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Published on August 9th, 2011 | by Andrew Reynolds

The Reign of Terror to Reign Again

The Doctor might point and laugh at archaeologists as they scamper about in the dirt, picking over the remains of some lost civilisations chamber pot but there are certain periods of time that not even he can ever appear in again.

There’s no doubting the incredibly myopic decision to delete archived episodes of Doctor Who during the 70’s but now thanks to the archaeological work of animators in Avoca on the Central Coast of Australia fans will be able to once again see a time period once thought lost.

Theta-Sigma (the nickname used by the Doctor during his time at the Time Lord Academy) and their director of Production Austen Atkinson are working in conjunction with the BBC and Big Finish Productions to bring the missing two episodes of The Reign of Terror – the 1964 serial starring William Hartnell and set in the French Revolution – back to life.

Atkinson – who grew up watching Doctor Who – has promised that the company’s hand drawn likenesses (rather than computer generated images) will be something to behold:

“This will be a wonderful piece of history restored for Europe and Australia to see.”

Using original sound recordings, photos, and scripts Atkinson and his team are restoring parts 4 and five of the incomplete serial.

The entire six parts of the serial will be re-released on DVD and are expected to be screened on television in the near future.


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About the Author


Everyone has a favourite Doctor and mine - just for his honesty, his fairness and his ability to not notice the Master's awful, awful disguises/anagrams (Sir Gilles Estram!?!) - has to be the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison. The stories didn’t serve him as well as his acting served those stories.

5 Responses to The Reign of Terror to Reign Again

  1. avatar Bryan Simcott says:

    [quote]There’s no doubting the incredibly myopic decision to delete archived episodes of Doctor Who during the 70’s[/quote]

    What a stupid and unknowing thing to say. yes you may be agrieved at the loss of Doctor Who episodes, but it was hardly Myopic. it was a simple case of Videos tape costs and cost management. Video Tape cost a huge amount of money in those days, and for very sound bussiness reasons ALL Braodcasters had to re-use tape when they could. Old film reels had to be junked to save room.

    Stop blaming the BBC for this and start celebrating the fact that they Kept loads and loads and loads of archive stuff, when the Didnt have to and could have just as esily binned the entire collection to save both money,space and Time

  2. avatar Andrew says:

    The BBC should have known the marketing potential and shot themselves in the foot. Home video recording technology was in it’s infancy (Ringo Star was the first person in Britain to own a video recorder). It was a stupid, careless mistake.

    Still we have the audio recordings and with them animated, I’m sure they will be the next best thing.

  3. avatar Alex says:

    @Bryan – Sorry you feel that way, but the fact is by the 1970s there was truly no excuse. It was clear the show had international sales potential for those early episodes because as late as about 1978 or so (check the Hartnell and Troughton stories were still in circulation – indeed as I understand it this is why a few of the deleted stories were recovered early on and others like Tomb of the Cybermen showed up later. It was an incredibly myopic attitude to take, and I agree with that assessment 100%. The only “in all fairness to the BBC” aspect I will allow is that they weren’t the only ones. ITV and its broadcasters did it too which is why the first season of The Avengers is all but lost, for example. And in the USA NBC openly regretted wiping its recordings of The Tonight Show from the early 1960s (though the policy of shooting on film resulted in virtually no scripted programming from the era being lost, with one of the only exceptions being the Julie Newmar sitcom My Living Doll).

    Before the BBC hired an archivist in the late 70s and cancelled the erasure program, the fact anything prior to 1970 survived was due to luck for most cases. Heck – check out the book Wiped and you’ll learn that the BBC even wiped a number of Pertwee stories AFTER they started to sell them to United States syndication. How is that not short-sighted, may I ask?

    We can at least be thankful they came to their senses before we lost the Pertwee and Tom Baker eras and that the quick actions of a few fans and people in the know saved things like the original Daleks story and An Unearthly Child from the furnaces.

  4. avatar Alex says:

    ^ Just to add to my comment above re: the book Wiped. I am not quoting the book on that point. What I refer to is the fact several late-period Pertwee stories – Death to the Daleks and Invasion of the Dinosaurs – were at least partially wiped, and this was two years or so after they’d started to syndicate them to the US and elsewhere.

  5. avatar bryan simcott says:

    I still dont agree with the bashing the BBC Gets, the fact that Both Itv and other broadcasters aroudn the world did the same shows the practice was widespread. The reason being Video tape was expensive. and re-usable.

    As to the 16mm Filmed versions, this was as much a space problem and storage in the correct conditions being expensive.

    So getting rid of Tape to re-use was not mypic but standard procedure at the time for cost management. As to the lost filmed copies these are mostly to do with the black and white 60s episodes more than any other era, and that did (has ) died a death as no one likes to boradcast black and white programming at the best of times, even if BBC 2 do buck a trend with the odd Dads Army Episode or BBC 4 do soemthing interesting.

    the other angle which is still a much valid one even today. what was/is the point of the huge archive at both the BBC and the BFI with tons of stuff that WILL NEVER see the light of day.

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