02 October 2005
Doctor Who and the missing episodes.  Another state failure?

They found a couple of Doctor Who clips and the (Doctor Who) world goes nuts.

Found?  Yes.  The BBC wiped the original tapes, so it’s a big thing in the Doctor Who world when they find even clips (these ones seem to be no more than about 12 seconds in length).

Wiped them?  Why? It’s a long story and there is more than one version of it knocking about.  One involves simple incompetence.  Another involves a far more convoluted and elevated variety.

Further evidence that the state is useless, then?  Maybe.  But we should always bear in mind that commercial TV managed to wipe almost (if not all) of the first season of the Avengers.  Though, that was in the very early 1960s.  The Who episodes that the BBC wiped stretched from 1964, through to 1973.  We should also, perhaps, bear in mind that Doctor Who might not exist at all if it wasn’t for the nationalised broadcaster.

So, why the nuttiness?  Coz we care.  Actually, I don’t get all that excited.  It just serves to remind me of how sad and angry I am that the episodes were wiped in the first place.

So, they were really good then?  Ah.  Not necessarily.  The Power of the Daleks (from which these clips were taken) is a classic.  I think it is my absolute #1 favourite Who serial of all time.  It’s almost Shakespearean.  Actually, you can understand it, so in that respect it is rather better than Shakey.  But others, hmm, well…dodgy sets, dodgy accents, dodgy acting, dodgy scripts, dodgy sound.  Mind you, seeing as they were pumping out something like 48 episodes per year I think some leeway has to be given.  By comparison, this year’s series ran to a grand total of 13 episodes.

Hang about.  How come you know all about the Power of the Daleks if it has been wiped? Ah, through the wonders of reconstruction, string and sealing wax.

So, if they weren’t all that good, why are you so upset?  It’s because I trusted them.  It’s because all through the Seventies I thought: “One day, I will, if I choose, be able to see all the old episodes.  The good ol’ BBC is keeping good care of them just for me.  I am so glad we have a nationalised broadcaster.  Wouldn’t happen if we were all commercial like the Americans.”

Wrong, Crozier.  Wrong.

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  1. test

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on 19 October 2005 at 08:13am

  2. The very first TV appearance of Barbra Streisand was allegedly wiped by some US TV berk to reuse the tape for some sports event. She was already well known so this isn’t a case of wiping out a nonentity.

    I think this was a pretty common practice in the early days of tape. Probably a similar attitude to that of 1960s architects who thought nothing more than five years old was any good.

    Posted by ian on 25 October 2007 at 12:08am

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