10 missing-feared-lost TV shows (2022)

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Anthony dreams of the lost, cult TV treasures that Indiana Jones should really be looking for. And it's not just Doctor Who episodes, either...

10 missing-feared-lost TV shows (1)By Anthony Harvison | |

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10 missing-feared-lost TV shows (2)

More lost than the ill-fated passengers of Oceanic Flight 815, many classic episodes of cult TV are sadly absent from the archives – missing, presumed wiped. The back catalogues of inspired programmes that had millions of spellbound viewers carbon-fused to their sofas every week back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s are now in a sorry state.

Like the admirable traits of Red Dwarf‘s Arnold Judas Rimmer, episodes are painfully noticeable by their absence, thanks to a general policy among broadcasters of junking shows to re-use valuable videotape and save space on their shelves. To us, with our shiny Blu-ray collections, it might seem like an unforgivable act of cultural vandalism but these were the days before DVDs and companies didn’t see any further commercial value in hanging on to the majority of their productions – especially those in, heaven forbid, black and white. They may be gone, but they’re certainly not forgotten and so I present to you my list of the top 10 missing cult shows.

Doctor Who

He might have saved Earth more times than Superman on speed, but even the Doctor couldn’t prevent the BBC from wiping a huge proportion of his early adventures out of existence. In total, 108 episodes are currently missing from the archives with second Doctor Patrick Troughton (1966-1969) faring the worst with only 56 episodes, and six complete stories, left out of 119 episodes aired.

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To Who fans the saddest loss is probably The Tenth Planet part four (1966). The story, of which the first three episodes thankfully still exist, introduced the Cybermen and was first Doctor William Hartnell’s swansong. Other high profile casualties include all but one episode (two) of what was supposed to be the final end of the Daleks – Evil Of The Daleks (1967); the genuinely sinister Fury From The Deep (1967), where a thrashing weed creature tries to drag the Tardis crew to the depths of the ocean, and the Hammer-esque Web Of Fear, which had tons of atmosphere, introduced series icon Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and presaged the 70s action-packed Pertwee era with its contemporary Earth-bound tale of robot yetis invading London.

Doomwatch

Created by the partnership that thought up the Cybermen, Gerry Davis and Dr Kit Pedler, this early 70s BBC show was more science fact than fiction, basing its hard-edged stories of threats to humanity on genuine scientific concepts and advances. Out of its three seasons only series two is complete and it’s a great shame because many of the stories had eco-peril themes, such as rising seas, pandemics, lethal chemicals entering the food chain and, err, killer dolphins, which would surely resonate with people today. The biggest disaster episode-wise is probably the loss of series one finale Survival Code (1970), just for the shock value of killing off main character Toby Wren (Robert Powell) in a bomb blast.

A For Andromeda

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If this seven-part serial, broadcast in 1961 and famous for being the big break for actress Julie Christie, had survived complete to this day, it might have seemed a little slow and wordy for our taste. Nevertheless A For Andromeda is first-rate sci-fi. That’s only to be expected, as the story – about a mysterious alien radio signal beamed across the stars with the sole purpose of subjugating humanity – was devised by noted astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle. Hoyle made a lasting contribution to scientific understanding, but thanks to the BBC, his contribution to science fiction television, which drew in an average audience of over nine million viewers, is all but destroyed. One episode, The Face Of The Tiger, was returned to the archives in 2005, and a few clips from other episodes remain, but it represents nothing more than a muted echo of the creative legacy of the man who coined the term ‘Big Bang’.

Out Of The Unknown

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Between 1965 and 1971 the BBC made the licence fee seem totally worthwhile for providing this intelligent sci-fi anthology series. The works of such heavyweight writers as Asimov, J.G. Ballard, John Wyndham and Frederik Pohl were realised for the small screen and were as notable for their design and direction as the stories. Of the 49 episodes made, 20 still exist complete. The roll-call of the fallen include adaptations of Asimov’s Liar!, John Wyndham’s Random Quest and Quatermass writer Nigel Kneale’s unnerving ghost story The Chopper (1971). To Who-fans 1969’s Get Off My Cloud is a particularly sad loss as it featured a dream sequence containing Daleks.

Out Of This World

Like Out Of The Unknown after it, this 1962 ABC Television series adapted stories by well-known sci-fi writers including Philip K. Dick and those yet to make their mark, such as Dalek-creator Terry Nation, who made his genre début writing for this series. All 13 episodes were introduced by horror movie legend Boris Karloff but the real horror is the fact that only one episode – Asimov’s Little Lost Robot – escaped junking.

The Quatermass Experiment

This is the granddaddy of TV adult-orientated sci-fi: the ground-breaking programme that proved there was more to television than highbrow plays and clipped accents. That’s not to say The Quatermass Experiment wasn’t cerebral. It was, but terrifying as well. People had never seen the like on the small screen and sofa sales rocketed just for people to get behind while watching the next episode.

Writer Nigel Kneale went on to pen three TV sequels, which all survive in their entirety, but the original wasn’t so lucky. The tragic tale of a national hero’s transformation into world-threatening alien blob went out live in 1953 and only the first two episodes of six were recorded for posterity, using the then-experimental process of tele-recording. Tele-recording involved pointing a camera at a flat screen TV and recording the output, which explains why, during episode two, you can see a fly crawling around for a few minutes – it had actually been on the TV screen at the time. Disappointed with the poor results, executives at the BBC decided to pull the plug on their own experiment and unwittingly deprive us of a true classic of television sci-fi horror.

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Hancock’s Half Hour – The Horror Serial

The combination of comedian Tony Hancock and writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson created arguably the funniest sit-com of all time. Fifty years has done nothing to diminish the sparkling laugh-out-loud quality of the scripts but like many other shows, time ran out for a number of Hancock’s Half Hour episodes, both on radio and TV. For geeks The Horror Serial is a particular loss to be mourned as it was a brilliant parody of Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass And The Pit. Broadcast four days after the climax of the superlative BBC serial in 1959, the episode saw a jittery Hancock convinced he’d unearthed a Martian spaceship in his back yard. Amazingly, an audio recording of the soundtrack was recently unearthed and returned to the Beeb, so at least we can hear, if not see, genius at work.

Counterstike

The UK’s answer to America’s The Invaders, without the budget, pace or backing from the BBC. Ten episodes of this series about a galactic peace-keeper’s attempts to stop a full-blown invasion of Earth were made, nine were screened and four were saved from wiping. What’s really annoying is that the unscreened episode – Out Of Mind – was one of the six jinked so this is a double missing episode: It doesn’t even reside in people’s memories.

Ace Of Wands

This spaced-out early 70s show might have been aimed at the kids but with its psychedelic visuals and bizarre story-lines adults ended up spell-bound as well. All the other shows in this list suffered obliteration in part because they were made in black and white. When colour came along, broadcasters reckoned old two-tone telly would end up as attractive to viewers as a prime-time drama adaptation of the telephone directory. Thames Television, however, can’t make the same excuse for wiping Ace Of Wands because it was broadcast in glorious colour from its début in 1970. Super-sleuth magician Tarot (Michael Mackenzie) battled outlandish villains over three series but only the last, and weakest, series still resides in the archives. Everything else has disappeared – and no waving of a magic wand is going to bring it back.

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Dark Shadows

Probably the craziest, broodiest daytime soap to ever hit the screens, the goth equivalent to EastEnders enjoys a huge cult following both in its native America and in this country as well. Before the mid-70s, most American soaps were erased soon after broadcast but, amazingly, out of the 1,225 Dark Shadows episodes aired between 1966 and 1971, only one – episode 1,219 – is missing. That’s not to say the rest got away scot-free as many of the original colour videotapes were junked and all we’re left with are inferior black and white kinescopes (the American term for ‘tele-recordings’). An audio copy of 1,219 exists and has been used along with photos from the episode to make a re-construction, but the episode still gets in the missing shows list simply because there’s nothing more frustrating than being one item short of the full set.

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FAQs

Why did BBC wipe tapes? ›

There is lost material in all genres — as late as the early 1990s, a large number of videotaped children's programmes from the 1970s and 1980s were irretrievably wiped by the BBC archives on the assumption that they were of "low priority", without consulting the BBC children's department itself.

Was lost the most popular show? ›

Lost has regularly been ranked by critics as one of the greatest television series of all time. The first season had an estimated average of 16 million viewers per episode on ABC.
...
Lost (TV series)
Lost
Original releaseSeptember 22, 2004 – May 23, 2010
19 more rows

Why Lost is the best TV show ever? ›

Although the last few seasons were divisive, the show made some bold choices and introduced a lot of new elements. Some of these elements included time travel, flash-forward storytelling, and even flash-sideways storytelling. Lost was successful due to its combination of humor, drama, and science fiction.

Why did the BBC destroy Doctor Who? ›

Several portions of the long-running British science-fiction television programme Doctor Who are no longer held by the BBC. Between 1967 and 1978 the BBC routinely deleted archive programmes for various practical reasons--lack of space, scarcity of materials, a lack of rebroadcast rights.

What did BBC originally stand for? ›

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), publicly financed broadcasting system in Great Britain, operating under royal charter. It held a monopoly on television in Great Britain from its introduction until 1954 and on radio until 1972.

Who got paid the most in Lost? ›

Lost star Matthew Fox has reportedly negotiated a 50% pay rise to around $225,000 (£121,000) per episode, cementing his position as the biggest draw of the ensemble cast on the hit ABC drama.

What is the best Lost episode? ›

The 10 Best Episodes Of 'Lost'
  1. “Through the Looking Glass” (Season 3, Episode 22-23)
  2. “The Constant” (Season 4, Episode 5) ...
  3. “Walkabout” (Season 1, Episode 4) ...
  4. “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1-2) ...
  5. “Exodus” (Season 1, Episode 23-25) ...
  6. “The Incident” (Season 5, Episode 16-17) ...
  7. “Man of Science, Man of Faith” (Season 2, Episode 1) ...

What was the most watched episode of Lost? ›

Judging by number of viewers at time of first airing, the most-watched individual episode of the show is the Season 2 premiere, Man of Science, Man of Faith. The least-watched episode is the Season 5 episode Dead is Dead.

Why was Lost so special? ›

In some ways, Lost is the show every other show wants to be. Its massive ensemble cast, flashback-infused storytelling, and mystery box appeal have influenced everything from Orange Is the New Black to The Handmaid's Tale, and that's just me naming two particularly obvious examples.

What is the point of Lost TV show? ›

On what the finale was all about: Carlton explained: "Very early on we had decided that even though Lost is a show about people on the island, really, metaphorically, it was about people who were lost and searching for meaning and purpose in their lives.

How realistic is Lost? ›

LOST is a Fantasy, Not a Science-Fiction Show

To be more accurate, LOST is a magical realism show: a mostly realistic story with occasional elements of fantasy thrown in.

Why are so many BBC journalists leaving? ›

"A big one that we've seen in recent months and years is reorganisation at the BBC, particularly in the newsroom. A lot of that is driven by the need to reduce costs, and therefore a lot of people have simply taken voluntary redundancy (VR) and left by choice."

Is the BBC supposed to be impartial? ›

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) took its present form on 1 January 1927 when John Reith became its first Director-General. Reith stated that impartiality and objectivity were the essence of professionalism in broadcasting.

Is the BBC owned by the government? ›

BBC is a public corporation of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

When did the BBC start using videotape? ›

Britain's first videotape recorder, VERA, was invented by the BBC and unveiled on a live edition of Panorama on 14 April 1958. Richard Dimbleby introduced the technology before its effectiveness was demonstrated with a playback of the first few minutes of the programme, seemingly rewinding time. V.E.R.A.

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