Classic Doctor Who fans rejoice–two missing episodes from the series have been returned to the BBC archive!
Episode 3 of “Galaxy 4” (a First Doctor serial) and episode 2 of “The Underwater Menace” (a Second Doctor serial) were recovered and shown this Sunday at the British Film Institute’s annual “Missing Believed Wiped” event at the National Film Theatre in London.
The canisters containing these treasures had been purchased by Terry Burnett, a film collector, at a village fete in Southhampton in the early 1980s. Burnett was, until recently, unaware that they contained the missing material. The canisters were determined to be from the ABC channel in Australia, although several scenes from “The Underwater Menace” were removed by censors. It’s hard to imagine Doctor Who necessitating censoring, but thankfully, the missing scenes have also been restored thanks to the National Archives of Australia.
But how exactly did these episodes go missing in the first place? As fans of the original series know (and lament), in the 1960s and 70s it was common practice for the BBC to wipe the tapes of television programs whose repeat rights had expired. No one at the BBC predicted how desirable this material would be in the future (especially since at the time, the popularity of black and white episodes was waning), or if they did the more immediate concerns of budget and storage space were put ahead of any archival efforts. As a result of this, over 100 episodes of the original run of Doctor Who are missing–and that’s after several have since been recovered.
Some of these serials went missing in their entirety– as was the case with “Galaxy 4”–while others are only missing select episodes.
A fan group called Loose Cannon Productions puts together reconstructions of lost episodes using production stills, surviving clips, and fan-recorded audio in an attempt to tie together gaps in the stories. Official BBC reconstructions have also been made, such as the 12-minute “highlights reel” for two missing episodes in “The Ice Warriors,” a full reconstruction with audio for an episode of “The Tenth Planet,” and two fully animated episodes for the 2006 DVD release of “The Invasion.”
It has been a number of years since complete episodes have been recovered (with the last being episode 2 of “The Daleks’ Master Plan” in 2004), so this latest find is particularly exciting. “Galaxy 4” and “The Underwater Menace” will eventually see commercial release, but in the meantime, clips have been released on the BBC’s website.