Since there will be a new Doctor Who story on Christmas Day, I thought it not inappropriate to include this among the Christmas posts this week. As you may or may not know, there are 106 episodes of Doctor Who from the 1960s that are lost from the BBC archives. (Click here if you want to know they why precious episodes of Who were trashed from the BBC archives, which stories are affected, and what efforts are being made to recover them.) This is sad for a number of reasons. First, it’s Doctor Who for-crying-out-loud! It’s part of England’s heritage, like the Crown Jewels–only not as sparkly, but far more entertaining, I venture. But also because many of the episodes were good stories, and many of them were from my favorite Doctor’s era (the Second Doctor).
There are, however, means available today to relive these missing episodes. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Target Books published novelizations of nearly all the classic stories, including those that are now missing. The original novels have long been deleted, but can still be found on E-bay and Amazon Marketplace. Also, BBC Audio have, for the last few years, been releasing audiobook versions of the Target novelizations, and BBC Books just this year started re-releasing select titles from the Target range.
Fans of the show back in the 1960s used creative ways to capture the audio of each episode onto tape, such that the audio to every Doctor Who story broadcast in the 60s exists today–even for stories lost to the archive. BBC Audio has used these audios as the basis for a series of CD releases of classic stories, using the cleaned-up audio track interspersed with narration to describe what would be happening on-screen when this was not clear from the sound. I believe these are still available.
Finally, there are some unofficial fan reconstructions available using the audio track accompanied with “tele-snaps,” off-screen photographs of the shows taken by John Cura, who made a business of selling these tele-snaps to actors and directors as a record of their work. While by no means ideal, these at least give an idea of what the stories might have looked like. Loose Cannon is one of the most popular producers of reconstructions. Given the fact that the BBC still owns the copyright to these stories, Loose Cannon don’t sell their reconstructions. They ask you to provide an appropriate-length video cassette (they won’t provide digital-quality versions, again, for copyright reasons) and they will return it to you with the requested story recorded on it. The BBC knows of the existence of these places, but effectively turns a blind eye to them. They never publicly acknowledge them, but they don’t try to stop them either. (In fact, the BBC has posted high-quality versions of the tele-snaps to a number of these stories. The hard-core fan can download these and, if one can locate the audio track, one can make one’s own reconstruction. This, of course, catapults the fan into the higher echelons of Who Geekdom, since this is akin to a Jedi constructing his own light saber.)
As a long-time fan of the show, needless to say I have procured, in one form or another, these missing episodes. So, to whet the appetite of curious fans of the show, and to give you an idea of the kind of stuff we’re missing, here are my top five missing Doctor Who stories:
1. The Power of the Daleks: The newly-regenerated Doctor, along with companions Ben and Polly, land on Vulcan where they find Daleks declaring themselves to be “servants” of a group of scientists. These scientists believe the Daleks are merely machines, but the Doctor tries to convince them that they are not just robots: they are living organisms. And they are breeding…! What’s to love about this story? First, David Whitaker and Dennis Spooner–two of my favorite early Who writers–wrote it. Second, it’s the first Second Doctor story, and it’s the first post-regeneration story. The companions reactions are great: Polly is willing to believe it’s still the Doctor, but Ben–like Rose in the first Children in Need special–has a hard time accepting it’s still the same man. Third, for most of the story, we see Daleks with their guns removed saying “we are your ser-vants!” (I wonder if Mark Gatiss drew from this for “Victory of the Daleks” in new season 5?). Even disarmed, there’s something chilling in that voice, almost sarcastic, as if you know they’re up to something. Great story!
2. The Evil of the Daleks: The Daleks capture the TARDIS and hold it ransom. In return for the TARDIS, the Daleks want the Doctor to help them distill the “Human Factor”–that ingredient in the human species that has enabled them to consistently defeat the Daleks. They want to enhance certain Daleks with this “x-factor” to create a species of Super Daleks that could rule the universe. Written by David Whitaker (again–I told you he’s good!), and featuring the Second Doctor with Jamie and Victoria. This was intended to be the last Dalek story, with them all being destroyed at the end. Of course, they return in 1972’s Day of the Daleks–how could they not? What makes this great? It’s a great premise for a Dalek story (as evidenced by the fact that it was somewhat re-used for the new season 3 two-parter “Daleks of Manhatten”/”Evolution of the Daleks”). Also there are some great scenes. In one scene, the Doctor plays with three Daleks who have been given the “Human Factor.” He gives them names, and they act like children, letting the Doctor ride on them. Wonderful! Then there’s the part where the Doctor goes along with the Daleks in using Jamie for an experiment. Jamie is convinced the Doctor has turned on him, and his loyalty is severely tested. Oh, and remember the Emperor Dalek from the new first season finale, “Parting of the Ways”? This story is where he made his first appearance.
3. The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve (or sometimes just “The Massacre”): This is a First Doctor historical, in which the Doctor and Steven find themselves in sixteenth-century Paris at the height of the tensions between the Catholic church and the Protestant Huguenots. Since it is a historical, events play out just as they did historically, only we get a ground-level view. I wouldn’t take Steven and the Doctor’s siding with the Huguenots as a statement of religious preference. In this situation, the Huguenots were the oppressed underdogs, and the Doctor tends to have sympathy with such people, regardless of religious affiliation. My interest in this story lies first in the fact that I am a theologian and I love history, so this naturally appeals to me. Also, this is the only First Doctor-Steven story. At the end of this, they pick up another companion (Dodo Chaplet). Historically, there was a Huguenot massacre, but it actually happened on St. Bartholomew’s Day, which has led some to question the accuracy of the story’s title. The TARDIS crew depart before the massacre happens, so maybe the title is intended to convey the idea that this happened on the eve of the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s? Heck, we don’t even have the story’s four episodes, let alone an explanation of the title!!
4. The Space Pirates: Far into the future, pirates are destroying space beacons and plundering them for the precious mineral argonite. The Second Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe arrive on one such space beacon, and discover they have arrived in the middle of a battle between the pirates, and the law enforcers, International Space Corps. Help comes in the form of Milo Clancey, a miner with the Issigri Mining Corporation. When their beacon is blown into pieces, Clancey rescues the Doctor and his friends from a the section they are in. But the TARDIS was in a different section. Zoe believes the segments would have landed on nearby planet Ta, which is dominated by the Issigri Mining Corporation. So in their quest for the TARDIS, our heroes get caught up in the battle between the pirates and the law. There is much ambivalence among fans about the quality of the story. Interest lies mainly in the fact that it’s legendary Who writer Robert Holmes’s second story, and the fact that the model work is supposed to be exceptionally good. This story is also the only one missing from the Second Doctor’s last season, so the completionist in me screams out for it to be found. There is one episode in the archive (episode 2), but the other five episodes are lost.
5. The Enemy of the World: The Second Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria become caught up in political intrigue when the Doctor is mistaken for Salamander, a ruthless politician who has climbed to power within the United Zones Organization by means of technology he has developed to increase the food supply. It seems there is an uncanny resemblance between the Doctor and Salamander, and, after surviving an assassination attempt, the Doctor and his companions side with his would-be assassins to prevent Salamander from using his influence and technology to take over the world. This story has, perhaps, suffered the worst of all the Second Doctor’s stories. While the third of the six episodes has been recovered, there are not even any tele-snaps for episode four! Reconstructions of this story usually have to employ very creative techniques to recreate the visuals for that episode. For this reason, and because it is another David Whitaker story, and because Patrick Troughton gets to play the bad guy as well as the Doctor, I would welcome this story’s return to the archive with open arms.
Other notable stories include Marco Polo (the fourth story, and the first real historical), The Macra Terror (where we first encounter the Macra, last seen in new season 3’s “Gridlock”), and Fury from the Deep (where we are introduced to the sonic screwdriver).
Are there any missing classic Doctor Who stories you would like to see (click here for a list of them)?