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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, as well as from an episode which was partly produced but ultimately unfinished, i.e. the 1980 version of Shada.


Phillip Morris on recovering missing Doctor Who - Doctor Who

Philip Morris talks about the 2013 return of The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear

Technically, all 1960s episodes of Doctor Who 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 a practical sense, then, a "missing episode" is one without either an extant videotape master or a filmed or digital duplicate. As of January 2022, there are 97 episodes missing from the BBC Archives. However, in April 2020, Philip Morris indicated that of these 97, "at least six episodes – missing episodes – exist, to my [his] knowledge, in the hands of private collectors". [1]


BFI screen long missing Doctor Who episodes

Ed Stradling talks about missing episodes around the time of the Underwater Menace find in 2011

Though these 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. Tele-snaps, off-screen photographs taken by John Cura of the performance as it was being videotaped or filmed, also exist of most missing episodes. 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 flavour 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 made 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. The surviving soundtracks were also used for animated reconstructions.


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 pay to have the apparently useless episodes indefinitely stored.

What is 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 serialised 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 pressured 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 The 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 comparatively fewer remaining episodes of Troughton's Doctor.

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 BBC Archives.

In July 2011, film collector Terry Burnett returned "Air Lock", the third episode of Galaxy 4 and The Underwater Menace episode two to the BBC after discovering that these two episodes were missing from the BBC Archive through a chance meeting with Ralph Montagu, the head of heritage at Radio Times.[2] However, the recovery was not announced to the public until later in December. These were the first full episodes to be recovered since "Day of Armageddon", the second episode of The Daleks' Master Plan, in 2004.

In October 2013, it was announced that nine complete episodes of Doctor Who had been found at a TV relay station in Nigeria. The episodes in question were found by archive television recovery expert Phillip Morris. Five of the episodes were from The Enemy of the World; episode three already existed in the BBC Archives — therefore making The Enemy of the World a complete story. The other four episodes were from The Web of Fear, which up until then had only episode one existing in the BBC Archives. Episodes two, four, five and six are now back in the BBC Archives; however, episode three is still missing. (Notably, episode three of The Web of Fear is the only missing episode known to definitively have an existing copy not in the BBC Archives; it was found with the others in Nigeria, but during negotiations for their return to the UK it was apparently stolen and sold to a private collector. It was likely valuable because of its important first appearance of the Brigadier. [3])

Clip recovery[]

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

  • clips used in contemporaneous television programmes which exist — for example, editions of Blue Peter;
  • clips used as flashbacks in other episodes of Doctor Who;
  • the censor clips: material physically cut from episodes by the censors in Australia and New Zealand, as they deemed it unsuitable for family viewing;
  • the 6-minute-long clip from "Four Hundred Dawns", the first episode of Galaxy 4, given to Jan Vincent-Rudzki as a thank-you for his help on the 1977 documentary Whose Doctor Who; and
  • the 8mm cine reel filmed during the 1960s by an unknown fan in Australia, by 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.

List of missing episodes[]

First Doctor television stories[]

Season Story Title Episode(s) Made Episode(s) Missing
1 4 Marco Polo 7 All
1 8 The Reign of Terror 6 4 & 5
2 14 The Crusade 4 2 & 4
3 18 Galaxy 4 4 All but episode 3
3 19 Mission to the Unknown 1 Entire episode
3 20 The Myth Makers 4 All
3 21 The Daleks' Master Plan 12 All but episodes 2, 5, and 10
3 22 The Massacre 4 All
3 24 The Celestial Toymaker 4 All but episode 4
3 26 The Savages 4 All
4 28 The Smugglers 4 All
4 29 The Tenth Planet 4 Episode 4 (minus regeneration scene)

Second Doctor television stories[]

Season Story Title Episodes Made Episodes Missing
4 30 The Power of the Daleks 6 All
4 31 The Highlanders 4 All
4 32 The Underwater Menace 4 1 & 4
4 33 The Moonbase 4 1 & 3
4 34 The Macra Terror 4 All
4 35 The Faceless Ones 6 All but episodes 1 and 3
4 36 The Evil of the Daleks 7 All but episode 2
5 38 The Abominable Snowmen 6 All but episode 2
5 39 The Ice Warriors 6 2 & 3
5 41 The Web of Fear 6 Episode 3
5 42 Fury from the Deep 6 All
5 43 The Wheel in Space 6 All but episodes 3 and 6
6 46 The Invasion 8 1 & 4[4]
6 49 The Space Pirates 6 All but episode 2

Total of missing episodes[]

Doctor Season Episodes missing Total by Doctor Grand total Serials completely missing Total by Doctor Grand total Serials partially missing Total by Doctor Grand total
1 1 9 44 97 1 6 10 1 6 16
2 2 0 1
3 28 4 3
4 5 1 1
2 4 28 53 3 4 4 10
5 18 1 4
6 7 0 2

Third Doctor television stories[]

All episodes of the Jon Pertwee era exist in the BBC Archive. However, some of the episodes only existed as black-and-white film prints, mostly recovered from overseas broadcasters. Though filmed in colour, most of the world's broadcasters did not then transmit in this format, requiring BBC Enterprises to provide 16mm black-and-white film prints for overseas sales.

Improvements in colourisation technology resulted in all of Jon Pertwee's episodes being for all practical purposes "recovered", unlike the 1960s missing episodes. However, they ended up being 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 recolourised episodes have actually been broadcast, giving some of the restored episodes original transmission dates of their own.

As of the DVD release of The Mind of Evil in June 2013, all of the Pertwee-era stories are now available in colour.

Recolourised television stories[]

Other episodes existed in colour in some form in the BBC Archive before the Restoration Team's involvement, 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 2011, there have been a few instances — Planet of the Daleks, part three, and all but episodes one and five of The Ambassadors of Death — where the team have recolourised an episode, despite having only a black-and-white copy from which to work.

  • Colour only exists in a poor NTSC copy.
  • Colour and higher-quality black-and-white copy recombined by the Restoration Team.
  • Colour only exists in a very poor NTSC copy, with frequent total colour dropouts.
  • Footage from episodes two, three, four, six and seven that previously existed only in black-and-white has now been recolourised by the Restoration Team using the chroma-dot technique; and the story has been released on DVD in full colour.
  • Released in mixed colour/black-and-white on VHS.
  • Colour only exists in a poor NTSC copy.
  • Colour and higher-quality black-and-white copy recombined by the Restoration Team.
  • Colour only exists in a poor NTSC copy.
  • Colour and higher-quality black-and-white copy recombined by the Restoration Team.
  • Episodes two to six have been restored to colour using the chroma-dot technique, but the result is still poor quality and needs further work. Episode one had no chroma-dot information and so could not be colourised using this technique, being recolourised frame by frame by hand.
  • Except for episode four, colour only exists in a poor NTSC copy.
  • Colour and higher-quality black-and-white copy recombined by the Restoration Team.
  • Episode three previously existed only in black-and-white, but now has been recolourised by 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:

For the DVD releases of these episodes, the Doctor Who Restoration Team has restored the original uncut soundtracks (usually from off-air audio recordings made by fans) with specially made cutaways or CGI to cover the missing frames.

The VHS release of The Dominators contained additional cuts due to material which was missing from the archives at the time, but has since been recovered. The fourth episode of The Time Meddler, "A Battle of Wits", still has 12 seconds missing.[6] Because there have been multiple home video releases of these episodes, some versions have had the missing clips restored, while others have not.

External links[]