Doctor Who: Animated Reconstruction of Missing Episodes Is Canceled

Animated reconstructions of old Doctor Who serials have reportedly been canceled due to BBC America pulling their funding. Despite the popularity it has enjoyed during its ongoing 58-year run, the legacy of Doctor Who has not always been held with such reverence. As was common practice back in the 1960s, several of the original tapes for numerous episodes featuring William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton as the first and second incarnation of the Doctor were destroyed instead of taking up storage space. While Doctor Who was a top-rated show in the '60s, the series was still looked at as a silly children's science-fiction program by higher-ups at the BBC, and thus, not much thought was put into its cultural preservation. This attitude only impacted this period of the show and, while fans have tracked down several original Doctor Who tapes, 97 episodes remain lost with little hope of turning up.

To rectify this, the BBC has experimented with restoring these missing episodes through the medium of animation. Miraculously, audio recordings of every episode in this period still exist, with the actor's dialogue, the sound effects, and the music intact. With this available, the BBC has commissioned several studios to produce accompanying animation that brings new life to the episodes and fills in the empty spaces on fans' DVD shelves. These attempts have restored 26 episodes from the 1960s and even spawned a project that saw the infamous unfinished Fourth Doctor serial, "Shada," completed with animation and new voice work.

Related: Doctor Who's Sea Devil Redesign Honors The Classic Series

According to The Daily Mirror (via @TheCyberdevil), the upcoming reconstruction of the Patrick Troughton serial, "The Abominable Snowmen," will reportedly be the last animation produced for the missing episodes. The apparent reason for this is BBC America pulling their funding from the initiative after a partnership with BBC Studios enabled the animations to be produced for DVD & Blu-Ray release and airing on BBC America afterward. The article provides a quote from an insider who elaborated on what these means for the future of the range.

“It’s a real blow for the fans, who hoped they would be able to watch every story from the early years. It’s a shame the funding has gone. Four of the first six seasons only needed one story to be animated to complete them.”

This will undoubtedly be a disappointment to fans as it seemed that, slowly but surely, the entire catalog of missing episodes was on track to being restored. The abandonment of funding seems odd due to a niche but dedicated audience and a sense of prestige around the projects, with several of them being screened in full at the British Film Institute. This may be a case of finding a new financier for the projects, as the article posits that streaming service BritBox, partially set up by the BBC, could step in to fill the position. However, this could take time, meaning that the relatively consistent release schedule of animations that fans had been used to may see a significant delay.

The animated reconstructions had not always been met with overwhelming positivity. The BBC hired numerous different studios to animate various serials, which led to an inconsistency in animation style and quality. Fans had criticized elements such as awkward staging, incorrect likenesses, and a widely unpopular attempt to use 3D animation in the recent "The Web of Fear" reconstruction. However, most fans seemed to agree that the animation had been finding its feet with recent releases, with the "Evil of the Daleks" being particularly well-received as one of the best of the range. BBC America produced these projects with a lot of love for the series and the fandom, but, unfortunately, it appears this is another setback in restoring the complete history of Doctor Who.

Next: Why Doctor Who Lost William Hartnell's Regeneration Story

Source: @TheCyberdevil



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