Wouldn’t it be great if some missing Doctor Who episodes turned up? After a fairly rubbish 2020, we could all use a myth maker (or even a Celestial Toymaker) to brighten up our DVD collections.
So, if you fancy a bit of globe-trotting on the hunt for vintage time travelling action, here’s a quick guide to where some of the missing Doctor Who episodes might be hiding…
Marco Polo (episodes 1 – 7)
This classic First Doctor adventure has become legendary among missing Doctor Who episodes as something of a lost classic. After its original transmission in 1964, it was sold to nine countries: Canada, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Mauritius, Ethiopia, Thailand, Iran and Australia. Whilst the prints from Sierra Leone, Australia and Mauritius almost certainly perished, the paper trail in Canada, Ethiopia and Thailand is somewhat murkier. There may also be copies in Iran, as it doesn’t look like anyone’s ever been there to check.
The Reign of Terror (episodes 4 and 5)
These missing Doctor Who episodes could be hiding in Cyprus, as that’s where their counterparts (episodes one, two, three and six) were discovered. And again, the fate of the prints sent to Thailand and Ethiopia has never been established. It seems that other countries either destroyed their copies, or returned them to the BBC.
The Crusade (episodes 2 and 4)
New Zealand claimed to have destroyed every episode of this story, until episode one was returned in 1998 by a private film collector. So further prints could be hiding there. A copy of episode three, meanwhile, was retained by the BBC. So when it comes to finding the others, Ethiopia could be your best bet, or maybe Nigeria.
Galaxy Four (episodes 1, 2 and 4)
‘Galaxy Four’ was sent to Sierra Leone, Sinagpore and Australia, and whilst the fate of the Singapore prints is unknown, the other two countries returned their copies to the BBC for junking. Despite this, one of these missing Doctor Who episodes was returned to the archive in 2012 by a British film collector. So maybe the best place to start is the UK?
Mission to the Unknown
Whilst only two prints of this episode were made, neither Australia or Singapore have been able to prove that they were destroyed. So, if you fancy a trip Down Under, there could be some missing Doctor Who episodes waiting for you.
In the meantime, you should definitely take a look at the live action remake on YouTube, produced by students from the University of Central Lancashire.
The Myth Makers (episodes 1 – 4)
Once again, Singapore might be the best place to start looking for ‘The Myth Makers,’ as the fate of its prints was never established. And whilst Australia and Sierra Leone returned their copies to the BBC in the 70s, this has never stopped curious BBC employees (or private film collectors) from purloining unguarded prints. So you never know.
The Daleks’ Master Plan (episodes 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12)
Okay, there are a lot of missing Doctor Who episodes here. Episode seven (‘The Feast of Steven‘) is believed to have never been copied, so there’s a chance that it’s lost forever. Meanwhile, the only other country who bought prints was Australia (sans episode seven) and all of these films were ultimately returned to the BBC after the country vetoed the serial’s broadcast.
That being said, three episodes survived; episode two was returned by a private film collector, whilst episodes five and 10 were discovered in the basement of a Mormon church (naturally.) Episode four, meanwhile, was loaned to the programme Blue Peter and never returned. So the missing pieces of ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’ could, literally, be anywhere. Is it time to start digging behind the sofa…?
The Massacre (episodes 1 – 4)
Singapore may have a copy of ‘The Massacre,’ as the fate of its prints has never been established. Australia and Sierra Leone, meanwhile, either junked or returned their copies to the BBC.
The Celestial Toymaker (episodes 1 – 3)
Thankfully, episode four of this story somehow survived the Australian junking. The country confirmed ‘The Celestial Toymaker’s destruction in 1976, however the fourth instalment remained intact (minus a tiny bit at the end) and this raises the possibility that other Australian prints may have fallen through the net. Otherwise stick to Singapore, as the fate of its copies is unknown.
The Savages (episodes 1 – 4)
Sierra Leone and Australia claim to have junked or returned their film prints of ‘The Savages,’ whilst the trail is cold on the Singapore end.
The Smugglers (episodes 1 -4)
The same is true of ‘The Smugglers.’ I really, really hope that there’s a big film vault in Singapore containing all of the missing Doctor Who episodes. Plus some Hancock’s Half Hour.
The Tenth Planet (episode 4)
We currently have three episodes from ‘The Tenth Planet,’ which presumably are the copies returned from Australia. Whilst the fate of the Singapore prints is, again, a mystery, it does seem odd that the fourth instalment should be the only one to have fallen through the net – particularly given its significance in Doctor Who history. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was sitting in the hands of a private collector.
The Power of the Daleks (episodes 1 – 6)
These might be the most sought-after of all the missing Doctor Who episodes, as they feature Patrick Troughton’s debut as the Doctor, plus of course the dreaded Daleks. If any private collector was going to cling onto a story for dear life, it would be this one. And whilst there’s (once again) a big question mark over the Singapore situation, Australia apparently returned its copies to the BBC in 1975. But were they intercepted on their way to the skip? Read more in our ‘Power of the Daleks‘ piece.
The Highlanders (episodes 1 -4)
Four copies were made of ‘The Highlanders.’ Whilst Australia and New Zealand junked their prints in the 70s, there’s no record of what happened to the episodes sent to Hong Kong. There is also something of a question mark over Zambia, although the country claims that it doesn’t have any missing Doctor Who episodes. Although there’s nothing to stop us looking, right?
The Underwater Menace (episodes 1 and 4)
Remarkably, episodes two and three of this story survived. The former is from Australia, which somehow ended up in the hands of a private film collector, who returned it to the BBC in 2012. Again, it’s unclear as to what became of the Hong Kong prints, so get those flights booked.
The Moonbase (episodes 1 and 3)
Australia and New Zealand returned their copies of this story in the 70s, and the prints of episodes two and four that are now held by the BBC probably came from these batches. Once again, there could be some missing Doctor Who episodes hiding in a vault in Hong Kong, as there’s no record as to what became of those films.
The Macra Terror (episodes 1 -4)
You know the drill by now. Australia and New Zealand returned their prints, and Hong Kong is a mystery. ‘The Macra Terror’ was also broadcast in Zambia, although the country maintains that it doesn’t have any missing Doctor Who episodes.
The Faceless Ones (episodes 2, 4, 5 and 6)
The BBC currently holds two episodes of ‘The Faceless Ones‘ (episodes one and three) and, presumably, these originated in either Australia or New Zealand, who returned their copies to the BBC in the 70s. Again, keep your magnifying glass on Hong Kong if you’re up for some detective work, as there’s still no record as to what became of its prints.
The Evil of the Daleks (episodes 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7)
Sadly, ‘The Evil of the Daleks‘ is almost missing in its entirety, with the exception of episode two, which was probably returned from Australia. New Zealand similarly returned its prints in the 70s, but as always, Hong Kong is not ready to give up its secrets. So there’s still a chance that some missing Doctor Who episodes will materialise over there. ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen,’ after all, was discovered in Hong Kong…
The Abominable Snowmen (episodes 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6)
However, Hong Kong never bought any film copies of ‘The Abominable Snowmen.’ Of the four countries that did, only Nigeria remains a mystery, as the fate of its prints it unknown. Australia and New Zealand junked their copies in the 70s, but it’s always possible that one or two missing Doctor Who episodes avoided the incinerator. After all, episode two found its way back to the BBC archive, and is now available for all to enjoy.
The Ice Warriors (episodes 2 and 3)
Five countries bought this serial: Germany, Zambia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. There’s a big question mark over the fate of the Germany and Singapore prints, as they’ve never been accounted for. Episodes one, four, five and six, meanwhile, were rediscovered at the back of a cupboard(!) at BBC Enterprises in 1988. Quite where they originated, or how they got there, is unclear. Speaking of which, has anyone ever done a thorough sweep of the BBC for missing Doctor Who episodes…?
The Web of Fear (episode 3)
This story was found in its entirety in Nigeria by missing episode hunter Philip Morris in 2013 – only for episode three to be stolen by a TV station employee. It is now thought to be in the hands of a private collector.
Fury from the Deep (episodes 1 – 6)
These missing Doctor Who episodes were lovingly animated in 2020, but if you’re hankering to see the real deal, start in Singapore. Otherwise, Australia, New Zealand and Gibraltar are thought to have returned or junked their prints in the 70s.
The Wheel in Space (episodes 1, 2, 4 and 5)
‘The Wheel in Space’ was sold to four countries: Gibraltar, Nigeria, Australia and New Zealand. The fate of the Nigerian prints is unknown. However, the BBC has managed to recover episodes three and six, which survived in the hands of a private film collector. The other countries reportedly returned or junked their copies.
The Invasion (episodes 1 and 4)
These missing Doctor Who episodes were unlucky, as the majority of ‘The Invasion’ managed to escape the BBC skip. But if you’re desperate to see episodes one and four, you might want to (once again) fix your eyes on Singapore, whose prints have never been accounted for. Australia junked its copies in 1976, and whilst there’s a big question mark over Gibraltar, it most likely returned its prints in 1972.
The Space Pirates (episodes 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6)
Finally, we have ‘The Space Pirates‘ – the last of the missing Doctor Who episodes. Episode two survives as, miraculously, the BBC held onto it for cultural significance (it’s a pity it didn’t hold the rest of 60s television in such high esteem…) Again, your best bet of seeing the rest of this story lies with Singapore, unless someone intercepted the Australian or Zambian copies on their way back to the UK.
So there we are. In summary, Singapore and Hong Kong would seem to hold the most promise for delivering some missing Doctor Who episodes. No news is good news, right? But will you be booking your flights anytime soon? And which missing Doctor Who stories are you most keen to see? Let me know in the comments.
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