Doctor Who
Lost in Time

Starring: William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton
BBC Worldwide
RRP: 29.99
Certificate: PG
Available 01 November 2004

The early black and white years of
Doctor Who are incomplete - it's a sad fact and one that still rankles with fans. Great swathes of episodes were consigned to the bin by an inconsiderate BBC and as a result many classic stories are either missing entirely or survive only partially. In an attempt to round up these 'odds and ends' the BBC has issued Lost in Time, a three-disc compilation of orphaned episodes, clips and trailers...

For those of us of a certain age - let's say into our fourth decade - this DVD release provides a welcome window into a TV past that is probably characterised by memories as fractured as the narratives contained on Lost in Time. For example, I clearly remembered the table thumping sequence from The Daleks' Master Plan episode 2 which helped add a little extra thrill when watching it again after so many years. I also recall Moonbase very well so the loss of two episodes (although included as audio files) doesn't break the action for me in a way that perhaps someone new to the story might find.

And here's the problem - albeit an unavoidable one. By collecting together odd episodes and snippets you create a fascinating glimpse of the show's early days which is also often very frustrating. Doctor Who, at its best, was designed to build to a cliff-hanger, release the tension and then build again. It's a simple formula but one that can't be replicated when offering up a seemingly random collection of excerpts and episodes.

However, the fact that Lost in Time works as well as it does is proof of how well Doctor Who has aged. There are of course frustrating problems - Space Pirates episode 2 boasts fantastic picture quality but is virtually unwatchable in all other respects - while Evil of the Daleks episode 2 is endlessly enjoyable despite it being the sole representative from this classic story. It's a different type of frustration in that you want more, not less.

The episodes themselves have been lovingly restored and therefore often look breathtaking when compared to past VHS releases. Some of the clips haven't been given quite the same levels of restoration attention and there are some minor lapses in presentation as with the Space Pirates film inserts which would have benefited from a little extra information about which episodes they came from. But these are minor quibbles.

Lost in Time is at heart a historic document, a glimpse into a past that will never be fully visible. Its shortcomings are inherent in its subject and therefore it is impossible to criticise it for often being frustratingly incomplete. I can guarantee that you'll want to know what happened next after watching The Daleks' Master Plan episode 2. Sadly, the same probably won't hold true for Underwater Menace but this isn't a 'best of' compilation, it's a concluding roundup and must be viewed as such.

Lost in Time is therefore a 'fans only' release but if you are a fan it is simply indispensable.

Anthony Clark

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