Monday, 12 December 2011

TWO missing Who episodes found!

Many folk thought we would never find any more of the missing Who episodes from its early history, but yesterday it was announced that TWO episodes from the original series had been 'rediscovered', an episode each for the first and second Doctors, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. Galaxy Four, part three (titled 'Airlock'), was first broadcast in 1965 while The Underwater Menace part two, was aired in 1967.

The official Doctor Who Twitter account tweeted a cryptic clue last night: "Christmas has come early for Doctor Who fans. Expect us to tweet some very – no REALLY exciting news in just a couple of hours' time ..."

Later, the account revealed: "Two previously missing episodes of 1960s Doctor Who returned to BBC. Galaxy Four pt 3 & The Underwater Menace pt 2. Details soon."

The episodes were purchased by film collector Terry Burnett at a village fete near Southampton in the early 1980s. He had been unaware that the canisters contained material missing from the BBC archives. Research has shown that the returned episodes originated from the ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) channel in Australia. It’s likely these prints were returned long ago to the BBC from ABC, and subsequently disposed of, but perhaps "pulled out of a skip" by an enthusiast.

Paul Vanezis, a BBC producer involved in their recovery, pointed out the problems. "Like any old film, Airlock has a bit of muck and dirt on it, which we can clean."

Somewhat trickier is "a ‘tramline’ scratch, a vertical line caused in the past by someone who didn’t maintain their projector. On a big close-up [of villainess Maaga] it can be quite distracting, but we’ll try to get rid of it."

Even more of a challenge is a film break right at the cliffhanger, where companion Steven (Peter Purves) is suffocating in the eponymous air lock. "We’re missing 27 seconds of action completely, as well as the closing credits," says Paul. "It’s a few shots and one line of dialogue from Maaga. But luckily we have the soundtrack and by using other visual material within the episode, we can re-create it."

The Underwater Menace suffers from 20 seconds of cuts made by ABC censors - a scene where a surgeon is trying to inject companion Polly with a syringe. Amazingly, those snippets surfaced separately in 1996.

The film "wobbles up and down all the way through because of worn sprockets", plus there’s a tear in the spool halfway through a crowded cave scene. It means one line is missing where companion Jamie says, "How about me, sir?".

"It’s only two seconds, but because it’s one shot with no cutaways, it’s awkward to fix. But it’ll look quite presentable when it’s finished," promises Paul.

The Beeb Who site states that details of a commercial release will be announced by 2 entertain in 2012. Paul Vanezis says, "We’ll probably do a second volume of Lost in Time" - a DVD compiling archival odds and ends.

So, despite the various high profile campaigns by the Beeb over the years to raise awareness of missing episodes (not just Who, but many other classic TV serials), a film collector in our very own country had these in his possession for what, 20 years without realising their importance.

Sadly, Terry Burnett doesn’t have any other spools secreted away, "but I’ll always keep an eagle eye open in case any do turn up..." He’s only too happy to have returned this pair. "A lot of effort went into making those programmes and it was very short-sighted of the BBC to throw them out. It’s our television heritage."

"All Doctor Who fans have dreamed of finding a missing episode and you never know how it’s going to happen," says Ralph. So does he believe any more film prints are out there? "Well, one or two other leads are being pursued at the moment. More than that I’m not saying!" (quoted from here)

The hope must be that there are more out there. I for one hoped that more episodes would surface, but believed that they would be scattered far and wide over the world (personally I get the shivers when I think of lost Who episodes potentially crumbling to dust in archives of countries such as Zimbabwe, which as Rhodesia apparently screened early Who, and who probably don't rate looking for them as very important).

We perviously had only tantelising clips from Hartnell's story, Galaxy Four, so to have a whole episode discovered is quite special.

As a big Troughton fan the only shame is that his episode comes from one of his (and perhaps the whole orginal series's) weakest stories. The episode is now the earliest surviving episode of Troughton's reign (episode 3 of this 4-parter has been around for a while).

Troughton, in only his third appearance as The Doctor, was apparently unimpressed with the production.

In a recent biography, his son Michael says he argued with the director Julia Smith - who went on to become the original producer of EastEnders - complaining bitterly about the "ridiculous costumes and make-up of the fish people".

Smith recalled: "There were awful arguments about how Patrick Troughton should play the part; how quixotic the character should be, whether he should play his flute or not."

Innes Lloyd, who produced The Underwater Menace later admitted, "it did look like something from a '50s American 'B' movie".

Even as an audio soundtrack the story struggles. Anyway, all part of the rich tapestry of Who's history. If only is was an episode from Power or Evil of the Daleks, or any of Troughton's Cybermen stories.

The find makes only a modest dent in the number of missing episodes, with 106 instalments broadcast between 1964 and 1969 still being sought.

You can watch a clip from the Troughton episode here, and read a bit about the background to their discovery here. And there's a gallery of screen clips here.

1 comment:

  1. 2011 has been a rotten year for 'Dr.Who', what with both Nicholas Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen both passing on and everything, so its nice to end it on some good news. I just hope there are other episodes still out there! Best wishes, Zokko