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DoorQ.Com | Has the BBC located a bounty of the 106 missing ‘Doctor Who’ episodes from the 1960’s?
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Has the BBC located a bounty of the 106 missing ‘Doctor Who’ episodes from the 1960’s?

During the early days of TV in Britain, a lot of shows that went out over the BBC airwaves were saved, but due to various actor contract issues, a lot were never rebroadcast. While the BBC did not have a central archive back then, BBC Enterprises did keep copies of programs they deemed exploitable to other commercial markets. What they did keep had a tendency to be piled up in whatever property the network had back then –which meant that no one was keeping an eye on them or even cataloging what they actually had.


Starting in 1967, the BBC Engineering Department began erasing the master video tapes of Doctor Who, along with whole swathes of other late 1950s and early 60s TV shows. Beyond contract issues with the actors, along with other concerns, the BBC held the belief that there was no reason for this material to be kept. They cited the cost of video, which was high at the time, plus there was no place to store all these older shows, especially as they wanted to keep the newer shows they were producing for sales overseas . Plus, it was assumed, that with broadcasters across the globe converting to color, no one would want to buy old b&w TV shows. So while the Film Library kept programs that had been made on film, it was the Engineering Department responsibility for storing those master videotapes (despite the destruction of these masters, BBC Enterprises held a near-complete archive of the series in the form of their 16mm film telerecording copies until approximately 1972. The reason the BBC used that format was for overseas sales, as it was considerably cheaper to buy and easier to transport than videotape. It also circumvented the problem of different countries’ incompatible video standards, as film was a universal medium whereas videotape was not).

But in 1978, with the intervention of record producer Ian Levine, who was a fan of the show, the policy of erasing Doctor Who (and other older BBC shows) ceased. But by then, the damage was done; the Film Library had only 47 episodes of 1960s Doctor Who –though they at one time held 53, but six episodes wereeither junked or went missing due to their poor archiving response, which left a total of 152 episodes of Doctor Who no longer held by the BBC (but the show is unique in one way, as all of its missing episodes survive in audio form, recorded off-air by fans at home).


But while the master video tapes of those early episodes -and eventually all of the 16mm versions as well were wiped- over the decades episodes have been found all over the world thanks mostly to those 16mm versions used for oversea sales and private collectors in England, so by the end of 2011, only 106 episodes remain missing – 12 serials totaling 44 episodes of the first Doctor, and 15 serials totaling 62 episodes of the second Doctor.

Still, efforts to locate missing episodes continue, both by the BBC and by fans of the series. Extensive restoration has been carried out on many recovered 1960s and 1970s (some early Pertwee stories suffered the same fate as the Hartnell and Troughton eras, though they’ve all been recovered) episodes for release on VHS and now DVD and Blu-ray. The surviving soundtracks of missing episodes have been released on cassette and CD. Two episodes of The Invasion (released 2006) and two episodes of The Reign of Terror (released this year) were reconstructed using animation and released with the surviving episodes of those serials on DVD/Blu-ray.

But as Doctor Who celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year, Bleeding Cool is reporting a rumor that the BBC has found a significant number of these lost episodes acquired from “an eccentric engineer who worked for broadcasters across Africa with a taste for science fiction and a habit of taking things for ‘safe keeping.’”

And the site is saying this is not just a handful of episodes, but lots and lots; potentially all of the missing Hartnell episodes and many of the Troughton ones as well, most which have not been broadcast in the UK since their original air dates.

If this is true, this would be a significant financial boom for the BBC -despite whatever cost it would to clean them up with modern day technology- as well as Doctor Who fans across the globe, as anyone born after 1967 in the UK have never seen these missing episodes, along with the world wide fans who have not seen them at all.

The BBC, as typical, is mum on the rumor, though Bleeding Cool is confident that the broadcaster will announce this news in the near future.

1 Comment

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  1. MaxHedrm says
    July 6, 2013, 4:15 am

    I think you meant financial booN. ;^)

    And very cool!


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