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back to article Beeb rescues old Who episodes

The BBC has announced that two of the “missing” 1960s-era Dr Who episodes have turned up and been added to the Beeb’s archives. The latest recoveries, the first since 2004, made their way somehow from Australia to the BBC via Southampton. Like most broadcasters, the BBC had trouble storing bulky pre-digital recordings of years …

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There is still hope

In the future we could send a FTL probe out into space which would overtake the 1960's TV broadcast which is still travelling out into space and capture it. It would probably make it the most expensive TV episode aired in history when it's rebroadcast.

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Happy

In the future,

we may be able to send travelers back in time with a PVR.

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Could do , but just in case FTL dosent get invented , we should rely on as yet undiscovered alien races to record it for us an case we were dumb enough to lose our own copies.

We should etch on our probes , next to the gallileo picture " please record any TV we missed "

Although god knows what theyd think. When all the 50s sci-fi gets there it'll probably be taken as:

"Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough!"

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But...

How do we tell the aliens to record it?

For all we know they will take one look at it and go to defcon 1 in case the timelords in our documentory come to get them.

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Coat

In the future...

Someone decided that early episodes were really crap and went back in time and wiped them

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Pirate

Re: In the future,

"we may be able to send travelers back in time with a PVR."

But if someone from our future COULD travel back into our past, to do something highly palpable like this, then surely it's already happened and we'd already be aware of the event.

So either time travel isn't possible, or doing so rips the traveller from one time-line into another, and can thus never affect past events in his time-line of origin - he can only become part of the present in another.

Our best chance of recovering these lost broadcasts is either figuring out how to overtake and capture the radio signals in space, or hoping that some "pirate" has already recorded them.

Looks like an excellent argument for "piracy", if you ask me.

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Re: undiscovered aliens

The likelihood of these aliens being at a similar phase of development to us is fairly small, bordering on negligibile.

Therefore, if they actually exist and are sufficiently interested to record Dr Who for us, the most likely scenario is that the've been aware of us for the whole of human history and have recorded the last ten thousand years of human history as part of their own research into developing civilisations, much as we do with "primitive tribes". (That's not a fly on the wall over there. It's a nuclear powered space-going autonomous bugging device.)

If so, past episodes of Dr Who will be in the same archive as "Julius Caesar's last day in the Senate", "an apple falls on Newton's head" and "Moses brings some tablets down from the mountain".

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Joke

Moses doesn't want tablets...

...he wants iPads

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"we may be able to send travelers back in time with a PVR."

By the time we get time travel technology, we wont have anything that could record analogue TV.

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Coat

Yes, some sort of time bandit...

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Anonymous Coward

In the future...

Someone decided a lot of the new series is also really crap and went back in time and wiped them.

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Anonymous Coward

"fairly small, bordering on negligibile."

But the universe is infinite. So there are probably some aliens around somewhere.

(cue X-Files music)

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Happy

@Homer1

They may be able to protect the timeline if they don't release the PVR recording until they get back (hence having no effect on history - they may have been there, but since we don't know about it, no history-breaking ret-coning is needed).

Which is why we don't get to see the episodes yet.

Except the ones they - in a fit of sympathy - 'accidentally' dropped off in an attic recently.

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FAIL

Yes, we censor EVERYTHING. Still do. It's the AUSSIE WAY! OI! OI! OI!

The Goodies - censored.

Dr.Who - censored.

Aunty Jack - censored (and the ABC produced it!)

The Great Austfailian Prudism continues to this day, with censorship of games, films and TV shows continuing unabated.

Beating horses with sticks, however, is celebrated as a 'national sport' suitable for viewing by all, and refusal to view said beating of horses (with occasional shooting-to-death of horses) is a crime under the 'UNAUSTRALIAN CONDUCT' laws.

Unfortunately, despite that fact that I find ALL of our politicians extremely offensive, they remain free to blather incoherently at all hours, and I am not allowed to beat any with sticks.

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Unhappy

Strewth mate...

... What a bunch of wowsers!

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The biggest irony...

...is that about a year ago some scientists showed that whipping a race-horse actually makes it slower.

Hitting an animal while they are trying to run makes them slower. Who'd have thunk!?

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Urh
WTF?

What I found most amusing...

...is the ABC's reasoning behind their heavy censorship of The Goodies. Apparently it was in an attempt to make it more suitable for children.

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Gimp

Here's a clue...

...as to why it was censored: http://wifeinspace.com/2011/06/the-underwater-menace/ (scroll down to "Episode Two")

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The may have censored Dr Who & The Goodies, but we did have Number 96. Who can forget Abigail as Bev Houghton and Deborah Gray as Miss Hemingway? Dribble! Dribble!

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Confused.

So, after 40-odd years these censored tapes, long thought lost forever, come to light and the National Archives of Australia manages to restore them to their original cut? How? Does the NAA hold some massive archive of all the bits it's ever cut out of every censored TV show ever, maybe for release as a sordid compilation DVD one Christmas when it deems the Australian public ready?

Or does it hold a complete archive of all the Doctor Whos in their full glory, and it's just that no-one ever thought to ask them? "Marco Polo? No problem mate, it's just there behind Fury from the Deep"

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Well I doubt it was SENT to ABC ready cut.... and as far as I'm aware, back then if you wanted to edit it, you'd likely be directly editing the film. I presume they copied it some how, and cut up a copy. Keeping the original safe...

which then got sold to this guy... who brought it home. How romantic ;)

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@DJ Smiley But my reading of the article is that this bloke recently discovered the censored edition of the tape, and now ABC are restoring the cut sections? So what are they restoring it from?

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Yes the Australians cut 10 seconds here and 10 seconds there from many Dr Who episodes and then carefully filed them away. These are the only film clips available from many Dr Who episodes.

The BBC had several film copies of every black and white Doctor Who episode and so the need to reuse magnetic tapes was not an issue in the destruction of Doctor Who episodes. Most of these episodes were destroyed because the chinless wonders who ran the BBC at the time did not see the films as having any value. It is notable that the BBC did not destroy a single classical music program from the 1960s.

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Joke

try it, mate

"Unfortunately, despite that fact that I find ALL of our politicians extremely offensive, they remain free to blather incoherently at all hours, and I am not allowed to beat any with sticks."

Give it a shot anyway. I'm sure no jury would convict.

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Crikey, Bruce. What happened to the no pooftas rule?

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Good news... the episodes are coming back to us anyhow...

From space....

http://www.rimmell.com/bbc/news.htm

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jai
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intergalactic tivo! :)

In space, no one can hear you scream... above the cacophony of 50's sci-fi television episode signals colliding with last years reality-tv broadcasts

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d'oh!

Nearly had me there, until I scanned the page again, April 1st.... d'oh!

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Unhappy

Date?

Umm... date of the article?

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Pint

good news

one of the better april fools

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WTF?

Okay, I know that Dr Who had to work within a tight budget (for a show which had to deal with sci fi themes), but surely the cost of creating a show dwarfed the cost of keeping a recording on a shelf?

What was the reasoning? "Blast! We don't have £20 for a blank tape, let's record over this old show. We can always spend £50,000 reshooting the original later"?

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lots of reasons...

Storage space...

Unions... You know that when BBC made a show the contract with the actors didn't allow them to use the recording for more than 2 years? Why should they keep the tapes after that time?

Video recordings were 'not good'... and slowly wiped themselves anyway, so why not reuse the tapes? (All copies sent abroad were sent as film, not video tapes. Not just because video faded, but because of incompatible standards. The buyer were then required to either return or destroy the film after use. Thankfully, not everyone was too dilligent in that task)

"It's not really culture, so who cares?" Yes... that was a sentiment of the times.

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Stop

ISTR reading

this wasn't your bog standard 4-for-a-tenner VHS cassette-type VT. It was *very* expensive reel-to-reel type stuff. They simply could not afford not to re-use it.

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Pfft.

£50k. Thats nothing.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/jul/16/moon-landing-tapes-erased

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Coat

when I was a marconi apprentice

in 1978, we managed to blag a Marconi broadcast video camera and a video recorder together the size of a Fiat cinquecento. I think the tapes - in the seventies - were well over twenty quid each, we certainly only had one tape at Springfield Place. Who have them now?

With tachyonic hindsight the Beeb *should* have filmed every DrWho, not wiped the tapes, true - but who could ever tell Auntie what to do!

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From what I understand it was more about storage than the cost of tape. Have you seen the size of the old VTs? Imagine how much storage space you would need for several years worth of broadcast TV.

When storage space got tight the BBC took a decision on what would actually have future value. There was no such thing back then as commercial DVD (or VHS or whatever) releases and the BBC didn't think there would be any demand for repeats of old B&W sci-fi. OK so they made the wrong decision, but they made it based on the information they had at the time.

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Unhappy

This title was wiped as a cost-saving measure

Firstly, tapes were much more expensive in those days - hundreds of pounds for a single tape, not twenty quid. When my dad was at Grampian in the early seventies, the station's *entire tape library* was about two dozen one-hour tapes.

The second reason was that Equity was against repeats - unlike a stage show, a TV show could be repeated without involving any actors, depriving them of their livelihoods. They thus had high fees negotiated for repeats beyond an initial few showings, which means that your comment about reshooting for £50K is closer to the truth than you may realise - with the amount a repeat would have cost, you might as well shoot something new.

In the BBC's case this was exacerbated by the fact that there was a conflict between two departments - the Engineering Division, who recorded the program on videotape and stored it until broadcast, and BBC Enterprises, who transferred programs to film (because it was cheaper and universally-used) to flog to other countries. Both felt that long term archival was the other's job, and thus neither invested in the infrastructure to store programs in any format. As a result, stuff just got wiped or thrown out - by Engineering because they wanted to re-use the tape; by Enterprises because they'd sold it to everyone they could, and didn't want cans of film cluttering up the place.

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Anonymous Coward

Need to justify that budget... ie, license fee.

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Headmaster

30 years ago (I was employed as a VT engineer at TV Centre around the Tom Baker/Peter Davison changeover) it was nearer 120 quid per tape, plus warehouse and racking to store them. If anything the tapes had got cheaper over the previous 15 years.

And what could you do with the tapes later?At the time the standard artists contract for TV programmes allowed for the original transmission plus two repeats. If a third repeat was wanted then all the original cast had to be found (not always easy for extras), asked for their permission and paid the same fee again. This meant that third repeats cost nearly as much as new programming would, and new programmes cut down on the "There's nothing on but repeats" whinging.

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I think....

it was more a case of the unions sticking their oar in. Basically they thought if old shows were kept in perpituity then they would just repeat old shows instead of making new ones therefore not creating new jobs for actors. So as a result a bunch were destroyed. A bit silly really and it wasn't just doctor who it happened to either.

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Unhappy

In that case...

You'll not want to find out what happened to most of "Not Only But Also"...

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I think they didn't recon that the show got back to be so popular again. You can't keep everything stored, at least not in those times.

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Facepalm

You are joking?

"£20 for a blank tape" - in the early 60's? You sure about that?

According to Wikipedia's "Wiping" article, they used 2" Quadruplex tape that was expensive & bulky. The sort of people who ran TV in that era probably regarded most TV as ephemeral, & barely worth preserving.

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Two down, 100ish to go

@Paul L. Daniels

"Good News... the episodes are coming back to us anyhow..."

One has to assume, since you're not providing this link on April 1st yourself, that you didn't notice the publishing date on that article.

@Zack Mollusc

It was the start of the colour era. They assumed nobody would be interested in them there old-fashioned black and white programmes any more.

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Facepalm

No

The reasoning was "Well, we've aired and repeated that episode and sold it to foreign markets, so we don't need it any more". Doctor Who was light entertainment, not a classic for the ages.

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It's not the cost of storing the tapes...

But the cost of the tapes themselves. Remember, this was all back in the 1960s:

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/preserving.shtml?chapter=8)

"When videotape was introduced into the BBC back in the '60s it was very expensive. The machine to replay it on was the price of a very expensive Rolls Royce, and the tape itself cost the price of a Mini."

Another article suggests the tapes cost around £200 apiece, which in today's money is somewhere around £3500!

It's therefore not too surprising that they were taping over older, "lower-value" recordings - after all, you couldn't just nip to Staples to grab a ten-pack of blank tapes!

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FAIL

Cost of tapes

It was not the cot of the tapes that was to expensive, but the cost of the storage. The BBC and other production companies at the time just didn't have the spare space to store the hundreds of thousands of tapes from all productions in a secure controlled environment.

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Headmaster

@ Zack Mollusc

The problem was tapes were so expensive that they had to be reused. However film copies were struck for overseas sales and viewing. However the BBC had no coherent archiving policy and film recordings were junked or never recalled from foreign TV stations once they had reached the end of their useful life (as colour TV was phased in, the demand for b/w material dropped).

Meanwhile Equity priced actor repeat fees so highly for UK showings (so their members wouldn't lose work from repeats being shown) it was nearly as expensive to just make a new show. If there was no market for repeats there was no point in keeping the episodes.

Incidentally while there is a hell of alot of Who missing (106 episodes), it actually fares quite well. There are series that ran the duration of the 60's that are missing in their entirety and there are episodes of Top of the Pops missing right up to 1977! Who by comparison has a complete run of stories from Patrick Troughtons final outing, The War Games, in 1969 (although there's not a complete run on PAL tape until 1974).

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Headmaster

Cost of 2" Quad

@Vulch As you say, by the late 70's it was much cheaper though £120 in 1980 is still approx £450 today. But they were far more expensive in the 60's. Hard to imagine today that a single tape format would have a 25 year+ working life!

By the way, I trust you appear in one of the VT Christmas tapes!

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Unfortunately I joined a year to late for "White Powder Christmas" and "Good King Memorex (No Royalty except in the title)". I did point out Brian Barwick, former chief exec of the FA, in the Suzie Quantel number "He's a Sports PA" from one of them recently though...

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