Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

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.

[ image: The fate of 109 missing shows baffles Doctor Who fans]
The fate of 109 missing shows baffles Doctor Who fans
It was the first instalment of a four-part story which sees the Time Lord transported back to the crusades. Only one other show in this particular 1965 adventure is known to have survived.

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.

[ image: Actor William Russell helped fill in the gaps]
Actor William Russell helped fill in the gaps
Bruce Grenville is free to sell the tape, but the copyright of the show it contains remains with the BBC, who with the aid of the collector and other Doctor Who enthusiasts set about restoring the film.

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.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Entertainment Contents

TV and Radio
New Media

Relevant Stories

10 Feb 99 | Entertainment
Lost Dr Who back on screen

05 Feb 99 | Entertainment
Daleks get stamp of approval

13 Jan 99 | Entertainment
Missing Dr Who found

Internet Links

Doctor Who Restoration Team

The offical BBC Doctor Who website

Turners Auctions Ltd

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.