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 …
I imagine the reasoning went something like:
We have loads of old black and white stuff on 2" video tape. In this age of colour TV no one would ever want to see those again. In addition they take up miles of expensive storage. If we record over them we save on our tape budget and free up space too....
If the situation with Doctor Who is appalling, then early Top Of The Pops is even worse. Almost nothing exists of early TOTP - no Beatles, 1 performance by The Stones, a rehearsal take of Sandie Shaw and so on, because no-one high up in the Beeb realised just how important pop music would prove to be.
Ironically I think every TV News bulletin has been kept, because news is "important".
Luckily the germans preserved Beat Club and Beat Beat Beat so we still have some pop.
This echoes back to the great unresolved question from my student days - was there really an episode which was never broadcast called "Dr. Who and the Hardons"?
He probably has a Large Hardon Collider tucked away in a TARDIS room somewhere as well.
These are not tapes
These are not tapes that have been recovered. They are 16mm film copies of the original tapes.
Although Doctor Who was recorded on tape from day 1 in 1963, 2" Quad was so expensive it had to be reused. An old BBC VT engineer told me that in the mid 60's half hour of tape cost about 2 grand in todays money. So tapes had to be reused for their use to make economic sense. Think he said the aim was to reuse a tape 4 or 5 times for it to pay.
Who would be routinely copied to 16mm film (or occasionally 35mm) after recording (or even sometimes during transmission). This was because film was cheap, easy to handle and could be sent all over the world for resale without having to worry about lots of different TV formats or the fact that some places didn't have access to Quad players. Back in the UK it was also handy for viewing copies for internal use as it didn't need expensive equipment to be played back (if you thought the tapes were expensive, they were nothing compared to the machines).
It's quite lucky Doctor Who was an international hit from very early on as episodes have turned up all over the world, all thanks to the 16mm prints being sent all over the place.
Hopefully more will turn up, but as the years go by the finds are getting less frequent. Only one episode of 60's Who was never copied to film so is totally lost so fingers crossed!
As an anorak note (as if this post isn't nerdy enough) the first original 2" PAL videotape that survives for Who is episode 1 of the Ambassadors of Death broadcast in March 1970.
but surely the cost of creating a show dwarfed the cost of keeping a recording on a shelf
The storage cost was not the problem.
Tape was ridiculously expensive in those days and reusing it was standard procedure, add the fact that most TV iwas broadcast live, with some OB tape thrown in to the mix when a major costume change was needed, and a lot of the early TV has gone missing.
I do however like the fact the the BBC keeps appealing for people who illegally copied the programs to come forward and help fill the gaps in their archive.
Keep looking, please
Good news. Now, if someone can only unearth the first series of 'A for Andromeda' ...
The BBC produced thousands of hours of output back then, and it was all on physical tape. Anyway, why keep episodes of a low budget scifi show that you never intend to repeat?
Theatre of the mind
Maybe one day well be able to capture our memories.
I still have a few fragments that might be usable....
Dr Who scared the be-jesus out of me as a kid.
re Good news... the episodes are coming back to us anyhow... #
I take it everyone looked at the date on that article, made me chuckle..
@Zack, I imagine that space was a bigger issue than cost
Reverse the Polarity?
It always worked for the Doctor. That'll get the missing episodes back.
"so if we could send some neutrinos in the right direction and recapture VHF signals"
Don't forget to change the polarity, that usually works.
any list of missing episodes? I bet I have a couple in the attic.
there's a list here:
Reverse the polarity... etc.
We don't need time travel, just FTL travel (which may or may not mean the same thing). The original broadcasts are still dissipating out from the earth, all we need to do is overtake them and record /the original broadcast/ again.
Only problem will be when a ship finally makes it and picks up the signal, they won't know how to decode the analog UHF (VHF in early 60s?) signal to record it to their Domesday Project laser video disc. ;)
They're never coming back.
Those episodes were all destroyed in the Time War
Underwater Menace - oh dear
Why's it never Power of the Daleks or Web of Fear?
Tapes don't wipe themselves
That's an urban myth, what can happen to tapes is that some sort of chemical reaction forces some compound into places where it shouldn't be. (like between the layers of tape)
So tapes from the 1950s are, when stored properly, still perfectly playable.
Not quite- no.
it's similar to how tapes used to be high speed copied.
The signal bleeds from one layer of the tape to the next, over time.
On audio, the effect starts as pre-echo, and is minimised by spooling though occasionally, to shake things up a bit, and by storing tail out... IIRC, with the mag layer facing out...or in- whichever was better.
(it IS Sat night...so beer!)
But, couldn't they just ask the doctor?
What!? You mean it's not real?
The Aussie censor physically spliced the offending material from the 16mm film itself and for some reason retained the spliced film. Presumably to make sure the pinkos down at the TV station couldn't reinstate any cut footage.
In theory the 16mm prints were only on loan and had to be returned intact after the relevant number of transmissions. If an overseas broadcaster did take the scissors to a print, they had to hang on to the outtakes so they could be glued back in later.
@Vulch that is absolutely spot on. What worries me about Aunty in these cases is that she rented out these prints with specific instructions that they must be returned and then didn't chase up their return.
I was talking to somebody at the BBC about a totally different show which was almost entirely lost and he told me that they only had one 16mm print of each of the episodes for almost the whole series. These prints were loaned to another broadcaster and they were never returned and apparently nobody noticed they were missing until almost twenty years later. They're an organised bunch at the BBC.
sorry but unbearable
I have tried watching some of these old lost eps and while there is sometimes a moment where a dim and distant memory is tweaked they are otherwise thunderously boring and dull .
If they showed them on TV again first the DVD sales would be zero.
Thunderously boring and dull
You've tried watching the lost episodes? Have you got your own TARDIS? Do you think they might be called lost episodes for a reason? Something to do with their being lost perhaps?
Silly old BBC
That sort of thing couldn't happen now.
Instead all the TV episodes locked with DRM will be lost when the distribution company with the key server goes bust.
Or you wont be able to broadcast them anyway because of some background music that a competing corporation owns the rights for.
Must be some weird Who DVDs in your collection. All mine play fine without connecting to any key server. Or maybe you're just talking arse.
Self-erasing tapes - not a myth.
Older tapes are okish but more modern ones (60s-90s) tended to have poor hysteresis values and can be self-wiped by adjacent layers of tape (increasing hiss on audio, decreasing image fidelity on video) - especially cheap brands which were often all that could be afforded by starving artist types.
Many of the older VHS/Beta tapes I made with friends (music videos and recordings of concerts we played at 30+ years ago) are virtually unwatchable(*) except as memory joggers. Umatic and larger formats tended to survive better due to the lower magnetic density of the tapes and thicker bases - that's why stuff recovered from stations is generally of better quality once cleaned up.
(*) We got complimented at the time by the local TV company about the production quality of our VHS submissions - most locally produced non-film material which came in was completely unusable for broadcast without spending hours genlocking every scene change. When they discovered we were shooting/editing on u-matic and then dropping down to VHS for submission the techs were very impressed.
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