Rare Doctor Who Footage on VHS was Taped Over

There are lots of segments of Doctor Who history lost, presumed never to be retrieved again. Props and costumes have been consumed by time; the Hartnell and Troughton years are plagued by missing serials; and now, a further lost piece of history that we didn’t previously know about: Producer, John Nathan-Turner recorded over numerous hours of behind-the-scenes footage.

We have a lot to thank Nathan-Turner for, of course, including saving recordings and paperwork from Doctor Who‘s past; however, he also taped over some videos he’d rescued from destruction.

In the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine, broadcaster, Stephen Cranford recalls how he and his husband, Paul, helped to clear John’s house after his partner, Gary Downie passed away. In the garage, he found bags of material saved from a skip by Nathan-Turner after the Doctor Who production office closed. Cranford says this haul includes scripts dating back to The Romans, the First Doctor story from 1965.

But John’s VHS collection was more frustrating. Stephen says:

“John saved the tapes from the production office, but not to preserve what was on them. He watched loads of telly and was out all the time so he recorded things. To him, those tapes were free blanks. So they’re labelled as studio reels or initial edits of Doctor Who stories, but a lot of them have Coronation Street on them!

“But, for example, there’s a tape labelled as three hours of studio reel from the recording of Vengeance on Varos, and he taped over it with Doctor Doolittle. Typical John!”

While that is a massive shame, a lot has been salvaged and Cranford has allowed content to be used in the DVD and Blu-ray Doctor Who releases, including the deleted scene from The Awakening with Kamelion.

Yes, it sounds like some real treasures are now MIA, but it’s exciting to think how much John saved. We presume some of this will be on Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 23, the upcoming Blu-ray set which promises extended edits, “unseen studio footage”, “rare archive treats”, and scripts as PDFs.

Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 23 is out on 7th October 2019.