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For the Target Books' series, see Target Missing Episodes.
This article is written from the Real World point of view. TARDIS

A "missing episode" is generally considered to be a televised episode of Doctor Who which no longer exists in its entirety. It is distinct from an episode which was never made, such as those which would have comprised the original season 23.

Technically, all 1960s episodes of Doctor Who, and a few of the Pertwee era, are missing, in that the original videotape masters were definitively lost. However, thanks to filmed copies of the masters, many of these episodes are still available for fans to view. In the case of the "missing" Pertwee episodes, filmed monochromatic duplicates of all the episodes survive, meaning that these are "missing-in-colour" only.

In a practical sense, then, a "missing episode" is one without either an extant videotape master or a filmed or digital duplicate. As of January 2010, there are currently 108 episodes of seasons 1-6 fully absent from the BBC's Film and Videotape Library.

Though these 108 missing episodes no longer exist in their entirety, several remnants exist for fans to sample. Clips — sometimes bits excised to comply with a network's editorial policies, sometimes bits included as teasers on other programmes — exist from many of the missing episodes. In a few rare instances, these clips are drawn from the original masters. Telesnaps, photographs taken of the performance as it was being videotaped or filmed, also exist of almost every missing episode. There are also instances, perhaps most notably with The Smugglers, where home video recordings of the actors in rehearsal on location at least give a flavor of what the characters might have looked like in costume.

By far the most common way for fans to enjoy missing episodes, however, is through audio. Complete audio tracks of all episodes exist, thanks to off-air recordings by fans in the 1960s. The soundtracks for the missing episodes have all been released with linking narration by the BBC Radio Collection. Scripts and novelisations of these episodes also help to keep them accessible.



In the early days of British television, episodes were not generally repeated after their original broadcast. Contracts with various parties, in particular the musicians' and actors' unions, gave broadcasters a limited time frame in which their recorded material could be used. Most episodes of television programmes were therefore not re-broadcast. As the videotape was relatively costly at the time, the medium was actually more valuable than the content recorded on that medium. Since home video had not yet become a viable commercial product, there was thus no financial incentive to keep previously-broadcast material in the BBC archives. It made more sense, at least in the short term, to wipe and reuse videotape than it did to to pay to have the apparently useless episodes indefinitely stored.

What's perhaps unusual about Doctor Who is that there were in fact two purges. The first, involving the videotaped masters, was absolute, insofar as the 1960s episodes were concerned. All episodes were wiped, so that the videotape could be reused. The second was the junking of the filmed duplicates of the master. This second purge was much more haphazard. Why certain filmed prints were junked, while others remained, has no single answer. Episodes were junked at different times, for different reasons. The trashing of the filmed copies was clearly not carried out by persons familiar with Doctor Who, else certain key episodes — notably those in which the Doctor regenerated or companions came and went — would surely have been retained.

Doctor Who was just one of many programmes to suffer these purges. However, its unusually serialized nature was particularly affected by the haphazard manner in which the filmed duplicates were purged. In the case of, for example, sitcoms, the loss of a single episode meant the loss of a single story. With Doctor Who the loss of a single episode meant that an individual story would then be incomplete. As a result, some serials of Doctor Who were affected more greatly than others.

Recovery of full episodes

Film can containing the recovered second episode of The Evil of the Daleks

As new contracts were struck with performers' unions, and home video began to be seen as a viable commercial enterprise, the BBC established an Archive Department charged with recovering lost material. The BBC was particularly pressurized to begin the recovery of Doctor Who episodes by Ian Levine, a "fan adviser" officially employed by the Doctor Who production office. The efforts he helped to start would eventually result in the recovery of several episodes.

One particularly rich vein of recovery was through BBC Enterprises, the arm of the BBC which sold BBC products outside the United Kingdom. Their own archives were in fact separate from those of the BBC, and no one had bothered to cross check their holdings against those of the BBC proper. This simple check resulted in some of the earliest recoveries. At the same time, sales records held by Enterprises allowed investigators to trace filmed duplicates to various overseas broadcasters. A global hunt then began, which has resulted in several finds. One of the more notable was when the entirety of Tomb of the Cybermen was found in Hong Kong in 1992.

At the same time, what emerged was the fact that the Troughton episodes had been significantly less popular overseas than the Hartnell ones. There were thus fewer possible locations for duplicates of Second Doctor episodes. Consequently, there are fewer remaining episodes of Troughton's Doctor than any other, despite the fact that he recorded more episodes of Doctor Who than almost any other single actor.

Outside of the "official" paper trail, episodes have sometimes turned up in the hands of private collectors. Because the owners have a legal right to own the physical prints, the BBC has offered to let the collectors retain their copies, after making a duplicate for the Archive.

Recovery of clips

For many of the missing episodes, short clips exist. These come from several sources:

  • clips used in contemporaneous television programs which exist
  • clips used in other episodes of Doctor Who
  • The censor clips: material physically cut from episodes by the censors in Australia and New Zealand
  • The 6-minute-long clip from Galaxy 4, given to Jan-Vincent Rudski
  • The 8mm cine reel filmed by an unknown fan pointing a film camera at the television screen.

The vast majority of these clips were released on the Lost in Time DVD box set. A few clips discovered later were released on the Genesis of the Daleks DVD.

Specific episodes missing


William Hartnell stories

Season Title Episodes Missing
1 Marco Polo 7 All
1 The Reign of Terror 6 4, 5
2 The Crusade 4 2, 4
3 Galaxy 4 4 All
3 Mission to the Unknown 1 All
3 The Myth Makers 4 All
3 The Daleks' Master Plan 12 All but 2, 5, 10
3 The Massacre 4 All
3 The Celestial Toymaker 4 1, 2, 3
3 The Savages 4 All
4 The Smugglers 4 All
4 The Tenth Planet 4 4

Patrick Troughton stories

Season Title Episodes Missing
4 The Power of the Daleks 6 All
4 The Highlanders 4 All
4 The Underwater Menace 4 1, 2, 4
4 The Moonbase 4 1, 3
4 The Macra Terror 4 All
4 The Faceless Ones 6 2, 4-6
4 The Evil of the Daleks 7 1, 3-7
5 The Abominable Snowmen 6 1, 3-6
5 The Ice Warriors 6 2, 3
5 The Enemy of the World 6 1, 2, 4-6
5 The Web of Fear 6 2-6
5 Fury from the Deep 6 All
5 The Wheel in Space 6 1, 2, 4, 5
6 The Invasion 8 1,4[1]
6 The Space Pirates 6 1,3-6
  1. These episodes were remade in animation by Cosgrove Hill for a BBCi/DVD release

Jon Pertwee stories

No episode of the Jon Pertwee era is completely absent from the BBC Archive. However, some of the episodes exist only as monochromatic film prints, mostly recovered from overseas broadcasters. Though filmed in colour, most of the world's broadcasters did not then transmit in colour, requiring BBC Enterprises to provide monochromatic prints for overseas sales.

Improvements in colourization technology have resulted in an increasing number of these episodes being for all practical purposes "recovered". Unlike the 1960s missing episodes, it is at least theoretically possible that all these episodes may one day be restored to the point that the average viewer will not consider them "missing" any longer. However, they are also the most complicated to outline, as there have been many versions of some of them, since the colour restoration process began in the early 1990s. Note, too, that some of these re-colourized episodes have actually been broadcast, giving some of the restored episodes original transmission dates of their own.

Remaining monochromatic episodes

Prior to the start of the re-colourization effort in the 1990s, some Pertwee episodes did not exist in colour in any form within the Archive. These have been traditionally seen by the Doctor Who Restoration Team as the most cost-prohibitive restorations to undertake. As a result, they remain wholly (or at least mostly) monochromatic.

  • Episodes 2-4, 6 & 7
  • Episodes 1-6
  • Episode 1

Re-colourized episodes

Other episodes existed in colour in some form in the BBC Archive prior to the Restoration Team's involvemnt, giving the Team an "easier" starting point for their efforts. These are the serials that have had at least some restorative work done by the Team. As of January 2010, there has only been one instance — Planet of the Daleks, part three — where the Team have re-colourized an episode, despite having only a monochromatic copy from which to work.

  • Color only exists in a poor NTSC copy
  • Color and higher-quality B&W copy recombined by the Restoration Team
  • Color only exists in a very poor NTSC copy, with frequent total color dropouts.
  • Color and higher-quality B&W copy recombined by the Restoration Team where possible, but the majority of episodes are still principally monochromatic.
  • Released in mixed Black and White/Colour
  • Color only exists in a poor NTSC copy
  • Color and higher-quality B&W copy recombined by the Restoration Team
  • Color only exists in a poor NTSC copy
  • Color and higher-quality B&W copy recombined by the Restoration Team
  • Only six minutes exist in color, from a poor NTSC copy. The rest of the serial exists only in B&W.
  • Except for Episode 4, color only exists in a poor NTSC copy
  • Color and higher-quality B&W copy recombined by the Restoration Team
  • Episode 3 previously existed only as B&W, but now has been re-coloured by the the Restoration Team, and released to DVD.

Nearly complete episodes

Some of the episodes held by the BBC are not, in fact, complete. Perhaps they have massive physical damage across a few frames, or maybe they were recovered from copies that had frames removed by overseas censors. In this latter case, the missing material has also been recovered as a separate clip. Sometimes, it has been re-integrated in to a home video release. However, a few remain minimally incomplete:

The VHS releases of The Time Meddler and The Dominators contained additional cuts due to material which was missing from the archives at the time, but has since been recovered. Because there have been multiple home video releases of these episodes, some versions have had the missing clips restored, while others do not.

External Links

This article uses material from the "Missing episode" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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