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Pursuing 'Secret Footage'
Or It's Not The Length That Matters
An interview with Australia's Damian Shanahan by Mark Parmerter, July 2001

October 1996 marked a first for Doctor Who fans around the world who had dedicated endless time and energy towards locating material otherwise missing from the BBC Archives. An industrious Australian fan turned film researcher, Damian Shanahan made a startling discovery which surprised even him - he had managed to find brief clips and extracts from Sixties Doctor Who episodes censored for Australian television viewers, many clips originating from stories no longer known to exist. Censored material not seen by UK fans since the Sixties and never witnessed by Australian viewers now provided a dramatic glimpse into long sought after adventures such as Fury from the Deep and The Macra Terror. Doctor Who fans had always believed that more missing episodes existed waiting to be discovered, yet nobody had expected the unearthing of censored extracts almost thirty years old! Here Shanahan has been kind enough to share his recollections of what motivated him to begin his fortuitous research, how it felt to be the first Australian (other than the Censors) to ever see these unique clips, reveal the fate of censored footage from Marco Polo and tease us with hints of his current investigative efforts...

Shanahan's discovery was made in the Autumn of 1996, yet the story truly began over thirty years prior as
the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) began purchasing Doctor Who from the BBC. Before Doctor Who episodes could be transmitted by the ABC then flown out to other cities around the country for broadcast, material was sent to the Film Censorship Board (now known as the Office of Film and Literature Classification) for classification and approval. Entire stories (as opposed to individual episodes) would be rated either 'G' for General Audience or 'A' for Adults by government censors, 'A' material restricted to screening after 7:30pm. This same Censorship Board was also responsible for specifying any cuts to episodes deemed too violent for Australian viewers. Between 1964 and 1967 the Censorship Board demanded that cuts be made to the following William Hartnell adventures: Marco Polo, The Keys of Marinus, The Sensorites, The Reign of Terror, Planet of Giants, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Chase, Galaxy Four, The Ark, The Gunfighters, The War Machines and The Smugglers. And although the Censorship Board rejected a 'G' rating for Mission to the Unknown and three episodes of The Daleks' Master Plan the decision was ultimately made not to screen these stories at all, rather than delete 'inappropriate' material from the episodes in question. As for Patrick Troughton's era as the Doctor, 1967-1969 saw cuts by the Censors to The Highlanders, The Underwater Menace, The Macra Terror, The Faceless Ones, The Tomb of the Cybermen, Fury from the Deep, The Wheel in Space, The Dominators, The Invasion and The War Games.

What then? Not much. The scene then shifted to 1984 when Dallas Jones, then President of the Doctor Who Club of Australia, conducted research regarding the censorship of Doctor Who in Australia. This valuable research was later documented in an article for Doctor Who Magazine (#157, Feb. '90) then shared with fellow Australian fan Damian Shanahan in 1996. Shanahan inquired as to the fate of the censored Sixties clips, only to discover that nobody knew what had become of them. Thus began the official search, as Shanahan explains "I really felt for a very long time that not enough direct action had been taken from within fandom
to explore official channels with known holders of archived television programmes. There was a long gap after the return of The Tomb of the Cybermen and it was easy to hope that missing episodes would turn up from the hands of private film collections. This is still always a possibility but very much a 'needle in the haystack' approach to searching. Film collector magazines in Australia always seem to have adds for missing Doctor Who, and while this can only be a good thing, it has for a long time now been fruitless. It was also apparent to me that, at least in searching in Australia, it was pointless to write letters to the ABC or other government bodies hoping to extract information on their holdings - they are not interested!" And so motivated by curiosity and a hope shared by all missing episode hunters, Shanahan got underway.

Shanahan began by perusing the Australian Archives (AA) online website. There he obtained the folder series numbers for Censorship Board repository material less than thirty years old, which seemed to be a promising place to start searching for extracted Doctor Who clips. Knowing that writing to the AA inquiring about specific censored clips would be fruitless, Shanahan was prepared to visit the AA in Sydney and personally request the appropriate checklists of material held; however, he was still concerned about being taken seriously. So Shanahan enlisted the company of PhD student Ellen Parry and, under the guise of conducting academic research, Shanahan and Parry visited the AA in Sydney together. There they discovered that the repository checklists did in fact indicate that censored Doctor Who extracts existed in the archives. Shanahan requested that a viewing tape of these clips be compiled, and reveals that "When I got on the trail of the censored material I was told by the Classification Board and the Australian Archives that any excised footage would no longer exist - so it was very easy to become discouraged." However, "I was enjoying so much going through the documents detailing how the programme was treated by an official government body such as the Censors, that I felt I'd already been rewarded for my endeavors. I probably didn't honestly think it would be a successful venture, in spite of the discovery of the listing of archive cuts retained, until the tape arrived for viewing."

Shanahan was hesitant to mention his findings to fandom until the Villawood office of the AA spliced together the footage for viewing, since there was still a real possibility that the listings records were wrong and the footage was not in fact Doctor Who at all. When the viewing tape was ready and Shanahan watched the brief yet compelling images flash before his eyes, he knew the records had been correct! The footage was that of Doctor Who and included film not available in the BBC Archives: Redcoats preparing to hang the Doctor and company in The Highlanders; Polly struggling against her Atlantean captors in The Underwater Menace; Ben and Polly under attack from the Macra Beast in The Macra Terror; Maggie Harris assaulted by the possessed Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill in Fury from the Deep; further extracts from the aforementioned stories as well as The Smugglers and The Wheel in Space, plus footage that would almost complete The War Machines and totally complete The
. As Shanahan explains, "I was very excited to be the first to see the footage when it came back from the Villawood warehouse to the viewing room in the city offices. The fact that it was actually missing material from episodes of Doctor Who made it exciting. The [recently discovered] behind the scenes footage from Evil of the Daleks and Fury from the Deep is priceless but it's not the same as real material. I found the clips very thrilling knowing that they were shots that the Australian public never saw - secret footage! As such there were I think some of the best bits from those episodes; they weren't cut because they were boring bits! The Fury from the Deep clip is of course the longest and most exciting clip - this was the one I watched over and over again in the archive viewing room."

As brief as most of the unearthed clips were, Shanahan nevertheless realized the significance they would play in both the mythos of Sixties Doctor Who and the missing episodes saga, as the material "Provides some moving footage from programmes which had to that point no representation whatsoever in the BBC Archives. For me I guess they show how good a lot of these stories were. The shots from Fury from the Deep give a real feel for the story. The cuts from The War Machines made that story almost complete and with The Dominators clip, totally complete. It was good to finally see what the Macra Beast looked like too - not quite as dreadful as I had thought!"

Once the unexpected discovery was announced to fandom and Shanahan had the opportunity to reflect upon his find, was he the least bit disappointed that he hadn't discovered complete episodes? Not at all. "Sure, a complete episode is the big prize for the time spent in research but these clips were a good start and fueled my endeavors elsewhere." In fact, "They put me in contact with the ABC, as it was they who did a Digibeta transfer for the BBC, and that has snowballed to searching their vaults for material which they say is not there. Of course, that's what the Censors had said too!" All in all, "The find exposed to me the fact that there was still missing Doctor Who out there."

Since Shanahan's miraculous find in 1996 the censored clips have featured in the BBC video release The Missing Years and Shanahan has continued to investigate the possibility of missing Doctor Who existing in the AA and ABC, gaining access to records and material never before seen by Doctor Who researchers and physically searching inside the ABC vaults. These opportunities exist only because of Shanahan's willingness to spend a great deal of time at both the AA and ABC making contacts and establishing relationships. His continued research has also allowed him to answer the question of what became of the excised material from Marco Polo, The Reign of Terror and Galaxy Four, stories either missing from or incomplete in the BBC Archives. Censors in 1964 had physically removed two scenes from the 16mm film print of Marco Polo, including a violent blow to the neck of a guard in Episode Five (:08 in duration) and a knife attack in Episode Seven (:06 in duration); so what fate had befallen these clips? Shanahan explains that "In 1991, when the Office of Film and Literature Classification transferred their holdings of censored film material out to the National Archives (for reasons of space) only material censored from 1967 onwards was retained. All the documents prior to this are kept but none of the footage. "We had a bonfire," I was told. So, it seems that missing material from Marco Polo and The Reign of Terror was extant up until then."

As a result of Shanahan's continuous research, he has been able to firmly establish that "The only Doctor Who material that exists in the AA is the censored film extracts - a digital transfer of which was returned four years ago." As far as the accuracy of the AA records, "They operate efficiently and if someone is prepared to do a paper chase, can locate any material they hold. I am certain they don't hold any more Doctor Who material." However, Shanahan is cautiously more optimistic regarding the ABC Archives, illustrating that "The ABC Archives is totally separate from the Australian (or National) Archives. There is possibly some missing Doctor Who material in the ABC Archives - but I cannot be certain until I've checked further. I am in the
process of doing so but it takes time." Shanahan notes that even ABC Archivists are willing to admit to the possibility of Doctor Who material existing in the vaults due to film cataloging errors made in the past. For example, "The Film History Card for The Celestial Toymaker Episode Four indicates that it was destroyed in 1974 and yet a later note refers to its return to the BBC in 1984." One can only hope that this error was merely one of more regarding Doctor Who film prints in the ABC Archives.

And what of Shanahan's current research? He is willing to divulge that lately "I've found many, many clips from missing BBC television programmes at the AA and a viewing copy is being prepared at the moment. Should the material be interesting enough, the BBC will arrange for the return of the footage. Until this time I should keep the contents quiet. 
Other leads with people who worked for the BBC in Sydney are being chased up now - and hopefully these people can shed light on the fate of certain film prints once held by their offices." Meanwhile, Shanahan's personal investigative work at the ABC continues, although he is not at liberty to provide specific details at this time.

And so it comes down to patience. Patience on the part of Shanahan who has worked diligently to develop a sense of trust and cooperation with the AA and ABC, and patience on the part of fandom as we eagerly hope for news of further missing Doctor Who material being discovered within Australia's vaults. And if no further material is found in Australia? Fans should still consider themselves auspicious in being able to finally see Professor Zaroff slipping beneath the Atlantean waves, the Controller succumbing to a Macra's claw and Van Lutyens swallowed alive in the ESGO impeller shaft by the parasitic weed and foam...

A very sincere thanks to Damian Shanahan and Robert Franks. All images courtesy of Steve Phillips' Doctor Who Clips Page.