The Doctor Who Missing Episodes

This will be a short post — I’m typing it on my phone! This year sees the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, and we have the anniversary special on November 23rd to look forward to. At 5.15pm on that day in 1963 (with schedules largely dominated by the assassination of JFK the day before) the very first episode was shown. A question for the Who geeks — who can name the Producer?

One curious thing this brings to mind is that by my understanding of the 1988 Act the copyright on those 1963 episodes will elapse in the UK on New Years Day 2014. What that means is far from clear to me, and IP law is so complex I’m not even going to speculate,  but worth mentioning.

Over the last year there has been a revival of interest in the missing 106 episodes. I’m not going to tell the story of how the BBC taped over or discarded the episodes either — you can find it on Wikipedia. 

In the Summer there was a flurry of speculation about some episodes having been found in Africa: then denials. It was all a major disappointment. And yet now it seems possible that it was true after all — some Doctor Who episodes have been found after all. We will know details on Thursday.

I’m no expert on this so here is some speculation. Firstly I think the BBC has probably had the material a while. We were promised “more Doctor Who than before
” for the anniversary year. We got two episodes. The only way that can equate to more Who is through the recovery and release of either missing tapes or more semi-animated stories. (We have all the sound recordings — only the visuals are missing).

So if the BBC knew they had the tapes and held them back for the anniversary — much as they delayed announcing the discovery of two episodes found in 2011 until the Missing Believed Wiped event I am told– what does that tell us?

Well the Christmas 2011 episode included references to the Great Intelligence and the Troughton era story Web of Fear (and the preceeding Yeti story). I know relatively little about Doctor Who, but it seems therefore possible the episodes found are from those stories, and the anniversary special will deal with the same protagonist. Hence they are made available before the special is aired…

Wild speculation — but fun. I should be a conspiracy theorist! I actually do not know, but on Thursday I will find out. I just thought I may as well add my tuppence tonight to all the rumours flying about!

CJ x

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About Chris Jensen Romer

I am a profoundly dull, tedious and irritable individual. I have no friends apart from two equally ill mannered cats, and a lunatic kitten. I am a ghosthunter by profession, and professional cat herder. I write stuff and do TV things and play games. It's better than being real I find.
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6 Responses to The Doctor Who Missing Episodes

  1. andrewoakley says:

    Despite the reputation of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, a lot of the 1960s Doctor Who episodes had pop songs or stock classical music in the background. Unfortunately the copyright on that music does NOT expire at the same time as broadcast copyright, so in order to get those episdoes into a public domain format, you would need to:

    1. Use the original footage or first-generation copies made during that year (not re-edited copies broadcast in more recent years – so you can’t use Transcription Service copies because those are re-edited and more recent, and you can’t use restored copies because the restoration work is itself a copyrightable work of art).

    2. Remove pretty much all background music, or track down (often dead) composers & performers to get their permission.

    Part 2 is often as difficult as part 1, especially since the background music is usually spoken over by the characters. I recall there was a Beatles song in one of the 1960s episodes recovered in the past decade or two, and the price they quoted the BBC to keep it in was sky-high – so they had to delay the DVD release whilst the restoration team worked out a way to replace the background music whilst keeping in the characters’ speech!

    1960s and 1970s contracts for use of the music in TV was typically for broadcast only, not for DVD/video, because home video didn’t really become big enough to consider until the 1980s. It’s a lot easier with 1980s onwards, since video/DVD fees were usually built-in to the music contracts from day one.

    There are a lot of Goon Shows available now in the public domain, but they sound pretty dreadful, because they’re made from original recordings with only amateur restoration, and have the music edited out. It’s far better to just pay the six quid and get the properly restored Goon Shows on CD, which used the Transcription Service copies as source material, and most of which retain the music (Ray Ellington did a few covers of 1950s pop songs which the BBC still don’t have permission for, but they’re relatively few – most surviving shows are now available in full). This is also why very few of the restored Goon Shows have any racist jokes in them – the racism was edited out for the Empire Service / World Service / colonial broadcasts anyway.

  2. DaveD says:

    CJ, Thursday’s announcement, I hear, is to be made by Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling, who were the companions in the two Yeti stories, so that would add weight to your idea that they are the stories recovered.
    Oh, and Verity Lambert was the producer. The director’s name would have been a tad more challenging! 🙂

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Yes though in a sense the director’s name is much more interesting. I’d like to know more about him!

      • DaveD says:

        Just looked him up on IMDb and, though I knew he’d done some high profile stuff, hadn’t realised he directed the film version of “Henry VIII and His Six Wives” with Keith Michell. I’ve got that on DVD, as well as the first Doctor Who story. I wonder if I’ve got any of his other work.

  3. Pingback: Doctor Who – 50th Anniversary | DaveD's Blog

  4. Kevin says:

    Dr Who Story 1, Episode 1 – The Unearthly Child

    Primary Cast :
    William Hartnell – The Doctor
    William Russell – Ian Chesterton
    Jacqueline Hill – Barbara White
    Carole Ann Ford – Susan Foreman

    Writer – Anthony Coburn
    Title Music – Ron grainer and Delia Derbyshire (credited as BBC Radiophonic Workshop)
    Incidentals – Norman Kay
    Designers – Peter Brachacki, Barry Newbery
    Associate Producer – Mervyn Pinfield
    Story Editor – David Whitaker
    Director – Waris Hussein
    Producer – Verity Lambert

    Recorded at Lime Grove Studios (Studio D)

    First ever (broadcast) line in Dr Who “Wait in here please, Susan. I won’t be long.” – Barbara

    The piece of music that is purported to be John Smith and the Common Men is called “3 Guitars Mood 2,” by The Arthur Nelson Group. This piece of music was also used in the documentary Verity Lambert: Drama Queen, a tribute to the late Verity Lambert which was first broadcast on 5 April 2008 on BBC4. This reference to the aforementioned music group might have inspired the conception of the “John Smith” alias that the Doctor later began to use, starting with his second incarnation in “The Wheel in Space”.

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