I fully admit that the title of this post is misleading. No footage from Star Trek: The Next Generation was or is missing. However, back in November it was announced that while working on new, high definition transfers of the series, the original film elements for 13 seconds from the Season Three episode “Sins of the Father” could not be located. Thus, for the Blu-ray Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level sampler (released on January 31st), those 13 seconds were upconverted from an existing standard definition videotape.
Last week, TrekCore reported that Robert Meyer Burnett, who is working on documentaries for the Season One Blu-ray set, posted to his Facebook page that the missing film “was indeed found and replaced” and the episode will therefore be complete when the Season Three Blu-ray set is released at some point in the future.
I mention this not because Star Trek: The Next Generation is in any way obscure (far from it) but because it is an example of a relatively recent, not to mention incredibly popular, TV show dealing with missing film elements. If it could happen to Star Trek: The Next Generation, which premiered just under 25 years ago and by all accounts had all its production elements properly archived, cataloged and preserved, imagine what could be missing from programs from the 1950s and 1960s.
In the case of My Living Doll, a good number of episodes cannot be located despite exhaustive–and ongoing–efforts. An episode of M*A*S*H, originally broadcast in 1978 as a one-hour special and later syndicated as two half-hour episodes, was released on DVD in its syndicated form because the “original master materials were damaged and proved to be unworthy of DVD release.”
(Read more about the episode in question at MASH4077TV.com.)
However, it should be pointed out that for many television programs that have been released on DVD in syndicated, edited form, the original film elements (or videotape elements, as the case may be) are not missing. Instead, syndicated episodes are often the only versions made available to the company releasing the show on DVD. And the issue of music rights resulting in edits is well known. In these cases, the fact that the original elements exist is of little comfort to fans stuck watching incomplete episodes.