Monday, December 12, 2011

New Who!

Fans of classic Doctor Who got an early Xmas gift this year: two more long-lost episodes have resurfaced!

As I've mentioned before, during the 1960s and 1970s the BBC destroyed or erased dozens of master tapes of the series that were stored in the studio's warehouse. They did so to clear storage space for new material and also because certain contracts stipulated that episodes could only be aired a certain number of times. It seems incredible to us now of course, but there was just no perceived value in the tapes.

As a result of this purge, 253 episodes from the first six years of the show were erased. Amazingly, 148 of them have been recovered over the years, as every now and then someone finds a copy of an episode in some musty vault somewhere in the world.

That's exactly what happened this past week, as two episodes resurfaced over 40 years after they first aired.

The two episodes were recorded by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in the 1960s and were then acquired by a private collector. They sat in his collection for years until he heard from a friend that Who fans were on the lookout for old episodes.

As for the two episodes, one is from First Doctor William Hartnell's era and the other is from Second Doctor Patrick Troughton's.

The first recovered episode is Part 3 of Hartnell's story Galaxy 4 (most classic Doctor Who stories consisted of 4 to 6 parts) and first aired in 1965. If you're hoping to see the entire Galaxy 4 story, well, prepare to be disappointed. The newly discovered Part 3 is the only part of the story known to exist.

The second recovered episode is Part 2 of Troughton's story Underwater Menace. Sadly, this story isn't complete either, as we only have Parts 2 and 3. This recently discovered episode is the earliest known from the Troughton era and features the first time the Second Doctor played his recorder onscreen.

Even though the stories aren't complete, it's better than nothing at all. There are now 106 missing episodes. Hopefully one of these days someone will stumble into an old vault somewhere and find all the missing tapes.

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