Back in the day, when video tape was expensive and storage space was rare, the BBC faced a problem. They had a great many tapes and film of old TV shows like Z-Cars, The Avengers, Steptoe and Son and Doctor Who. All these tapes took up space and all could be wiped and reused. So that’s exactly what happened, and to this day, a great many TV shows from the 1960s simply don’t exist.
Doctor Who suffered somewhat less than others. Large portions of the series have been recovered, and it is perhaps unique in that soundtracks exist for every episode, even where the video no longer exists. Fans placed microphones next to the TV and recorded the audio. Thank goodness for geeks.
Anyhow, missing episodes do turn up from time-to-time. Most recently, one missing Hartnell story and one missing Troughton story were recovered last year. It’s unlikely we’ll ever have all of them back, but there are some that we are especially keen to see returned to the collection. Let’s have a look at some of them.
10. Marco Polo (Story 004, 1964, All 7 episodes missing)
WHY WE REALLY MISS IT:
This is the first story to have missing footage, and it’s missing all of it. Not even a single frame survives. That’s a real pity, because it’s a fairly important story. Arguably it’s the first “proper” historical (since the last three episodes of “An Unearthly Child” take place so far back in time they don’t involve any historical figures), it featured some very important historical characters in the form of Marco Polo and Kublai Kahn, and it was very widely sold aboard. So much so that it’s something of a surprise that it’s now totally missing.
CHANCE FOR RECOVERY: Very good
As I said, it was very widely sold aboard, more so than any other story from this time period. We know it was screened in Ethiopia as recently as 1971. Those prints were apparently returned to the BBC and likely destroyed, but there’s better than even odds that somewhere, in some archive in Africa, Australia or Hong Kong, the prints may still exist. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to have multiple copies show up at some point.