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Missing Episode / The BBC

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The BBC is the world's oldest national broadcasting corporation, with a rich history on radio since the 1920s and television since the 1930s. Unfortunately, for many years, their attitude toward preserving that history was notoriously callous.

"Videotape. On it, a recording of a play, sound and vision, costing thousands to produce. Now... wiped. Gone forever. Lost."
  • Doctor Who, probably the most famous victim of the BBC purges of the 1970s, and with a lot of well-documented information about its loss, rediscovery, and preservation, has its own page.
  • Probably the second-most famous victim of the Great BBC Purge was Dad's Army. It's very surprising, given the BBC's criteria for dumping, that only five episodes - all from Series 2 - were lost in the first place.note  Two were recovered, restored, and re-broadcast in 2001, leaving three ("The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker", "A Stripe for Frazer", and "Under Fire") still missing. At least some of the lost episodes exist as audio-only recordings. One other episode ("Absent Friends") is not rerun due to offensive portrayals of the Irish.note  In 2019, the three lost episodes were re-enacted for UK Gold by a cast led by Kevin McNally as Captain Mainwaring.
  • Though Dad's Army is perhaps the most high-profile example due to its otherwise high survival rate and frequency of re-runs, many BBC sitcoms from the 1960s have numerous missing episodes:
    • Marriage Lines began as a half-hour pilot in 1961, and then ran for 43 episodes across a total of five series from 1963-66, launching the TV careers of Richard Briers and Prunella Scales in the process. Only 17 episodes survive complete, comprising the entirety of Series 1 and 3; Series 2 and 4 are completely lost, while all that remains of Series 5 are clips from the episode "Big Business". A radio adaptation, also starring Briers and Scales, aired for two series of 13 episodes each from 1965-67 and survives intact.
    • Between the pilot and series of Marriage Lines, Briers starred in Brothers in Law, a TV adaptation of the book of the same name by Henry Cecil, which ran for 13 episodes in 1962. Just one, "The Expert Witness", is known to survive. It is still more fortunate than the Spinoff Mr Justice Duncannon, which ran for six episodes in 1963, all of which were wiped after broadcast.
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    • Hugh and I co-starred longtime friends and performing partners Hugh Lloyd and Terry Scott and provided the first regular sitcom role for Mollie Sugden. It ran for 69 episodes across six series from 1962-67, plus two specials for Christmas Night with the Stars; only 25 episodes and the 1964 Christmas special are known to survive. A sequel series entitled Hugh and I Spy ran for a single series of six episodes in 1968; it was thought completely lost until the recovery of the sixth episode in 2013.
    • The 1963-66 sitcom Meet the Wife, perhaps best known for being name-dropped in The Beatles' song "Good Morning, Good Morning", ran for 38 episodes across five series. Only sixteen, plus the pilot, are known to survive.
    • Swizzlewick, a comedy-drama satirising corrupt local council politics that provided early career appearances for Patrick Mower and George Layton, is mostly remembered for being a lightning rod for the ire of self-declared Moral Guardian Mary "Clean Up TV" Whitehouse (most infamously, she demanded that a scene involving a prostitute be cut, not re-shot, and the BBC were forced to oblige), who was herself parodied in the form of "Freedom from Sex" campaigner Mrs Felicity Smallgood (played by Margot Boyd). It ran twice a week for 26 episodes in 1964; just one episode is known to survive.
    • The Likely Lads ran for 20 episodes across three series from 1964-66. Ten episodes are lost; the surviving episodes include just two from Series 3 ("The Rocker" and series finale "Goodbye to All That"), while Series 2 was completely lost until the recovery of "The Last of the Big Spenders" in 2001, followed by "A Star is Born" and "Faraway Places" in 2018. Audio exists for a further five episodes. Its 1973-74 sequel series, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, is intact, as is the 1967-68 radio version which adapted sixteen television scripts (including nine of the lost TV episodes).note 
    • Sixteen episodes from the 1965-68 black and white series of the hugely influential Till Death Us Do Part (the British forerunner of All in the Family) are either partially or completely lost, although complete audio-only recordings do exist of around half of the missing episodes. The colour episodes of the series are intact.
    • Clerical sitcom All Gas and Gaiters ran for 33 episodes across five series from 1967-71. Just eleven episodes survive, including the pilot (a Comedy Playhouse episode which was thought lost until 2001), two episodes each from Series 1 and 4, and all six episodes from Series 5 (two of which exist as black and white film copies only). The 1971-72 radio adaptation is intact.
    • All Gas and Gaiters cast member Derek Nimmo went on to appear as accident-prone monk Brother Dominic in Oh Brother!, which ran for 19 episodes across three series from 1968-70. Only eight episodes are known to survive, including the first episode of Series 1 and all seven episodes from Series 3. The 1973 sequel series, Oh Father!, survives complete.
    • The first series of The Liver Birds ran for a pilot and four episodes in black and white in 1969. The pilot and Episodes 2-4 are lost, while only the title sequence and the outdoor film segments remain from Episode 1, making them the only surviving scenes to feature Pauline Collins as Dawn.note  The colour series from 1971 onward, featuring Nerys Hughes as Beryl, are intact.
    • Two episodes from the first series of It Ain't Half Hot Mum from 1974 were wiped after broadcast. The only surviving copies were recorded by an Australian viewer on VHS from a re-run on the Seven Network in 1988, and are trimmed by five minutes each to accommodate advertisements. (Given these were the only two episodes ever to go missing, it is probable that they were wiped by accident, as with Dad's Army.)
    • Are You Being Served? ran for a pilot and ten series from 1972-85 and produced 69 episodes. It's been shown regularly on public television in the US, but two episodes are missing. One, the 1976 episode "Top Hat and Tails", was simply misplaced; the other, the 1981 Christmas special "Roots?", involved an elaborate blackface number. The pilot was (like other shows) originally recorded in colour but wiped, with only black-and-white copies surviving. However, in 2009, this became one of the first shows to have its colour restored with the new colour recovery technique.
    • A notable aversion to this is Steptoe and Son, which has no completely lost episodes.note  However, although the series made the switch to colour when it returned from hiatus in 1970, 13 of the 15 episodes from Series 5 and 6 only survive in black and white (the exceptions are the Series 6 episodes "Come Dancing" and "Cuckoo in the Nest").note  Ironically, one of the episodes which only survives in black and white, "The Colour Problem", involves Albert and Harold Steptoe getting a colour television. Series 7 and 8 and the 1973 and 1974 Christmas specials survive in their entirety in colour.
  • BBC Television featured two long-running police dramas in the 1950s-70s - Dixon of Dock Green (1955-76) and Z Cars (1962-78). The vast majority of episodes of both have been wiped. Out of 430-odd episodes of Dixon, only 30 still survive, while just over 300 of the 800-odd episodes of Z Cars still exist in some form. This, among other things, means the loss of early television appearances by the likes of Sean Connery and Michael Caine, both of whom appeared in guest roles in different episodes of Dixon of Dock Green in the 1950s before finding fame as film actors.
  • Another prominent victim of the BBC's practice of tape-wiping was Top of the Pops. The weekly run from 1964-2006 consisted of over 2,200 episodes, of which 508 are missing from the archives.
    • Only four complete episodes exist from the 1960s (one and most of another with the presenter's links mute), the earliest from Boxing Day 1967, and the show's archive only exists in full from 15 September 1977 onwards. Even then, episodes featuring disgraced presenters Jimmy Savile and/or Dave Lee Travis have been removed from the rerun rotation, as have episodes from 1982-88 featuring presenter Mike Smith after he declined to renew the licence to rerun his episodes.note  Some of them can be found on YouTube.
    • Many of The Beatles' (pre-recorded) performances on the programme in the 1960s are lost, as is their only live performance from 1966. Ironically, a 25-second clip of a 1965 performance of "Ticket to Ride" on an otherwise lost episode is preserved in the Doctor Who episode "The Executioners" (Episode 1 of "The Chase"). However, because of copyright issues, it is not possible for the BBC to distribute The Chase outside the United Kingdom with this segment included, making it an example of a doubly-lost item and destructive to the surviving episodes of both programs.
  • Dr. Finlay's Casebook was a Scotland-set medical drama that ran for 191 episodes from 1962-71. Only 69 episodes are known to survive.
  • Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise remain one of Britain's most beloved comedy double acts, but not all of their television career has endured:
    • The duo's first series, Running Wild, ran for six episodes in 1954. As they were broadcast live, no recordings exist, although Eric and Ernie were probably happier to have no reminders of them, as the poor critical and audience reception of the first few episodes (memorably led by People critic Kenneth Bailey defining "TV set" as "The box in which they buried Morecambe and Wise"note  left them depressed and disillusioned by television.
    • The first incarnation of The Morecambe & Wise Show ran from 1968-77 for 71 episodes (including annual Christmas specials from 1969-77). The entire first series (eight 30-minute episodes) from 1968 was wiped after broadcast, but an edited black and white telerecording of Episode 6 was recovered in 2007, while a badly decayed copy of Episode 2 was found in Nigeria in 2012 and sent back to the BBC for restoration. Copies of Episodes 5 and 7 were rescued from a derelict cinema in Sierra Leone in 2018, and restored and re-coloured for a special Christmas presentation. Episodes 1, 3, 4, and 8 remain missing, along with Episode 6 from Series 4. Audio recordings exist of the five lost episodes and the missing portions of Episode 6 from Series 1.
  • The first series to air under the title The Benny Hill Show ran for 32 episodes on BBC1 intermittently from 1955-68; just fourteen episodes survive in their entirety, along with fragments of another two.note  A 1961-63 variety sitcom starring Hill ran for 19 episodes, of which only two survive.
  • After At Last the 1948 Show ended, Marty Feldman went on to headline several sketch programmes, starting with It's Marty, which ran for 12 episodes across two series (the second with the shorter title Marty) on the BBC in 1968-69. The supporting cast featured Feldman's 1948 Show castmate Tim Brooke-Taylor, while the writing staff included Brooke-Taylor, Graham Chapman, and John Cleese as well as Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, and Feldman's frequent collaborator Barry Took. Four episodes of It's Marty are missing (although isolated sketches survive thanks to their use in compilation programmes); Marty survives in its entirety, but one episode only exists in black and white. The audio has survived for at least some of the missing episodes.
  • The Goodies' early television careers are poorly served by surviving recordings.
    • After appearing in a few episodes of That Was the Week That Was, Bill Oddie got his first regular television engagement on TW3's Spiritual Successor BBC-3, which ran for 24 episodes in 1965-66. The vast majority of the series has since been wiped; one lost episode featured theatre critic Kenneth Tynan dropping the first F-bomb heard on British television, ironically while commenting during a debate on censorship that the word no longer shocked people, and so neither should depictions of the act it describes.
    • The sketch series Twice a Fortnight, which ran for ten episodes in 1967, was the first TV series to star Graeme Garden, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, as well as Bill Oddie and future Yes, Minister co-writer Jonathan Lynn. The videotape segments from the series have been completely wiped, leaving only the outdoor film segments.note  As the programme featured regular musical guests, this also means the loss of appearances by The Who, Cream, Cat Stevens, The Small Faces, and The Moody Blues.
    • Only about ten or twenty minutes survive of the follow-up series Broaden Your Mind, which ran for 13 episodes across two series in 1968-69 and was the first TV series to cast Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, and Bill Oddie together (though Oddie only jumped on board for Series 2, and doesn't feature in any of the surviving footage); guest cast members included Terry Jones and Michael Palin, and the writing staff included all six Pythons as well as all three Goodies. Audio recordings exist for all thirteen episodes.
    • Even The Goodies itself has a few pieces missing:
      • Two episodes only exist in black and white editions for export, and a third only existed in this form until a tape surfaced at BBC Scotland in the late 1990s and was restored to broadcast quality. One of them, the Series 1 episode "Caught in the Act" (aka "The Playgirl Club"), was thought to only exist as a low-quality studio master until a broadcast quality copy aired on Australian television in 2016. The other, the Series 2 episode "Commonwealth Games", had had a scene cut by the censors (involving administering a "sex test" to the potential Commonwealth Games athletes) and the only existing version of the episode featured a noticeable jump cut. Video of the scene was recovered in 2009 from the National Archives of Australia. In 2010, a missing spoof advertisement for "Dreaded Wheat" from the otherwise-complete Series 2 episode "The Lost Tribe" was also recovered from the NAA.
      • The original version of the classic episode "Kitten Kong" was wiped when the episode was re-edited for submission to the 1972 Montreux TV Festival (at which it won the Silver Rose); only the Montreux edit exists now.
  • David Frost got his start in television by fronting a trio of satirical sketch series - That Was the Week That Was (aka TW3; 1962-63), Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life (1964-65), and The Frost Report (1966-67) - which launched or boosted the comedy writing and performing careers of many British comedians, including all five British Pythons, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie, Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett, Antony Jay, Jonathan Lynn, Barry Cryer, and Willie Rushton. The broadcast runs of the first two series are mostly complete (TW3 is missing just one episode of 37, while only two of the 62 episodes of Not So Much a Programme are known to be lost; each series is also missing one pilot episode), but The Frost Report (which featured Cleese, Corbett, and Barker as regular sketch performers) is missing 14 out of 29 episodes, all but one from Series 2. Fortunately, audio recordings exist for every missing episode.
  • Following the two Ronnies' return to the BBC in 1971, Barker revived the character of Lord Rustless from his ITV sketch series Hark at Barker for His Lordship Entertains, a sitcom which ran for six episodes on BBC2 in 1972 and in which Chrome Hall had been converted into a hotel (prompting Barker to describe the series as "Fawlty Towers Mk-1" in later years). All six episodes were wiped and thought permanently lost until the recovery of the first episode in 2009. Barker was the sole writer for the series, using a pseudonym, and published the scripts for the series in book form; some of them have occasionally been re-enacted on stage.
  • Though Spike Milligan is widely acknowledged as having influenced a whole generation of television comedians, his own television work is patchily represented by surviving recordings.
    • The Q sketch series is often cited as having had a significant influence on Monty Python's Flying Circus due to its often anarchic style, swipes at the BBC, and avoiding ending sketches with anticlimactic punchlines in favour of simply rushing into the next sketch. The first series, Q5, consisted of seven episodes which aired in March and April 1969 (Python debuted the following October). Only three episodes have survived, only one of which is in the original colour. Audio recordings exist for at least three of the missing episodes. The remaining series have survived intact, and all but the last were released on DVD (along with the surviving Q5 episodes) in November 2016.
    • Between Q5 and Q6, Milligan wrote and starred in the sketch series Oh In Colour, which aired for six episodes in 1970. Copies exist of all six episodes but, ironically, only in black and white.
  • Milligan's former co-writer on The Goon Show, Eric Sykes, wrote and appeared in a number of comedy programmes in the 1960s-70s, such as Sykes and a... (1960-65), Sykes and a Big Big Show (1971), and Sykes (1972-79), in all of which he co-starred with Hattie Jacques. Only 25 of the 59 episodes of Sykes and a... are known to exist, while only two of the six episodes of Sykes and a Big Big Show have survived (one in black and white only). Sykes survives in its entirety, though the Series 1 episode "Journey" only exists in black and white.
  • All of the videotape footage from the 1970 colour series of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's Not Only... But Also was wiped despite Cook and Moore offering the BBC replacement tapes on their own dime. The exterior film footage has survived, as have eight of the 16 black and white shows from 1965-66 (including the pilot but not the 1966 Christmas special), shows which were transferred to film. There are (incomplete) audio recordings of every missing episode, and the scripts of Series 2 and 3 still exist.
  • Cook and Moore's Beyond the Fringe castmate Alan Bennett appeared in an acclaimed sketch variety series called On the Margin, which ran for six episodes in 1966 and featured future political commentator John Sergeant alongside Bennett, as well as guest appearances from Fringe cast member Jonathan Miller, readings by poets John Betjeman and Philip Larkin, and clips of old music hall routines by such performers as Arthur Askey and Max Miller. The tapes were wiped in the 1970s, although the music hall clips survive (in their original contexts), as do the scripts. Audio clips exist of some episodes, and an audio compilation was released by the BBC in 2009.
  • Even Monty Python's Flying Circus came very close to being completely wiped. According to the Python documentary Almost the Whole Truth (The Lawyer's Cut), the BBC had designated the show for "wiping" after the first series aired, believing it had no shelf life for reruns. Terry Gilliam found out and cut a deal with the BBC: he would buy them new tapes to use in exchange for the master tapes of Series 1 and all future episodes.note  Some episodes, however, are incomplete, having been trimmed before broadcast:
    • Episode 24, "How Not to Be Seen", had two such cuts made. The first was to John Cleese's line from the opening "Conquistador Coffee Campaign" sketch about "tactless references to leprosy and terminal cancer"note , while the second was to a brief animated segment at the end of the "Crackpot Religions" sketch featuring Jesus and two thieves nailed to telegraph poles, followed by the ground opening to reveal an Alter Kocker Satan (the broadcast and home video versions instead cut straight from the "Cartoon Religions" vicar to the beginning of "How Not to Be Seen", although a few frames of it appear in the "recap" at the end of the episode). The footage of both cut segments has been found, but while the latter can be seen in colour, the former only exists in low-quality black and white.
    • The BBC tried to force this on the infamous "Undertakers" sketch at the end of Episode 26, "Royal Episode 13". They only allowed the sketch to be recorded if the Pythons agreed to pretend the studio audience were so disgusted by the premise (a man bringing his mother to an undertakers in a sack, and the undertaker trying to persuade him to eat her dead body) that they stormed the stage. The results were as unconvincing as you'd expect,note  and the BBC wiped the master tape after the initial broadcast, replacing it with the "Spot the Braincell" sketch from Episode 20, "The Attila the Hun Show". A lower-quality copy of the sketch was recovered in the 1980snote , and the restored version of the episode has featured in re-runs and home video releases since 1985.
    • Episode 38, "A Book at Bedtime", is trimmed at both ends in most versions of the show. The episode originally opened with a spoof of a Party Political Broadcast with the speaker doing elaborate dance moves directed by a choreographer. The sketch has since been found, but is still missing from broadcast and home video prints. The closing sketch, a series of spoof adverts skewering contemporary sitcoms, is also missing from most prints. (Both sketches appear in the All the Words transcript book.)
  • The BBC were still conducting purges as recently as 1993, when then-Archive Selector Adam Lee ordered the wiping of numerous videotaped children's series from the 1970s and 1980s, believing they were of no further use and not bothering to consult the Children's Television division first. Just to name a few of the series thus affected:
    • Play School ran five days a week from 1964-88 and racked up over 5,500 episodes; just under 2,000 are known to survive, most from later in the run.
    • Play Away, a sister show to Play School aimed at slightly older audiences and renowned for including future Oscar winner Jeremy Irons in its regular cast, aired for 191 episodes from 1971-84. Only 69 are known to have survived the purges.
    • Storytelling showcase Jackanory featured readings by various actors and other celebrities of children's books, sometimes accompanied by illustrations. It ran five days a week from 1965-96 (with occasional breaks) for over 3,500 episodes, of which fewer than half survive in their entirety. Its spinoff Jackanory Playhouse ran from 1972-85 for 59 episodes, of which 47 survive.
    • Art programme Vision On was geared toward deaf or hard of hearing audiences, with minimal dialogue and heavy emphasis on visuals (as well as early career appearances by Sylvester McCoy). It ran from 1964-76 for 189 episodes, of which only 115 survive complete.
  • Supernatural sitcom Rentaghost was a victim of the 1993 children's television purge, but as the series had been sold for re-broadcast on UK Gold, copies of the missing episodes were later returned to the BBC. However, it has not been rerun in many years and, apart from Series 1, is unlikely to see a DVD release any time soon due to contractual disputes with the surviving cast members and rights problems with music clips used in the programme.
  • Saturday Morning Kids’ Show Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (later simply called Swap Shop) was The BBC equivalent of Tiswas, airing from 1976-82 and either launching or boosting the television careers of Noel Edmonds, John Craven, Keith Chegwin, and Maggie Philbin. Believed for many years to be a victim of the 1993 purge, it had instead been wiped in the late 1980s as the Quad tapes onto which the series was recorded were no longer the standard in Britain but were still widely used in Australia, and so Roy Thompson, then-Deputy Head of Children's Television, ordered the tapes wiped and sold to Australian broadcasters. Most surviving episodes only exist as off-air domestic recordings.
  • The BBC's early adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories are largely lost to the ages.
    • The very first Sherlock Holmes TV series aired live for six episodes in 1951 and starred Alan Wheatley as Holmes and Raymond Francis as Dr. Watson. As the episodes aired live, no trace of them survives.
    • The 1964 anthology series Detective included an adaptation of "The Speckled Band", which led to a series commission for twelve further episodes in 1965 starring Douglas Wilmer as Holmes and Nigel Stock as Watson. In 1968, a further sixteen episodes were produced with Peter Cushing as Holmes (Wilmer having declined to return). Eleven of the Wilmer episodes survive complete, including "The Speckled Band", and the other two ("The Abbey Grange" and "The Bruce-Partington Plans") are only partially lost; Cushing is less fortunate, with only six episodes surviving.
    • By contrast, all 39 episodes of the syndicated American version from 1954 starring Ronald Howard as Holmes and Howard Marion-Crawford as Dr. Watson have survived.
  • The BBC's various televised comedy and drama anthology programmes tend to have a high level of missing episodes, either because they were broadcast live or because their heyday was during the era that was hit hardest by the various archive purges. Just to name a few examples:
    • The drama anthology BBC Sunday-Night Play aired from 1960-63. Of 138 episodes, only 15 survive. Notable among the missing is the story Madhouse on Castle Street, which had a young Bob Dylan(!) as a kind of Greek Chorus, commenting on the action through song (including one of the first major public performances of "Blowin' in the Wind"). Especially strange is that it wasn't junked until 1968, by which time Dylan was, you know, sort of famous.
    • Comedy Playhouse ran on BBC Television from 1961-75 for 130 episodes, which included the pilots for Steptoe and Son, Till Death Us Do Part, The Liver Birds, Are You Being Served?, and Last of the Summer Wine. Only 32 episodes survive, including five which were originally broadcast in colour but now only exist as black and white or low-quality off-air recordings. Some of the aforementioned pilots are among the lost episodes.
    • Drama anthology series The Wednesday Play ran for 170 episodes from 1964-70 on BBC Television; its most well-remembered episode is Ken Loach's Cathy Come Home, a depiction of the growing problem of urban homelessness in Britain. Only 76 episodes are known to survive; three have only partially survived, while another three from the 1969-70 colour series only exist in black and white.
    • The Wednesday Play's successor series, Play for Today, ran on BBC1 for 304 episodes from 1970-84, with episodes including the Mike Leigh-penned Abigail's Party and Nuts in May and the pilot of the TV adaptation of Rumpole of the Bailey (pre-Channel Hop to ITV). Thirty episodes are completely lost, two are partially lost, seven only exist in black and white, and one only exists as an off-air home recording.
  • The very first adaptation of HG Wells' The Time Machine, a 1949 BBC teleplay, has been permanently lost, although a script and a few production stills survive.
  • Tony Hancock may be one of the most beloved British comedians to this day, but not much remains of his television career. The television version of Hancock's Half Hour, regarded as the father of the Brit Com genre, ran for seven series from 1956-61 for a total of 63 episodes, of which 26 are lost. The first four series were broadcast live and only occasionally captured on telerecordings if a technician or actor wanted a viewable copy; Series 1 is completely lost, while only one episode from Series 2 note  and five each from Series 3-4 were preserved, though off-air audio recordings exist of a further six episodes from Series 4. Series 5-7 were pre-recorded on videotape and survive in their entirety. (See the Radio section for the status of the radio episodes.)
  • Among the many mostly-lost pop music showcases on 1960s British television is Juke Box Jury, which aired from 1959-67 and featured a panel of guests, often from the pop world themselves, voting on which of a series of new singles would be a "Hit" or a "Miss". One 1963 episode featured all four Beatles on the panel, while another from 1964 featured all five members of the Rolling Stones. These episodes were among those lost in the purges and are high on the BBC's recovery wish list for the programme.
  • Adam Adamant Lives!, about an adventurer in Edwardian England who is cryogenically frozen and wakes up in the 1960s, ran for 29 episodes across two series in 1966-67. It was where Adam and the Ants took their name from, and was one of the inspirations for the Austin Powers movies. Only 17 episodes survive, all but two from Series 1. The scripts of the missing episodes have survived, however, and were included as a bonus on the DVD release along with a four-minute audio clip of Series 2 Episode 1.
  • The Quatermass Experiment aired live for six episodes in 1953, of which only the first two were preserved. The BBC had intended to record the entire run for sale to the CBC in Canada, but gave up after only two episodes due to the dodgy quality of the telerecordings (a fly can be seen on the screen during part of Episode 2!).
  • In 1973, the BBC produced an extremely gritty hard-science fiction program called Moonbase 3, which only lasted one series. All the tapes of it were destroyed, and the program became semi-mythical to Science Fiction fans. Twenty years later, NTSC copies of the full run were found at an American PBS affiliate and have been made available in DVD format.
  • The 1965-67 soap opera United! depicted the fortunes of fictitious struggling Second Division football team Brentwich United. It ran for 147 episodes and featured many writers and producers who were concurrently working on Doctor Who (such as Gerry Davis, Derek Hayles, John Lucarotti, and Innes Lloyd). After the series was axed, the episodes were wiped, and not a single one has survived.
  • Take Three Girls was a drama about a group of young women sharing a flat in London - pioneering in such a portrayal well as for being one of the first drama series to be filmed in colour. It ran for two series of twelve episodes each from 1969-71; only ten episodes are known to exist today (six from the first series, four from the second). Nevertheless it's still possible to hear the theme song "Light Flight" by folk group Pentangle, which was a chart hit at the time of release.
  • When the BBC originally aired Star Trek, the episode "Miri" was only shown once (at least until the 2000s). Three other episodes, "Plato's Stepchildren", "The Empath" and "Whom Gods Destroy" were also omitted. It was not until the advent of home video that British viewers were able to see these episodes - they weren't shown on UK TV until the 1990s!
  • Enid Blyton's Noddy books have furnished a steady series of TV adaptations since the 1950s, but not all of them are readily available.
    • The Adventures of Noddy, which aired 44 episodes between 1955-63 and was narrated by Blyton herself, was the Noddy books' first adaptation. Unlike later incarnations, the series never gained a home video release and hasn't reaired since 1963. The series eventually faded into obscurity until an episode from the series was highlighted in the VHS documentary special Best Children's TV of the Decade: '60s and '70s. In 2018, fragments of the series were uploaded to YouTube (via 8mm home movie) showing clips of the episodes "Noddy's Magic Skates" and "Noddy's Taxi". It wasn't until 2020 that a full episode resurfaced, when "Noddy and the Moon" was uploaded to YouTube (complete with audio). While the entire run is preserved at the BBC Archives, very little has surfaced outside of screenshots.
    • The first stop-motion series, narrated by Bernard Cribbins and titled The Further Adventures of Noddy (1963-75), has also faded into obscurity in the UK. Very little has surfaced from the series outside of two screenshots. The only episode that has managed to get released on home video was "The Great Car Race", which was shown on the 1987 VHS Childrens TV Favourites.
    • The second stop-motion series, titled Noddy and narrated by Richard Briers, ran for two series and 25 episodes from 1975-76 and received similar treatment to the puppet series. Unlike The Adventures of Noddy, 14 episodes managed to get uploaded to YouTube in the late 2010s. Some episodes managed to get a VHS release in the early 1980s, but quickly went out of print.
    • When The Noddy Shop first aired on CBBC, Episode 19 "The Mystery Box" was accidentally skipped because the wrong episode had aired instead ("The Big Fight", which was Episode 23).


  • The improvised radio sitcom The Masterson Inheritance has The Marooned Mastersons, an unbroadcast episode recorded back-to-back with the last normal episode, though judging by the performer's comments it was never intended to be aired anyway. They quickly made doubly sure of this by sending the story into very un-Radio 4 territory, including homosexual incest and a plan to use someone's enormous penis as a banana boat to escape the island, only for him to die of massive blood loss after they tried to christen their "ship" and the champagne glass shattered. The episode eventually made its way onto the internet.
  • Most of the episodes of The Goon Show's first four series were erased, which means that almost none of fourth Goon Michael Bentine's episodes survived. (He left after Series 2.) Some of the missing Series 4 stories would be remade for the overseas-broadcast-only Vintage Goons series, which has survived.
  • Ten early episodes of Just a Minute (six from 1968, three from 1969, and one from 1974) have no known surviving recordings. Additionally, most pre-1990 episodes only exist in the Transcription Services editions for international broadcast (The BBC junked most of their original tapes, but The ABC have a nearly-complete set of TS tapes), trimmed by around three or four minutes each and sometimes with rounds spliced from other episodes featuring the same panel. And the posthumous revelations that long-time regular panellist Clement Freud sexually abused underage girls make it very unlikely that any of the more than 500 episodes featuring him on the panel will be re-aired or commercially released any time soon.
  • Before there was Just a Minute, there was One Minute Please, created by future JaM creator Ian Messiter and pitting a team of three female panellists against three male panellists, but still requiring that the panellists speak for a minute on a given subject without pausing, repeating themselves, or getting sidetracked. It debuted in 1951 and ran for three series; just one episode survives, from 21 September 1952, with Roy Plomley as chairman and a panel featuring Margot Holden, Martina Mayne, and Violetta Farjeon against Gerard Hoffnung, Eric Sykes, and Jack Train, and a jury of Laidman Browne, Hugh Burden, and Humphrey Lestocq to rule on challenges.
  • Although there are no outright missing episodes of I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, ten episodes - seven from 1968, the 1969 Christmas special, and two from 1973 - have no known surviving copies of their original broadcasts on BBC Radio 2; the existing copies of these episodes are the Transcription Services versions broadcast on The ABC, trimmed by around 3-4 minutes each.
  • The first episode of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue was erased and presumed lost forever, until a home recording showed up. The sound quality is not great, but you can make all the jokes out. Ultimately, every episode now exists in some form, although several early episodes are very poor quality or incomplete (varying from only missing the opening theme, to having a full ten minutes missing).
  • The radio version of Hancock's Half Hour ran for 102 episodes across six series between 1954-59. Of these, 21 are missing (including a remake of "Cinderella Hancock", the original version of which survives), including three episodes of the second series when Harry Secombe stood in for an unwell Tony Hancock. Secombe's fellow Goons Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan also made guest appearances in separate episodes in the first series; both of the episodes in question are now lost. A further two episodes only exist as low-quality off-air recordings, one incomplete. Fortunately, the scripts of all of the lost episodes were discovered by actor Neil Pearson in his capacity as a collector of old books, and in 2014 five episodes (specially selected by the original writers, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson) were re-recorded with a new cast led by Kevin McNally as "Tony Hancock"; the new recordings' popularity led to the re-recording of five more episodes in 2015, another five in 2016 (including the episodes featuring Harry Secombe, who was voiced by his son Andy), and the remaining five plus the previously-unused "The Counterfeiter" note  in 2017-19. See the Television section for the TV episodes lost.
  • BBC Radio's Educating Archie was primarily a showcase for ventriloquist Peter Brough and his dummy Archie Andrews, but it also launched or boosted the careers of a number of comedians and performers including Tony Hancock, Benny Hill, Dick Emery, Bernard Bresslaw, Harry Secombe, Bruce Forsyth, Julie Andrews, Beryl Reid, Hattie Jacques, Sid James, Warren Mitchell, and Max Bygraves, while the writing staff included such talents as Eric Sykes and Marty Feldman. It ran for eight series from 1950-60 for around 200 episodes; only ten are known to survive, as well as a special made for Australian radio in 1957.
  • Beyond Our Ken was the first of two BBC Radio sketch series to star Kenneth Horne, with a supporting cast comprising Kenneth Williams, Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden, and Bill Pertwee. It ran for seven series between 1958-64 for a total of 123 episodes, of which 18 are missing. Its Spiritual Successor Round the Horne (starring the same five core cast members) survives intact.
  • There was a 13-episode BBC Radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings in 1955-56 which no longer survives. It was the only adaptation of the books in any medium released during J. R. R. Tolkien's lifetime (he didn't approve). A 1960s adaptation of The Hobbit only survived as an off-air recording (fortunately of good quality), without individual episode credits.
  • As late as 1984, The BBC wiped the pilot episode for a planned Dad's Army radio sequel, It Sticks Out Half a Mile, because Arthur Lowe sounded drunk. He was in fact terminally ill. The series was recast with other Dad's Army actors and 13 episodes were made. Astonishingly, most of the series was also wiped - the last known major BBC purge. The pilot and all the lost episodes have been recovered from domestic recordings of varying quality.
  • Several episodes of BBC's political satire The Men from the Ministry are either partially lost, completely lost or only exist in low-quality recordings. The Finnish version at least has all episodes intact... but less than half of them have been officially released by their network YLE.
  • Dick Barton - Special Agent was a popular adventure series which ran on BBC Radio from 1946-51.note  Of the 711 episodes, only three were preserved by the BBC, as well as a handful of clips. However, in February 2011, 338 episodes were recovered from the National Film and Sound Archive in Australia; though they are re-recordings with a cast of Australian actors rather than copies of the British originals, they use the same scripts and music cues.
  • As they aired live, no episodes from the initial 1942-46 run of Desert Island Discs have survived, while most episodes from the 1950s and 1960s were wiped, apart from a few that were recorded at the request of the "castaway" or exist in off-air recordings, sometimes in very poor quality (in some cases, only fragments survive of said episodes, including those featuring Alfred Hitchcock in 1959 and William Hartnell in 1965).
    • A 1970s episode was meant to have the novelist Alistair MacLean as a guest. However, they accidentally booked a different Alistair MacLean - the European director of tourism for Ontario, Canada, who was obviously totally unknown to anyone in the United Kingdom. The episode was still recorded even though they were aware of the mix-up (host Roy Plomley was apparently too much of a gentleman to risk offending the "wrong" MacLean), but it was never broadcast.
  • Journey into Space:
    • The recordings of the first series Journey to the Moon were wiped.
    • The original recordings of The Red Planet, The World in Peril and Operation Luna were likewise wiped, but complete copies were found in misfiled Transcription Service discs in 1986.
  • Most of the first twelve years of The News Quiz are missing, although the unbroadcast pilot does survive. Beginning with The '90s, most of the show survives, except for the Spring 1991 series which is missing in its entirety and a couple of odd episodes between then and 1995. Everything after that exists, with the exception of the 6 September 1997 episode - although it seems quite likely that the recording of that episode was cancelled as it was in the week of Princess Diana's death.
  • Toytown (aka Larry the Lamb) was a BBC Radio series set in a universe of living toys starring the titular lamb protagonist, broadcasted for Children's Hour on the Home Service beginning in 1929. The plays were based on a set of puppets created by S. G. Hulme Beaman, who also wrote the stories for the series. Toytown ran on BBC Radio from 1929 until the 1960s, and while some plays would get re-used for Children's Hour around the 1950s, a majority have been lost to time.


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