Classic Who – The Viewing of the Lost

I started writing this post a week or so back, and pretty much had it mostly finished when yesterday morning I found out that they’d discovered two missing episodes!

For those who are unaware, the two episodes for were Galaxy 4 episode 3, and The Underwater Menace episode 2.

The amusing thing is, they are both episodes that I don’t think are very good.  It’s the universe testing the true fans – ‘let’s see who is happy when they find out it’s these two that have been found.’

I suspect I’m a real fan, because nothing could take the shine off the fangasm I’d had from this find.  For me, any episode found is akin to winning the lottery in it’s likelihood.  Finding two is unbelievable.

Anyway, I’ve made the appropriate edits needed below.  This is basically a run down of the resources available to you if you’re curious about experiencing old Who, but aren’t quite sure how to get around the gaps caused by so many episodes being destroyed or lost.

Okay, so I suppose the first place to start is telling you what you probably already know – lots of early Doctor Who is missing.  Oh, it exists on audio, and some even have telesnaps [1], but if you listen to some fans, the loss of these episodes was as bad as any disaster in human history.  Titanic? Piffle!  The total deathtoll of all the wars in recorded history? Don’t waste my time. The Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919? A close second, but no.

Don’t you understand?  Some episodes of a television show I like were destroyed!  Who cares about all those other classic or important shows that no longer exist at all because of the cull, this is a show I liked!

Too cynical? Maybe, but if you’re one of the folks new to the fandom, you’ve probably already come across some of these people. But don’t worry, you don’t need to have your sense of perspective surgically removed to be a Doctor Who fan.

Snarkiness aside, it is a shame about the lost episodes, and possibly the best way to appreciate it is this –

William Hartnell made 134 episodes in his original run, and 44 are still missing.  That’s about 33%.
Patrick Troughton made 119 episodes, and 62 are still missing, or around 52% of his run.

So for the New Who fans, here’s the Eccleston and Tennant runs with those equivalent percentages gone.  Just try to imagine that you can never, ever, ever watch the crossed out stories again.  Oh, and that you only ever got to see them once the first time around.

The End of the World
-The Unquiet Dead
Aliens of London
World War Three
The Long Game
Father’s Day
The Empty Child
-The Doctor Dances
Boom Town
Bad Wolf
-The Parting of the Ways

Well, that’s not so bad, is it?  I mean, we lost the Dalek story and his final episode, but we’ve got the early ones and some full stories.  Thank heavens for Ian Levine [2] saving Aliens of London and World War Three in DVD, .avi. .mp4, and Quicktime formats!  Otherwise we would have lost four different copies of the first Slitheen story!

Oooooh…  too bitchy?  Or just bitchy enough?

And we still have the clip of Eccleston’s regeneration thanks to the Born Again Children in Need special!  Now for Tennant.

Born Again : Children in Need
-The Christmas Invasion
 -New Earth
 Tooth and Claw
 School Reunion
The Girl in the Fireplace
Rise of the Cybermen
The Age of Steel
-The Idiot’s Lantern-
-The Impossible Planet-
The Satan Pit
-Love & Monsters-
Fear Her
Army of Ghosts

-The Runaway Bride-
Smith and Jones
The Shakespeare Code
-Daleks in Manhattan-
Evolution of the Daleks
-The Lazarus Experiment-
Human Nature
The Family of Blood
The Sound of Drums
-Last of the Time Lords-

Time Crash : Children In Need
-Voyage of the Damned-
Partners in Crime
The Fires of Pompeii
-Planet of the Ood-
The Sontaran Stratagem
-The Poison Sky-
-The Doctor’s Daughter-
The Unicorn and the Wasp
-Silence in the Library-
-Forest of the Dead-
Turn Left
-The Stolen Earth-
-Journey’s End-

The Next Doctor
Planet of the Dead
-The Waters of Mars-
The End of Time 1
The End of Time 2

Ow! Looks pretty bare doesn’t it?  Shame we’re missing so much of Tennant’s early stuff.  But a chunk of what does exist mostly seems quite good.  And you can listen to Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead, and you can see telesnaps of Blink and Midnight!  And Tennant’s very long finale exists in its entirety!

STOP PRESS! Fear Her has just been found!

And of course all Matt Smith’s run survives, although some are only in black and white.

Anyway, that probably gives you more of a feeling for what it’s like.  It’s not the end of the world, but it is annoying and a bit of a shame.  Now, I could talk about the wiping and such, and I will if requested, but instead I’d like to talk about what resources are out there.

First up, you’ve probably already looked into renting or buying the DVDs of the existing stories.  Now, if you’re really feeling keen, you want whatever existing episodes you can get from missing stories.  The Lost in Time collection will fill a few of those gaps and is a good starting place. There are a few omissions, stories where only one or two episodes are missing often haven’t been included, but the BBC are moving to release these separately with the missing footage filled in in a variety of ways.

If you’re desperate for those unreleased episodes, well, the torrents are out there.

Next up you can actually buy all the missing episodes on audio.  This is not a bad way to experience those tales, and they are released as complete stories.  Many of the narrations that are used to explain the onscreen action are quite good and not too intrusive.  It’s a bit like listening to an audio book where they’ve hired back all the original actors to play the parts.  And naturally the BBC has cleaned up the original audio, so it’s likely to be the best sounding you’ll get.

Here’s a link to BookDepository’s section of collected audio sets.  You can still buy some of the individual stories from them, and they can be found in some bookshops and on eBay at a reasonable price if you look about.  Also, if you pick up the Lost In Time Set, you may wish to compare which stories have audio of the missing episodes included, and perhaps source individual titles rather than buy the full audio collections.

If you choose to source the material via torrenty means, please go on to purchase any stories you decide to keep.

I’m old enough that I also have copies of the missing episodes on audiotape, sans narration.  Once that was about all there was. [3]  When I feel tired, I listen to the narrated episodes, when I feel awake, I go for the ‘clean’ audio.

The reason for this is I’m a purist at heart, and like to take in as much as I can of the original sound and feel of a story.  Of course, I don’t always know what happens during some of the action, or indeed the literal 30 second awkward silence in part four of Galaxy Four.

So what do I do?  Why I go to The Earthbound Timelords – Doctor Who Scripts Project of course.  I can’t thank and praise these lovely folks enough.  They have worked really hard to fill in the blanks and help you understand some of the difficult bits of action and dialogue.

In the absence of original scripts, these are not a poor second.  They aren’t perfect, but they’re close and it was one of those labours of love that shows the true hearts of fandom at its best.

Now, I’ve got my audio CDs, I’ve got my scripts, if only there were some pictures to help me along.  Oh wait, some of the telesnaps of the missing stories can be found right here on the BBC’s official site!

The beauty of the pictures on the BBC site is that they are the best quality you’ll find, and most are in one place.  Unfortunately telesnaps don’t exist for every story or episode, and the BBC have chosen not to make the pictures from all the episodes that do have them available.

However, there are other resources available.  For my money Tragical History Tour is THE site for images.  Not only does it have up the telesnaps the Beeb have chosen not to include on their site, it is an actively growing collection of 138,000 pictures.  It’s a real labour of love, and a credit to the person who is putting it together.  I couldn’t find their name, but if someone knows please fill me in so I can give credit where it’s due.

Now, over the years what I’ve found is a good method for going through a lost episode is to go through it twice.  The first time you listen to it and the narration, or maybe read the script.  The second time, that’s when you go through looking at the telesnaps.

It’s hard to concentrate on the story and performances and look at the pictures that first time around.  I’m sure some can do it, but I tended to find it frustrating.  Listening to it once without the pictures gives you that solid grounding, plus it preserves any surprises.  You don’t accidentally spoiler yourself by going to the next picture only to discover a key plot point that is about to happen.

That second listen, you know what’s happening.  You’re comfortable with the pace and the action, and you can actually enjoy viewing the telesnaps.  You’d be surprised how many moments get an extra bit of oomph when you hear them again but with a great visual.

Now, you may be thinking, “Hang on, listen to each episode in the story twice?!  It’ll take me all night to get through the story, you mad mongrel!”  Not really.

It’ll take you days.You’ll see me repeat this piece of advice again and again.  Doctor Who as a series is best enjoyed one episode at a time.  Even the stories that fully exist tend to benefit being viewed one per day.  It was made to be episodic TV.  It was built to have cliffhangers and to leave you wanting to see what happens next.It’s amazing how often a story that many of my friends thought was boring, I found to be watchable, if not actually rather good.  In the end, most of the time it came down to the fact that I had watched/listened to it one episode a night, they had devoured it all in one sitting.  The pacing of those older stories just doesn’t hold up to that sort of viewing.Yes, I’ll admit that with the weaker stories, you are prolonging the agony.  But on the bright side, you’re taking them in 25 minute pieces, rather than 2 hour chunks.

Now, there are two last ways to experience the missing stories.  One is the novelisations.  The BBC has just re-released six of the original novelised stories.  The re-releases are nicely done and have some nice forwards.  You can pick up many of the older novelisations in second hand bookshops and on eBay.

Some novelisations take liberties, occasionally they are massive, other times they are merely small touches or scenes that were cut due to time constraints. There are a few that read like the script has just had ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ added to it then, been printed in a book.  Some are fantastic versions of the original stories, adding extra background detail and holding their own as good pieces of fiction.  Some are bland, or loaded down with so much totally unnecessary continuity that you will start to bleed from every orifice. [4]

But they are only a guide to what happened. You can’t read one along with the audio playing in the background because there will always be things that don’t match up.  That said, I have found that some novelisations have drawn my attention to elements of the story that I missed the first time around.  So they certainly have a place here.  If you don’t want to go through listening to audios, reading scripts, and looking at telesnaps, they are a good option.

And naturally, the budget is much better in the books.

The last way to experience the lost episodes is fan reconstructions.  Now there are a few of these on Youtube and other places, and by their nature they are of varying quality.  Some are excellent, and others will make your eyes bleed.

Personally I recommend Loose Canon Reconstructions.  Now, before you eagerly look them up, you will need to already own or go out and buy a video tape player.  Videotape is the only way they distribute their stuff for a number of reasons, mostly legal.

What the Loose Canon Team do is recreate the missing episodes using the original audio, and the telesnaps, production photos, and any existing footage they can find.  They also do a little bit of photoshopping and experimental computer graphic work here and there, but only when they deem it necessary to help fill in the blanks or add drama.  The best of these are as close as you’re likely to get to watching the original episodes, but remember, they are still basically photos to an audio track, so don’t go expecting miracles!

Most importantly, never, ever pay money for any reconstructions if someone offers to sell you any, don’t be a bastard and try to sell them to others, and please don’t upload them to the internet or turn them into DVDs for your friends.  The BBC know about Loose Canon, and turn a blind eye because they don’t charge a cent and videotape is seen as a dead format that is not costing the Beeb sales.  As soon as their stuff starts turning up on DVD or appearing in other formats… well there’s a good chance Loose Canon would be shut down.

These folks have put in thousands of hours of their free time just to give people like you and me a chance to experience these episodes in something like their original form.  They don’t charge for this, so please respect their work and the time they’ve put in.

So we reach the end of this piece. I hope it’s been of some use to those of you considering watching through some of the older incomplete stories.

At the time of writing, we’re now down to only 106 missing episodes. Which is still a lot, but between when I first got into fandom and now, roughly a quarter of what was missing has been recovered.

I don’t think we’ll ever find them all, but these occasional discoveries keep me waiting to see what will be found next for us all to share and experience together as fans.


1. For more detail on telesnaps go to the Wikipedia article

2. Ian Levine famously saved the very first Dalek story from being destroyed. As a Dalek fan, I will always be extremely grateful to him for this. Unfortunately, he’s an extreme fan in many ways, and his… zeal has not made him many friends.

It also didn’t help that, for a while, it seemed like every documentary about the show had Levine telling the same story again and again, about how he saved the first Dalek story.

Add to that, he actually saved four copies of that first seven part story. The full set of each of the English positive and negative films, and the full set of Arabic positive and negative films. When one is feeling uncharitable, as I so often am, one can’t help but think that maybe instead of saving four copies of one story, he could have saved one copy, and rescued another twenty-one other episodes as well. [a]

But, I will always thank him for saving that first Dalek story. Oh and mock him and damn him for smashing his TV during the hiatus (making all fans look like overweight morons), and producing the “Doctor in Distress’ single. [b]

3. This is back from the olden days when you could buy one Doctor Who story to play at home – Genesis of the Daleks – on vinyl LP. You also got recordings of the latest season of the series mailed over on audiotape from penfriends in the UK, and there were around 140 missing episodes.  And yes, I do own Doctor Who in multiple formats – LP, audiotape, VHS tape, DVD, Blu-ray, and AVI.

4. Why yes John Peel, I am looking at you. You might be a nice guy, but the sheer level of fanwanky retconning that goes on in your Dalek novelisations rendered them all but unreadable to me. Me! A fan who loves seeing stuff retconned, and loves Daleks! But it was so forced in those books that it actually ruined the stories, which is a shame because you’re not a bad writer.

a. And if I ever find out that you passed up my beloved Marco Polo, the only story I have given 10/10 to so far, so you could grab more copies of Dead Planet, I will hunt you down and wee in your coffee.

b. Do not track this down and listen to it. I’m not trying to trick you into doing that by saying this. It’s just a bad, embarrassing song, and not worth the time you’ll put into finding it. I have the original single (Hey, I was young and stupid, and even then I thought it was crap the first time I played it.)

4 thoughts on “Classic Who – The Viewing of the Lost

  1. I have to admit that I’m not likely to watch many of these old Dr Who episodes, but I do appreciate the love you have for them, and the effort that goes into these posts.

    • @knuckle_salad was making comments and asking questions and I thought, “Well, she’s not going to be the only one who is curious,” and it sort of spurred me on a bit. She’d mentioned not quite getting the Daleks, which prompted the previous post.

      The post that was going here was to be non-DW specific, but then they found those two episodes, and it seemed appropriate to queue-jump this one up the line.

  2. Pingback: Classic Who – Seven for the New Who Crowd. | Dalekboy

  3. Pingback: Classic Who – The Martian Legacy | Dalekboy

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