Doctor Who News The Daleks' Masterplan presumably wasn't to destroy copies of Doctor Who in Sierra Leone's civil war

Published on December 17th, 2011 | by Thomas Spychalski

The Missing Episodes of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone.

The Daleks' Masterplan presumably wasn't to destroy copies of Doctor Who in Sierra Leone's civil warSounds like a town from an old Clint Eastwood spaghetti western doesn’t it? But this country, one of the world’s top ten producers of diamonds and also producing gold (Cybermen beware!), may have also had an even greater prize for the fanatic Doctor Who fan until sometime in the nineties: every missing William Hartnell adventure besides the remaining gaps in the twelve part The Daleks’ Masterplan, Tenth Planet episode four and Mission to the Unknown.

Unfortunately, the country went through a civil war between 1991 and 2002, due to corruption in both the country’s government and the lucrative diamond trade. This civil war has reportedly destroyed the television archives held there and thus lost is any probable chance of ever recovering whatever Hartnell prints the country may have once held. The facility was unable to be fully explored due to this conflict by episode hunters during this period and it is rumored to have met its doom in 1999.

Even sadder to hear is that the Sierra Leone archives may have been the final stop for the prints through Africa, as many were passed from station to station and country to country, a common practice by the BBC in those days and one of the great nuisances for missing episode hunters.

That is not to say that more missing gems from both the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton eras are not possible. The recent news that a former television engineer bought a couple of Doctor Who episodes at a school fete sometime in the eighties – that just happened to be missing installments of Hartnell’s Galaxy Four and Troughton’s The Underwater Menace – before just recently realizing they were not held by the BBC shows just how much might still be out there if we have faith.

Home grown finds might seem easier to come by as the show was produced in the UK but of course several amazing rediscoveries have happened due to the BBC selling a good number of the early Doctor Who episodes to places all over the world. Finds such as the entirety of Tomb of the Cybermen in Hong Kong in 1991. Smaller finds are also possible such as the censor clips from New Zealand featured in the DVD box set Lost in Time, which were just cuts thought to be too violent for New Zealand television in the sixties, but which survived in the hands of a private collector.

So although the situation in Sierra Leone may seem quite dire as far as missing Who are concerned, be reassured with the return of two more missing episodes this year that indeed if something is thought gone forever one day it may come back. And as ever there even more rumors of other leads that are always making the rounds daily.

(With thanks to Gareth)


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About the Author


Tom has been a Doctor Who fan since the early eighties and has developed a deep love and admiration for the show and its universe in that time.

15 Responses to The Missing Episodes of Sierra Leone

  1. avatar Mugen Pharoah says:

    One day, they will come back…

    • Yes one day…unt6il then there must no regret, no tears, no anxiety’s. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. ;-)

  2. avatar Krumstets says:

    Even sadder than the civil war in Sierra Leone was the destruction of the TV station and possibly some old Who episodes.

    I dunno, what is the world coming to?

    • I think that’s a completely misconstrued summary of the article there, Krumstets. Nowhere in this piece does the conflict take second billing to the archives.

      I invite you to re-read.

      • avatar Krumstets says:

        I have to admit I was being a bit cheeky there…..

        Apologies ….

        • Hmm, I’ll let you off this time….

  3. avatar daniel says:

    Send david cameron in…no hold on…no oil!


    • avatar Cosmic Hobo says:

      No oil in Aphganistan or Kosova either!

  4. avatar Brad says:

    Paul Vanezis confirmed the titles in Sierra Leone at the time of the film store’s loss were Galaxy 4, The Myth Makers, The Massacre, The Ark, The Celestial Toymaker, The Gunfighters and The Savages. No other Hartnell stories were present.

    • avatar Elden says:

      Thats still a pretty massive set. Three entirely missing stories and two of which only one episode survives!

  5. avatar andyhick says:

    Rubbish! The televsion vaults at Sierra Leone are far from destroyed! I known of two people who are employeed as researchers there and I was in touch with them only two years ago. I did ask then about the rumours about the civil war reducing the building to rubble but they denied this saying that only the entrance suffered damage during a mortar attack. The complete destruction reported widely stems from propaganda stories initiated by the oppostion forces (they also reported the apparent destruction of other landmarks). I will definately ask them next time I contact them to enquire exactly what’s in the archives. It’s probably more a case of what has been saved to this day than what’s been blown to smithereens.

    • Hi Andy – thanks for your insight on this. Have you been in touch with the BBC, BFI or the Restoration Team about it? That could prove extremely valuable!

    • avatar Anonymous Coward says:

      Could you please provide some form of contact information?

      • Unfortunately andyhick hasn’t posted elsewhere on Kasterborous and hasn’t bothered to respond to my earlier comment.

        Sadly, we should assume without further contact that he was either mistaken or unable to reply.

  6. avatar mark mark says:

    I contacted the BBC re. Sierra Leone in 2009 based on my 80′s research – stymied by a lack of paperwork at the SLBC (Sierra Leone Broadcasting Co.). To the best of my knowledge the archive did / still exists – although I obviously can’t comment on the state of its current holdings. Note: BBC shows were also sold to South America (limited basis) and passed throughout Asia. Whilst returns from here are unlikely now – and locating dozens of DW film cans are extremely unlikely; despite what’s been posted elsewhere – the best option is “non-professional sources” – like the two episodes in 2011. Remember, no finds yet does not equal no finds ever!

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