Two Lost Episodes of Doctor Who Rematerialize!
This weekend, fans of the classic Doctor Who thrilled to hear that two more lost episodes have been recovered on 16mm film.The British Film Institute holds an annual event "Missing Believed Wiped" where they spread the word about Britain's lost TV history, and at this year's screening surprised fans with these two missing episodes (as well as a lost Peter Cook & Dudley Moore show from the 60's), not seen since their original broadcast nearly 50 years ago.
The BBC was never good about keeping an archive of their broadcast material before the 70's. It was regular practice to erase the video masters of shows in order to erase and reuse the expensive video tape. In fact, the incredible Monty Python series was nearly destroyed, but troupe member Terry Gilliam stepped in an bought the original edited video reels at 90 pounds a piece.
There was another reason for this besides clearing up shelf space, the actor's union Equity placed a limit on how many times a show could be re-run. This together with the move to color (sorry... "colour") broadcast in the 1970's made the BBC's black and white TV history fodder for the rubbish tip.
These recovered Who episodes are kinescope copies; 16mm film prints made of the original videotapes. With so many video standards worldwide, it was easier to make 16mm film copies of shows for international sale and distribution. These episodes were aired in Australia, and instead of being destroyed or returned to the BBC, they ended up at a rummage sale where they were bought by a film collector in the 80s.
One recovered episode features the first ever Doctor in the adventure of "Galaxy Four" from 1965, a story that has only existed thus far in the BBC archives as a 15 minute clip. The story features squat robots called Chumblies, clearly an attempt at another Dalek-mania craze (the Chumblies canister vac looks to the Dalek's pepper shaker silhouette), but this time without having to split profits with the creator of the Daleks, Terry Nation.
While grateful for any return of a missing episode, fans were a little less interested in seeing another installment from the second doctor's notorious "Underwater Menace" broadcast in 1967. The bland title gives little indication of the"arch" overacting of the lead bad guy. Seriously, this sort of over the top acting didn't tend to happen in Who. Another existing installment of this story features a bizarre underwater ballet by the fish people. Uh, yeah, it's a weird one...
So we're down to 106 missing half-hours of Doctor Who. While there's little chance of all of the shows ever reappearing, it's hopeful that even at this late date more cans of film marked "Doctor Who" can find their way back to our TVs - even if it has taken a half-century.
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