The hunt for the lost classics of Doctor Who

As the Time Lord's 50th anniversary approaches, RT launches a campaign to track down missing episodes from the 1960s

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The hunt for the lost classics of Doctor Who
Written By
Patrick Mulkern

It’s almost a year since Radio Times.com broke the full story of the return of two long-lost episodes of 1960s Doctor Who. RT’s own historian, Ralph Montagu, located the film prints in a private collection and they were screened last December to an excited audience at London’s BFI.

Their discovery brought down the tally of missing episodes from 108 to 106. We said at the time that more could be out there. Now, as anticipation builds for the programme’s 50th anniversary in November 2013, Radio Times is launching a campaign to find more lost classics starring William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton as the first two Doctors.

To be clear: none of the original 1960s videotapes are known to have survived. They were reused for other programmes or junked. However, film copies were made for foreign sales. Many of these the BBC retained. Some have been recovered from other archives, TV stations and private collections – in Britain and throughout the world.

Episodes have returned from Nigeria, Singapore and as far away as New Zealand. A few film cans have turned up in the most extraordinary places. Two episodes of The Daleks’ Master Plan surfaced in the basement of a Mormon church in south London! And over the decades, rumours have abounded that more are just waiting to be discovered. 

"Two years ago," says Ralph, "many believed that the chances of finding any more missing episodes had dwindled to almost nothing. Surely, we thought, after so much publicity, anyone with a missing episode would have come forward. But the discovery I made last year taught us that missing gems from television's past can be found in the collections or even the attics of people who don't understand the significance of what they've got."

He believes the possibility of further finds should not be ruled out, for Doctor Who and other lost TV classics. "Keep looking, keep asking, and get in touch with us if you think you have something of interest."

Here's RT's checklist of all 106 lost episodes

If you have any useful information, please contact RT at lostwho@radiotimes.com and we will forward it to our contacts at the BBC. They and the Time Lord's fans will be delighted to hear from you. 

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Patrick Mulkern’s wishlist
Any new discovery would be amazing, but these two episodes come top of my list… 

The Power of the Daleks: Episode 1
The holy grail for Doctor Who fans – Patrick Troughton’s debut episode. This was the programme’s audacious first attempt to recast the lead actor. It begins with a seven-minute scene inside the Tardis as the eccentric second Doctor adjusts to his “renewed” body, offering little explanation to his perplexed companions, Polly and Ben (the gorgeous Anneke Wills and Michael Craze). In scruffy clothes, a silly, tall hat and armed only with a recorder, the new Doctor marches off into a mercury swamp, and the episode ends with the trio discovering not-so-dormant Daleks in a spooky space capsule... 

The Daleks’ Master Plan: 
The Destruction of Time (Episode 12)
The shocking conclusion to an epic 12-part battle against the Daleks. William Hartnell is the first Doctor with Peter Purves (pre-Blue Peter) as his companion Steven. Jean Marsh guest-stars as space agent Sara Kingdom. A short-lived companion, she gruesomely ages to death under the effects of the time destructor, as the Daleks and their jungle planet Kembel turn to dust. A large chunk of this episode was shot on film by ace director Douglas Camfield.

And if I could pick one complete story…

Marco Polo
All seven episodes are currently lost. A purely historical adventure, it follows the first Doctor and his companions on a long and eventful journey from the Himalayas to Peking, travelling with Marco Polo's caravan to meet Kublai Khan. Judging from the photographs and soundtracks that do survive, I reckon this was a 1960s TV classic, despite being made almost entirely in the BBC’s small Lime Grove Studios. My granddad – who got me into Doctor Who in the first place – always cited this as his favourite story. And my friend Waris Hussein, who directed six episodes of the serial, says: "I would be ecstatic if Marco Polo were found, mainly because by the time I came to direct it – after the tight budget of the first four episodes of An Unearthly Child – the BBC opened its purse strings and a minor epic was born both in design and storytelling."

So remember, if you have any useful information, please contact RT at lostwho@radiotimes.com

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