During the 1970s, the BBC implemented its mass purging policy of old videotapes in order to make room in their stock offices. This meant that a lot of the Doctor Who serials concerning the first, second and even third doctors were erased from the system. Now that Doctor Who has grown so immense in popularity, this is something that the BBC is attempting to rectify, by leading investigations into finding lost episodes from outside sources, such as film collectors or foreign television broadcasters. The purging was before the notion of home media took effect, and subsequently television producers realised that there was a lot of money to be made in this mass home media distribution in the form of LPs, beta-max/VHS and, most recently DVD.
A lot of Doctor Who fans have searched high and low for odd copies of these missing episodes and there have been some surprising discoveries. However, at this moment, all that remains of these serials are the original television soundtracks in audio form, which were lovingly recorded by fans at the time of broadcast with the use of sound-capturing devices. These were sent to the BBC and through digital clean-up and remastering, were released as individual audio-book titles, with linking narration by original cast members, in order to bridge the gap between these lost stories. All of these titles have been previously released individually, some as part of the 'BBC Radio Collection' and others as part of the current 'BBC Audio' imprint, with the latter including bonus interviews with the cast members of the particular serials they were a part of.
This first-volume box-set incorporates the first five lost TV Episodes that were previously released individually. These are:
* Marco Polo (1964) - in which the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan find themselves in twelfth century Cathay and in the presence of Marco Polo, the Venetian explorer. They become his unwilling prisoners and become involved in a conspiracy to assassinate the Kublai Khan, all while attempting to get back to the Tardis, which has been seized in order to be presented as a royal gift.
* The Reign of Terror (1964) - The Tardis lands in the the midst of the French Revolution, during which the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan get separated. They must find each other and avoid being sold as slaves or jailed/executed, after which they become involved in the events of French history.
* The Crusade (1965) - The First Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki land in the time of the Third Crusade, in the midst of the Holy war between King Richard and the Saracens. Barbara gets kidnapped by the Saracen leader and a newly Knighted Sir Ian sets out to find her and bring her back safely. Meanwhile, The Doctor and Vicki become embroiled in royal court intrigue.
* Galaxy 4 (1965) - The Tardis lands on an unnamed planet inside Galaxy 4, on which two space-ships have crash-landed following an attack. The Doctor, Vicki and Steven must find a way to get off the planet before it naturally comes to its destructive end, whilst trying to avoid the beautifully menacing Drahvin clones and their leader, Maaga.
* The Myth Makers (1965) - The First Doctor, Vicki and Steven find themselves in the midst of the mythical Trojan War, and must find a way to let history take its course while attempting to get back to the Tardis unscathed. The Trojan Horse makes a surprising entrance and Vicki makes a shocking departure.
Four out of five of these serials are of the historical genre, which were the staple of the period, being in rotation with the more science-fiction rich stories that complemented them. There is a condensed thirty minute version of 'Marco Polo' as an extra on the DVD release titled 'The Beginning', which includes the first three serials of the programme in box-set form. 'The Reign of Terror' has subsequently been released on VHS, with Carole Ann Ford providing some in-character linking narrative for the two missing episodes. Most recently, it has been released on DVD with the two missing episodes being animated in order to finally complete the serial as a visual experience. Additionally, 'The Crusade' has also been released on VHS, with in-character linking narrative provided by William Russell, who played Ian. This was subsequently included on the DVD 'Lost in Time: Collection of Rare Episodes: The William Hartnell Years 1963-1966', which includes the audio soundtrack for the two interlinking missing episodes. This DVD also includes a few 8mm off-air clips of various lost serials, ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes or so. Most recently, the third episode of 'Galaxy 4' has been discovered (2011), titled ' Air Lock' and has been released as an extra (with linking information) on the special edition release of 'The Aztecs'. All five serials are of vital importance to Doctor Who lore and provide a glimpse of how the First Doctor travelled and how his personality evolved following the introduction of his human companions.
The BBC Restoration Team have subsequently digitally remastered the sound quality from the initial release of the older soundtracks and the CD cover artwork has been touched up, with the incorporation of the new BBC Logo that is prevalent on all BBC media releases. Also included is an extra bonus disc (located in the back of the 'Marco Polo' jewel case) that contains the interviews recorded for the initial releases, with participation from Carole Ann Ford, Maureen O'Brien and William Russell (who played Susan, Vicki and Ian respectively). This also includes PDF versions of the five scripts and a map of Cathay showing the route that Marco Polo, the Doctor and his companions took with the Tardis in the relevant serial, along with some historical background on Marco Polo's real-world character and journey. This volume certainly is a must for any Whovian's shelf and is a testament to the classic series that started the Doctor's televised legacy.