by Tim Worthington
With all of the excitement about the recent recovery of `The Enemy Of The World` and `The Web Of Fear`, and the subsequent deserved focusing of attention on those intrepid individuals who actually hunt down long-forgotten film cans (and not just Doctor Who ones either - there are lots of people out there trying to find other equally deserving lost programmes, who never seem to get the credit, publicity or assistance they really should), it's worth indulging in a spot of cheerleading for the much smaller band of enthusiasts who devote their time to hunting down stray recordings of lost radio shows.
What's that? You didn't even know there was any missing radio? Well, that's understandable. Radio's been far less prominent than most other media for a long time now, and the relative ease of storing recorded sound would not unreasonably lead you to assume that pretty much everything has been kept since those pioneering days of 'Uncle Mac' telling stories about the Yompity Yo or something. Yet it's that same compactness and reusability that has led to big archival gaps in all kinds of shows - some of which you'd be really surprised by - right up into the early nineties. You may think that the history of the Film and Videotape archives is complicated, but up until John Birt instigated a consolidation with an eye on an eventual move to digital archive repeat stations in the mid-nineties, the BBC's audio output was mostly scattered around a dizzying maze of smaller departmental archives - a main Sound Archive did exist but was still very picky about what 'prestige' material it opted to retain, even shunning Radio 1's repeated offers to send over sessions by The Rolling Stones et al - and along the way a lot of material had been lost, recorded over, or just plain not recorded in the first place.
With a bit of luck and persistence, it's possible to eventually find just about anything that went out after home recording became widespread, from Nick Drake's lone Peel session to Chris Morris' Radio 1 debut in 1990 to Radio 3 sitcom (yes, you did read that right) Patterson to even individual news reports and one-off dramas, and I can attest to having my own personal Philip Morris moment on discovering a set of C60s containing the missing-since-broadcast first series of early Stephen Fry vehicle Delve Special, which somehow failed to make the lead item on the Nine O'Clock News. Ah well, have a listen next time it's on Radio 4 Extra. Anyway, the point of all of this preamble is to get around to the fact that there's quite a lot of Doctor Who-related radio appearances currently missing but doubtless out there on some unsuspecting fan's dust-gathering collection of cassettes.
No, really. If you thought that long-lost promotional appearances by Wendy Padbury and Frazer Hines on Crackerjack, The Daleks on The Sky At Night and Celation from The Daleks' Master Plan on Points Of View were exciting, just you wait until you start delving into the long history of Doctor Who-related radio plugs. There's still plenty around now - in fact, there were still plenty even when the show was off the air - but it's really just a fraction of what went on in the sixties, when BBC1 and BBC2 were still only broadcasting for a couple of hours a day and the BBC as a whole were still subject to pretty draconian rules about how loudly they were allowed to promote themselves. It made sense to use radio, which still had nearly as big an audience as television, to alert viewers to forthcoming shows, and indeed ITV would do much the same with what was at the time pretty much the only non-BBC radio broadcaster servicing the UK (well, apart from the pirate stations), Radio Luxembourg; have a bit of a look around online and you'll find, for example, Barry Gray playing some incidental music from Fireball XL5 live in their studios to promote the launch of the series later that day.
As you can imagine, very little of this was retained by the BBC in any form, and a couple of related radio shows - notably William Hartnell's appearance on Desert Island Discs in 1965 - are about as well-known as lost radio gets. The producers of BBC Audio's Doctor Who At The BBC compilations have done an excellent job of rounding up off-air recordings retained by fans of otherwise non-extant broadcasts, from Matthew Waterhouse appearing on Radio 1's 'younger listeners' show Playground to plug Full Circle all the way to a bizarre appearance by Jon Pertwee and Ageddor at the 1974 Goodwood Races, but as welcome as these are, they have all tended to be from the early seventies onwards. Who-related sixties radio seems to be just that harder to track down, meaning that we're denied the pleasure of hearing Frazer Hines plug his single Who Is Dr Who? on the newly-launched Radio 1 (a pleasure that would have ended the second that the record started), Verity Lambert and Terry Nation reflecting on the first rush of Dalekmania and bigging up the forthcoming Voord to a doubtless very bemused Home Service presenter, and the most intriguing-sounding of them all; a condensed adaptation of the second Dalek film.
|"You WILL come with me to the radio station.."|
Apparently beginning some time in 1961, and running right up until The Light Programme was split up and redeveloped into Radios 1 and 2 in September 1967, Movietime was a regular Friday night half hour slot, usually broadcast at 7pm. It presented truncated narrated versions of the soundtracks of recent cinema films that had nonetheless completed their rounds of the nation's picture palaces, yet were still too new to find their way onto television; in those days there was a ruling that films could not be shown on TV for at the very least five years after their initial release, and A Hard Day's Night, for example, had to wait until 1970 for its first television showing, by which time The Beatles had actually split up. Films given the Movietime treatment included 1965 Goose Sanctuary melodrama Those Calloways, 1964 love-and-racism Hayley Mills vehicle The Moon-Spinners, and on 18th November 1966, Daleks - Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D..
Narrated by film critic Gordon Gow - one of the more highbrow practitioners of the art, though he became a favourite with listeners through his voluble appearances on a succession of radio arts shows - and produced by Tony Luke, a Light Programme veteran who had overseen their first ever live phone-in, as you're probably imagining this took the form of plot-driving snatches of dialogue interspersed with narration over relatively lengthy stretches of music and effects. The effect was probably quite similar, if you've ever heard it, to the Century 21 Records soundtrack of the final episode of The Chase. While this probably all seems quite meaningless and maybe even pointless in an age when you can get both of the films on DVD and online streaming services and they're on Channel 4 every third Sunday anyway, at the time it was doubtless a pretty exciting reminder of a film that had enjoyed a couple of weeks of cinema exposure earlier in the year, and would not be seen again for some considerable time after that. It was only really with the coming of home video and the relaxing of TV movie broadcast regulations that this situation started to change, and even then it didn't really have any effect until the early nineties. If you've ever wondered why the Monty Python albums and books sold in such ludicrous quantities, well there's your answer.
Interestingly, this wasn't the only attempt at bringing the controversial Peter Cushing incarnation of The Doctor to the small, erm, speaker in 1966. A company called Stanmark Productions, who produced a number of drama serials for Radio Luxembourg and overseas commercial stations, had planned to record a series featuring Cushing alongside film Susan Roberta Tovey and the mysterious 'Mike', in a similar vein to the adapation of The Avengers which would appear on commercial radio in the early seventies. This got as far as the recording of a long-lost pilot episode, which failed to get the all-important thumbs-up from the BBC (and it's doubtful that Terry Nation would have given his approval to the proposed use of Daleks), and the project went no further. Some sources have speculated that the Movietime presentation was a hasty replacement for an intended broadcast of this pilot, but in this writer's opinion that is unlikely; although the pilot ran to twenty five minutes, Movietime was a long established show and the BBC were not really in the habit of using independent radio productions in those days, and it's likely that any resultant series would have followed Stanmark's other serials onto the likes of Radio Luxembourg.
Excitingly, at the time of writing, it has just been suggested that a copy of the Movietime episode might have survived after all, as a presumably slightly truncated disc made for overseas sales by BBC Transcription Services (which, for anyone who doesn't know, was a commercial arm that essentially did for radio shows what BBC Enterprises did for television), but as it's of very minor interest indeed and potentially a rights clearance nightmare chances are it will remain 'lost' to the majority of fans. So if you have an off-air recording somewhere by any chance, you know what to do.
And on an unrelated note, if anyone out there has Marvin The Paranoid Android appearing on Radio 1's Studio B15 in 1982, please could you let me know? Ta.
Tim Worthington is the author of Fun At One, a history of comedy shows on BBC Radio 1. You can find out more, and find more nonsense by him, at http://outonbluesix.wordpress.com