Missing Doctor Who episodes are always a hot topic. And even to this day, people are out there searching. But what about the ones that have been over-looked? What are they, and will we ever see them again?
The reason some of these missing Doctor Who episodes don’t make the official lists is understandable. They were never meant to be broadcast, and to some people their value is questionable.
The first of these missing episodes is the opening instalment of the First Doctor serial ‘The Daleks,’ titled ‘The Dead Planet.’ Although it currently exists in the BBC archives, it is not actually the original version. The initial take was shot in November 1963, and in-keeping with the production style of the 1960s, it was filmed ‘as live,’ with each scene being recorded sequentially and with little to no editing.
However, the original version of ‘The Dead Planet’ was marred by a technical problem in which the audio from the production team’s headphones could be heard in the finished recording. It was too noticeable to be brushed over, and the crew was forced to re-record the entire programme a few weeks later – consigning the blemished version to the scrap heap.
Because of this, ‘The Dead Planet’ actually became the very first of the missing Doctor Who episodes, and it’s highly likely (if not certain) that it no longer exists. Given the expense of the videotape in question, the production team likely re-used the same one for ‘The Dead Planet’ take two, but to my knowledge there is no exact record of this. Perhaps William Hartnell was given the original tape as a Christmas present? Stranger things have happened…
Of course, unlike other missing Doctor Who episodes, we have a pretty good idea as to what this one was like. The retake of ‘The Dead Planet’ likely included all of the same blocking, camera cuts and dialogue delivery – but of course, we’ll never know for sure. After all, almost a month passed before the cast and crew came back for a remount.
But what of the other ‘forgotten’ missing Doctor Who episodes? Well, it’s more bad news for First Doctor fans, as the next casualties came during the production of the Season Two opener ‘Planet of Giants.’ This was originally filmed as a four part adventure, but as the transmission date grew closer, the BBC’s Head of Serials Donald Wilson felt that it was too weak to kick off the new series.
Initially, Wilson asked if it could be swapped with the following story ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth,’ but given that it saw the departure of the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan, it wouldn’t have made sense for her to miraculously appear in ‘Planet of Giants’ the following week – even in the wibbley wobbley world of Doctor Who.
As such, drastic action had to be taken. Wilson decided that the only solution was to make the story punchier – and this meant cutting down the third and fourth episodes and melding them into one, making ‘Planet of Giants’ a three part adventure.
So this means we now have two missing Doctor Who episodes to add to the list: ‘Crisis’ and ‘The Urge to Live.’ And whilst the re-edited episode three kept the name ‘Crisis,’ ‘The Urge to Live’ became the dust of history – apart from its closing credits, which were retained (exciting.) And to my knowledge, these original cuts no longer exist anywhere; presumably, after the creation of the new master tape, the original three and four were considered worthless and quickly re-used, so the chances of finding them are virtually zero.
That being said, there is still a way to enjoy these missing Doctor Who episodes. When ‘Planet of Giants’ was released on DVD, the BBC produced a reconstruction of the missing scenes, using the voices of two of the surviving cast members (Carole Ann Ford and William Russell) along with actor John Guilor who stood in for the First Doctor. The visuals, meanwhile, were recreated using footage from elsewhere in the story, and CGI.
Indeed, it’s possible to enjoy all of the missing Doctor Who episodes in some form, be it through telesnap reconstructions, animation, or even just by listening to the original soundtracks. (Personally, it blows my mind that we still have a copy of the series’ unaired pilot, ‘An Unearthly Child.’ This is surely one of those Doctor Who episodes that has survived against all the odds. If you’ve never seen it before, you really should.)
But tell me what you think. Will we ever get to see these missing Doctor Who episodes again? And do you prefer ‘Planet of Giants’ as a three part story, or four? Let me know in the comments below.
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