Finally, after decades of chanting, praying, and letter-writing campaigns, two of the most well regarded and sought after missing stories are being animated.
Popular demand has brought us The Smugglers and The Underwater Menace to celebrate Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary!
Of course, I jest, as it’s probably to mostly fill out Season 4 to pave the way for the future Blu-ray collection.
But actually, I’m very much looking forward to these two. The Smugglers have been so under the radar all this time, it’ll almost be like getting a brand new Doctor Who story. When The Enemy of the World was unearthed and returned, I was happy, but there’d never been much of a buzz about the story. The only people who actually remembered seeing it live were then-5 year olds who probably didn’t enjoy it that much because of the lack of monsters. But wow, this was a proper great Who story; I enjoyed far more than I expected, and it was a glorious treat and an excellent Christmas gift that year.
So, I hold out a bit of hope that The Smugglers has some of that going for it. I only hope that: A) they work their magic to clear up that audio a bit more; and B) when it comes to animation, please don’t resort to The Web of Fear episode 3 style. Please. The standard Abominable Snowman should work well enough, thank you.
As for The Underwater Menace, sure, Zarkoff is over the top, but all the better to contrast off Patrick Troughton. I’m not even sure if they’re just doing the missing two parts or all four for consistency. Well, none of this has been officially announced anyway, so hopefully we’ll find out soon.
With this latest development, one’s thoughts naturally turn to the possibility of animating the remainder of the missing episodes.
The BBC soliciting Season 2 and not bothering to animate those two episodes of The Crusade is… puzzling at best. We can only speculate on whether this sets a precedent for leaving a story to the mercy of telesnaps for each of the first six seasons, or if it’s an outlier.
Somewhere, there have been meetings. Probably containing internal information. Things… we don’t know. Won’t know. CAN’T know! Probably? Let’s take a look at where we are with the missing episodes.
As it stands right now, for Season 4, they have, or will have animated:
- The Smugglers—4 parts.
- The Tenth Planet—1 part to add to the existing 3.
- The Power of the Daleks, all 6 parts in colour and black and white.
- The Underwater Menace— 2 parts added to the 2 existing.
- The Moonbase—2 parts to the 2 existing.
- The Macra Terror— all 4 parts.
- The Faceless Ones—all 6 parts on colour and black and white (even though 3 exist).
- The Evil of the Daleks— all 7 parts in colour and black and white (even though 1 exists).
So that’s a whopping 32 animated episodes, out of a potential 36 that needed it. They basically animated an entire season of ‘60’s Who. All but 4 eps of The Highlanders. The Highlanders is not being animated for the 60th. We can put men on the moon, but animating tartan? That costs money.
Contrast those mighty animated efforts of Season 4 with those of Season 2.
Of the 39 episodes, only 2 needed animating, and again, yes, we can technically send people to Mars, but there are too many characters in the 2 missing parts of The Crusade to animate.
Now, I think there also might be more physical action in The Highlanders (extra animation, all that tartan in motion), and the surviving soundtrack quality leaves a bit to be desired (but I am aware that it’s a miracle we have these audios AT ALL and I’m appreciative). Still, it would have been nice to see Jamie’s first story animated.
With The Crusade — well, that is a shame. I wouldn’t even be asking for all 4 parts to be animated and in colour and black and white as so many have been. Just the two missing parts in black and white, that’s it. Great performances by guest stars Jean Marsh, Bernard Kay, and Julian Glover, with a great story to boot!
But there some be extenuating circumstances due to some cultural appropriation with the make up department in the story that sent up a red flag. It wouldn’t surprise me. I can’t say, but it sure seems odd on one level that SO much animation work was done on Season 4, and absolutely none on Season 2.
But there is a pattern forming. One missing story left behind in Season 2, and in Season 4.
And in Season 5, and Season 6.
Season 5’s The Wheel in Space is another one. 6 parts, 3 exist, and half of part 1 was animated. But no plans yet to animate the other 2.5 eps. The rest of the season is represented in live action or animation. Might be upsetting to the Cyber fans out there.
Fury From the Deep? Animated. The Abominable Snowman? Animated. The missing parts of The Ice Warriors? Animated. The missing episode from The Web of Fear? Animated. Horribly. But it was animated.
But The Wheel in Space? No, sorry, one story left behind.
Then there’s Season 6, and frankly, no one’s really stepping up to complain about not getting to see The Space Pirates. Maybe they should! A crazy, fun animated version to match that crazy soundtrack with that music? Where’s the imagination? You don’t have to even slavishly stick to the same camera angles, come on now! But no word, and seemingly, no plan. The Space Pirates. Unloved. And left behind.
As for Season 3… YIKES! Between video, animation, and a special school project, only 21 eps are represented… out of 44. That’s just sad.
The Myth Makers, most of The Daleks’ Master Plan, The Massacre, The Savages, most of The Celestial Toymaker. It’s always baffled me that again, 32 eps animated for Season 4, and Season 3 gets… Galaxy 4. I’m glad that university was generous enough to pitch in and recreate Mission to the Unknown. They were very committed and did a really wonderful job.
In any case, I’m assuming that for whatever reason/excuse, Season 3 will clearly be the last one to come out in a collected Blu-ray set. One would hope that some effort is made to fill in that monstrous gap, but as we must acknowledge, it does take effort and funding. Fingers crossed.
And of course, possibly the most painful absence: Season 1’s Marco Polo. For this story to be the one left behind in an otherwise complete season is criminal, but there you have it. A lot of characters. Hmmph.
In my delusional little world, I fantasize that they call Waris Hussein, and have him come over, give some notes on some interesting direction on an animated Polo, take some real liberties with the production, new camera angles, etc., having options in animation that they didn’t have in the budget back on TV in the ‘60s. Make an animated movie out of it! The possibilities! But no.
It’s ironic. Waris Hussein worked wonders under a horrible BBC budget back in the day, and still made a masterpiece. He could help recreate something even lovelier in animation. Yet even after 60 years, the Beeb’s budget is still squeezing Marco Polo.
So, to recap… as it stands, Seasons 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 are all pretty much complete except for 1 story left behind in each. Interesting.
At this point, anything can and might happen. Again, there is probably some significant stuff behind the scenes we don’t know about. Things regarding internal BBC politics, certain private collectors who are still allegedly holding onto missing eps, and so many other things.
It’s at this point that I have to wonder if Russell T Davies might step in at some point. He is an uber fan after all, and when it comes to possibly funding future animated endeavours, well, Bad Wolf, Sony, and Disney do have about 10 times the cash laying around. However, new, special arrangements and deals would have to be made for that to happen. Right now, the future of all animation is still in the hands of the BBC, and what they’re willing to pay for it.
Yes, we’re lucky to have gotten missing episodes returned, and remastered, surviving audio tracks thanks to dedicated audiophiles, animation, colour restoration, etc., etc., etc. — we should be grateful!
By and large, we are, and I commend the animation teams for their tireless efforts. I’m guessing that they often probably even went above and beyond, considering what limited funds they had to work with, and for that I really am very grateful.
On the other hand, if the Beeb hadn’t wiped everything in the first place…