The episodes, from 1965 and 1967, star early Doctors William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, the first two actors to play the iconic character. The announcement of the uncovering was made at Missing Believed Wiped, an annual event, held last Sunday at the British Film Institute, in which television which was previously thought ‘wiped’ but which has been discovered is unveiled and screened.
Televisions shows were originally broadcast live. With the advent of video tape though they could be pre-recorded but tape was expensive and so many shows were recorded, broadcast and then the tapes wiped in order that they could be reused.
In the 1970s, a BBC-commissioned report led to the archiving of television shows. The original broadcast tapes were not stored but copies to film were made for overseas markets and it is these that are often discovered.
The discovery of these Doctor Who episodes was made by former TV engineer Terry Burnett, who bought them at a school fete in Hampshire in the ‘80s. He was not aware of the significance of the recordings in his possession until a conversation with Radio Times’ head of heritage Ralph Montagu unveiled the fact that the BBC did not have the episodes that he held in his own personal collection.
Airlock, the earlier episode to be discovered, from 1965, was the second part of a four-part story titled Galaxy Four co-starring Peter Purves, who would later go on to find fame as a Blue Peter presenter.
The later episode, The Underwater Menace, from 1967, told the story of a mad scientist’s (aren’t they all?) attempts to drain the earth of all of its water.