Now that the ‘Doctor Who’ animated reconstruction (or perhaps I should simply say “construction,” given the serial’s unique history) of ‘Shada‘ has finally been released on DVD in the United States following nearly a year of delays, you may be wondering what’s next for the classic series. After all, the whole thing has long since been released on DVD (though those have begun slipping out of print over the last few years). Well, I imagine the focus will be on Blu-ray, as BBC Worldwide has begun releasing season sets (in a somewhat inscrutable order) with the twelfth season having been released earlier this year and the nineteenth expected in time for the holidays.
But ‘Doctor Who’ isn’t done with DVD yet, and there is at least one more project ahead of them: ‘The Wheel in Space’. Airing at the end of the show’s fifth season in 1968, the serial featured a return appearance by the Cybermen and marked the first appearance of Wendy Padbury as Zoe, who would serve as a companion for the remainder of the Second Doctor’s era. It’s also mostly missing, with four of its six episodes absent (save for audio recordings) from the BBC archive. And that’s where things get interesting.
See, this isn’t the first we’ve heard of ‘The Wheel in Space’ being released in some form. It’s been known in fan circles for months and can even be pre-ordered on Amazon. But what has been decidedly fuzzy is just how the gaps in the story will be filled in. While the BBC began filling the gaps in partially missing stories with animation in the late stages of the DVD range (a project that saw stories like ‘The Tenth Planet’, ‘The Reign of Terror’, and ‘The Moonbase’ arrive on DVD), for budgetary they never animated a story that was missing more than two episodes, which ruled out most of the incomplete serials. Additionally, the project of partially animating these stories seemed to have ground to a halt when, after numerous animation-related delays, ‘The Underwater Menace’ was released with only telesnap (still images taken from the original broadcast) reconstructions of the missing episodes. This left only one story (‘The Crusade’) that was missing two or fewer episodes, and there seemed to be no interest in completing it. That all changed – though we didn’t fully appreciate it at the time – with the 2016 release of the animated version of ‘The Power of the Daleks‘, the Second Doctor’s debut story and a serial from which all six episodes are still missing. That project paved the way for ‘Shada’, and seemingly for ‘The Wheel in Space’ in turn.
The existence of the animated ‘Wheel in Space’ was revealed via the British Film Institute, who will be screening a ten-minute sequence from the story’s first episode at their annual Missing Believed Wiped event in December. As well as confirming the animation project, the announcement also revealed that the animated reconstructions will be produced by Charles Norton, who served in the same capacity on both ‘Shada’ and ‘The Power of the Daleks’ and directed by Anne Marie Walsh. A release date has yet to be announced. With any luck, though, these efforts will continue beyond ‘The Wheel in Space’, as there remain several classic stories that remain, sadly, incomplete.
Be sure to check back for more on this and other upcoming ‘Doctor Who’ releases as it becomes available!