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Doctor Who missing episodes still lost?

June 19, 2013

William Hartnell in color, no less.

Yet again, rumors of the recovery of lost episodes of the classic Doctor Who series are making their way around the internet. While some of the sources reporting this are the type that I normally consider reliable, the whole thing is starting to look like it may be a hoax that was exacerbated by an internet sized game of telephone. I have to say that whoever started it really did their homework as the episodes supposedly not found in the cache would be exactly the ones anyone familiar with Doctor Who’s foreign sale history would expect to be missing from just such a find. My view on the veracity of the rumor is that while I would very much like the claim to be true, I fully anticipate finding out that it is not.

As I have mentioned before, I have gotten as close as one can get to watching the lost stories when I went through the Loose Cannon reconstructed episodes a year or two back. Actually, I went through all of the first two Doctor’s episodes in order just to get the full chronological experience. What this new rumor reminded me of is the mental list I kept of which serials I would most like to see recovered as I went through the reconstructed episodes. I doubt any of them ever will be but, if they where here are the top five lost Doctor Who serials I would most like to see recovered going from fifth to first. As a side note, I’m just going to mention that I am focusing on serials that are mostly, if not entirely missing. While I would love to see the recovery of the fourth episode of The Tenth Planet and episodes one and four of The Invasion as much as any fan, I feel that between enough of the story surviving and the recent BBC animation of the missing pieces I would exclude them from my selection process. Anyway, on with the list.

Last on this list, and probably my most controversial selection, would be The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve. I have always been rather fond of the strictly historical dramas that were ultimately abandoned when the series was revamped for the third Doctor’s run. The writer John Lucarotti was the master of these serials. Tragically, he only ever contributed three such scripts and of those only The Aztecs survives in its entirety.
This one is an intense story that has a really neat little twist ending that I found quite touching.

Getting into more conventional fare, my fourth place vote would be for Galaxy 4. This was a story that I did not know a great deal about when I got to it having never read the Target novel. The story is about a pair of space ships stranded on a planet that is about to explode due to natural causes. I really liked the piece even with its rather obvious play on the whole you can’t judge a book by its cover sort of theme. What I think really struck me the most was the portrayal of the Drahvins who, while being the villains of the piece proved to be a rather unconventional one with the added benefit of a very convincing performance by the actresses involved. After watching Galaxy 4, I remember wondering why we didn’t see more of the Drahvins later on in the series.

My third place vote would be for the Troughton story The Enemy of the World from the fifth season of the series. This episode featured a great story set in Earth’s future where the world was living under the autocracy of the dictator Salamander. The gimmick is that the second Doctor is a splitting image of the ruler. Troughton plays both roles and makes a surprisingly good heavy. Salamander is a bit more than your standard Doctor Who villain of the time in that he is quite manipulative leading to some of his schemes being rather darkly unpleasant. My love for this story didn’t surprise me when I saw that David Whitaker was the writer for the serial. Whitaker remains my all time favorite early classic series author.

For second place my selection would go to Power of the Daleks. Another David Whitaker script, it is also the first regeneration story that we ever get and they obviously pulled out all the stops by including the Daleks. I think that this serial compares quite well with Terry Nation’s best Dalek stories. This episode also raised my respect for Troughton’s portrayal of the Doctor immensely. Given that this is the first time we see a new actor in the lead, Troughton’s performance left me with no doubt that he was, in fact, the Doctor. This is probably my favorite regeneration episode at this point. Regeneration episodes tend to be largely hit or miss affairs for me with misses slightly edging out the hits.

Finally, the serial I would most like to see recovered would be Marco Polo. While An Unearthly Child is a historical story to some extent, it also features a large amount of science fiction as well, which is not terribly surprising given that it is the introductory story for the program. To me, Marco Polo is the first real historical serial and leads the pack of Mr. Lucarotti’s stories. What I really like about this serial is that Marco takes an immediate distrust of the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara. It isn’t that he doesn’t like them, as they ultimately do win him over, but, it’s more of the case of the caution he must exercise born from the realization of the tremendous responsibility resting on his shoulders as the expedition’s leader to insure its success. When four people suddenly appear out of nowhere and are less than forthcoming about their backgrounds, it makes perfect sense that he would initially be suspicious of them. This set-up allowed me to instantly empathize with Marco Polo and made the character completely believable to me out the gate. One of the cooler features about the Loose Cannon reconstruction on this one is that they were able to do it in color. While it is nice to see William Hartnell in color, it is still a little disorienting and, the purist in me would ultimately like to see it in the original black and white at some point. Just writing about Marco Polo is giving me a strong desire to revisit it right now.

So, those are my votes for the five lost Doctor Who serials I would most like to see recovered but, I’m not going to hold my breath on actually being able to watch any of them within my lifetime. But, like I said earlier, I would love to be proven wrong and, as a result, get the opportunity to do so.

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  1. Great news everyone! | Fantastic Television

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