Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Top Ten Missing Episodes
(Originally posted to my blog Fraggmented on December 11, 2011.)
For those of you who haven't heard the wonderful news, two more episodes of 1960s-era Doctor Who were recovered today ('Galaxy Four' Episode Three and 'The Underwater Menace' Episode Two), bringing the total of recovered episodes to 36 and reducing the number of missing episodes down to 106. As always, this is a day of rejoicing for Doctor Who fans; as I mentioned in my post over at Mightygodking.com, no other fandom can really understand what it's like to not be able to sit down and watch every episode of their favorite series.
Interestingly enough, one article on the TARDIS Erudotorum cited these episodes as "not on anyone's Top Ten list of episodes to be recovered." Which led me to the interesting question, what exactly would the Top Ten list be? So, I thought, why not give mine? Keeping in mind, of course, that we have to keep it to individual episodes (so no "All of 'Marco Polo'") and also that, suckily enough, we can wish as hard as we want but that won't make it happen. So here are my picks for the most desired recoveries, should a benevolent deity grant our wishes.
10-9. The Invasion, Episodes 1 and 4. This one is the most interesting, even though it's at the bottom of the list, because it's the most likely. Rumors have persisted for years, started by none other than the late Nicholas Courtney, that a private collector has copies of the two missing episodes of this classic late-Troughton story, but that they're holding the BBC over a barrel and demanding an exorbitant fee before they allow the Beeb to "recover" them officially. (Courtney claimed to have actually seen copies of the film, which had picture but no sound. The BBC, as with all missing episodes, has sound but no picture. Any A/V club geek could resolve that problem.) Of course, this one is already "restored", in the form of Doctor Who's only (canonical) animated episodes, but it'd be nice to be able to watch the story as interpreted by the actors and not the creators of "Danger Mouse".
8-6. Power of the Daleks, Episodes 1-3. This is actually one I'd love to have in its entirety, but I'm trying to stick to the "individual episodes only" rule, and I just don't have the space for the full serial. And from the sound of things, to be honest, all the good stuff really happens before the Daleks give up on being cunning manipulators and just start killing people; the first few episodes are filled with tense political intrigue and the Daleks actually being clever and subtle, which is such a twist for them that I'd love to see it. Couple that with Troughton's first three episodes in the role, and I would love to see it come back home.
5. The Tenth Planet, Episode 4. And speaking of "regeneration stories", this is probably a lot of people's Number One missing episode. It's certainly of tremendous symbolic significance; the final appearance of William Hartnell, the first actor to take the role, is a major cultural touchstone among fans of the series. But I suspect, having seen the first three episodes, that it's more interesting as a "religious relic" than as an actual story, which bumps it a bit below everything else on the list.
4. The Massacre, Episode 4. Yes, I know. It does seem a bit odd that I'm actually prioritizing the first appearance of Dodo over the final appearance of Hartnell, but I really want it for all the bits prior to that. This is, by all accounts, a remarkably intense episode, with a shocking and devastating climax to the events in France followed up by a genuinely emotional confrontation between Steven and the Doctor. It would be well worth the small price of Dodo's near-nonsensical introductory sequence to get the scenes preceding it.
3. Mission to the Unknown. This has always sounded like one of the truly fascinating, quirky episodes of the series; a one-part story in an era where six and seven-parters weren't at all unusual, a story that features absolutely nothing of the Doctor, not even a mention, and a story that ends with the nominal hero dying at the hands of the Daleks, the Doctor's arch-enemies, with his dying message lost. I don't think it'll ever have the impact that the original story had (especially when it was followed up on with a four-parter that had nothing to do with 'Mission'...for almost five weeks, fans watched the show with the lurking knowledge in the back of their heads that the Daleks were out there, getting ready to conquer the universe, and the Doctor didn't even know about it.) But I would dearly love to see it.
2. Evil of the Daleks, Episode 7. This is another "Dang, I want every one of the missing episodes of this one!" story. But if you can only have one on the list, then it's got to be Episode 7. Absolutely got to. The Doctor's final gambit against the Dalek Emperor, the revolt of the humanised Daleks, the civil war on Skaro...this was epic stuff, and we've been denied it.
1. The Daleks' Master Plan, Episode 12. And speaking of "epic", this was a freaking twelve-parter. That's almost a whole season, one of the grandest and most ambitious stories ever done in the history of 'Doctor Who'...and the climax, involving the death of a companion (well, possibly, depending on how you count these things) and the destruction of worlds and Daleks melting from existence and great big huge exciting stuff, is gone. Possibly forever. **sniff** Could we have it back, please?