The official Doctor Who YouTube channel has released a recreation of the missing 1965 story “Mission to the Unknown.” As we mentioned last week, the project was orchestrated by students, graduates, and staff of the University of Central Lancashire, but gained official BBC support.
The original version of the episode — the only episode of Doctor Who to lack the Doctor and their companions — was destroyed sometime in the mid-70s when the BBC burned many vintage film recordings of live and live-to-tape programs from previous decades. While some episodes have been recovered thanks to early international distribution efforts and dogged Doctor Who fans, some 90+ episodes are still missing with “Mission to the Unknown” more or less confirmed lost forever.
But the recreation is an admirable replacement. It features camera work and staging true to the era and, unlike modern Doctor Who, lacks almost entirely for score. The end result may make the 25-minute story feel slower than it actually is, but recreating the somewhat confined feel of the original sets and slower pace of a BBC live-to-tape production from the ’60s is the whole point of the project. The story sees Space Security Services Agent Marc Corey (Marco Simoni) learning about a Dalek plot against the Solar System. Unfortunately, the planet Kemble is an entirely hostile environment, leaving Corey little chance of getting the intel back to his superiors. The element of dread, particularly after Corey and an unwilling space pilot realize they are trapped on Kemble, is as successful as official Dalek voice Nick Briggs’s stellar performance as the antagonists. We encourage you to take a look and judge the results for yourself:
Also, take a look at Josh Snares’s Making Of documentary, which reveals, among other things, the recreation director’s decision to use scale model Daleks for one scene outside of their budget. The resulting effect is just as charming as any model Dalek shot used in classic Doctor Who stories like “The Chase.”
It is still unclear if the university’s recreation of “Mission to the Unknown” will make it into a commercial release. Beyond possible rights issues, the episode is itself a prequel to “The Daleks Master Plan,” a 12-part third season serial largely missing from the BBC archive. To date, only three parts have resurfaced; making a home video release of the tale (and, indeed, the third season of classic Doctor Who) virtually impossible.