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The very first episode of Doctor Who, An Unearthly Child, will be missing from BBC iPlayer when the BBC adds Classic Doctor Who to the platform. The episodes are currently available on BritBox and ITVX (via Premium subscription).

An Unearthly Child, the first four part serial starring William Hartnell as The Doctor, was broadcast on Saturday 23rd November 1963 and was written by Anthony Coburn.

A BBC spokesperson said (via RadioTimes): "This massive iPlayer back catalogue will be home to over 800 hours of Doctor Who content, making it the biggest ever collection of Doctor Who programming in one place but will not include the first four episodes as we do not have all the rights to those."

Following the announcement by the BBC last week that classic episodes will be available on iPlayer from 1st November to mark the series' 60th anniversary, son of writer Anthony Coburn, Stef Coburn, has posted several posts on social media explaining why he's refusing to give the BBC rights to the episodes.

He stated: "A while back I cancelled the BBC's license to show (or use in any way) my late father's four (first ever) Doctor Who episodes, comprising 'The Tribe of Gum'. NOW they offer me a pittance, to relicense them."

He concluded: "So it seems, it's the BBC, who don't give a damn, about the fans. Relative to the exorbitant sums, they pay to their 'celebs', the sum I quoted was NOT unreasonable. They've just informed me, by email, that they will NOT now be including 'The Tribe of Gum' in their iPlayer list'."

Episodes from Doctor Who’s extensive back catalogue of classic programmes will join the post 2005 revival of the show, available for fans to watch on iPlayer for the first time, and enabling them to revisit the Doctor’s formative adventures and some of the series greatest moments.

This includes First Doctor William Hartnell’s first encounter with the Daleks, the first episodes made for colour TV with Third Doctor Jon Pertwee, and fan favourites from Fourth Doctor Tom Baker’s iconic run, including City of Death and The Brain of Morbius. Also included is the 1996 TV movie with Paul McGann, featuring him taking over from Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy.

Every episode on iPlayer from the back catalogue will be available with multiple accessibility options, including subtitles, audio description, and sign language.

With over 800 episodes of Doctor Who programming on iPlayer, Russell T Davies, Showrunner said: “I’d like to thank the BBC for all the hard work, to get this massive back catalogue under one roof, at long last...

"I'm so excited for new viewers - imagine being 8 years old, spending winter afternoons exploring the 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. And we’re determined this won't be a dusty museum - we have exciting plans to bring the back catalogue to life, with much more to be revealed!”

Dan McGolpin, Director of iPlayer and channels, said: “Doctor Who has captivated countless millions of viewers on the BBC for 60 years and in celebration of this special moment we are bringing classic series to BBC iPlayer for the first time. Fans will be able to enjoy many of the Doctor’s earliest adventures with William Hartnell right through to the very latest series and the soon to be released and tremendously exciting new anniversary specials with David Tennant...

"We want everyone to be able to enjoy this breath-taking back catalogue, so we are making each episode on iPlayer as accessible as possible, with subtitles, audio description, and sign language all available for the first time.”

Doctor Who is available on BBC iPlayer.


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