Students and staff at Preston’s university worked hard to recreate one of the many lost episodes of the Doctor Who classic television serial. Bringing Mission to the Unknown back to life was a big project.However, they received special permission to record their recreation from The BBC and the Terry Nation Estates.
Mission to the Unknown aired in 1965 originally. Though it aired while William Hartnell played the Doctor, he was not featured in this episode. It was also the only single episode story line that ran for the entire 26 year series. These facts makes the episode perfect for a project such as this.
There are audio recordings in existence for this missing episode but no video footage has survived.
The BBC and Terry Nation gave special permission for this episode to be recreated and recorded. It was directed and produced by UCLan’s pro vice-chancellor for digital and creative industries, Dr Andrew Ireland. Ireland stated, “We kept it as close to the original as we possibly could, so everything from the props and costumes to the acting style, pace and camera techniques are designed to be very 1960s.” Filming using a low resolution and using original audio recordings to inform the stage direction were important key factors in the recreation process.
Ireland admitted he was a huge fan of the Doctor Who series and that this episode in particular”always held an air of mystique for” for him. “It experimented with the notion of the Daleks carrying their own story line without the Doctor present”, he explained.
“We will give the BBC a copy of the episode and hopefully one day it may become available for people to see. Who knows? To achieve what we have in the time we had is a massive achievement and I want to thank everyone involved for all their efforts.” — Dr Andrew Ireland
The recordings were attended by former cast members Peter Purves and Edward De Souza. Nicholas Briggs, well known as the voice behind the Daleks, was also in attendance.
Purves said of the whole thing, “This is an absolutely wonderful project, even more so as this episode was a one-off introduction to the massive 12 part ‘Dalek Master Plan’. He went on to talk about the original filming, stating “I can remember at the time that we (He and Hartnell) were a bit miffed not to be included in any way at all, but actually it was a nice week off in the end”. The actor said he was intrigued by the idea of a recreation being filmed. He very much hopes to see more of it in the future.
Current Doctor Who companion Mandip Gill has a connection to the UCLan as well, being a former graduate of the university. When asked about her thoughts on the project she stated, “I am really excited to not only see this lost episode finally, but to see what the team has created in just five days of rehearsals and filming. I am very proud of UCLan, it gave me a lot and I am thrilled to see it also give back a lost part of sci-fi history. Who knows where it could end up.”
As of right now the episode is not accessible by the public. However, as UCLan is the only university in the UK that makes regular content for the Sky platform, it is possible that this episode will be revealed to a larger audience at some point.