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By Paul Scoones

“If you know of any of these [missing episodes] existing, maybe in a dusty old film can in somebody's attic, then the Doctor Who Production Office would love to hear from you... All they will need to do is to borrow the print to have a copy made for the archives, then the original will be returned to you. If everyone who loves the programme works together in this way, we may be able to assemble a better representation of the programme's past.”
- Radio Times Doctor Who 20th Anniversary Special, 1983

The fact that a lost Doctor Who episode was discovered here in New Zealand early this year is something for all NZ fans to be proud of. Our country's ‘on the map’ for Doctor Who fandom, with far more international fan and media interest in this ‘event’ than the Tom Baker adverts, recorded here two years earlier, ever generated.

Though fans the world over will undoubtedly have greeted the rediscovery of the first episode of The Crusade with joy, the BBC's own conduct over the episode's return and subsequent video release has been at times less than wonderful.

The BBC Press Office's initial stance - albeit hastily overturned - that the corporation would consider legal action against the film's owner, Bruce Grenville, if he tried to sell the film was ill-advised in the extreme. This position seems completely at odds with the BBC's often-stated position that the film owner's rights to the film would not be questioned.

More recently, the BBC have chosen to ignore the key roles played by Cornelius Stone and especially Neil Lambess in locating and identifying the film. At the time of writing, the episode is about to be released on video as part of an attractively packaged box set. Neither Cornelius or Neil's name appears anywhere in the video package or credits, despite ample opportunity to have done so in the extensive sleeve notes featured inside both the video and CD cases. My own role in the find (negotiating with Bruce to allow the BBC to borrow the film, and then arranging the despatch of the film and its return), has boiled down to one in a number of names in a “thanks to” credit on the end of the videotape. Cornelius and Neil don't even get that much of an acknowledgement, though Bruce, the owner of the film is mentioned more than once.

If this wasn't enough of an insult, the BBC still haven't reimbursed me for the considerable cost - out of my own pocket - of sending the film by express courier from Auckland to London in early January. Several enquiries from myself to the BBC on the subject have so far been unsuccessful in making any apparent progress on this front.

I'm the first to admit that I'm rather too close to the subject to be making an entirely objective judgment, but there appears to me to be an inescapable conclusion to be drawn from all this. That is that the BBC don't appear to be nearly so keen to encourage fans to hunt out the lost episodes of Doctor Who as they claim to be. Despite exhorting the public to search dusty attics, when the fans actually came up with the goods (The Lion was the first missing episode found in private hands in 12 years) the BBC's reaction seemed rather ungrateful.

Fortunately for the BBC's reputation, the fact that I haven't been reimbursed is not widely known (at least not until now), and by all reports the BBC's short-lived legal threat did not make it further than a few New Zealand news media reports and the odd mention on the Internet. However it might not escape the attention of fans who have read the reports in magazines like Doctor Who Magazine and Dreamwatch that their peers who were responsible for the find have not received due credit on the video release.

All of this is not exactly encouraging for the many aspiring Doctor Who episode hunters out there. If and when another episode comes to light in private hands, I only hope that the BBC will have learned from their mistakes. I hope they treat the finders of the next film with the respect and gratitude these people deserve for both making Doctor Who a little bit more complete and, of course, helping to top up the BBC's coffers!


Postscript (from TSV 58)

Further to last issue's editorial, I'm pleased to report that positive developments have occurred regarding some of the points I raised about The Lion.

BBC Resources have finally reimbursed me for the full amount of the considerable costs I incurred sending the film by express courier to the UK. The payment was made more than six months after the film was dispatched, and came after frequent requests to various individuals within relevant sections of the BBC.

More importantly, BBC Video has gone some way towards rectifying the omission of Neil Lambess's name from the video release of The Crusade box set. Although the UK version of the video box set had been printed up by the time the omission came to our attention, thanks to Steve Roberts (who interceded on Neil's and my behalf), the text was subsequently altered on the Australian and New Zealand version of the box set. The description now accurately reflects the roles Neil and I played in the rediscovery of The Lion.

Although these compensations are indeed appreciated, the BBC's actions in the wake of The Lion's rediscovery - especially their initial threat of legal action against the film's owner - disturbingly remain at odds with the corporation's frequently stated desire to recover missing episodes of the series, no questions asked.


This item appeared in TSV 57 (July 1999).