BritBox to Screen Reconstructions of Lost Episodes (Plus: SDCC Preview!)

Exciting news reaches us from the States, with the intriguing announcement that a “reconstructed lost episode” is to premiere at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con!

The reason for those inverted commas is that details are so sketchy that it’s probably best to proceed with caution and contain your excitement until we know more, but we’re promised that attendees at the annual sci-fi and fantasy jamboree will be able to view a sneak peek at the “newly reconstructed lost episode of the Second Doctor story The Wheel in Space, coming soon exclusively to BritBox”.

There are several questions which arise from that short statement, of course. Is this to be a new animation, put together in the same way as The Power of the Daleks and a number of earlier efforts? If so, how come we’ve heard nothing about it before now? Wouldn’t the BBC have wanted to make a splash with this kind of news, rather than have it emerge in a relatively low-key story in this way? Or is it a reconstruction using telesnaps, as has been the case in the past?

The news isn’t even in the first paragraph of Nerdist’s story, which otherwise focuses on the classic Doctor Who panel at this year’s con, set to feature appearances from Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sophie Aldred.

See what I mean about a lack of details? Overall, one is left with the impression that Nerdist don’t quite understand the effect that this news will have on the pulses of the world’s Doctor Who fans . Nerdist editor (and moderator for the SDCC panel), Kyle Anderson tweeted:

“I don’t actually know, but I believe it’s a newly made telesnap reconstruction, or similar. Nobody’s mentioned animation to me.”

Still, he’d hardly have said, “Yes, it’s an animation” over Twitter – that’d be major news!

Nonetheless, it’s worth taking a moment to think through the possibilities.

Reconstructions of missing episodes are nothing new, both official and unofficial. Alongside episodes animated for DVD release (a process first seen with The Invasion back in 2006), there are numerous fan-produced versions available free to view online which typically use a mix of telesnaps, audio recordings, and surviving clips to put together versions of missing stories which are probably as close as we’ll get to viewing the genuine article unless recordings are rediscovered. Some fans have also constructed their own animations which, although inevitably not up to the standards of those seen on the DVD releases, do have their own charm.

But it’s difficult to imagine that any reconstruction would be getting a premiere at SDCC, the world’s leading event of its kind, if it didn’t have the full seal of approval of the BBC. Aside from the fact that anything produced by fans just wouldn’t be a sufficiently big deal to justify a launch there, there’s also the fact that the new reconstruction is apparently to be a BritBox exclusive. BritBox, in case you missed the news, is the BBC and ITV’s new streaming service available in the US which enables subscribers to view classic British shows and whose roster of content includes existing stories from the first 26 years of Doctor Who. So it’s unthinkable that a licensed broadcaster with a deal with the BBC would be behind anything less than a 100% endorsed product.

So what are we to make of all this? The only clue I can offer is BritBox’s stated aim at the time when the deal to stream classic-era Doctor Who was announced that audio-only versions of lost episodes would be made available. Could this version of The Wheel in Space be one of those? Possibly, although the story was released by the BBC as an audio soundtrack with linking narration by Wendy Padbury in 2004, so unless what’s going to be presented in San Diego is something different (perhaps a remastered version featuring new narration?) it’s hard to see why it would qualify for the Comic-Con treatment in 2017.

Questions, questions… It goes without saying that the DWC will bring you more news as we get it but until then – what do you think? New animation? New audio? New version with Reece Shearsmith as Patrick Troughton? Let us know below!