A telerecording (American: kinescope) is a film recording of something originally shot on another medium, usually videotape. Simply speaking, telerecordings are made by simply pointing a film camera directly at a screen playing the content one wishes to transfer to film.
Why telerecordings were made of Doctor Who
Telerecordings of Doctor Who episodes were made during the 1960s and early 1970s so that episodes could be sold to overseas broadcasters. At that time, many overseas broadcasters didn't possess the technology to broadcast the videotape on which the British Broadcasting Corporation recorded. Thus, Film Recording Clerk Pamela Nash and her staff would oblige overseas clients by making a master 16mm negative of the episode and then burning off prints of that episode as requested.
Because of the expense of the actual medium of videotape, and the then limited ways in which any video recorded material could be reused, it was standard policy to magnetically erase and reuse videotapes. Thus, the telerecordings became the only way in which Doctor Who episodes survived long past their original broadcast for roughly the first decade of the programme's history.
Telerecordings and missing episodes
Between 1972 and 1978, the BBC began to divest itself even of the telerecordings. Some, even most, episodes survived this second purge, surviving in one of two forms: positive and negative. Negatives were effectively the master copies and tended to be found only within the BBC Enterprises vaults. Positives, or prints, could be found anywhere in the world that the episodes had been bought. For the purposes of restoration, negatives are typically seen as the more desirable, because they were usually more pristine copies.
Because all of the videotapes of William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and early Jon Pertwee episodes were wiped, the telerecordings became the only surviving video of these episodes. Almost every episode of these three Doctors was telerecorded, thus an episode only went fully missing once the last remaining telerecorded copy was destroyed by BBC Enterprises, the international sales division of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Sometimes the BBC would junk several overseas copies of the same story at the same time, accompanied by the film negatives used by Enterprises to make further copies of the stories. Ian Levine stepped in and saved a lot of prints waiting to be junked. One of the stories waiting to be junked was the entirety of the second Doctor Who story The Daleks (positives in both Arabic and English and the original negative).
Although it is widely believed that the Christmas Day 1965 episode The Daleks' Master Plan: "The Feast of Steven" was never telerecorded, and lost forever when the master 405 line black and white videotape was erased for reuse, this is not the case. A telerecording of "The Feast of Steven" was made on 3 December 1965 (listed in the existing production notes as telerecording 23/1/5/8196), but never made available for overseas sales as its transmission would have to coincide with Christmas, and overseas television stations would be screening the story any time of the year. The Daleks' Master Plan was instead offered for overseas sales as an eleven-parter.
- Most telerecordings were done in the 16mm format, but, especially towards the end of the 1960s, the 35mm format was sometimes used.