, which chronicled the making of the story, the creation of the Ice Warriors, and insight from then Producer Innes Lloyd, who quipped "I'm absolutely delighted that such a large chunk of one of my stories has been found, although it does still seem a bit mysterious as to why it's mostly my work on Doctor Who that's missing from the archives. As to whether this is some kind of comment on my work from the powers that be, I'd rather not speculate!"
Perhaps it was that major discovery which instigated yet another visit to the BBC Archives in DWM 150 (July '89). This time Brian J. Robb questioned Adam Lee, who was intent upon clearing up a few misconceptions regarding missing episodes. "There's this myth of the terrible junking in the Sixties and Seventies. I want to dispel the myth that some gremlin sat there saying "Ha ha, it's all going to go!' It was the usual review of our holdings. Nothing was thrown away for space reasons. It was thrown away because at the time it was perceived to have no value to the BBC in terms of repeats or long term use. Firstly, television was seen by many as ephemeral. Secondly, until relatively recently the BBC had no obligation under its charter to keep an archive of any sort. It may sound like a petty bureaucratic point, but it's true...Hence, the tapes were wiped." Robb asked why some episodes were junked while others survived, to which Lee explained "Some were kept as examples of the programme - there was an archive policy. Shada was kept by the archive as an example of the amount of work that goes into a programme which isn't even transmitted. Some survived because BBC Enterprises sold them. They had master copies, or tapes were returned from abroad." As for the possibility that BBC employees copied tapes due to be wiped, Lee responded "You hear stories about people who were so heart broken about the junking that they put things in their bags and took them home. This is highly unlikely. Junking and wiping are routine procedures in large TV companies." Lee concluded by stressing that the recent boom in home video sales had illustrated better than ever the importance of preserving archive material for future release...
The next missing episodes news to appear arrived in the form of an apparent hoax, as DWM 153 (Oct. '89) reported that a trade paper advertisement by an individual claiming to be in possession of The Tomb of the Cybermen was most likely a hoax, as the person had also falsely claimed one year earlier to possess episodes of Fury from the Deep. This article also marked the first public mention of the Cyprus TV station which had been destroyed in 1974 while perhaps housing missing Hartnell episodes. DWM 158 (March '90) offered readers an updated list of Doctor Who episodes still being sought by the BBC Archives, and more hoaxing later in the year as DWM 165 (Oct. '90) announced that "British fandom was rocked by a rumour that complete runs of Doctor Who's butchered Season Four and Five had been discovered in Africa. The rumour, which began within the BBC, sadly turned out to be the product of a heated imagination..." The rumor mill continued at full speed as DWM 170 (Feb. '91) reported that a fan had claimed to have seen The Tomb of the Cybermen in the far east in 1978, information passed along to the BBC; fans in Canada were searching for a possible print of Marco Polo with full assistance from the TV company that broadcast the series in the Sixties; and "Disturbing rumours...that a consortium is working together to keep a copy of a missing Hartnell episode, believed to be The Tenth Planet Episode Four, out of the BBC Archives, to keep its black market value high amongst selfish fans."
Another updated missing episodes guide appeared in DWM 171 (March '91) along with a Gallifrey Guardian news feature entitled Missing Episodes: The Search Continues which commented upon recent British press and radio reports regarding the state of missing episodes. The article informed readers that "The subject of mass junkings of BBC material is both contentious and confusing but it seems generally certain that up until 1972, every episode existed except The Daleks' Master Plan: The Feast of Steven whose rights were never sold abroad. The purge of Hartnell and Troughton material occurred a year or two later with Galaxy Four and The Time Meddler the last to go in 1978." And DWM 176 (Aug. '91) provided an update on the earlier fan consortium tale in Missing Episodes Club: The Plot Thickens, stating that "DWM has been contacted by one of the people offered the chance to be part of an elite 'club' created to keep The Tenth Planet Episode Four out of the BBC Archives. According to this source, ten people were approached to contribute fifty pounds each for a copy of the episode. The source, who obviously does not wish to be named, also claimed Troughton's missing Evil of the Daleks Episode Three and The Invasion Episode One were in existence and he'd seen the latter in the early Eighties although this was a poor copy without sound."
After three years of missing episodes rumors and hoaxes, fans were rewarded with perhaps the most unexpected and exciting recovery yet, as DWM 184 (March '92) announced that "Following the return of a large amount of BBC material to Britain in late January from Asia, DWM can confirm that this included a print of the much praised Troughton story The Tomb of the Cybermen. The serial was found in Hong Kong and has been delivered to BBC Home Video for rush release in May." As the article illustrated, "Apart from the recent find of effects material from The Daleks' Master Plan, some of which was used in the recent Resistance is Useless documentary, this is the first discovery of complete missing episodes since 1988," and amazingly enough "In an effort to stall the well organized Doctor Who rumour wagon within every arm of the BBC, a counter-rumour was also being spread that the find was episodes of An Unearthly Child in Arabic!" Just when fans were beginning to wonder when - and if - more material would resurface, they were treated to the return of a well established classic. In addition to this already dramatic news, a Stop Press teaser claimed "More BBC film cans found and due for return to archives in early February, sources claim they include more Doctor Who - more news as soon as we get it!" Regrettably, further news regarding this teaser never was to arrive. And as mentioned above, the Tomb story was followed by news that "Over one hundred seconds of effects film from The Daleks' Master Plan was discovered during research work for the Resistance is Useless documentary."
As interest in the missing episodes saga enjoyed a resurgence, DWM 186 (May '92) announced that Jon Pertwee's Death to the Daleks Episode One had been found in color, followed by DWM 187 (June '92) which presented their first article (outside of the Gallifrey Guardian news section) on the subject in almost three years in Adrian Riglesford's Lost Tapes. Riglesford provided further details on the Tomb of the Cybermen recovery, noting that "Apparently, it was stored in a TV company vault with numerous other cans of BBC television product. They were moved when a war broke out in that country and the vault was damaged be shell-fire. Eventually, the film stock ended up in another vault in Hong Kong, from where a batch of material arrived back at the BBC towards the end of 1991. In amongst these cans...was a certain set of four Doctor Who episodes about a race of humanoids being excavated from their own vaults!" Riglesford also discussed the important distinction between knowing which archives still required searching and actually gaining access to such areas: "Problems do occur in attempting to get material back from certain countries, especially those afflicted with what could politely be described as delicate political situations, such as South Africa - although recent events may slowly change this state of affairs. Recently, a writer - not connected with Doctor Who - was interviewed about working there, and the restrictions placed upon him. He commented that black and white stories of Doctor Who were being shown as recently as the mid Eighties. As to what exactly they were, and where they are now, remains a mystery."
Disappointingly, following Riglesford's enthusiastic article, it would be a long and frustrating four years before mention of any missing episode finds. DWM 207 (Dec. '93) did provide a surprise, however, explaining how John Cura's Doctor Who telesnap collection had been discovered, while DWM 211 (April '94) reported on Graham Strong's collection of high-quality audio recordings of many missing episodes. DWM 217 (Sep. '94) shared with readers the news that a short clip of exploding Daleks from The Power of the Daleks Episode Six and footage from The Daleks' Master Plan Episode Three had been found, then two years later in DWM 246 (Dec. '96) it was revealed that "Television vaults in Australia have yielded a range of brief excerpts from Doctor Who episodes missing from the BBC Archives, including The Smugglers, The Highlanders, The Macra Terror and Fury from the Deep. The material concerned was cut by the Australian Board of Film censors to make the episodes more acceptable for their audience; the recovered material therefore represents a bizarre collection of hangings, stabbings, injections and assorted deaths..." Although not as exhilarating as an episode find, this was delightful news considering the lack of recent discoveries.
DWM 256 (Sep '97) offered the second installment of an outstanding and detailed three part feature by Richard Molesworth covering Doctor Who in the BBC's film and videotape libraries. Also available online at the Restoration Team website, Out of the Vaults, Part Two - The Seventies discussed in part the wiping of Jon Pertwee stories, detailing the late Seventies creation of the BBC Film and Videotape Library and their subsequent discovery that many Pertwee episodes no longer existed. For example, at one time "From Season Nine, only Day of the Daleks remained in its entirety, plus Episodes Four, Five and Six of The Sea Devils and Episodes Three to Six of The Mutants. Season Eight only had three episodes remaining - The Claws of Axos Episodes One and Four, and The Daemons Episode Four - while Season Seven only had a single episode, The Ambassadors of Death Episode One." In all, the Pertwee episodes that remained "Represented only about half of the Third Doctor's episodes - the rest were all missing." Fortunately, the Pertwee era is (mostly) complete today as 16 mm telerecordings were returned from overseas broadcasters who had purchased the Pertwee adventures. Inferno was returned from Canada in 1985, as Molesworth pointed out that "The return of Inferno gave rise to one of the most frequently quoted myths regarding missing episodes. When John Nathan-Turner announced its return in an interview with an American SF magazine, the writer erroneously reported the recovery of a "7 part Patrick Troughton story in colour, which the BBC only held in black and white." Rumours of a colour copy of Evil of the Daleks persist to this day!"
The third and final installment of Molesworth's Out of the Vaults series appeared in DWM 257 (Oct. '97) and discussed "Doctor Who's darkest hour - the mass junkings of First and Second Doctor episodes..." Meticulously researched and fascinatingly detailed, the article documented the initial destruction of Hartnell and Troughton videotapes (used for initial UK broadcasts) and the fortunate return of much (but not all) Sixties material from BBC Enterprises, overseas sources and film collectors. Fan and episode hunter Ian Levine recalled how "The Doctor Who Appreciation Society had decided to show Galaxy Four at their 1978 convention. They got full clearances from the actors, the writer and the musicians to screen the story, and then approached BBC Enterprises to buy the prints of all four episodes. BBC Enterprises told them that the prints had been junked about three weeks earlier," while Australian fan Damian Shanahan recounted his 1996 discovery of the ABC-TV censor clips: "I could hardly believe it when I finally realized the clips had been kept after all this time...My next task is to try and find out what exactly happened to the viewing prints of the 11 episodes of The Daleks' Master Plan that were sent to ABC in the Sixties..."
Molesworth's series regarding the BBC Archives ended positively, believing that "With the persistence and effort of Shanahan and the many others who still delve deep into the mysterious disappearance of so much of Doctor Who's past, who knows what might be found mouldering in a rusty film can in a TV archive, attic or even church crypt? Let's hope that the story is not over yet..." But was this merely unfounded optimism? No complete missing episodes had at this point been recovered since The Tomb of the Cybermen in 1992, and fans could hardly be blamed for losing hope that more would ever resurface. Patience, however, paid off as DWM 275 (March '99) proclaimed that, almost beyond belief, "Thirty years to the month after the BBC wiped its master copy of The Crusade's first episode, The Lion...a film print of this William Hartnell-starring installment has been discovered in Auckland, New Zealand. Absent for three decades, a copy is now safely back in the BBC Archives." Fan Paul Scoones (who made the discovery alongside fellow New Zealander Neil Lambess) penned the story of The Lion's discovery, while the Restoration Team's Steve Roberts analyzed the state of the film print, Richard Molesworth tracked the film print's journey from the UK to New Zealand, and Gary Russell provided a detailed review for readers of the long-lost missing episode. A completely unexpected discovery had now restored hope within fandom that more missing Doctor Who material may be waiting to be found. If and when that material is discovered, rest assured that DWM will share the news with Doctor Who fans around the world.
Thanks to Martyn Alner for his invaluable contributions to this article. For more information regarding Doctor Who Magazine visit his website, The Unofficial Doctor Who Magazine Guide. Thanks also to Michael R. Wall for his contribution of vaulable DWM material. No DWM copyright infringement is intended, all images copyright DWM and BBC.
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This website created by Mark Parmerter in April 2001, last updated June 19, 2001. Thanks to Steve Phillips, Dominic Jackson, Robert Franks, Richard Molesworth, Paul Scoones, Roger Anderson, Paul Vanezis, Stephen James Walker, Steve Roberts, Nicholas Fitzpatrick, Peter Finklestone, Damian Shanahan, Paul Lee, Andrew Martin and Graham Howard. Doctor Who, Daleks and Tardis are all trademarks of the BBC. The Daleks are copyright of the Terry Nation estate and designed by Raymond Cusick. All images copyright BBC. No attempt has been made to supplant any copyright held by the BBC. This website is designed to serve as a resource for Doctor Who fans and researchers. There is no intention to infringe upon the rights of any copyright holder(s). Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, comments or suggestions. Enjoy!