Doctor Who (partially lost BBC sci-fi series episodes; 1963-1978)

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Doctor Who logo 1.jpg

The series' logo from 1963 to 1967.

Status: Partially Lost

The appropriately dubbed Doctor Who Missing Episodes are a collection of 156 episodes of the British sci-fi television series that were wiped/junked by the BBC between 1967 and 1974, spanning the first eleven seasons of the show. Though many episodes have been recovered over the years, 97 from the first six seasons remain missing; consequently, full footage of these lost episodes have not been seen since their original airing, though every episode's audio and some brief clips have survived from homemade recordings. Because of the high amount of publicity surrounding these missing episodes, they are arguably one of the most famous cases of lost media in modern history.


A film canister containing a previously missing episode of Doctor Who, "The Evil of the Daleks: Ep 2".

While it was typical of the BBC during this time to wipe old master tapes for re-use instead of purchasing expensive new videotape reels, the story of the episodes' junking goes far deeper than what one can call standard procedure. During production, the BBC Film Library and BBC Enterprises were conflicted over which of them had the responsibility of archiving Doctor Who master reels. The Film Library was not obligated to store productions not recorded on film, prompting them to destroy their copies. Meanwhile, BBC Enterprises wiped their own reels due to a combination of them being considered unnecessarily voluminous, the high price tag of new magnetic videotape, and, following the advent of colour television, the belief that the black and white serials had become visually outdated and thus impractical to re-air. During this time, each party assumed that the other had already archived their own copies, and in the end, both parties threw out their own master reels of many old black-and-white productions.

While the last wipings occurred in 1974, the BBC didn't officially end their junking policy until four years later, thanks to the rise in popularity of home media and the concurrent change in public opinion in favor of archiving older material. Consequently, the BBC began searching for episodes that had been deleted from their archives, attempting to gain the cooperation of private collectors and probing the television stations that they had loaned film copies to (reels that had, as of then, not yet been returned). Through these methods, the BBC and fans of the show have managed to recover 50 episodes over the years (most recently in October 2013), including nine full missing serials. However, some serials are still missing several seconds of footage from the following episodes:


A picture was taken on the set of the lost episode "Marco Polo."
  • Episodes 2 & 4 of The Keys of Marinus (17 seconds, 7 from Episode 2, 10 from Episode 4)
  • Episode 4 of The Time Meddler (12 seconds)
  • Episode 3 of Galaxy 4 (27 seconds)
  • Episode 4 of The Celestial Toymaker (5 seconds)
  • Episodes 3 & 4 of The War Machines (1:18, 1 minute from Episode 3, 18 seconds from Episode 4)
  • Episode 2 of The Underwater Menace (2 seconds)
  • Episode 3 of The Faceless Ones (20 seconds)

Of note is the fact that almost all the episodes were initially shot, edited, and broadcast on PAL videotapes; these tapes are what were wiped for reuse. Any existing copies were 16mm telerecordings (film recordings produced by shooting footage of a monitor displaying playback of the source video) for international distribution; these copies were the ones recovered by the BBC. Videotapes capture interlaced video, essentially meaning that the footage runs at 50 frames per second, but has its vertical resolution halved, allowing for much smoother movements. As a result, the film copies -- depending on their age -- either had two interlaced fields (half-frames) combined into one regular frame or discarded one field and just upscaled each half-frame to fill the screen. Either way, the result is the less stable, 25fps footage commonly seen on film. The former is easier to remaster, as they simply scan the film to digital, repair all the damage done to the film over the years, then apply a filter that turns it to interlaced video. The latter is much more difficult and technical and usually requires some clever filtering to double the framerate properly. Some episodes (such as episode 5 of The Dalek Invasion of Earth and episode 6 of The Wheel in Space) were transmitted from 35mm film prints and retained by the BBC, and exist in their original broadcast quality. Episodes transmitted from 35mm negatives that were disposed of are The Power of the Daleks episode 6 and The Wheel in Space episode 5.

Extra Information

Screenshots from "The Feast of Steven", the only episode of Doctor Who believed to be permanently missing.

A total of 26 serials still remain incomplete, 10 of which are completely missing from the BBC archives. These episodes span each of the show's first six seasons, none of which survive in full. However, while the footage of these episodes is near-completely missing, all of their audio tracks have survived from pirated audio recordings made during their initial broadcast. Most missing episodes also feature snippets of footage that have survived through various methods, and on-set photos of each missing episode survive as well. Telesnaps exist for almost every missing episode, with the exceptions coming from early Season 3 and mid Season 6. The crew for early Season 3 saw no use for telesnaps and did not commission them to be created, while John Cura, who founded and provided all telesnapping services, passed away in 1968 while Season 6 was being produced. It is possible telesnaps existed for the pre-Season 6 missing episodes that don't have any and Cura never sold them to the BBC or the cast and crew, but his wife burned all his negatives in the early 70s, meaning any photographs he took without commissions most likely no longer exist. With the telesnaps and photographs that do exist, the BBC has been able to make crude reconstructions of the missing episodes, all of which were released on VHS, and later the Lost in Time DVD box set in 2004. The Loose Cannon Productions team have created full reconstructions in this format based on all missing episodes, and updated some previously unsatisfactory releases since. Although these fan-made reconstructions technically infringe copyright, the BBC allows them as long as they are not sold for profit.

Furthermore, The Reign of Terror, The Tenth Planet, The Moonbase, The Ice Warriors, The Invasion, The Power of the Daleks, The Macra Terror, The Faceless Ones, Fury from the Deep, The Evil of the Daleks, and The Abominable Snowmen have received official animated remakes, based on all surviving material. There were initially plans to release an animated remake of the two missing episodes for The Underwater Menace, but this was cancelled in favor of a telesnap reconstruction after the appointed animation studio raised its commission prices. The reconstruction was poorly received by fans, and it is unknown if the story will ever receive a special edition release with animation in the future. The Crusade was also planned to receive an animation but was cancelled due to the high cost. The Web of Fear had its missing third episode animated via motion capture for the Special Edition DVD and Blu-ray release, but the results were widely panned as unsightly and unsettling. Following the announcement for the animated version of The Abominable Snowmen, press reports indicated that the BBC would not pursue future animated reconstructions due to funding issues with Stateside distributors BBC America.

In addition to the completely lost episodes during the First and Second Doctor's runs, there are some episodes from the Third Doctor's run that no longer exist in their original colour format. When the episodes were recovered from copies loaned to Australian television networks, all footage was in monochrome, having been filtered as such to compensate for Australia's lack of colour television at the time. However, the footage was gradually recoloured by various methods. Many of these practices relied on the remaining colour data, known as chroma dots, on the international copies, while at least one (Babelcolour's official recolouring of Episode One of The Mind of Evil) was digitally hand-coloured. Recolourisation was less successful for episode one of Invasion of the Dinosaurs due to a lack of adequate chroma dots; the DVD release consequently relegates the results to a bonus feature, with a remaster of the black and white telerecording being the default. While most of the processes used by the BBC don't provide a 1:1 recreation of how each episode originally looked, with discrepancies such as Jon Pertwee's silver hair appearing blonde, the results are generally regarded as sufficient. As of the DVD release of The Mind of Evil in June of 2013, every Third Doctor story is available to watch in full colour.

Some other episodes from the Third Doctor's run survive from NTSC copy tapes loaned to broadcast stations in Canada. These were then back-converted to the original PAL format through the Reverse Standards Conversion process. Two serials, Inferno and The Claws of Axos, were further restored for their Special Edition DVD releases by combining the colour information from these back-converted tapes with luminance information from recovered black and white telerecordings, allowing for improved colour correction that more accurately approximates the look of the wiped PAL master tapes.

Of the 97 episodes that are currently missing, only one is confirmed to have little to no chance of recovery: "The Feast of Steven", the seventh part of the 12-part serial The Daleks' Master Plan. The episode was made as a lighthearted Christmas special, due to the fact that it was set to air on Christmas day; the producers did not wish to kill the holiday spirit by continuing the current story's rather dark plot. It was only aired once, and because the episode had no relevance to the plot, there were no film copies made for overseas distribution, unlike all other episodes. The only known video of it (the original master tape) was erased in the second round of wiping on August 17th, 1967. The Doctor Who Restoration Team has theorized that the episode may have survived its initial deletion from a routine telerecording. This was previously the case for the "pilot episode," an earlier, unaired version of the series premiere, "An Unearthly Child" (from the serial of the same name); a mislabeled telerecording of it was discovered shortly after the BBC ended its wiping policy in 1978. Despite this precedent, the Restoration Team admitted that the chances of "The Feast of Steven" surviving this way are immensely slim.

A fan-made animated recreation of "The Feast of Steven", utilizing the surviving audio track.

Also of note is the fact that of all 26 stories with missing episodes, two have not a single frame of footage surviving: "Mission to the Unknown", and "The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew's Eve". "Marco Polo" has no moving footage, however, it does have telesnaps for 6 of its 7 episodes, amounting to several seconds of non-consecutive frames of footage when added together. All other missing episodes feature at least some fragments of surviving footage, obtained either from Australian & New Zealand censorship boards (who literally cut the footage from their reels), amateur telerecordings, snippets of footage used in third-party programs, or surviving episodes.

In 1998, a video cassette recorded copy of episode 2 from The Space Pirates (the single episode from that story already held in the archives as a 35mm negative) was discovered in the collection of an amateur video enthusiast. As of 2020, however, this remains the only known instance of a Doctor Who episode from the 60s existing as a domestic videotape. The BBC has urged any collectors who possess or know of any recordings to come forward, but nothing has been heard since. The discovery was referenced in the novelization of the Twelfth Doctor episode Twice Upon a Time, where he mentioned he had a domestic videotape recording of all twelve parts of The Daleks' Master Plan.

The most recent development in the recovery of the missing episodes occurred in 2013 when nine previously lost episodes were uncovered at a local TV station in Nigeria by Phillip Morris, those being the remaining five "The Enemy of the World" episodes (i.e. 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6), and four of the five missing "The Web of Fear" episodes (i.e. 2, 4, 5 and 6) - all of which have since been made available for digital purchase on iTunes. Episode 3 of "The Web of Fear" was also recovered among these nine, but the reels for it went missing before they could be sent to the BBC and are believed to have been stolen. Years later, Morris confirmed the episode was likely stolen by a private collector, who recognized the value in it being the first appearance of the Brigadier, a popular recurring character who served as a regular during the Jon Pertwee era.

In 2020, Morris revealed in a Zoom interview that "at least six" missing episodes are currently in the hands of private collectors, and he is negotiating their return to the BBC. The following year, Paul Vanezis (a well-known member of the restoration team and missing episode hunter) reiterated an earlier statement he made in 2018 that Doctor Who episodes do exist out there. He went into detail that a family attempting to dispose of a deceased relative's old film collection currently possesses a number of rare material without realizing it, including a lost episode of The Morecambe and Wise Show. The return of these prints is being negotiated, and they could potentially be Doctor Who prints.

In November 2023, additional episodes surfaced from a private collection, sparking considerable interest. Nonetheless, the owner hesitated to entrust them to the BBC, expressing concerns over the absence of formal safeguards for private collectors. Responding to this development, film collector John Franklin proposed that the BBC institute protocols aimed at safeguarding individuals who possess copies of missing episodes. Franklin contended that providing assurances against confiscation or prosecution for holding BBC property would foster an environment conducive to more collectors stepping forward with preserved telerecordings. [1]

List of Missing Episodes

Note: serials highlighted in red are missing all episodes, serials highlighted in yellow are missing a majority of their episodes, and serials highlighted in white are at least 50% intact.

Doctor Missing Season Total number of missing episodes Story Serial Missing / Total Missing Episode(s)[1]
First Doctor 44 1 9 004 Marco Polo 7 / 7 All (No surviving footage)
008 The Reign of Terror 2 / 6 4, 5
2 2 014 The Crusade 2 / 4 2, 4
3 28 018 Galaxy 4 3 / 4 1, 2, 4
019 "Mission to the Unknown" 1 / 1 No surviving footage
020 The Myth Makers 4 / 4 All
021 The Daleks' Master Plan 9 / 12 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 (Episode 7, "The Feast of Steven", confirmed to be permanently missing)
022 The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve 4 / 4 All (No surviving footage)
024 The Celestial Toymaker 3 / 4 1, 2, 3
026 The Savages 4 / 4 All
4 33 028 The Smugglers 4 / 4 All
029 The Tenth Planet 1 / 4 4
Second Doctor 53 030 The Power of the Daleks 6 / 6 All
031 The Highlanders 4 / 4 All
032 The Underwater Menace 2 / 4 1, 4
033 The Moonbase 2 / 4 1, 3
034 The Macra Terror 4 / 4 All
035 The Faceless Ones 4 / 6 2, 4, 5, 6
036 The Evil of the Daleks 6 / 7 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
5 18 038 The Abominable Snowmen 5 / 6 1, 3, 4, 5, 6
039 The Ice Warriors 2 / 6 2, 3
041 The Web of Fear 1 / 6 3
042 Fury from the Deep 6 / 6 All
043 The Wheel in Space 4 / 6 1, 2, 4, 5
6 7 046 The Invasion 2 / 8 1, 4
049 The Space Pirates 5 / 6 1, 3, 4, 5, 6
26 incomplete serials 97 missing episodes

List Of Recovered Episodes

Note: stories highlighted in green exist in their complete form as a result of their missing episodes' recovery.

Doctor Season Story no. Serial Number of episodes Returned episodes Recovered from Total recovered Total episodes in archive
Country/Territory Source Year
First Doctor 1 008 The Reign of Terror 6 Episodes 1, 2, 3 & 6 Cyprus Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (ep. 1-3) Copies of episodes 4 and 5 were also held by the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, but were destroyed during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. 1985 4 4
United Kingdom Private collector (ep. 6) 1982
2 014 The Crusade 4 Episode 1 New Zealand Private collector 1999 1 2
017 The Time Meddler 4 Episodes 1, 3 & 4 Nigeria Nigerian Television Authority 1985 3 4
3 018 Galaxy 4 4 Episode 3 United Kingdom Private collector 2011 1 1
021 The Daleks' Master Plan 12 Episodes 2, 5 & 10 United Kingdom Private collector (ep. 2) 2004 3 3
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (ep. 5 & 10) 1983
024 The Celestial Toymaker 4 Episode 4 Australia Australian Broadcasting Corporation 1984 1 1
027 The War Machines 4 All 4 episodes Nigeria Nigerian Television Authority (ep. 1, 3, 4) 1985 4 4
Australia Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ep. 2) 1978
First Doctor Totals 7 serials 17 episodes
Second Doctor 4 032 The Underwater Menace 4 Episode 2 United Kingdom Private collector 2011 1 2
035 The Faceless Ones 6 Episode 3 United Kingdom Private collector 1987 1 2
036 The Evil of the Daleks 7 Episode 2 United Kingdom Private collector 1987 1 1
5 037 The Tomb of the Cybermen 4 All 4 episodes Hong Kong Asia Television 1991 4 4
038 The Abominable Snowmen 6 Episode 2 United Kingdom Private collector 1982 1 1
039 The Ice Warriors 6 Episodes 1, 4, 5 & 6 United Kingdom British Broadcasting Corporation (Recovered from a store cupboard in the BBC Enterprises building at Villiers House in Ealing) 1988 4 4
040 The Enemy of the World 6 Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5 & 6 (A complete set of the serial was recovered, including a redundant copy of episode 3.) Nigeria Nigerian Television Authority 2013 5 6
041 The Web of Fear 6 Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5 & 6 Unknown Unknown (ep. 1) There is some debate over whether this episode is a recovered one. It is has been stated that it was recovered as part of a cache of material returned to the BBC from ATV in Hong Kong in 1978–79. However, a 1976 partial listing of material then in existence at the BBC includes a copy held at BBC Enterprises. It is unclear if this is an error, a different copy, or if the can was misplaced at the time of the 1978 audit and subsequently rediscovered. 5 5
Nigeria Nigerian Television Authority (ep. 2, 4, 5, 6) A redundant copy of episode 1 was found as part of this cache. Additionally, a copy of episode 3 was also part of this cache, but subsequently disappeared prior to being returned to the BBC. 2013
043 The Wheel in Space 6 Episode 3 United Kingdom Private collector 1984 1 2
6 044 The Dominators 5 Episode 3 (Returned as a 35 mm telerecording negative) United Kingdom British Film Institute 1978 1 5
047 The Krotons 4 Episode 4 United Kingdom British Film Institute 1978 1 4
050 The War Games 10 Episodes 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 & 10 United Kingdom British Film Institute 1978 6 10
Second Doctor Totals 12 serials 31 episodes
Third Doctor 11 071 Invasion of the Dinosaurs 6 Part 1 (entitled Invasion) United Kingdom Private collector 1983 1 6
072 Death to the Daleks 4 Part 1 (Returned as a 2-inch colour videotape) Canada Unknown TV station (as NTSC) 1981 1 (Initially returned as a 525-line NTSC master videotape; the BBC subsequently received a 625-line PAL master videotape.) 4
Dubai Dubai 33 (as PAL) 1991 (An edited PAL videotape copy had previously been returned to the BBC from Australia in 1985.)
Third Doctor Totals 2 serials 2 episodes
Totals 21 serials 50 episodes

List Of Stories That Have Received Animated Reconstructions

Doctor Season Serial Total Episodes Missing Episodes Animator DVD Release
Region 2 Region 1 Region 4
First Doctor 1 The Reign of Terror 6 2 (4, 5) Big Finish Productions/Planet 55 28 January 2013 12 February 2013 6 February 2013
3 Galaxy Four 4 1 (1, 2, 4) Big Finish Creative 15 November 2021 5 April 2022 12 January 2022
4 The Tenth Planet 4 1 (4) Planet 55 14 October 2013 19 November 2013 30 October 2013
Second Doctor The Power of the Daleks 6 6 BBC Studios 21 November 2016 24 January 2017 14 December 2016
The Underwater Menace 4 2 (2, 3) BBC Studios Nov 13, 2023 Jan 9, 2024 TBA
The Moonbase 4 2 (1, 3) Planet 55 20 January 2014 22 January 2014 11 February 2014
The Macra Terror 4 4 Sun & Moon Studios/BBC Studios 25 March 2019 12 November 2019 17 April 2019
The Faceless Ones 6 4 (2, 4-6) BBC Studios 16 March 2020 6 October 2020 8 April 2020
The Evil of the Daleks 7 6 (1, 3-7) BBC Studios 27 September 2021 16 November 2021 10 November 2021
5 The Abominable Snowmen 6 5 (1, 3-6) Big Finish Creative 5 September 2022 6 December 2022 2 November 2022
The Ice Warriors 6 2 (2, 3) Qurios Entertainment 26 August 2013 17 September 2013 28 August 2013
The Web of Fear 6 1 (3) Big Finish Creative/BBC Studios/Shapeshifter Studios 16 August 2021 1 February 2022 22 September 2021
Fury From The Deep 6 6 Big Finish Creative 14 September 2020 16 March 2021 11 November 2020
6 The Invasion 8 2 (1, 4) Cosgrove Hall 6 November 2006 6 March 2007 3 January 2007


TheGamerFromMars' video on the subject.

Josh Snares' video on the missing episodes.

Josh Snares' video on the recovered episodes.

BadWolf42' video on the timeline of missing/recovered episodes.

Josh Snares' video on Marco Polo.

Josh Snares' video on the Daleks' Master Plan.

Josh Snares' video on the Faceless Ones.

Josh Snares' video on the Abominable Snowmen.

Josh Snares' video on Fury from the Deep.

Josh Snares' video on The Space Pirates.

Josh Snares' video on the Surviving audios.

Josh Snares' video on Tele-snaps.

Josh Snares' video on Downfall of Doctor Who animations

Josh Snares' video on the Missing episodes' hoax.

Scribbles to Screen' video on 10 Most Desired LOST Episodes

See Also

BBC Wiped Programs Media

Doctor Who Media

External Link