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Missing episode

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A lost or missing episode of a television or radio series is one which is currently not known to exist in the archives of the registered broadcaster or other archival organizations such as the BFI, almost always because its transmission master tapes were wiped for reuse and no other copies are known to survive. Episodes were erased (or "junked") in their thousands by the BBC (and other broadcasting organizations) during the 1960s and 1970s for a variety of economic and storage reasons.

The second series of Dad's Army was affected by wiping; three episodes and two sketches are still missing, with no known film or videotape copies in existence. Two other episodes (Operation Kilt and The Battle of Godfrey's Cottage) were missing for some years until copies were recovered in 2001; they had been residing in a garden shed for over 20 years. An off-air copy of the soundtrack of A Stripe for Frazer and the 1968 Christmas sketch Present Arms were recovered in 2008.

Misspic

BackgroundEdit

Between approximately 1967 and 1978, large amounts of material stored in the BBC's videotape and film libraries were destroyed or wiped to make way for newer programmes. This happened for a number of reasons, not least the restrictions negotiated by unions to prevent programmes being heavily repeated at the expense of new productions, making the old material redundant.

For the first two series, Dad's Army was made in black-and-white, with most episodes being made on two-inch quad videotape for initial broadcast. As a series thought to have commercial potential overseas, the first series was offered for sale to foreign broadcasters by BBC Enterprises. To this end, 16mm film copies were made of the first six episodes by the BBC Engineering department before the master videotapes were wiped for re-use. Contrary to popular belief Series One sold very well and Series Two sold even better. The episode Sgt. Wilson's Little Secret was recorded onto 35mm film instead of videotape, either because it required additional editing (which was easier to perform with film before the advent of modern electronic editing methods) or because no videotape recording facilities were available on the day it was recorded. This inadvertently assured the episode's survival; being effectively a production made on film it fell within the BBC Film Library's remit of keeping filmed productions for posterity.

From the third series onwards the show was made in colour on 625-line videotape. With overseas interest in the series picking up, BBC Enterprises resumed offering the episodes for sale in up to three different formats:

  • PAL 625-line colour videotapes for countries with the same broadcast standards as the United Kingdom, including (from 1975) Australia
  • NTSC 525-line colour videotapes for countries such as Canada and the United States
  • 16mm film records for countries still broadcasting in black-and-white (such as Australia until 1975)

Until 1978 the BBC had no central archive, with the Film Library keeping only some programmes that were made on film (e.g. Sgt. Wilson's Little Secret), whilst the Engineering Department handled videotape but had no mandate to retain material for posterity. BBC Enterprises only kept material that was considered commercially exploitable and had limited storage space.

In the mid 1970s BBC Enterprises disposed of much older material where the rights to sell the programmes had expired, whilst the Engineering Department routinely wiped videotapes that were no longer formally required. In 1978 the BBC created the Film & Videotape Library, the first time a permanent archive for all its old programmes was established.

Dad's Army episodes affectedEdit

The first series of Dad's Army survived in its entirety as a complete set of black-and-white film telerecordings, though the 1968 Christmas insert, which was broadcast between the first and second series, remains missing. However, the second series was badly affected, with five of the six episodes not being held by the BBC in 1978, leaving Sgt. Wilson's Little Secret as the only surviving episode of the second series. That is, until 2001, when copies of the episodes Operation Kilt and The Battle of Godfrey's Cottage were returned as 16mm film recordings - to much surprise, as it was assumed that very few copies had been made of the second series episodes. It has since been established that the two episodes were film recorded to show to executives at Columbia Pictures during discussions on the structure of the Dad's Army feature film.

The other three second series episodes (The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker, A Stripe for Frazer and Under Fire) are still missing, and were quite possibly lost for good once the original broadcast videotapes were wiped. However, the isolated soundtracks of both A Stripe for Frazer and the 1968 Christmas Night with the Stars sketch Present Arms were recovered in 2008 from off-air audio recordings.

The third series was also affected, with the episode Room at the Bottom surviving only as a black-and-white telerecording until colour restoration was achieved using the newly-developed chroma dots technique in 2008.

Another Christmas Night with the Stars sketch was also affected by wiping; the 1970 insert The Cornish Floral Dance still remains missing, despite being made in colour. It remains the only missing colour episode, and was most likely junked around 1971 to reuse the master tape - or, alternatively, the tape could have been lost after broadcast.

Recovering Dad's ArmyEdit

The colour episodes in series' 3 to 9 have been remarkably fortunate compared to many of their contemporaries; even immensely popular programmes from the 1970s with good archival stead suffered considerably more from wiping, such as Doctor Who, Z-Cars and Steptoe and Son. Dad's Army episodes survived so well because copies were returned from overseas broadcasters, mainly from those in Europe, New Zealand and Australia, with the result that all episodes now exist in the original 625-line colour format.

In the 1990s, the only exception to this was the third series episode Room at the Bottom, which survived only as a 16mm black-and-white film recording. This episode has since been digitally restored into colour using chroma dots.

The only realistic remaining hopes for recovery are that the lost episodes may have either been recorded during their original UK broadcasts by a person wealthy enough to afford an early videotape recorder such as a Shibaden or Sony CV-2000 machine (and also of sufficient means to be able to afford new tapes rather than wiping and reusing their existing recordings), or some 16mm tele-recordings may have somehow survived (perhaps by being pulled out of a skip by a collector or curious passer).

In 2001, the BBC launched the BBC Archive Treasure Hunt, a public appeal for wiped episodes of many television programmes such as Dad's Army and Doctor Who, encouraging anyone with copies to contact them.

Colour recoveryEdit

Due to the way in which the original black & white telerecordings were made, colour information was sometimes inadvertently preserved in them even though it could not be displayed, as "chroma dots". In 2008 a computer technique was developed to recover the information from telerecordings to create a usable colour signal. One of the first telerecordings to undergo the process was the Dad's Army episode Room at the Bottom. It was transmitted in colour for the first time in almost forty years on 13th December 2008. This technique has since been used on other programmes that were produced in colour but only have black-and-white copies surviving, such as the 1972 pilot episode of Are You Being Served? and many Jon Pertwee episodes of Doctor Who.

List of Dad's Army episodes still missingEdit

The following episodes and sketches are still missing in their entirety;

Series Ep. No. Title Broadcast Notes
02 003 The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker 15/03/69 Both picture and soundtrack still missing.
02 005 A Stripe for Frazer 29/03/69 Soundtrack found in 2008, picture still missing.
02 006 Under Fire 05/04/69 Both picture and soundtrack still missing.
N/A C01 Present Arms 25/12/68 Soundtrack found in 2008, picture still missing.
N/A C03 The Cornish Floral Dance 25/12/70 Soundtrack exists, picture still missing. The only colour episode to be still missing.

Two of the four Christmas sketches of Dad's Army (broadcast as part of Christmas Night with the Stars) survive only as off-air soundtrack recordings. The recording of The Cornish Floral Dance can be heard on the DVD boxset, while the soundtracks to A Stripe for Frazer and Present Arms have yet to be released.

In addition to these missing episodes, The Battle of Godfrey's Cottage is also missing a few seconds due to damage to the recovered 16mm film.

List of series' affected by wiping (not comprehensive)Edit

Thousands of television and radio programmes were wiped by the BBC and other stations in the 1960s & 70s, and often no 16mm film telerecordings had been made of the shows at all. If telerecordings were made they were for overseas sales, or very occasionally to show to an interested party (such as was the case with the two recovered series two Dad's Army episodes). Huge chunks of Great British television history have been wiped out (quite literally) by the process, with many cult shows being affected. These shows (the ones listed here are mostly BBC productions, but there are also some others) include;

  • A For Andromeda (4 episodes missing, plus 2 incomplete)
  • A Question of Sport (1 episode missing)
  • A Time of Day (all 6 episodes missing)
  • Abigail and Roger (all 9 episodes missing)
  • Ace of Wands (8 episodes missing)
  • Adam Adamant Lives! (12 episodes missing)
  • The Adventure Game (2 episodes missing, plus 2 episodes exist but in poor quality)
  • The Adventures of Don Quick (5 episodes missing)
  • The Adventures of Rupert the Bear (67(?) episodes missing)
  • The Adventures of Twizzle (81 episodes missing)
  • All Gas and Gaiters (22 episodes missing)
  • Apollo 11 (BBC studio footage; 7 segments missing)
  • Armchair Theatre (262 episodes missing, plus 1 incomplete)
  • The Artful Dodger (all 6 episodes missing)
  • At Last, the 1948 Show (7 episodes incomplete, plus 1 episode exists as a BFI reconstruction)
  • The Avengers (23 episodes missing, plus 1 incomplete)
  • Bachelor Father (10 episodes missing)
  • The Bed-Sit Girl (all 12 episodes missing)
  • Beggar My Neighbour (17 episodes missing)
  • Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School (41 episodes missing, plus 2 episodes exist but in poor quality(?))
  • Boyd Q.C. (69 episodes missing, plus 5 incomplete)
  • Bud (all 6 episodes missing)
  • Callan (10 episodes missing)
  • Christmas Night with the Stars (71 inserts (aka 9 episodes) missing, plus 1 insert incomplete)
  • Citizen James (24 episodes missing)
  • The Cliff Richard Show (2 episodes missing)
  • Codename (13 episodes missing)
  • Comedy Playhouse (98 episodes missing)
  • Compact (369 episodes missing)
  • Counterstrike (6 episodes missing)
  • Crime Sheet (23 episodes missing)
  • Crossroads (2885 missing or incomplete)
  • Dad's Army (3 episodes & 2 sketches missing)
  • The Dark Island (all 6 episodes missing)
  • David Copperfield (1956) (all 13 episodes missing)
  • David Copperfield (1966) (9 episodes missing)
  • Decidedly Dusty (all 8 episodes missing)
  • Detective (21 episodes missing, plus 1 incomplete)
  • Dixon of Dock Green (385(?) episodes missing, plus 18(?) incomplete)
  • Doctor Who (97 episodes missing, plus 1 incomplete)
  • Doomwatch (14 episodes missing)
  • Dr. Finlay's Casebook (125(?) episodes missing)
  • Dusty (3 episodes missing)
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls (all 4 episodes missing)
  • Freewheelers (51 episodes missing)
  • The Frost Report on... (13 episodes missing)
  • The Gnomes of Dulwich (all 6 episodes missing)
  • The Goodies (1 episode missing)
  • The Goon Show (1 unedited episode missing)
  • Hancock's Half Hour (51 episodes missing (TV and radio))
  • His Lordship Entertains (6 episodes missing)
  • How to be an Alien (all 6 episodes missing)
  • Hugh and I (62 episodes missing)
  • Hugh and I Spy (all 6 episodes missing)
  • Hurricane (all 6 episodes missing)
  • It Ain't Half Hot Mum (2 episodes incomplete) Series created by Jimmy Perry and David Croft
  • It's Lulu (13 episodes missing, plus 2 incomplete)
  • It's Lulu, Not to Mention Dudley Moore (all 7 episodes missing)
  • The Likely Lads (12 episodes missing)
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (8 episodes missing)
  • The Liver Birds (4 episodes missing)
  • Lorna Doone (all 11 episodes missing)
  • Marriage Lines (13 episodes missing)
  • Marty (7 episodes missing)
  • Me Mammy (13 episodes missing)
  • Meet the Wife (22 episodes missing)
  • Murder Bag (all 68 episodes missing)
  • Music My Way (all 8 episodes missing)
  • The Naked Lady (all 4 episodes missing)
  • Night Train to Surbiton (all 6 episodes missing)
  • No Hiding Place (214 episodes missing, plus 1 incomplete)
  • Not in Front of the Children (30 episodes missing)
  • Not Only.. But Also.. (14 episodes missing, plus 1 incomplete)
  • Now Take My Wife (2 episodes missing)
  • Oh, Brother (11 episodes missing)
  • Oh Boy! (35(?) episodes missing)
  • Out of the Unknown (30 episodes missing)
  • Out of this World (12 episodes missing, plus 1 unused episode missing)
  • Outbreak of Murder (all 7 episodes missing)
  • Pinwright's Progress (all 10 episodes missing)
  • Plateau of Fear (all 6 episodes missing)
  • Play for Today (13 episodes missing)
  • Police Surgeon (11 episodes missing)
  • Public Eye (36 episodes missing)
  • The Quartermass Experiment (4 episodes missing)
  • The Rag Trade (15 episodes missing)
  • The Rat Catchers (23 episodes missing, plus 1 incomplete)
  • The Revenue Men (all 39 episodes missing)
  • Screen Test (9 episodes missing)
  • Sexton Blake (59 episodes missing, opening & closing credits missing)
  • Sherlock Holmes (1951) (all 7 episodes missing)
  • Sherlock Holmes (1965) (2 episodes incomplete)
  • Sherlock Holmes (1968) (10 episodes missing)
  • Softly, Softly (86 episodes missing)
  • Son of the Bride (all 6 episodes missing)
  • Stryker of the Yard (1 or 12(?) episode(s) missing)
  • Sykes and a... (34 episodes missing)
  • Sykes and a Big, Big Show (4 episodes missing)
  • Target Luna (all 6 episodes missing)
  • Thomas Hardy (all 5 episodes missing)
  • Thorndyke (6 episodes missing)
  • Till Death Us Do Part (23 episodes missing)
  • The Tony Hancock Show (6 episodes missing)
  • Top of the Pops (??? episodes missing or incomplete)
  • The Trollenberg Terror (all 6 episodes missing)
  • Troubleshooters (83 episodes missing)
  • United! (all 147 episodes missing)
  • The Wedndesday Play (119 episodes missing)
  • Wild, Wild Women (6 episodes missing)
  • You Can't Win (all 6 episodes missing)
  • Z-Cars (466 episodes missing)

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