Over the course of its 50-year existence, Doctor Who has given fans incredible stories and characters and has blended science fiction with fantasy, action with romance, and even comedy with tragedy, to great effect. Yet the real tragedy behind the show is the fact that, from 1967 to 1978, the year the BBC changed its archival policies, 106 Doctor Who episodes from the Hartnell/Troughton eras – including 10 full serials – were wiped from the BBC archives.
With the second part of series seven starting on Saturday, and even though chances are slim that the lost episodes will ever be found and shared with the fandom, here are five stories we wish would surface.
5. Marco Polo (First Doctor, Season 1 – Story #4)
This is the earliest known Doctor Who story to have vanished almost completely, beyond a few audio clips and production stills. It’s also a story that, if it still existed on film, would stand in stark relief to the Doctor Who of today. Doctor Who, at least during the early William Hartnell era, was intended to be a children’s history television show. Marco Polo includes almost no science fiction elements beyond acknowledging the TARDIS as the Doctor and his companions’ mode of spatiotemporal travel. Instead, this seven-part episode takes the Doctor and co. to 13th-century China, where they get picked up by – who else? – Marco Polo and his caravan on its way to see the Chinese emperor at the time, Kublai Khan. During their travel with the caravan, the Doctor and his companions thwart sabotage, cross the Gobi Desert, and, in the capital city of Peking, stop an assassination attempt aimed at the emperor.
Keeping in mind the episode’s interest in history (a characteristic of the show that was discontinued on television after 1967′s The Highlanders episode), it unfortunately still suffers from a pretty substantial case of whitewashing, cast-wise. Kublai Khan, historically a Mongolian, was played by Czech actor Martin Miller, and according to the cast list, only two actors of Asian heritage managed to land roles in the episode at all. Despite this, Marco Polo saw incredible viewership: over nine million people tuned in for the first five episodes, eight million watched episode six, and 10 million viewers saw the episode finale on April 4, 1964.
This article was first posted on March 28, 2013