October 1996 marked a first for Doctor Who fans around the world who had dedicated endless time and energy towards locating material otherwise missing from the BBC Archives. An industrious Australian fan turned film researcher, Damian Shanahan made a startling discovery which surprised even him - he had managed to find brief clips and extracts from Sixties Doctor Who episodes censored for Australian television viewers, many clips originating from stories no longer known to exist. Censored material not seen by UK fans since the Sixties and never witnessed by Australian viewers now provided a dramatic glimpse into long sought after adventures such as Fury from the Deep and The Macra Terror. Doctor Who fans had always believed that more missing episodes existed waiting to be discovered, yet nobody had expected the unearthing of censored extracts almost thirty years old! Here Shanahan has been kind enough to share his recollections of what motivated him to begin his fortuitous research, how it felt to be the first Australian (other than the Censors) to ever see these unique clips, reveal the fate of censored footage from Marco Polo and tease us with hints of his current investigative efforts...
Shanahan's discovery was made in the Autumn of 1996, yet the story truly began over thirty years prior as
What then? Not much. The scene then shifted to 1984 when Dallas Jones, then President of the Doctor Who Club of Australia, conducted research regarding the censorship of Doctor Who in Australia. This valuable research was later documented in an article for Doctor Who Magazine (#157, Feb. '90) then shared with fellow Australian fan Damian Shanahan in 1996. Shanahan inquired as to the fate of the censored Sixties clips, only to discover that nobody knew what had become of them. Thus began the official search, as Shanahan explains "I really felt for a very long time that not enough direct action had been taken from within fandom
Shanahan began by perusing the Australian Archives (AA) online website. There he obtained the folder series numbers for Censorship Board repository material less than thirty years old, which seemed to be a promising place to start searching for extracted Doctor Who clips. Knowing that writing to the AA inquiring about specific censored clips would be fruitless, Shanahan was prepared to visit the AA in Sydney and personally request the appropriate checklists of material held; however, he was still concerned about being taken seriously. So Shanahan enlisted the company of PhD student Ellen Parry and, under the guise of conducting academic research, Shanahan and Parry visited the AA in Sydney together. There they discovered that the repository checklists did in fact indicate that censored Doctor Who extracts existed in the archives. Shanahan requested that a viewing tape of these clips be compiled, and reveals that "When I got on the trail of the censored material I was told by the Classification Board and the Australian Archives that any excised footage would no longer exist - so it was very easy to become discouraged." However, "I was enjoying so much going through the documents detailing how the programme was treated by an official government body such as the Censors, that I felt I'd already been rewarded for my endeavors. I probably didn't honestly think it would be a successful venture, in spite of the discovery of the listing of archive cuts retained, until the tape arrived for viewing."
Shanahan was hesitant to mention his
findings to fandom until the Villawood office of the AA spliced
together the footage for viewing, since there was still a real
possibility that the listings records were wrong and the footage
Doctor Who at
all. When the viewing tape was ready and Shanahan watched the
brief yet compelling images flash before his eyes, he knew the
records had been correct! The footage
was that of Doctor Who
and included film not available in the BBC Archives: Redcoats
preparing to hang the Doctor and company in
Polly struggling against her Atlantean captors in
The Underwater Menace;
Ben and Polly under attack from the Macra Beast in
The Macra Terror;
Maggie Harris assaulted by the possessed Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill
in Fury from the Deep;
further extracts from the aforementioned stories as well as
and The Wheel
in Space, plus footage that would
almost complete The War Machines
and totally complete The
As brief as most of the unearthed clips were, Shanahan nevertheless realized the significance they would play in both the mythos of Sixties Doctor Who and the missing episodes saga, as the material "Provides some moving footage from programmes which had to that point no representation whatsoever in the BBC Archives. For me I guess they show how good a lot of these stories were. The shots from Fury from the Deep give a real feel for the story. The cuts from The War Machines made that story almost complete and with The Dominators clip, totally complete. It was good to finally see what the Macra Beast looked like too - not quite as dreadful as I had thought!"
Once the unexpected discovery was announced to fandom and Shanahan had the opportunity to reflect upon his find, was he the least bit disappointed that he hadn't discovered complete episodes? Not at all. "Sure, a complete episode is the big prize for the time spent in research but these clips were a good start and fueled my endeavors elsewhere." In fact, "They put me in contact with the ABC, as it was they who did a Digibeta transfer for the BBC, and that has snowballed to searching their vaults for material which they say is not there. Of course, that's what the Censors had said too!" All in all, "The find exposed to me the fact that there was still missing Doctor Who out there."
Since Shanahan's miraculous find in 1996 the censored clips have featured in the BBC video release The Missing Years and Shanahan has continued to investigate the possibility of missing Doctor Who existing in the AA and ABC, gaining access to records and material never before seen by Doctor Who researchers and physically searching inside the ABC vaults. These opportunities exist only because of Shanahan's willingness to spend a great deal of time at both the AA and ABC making contacts and establishing relationships. His continued research has also allowed him to answer the question of what became of the excised material from Marco Polo, The Reign of Terror and Galaxy Four, stories either missing from or incomplete in the BBC Archives. Censors in 1964 had physically removed two scenes from the 16mm film print of Marco Polo, including a violent blow to the neck of a guard in Episode Five (:08 in duration) and a knife attack in Episode Seven (:06 in duration); so what fate had befallen these clips? Shanahan explains that "In 1991, when the Office of Film and Literature Classification transferred their holdings of censored film material out to the National Archives (for reasons of space) only material censored from 1967 onwards was retained. All the documents prior to this are kept but none of the footage. "We had a bonfire," I was told. So, it seems that missing material from Marco Polo and The Reign of Terror was extant up until then."
As a result of Shanahan's continuous research, he has been able to firmly establish that "The only Doctor Who material that exists in the AA is the censored film extracts - a digital transfer of which was returned four years ago." As far as the accuracy of the AA records, "They operate efficiently and if someone is prepared to do a paper chase, can locate any material they hold. I am certain they don't hold any more Doctor Who material." However, Shanahan is cautiously more optimistic regarding the ABC Archives, illustrating that "The ABC Archives is totally separate from the Australian (or National) Archives. There is possibly some missing Doctor Who material in the ABC Archives - but I cannot be certain until I've checked further. I am in the
And what of Shanahan's current research? He is willing to divulge that lately "I've found many, many clips from missing BBC television programmes at the AA and a viewing copy is being prepared at the moment. Should the material be interesting enough, the BBC will arrange for the return of the footage. Until this time I should keep the contents quiet.
And so it comes down to patience. Patience on the part of Shanahan who has worked diligently to develop a sense of trust and cooperation with the AA and ABC, and patience on the part of fandom as we eagerly hope for news of further missing Doctor Who material being discovered within Australia's vaults. And if no further material is found in Australia? Fans should still consider themselves auspicious in being able to finally see Professor Zaroff slipping beneath the Atlantean waves, the Controller succumbing to a Macra's claw and Van Lutyens swallowed alive in the ESGO impeller shaft by the parasitic weed and foam...
A very sincere thanks to Damian Shanahan and Robert Franks. All images courtesy of Steve Phillips' Doctor Who Clips Page.