For many, Doctor Who is not just a show; it’s an institution. A beacon of British television that has seen generations grow up with the Time Lord and his TARDIS. However, even the most ardent fans might be unaware of a particular episode that was, quite literally, erased from existence. This isn’t a plot from one of the show’s many time-twisting narratives but a real-life event that saw a classic episode vanish without a trace.
Long-time Doctor Who enthusiasts might nod knowingly, but for the uninitiated, the tale of the missing episode is as intriguing as any the Doctor has faced. Let’s delve into the mystery of the episode that introduced the Toymaker, a classic Doctor Who villain.
The Mysterious Disappearance
The Celestial Toymaker
When discussing Doctor Who episodes that have been wiped from existence, one might initially think of a plot by a classic villain, perhaps The Master, aiming to erase our collective memories. However, the real culprit behind the erasure of a particular episode was not a fictional antagonist but a real-world decision. As reported by Den of Geek, fans today cannot watch the episode that introduced the Toymaker, a villain set to make a return for the show’s 60th-anniversary specials.
The Toymaker, poised to reappear in the upcoming Doctor Who 60th-anniversary specials, made his debut in an episode that has been forever lost due to an old BBC policy.
The BBC’s Content Conundrum
A Space Issue of a Different Kind
The origins of this Doctor Who villain trace back to the era of William Hartnell’s First Doctor. The Toymaker first appeared in a serial adventure titled “The Celestial Toymaker”. While many episodes from this early period of Doctor Who are available for fans to enjoy, several have been lost to history. The reason? Not a space vortex or any sci-fi explanation, but rather a very terrestrial issue: storage space.
Before the age of digital media, the BBC stored Doctor Who and its myriad other programmes on tapes. Soon, they encountered a logistical problem: an abundance of content and insufficient storage space. Given that Doctor Who was perceived as a relatively insignificant children’s TV show back then, the BBC made the regrettable decision to overwrite episodes when space was required.
The Lost Episodes of Doctor Who
A Tragedy for Whovians
For Doctor Who aficionados, the overwriting of these episodes was nothing short of a catastrophe. These episodes aired at a time when home recording technology was not widely accessible. Consequently, when the BBC overwrote these William Hartnell episodes, many were lost to history forever. Out of the First Doctor’s episodes, a staggering 106 were initially lost in this manner. While some episodes were eventually recovered, a whopping 97 remain inaccessible to fans.
Among these 97 lost episodes was the introduction to the Toymaker. This storyline spanned four episodes, three of which remain lost. The sole surviving episode, titled “The Final Test”, was fortuitously saved because an Australian broadcaster mistakenly stored it alongside some Cricket footage.
Reliving the Lost Adventures
Efforts to Revive the Past
Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to help fans experience these lost adventures. Some dedicated fans managed to record audio of “The Celestial Toymaker” episodes. These remastered audio versions have since been made available on both vinyl and CD. Additionally, the episode received a novel adaptation from Target Books, which also adapted an unproduced Colin Baker Doctor Who episode that would have seen the return of the Toymaker.
The upcoming Doctor Who 60th anniversary special will mark the Toymaker’s first appearance in the main series since 1966. With the character set to be portrayed by the talented Neil Patrick Harris, fans are eagerly anticipating his return.
Final Thoughts on this episode that’s been erased from existence
Doctor Who has always been about the passage of time, the fragility of moments, and the importance of memories. The loss of these episodes serves as a poignant reminder of the show’s themes. While the physical tapes may be gone, the legacy of these episodes and the stories they told live on in the hearts and minds of fans.
As the Toymaker makes his grand return to the screen after 57 years, it’s a testament to the enduring appeal of Doctor Who and its characters. The episode may have been erased, but the spirit of the show, much like the Doctor, always finds a way to regenerate and return.
What do you make of this news? Are you sad to hear about this erased episode of the iconic show? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
The BBC has confirmed that Doctor Who will be back for three Specials with David Tennant in November 2023, with exact dates to be confirmed.