Mission to the Unknown

Students, pros remake lost Doctor Who episode ‘Mission to the Unknown’

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Students at an English university are remaking one of classic Doctor Who’s missing episodes. But before you dismiss it as just another labor-of-love fan creation, they have a little professional help.

“It is hoped the BBC will release it on DVD,” tweeted actor Peter Purves, who played the Doctor’s companion Steven Taylor in 1965-66, the era of the lost episode “Mission to the Unknown.”

“This is serious painstaking work,” he added, though there’s no official word yet of any actual sanctioned release.

Another Doctor Who pro — who got his start in fandom productions — is lending his voice. Nicholas Briggs has performed as the dastardly Daleks since the series returned to airwaves in 2005 after 16 years. (It originally ran 1963-89.) Before that, he worked on documentaries and unofficial fan productions that led him to become executive producer at Big Finish Productions, which has held a license to make official Doctor Who audio dramas since 1999 (and even earlier, if you count the Bernice Summerfield spinoffs).

The Daleks feature significantly, among other strange aliens to stretch these students’ cosmic costume crafting skills, in “Mission to the Unknown,” a “cutaway” episode-cum-introduction to the massive 12-part epic “The Daleks Master Plan,” which is also missing in its entirety except for surviving audio tracks (recently announced for a vinyl release).

“Mission” is also known for being the only episode of Doctor Who, perhaps ever, to not include either the Doctor himself or his companions at the time (such as Purves’ Steven Taylor).

These gaps in the archive are just one example of the BBC’s shortsighted policy of wiping recordings from their archives — mostly William Hartnell’s First Doctor and Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor — before the phenomenon of home media was foreseen. In recent years, a variety of methods have been used to re-create some of them, from audio tracks with still photos in place of full-motion video to more sophisticated animation.

Let’s hope the BBC will see the wisdom of encouraging this and other means of righting their thoughtless past transgressions. They’ve got nothing to lose, after all.

Is this the future of Doctor Who restoration? They can’t remake every lost story — or, with a little help from a generation desperate to be creative, can they?

The Daleks’ Master Plan, epic lost Doctor Who serial, comes to vinyl

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Jayson Peters
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