Doctor Who thing of the day: missing 1960s episodes found

Doctor Who Patrick Troughton The Underwater Menace

It astonishes me to this day, though it’s a thing I learned many many years ago, that in the early days of television, no one bothered to archive much of what was produced and broadcast. This is true of early Doctor Who, too. I believe we now have recovered the entirety of the Jon Pertwee era, though that took many years and often ended up with only black-and-white versions of episodes that had been shot in color retrieved from closets in African TV stations and the like. (My first exposure to some Pertwees were in black-and-white; seeing them in color today is odd.)

Much of the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton eras are gone, however… though episodes occasionally turn up in the unlikeliest of places. Such as with the two the BBC announced the recovery of yesterday:

Two classic episodes of Doctor Who – thought to be missing forever – have been returned to the BBC archive.

Episode 3 of the William Hartnell adventure “Galaxy 4” and Episode 2 of Patrick Troughton’s “The Underwater Menace” were purchased by film collector Terry Burnett at a village fete near Southampton in the early 80s. He had been unaware that the canisters contained material missing from the BBC.

Purchased at a village fete? Amazing.

Emphasis below mine:

Thanks to the kind loan by Mr Burnett, the classic footage has been shown today at the British Film Institute’s annual “Missing Believed Wiped” event at the National Film Theatre in London. Host at the event was Doctor Who writer and actor Mark Gatiss who said: “Christmas has come early for Doctor Who fans everywhere. It’s always wonderful when a missing episode turns up but it’s been years since the last one so to have two is just brilliant. Add to that a proper bit of action from the legendary Chumblies (and the horrifying Rills!) plus the utterly mesmeric Patrick Troughton on great form. Well, what more could we all ask for?”

Over 100 episodes of Doctor Who from the 1960s still remain missing. The tapes were routinely wiped once the rights to repeat them had expired. It seems unfathomable to us today, but before the advent of DVDs and iPlayer, grainy black and white material was thought to no longer be of interest to the television audience. However, many film prints sold overseas have since been returned. These latest discoveries are the first complete episodes to have been located since 2004.

None of the four episodes of the 1965 adventure “Galaxy 4” were known to have survived, although a short extract had been retained.

Wow. Just… wow.

Research has shown that the returned episodes originated from the ABC channel in Australia. In fact, the copy of The Underwater Menace is still missing a few short sections which were removed by the Australian censors upon its original transmission Down Under. Fresh scans of the missing material have been made by the National Archives of Australia and will be incorporated into the restored episodes ahead of a DVD release.

Details of a commercial release will be announced by 2 entertain in 2012.

Here’s a clip from “The Underwater Menace”:

Thanks to the many readers who sent this one in.

(If you stumble across a cool Doctor Who thing, feel free to email me with a link.)

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