Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Doctor Who auction shelved
Exterminate! Many classic episodes of Dr Who were destroyed
The Internet sale of a tape containing a 'lost' episode of the classic BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who has been cancelled by an auction house in New Zealand.
The 16mm film was discovered by collector Bruce Grenville at a New Zealand film fair earlier this year, on a stall with other material rescued from a rubbish tip.
It contained an episode from the cult show called The Lion - starring the original Doctor Who William Hartnell.
The BBC regularly wiped the show's tapes - seemingly oblivious that future generations might like to see the broadcasts.
Of the 470 Doctor Who shows made, some 109 episodes are still lost - perhaps never to resurface.
The fragile copy of The Lion was to have been sold in an Internet auction, which was to run in tandem with live bidding at an auctioneers in New Zealand.
Turners Auctions decided to cancel the sale for lack of "bidder registrations" - despite worldwide media interest in the unique lot.
Buyers still being sought
"We have, however, had a number of private inquiries," said the company's commercial business development manager John Cochrane.
"We have decided to withdraw the film from the auction format and pursue these further."
Although the BBC's tapes of Doctor Who were regularly wiped, other copies survived.
Prints like the one found in New Zealand were sent to TV companies around the world who were interested in broadcasting the hit series.
Despite being found in New Zealand, The Lion was never actually shown there, possibly because it was thought to be unsuitable for family viewing.
The 16mm print was not returned to the BBC or destroyed by the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation - with Doctor Who fans concluding that the film was filed away and later discarded.
The tape was scratched and scuffed throughout, with some areas damaged or burned by the projectors it has been played on over the years.
After painstaking restoration of both sound and vision, the BBC gave fans their first opportunity to see the episode earlier this year.
A video was released in July containing The Lion and the other remaining episode of The Crusade story.
The missing portions of the story were explained by actor William Russell, who played the Doctor's companion Ian Chesterton in the series.
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