New book reveals why early episodes of Doctor Who are missing, believed wiped
09 Sep 2010
The BBC, not Daleks, exterminated many classic adventures in the 1970s
A new book delving into the early years of Doctor Who has revealed why so many vintage episodes of the cult science fiction show are missing, believed wiped.
Wiped! Doctor Who's Missing Episodes is by writer, producer and director Richard Molesworth, who has long-standing connections with the BBC series, revived in 2005.
Wiped! covers a somewhat contentious aspect of the BBC's history, that of their wholescale throwing away of archive television recordings.
IN the 1960s, the BBC screened 253 black and white episodes of the series, starring William Hartnell and then Patrick Troughton as the time travelling Doctor, but by 1975, the Corporation had wiped the master tapes of every single one of these episodes.
And of the 124 colour 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.
It was only in the years that followed, that 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, realising their cultural value.
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.
Speaking about the heavily-researched book, author Molesworth said: "I think fans - especially modern ones - just can not understand why the BBC don't have every single one of the Doctor's adventures sitting on the shelves of their archive.
"The older stories has such a mythos and mystique about them, and many of them had been novelised by Target books, which made you want to watch them even more, especially when photos from these stories began appearing in books and magazines much more at this point.
"Those really, really older fans, who watched the series in the 60s, wanted to watch the stories they remembered with so much affection again. And of course, everyone loves a grail quest, and to Doctor Who fans, that's what the missing episodes are."
By Tim Jackson