Doctor Who (partially lost episodes of British science-fiction TV series; 1963-1974)
Screenshots from "The Feast of Steven", the only episode of Doctor Who believed to be permanently missing.
Status: Partially Lost
The appropriately dubbed Doctor Who Missing Episodes are a collection of 147 episodes of the British sci-fi television series that were wiped by the BBC between 1963 and 1974. During this time, it was typical of the BBC to wipe old master tapes for re-use instead of purchasing expensive new videotape reels. Though many episodes have been recovered over the years, 97 remain missing; consequently, full footage of these lost episodes have not been seen since their original airing, though every episode's audio has 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.
The story the episodes' junkings, however, 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 and the high price tag of new magnetic videotape. During this time, each party assumed that the other had already archived their own copies. In the end, both parties threw out their own master reels of many old black-and-white productions.
In 1974, the BBC were convinced to stop wiping episodes of Doctor Who at the insistence of Ian Levine, a record producer and prominent fan of the show. Later, the rise in popularity of home media prompted the BBC to officially end their junking policy in 1978 and start searching for the episodes that they had lost by 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 has 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:
- Episodes 2 & 3 of "The Keys of Marinus" (Unknown)
- Episode 4 of "The Time Meddler" (12 seconds)
- Episode 3 of "Galaxy 4" (27 seconds)
- Episode 4 of "The Celestial Toymaker" (Unknown)
- Episodes 3 & 4 of "The War Machines" (One minute, 18 seconds)
- Episode 3 of "The Faceless Ones" (20 seconds)
Of note is the fact that all the episodes were initially shot, edited, and broadcast on PAL videotapes. These tapes are what were wiped for reuse. Any existing copies were copied to 16-millimetre film for international distribution; these copies were the ones recovered by the BBC. Because videotapes capture interlaced video (essentially meaning that the footage runs at 48 frames per second, but has its vertical resolution halved, allowing for much smoother movements), 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, 24fps 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 properly double the framerate.
A total of 26 serials still remain incomplete, 10 of which are completely missing from the BBC archives. 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 telesnaps & on-set photos of each missing episode survive as well. Through all this, the BBC have 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. Furthermore, "The Reign of Terror", "The Tenth Planet", "The Moonbase", "The Ice Warriors", "The Invasion", and "The Power of the Daleks" have received animated remakes, based on all surviving material. There were initially plans to release an animated remake of "The Underwater Menace", but this was cancelled in favour of a telesnap reconstruction after the appointed animation studio raised its commission prices.
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 recolored by various methods. Many of these practices relied on the remaining colour data on the international copies, while at least one (Babelcolour's official recoloring of "The Mind of Evil) was digitally hand-colored. 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.
Of the 97 episodes that are currently missing, only one is confirmed to have 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 copy of it was destroyed in the second round of wiping on August 17th, 1967. The Doctor Who Restoration Team has theorised that the episode may survive from a routine telerecording, but the chances of this are intensely slim.
Also of note is the fact that of all 26 stories with missing episodes, three have no surviving footage whatsoever: "Marco Polo," "Mission to the Unknown," and "The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew's Eve." 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, or snippets of footage used in third party programs.
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 (ie. 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6), and four of the five missing "The Web of Fear" episodes (ie. 2, 4, 5 and 6) - all of which have since been made available for digital purchase on iTunes.
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)|
|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|
|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 with missing episodes 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|
|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||21 November 2016||24 January 2017||14 December 2016|
|The Moonbase||4||2 (1,3)||Planet 55||20 January 2014||22 January 2014||11 February 2014|
|5||The Ice Warriors||6||2 (2,3)||Qurios Entertainment||26 August 2013||17 September 2013||28 August 2013|
|6||The Invasion||8||2 (1,4)||Cosgrove Hall||6 November 2006||6 March 2007||3 January 2007|
- List of missing episodes for First and Second Doctors' episodes Last retrieved 26 June 2011.