One of the great tragedies of vintage TV, and for Doctor Who fans in particular, is the BBC's practice back in the '60s and '70s of erasing or scrapping most older film reels in favor of new recordings. Nearly 100 episodes of the now 50-year-old series were lost, with only occasionally successful treasure hunts unearthing missing episodes in other countries' archives.
The good news is that, thanks largely to obsessive Who fans, audio recordings of all the episodes have survived. Some of these recordings have been reconstructed into image galleries with old publicity stills, while some multi-episode stories have had surviving original footage supplemented with animated segments. Now the show's network has commissioned another, more complete lost-episodes revival.
The BBC has announced that it is using "original audio recordings, surviving photographs and film clips" to put together a fully-animated version of The Power of the Daleks, a multi-part series that aired only once on BBC One, 50 years ago. The press release describes a pivotal story in the Whoverse history.
"The six-part adventure features the regeneration, or as it was then called 'renewal,' of first Doctor, William Hartnell into second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, as the Time Lord and his companions Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben (Michael Craze) do battle with the Daleks on the planet Vulcan."
The BBC has also released images of the second Doctor and the Daleks from the upcoming animated project, with character designs from comic book artists (and longtime Doctor Who Magazine contributors) Martin Geraghty and Adrian Salmon, which you can see above. For the uninitiated, Troughton created the complex personality and "character rulebook" on which all subsequent Doctors have been based. Charles Norton, who will produce and direct the 6-part series, expressed his investment in the formidable undertaking of bringing an important Second Doctor story to life.
"The Power of the Daleks animation is the most ambitious Doctor Who archive restoration ever attempted and we’re all very honored to be a part of such an exciting project. Intelligent, suspenseful and magnificently staged, The Power of the Daleks is one of the great lost classics of 1960s television and a superb example of the black and white era at its finest."
This is good news for both diehard and newer Who fans, to have the chance to appreciate one of the earliest stories in the character's history (including the first regeneration!) largely as it was originally intended. The fact that this will be fully-animated, but with the original audio, should make it a much more cohesive and satisfying representation than some of the more patchier hybrid projects done with other lost episodes. If the resulting series is a hit with the BBC audience, the hope is that other miniseries from the lost archives will be similarly reborn.
The Power of the Daleks will be available digitally through the BBC Store on November 5, followed by a UK DVD on November 12. For fans in the U.S., BBC America confirms that the series will premiere on the network on November 12, with streaming on BBCAmerica.com and the related app the next day.