Richard Molesworth is the author behind Wiped! Doctor Who’s Missing Episodes, a new release from Telos Publishing this September, the book that tells the remarkable story on how the tapes came to be wiped, and the efforts that went into returning lost copies to the BBC.
Wiped! covers a somewhat contentious aspect of the BBC’s history, that of their wholescale throwing away of archive television recordings from the sixties, in a period leading to around 1977/8 when it was largely stopped by the intervention of concerned individuals.
In the 1960s, the BBC screened 253 episodes of its cult science fiction show Doctor Who, starring William Hartnell and then Patrick Troughton as the time travelling Doctor. Yet by 1975, the Corporation had wiped the master tapes of every single one of these episodes. Of the 124 Doctor Who episodes starring Jon Pertwee shown between 1970 and 1974, the BBC destroyed over half of the original transmission tapes within two years of their original broadcast.
In the years that followed, the BBC, along with dedicated fans of the series, began the arduous task of trying to track down copies of as many missing Doctor Who episodes as possible. The search covered BBC sales vaults, foreign television stations, overseas archives, and numerous networks of private film collectors, until the tally of missing programmes was reduced to just 108 episodes.
For the first time, this book looks in detail at how the episodes came to be missing in the first place, and examines how material subsequently came to be returned to the BBC. Along the way, those people involved in the recovery of lost slices of Doctor Who’s past tell their stories in candid detail, many for the very first time.
‘I remember reading about the ‘first’ publically announced recovered episode in Doctor Who Magazine – Part Two of ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ – and not being able to get my head around the concept of episodes of a BBC programme being in a private collectors hands.Â So I wanted to know more.
‘As I got to know more people in the BBC, and talk to people who had returned episodes, I realised that the stories behind the finds were fascinating.’
No more rumours, no more misinformation, no more fan gossip. The truth about Doctor Who‘s missing episodes can now be told in full!
Published September 2010, Wiped! costs Â£15.99 and can be ordered directly from Telos Publishing at www.telos.co.uk.