2|entertain has announced the remake of an important missing episode.
Anyone who keeps track of Doctor Who understands that one of the most important aspects of the main character is his ability to regenerate. It’s the most alien feature of the Doctor, and it is the plot element which most strongly symbolizes the show’s themes of renewal and rebirth.
This aspect of the character was not planned from the beginning, however. The actor originally cast to the role, William Hartnell was going through a rough time during the third season of the show. He had recently lost a beloved aunt, a new production crew contained several members that he didn’t really get on with, and to top it off, he was beginning to suffer from an arterial condition that made acting difficult. All this combined led him to the decision that he should abandon the show at the end of season three. The show was too popular to cancel however, so the show runners decided that a new actor must be found. Hartnell himself suggested Patrick Troughton should take over the role, and the showrunners agreed.
The producers did not just want to replace actors between seasons with no explanation, however, so they created for the Doctor a new semi-magical alien ability: if he died near the TARDIS, he would be ‘renewed’ into a younger form (originally intended to be a younger version of himself, but that aspect has been replaced since with the idea that the new body is previously unfamiliar to the Doctor each time). They even hinted that it had happened more than once previously.
This transformation took place in the final episode of that season, the conclusion of a four episode arc called The Tenth Planet. This arc introduced audiences to Cybermen, a race of cyborgs constructed from the still-living bodies of their defeated foes. The Cybermen are defeated of course, but they held the Doctor captive for a portion of the assault, and when he reemerges, he has become frail and weak. His companions help him back to the TARDIS, where he collapses. Then he glows and transforms into the likeness of Troughton, now known to fans as the Second Doctor.
We’re on the Eleventh Doctor now, played by Matt Smith, and the ability of the show to continue so successfully, despite the aging, quitting, cancelling, and otherwise removal of actors over the years comes down to the regeneration process of the character. It’s exciting to see him transform. It’s interesting to get to know a ‘new’ Doctor, as his personality is slightly altered each time, and he has a chance to approach the universe as a rookie again.
This is what makes it such a shame that episode four of The Tenth Planet has gone missing, its whereabouts unknown since the early 70’s. There are many theories as the where it ended up, but none have helped locate it, thus no modern fans can ever watch the final episode of the First Doctor, nor see the very first regeneration take place in context. On BBC’s list of most desired lost recordings, it ranks second, behind only the BBC’s original video footage of the first Moon landing. Some few stills and clips do still survive (like the ones used in the above compilation, as well as the original audio.
Now, as part of the year-long Doctor Who 50th anniversary celebration, 2|entertain, the company responsible for putting classic Doctor Who episodes out on DVD has commissioned an animated remake of that lost episode to be included in a DVD release of the four episode arc. The animation has been commissioned from Planet Studio 55, and follows a realistic styling intended to reproduce the episode shot-for-shot, with some illustrations drawn directly from the remaining episode stills and clips. We have a sample of the animation style from a previous project in which they reproduced another lost episode, The Reign of Terror.
"It’s a real thrill to be bringing such an iconic DoctorWho episode back to life.” Said 2|entertain’s commissioning editor, Daniel Hall in a release. “Without the events established in The Tenth Planet episode 4, there would be no Doctor Who as we know it!"
I think the animation looks great, better even that the original cinematography of the original episodes. I would be willing to tune in weekly to see Doctor Who redone from the very begining in this style.
Doctor Who - The Tenth Planet, including the restored episode will be released on DVD later this year.