Dad's Army missing episodes

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The British television sitcom Dad's Army ran for nine series between 1968 and 1977. There are currently three missing episodes of which no video recording exists. All three were made in black-and-white as part of the second series of Dad's Army in 1969 – these episodes were later wiped or "junked" for economic reasons by the BBC. The missing episodes are titled "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker", "A Stripe for Frazer", and "Under Fire". Two of the four Dad's Army Christmas inserts (1968 and 1970) are also still missing, as of 2014.

Two formerly missing episodes from series two, "Operation Kilt" and "The Battle of Godfrey's Cottage", were recovered in 2001. In 2008, off-air sound recordings of "A Stripe for Frazer" and the 1968 Christmas sketch were recovered.

Background[edit]

Before 1978, reusable videotapes and film recordings stored in the BBC's various libraries were regularly wiped, or destroyed, to record newer programmes without increasing costs. Restrictions on repeats negotiated by unions are usually also given as a reason.[citation needed]

Dad's Army was made in black-and-white for its first two series, with most episodes made on two-inch quad videotape for initial broadcast. As a series thought to have commercial potential overseas, the first series was offered for sale to foreign broadcasters by BBC Enterprises. To this end, 16mm film copies were made of the first six episodes by the BBC Engineering department before the master videotapes were wiped.

In the event, the first series sold very poorly, and BBC Enterprises did not express interest in selling series two abroad, resulting in few film copies of series two episodes being made. One episode from the series, "Sgt. Wilson's Little Secret", was recorded onto 35mm film instead of videotape, either because it required additional editing (which was easier to perform with film before the advent of electronic timecode editing) or because no videotape recording facilities were available in the recording period. This inadvertently assured the episode's survival: as a production made on film, it fell within the BBC Film Library's remit of retaining filmed productions.[1]

Dad's Army was made in colour from the third series onwards. With overseas interest in the series picking up, BBC Enterprises resumed offering the episodes for sale in up to three different formats:

  • PAL 625 line colour videotapes for countries with the same broadcast standards as the United Kingdom, including (from 1975) Australia
  • NTSC 525 line colour videotapes for countries such as Canada and the United States
  • 16mm film records for countries still broadcasting in black-and-white (such as Australia until 1975).

Until 1978 the BBC had no central archive. The Film Library kept only some programmes that were made on film (e.g. "Sgt. Wilson's Little Secret"), whilst the Engineering Department handled videotape but had no mandate to retain material. BBC Enterprises had limited storage space, and only kept material that was considered commercially exploitable. In the mid-1970s, BBC Enterprises disposed of much older material where the rights to sell the programmes had expired, and the Engineering Department routinely wiped videotapes that were no longer formally required. In 1978 the BBC created the Film & Videotape Library, the first time a permanent archive for all its programmes was established.

Episodes affected[edit]

The first series of Dad's Army survived as a complete set of black-and-white film telerecordings, though the 1968 Christmas insert "Present Arms", which was broadcast between the first and second series, remains missing.

The second series was badly affected: five of the six episodes were no longer held by the BBC in 1978. "Sgt. Wilson's Little Secret" was the only existing episode of the second series, until the episodes "Operation Kilt" and "The Battle of Godfrey's Cottage" were recovered in 2001. The soundtracks of both "A Stripe for Frazer" and the 1968 Christmas sketch "Present Arms" were recovered in 2008.

The 1970 Christmas insert "The Cornish Floral Dance" remains missing. It aired as part of Christmas Night with the Stars in 1970, and is the only colour episode still missing. It could have been either junked around 1971 to reuse the master tape or lost after being broadcast.

Episodes in series still missing[edit]

The following three episodes from the second series are still missing in their entirety:

Series No. Ep No. Title Recorded Broadcast Notes
2
Episode 3 The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker 27 October 1968 15 March 1969 both video and soundtrack still missing.
Episode 5 A Stripe for Frazer 15 November 1968 29 March 1969 soundtrack found in 2008, video still missing.
Episode 6 Under Fire 27 November 1968 5 April 1969 both video and soundtrack still missing.

Special episodes still missing[edit]

Two of the four Christmas sketches of Dad's Army (broadcast as part of Christmas Night with the Stars between 1968 and 1972) survive only as off-air soundtrack recordings:

No Title Recorded First broadcast Overview
001 "Present Arms" 27 October 1968 25 December 1968 soundtrack found in 2008, video still missing.
003 "The Cornish Floral Dance" 4 December 1970 25 December 1970 soundtrack found (can be heard on the DVD boxset), video still missing.

Recovery[edit]

Dad's Army series 2 remains incomplete. In 2001 two episodes, "Operation Kilt" and "The Battle of Godfrey's Cottage" were returned as 16mm film recordings,[2] to much surprise as it was assumed[by whom?] that very few copies had been made of the second series episodes. It has since been established that the two episodes were film recorded to show to executives at Columbia Pictures during discussions on the structure of the Dad's Army feature film. The film copies were then junked and retrieved from a skip by a collector and stored in a garden shed for 30 years until returned to the BBC.

In 2008 the soundtracks of the episode "A Stripe for Frazer" and the 1968 Christmas insert "Present Arms" were returned as off-air copies.

The other three second series episodes "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker", "A Stripe for Frazer" and "Under Fire", are still missing.[3] The only currently remaining hope for recovery is that the lost episodes may have been recorded during their original UK broadcasts by a person wealthy enough to afford an early videotape recorder such as a Shibaden or Sony CV-2000 machine (and also of sufficient means to be able to afford new tapes rather than wiping and reusing their existing recordings) or unknown tele-recordings could have been found in a skip by a film collecter or curious passer when they were junked. It should be noted that these three episodes were among the 67 adapted for BBC Radio in the 1970s and that recordings of the radio episodes still exist.

In 2013 rumours began circulating that the missing episodes had been found, along with a large amount of missing Doctor Who episodes, but no official word has come from the BBC confirming or denying the rumours.[4]

Colour episodes[edit]

The colour episodes in series 3-9 have been remarkably fortunate compared with many of their contemporaries. Episodes were returned from overseas broadcasters, mainly from those in Europe, New Zealand and Australia, with the result that all full-length episodes now exist in the original 625 line colour format. No video exists of the 1970 Christmas sketch "The Cornish Floral Dance", which was made in colour.

By the 1990s one episode, "Room at the Bottom" from the third series, survived only as a 16mm black-and-white film recording. Due to the way in which the original black & white telerecordings were made, colour information was sometimes inadvertently preserved in them even though it could not be displayed. In 2008 a computer technique of colour recovery was developed to recover the information from telerecordings to create a usable colour signal. "Room at the Bottom" was one of the first telerecordings to undergo this process. It was broadcast in colour for the first time in almost forty years on 13 December 2008.[5] Other programmes that were produced in colour but only have black-and-white copies surviving, such as the 1972 pilot episode of Are You Being Served?, have since been restored.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Documentary: Dad's Army: Missing Presumed Wiped, BBC, 2001
  2. ^ "Lost Dad's Army shows found". BBC News (BBC). 1 June 2001. Retrieved 9 August 2008. 
  3. ^ The missing episodes at the BBC Treasure Hunt site, URL accessed 4 June 2006
  4. ^ "Dad's Army - The Smoking Gun For Doctor Who Missing Episodes? - Bleeding Cool Comic Book, Movies and TV News and Rumors". Bleedingcool.com. 2013-08-09. Retrieved 2013-10-07. 
  5. ^ "Press Office - Dad's Army episode to be seen in colour". BBC. Retrieved 21 July 2012.