Slowly but surely, the BBC has started plugging in the missing pieces of Doctor Who’s history—and while it was only recently we got to see another part of that history restored, we already know what gap it’s filling in next.
The BBC has announced that “The Faceless Ones”—the eighth serial in Doctor Who’s fourth season, Patrick Troughton’s first as the second Doctor—is the next story from Doctor Who’s early history that will be restored with an animated remake, in the vein of releases for serials like “The Macra Terror,” “Power of the Daleks,” or the unmade Tom Baker story “Shada.” Coming out on Blu-ray and DVD next year, “The Faceless Ones” will be a complete animated recreation of all six episodes in the serial, utilising off-screen recordings of the audio to create a “restored” re-imagining of the original broadcast.
First broadcast in the UK in April and May of 1967, “The Faceless Ones” saw the Doctor and his companions (Jamie, Ben, and Polly—it’s the final adventure for the latter two of those) face identity-thieving aliens known as the Chameleons in ‘60s London who are using an international travel agency as a front to kidnap and steal the identities of humans. Just two episodes of the original broadcast remain in the BBC’s archives—episodes 2, 4, 5, and 6 were lost as part of the same junking process that saw over 100 episodes of Doctor Who’s earliest years destroyed or recorded over by the BBC to make way for storing more recent programming in the 1970s. Currently, 97 episodes from William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton’s run on Doctor Who remain lost to time.
Although every once in a long while some missing episodes make their way back to the fold—a reel coming out of a collector’s stash here, another recovered from an international broadcaster who never returned it originally there—it seems like the BBC is slowly but surely starting to accept the increasing unlikeliness of ever truly returning many, or even any, of these still-missing episodes to its archives. While that is a sad realisation for Doctor Who fans, at least it’s being addressed with this new trend of re-imagining the stories that can be partially recovered, thanks to access to the original soundtracks (often recorded by dedicated fans—there weren’t repeats back in those days!), with animation.
The most recent re-animated tale, “The Macra Terror,” proved that there’s even space to give a more modern re-interpretation on tales that, at the time, weren’t exactly Doctor Who’s finest hour. If it means getting a chance to experience a better version of stories that might otherwise simply not exist, then I’ll gladly take these animated do-overs.