Up until the 1970s, the routine practice at the BBC was to copy episodes of TV shows onto film for sales overseas, while the original tapes were either reused for other productions or destroyed to save space.
This practice affected Doctor Who and as a result over 100 episodes no longer exist. Some missing episodes have been rediscovered over the years, mainly from overseas TV channels. The last missing episodes were found in 2004.
However the BBC have today announced that Episode 3 of the William Hartnell adventure Galaxy 4 and Episode 2 of Patrick Troughton's The Underwater Menace have been returned to the BBC archive by film collector Terry Burnett.
The collector purchased the material at a village fete near Southampton in the early 1980s. He had been unaware that the canisters contained material missing from the BBC.
According to the BBC, the episodes were originally from the ABC channel in Australia. The Australian censors cut a few scenes from the copy of The Underwater Menace. New scans of the missing material have been made by the National Archives of Australia and will be incorporated into the restored episodes ahead of a DVD release.
The newly recovered episodes were shown at British Film Institute's annual Missing Believed Wiped event at the National Film Theatre in London. The host of the event was Doctor Who writer and actor Mark Gatiss who commented: "Christmas has come early for Doctor Who fans everywhere. It's always wonderful when a missing episode turns up but it's been years since the last one so to have two is just brilliant. Add to that a proper bit of action from the legendary Chumblies (and the horrifying Rills!) plus the utterly mesmeric Patrick Troughton on great form. Well, what more could we all ask for?"
The episodes will be restored and released on DVD sometime in the future. 2|entertain will announce further details in 2012.
The Radio Times have an interview with the film collector who found the episodes, Terry Burnett.
The BBC have also released some footage from the episodes which can be viewed in the players below.
Clip from Galaxy 4, Episode 3...
Clip from The Underwater Menace, Episode 2...
(Source: BBC Doctor Who)