Is a clue to a missing episodes recovery hiding in plain sight?

Before venturing into this post, I must warn that this article contains SPOILERS about the end of Series 10 of Doctor Who. While I am fairly confident what I am about to comment is widely known, this is your last chance to look away now if you are still to watch The Doctor Falls.

And so – the major talking point at the conclusion of Doctor Who Series 10 was the remarkable appearance of David Bradley, portraying William Hartnell’s first Doctor.

Bradley has past form in the role, portraying William Hartnell in the 50th Anniversary docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time, and speculation was rife that he had been approached to not merely portray William Hartnell playing the Doctor, but to actually play Hartnell’s Doctor. The Doctor Falls saw Capaldi’s twelfth Doctor fighting back the onset of regeneration, refusing to change, and echoing what had been originally scripted as Hartnell’s last line: “I will not change! I will not give in!” He arrives in a bitter snowy blizzard to see a very familiar figure emerging from the blizzard, also protesting his refusal to change. The inference is clear – that the twelfth Doctor has arrived somewhere in the events of Hartnell’s final adventure, The Tenth Planet.

At this stage we do not know what Steven Moffat has dreamed up for Peter Capaldi’s final adventure, and what role his very first incarnation will be called upon to play. Fans are already speculating as to where this falls within the timeline of The Tenth Planet; the two most likely options being:

  1. During episode three – when the Doctor is supposedly lying unwell in the hospital wing, he in fact sneaks away to have one last adventure.
  2. In the final minute of episode four – in between the Doctor leaving the Cybermen’s spacecraft, and Polly and Ben banging on the TARDIS doors demanding that the Doctor does not leave them behind.

Given the dialogue given to Bradley, and in particular his use of the line originally scripted to Hartnell, the second seems the most likely, and that the as yet untitled Christmas adventure will take place somewhere in the final two minutes of the currently missing episode four of The Tenth Planet. We know from episodes like The Name of the Doctor that the production team love to tie in the past and the present, which begs the question of how they will position the Christmas adventure to fans who (like me!) were not even alive when the screen flared to white, and Hartnell bravely handed over the reins to Patrick Troughton – a very necessary question given that certain fans sincerely believed that the producers were revealing the thirteenth Doctor at the season’s end!

Well, it is tricky to see how they would do it, given that episode four of The Tenth Planet was pitched into a rubbish bin back in the 1970s. But here are (four?) ways in which they may resurrect the episode …

1: Using the surviving footage and telesnaps

It is had to imagine a modern audience reacting well to telesnaps (although some fans joked that Bill’s Black & white slow-mo footage in World Enough and Time was meant to be a homage to the telesnaps!) – but it would be the most faithful recreation of the last moments of The Tenth Planet, not least by including the surviving footage of the regeneration itself.

2: Using the animations from The Tenth Planet DVD
It is open to debate if fans would consider this an improvement on telesnaps – the quality is good for what it is, but is definitely not top drawer. The other animated option could be …

3: Using the animations from The Power of the Daleks DVD
While missing the very last lines of dialogue from The Tenth Planet, the animation itself is stunning, and arguably a better lead into The Power of the Daleks – which one would assume the BBC would want to encourage!

4: Recreating the final two minutes using David Bradley
This does seem the most likely – it is strongly rumoured that they have recreated an exact model of the Hartnell TARDIS set, and it would not be difficult to find lookalikes of Michael Craze and Anneke Wills – and of course they could film it in lovely High-Definition colour.

OR …

There is a fifth, rather incredible possibility. One for which there is no proof, but would certainly be the greatest Christmas present in the show’s history if it were true.  Option five – Broadcasting a recovered and restored copy of the original episode four.

As I say, I have no proof of this; no contacts; no nudges; no leaked material – not a sausage. I would say on balance of probability that the most likely option of the above is the fourth – to simply re-shoot the Tenth Planet from the moment Hartnell leaves the Cybermen’s spaceship, to the point that Polly pulls back the Doctor’s scarf and his regeneration begins. There is no public reason to suppose that the BBC have anything else in mind.

However … given the speculation that has taken place since the Bleeding Cool article in the summer of 2013, it is not hard to imagine that perhaps the episode four has been recovered. In such a scenario it would be extremely tempting to tie in the recovery with the departure of Peter Capaldi and with David Bradley reprising the role of the first Doctor. If true, it means the BBC have hidden a missing episode recovery in the most outrageous way imaginable – in plain sight. Unlikely? Undoubtedly so. Impossible? Let’s not assume …

Disclaimer: In the probable event that this gets shared, I would like to emphasise that this is nothing more than idle speculation! All shared images and media are the copyright of the BBC and are for informational and educative purposes. While you’re reading this, do also take the time to buy An Adventure in Space and Time and get a flavour of what David Bradley will be like as the Doctor!



12 thoughts on “Is a clue to a missing episodes recovery hiding in plain sight?

  1. Ha ha ha! Wonderful thoughts but not to be. We shall see how they deal with the issue at Xmas. Could they be actually bringing the first Dr back using David Bradley? Fascinating thought.


  2. They may have recreated the original tardis set and could be recreating the original regeneration scene. They could also be bringing back the original Dr via David Bradley, we don’t know. I was simply chuckling at Dan’s ever hopeful optimism about missing episodes and what we can hope to get back. I hope we get em all at some point but I think it unlikely. I hope the BBC bring back the original Dr via Mr Bradley. That would be so cool and would put a whole new slant on the stories they could tell.


  3. It’s not just TP4 that’s back. Many Hartnells are and have been for several years – rights and restoration issues and marketing have delayed till now. It’s why the first Doctor is back at all.


    • A comment as mysterious as your name! Do you have any evidence to back up your claims? Sadly rumours won’t put a new Tenth Planet DVD on my bookshelves!


    • I can see the restoration issues part of your comment, as well as the marketing (they have to tie it all together sometimes, so maybe that’s why Capaldi wanted to do this epic multi-Doctor story with the First Doctor, played by David Bradley as William Hartnell, at Christmastime and THEN figure he’s done everything he wanted to and then regenerate). That being said, what do you mean, rights issues? Did they have to do heavy negotiating with the parties that found these old Hartnells, thus they had to send someone like Phil Morris out to get them back? Would there be more of Daleks Master Plan in the offing? There’s just too much weirdness going on, maybe the San Diego Comic Con “Classic Who” Panel will finally answer all these burning questions, who knows.


  4. There are not rights issues on returned episodes and never have been as such. Restoration issues wouldn’t take “years” to sort either. Let’s see the evidence mysterio or is it just the usual unfounded gossip propagated by frauds.


    • Honestly I am far more willing to give Mysterio the benefit of the doubt. Considering how some film has probably deteriorated badly as it has aged and not been necessarily kept in the proper manner film is supposed to be kept (i.e. in a cool, dry place), I absolutely believe the “restoration issues” part of Mysterio’s comment, as it’d probably take years to either fix the film itself OR find a more pristine, better-kept copy (I’ve watched way, way too many documentaries on film restoration and preservation). And given that there’s some marketing issues (because people don’t always like the First Doctor’s era, especially when much of it hasn’t been seen practically since it first broadcast), I definitely believe that part of it too.


  5. If the recovered film was/is of sufficient quality to be copied, and not just mush in the can then the RT crew would be able to restore it. We’ve all seen the wonders they have performed during the course of the DVD releases. If a film has only just been returned then I accept that the process could take some time. Mysterio is saying though that they have been returned for “some time”. One would expect the restoration process to have been completed if that is correct. There are no “rights issues” as the BBC hold those rights to do with them as they see fit. As to marketing issues, it’s fair to say that all existing episodes have been released on DVD already and so a market exists worldwide. Even to the point that the fully animated power of the daleks has been a success. I am not wanting to be disbelieving but unless Mysterio can give further and better particulars about his claim, then I remain doubtful as to its veracity.


  6. Just to clarify a point I made at the start of the above discussion. When I spoke of bringing the first Dr back via David Bradley I meant as the next incarnation in Nu Who. Sort of full circle back to the first Dr to start/continue it all again. So Capaldis’ Dr regenerates into Bradley’s 1st Dr. Hope I didn’t cause confusion.


  7. Pingback: What does the Shada animation mean for #missingepisodes? |

  8. I remember in the 80s there was a rumor that the Beeb had a copy of The Tenth Planet, episode 4 on a previous version videotape and there weren’t any players around to access it. Ahh, the days before the Internet when these stories could run amok. 🙂

    It sort of reminds of what we’re hoping for now. I find it intriguing that the Beeb is willing to bring back Mondasian Cybermen for the finale and the Christmas special without somehow re-airing or finding a way to point NuWho fans toward The Tenth Planet. Combine this with comments from the director on how she’s become very familiar with it so as to recreate parts of it for the upcoming special and the same kid who believed the Beeb had a copy on an old videotape they couldn’t play now wants to believe episode four is back and that it will be a nice holiday gift to Who fans.

    And then part of me says — yeah, but would the Beeb keep the lid on this news this long?


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