Buried deep in one of the bonuses for a second doctor DVD, I found the real reason why so much of the doctor who series is missing from the early days.

Over the years, many have blamed BBC’s shortsightedness, or the cost of the early digital tapes for this. They said that the tapes were erased and reused… 

In the DVD though, they told the real story. The number of copies of the series that could be made wasn’t limited by the cost of the tape, but rather by Actors union contracts. Only a certain number of copies could be made, and those shows could only be shown on the television twice according to the contract.

Once they showed it twice, because of the limited number of copies they sent ALL of the copies to their affiliates overseas. Those copies were passed from country to country. One for example went to Australia, was heavily edited and censored, then the censored copies were sent to NZ, where they were further censored, then on to another place. Finally, when there was no futher places to send the tapes, they were wrapped up and sent off to be incinerated, not reused. 

They did this because they thought that these were mere copies of the series and that the BBC would have kept the originals… Which would have been true if not for unions…