Mid October '98, Steve Cole at BBC Video took a call from a woman
who had been passed from pillar to post around the BBC and finally ended
up being put through to him. She wanted to talk to someone about her 'mad
Dad', a real boffin who used to record Doctor Who off the TV in the sixties
and seventies. Apparently he still had loads of tapes and she wanted to
know if the BBC were interested.
Steve put her through to Mark Ayres, the Restoration Team's audio
expert. Within seconds, it became clear that she was talking about video
recordings, not mere audio tapes. When Mark quizzed her further, she said
that her father had bought an early 405-line open-reel video recorder made
by Sony and had recorded and *kept* lots of Doctor Who stories - upwards
of three hundred reels in his loft, she said. He had also bought an open
reel colour recorder in the early seventies and still had the machines.
She thought that he had bought the first machine in 1967, thus
opening up some very interesting possibilities...!
Anyway, to cut a long story short, Mark, Paul Vanezis and myself
met at my house this morning and then drove down to the south coast to
meet up with this guy and his family. He turned out to be a really nice
bloke of about seventy, with children and grand-children in tow. He was
a real boffin, and showed us various inventions such as pianos that played
each other (don't ask!) and a machine for playing a violin by computer.
He had bought his first video recorder, a Sony CV-2000 in the late sixties,
followed by the 625-line version, the CV-2100, and then a colour Shibaden
model in the early seventies. He took us up into his loft and there were
boxes and boxes of tape reels there! He hadn't been able to afford to buy
the real Sony tape-stock at the time, so he had got hold of any wide magnetic
tape that he could - professional quad video tape, computer data tapes,
you name it, he'd used it. He had built a high-speed tape slitter out of
Mechano so that he could slice two-inch videotape down to the half-inch
required in the recorder.
As it turned out, he had only managed to find about four Doctor
Who tapes, all with recording dates in the early seventies. However, rummaging
around in a box of 'Forsyte Saga' tapes, Paul found one that said 'Doctor
He took it downstairs to where the machine had been set up
and played it. The playback was very poor (although I have no doubt that
we would have been able to improve it) but it was unmistakably an episode
of 'The Space Pirates'. From the conversation going on between General
Hermack and Milo Clancy, we guessed that it was episode three! Wow, struck
lucky first time! We didn't want to play it anymore, just in case of damage,
so we spooled it off and tried the other tapes that we had managed to find
in the meanwhile. They were mostly black and white recordings of things
like 'Carnival of Monsters', although there appeared to be some colour
recordings, including possibly the earliest known home colour recording
of a Doctor Who episode - 'Frontier in Space':5. No sign of colour recordings
of 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs':1, 'Planet of the Daleks':3, or any of the
other missing colour episodes, I'm afraid...
Anyway, back in the loft, we uncovered a recording of the BBC
coverage of the first moonlanding in 1969, including the vital missing
studio scenes. This is on the BBC's 'Top Ten Missing TV Programmes' list,
so is a major find. We also discovered that he had a full set of recordings
of the 1973 science-fiction show 'Moonbase 3' - up until five years ago,
when colour episodes were rediscovered in the States, this would have been
a major find!
After a very nice lunch, we came back to the house and decided
to check the 'Space Pirates' tape again, just to see if there was another
episode after it on the tape. We spooled to the end of the episode and
played it... at which point the horrible realisation finally struck us.
It wasn't episode three, it was episode two!
Would you believe it, the earliest known Doctor Who video
recording and it turns out to be the one episode that already exists from
an otherwise completely missing story! Talk about feeling gutted! And there
was nothing ;else on the tape after it!
Oh well. At least we had a very nice day, we found some important
missing moonlanding footage, and we proved that there really were people out there recording
Doctor Who in the sixties. Now, if only we can find some more...
Since this article was written attempts to recover the moonlanding
recording from the tapes has had to be abandoned with only the sound retrived - Mark