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Two Missing “Doctor Who” Episodes Recovered

Sunday saw a big, happy surprise for Whovians everywhere when, at the BFI’s annual “Missing Presumed Wiped” event, which discusses and celebrates finding old and missing film and television, it was announced that two 1960s Doctor Who episodes thought lost forever had been recovered.

For those unfamiliar, the BBC had a policy in the 1970s to “wipe” or erase tapes of old television programs after a certain point, under the belief that no one would want to see them again, or that they wouldn’t be able to, or because they just wanted to reuse the tape. As a part of this policy, huge amounts of Doctor Who‘s 1960s output had been lost. It was only through the work of people passionate about finding these episodes that we have any today. In the 1990s, several episodes had been found, including the entirety of the serial “The Tomb of the Cybermen” from 1967, which still stands as Second Doctor Patrick Troughton’s earliest complete story, all the rest coming from his third and final season. Since then, only two more episodes had been found, one in 1999 and one in 2004, and of the 253 episodes from 1963-1969, 108 were still lost.

That is, until now, when two more episodes can be called “found.” The first is episode three of “Galaxy 4,” a William Hartnell (First Doctor) story that began season three in 1965. All four episodes from that story were missing so now we’re finally able to see a full episode of the war between the humanoid Drahvins and the reptilian Rills. The second found episode is episode two of the quite silly “The Underwater Menace,” the Second Doctor’s third story from 1967. Episode three of the four-parter was already found, but the discovery of ep 2 means it is now the earliest extant Patrick Troughton episode. As Troughton’s was hit the hardest by the wiping, any time a new episode is found, it’s a reason to celebrate.

The following is an excellent little video by Classic Who DVD extras producer Ed Stradling about the discovery. Thanks to our friends at Radio Free Skaro for the initial posting.

So very soon, we hope, we’ll be able to watching these brand new old episodes. While neither “Galaxy 4” nor “The Underwater Menace” are regarded very highly in the annals of Whodom, the very fact that two more episodes have been found after all this time gives hope that one day we might get episodes from “The Power of the Daleks,” Troughton’s inaugural adventure, or episode 4 of “The Tenth Planet,” which features the very first regeneration. Keep hoping, fans, and keep searching.

The BBC released two small clips from the episodes in question.
GALAXY 4 – “Airlock”




-Kanderson’s small bladder made him an Underwater Menace at the rec center… Follow him on TWITTER.

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  1. Old Doctor says:

    This is wonderful news! The first time I had that the BBC wiped these episodes, along with many other programs from that era, I was appalled and I hoped that time travel would become possible. Unlike a number of people who would use temporal technology to get rich, or alter history, or change their future, I would go back to the 60s and record DW from the beginning, preserving what the BBC callously threw away. And maybe make a few bucks.

  2. Tim says:

    RE: Signals bouncing back from space… you might want to check the date in the byline of that article 😉

  3. S. Matthew says:

    This is great news 2 down 108 more to go

  4. Gospel X says:

    On a Doctor Who-related note: Anyone else catch the Doctor Who joke on SNL? The gist of the joke is that Doctor Who is just good enough…for England. Take that for what you will.

  5. Elisabeth says:

    I agree with Brian E. Troughton is my favorite classic Doctor and I’m very excited to see more of his episodes exist! It’s a travesty his run was hit the hardest by the Wipes.

  6. Lauren says:

    They found even more lost episodes. They are transmissions from the past bouncing back from FREAKING SPACE!!!

  7. Andrew H. says:

    Hooray! This is great. It’s sad when you hear about lost films and TV. It feels like part of history is lost sometimes.

  8. Brian E. says:

    Amazing!! Any more Who (especially Troughton) is fantastic news.