This is huge news. It’s been an issue around Doctor Who fandom for years, but basically, back in the sixties, when no-one was thinking about video recordings or repeats or a 24 hour multi-channel TV environment, the BBC inadvertently carried out an act of cultural vandalism. In order to save money, they wiped the master tapes containing hours of classic TV – Doctor Who is the most famous example, but we also lost episodes of Dad’s Army, Z-Cars, Steptoe and Son and many others.
Fortunately, Doctor Who fans are a tenacious lot (to be fair, so are the other TV fans dedicated to hunting down missing footage), and so every few years there’s a report of missing episodes surfacing in a loft or at a car boot sale, or in the basement of an Australian TV company. This weekend it was announced that two more episodes have been found, one from William Hartnell’s era, the other from Patrick Troughton’s.
I guess the lesson to take away from this (other than “never give up hope”) is that we have to safeguard our cultural treasures; I’ve written before about the Great Biblioclasm of 2011, where suddenly books, libraries and information seem to be under increased threat, but the key is that this often happens by mistake – Doctor Who wasn’t wiped because it was censored or airbrushed out of history, it went because of expediency, cost-cutting and a failure to foresee the future of media. To me, that’s more frightening.
Still, we now have episodes of ‘Galaxy 4’ and ‘The Underwater Menace’. Only 106 to go!
PS. Believe it or not, this wasn’t even the most surprising Doctor Who news over the weekend, because here’s a link to a clip that’s surfaced of Thin Lizzy covering the DW theme tune…