Soon, for the first time since their original broadcast, fans will finally be able to watch one more episode of a pair of "Doctor Who" miniseries that were believed to be lost forever.
They were located by a film collector, Terry Burnett, who had actually purchased the canisters in the early 1980s and had no idea that the episodes they contained were considered lost. It wasn't until recently that he discovered them in his collection, and allowed them to be shown earlier this week at the British Film Institute's Missing Believed Wiped festival at the National Film Theatre in London.
The episodes are Part 3 of "Galaxy 4" with William Hartnell, and Part 2 of "The Underwater Menace" with Patrick Troughton. According to Internet Movie Database, "Underwater Menace" centers around a bad guy, Zaroff (Joseph Furst) who, among other things, is trying to turn companion Polly (Anneke Wills) into a fish. The episode, which was written by Geoffrey Orme and directed by Julia Smith, was first broadcast Jan. 21, 1967.
It was one episode in a four-part miniseries that aired as part of the original "Doctor Who's" fourth season.
The episode of the "Galaxy 4" series was actually called "Airlock," and first aired Sept. 25, 1965. It was part of the series' third season, and was written by William Emms and directed by Derek Martinus. The miniseries introduced an alien race known as the Dhavins, and involved companions Vicki (Maureen O'Brien) and Steven Taylor (Peter Purves).
Unfortunately, even with the discovery of these episodes, these miniseries are not complete. "Airlock" is the last remaining episode known to exist now of the four-part "Galaxy 4" series, while the find now means two of the four episodes of "Underwater Menace" now exist. There are still about 100 episodes of "Doctor Who" missing.
Why are these episodes gone? Between 1967 and 1978, BBC would purge film to make room to store new programs, mostly from the belief that they would save money by not needing to keep larger storage facilities, and that there would not be an interest in many programs that had aired years before. Syndication was just in its infancy, and had not really moved into the United Kingdom, so the value of retaining programs for future rebroadcast, in most cases, was mostly non-existent.
What will happen with these found episodes is unclear. The condition of the episodes were not reported, but it's likely that if they were to be offered for re-release, they would need some restoration work done. No plans were announced at the festival or afterward for any re-release.
"The Underwater Menace" miniseries was one of the last projects Orme wrote before retiring. He was a prolific British writer whose career spanned back to 1936. He died in 1978 at the age of 73.
For Emms, his "Doctor Who" episodes were more closer to the beginning of his career. He would write for several other television shows in Britain until 1980, but would die in 1993.
Wills would play Polly in 36 episodes of "Doctor Who," but hasn't been seen on screen since her work in the British series "Strange Report" in 1970. She would later do stage work, especially in the Shakespeare realm, and lived in Canada for awhile before moving back to the United Kingdom. She turned 70 in October.
O'Brien, now 68, appeared in 38 episodes of "Doctor Who," and would stay dear to a character actor career, mostly recently appearing in the British television series "Doctors" in 2003.
Purves, now 72, was in 46 episodes of "Doctor Who" as both Steven Taylor and Morton Dill. He most recently appeared in the British version of "The Office" in 2001.
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