After his 2021 book The Long Game chronicled Doctor Who's journey back to screens between 1996 and 2003, writer and broadcaster Paul Hayes is back with a a new book Pull to Open, which charts the show's original creation between 1962 and 1963.


In recognition of the book's publication, Hayes spoke with CultBox about what he found during his painstaking research, including a small piece of information which seemingly re-writes our understanding of the show's history.

While it had been understood that the first filming for An Unearthly Child, the show's first episode, took place on 20th August 1963, it now appears filming for the series never actually took place on that date.

Hayes said: "Interestingly, given that those documents I mentioned have been open to researchers for thirty years now and have been used as sources many times, I did find something lurking within them which revealed that one oft-stated piece of information was actually mistaken.

"It’s mentioned in various places that the first ever shooting specifically for Doctor Who took place on August 20 1963, for the opening titles. It’s certainly true that a piece of paper exists in the files booking a filming session at Ealing for that date… But there’s also another piece of paper from eight days later cancelling it, so it never actually happened."

William Hartnell during rehearsals for Doctor Who
William Hartnell during rehearsals for Doctor Who. Sunday Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Hayes continued: "As far as I can tell, nobody had ever spotted that before, although it’s understandable – there is a lot of information on a lot of pieces of paper in those files!"

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Hayes said that it was "more small things like that" that he came across during his research, "rather than any major ‘everything you thought you knew is wrong!’ revelations". He also added that the book features "some more background and context about things".

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When it comes to classic episodes of the long-running sci-fi series, the head of TV archive Kaleidoscope Chris Perry recently suggested that remaining 'missing' episodes of the show are known to still exist, but that they remain in private collections.

A total of 97 episodes of the show currently remain lost in their original form, and Perry revealed that Kaleidoscope "know where there is missing Doctor Who out there but the owners won’t return it at the moment".

Doctor Who is available to stream on BBC iPlayer with episodes of the classic series also available on BritBox – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here.

For more, check out our dedicated Sci-Fi page or our full TV Guide and Streaming Guide.


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