Monday, August 29, 2011

We Miss You Part 1


The loss of any First Doctor story is still felt by both fans and those interested in early science-fiction television.  The First Doctor actually has managed to come out remarkably intact: out of all his stories, only seven of the twelve missing/incomplete stories have no surviving episodes.  The negative to that is that he is the ONLY Doctor to have stories where there is no surviving footage whatsoever.

Almost all other missing Doctor Who stories have either complete episodes or at least clips, but in the First Doctor's tenure the stories Marco Polo, Mission to the Unknown, and The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve have no footage at all.  That would be bad enough, but what makes it even more frustrating is that Marco Polo was SEVEN episodes long and The Massacre was SIX episodes long.  The loss of so many episodes is such a puzzle.

To compound the issue, some of the missing episodes are highly important historically.  Mission to the Unknown is historic in that it's the only story in either classic or revived Doctor Who to not feature any of the regular cast; it is also the only one-episode story in pre-revived Doctor Who (whether you include The Five Doctors as one episode hinges on whether you count a story by how long the episode is, but I digress).  The missing episode of The Tenth Planet (Episode Four) contains the first regeneration in the series' history, making its loss even more sad.

Now, we have been able to review a few stories as if they were complete in a roundabout way.  Marco Polo, for example, had a 30-minute condensed reconstruction as a special feature on Disc 2 of The Beginning box set (which had Stories Two & Three: The Daleks and Inside the Spaceship aka The Edge of Destruction).  The Crusade had the audio tracks to Episodes Two (The Knight of Jaffa) and Four (The Warlords) along with the surviving Episodes One and Three (The Lion and The Wheel of Fortune).  Therefore, we were able in Marco Polo to get an idea of what the seven-part story would have been like (I like to think of it as a Best-Of episode), and in The Crusade we were able to reconstruct the missing episodes in our mind, as if it were a radio play. 

Granted, a condensed half-hour version of a three and a half-hour long story isn't the best solution, but it is the best we can do at the moment.  Also, having the audio track at least allows us to follow the overall story.  This is why I elected to review them as full stories as opposed to something like The Daleks' Master Plan or The Celestial Toymaker, where I gave my thoughts only on the surviving episode.

Still, having parts of stories doesn't make up for not having them at all.  To me, it doesn't matter how they came about to be lost; it is more important that we keep looking for them but accept that perhaps we will never 'see' them again.  However, fortunately for us, none of the stories are truly lost.

Our dear Whovians in the early days went about recording all the Doctor Who stories on audio tapes.  We are more fortunate than other stories (such as the football soap United!, which has nothing surviving), so we at least have the audio track.  It was this that allowed us to have the reconstruction of Marco Polo and The Crusade, and which gives us hope that the other lost/incomplete stories will perhaps be seen again. 

As I look at what is missing, I have cause for hope.  It is possible to have stories which have complete episodes fully restored with animation.  Such was the case with the Second Doctor story The Invasion.  Out of the eight episodes, only Episodes One and Four were missing.  In order to release it as a complete story, the missing episodes were animated, and the results were quite positive.  The same method of reconstruction will be used in the First Doctor story The Reign of Terror.  That six-part story has only Episodes Four and Five (The Tyrant of France and A Bargain of Necessity) missing, so with some work with animation The Reign of Terror will be complete once again. 

This got me thinking, what of the other lost First Doctor stories?  What stories would be the best candidates for a full restoration?  I'm aware that everyone would want all of them restored (and I'm one of them), but I think we should be a bit realistic.  Let's take a short inventory of what we have and don't have.


  • Marco Polo (all seven episodes missing) *
  • The Reign of Terror (Episodes Four and Five) *
  • The Crusade (Episodes Two and Four) **
  • Galaxy Four (all four episodes)
  • Mission to the Unknown (entire episode missing)
  • The Myth Makers (all four episodes)
  • The Daleks' Master Plan (Episodes One, Three, Four, Six-Nine, Eleven and Twelve) **
  • The Massacre (all four episodes)
  • The Celestial Toymaker (Episodes One-Three) **
  • The Savages (all four episodes)
  • The Smugglers (all four episodes)
  • The Tenth Planet (Episode Four)

Well, my suggestions are that Mission to the Unknown and The Tenth Planet be the next candidates to receive the restoration treatment.  In the case of Mission to the Unknown, as the shortest story in Doctor Who it would be the fastest one to completely animate.  I can see how releasing a Doctor Who story that is only twenty-five minutes long might not be cost-effective.  Here's where The Tenth Planet comes in.

Think of it: only one episode is missing, and this story is important in that it is the debut of the Cybermen, one of the most iconic of Doctor Who villains.  Again, I think it would be within the realm of possibility to bring The Tenth Planet out to the public, and take the opportunity to bring Mission to the Unknown out as well. 

The other stories would be harder to restore.  They suffer from not having any episodes known to exist, so they would have to animate all of them.  That would be a great deal of work for them, and I don't know if they would want to go through all that trouble for what could be a low return.  They would have to start totally from scratch, and I don't know if they have the time for such a lengthy endeavour. 

Anything truly is possible, and it would be nice to have the missing episodes brought back from the beyond, so to speak.  However, my view is that only Mission to the Unknown and The Tenth Planet have a realistic chance of having an official restoration.  That of course means that until the release of The Sensorites, the restored The Reign of Terror, and Planet of Giants, my First Doctor retrospective has to come to an end.  I will have a full First Doctor Retrospective once all the stories have been released.

However, I don't feel I can complete it until I know for sure that either The Tenth Planet and/or Mission to the Unknown may yet be restored.  I'm debating whether to have a First Doctor Retrospective of what has been released now, and that was the plan until I learned that The Reign of Terror would be released.  That being the case, I opted to hold back.  However, I won't be waiting for them, so I've decided to plunge forward and move on to The Second Doctor while still bouncing between Doctors Ten and Eleven.

Side note: with my Ninth Doctor retrospective almost complete (and without the burden of missing stories) he will be the first Doctor to get a full retrospective. 

With that, I come to say farewell to William Hartnell, and hoping that we may still see more First Doctor adventures in the future.

* This story has either been restored or given a reconstruction.

** The surviving episodes have already been released.  Nothing prevents there being a full restoration but the chances are small.  For example, we could have an animated reconstruction of The Crusade, but given that we have had the story released, it's doubtful they would go back to it.  The Daleks' Master Plan and The Celestial Toymaker have a majority of episodes missing, so again that would be a great deal of work for an official restoration. 

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