BBC Worldwide announced today that the Second Doctor story The Power of the Daleks — one of the highest-praised of the Doctor Who “Missing Episodes” – will be released as a full-scale animated reconstruction this November 5th … 50 years to the minute after its only UK airing in 1966.
Produced and directed by Charles Norton, with character designs from acclaimed comic book artists Martin Geraghty and Adrian Salmon, the animation team recently won acclaim for an animated version of a lost episode of the popular British series Dad’s Army, and the Executive Producer of BBC Worldwide, Paul Hembry describes the animation team as “remarkably talented and passionate about Doctor Who and we are thrilled that fans will soon be able to enjoy this rather sinister but wonderful, classic story.”
The full animated six-episode story will be available in the UK on the BBC store on Saturday, November 5th, with a DVD available on November 21st. Stateside, BBC America will air the entire story on November 12th, and be available for streaming on the 13th. As of this writing, no US DVD sales date has been announced.
How big a deal is this?
Imagine if all the copies of the first season of the Original Series Star Trek had been erased by NBC in the early 70’s, because no one thought there would be any value to keeping them archived. Gone would be “City on the Edge of Forever”, “The Menagerie”, “Space Seed”, “Balance of Terror” and all the other classic episodes that shaped Star Trek, fandom, and science fiction as popular television and film entertainment.
That was more or less what happened in the late 60’s and early 70’s at the BBC, where hundreds and hundreds of television episodes for dozens of TV series were routinely scrapped to make room for newer programs, and 152 of the 253 episodes of the first six years of Doctor Who were erased. Luckily, copies of many of the missing episodes have been recovered through the efforts of the BBC and fans around the world, and that number has been reduced to “only” 97 still missing, but critical stories in the history of science fiction’s longest running series may be lost forever, at least in their original televised forms.
Oddly enough, while the videotape and film copies of the Missing Episodes were destroyed, the audio for all the Missing Episodes has survived. Fans would record the episodes onto tape recorders using a mic held close to the television, and while sound quality would vary wildly, the sheer number of those fan-made recordings has meant that the BBC has had enough material to remaster and release those episodes as audiobooks and “reconstructions”, using surviving snippets of film and production stills. Beginning in 2006, animated episodes were commissioned for some of the serials that only had an episode or two missing, but recreating an entire multi-episode story has never been attempted.
Power of the Daleks is actually one of the most important stories in the history of Doctor Who, and it could be argued that if it hadn’t been a success there wouldn’t be a show called Doctor Who enjoying world-wide success today. In 1966, William Hartnell’s failing health was making his continued portrayal of the Doctor almost impossible, and the production team decided that rather than just recast the part with someone who looked Hartnell-esque, they would try something… different. Enter Second Doctor Patrick Troughton and a little thing called “regeneration” – although it was “renewal” in those days – and one of the critical pieces of the longevity of Doctor Who was born. Considering what a radical change there was between the acting styles of the two men and the popularity of the Hartnell Doctor with audiences, if it hadn’t worked, it likely would have led to the cancellation of the show and that would have been that for Doctor Who.
It was a success however, and while the show would see a slump in ratings in 1969/1970, the shift to the more action-oriented Third Doctor of Jon Pertwee helped revive the viewing numbers, and the show would build enough of an audience that even the Wilderness Years between the cancellation in 1989 and the series revival in 2005 saw books, comics and audio productions to keep the Doctor in the hearts and minds of the fans of the show. Troughton’s mix of comedy and darkness would go on to heavily influence the performance of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor – although one could argue that David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor also owes a pretty big debt to the impassioned, manipulative Second Doctor – and the grand tradition of regeneration means that Doctor Who continues to entertain and terrify audiences of all ages today.