Doctor Who: The Lost Years

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Guest contributor John Hussey takes a look back at the missing episodes of Doctor Who.

Every time I look at my Doctor Who DVD collection and see all the missing episodes of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, it saddens me to think I may never get to see them. It is frustrating to know that the BBC were so careless by deleting such fine pieces of brilliance. These are my thoughts on the lost years.

This began with a basic policy the BBC had in which the master-tapes of archive episodes of shows would be deleted once they had no further usage in promotion or sales. This resulted in William Hartnell’s final full season and most of Patrick Troughton’s episodes to be deleted. The BBC at the time didn’t look at things in the long run of marketing sales. So many brilliant stories were destroyed, wiped from existence like Rory Williams in ‘Cold Blood’ after he fell through the Time Crack. This scandal went on for many years, 1967 to 1978 respectfully, and was finally put a stop to by Ian Levine, a line producer and fan of the show.

This is the current list of the episodes which have been lost in time: ‘Marco Polo’, ‘The Crusade’, ‘Galaxy 4’, ‘Mission to the Unknown’, ‘The Myth Makers’, ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’, ‘The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve’, ‘The Celestial Toymaker’, ‘The Savages’, ‘The Smugglers’, ‘The Tenth Planet’, ‘The Power of the Daleks’, ‘The Highlanders’, ‘The Underwater Menace’, ‘The Moonbase’, ‘The Macra Terror’, ‘The Faceless Ones’, ‘The Evil of the Daleks’, ‘The Abominable Snowmen’, ‘The Ice Warriors’, ‘The Enemy of the World’, ‘The Web of Fear’, ‘Fury from the Deep’, ‘The Wheels in Space’ and ‘The Space Pirates’.

Either these serials have episodes missing or they have been totally destroyed. What parts/episodes remain can be bought on the DVD ‘Lost in Time’. Looking at this long list upsets me, knowing too well myself and other Whovians of the last few generations may never see these episodes in their original forms. Fortunately there has been a recovery mission that still goes on today; the quest to reclaim what was lost or destroyed.

To think of all the iconic moments that I may never get to see: Steven Taylor’s departure, Ben and Polly’s first adventure, the Second Doctor’s first encounter with the Daleks, Jamie McCrimmon’s first story, the first ever Ice Warriors episode, the attack of the Yeti’s, the Cybermen in their prime, nor will I ever see Lethbridge-Stewart’s debut in Doctor Who. The biggest one of them all is of course the very first regeneration scene; the most iconic moment of the show’s history and its final episode was lost. Luckily it stands as one of the few episodes with the least damage and the biggest relief of all is that those final precious seconds of the episode remain and hopefully will one day be released on DVD.

There are so many episodes that I want to see. I want to see the Second Doctor bring the almost extinction of his greatest enemy, “This is it. The final end.” I really want to see the epic 12-part Dalek masterpiece that was ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’. I would also love to see Patrick Troughton’s brilliant Second Doctor, the cosmic hobo, progress from his first adventure in ‘The Power of the Daleks’ all the way up to his forced regeneration and exile in ‘The War Games’. Luckily his last season almost completely remains but that still doesn’t alter the fact the rest of his adventures before that, apart from ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’, are missing.

I thought about this issue long and hard and what I believe they should do is to bring them out as animations like they did with the reconstructed Episode 1 and 4 of ‘The Invasion’. That way we get to see those wonderful adventures. Sure we won’t be able to watch the actual episode as seen on the original broadcast, but at least we can see it in some form. I thought it worked extremely well on ‘The Invasion’ and as long as the original audio remains this idea could work. I hope one day this might be put into action as I think it would pay off and make me and many other Whovians extremely happy.

At the end of the day I live in hope. Hope that one day all these episodes will be returned to the BBC safe and sound. This has been happening for many years now, and episodes that were once incomplete have now been restored. Only last year were Episode 3 of ‘Galaxy 4’ and Episode 2 of ‘The Underwater Menace’ returned to the BBC which helps in my wishful thinking that one day they shall come back, yes they shall come back. Until then there must be no regrets, No tears, no anxieties. I must go forward with all my beliefs and prove to them that I am not mistaken in mine.