This article originally appeared on nypl.org on July 26, 2011:
Buried Treasure and Lost Adventure: Rare Doctor Who Stories at the Library
The phrase “lost episode” can evoke a number of different emotions in TV viewers. To some, it could be the excitement of lost treasure. To others, it could be the sadness of at adventure they may never see. For Doctor Who fans, it’s a reminder of one of the less fondly remembered parts of the show’s legacy. In the early 1970’s, tapes for storing old television programs were very expensive in the UK and the advent of home video was still a few years off. Figuring that most of the old black-and-white Doctor Who serials from the 60’s (along with numerous other shows) had officially been milked for all their commercial value, the old tapes were wiped to make room for new shows. Some time later, when home video releases began, the BBC put out a call to relocate the episodes missing from their archive. A wide number of responses came in ranging from private film collectors to overseas televisions studios that had aired episodes abroad and many of them were recovered. However, there are currently still 108 individual episodes of Doctor Who missing from the BBC archive, leaving some serials from the First and Second Doctor eras incomplete and others missing completely. Most of the “orphan” episodes and other surviving clips are collected in the Lost in Time DVD boxset, but what of the rest of the lost episodes?
As it happens, every single episode of Doctor Who does survive at the very least in audio form, thanks to dedicated fans of yore holding their various audio recording devices up to the TV. BBC Audio later collected these recordings, cleaned them up, and released them on CD with actors from the show providing linking narration to describe events not evident from just the original audio. The following lost episode audio plays are available as e-audiobooks at the library.
First Doctor Stories
Marco Polo: Landing in the Himalayas due to a faulty TARDIS, the Doctor and the entourage of his granddaughter Susan and her teachers, Ian and Barbara, meet the eponymous explorer on his journey down the Silk Road to China. Unfortunately, Marco is far too interested in their mysterious blue box to let them just leave. The crew must find a way to get the TARDIS back, but an epic journey of sandstorms, kidnappings, bandits, and assassins is fated to delay them.
Galaxy 4: Traveling with energetic young Vicki and courageous space pilot Steven, the Doctor lands on a dying world where two alien races are competing for resources to evacuate the planet. On one side are the Drahvins, beautiful but emotionless women, and on the other are the Rills, ugly creatures that interact with the world through pudgy robots that Vicki calls “Chumblies.” Caught in the middle, the Doctor and company must take a side and help, but are they really being told the whole truth?
The Myth Makers (part of the Adventures in History set): Taking cues from Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida and Homer’s Illiad, the Doctor, Vicki, and Steven land in the middle of the Trojan War where the Doctor is mistaken for the god Zeus, Vicki is mistaken for a prophet, and Steven isn’t really mistaken for anything but still pretends to be a Greek warrior. With the group split between the Greeks and the Trojans and each side desiring the “mystical” newcomers’ help, the trio will need to think fast to make sure history takes the right course without getting killed in the process.
The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve (aka “The Massacre,” part of the Adventures in History set): Bereft of all their female companions, the Doctor and Steven travel to 16th century Paris where religious tensions between the Catholics and Protestants are rising rapidly. While the Doctor goes off to visit an apothecary, Steven is swept into a web of intrigue with murder plots, religious fanaticism, power struggles, and an Abbot who looks exactly like the absent Doctor…
Second Doctor Stories
The Highlanders (part of the Adventures in History set): Landing in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden Moor in 1746, the Doctor along with 1960’s chick Polly and able seaman Ben quickly run into trouble when they are captured by redcoats and accused of treachery against England for aiding a wounded Scottish Laird. While the men are taken for hanging or slave trade, Polly escapes and teams up with a timid local Highland lass to attempt a rescue.
The Underwater Menace: Right off the heels of The Highlanders, the TARDIS trio have adopted Scottish piper Jamie McCrimmon into their group. No sooner have they landed on a deserted island when they are caught and taken to an underground city that turns out to be none other than the lost city of Atlantis. In order to escape and save the people of Atlantis from further destruction, they must talk their way through religious and political leaders and thwart the efforts of more than one mad scientist.
(Note: the third episode of this serial survives and can be viewed on the Lost in Time: The Patrick Troughton Years DVD.)