Dad's Army missing episodes
The British television sitcom Dad's Army ran for nine series between 1968 and 1977. Three episodes from series two and two of the four Christmas sketches (1968 and 1970) are missing from BBC archives.
Until 1978, when the BBC Film & Videotape Library was created (a permanent archive for all its programmes), the BBC had no central archive and videotapes and film recordings stored in the BBC's various libraries were often either wiped in order to record newer programmes without increasing costs, or destroyed to create new storage space. The BBC Film Library kept only some programmes that were made on film whilst the Engineering Department handled videotape but had no mandate to retain material. Some shows were kept by BBC Enterprises, but they 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.
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 meaning that these were retained by the Film Unit.
In the event, the first series sold very poorly and so BBC Enterprises did not express interest in selling series two abroad, resulting in very few film copies of series two episodes being made. Dad's Army was made in colour from the third series onwards and with overseas interest in the series picking up, BBC Enterprises resumed offering the episodes for sale in film and video format and this ultimately aided in their permanent retention.
Dad's Army series 2 remains incomplete, with three episodes still missing from BBC archives (as of June 2015). However, the situation was previously much worse - five of the six episodes were no longer held by the BBC in 1978.
Episode ten, "Sgt. Wilson's Little Secret", survived the cull as it 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.
Episodes seven "Operation Kilt" and eight "The Battle of Godfrey's Cottage" were returned as 16mm film recordings in 2001. 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 an opportunistic collector and stored in a garden shed for 30 years until returned to the BBC.
The three second series episodes that remain missing are nine "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker", eleven "A Stripe for Frazer" and twelve "Under Fire". 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, but no official word has come from the BBC confirming or denying the rumours.
The colour episodes in series 3-9 have been remarkably fortunate compared with many of their contemporaries. Missing 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.
By the 1990s one episode, "Room at the Bottom" from the third series, survived only as a 16mm black-and-white film recording. Fortunately, because of 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.
Full list of episodes & sketches still missing
||The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker||27 October 1968||15 March 1969||Video and soundtrack still missing but radio version exists.|
||A Stripe for Frazer||15 November 1968||29 March 1969||Soundtrack found in 2008 though never released, video still missing. Radio version exists.|
||Under Fire||27 November 1968||5 April 1969||Video and soundtrack still missing but radio version exists.|
|001||Untitled Sketch||27 October 1968||25 December 1968||Video and soundtrack still missing.|
|003||Cornish Floral Dance||4 December 1970||25 December 1970||Video still missing, amateur soundtrack recording found (can be heard as an extra on the Christmas Specials DVD). The script was recycled for a scene in the radio adaptation of The Godiva Affair and as part of the Dad's Army stage show (a segment of which was also included in the 1975 Royal Variety Performance).|
- Documentary: Dad's Army: Missing Presumed Wiped, BBC, 2001
- "Lost Dad's Army shows found". BBC News (BBC). 1 June 2001. Retrieved 9 August 2008.
- "Missing Episodes". Dad's Army Appreciation Society. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
- The missing episodes at the BBC Treasure Hunt site, URL accessed 4 June 2006
- "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.
- "Press Office - Dad's Army episode to be seen in colour". BBC. Retrieved 21 July 2012.