How We Lost The Madman and His Box
With hundreds of episodes, 12 Doctors (soon to be 13 with the first-ever Female Doctor!), and one beautiful blue TARDIS, Doctor Who is one of the longest running and most beloved shows of all time.
Knowing that, it’s strange to think that the Doctor could be missing over a third of his foundational episodes, referred to as the (very spooky sounding) Lost Episodes. We were given 253 glorious episodes from the first six years of Doctor Who and of those, 147 of them were either destroyed or lost. Now that is a scary number! The good news is the BBC and fans around the world have been working tirelessly to find these episodes and restore them. 50 episodes have already been recovered, which we only have 97 more to go!
Yeah, that’s still a bit of a daunting task if you ask us.
How did this even happen?
You might be asking yourself this very question. How do 97 episodes of one of the most popular shows on television go missing? Well, the Actors Union Equity was afraid of reruns. Sounds silly, but it’s true. Equity thought that if the BBC could play reruns endlessly, no actor would ever be hired again. TV would just be an endless loop of the same stuff over and over and no one would ever think twice about it (boy, were they wrong!). So Equity put a clause in all their contracts that allowed the BBC to show the episode only so many times before they would have to pay a huge fee to continue playing it. This fee was enough to make the BBC say “no thanks” the moment they hit that point and shuffle the episode into their archives. Between 1967-1978 this happened to a lot of British TV shows, but Doctor Who outlasted all of them in popularity.
If that wasn’t enough, the videotapes used to record the episodes were expensive. To save money, the BBC made 16mm copies to sell overseas and then erased the originals to reuse them — sort of like how we recorded Pokemon over that family video we found at our parents house. And, just like our parents, the Doctor Who fandom is still pretty mad about the whole thing.
Alright, So What’s The Good News?
Private collectors who got their hands on the 16mm overseas copies of episodes have been coming forward and selling their copies back to the BBC — meaning we are getting more of the old Doctors than ever before. In even better news, we have audio recordings of every single one of the missing episodes. Fans are sneaky and love to relive the Doctor’s best moments, so they recorded the episodes to listen to them again later. With these recordings, there is hope that the BBC will maybe make an animated series one day so we can experience these lost episodes in a new format!
If you can’t wait for the lost episodes to be found but want to relive the old Doctor’s antics, we have exciting news for you. The First Doctor is making an appearance in the Christmas Special this year, and we’re pretty sure that seeing him onscreen again is the second best thing to traveling back in time.