So where can we begin? Doctor Who fans of all ages should be rejoicing at the return of two almost complete episodes, part three of Galaxy 4 and part two of The Underwater Menace, episodes both thought long since destroyed.
Lost in time, basically.
Thanks to Terry Burnett, a former TVS (once the ITV franchise for Southampton and the south coast) engineer, these episodes were bought at a school fete in the early 1980s and recently passed onto Radio Times’ head of heritage Ralph Montagu whose role it is to maintain relations with local film enthusiasts around the country.
“In the mid-80s, an electrician at TVS was organising a school fête over Marchwood way [near Southampton].
“Everybody down there knew I was a film buff, and he just mentioned to me, ‘I’ve got a box of films if you’re interested.’ So I said, ‘Bring ’em in.’ We did a suitable deal, I took them home and found two Doctor Whos among them. I cleaned them up, showed them in my ‘old Hollywood’ [home cinema] and then they went into my archive. There they stayed until I mentioned them to Ralph.”
Discovered in October, everything stayed underwraps until today when a gathering of pre-eminent Doctor Who fans at the BFI raised suspicions, soon heightened further by the BBC’s Twitter feed announcing an early Christmas for fans. The British Film Institute’s ‘Missing Believed Wiped’ events are renowned for turning up the goods, but this is a particularly juicy prize for Whovians, and delivered to the world with obvious relish by Mark Gatiss this evening before an audience that included Doctor Who Magazine editor Tom Spilsbury, former editors Gary Gillatt and Clayton Hickman, regular contributor Jason Arnopp and even TV scriptwriters Rob Shearman and Gareth Roberts!
And what a gift it is!
While some long-term Doctor Who fans might have been waiting for The Reign of Terror or the missing episodes of The Daleks’ Master Plan, the reality is that there are over 100 episodes of 1960s Doctor Who currently missing. Although missing episodes of 1965’s Galaxy 4 and 1967’s The Underwater Menace were unlikely to be high on anyone’s wishlist, we’re lucky to finally get the chance to see what are for most fans new episodes.
Galaxy 4 is a First Doctor serial starring William Hartnell, Maureen O’Brien as Vicky and Peter Purves as Steven Taylor, one that somehow escaped audio recording and telesnap archiving; little is known about the story although Peter Purves has been critical of it in the past. The plot centres on some rather unwieldy robots known as Chumblies, their masters the Rill and the female Drahvin warriors, and takes place against the backdrop of war for war’s sake. Here’s a scene from the episode, “Air Lock”.
Meanwhile The Underwater Menace is a story renowned for the slightly OTT/camp performance of Joseph Furst as mad scientist Professor Zaroff. Starring Patrick Troughton in an early performance as the Second Doctor, the story features the short-lived grouping of Michael Craze as Ben, Anneke Wills as Polly and Fraser Hines as Jamie McCrimmon. As the story suggests, it is set beneath the ocean and pits the Doctor into a battle of minds against the insane plans of Zaroff to raise Atlantis and destroy Earth.
Much more is known about this serial; until now only episode three existed. With episode two now ready to be restored, you can take a look at what was recovered below.
So what happens next?
Well once the evening’s celebratory hangovers have subsided, work will continue on restoring the episodes, which are in need of restoration thanks to problems such as tramlines, worn sprocket wobbles and cuts made to placate censors by Australia’s ABC network, where the prints originate.
Many fans will recall that the last missing Doctor Who episode to be recovered in full was 1965’s “Day of Armageddon” – part of The Daleks’ Master Plan – back in 2004. This found its way onto the Lost in Time DVD and it seems likely that these new finds will form a sequel DVD during 2012.
Many more details can be found on the Radio Times website.