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Television Sci-Fi United Kingdom

Over 100 Missing Episodes of Doctor Who Located 158

Posted by timothy
from the as-a-result-of-time-travel dept.
MajikJon writes "The BBC junking policies of the '60s and '70s resulted in the loss of hundreds of episodes of the classic series in its earliest years. Through the work of ardent fans over the succeeding decades, dozens of these lost episodes have been painstaking recovered and added back into the BBC archives. Now, it seems, the searchers have struck the mother lode. According to the Wikipedia, there are currently 106 missing episodes of the serial. If reports are correct, we may finally get to see all the episodes."
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Over 100 Missing Episodes of Doctor Who Located

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06, 2013 @04:38AM (#45049539)

    The BBC have not confirmed this and it has been rumoured already for months now, hardly an exclusive by the Sunday People as the article claims, but maybe there is a chance the BBC will say something about these rumoured negoiations this time.

  • Interesting. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Delusion_ (56114) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @04:43AM (#45049551) Homepage

    I'm not a fan of the series in any incarnation, but assuming the report is accurate, I'm thrilled that those that are fans may finally be able to dig a little deeper into the archives.

    And thanks to the internet being the world's most effective copying machine, if these episodes do release, we'll never have to worry about this particular series going dark again.

    I'm always a little intrigued by some of the other long-running shows where archival is not (at the time) a financially sound move. I have to wonder exactly how many episodes of, say, daytime soap operas are lost. Many? Most? The airing schedule on some of the longest-running is so frequent that catching up from a series from beginning to end (if it were possible) would take 6 or so years if you tried to plow through at 40 hours a week.

    • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Shimbo (100005) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @04:50AM (#45049567)

      I'm not a fan of the series in any incarnation, but assuming the report is accurate, I'm thrilled that those that are fans may finally be able to dig a little deeper into the archives.

      It's a tabloid newspaper, on a Sunday, when all the journalists are at home, and they just make shit up instead. I'm going for 100% untrue, until proved otherwise. Fan sites seem completely dismssive also.

      • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Informative)

        by gallondr00nk (868673) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @06:48AM (#45049793)

        I also wonder what condition the reels will be in.

        Someone on another thread discussing old Doctor Who episodes pointed out that early tape stock was an absolute nightmare to keep in decent condition, and the expense was sufficient enough that the BBC decided it was too expensive.

        It wasn't that they just carelessly throwed their archives away.

        • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Informative)

          by NoMaster (142776) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @07:23AM (#45049947) Homepage Journal

          Someone on another thread discussing old Doctor Who episodes pointed out that early tape stock was an absolute nightmare to keep in decent condition, and the expense was sufficient enough that the BBC decided it was too expensive.

          But these would be (if they existed, which they probably don't) distribution copies for foreign broadcasters, not the original tapes.

          These distribution prints - which were 16mm film, not tape - were passed from country to country, usually ending up in the tail ends of the empire in Africa & Asia. They were supposed to have been returned or destroyed at the end of their tours, but it wasn't unusual for them to be put into storage, grabbed by local staff for their own archives, or sold on the sly to broadcasters in neighbouring countries.

          • by Tapewolf (1639955)

            These distribution prints - which were 16mm film, not tape - were passed from country to country, usually ending up in the tail ends of the empire in Africa & Asia. They were supposed to have been returned or destroyed at the end of their tours, but it wasn't unusual for them to be put into storage, grabbed by local staff for their own archives, or sold on the sly to broadcasters in neighbouring countries.

            I wouldn't be shocked if someone had been striking copies of the films either.

          • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by sjames (1099) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @01:22PM (#45051699) Homepage

            In other words, the episodes would be lost forever if not for blatant copyright infringement.

        • I also wonder what condition the reels will be in.

          Someone on another thread discussing old Doctor Who episodes pointed out that early tape stock was an absolute nightmare to keep in decent condition, and the expense was sufficient enough that the BBC decided it was too expensive.

          It wasn't that they just carelessly throwed their archives away.

          Uh, no. The BBC was too cheap to buy more tapes, and reused the Doctor Who (and other aired show) tapes to record new shows. Losing tapes has NOTHING to do with tape quality. As a matter of fact, a few episodes were digitally reconstructed from tapes in worse shape than anything sitting in the BBC archives.

      • Re:Interesting. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by realityimpaired (1668397) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @07:50AM (#45050053)

        It's a tabloid newspaper, on a Sunday, when all the journalists are at home, and they just make shit up instead. I'm going for 100% untrue, until proved otherwise. Fan sites seem completely dismssive also.

        The proof is in the pudding, but I will point out that the tabloid newspapers tend to have better fact checking than the mainstream news because of the risk of getting sued for libel. It's unlikely that somebody'll sue them for reporting incorrectly that episodes of Dr. Who have been recovered, but they employ people to verify facts because it's *very* likely that somebody'll sue them if they report that Celebrity X got arrested after a 3-hour high speed police chase, and that they were high on cocaine, completely naked, and had a dead hooker in the boot at the time.

        • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Informative)

          by Dogtanian (588974) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @08:39AM (#45050185) Homepage

          It's unlikely that somebody'll sue them for reporting incorrectly that episodes of Dr. Who have been recovered

          Hence the increased possibility that if they had to make something up to fill space they decided to go for this instead of something involving Harry Styles, Hazell Dean, a lorryload of quaaludes and a goat.

          The proof is in the pudding

          No, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating".

          • by caspy7 (117545)

            No, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating".

            Oh crap, then what's this pile of brown stuff in front of me?

      • by hairyfeet (841228)
        Actually according to Chuck at SFDebris [sfdebris.com] it WAS true at one time,late 80s/early 90s, but they were destroyed along with the TV station and half the countryside during the civil war.
        • by BigBadBus (653823)
          Twenty odd missing episodes held by Sierra Leone were destroyed in the civil war there in 1999.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by stud9920 (236753)

      I have to wonder exactly how many episodes of, say, daytime soap operas are lost. Many? Most? The airing schedule on some of the longest-running is so frequent that catching up from a series from beginning to end (if it were possible) would take 6 or so years if you tried to plow through at 40 hours a week.

      Generally, when you skip a year or so, the same conversation is still ongoing. So watching an episode per season is enough

    • And thanks to the internet being the world's most effective copying machine, if these episodes do release, we'll never have to worry about this particular series going dark again.

      Why do people have so much more faith in the Internet than any other medium before it? It is young and requires an incredible level of infrastructure to exist and advanced factories to maintain. Do you know how much data you would lose access to if your country were without even power stations for even a couple of days? How long did it take for civilisation to be able to build a thermionic valve, let alone a modern CPU?

      • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Delusion_ (56114) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @06:01AM (#45049695) Homepage

        Because copying data is exactly what the internet is for. If this "incredible level of infrastructure" - the internet, the power grid, and modern computing - ever goes away, I'll have much bigger concerns than idly thinking about the fact that someone out there has a hard drive with Dr. Who episodes that they can no longer watch.

        Short of that sort of civilizational collapse, that content is effectively around forever.

        It took three years for OiNK to archive 200,000 torrents. It took nine months for the biggest of the trackers that OiNK's closure caused to get to that point, six more months to double to 400,000, and has grown since.

        So, yes, I have faith that either the internet will archive this content adequately, presuming the shit doesn't hit the fan so hard that video entertainment and the preservation of history is the least of our worries.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The important thing in all that is that it's Doctor Who, not Dr. Who.

        • by hairyfeet (841228)
          You are forgetting that the governments and corps are becoming one and the corps don't want you watching or listening to anything that they don't get a cut of and certainly not in a DRM free format. All it would take is the countries tightening that noose a little bit tighter (six strikes anyone?) for your amaing Internet to become nothing but a home shopping channel and propaganda outlet for the government. Now break out your CC and watch the latest approved DRMed video from Michael Bay, that is a good cit
          • by Delusion_ (56114)

            The history of the last ten years is one of the RIAA and MPAA trying and failing to put this genie back in the bottle via lawsuits and legislation.

            Frankly, I find these failures a bit of a back-guard action. We need to decide, as a society, whether or not we want to be participants or mere consumers in our culture. Never-ending copyrights run contrary to the intent of copyright law (assuring a productive public domain), and contrary to participation in the culture (record labels looking for a paycheck eve

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      They started repeating Neighbours on UK Gold from the start, so someone must be keeping those tapes.

    • by SpzToid (869795)

      I haven't seen the show yet, but have heard a little about it. Dr. Who is a sort of time traveling detective, that is apparently victorious once-again having re-released his complete recorded video-taped series for the masses to consume and enjoy; thwarting, for now, his time-traveling enemies. I hope I've accurately understood the gist of this current episode. Long live Dr. Who!

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      I don't know when this stopped being the case, but in the early days, the daily soaps were broadcast live; there were no tapes.

  • With a note that read. "You're welcome; please be more careful next time. -The Doctor"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://bleedingcool.com/2013/06/13/wqill-doctor-who-have-a-very-special-surprise-for-us-in-november

  • 3 month old rumour (Score:3, Informative)

    by Pop69 (700500) <billy&benarty,co,uk> on Sunday October 06, 2013 @04:51AM (#45049571) Homepage
    Printed in a sleazy tabloid newspaper with no corroboration ?

    I don't think so somehow, is this what passes for news on /. now ?
    • by narcc (412956) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @06:04AM (#45049701) Journal

      is this what passes for news on /. now ?

      Look at it this way: The news is only three months old, there isn't a dup on the front page (yet), and it's from a sleazy tabloid rather than a blog about someones blog about a sleazy tabloid article they saw on reddit.

      I'd say it's a step forward!

      • Can I quote you on that?

        is this what passes for news on /. now ?

        Look at it this way: The news is only three months old, there isn't a dup on the front page (yet), and it's from a sleazy tabloid rather than a blog about someones blog about a sleazy tabloid article they saw on reddit.

        I'd say it's a step forward!

        Yep, apparently I can.

    • It's what gets published in the Sunday Edition of Slashdot, actually.

    • is this what passes for news on /. now ?

      "News for Nerds. Stuff That Matters.", it doesn't get any bigger than this.

  • All the BBC has to do is get the aliens that are watching them right now to turn on their tivos. Of course in another 50 years some might mistake this for a Dalek [beust.com] and come to earth with guns blazing! Or they might think that a Dalek compiler is where they are being manufactured and just blast Mountain View from outer space instead to save the poor enslaved earthlings from them.
  • I don't believe it (Score:5, Informative)

    by BigBadBus (653823) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @06:45AM (#45049781) Homepage
    This rumour started off in the summer as "90 missing episodes found" and even some big name fans were taken in by it, but the BBC (and those in a position to know and/or find out) always rubbished it. The story seems to be this: in the summer, someone in Africa (probably an old TV company, but a private collector has also been mentioned) sent a large package of old TV material to a company in the UK. The shows were to be remastered from old, obsolete formats into something that could be played with modern technology, something that the company specialised it. Somehow this news got picked up by the Dr.Who fraternity who made 2+2=106. So, almost certainly its a case of "move along, nothing to see here."
    At any rate, if Ethiopia has got anything, they never bought the broadcast rights to the Troughton era, so all we'd have to recover at best would be a handful of Hartnells, but still better than nothing.
    BUT just suppose the rumour is true, could the BBC have kept it quote for all these months? Ostensibly yes. The two episodes found in 2011 were "found" in the summer but this was a well kept secret until "Missing Believed Wiped" at the British Film Institute in December. Even the programme said they would be showing "1960s BBC Science Fiction" with no mention as to what it was. No one had a clue until much closer to the event. And when "Tomb of the Cybermen" was found in 1991, the BBC put out a cover story that it was simply four episodes of an already existing story. The secret was apparently kept hidden for at least a few weeks; all other missing episode "finds" have been quite quickly reported.
    Lastly, a little plug for my own website [paullee.com] about the missing episodes of Dr.Who.
    • by nbritton (823086)

      You catch more flies with honey... have the BBC put out a bounty per episode:

      Master tape - $100k
      Over the air recording - $50k
      Alternate duplicate recordings - $10k

      That's $10.6 million for whoever can find those 106 originals.

      • by BigBadBus (653823)
        When "Tomb of the Cybermen" was found, we were told that a missing episodes office would be set up inside the BBC to find all kinds of lost TV around the globe and that a finder's fee would be paid. The BBC would pay whatever the material was worth. Then...it all went quiet. Nothing more was heard, and those who talked in favour of it (including one BBC engineer who pondered what kind of goodies this would prise out of the woodwork when word spread) soon began to dismiss it as a bad idea. One Dr.Who fan eve
      • Actually, all 106 originals fit on just three master tapes: they're bigger on the inside than they are on the outside.

    • so all we'd have to recover at best would be a handful of Hartnells, but still better than nothing.

      Whipersnapper.

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      I'm astonished at the amount of tinfoil expended over something of so little consequence, and which will be so easily proven (true or false) shortly?

      Above all, one has to ask: WHY would anyone contrive a story about lost/found episodes of a tv show?

    • Ummmm? Yes, yes, yes my boy.. I loved Troughton but watching Hartnell from the beginning, he is up there with my core group of favorite Doctors. The prospect of seeing the First Doctor's regeneration in its entirety, rather than the short clip from Blue Peter, would be nothing short of a miracle to the fanbase. Elements of Hartnell's Doctor can be found in Eleven. Every time Smith says "Come along _________", it's a throwback to the original era.
    • by raburton (1281780)

      I've spent a little time in Ethiopia and I don't believe it either. I didn't go there to watch TV and don't claim to be an expert on the country, but it just seems highly unlikely. Sure, they have TV channels in Ethiopia, but the level of TV ownership now is nothing like in the west, let alone sometime around the 70's when these tapes might have been bought. I've seen no obvious references to science fiction in the popular culture. English isn't widely spoken outside tourist areas (and in medicine), it's be

      • by BigBadBus (653823)
        That may be so, but Dr.Who was indeed bought and broadcast. I'm not sure of the exact number, maybe about 80 episodes?
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @09:36AM (#45050455) Journal
    Human memory is a funny thing. It does not really remember what we saw, except for a few savants with photographic memory. What we generally remember is what we felt. I will cit two personal examples.

    When I was in seventh grade I saw a movie with a typical bollywood number set on the Moon. Craters and boulders and stuff with the leading pair dancing and singing. I remembered it as a magnificent big set. After some 40 years I happened to see the same sequence, in an old is gold DVD set. The set was cheesy, tacky, at most 40 feet by 30 feet, craters were of just two sizes, nearly perfect circles, in a kind of semi uniform spacing. The leading pair looked horribly over made up. The only thing that was still great was the song. I was humming it for a couple of days. [*]

    Whan I was young my dad used to take to the bank and I used to think the tellers were sitting on very tall chairs behind impossibly tall counters. Turns out that was just the perspective of a child who has to look up at everything. Once I grew up these counters seemed quite normal, at most 4 or 4.5 feet tall.

    The point is, even if we unearth all those missing 106 episodes, the actual episodes might not stand up to all the hype and expectation heaped up on them.

    [*]: For the Desis out there: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6UeorX-aVo [youtube.com]

    • by Tapewolf (1639955) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @10:54AM (#45050777)

      The point is, even if we unearth all those missing 106 episodes, the actual episodes might not stand up to all the hype and expectation heaped up on them.

      'Tomb of the Cybermen' actually did, for me, at least. I thought it was a rather slick production given the budget. Other stuff from that era is distinctly variable in quality (e.g. the little city model in 'The Krotons' which I honestly thought was supposed to be a heap of stones).

      Nostalgia doesn't really enter into it for me because I never got to see the original broadcasts. In actual fact I only got into Dr. Who really when they repeated the Tom Baker episodes in the 90s and I found them to my liking.

      • The Doctor's crack at Jamie's kilt in 'Tomb of the Cybermen' did it for me.. XD
      • by sfraggle (212671)

        Though it's interesting to see that with Tomb of the Cybermen, not everyone [archive.org] felt that way:

        Those fans who were too young to have seen the black-and-white stories when they originally went out were generally disappointed, because they had unrealistic expectations and a lack of understanding of what TV shows in general, and Doctor Who in particular, were like in the 1960's.

        Personally I love the early Doctor Who episodes, especially Tomb of the Cybermen, but I have to be honest that the quality of some of the

    • The point is, even if we unearth all those missing 106 episodes, the actual episodes might not stand up to all the hype and expectation heaped up on them.

      Indeed. The show was much more firmly aimed at kids back in those days, compared to the more adult aim of recent years. Viewers accustomed to seeing the current show would be flabbergasted with those early episodes. It's the same show in name only.

    • It's sort of like when I saw Voltron on Netflix. I remembered loving that show back when I was a kid. So I played the first episode to relive the wonderful days of my youth. Only I was suddenly watching a show riddled with plot holes (I give some leeway for kids cartoons, but these were huge), bad character motivation, and really cheesy lines. It was horrible. I don't know if the first few episodes were just always that bad and it got better or if my memory of their quality has been "enhanced" by being

  • BBC used to wipe all their shows. Which means after airing it once, they would erase or record the tapes over with something else with no thought to archiving them for future generations. This was a short sighted and incredibly stupid move by the BBC as well U.S. broadcasting corporations at the time . Thus hundreds and thousands of hours of valuable, classic entertainment were erased and gone forever with the flick of a switch based on poorly conceived management decisions. Much of Johnny Carson's classic
    • The BBC's old policy is being partially blamed on the actors unions of the time. They didn't want reruns without having the actors repeat the performance and had an agreement limiting replays. Once that limit was reached, the recording was useless.

      Thinking about how technology TAKES JOBS AWAY... just imagine if such policies continued... we would employ scores more actors than we do today; the big stars wouldn't get paid as much but they'd have to work more hours. We still have theater shows and without

  • by plopez (54068) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @10:15AM (#45050613) Journal

    As watching Star Trek TOS re-runs. And possibly as painful as watching $YourFavoriteSciFiShow in 20 years. :)

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      By coincidence, I just recently started watching Blake's 7 for the first time. Looks straight outta 1950, for sure.

  • seems like the bbc should look at http://watchseries.lt/serie/Doctor_Who_(1963) [watchseries.lt] and http://watchseries.lt/serie/doctor_who [watchseries.lt] they are quite easy to find

  • by guytoronto (956941) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @01:44PM (#45051857)
    While it is very interesting that the missing episodes may be found, in reality, many of the early versions of Doctor Who are just painful to watch. Poor dialogue, agonizing slow pacing, terrible direction, etc, etc. If the BBC truly wants to revive the old episodes of Doctor Who, take the audio tracks (note: audio from EVERY episode survives) and created an animated series. Clean up the story lines and create something worth watching again.
  • Maybe they'll find the Apollo 11 originals in the stack

  • Many of them involve an evil cactus as the villain.
  • Undoubtedly, to people who have no life and are as bad as the most diehard of Star Trek fans/nutcases this is very important. Granted, "Doctor Who" is a cultural icon and it's nice that a big gap in the series has been rediscovered. However, I would be getting much more excited if, for example, some more lost or portions of fragmentary works of Archimedes were rediscovered [wikipedia.org].

  • More news (Score:5, Informative)

    by BigBadBus (653823) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @06:38PM (#45053627) Homepage
    The Radio Times, the BBC's listing magazine, has run an article saying that two "episodes" have been found, but when a BBC spokesman was asked for details, they were blanked. It looks like the BBC aren't talking to the BBC ... again! Now the Mirror newspaper is weighing in again, saying that there will be a big press conference in a London hotel on Tuesday evening, and the material will be made available to buy on iPlayer on Wednesday. A couple of friends have said its two Troughton "stories" but no one in the BBC is saying anything official. Make of that what you will :(
  • Just hope they don't get sued in the likes of 20 million a tape...

  • My grade 4 teacher was crazy about the original Doctor Who, he said that he watched it from the beginning and recorded every episode. He used to bring them in to class and we would watch them. Over the course of one year we must have seen at least 50 episodes, and they were all sequential. I wonder if he was lying about having the entire series on tape. Surely he would have said something. Weird.
  • It will be pretty cool listening to them in Amharic [wikipedia.org], it might finally make more sense.
    • Even if this story were true (which I have my doubts) but the audio was some localized dubbing, it would be very good news. The BBC has audio from all of the missing episodes. All they would need to do is strip out the localized dubbing, overlay the audio they have, and match it up to the video. It might not be 100% perfect, but they could get it good enough for fans to enjoy the lost episodes again.

  • The BBC News website has a story on it seemingly confirming that some number of episodes have been bound and will be revealed at a press conference later this week.

    It's always possible this is one part of the Beeb not being in sync with the other, but it looks like it's more than just idle rumors.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-24448063 [bbc.co.uk]

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