Mission to the Unknown

Students remade a Doctor Who lost episode – and the BBC will premiere it on YouTube

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Technology Television

Return of Mission to the Unknown!

An English university’s re-creation of a missing classic Doctor Who episode will see the light of day.

“Mission to the Unknown,” a Doctor-less episode from the epic “Daleks Master Plan” arc of 1965-66, will premiere on the official Doctor Who YouTube channel on Oct. 9 — “exactly 54 years after its original broadcast,” according to the BBC. The story was re-staged by students at the University of Central Lancashire. Last spring, they delivered their work to the BBC — which famously wiped the story and many others from its early archives.

Andrew Ireland, pro vice chancellor for digital and creative industries at the school, celebrated the news Wednesday on Twitter:

The re-creation got help from Peter Purves, the actor who played the Doctor’s companion Steven Taylor in 1965-66, the era of the lost episode “Mission to the Unknown.” When filming was announced, he said “it is hoped the BBC will release it on DVD.” Nicholas Briggs, voice of the Daleks in the Big Finish Audio spinoffs as well as the modern era of Doctor Who on television, was also involved; The Daleks feature significantly, among other strange aliens to stretch these students’ cosmic costume crafting skills, in this story, a “cutaway” episode-cum-introduction to the massive 12-part epic “The Daleks Master Plan,” which is also missing in large part except for a third of its episodes and all surviving audio (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.

Remaking a Doctor Who episode that lacked its star — in this case, the late Hartnell — is relatively easy, but there are ways to get around even that obstacle — David Bradley recently stood in for the original actor in the newer series, and also has played the role in Big Finish audios.

In recent years, a variety of methods have been used to re-create some of the lost content, from audio tracks with still photos in place of full-motion video to, recently, more sophisticated animation.


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Jayson Peters
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