Christmas has come early!
Two classic episodes of Doctor Who - thought to be missing forever - have been returned to the BBC archive.
Episode 3 of the William Hartnell adventure "Galaxy 4" and Episode 2 of Patrick Troughton's "The Underwater Menace" were purchased by film collector Terry Burnett at a village fete near Southampton in the early 80s. He had been unaware that the canisters contained material missing from the BBC.
Thanks to the kind loan by Mr Burnett, the classic footage has been shown today at the British Film Institute's annual "Missing Believed Wiped" event at the National Film Theatre in London. Host at the event was Doctor Who writer and actor Mark Gatiss who said: "Christmas has come early for Doctor Who fans everywhere. It's always wonderful when a missing episode turns up but it's been years since the last one so to have two is just brilliant. Add to that a proper bit of action from the legendary Chumblies (and the horrifying Rills!) plus the utterly mesmeric Patrick Troughton on great form. Well, what more could we all ask for?"
Over 100 episodes of Doctor Who from the 1960s still remain missing. The tapes were routinely wiped once the rights to repeat them had expired. It seems unfathomable to us today, but before the advent of DVDs and iPlayer, grainy black and white material was thought to no longer be of interest to the television audience. However, many film prints sold overseas have since been returned. These latest discoveries are the first complete episodes to have been located since 2004.
None of the four episodes of the 1965 adventure "Galaxy 4" were known to have survived, although a short extract had been retained. "The Underwater Menace" dating from 1967 is now the earliest surviving complete episode featuring Patrick Troughton's performance as the Second Doctor.
Research has shown that the returned episodes originated from the ABC channel in Australia. In fact, the copy of The Underwater Menace is still missing a few short sections which were removed by the Australian censors upon its original transmission Down Under. Fresh scans of the missing material have been made by the National Archives of Australia and will be incorporated into the restored episodes ahead of a DVD release.
Details of a commercial release will be announced by 2 entertain in 2012.