One of the unfortunate realities of being a Classic Doctor Who fan is that as far as the televised serials go, a substantial portion of the adventures from the First and Second Doctors' eras are missing. Of the fifty serials produced during the sixties, eighteen are still missing telecine of more than 50% of their episodes. Here are the list of serials with episodes missing/total number of episodes :
Marco Polo - 7/7
Galaxy 4 - 1,2, 4/4
Mission to the Unknown - 1/1
The Myth Makers - 4/4
The Daleks' Master Plan - 1, 3-4, 6-9, 11-12/12
The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve - 4/4
The Celestial Toymaker - 1-3/4
The Savages - 4/4
The Smugglers - 4/4
The Power of the Daleks - 6/6
The Highlanders - 4/4
The Macra Terror - 4/4
The Faceless Ones - 2, 4-6/6
The Evil of the Daleks - 1, 3-7/7
The Abominable Snowmen - 1, 3-6/6
Fury from the Deep - 6/6
The Wheel in Space - 1-2, 4-5/6
The Space Pirates 1, 3-6/6
In addition eight serials are still missing at least one episode :
The Reign of Terror - 4-5/6
The Crusade - 2, 4/4
The Tenth Planet - 4/4
The Underwater Menace - 1, 4/4
The Moonbase - 1, 3/4
The Ice Warriors - 2-3/6
The Web of Fear - 3/6
The Invasion - 1, 4/8
All episodes existing from these serials have been released on DVD with one exception. That exception, The Underwater Menace Episode 2, can be viewed without too much difficulty these days.
Regarding the eighteen mostly or completely missing serials, there are several alternatives to be able to enjoy their plots. Target Novelizations, Scripts, Reconstructions, Audio Recordings, and Telesnap Photonovels.
1. Target Novelizations
Chronologically, these novelizations of Doctor Who stories were the first way in which a fan could enjoy these missing stories. Until re-runs of Doctor Who became commonplace in the 1980s and video releases became available, they were the primary (legitimate) way in which a fan could enjoy any story after it had been broadcast.
One distinctive feature of the early Target novelizations is that they do not necessarily use the same title as the TV serial did. The book "Doctor Who and the Cybermen" was the novelization of The Moonbase. Fortunately, this was the only missing episode story whose title did not have an immediately obvious connection to the title of its corresponding televised story. The Daleks' Masterplan had to published in two volumes due to the size of the story. Volume 1 is Mission to the Unknown and Volume 2 is the Destruction of Time.
One advantage for the Target Novelizations is that the TV script author frequently also wrote the novelization. David Whittaker wrote the script and novelization of The Crusades, Ian Stuart Black The Savages and the Macra Terror, William Emms Galaxy Four, Brian Hayles The Ice Warriors, Victor Pemberton The Fury from the Deep, Donald Cotton The Myth Makers. Gerry Davis was co-creator of the Cybermen and script editor for The Celestial Toymaker and The Moonbase, whose novelizations he wrote. He also authored the actual script and novelization for The Highlanders. Terrance Dicks, who was the most prolific author of the Target Novelizations, wrote the novelizations for many stories produced just before he became script editor on The War Games. John Lucarotti wrote both TV and novel treatments for Marco Polo and The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve.
In certain cases, the novelizations do not necessarily describe the same events that were depicted on-screen. Lucarotti's novelization of The Massacre is an important example. The novelization followed Lucarotti's original scripts before they were heavily edited by script editor Donald Tosh. There is a lot more to do with the confusion of the Doctor and his physical double the Abbot of Amboise in the book than on the TV. Episodes with doubles were very difficult to do in the 1960s with TV video cameras, and Hartnell was on holiday for Episode 2, so that material had to be cut, much to Lucarotti's chagrin.
BBC Audio and AudioGo have released audiobooks of some of these novelizations. They are The Highlanders, Fury from the Deep, The Daleks' Masterpan (in two parts), The Abominable Snowmen, The Moonbase (as Doctor Who and the Cybermen), The Myth Makers and The Ice Warriors. Trade paperbacks of these stories, except for the Dalek stories (among the last novelizations written) can usually be found pretty inexpensively online.
2. Scripts Project
If you want to know what was actually planned to be shown and said on the screen, you could read the scripts for the missing episodes. They are available here : http://homepages.bw.edu/~jcurtis/Scripts/scripts_project.htm
That site has not been updated in years, so it still claims Galaxy 4, The Underwate Menace, The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear are still missing episodes that have been recovered. There may be minor discrepancies in some of the scripts between what was supposed to be said and what was actually said on-screen. It also has scripts for the uncompleted Shada serial. Finally, it has the complete scripts for Dimensions in Time and The Curse of the Fatal Death, even though the video for these productions is not hard to find.
Titan Books published a series of the original shooting scripts under the line Doctor Who: The Scripts. Missing stories released in this trade-paperback form were The Power of the Daleks, Galaxy 4 and The Crusade. The Tomb of the Cybermen's script was published in this line before its televised before it was recovered.
3. Audio Recordings
Fortunately, several fans did more to preserve these episodes in some form for the long term than the BBC. They recorded their sound onto tapes while the episodes were being broadcast. Every missing episode's audio survives. BBC Radio, in the early 90s, began to release the missing stories with audio narration onto compact cassette tape, but never finished the range. They released The Power of the Daleks, The Macra Terror and The Evil of the Daleks and Fury from the Deep. Tom Baker did the narration for both Dalek stories and Fury, Colin Baker provided narration for Macra.
From 1999 to 2006, the BBC Radio Collection released the audio with linking narration on CD for all missing stories. In every case, an actor who played a companion in the story provided the narration (William Russell, Carole Ann Ford, Peter Purves, Anneke Wills, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury). The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve was the first story released in this line, and it had both a cassette and CD release. All further releases were solely on CD as far as I can tell.
The audio on the CD releases has been restored compared to the old cassette releases. In the cassette version of Evil of the Daleks, episode 1 has a scene cut where the Doctor and Jamie are in a pub due to the music of the Beatles playing on the jukebox in the background. The CD version has the scene and substitutes different music.
The Macra Terror was released twice on CD during this timeframe, the first time with Colin Baker as narrator (taken from the cassette release), the second time with Anneke Wills (who was actually in the serial) as the narrator. Wills narrated version was only included in the box set Doctor Who: The Lost TV Episodes - Collection Four.
Audio for the missing episodes of The Crusades and The Moonbase without narration can be found on their respective Lost in Time DVDs.
The Audio Recordings are best purchased in the five "Doctor Who": The Lost TV Episodes Collections.
4. Telesnap Photonovels
The use of John Cura's Tele-Snap service, offered from 1947-1969, provided a way in which directors or actors could preserve a portion of their televised performance in a visual medium. No consumer cost-effective recording technology existed at the time to record the transmitted TV image. Videotape was not a consumer technology in the 1960s and 25 minutes of 16mm film (about 1000 feet) was too expensive for a home viewer.
Cura pointed a single shot camera at a TV screen at an exposure of 1/25 a second. This enabled him to capture exactly one video field from his TV screen. Each photo would fit into half a frame of 35mm film, the size of each telesnapped photo thus being 18x24mm. Cura would be able to make a visual record of program with 60-80 images per episode. Telesnaps exist for all the missing episodes except for the following :
Marco Polo Episode 4 : The only episode of that serial not directed by Waris Hussein, telesnaps from the other episodes came from Hussein's personal archive.
Galaxy 4, Mission to the Unknown, The Myth Makers, The Daleks' Master Plan, The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve, The Celestial Toymaker : Cura's services were not contracted during this period when John Wiles had control over production budgets. Actor Robert Jewell took 20 photographs of Episode 7 of the Daleks' Masterplan off his TV screen using a similar method to Cura.
Cura's last telesnapped episode was The Mind Robber Episode 3, so the The Invasion and The Space Pirates could not telesnapped by him. Cura died in mid-1969 and was too ill to handle further telesnap work.
Details about the telesnaps can be found here : http://missingepisodes.blogspot.com/p/tele-snaps.html
The BBC, on its website, produced photonovels for all the stories with telesnaps except for Marco Polo, The Reign of Terror, The Tenth Planet. They can be found here : http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/classic/photonovels/
Finally, the Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition issues 34 (First Doctor), 35 (Second Doctor Part 1) and 36 (Second Doctor Part 2), have telesnap spreads for all the missing episodes for which telesnaps exist.
The purpose of a reconstruction is ideally to combine telesnap images with the surviving audio from the episodes. Clips of episodes, sometimes taken from clips censored when the program was sold overseas, or amateur telecine or 8mm home movies shot on set can be added. Narrations or captions are used to describe action when the audio is unclear. When telesnaps are available, this can give a reasonably authentic presentation of the episode. However, since there are only 60-80 images available, many images are repeated. Sometimes publicity photos and photos taken on the set are used for serials with a dearth of available visual information.
While several people and groups have created reconstructions over the years, the reconstructions from Loose Cannon Productions are the most consistent in overall quality and coverage. They have reconstructed every story, even for stories where no telesnaps exist. They often have had to use publicity photographs, computer animations, photoshopping and transplanting the actors from roles in other shows and clips from other episodes to make up for the lack of authentic images. They even included interviews with some of the actors from these stories on their VHS releases. Their VHS releases were free for the cost of the videotape, but relied upon a network of volunteers to transfer the material. They stated they would refuse to release their material in DVD or better quality, but downloads of their recons are available via bittorrent.
Interestingly, Loose Cannon did the Marco Polo recon twice. First "in color", using a large number of color photographs taken for that story. The second time, in black and white, came when the telesnaps for six of the episodes were found in director Waris Hussein's private collection.
The BBC has done relatively few telesnap reconstructions. They did a 30-minute abridged version of Marco Polo on The Edge of Destruction DVD. They did a telesnap reconstruction for The Tenth Planet Episode 4 for the VHS release and it can also be found on the story's DVD. The Web of Fear Episode 3 was also a telesnapped reconstruction for its DVD. While they had no telesnaps, the BBC did an abridged reconstructon of Galaxy 4 using the recovered Episode 3 and five minutes of recovered footage from Episode 1 and whatever else they could find, and it can be found on the Aztecs: Special Edition DVD. The Ice Warriors Episodes 2 and 3 were given an abridged and combined reconstruction for the VHS, and this can be found on the story's DVD.
The Power of the Daleks was released by BBC Radio Collection on MP3-CD with a full telesnap reconstruction. This was the only time the BBC has done a full reconstruction of a story with more than one missing episode. The CD unfortunately is out-of-print. The Daleks' Masterplan, The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear were also released on the MP3-CD format, but did not have telesnap reconstructions.
The following DVDs have full animation reconstructions with the surviving audio of their missing episodes on their DVD releases:
The Reign of Terror
The Tenth Planet
The Ice Warriors
The Invasion was the first time a missing episode had been fully animated for an official BBC release, and it was done by Cosgrove Hall Films in 2005. The remainder were done in 2013-2014 period by Planet 55, except for the Ice Warriors, which was done by Qurios Entertainment. Cosgrove had the difficulty of recreating missing episodes without telesnaps as references, while the other episodes had telesnaps available.
On the VHS releases of The Reign of Terror and The Invasion, linking narration (and stills and clips for Reign) were provided respectively by Carole Ann Ford and Nicholas Courtney. While the latter can be found on The Invasion's DVD release, the former is not present on The Reign of Terror's DVD release. William Russell did linking narration for the VHS The Crusade, which can be found in its DVD in the Lost in Time set.
Conclusion, Which is Best?
In my personal opinion, currently the best option, when available is to watch the official BBC releases with the animated episodes. In my opinion, they are well done and tend to be reasonably faithful to their source material. They have the advantage of showing motion, something all the other methods generally lack. Doctor Who is more than just talking heads. It is interesting to compare the approaches taken by the three different animation teams employed. However, this only applies to five stories.
Reconstructions would be my first recommendation for most stories. Doctor Who was meant to be a visual medium, and with the telesnaps, clips and stills, some measure of what was put on screen may be experienced. Reading a script loses all the performance or flipping through telesnaps, so the audio remains of great importance. Loose Cannon has done every story, and their recons are the overall best you can find. Fortunately they can be found without having to send VHS tapes to be copied.
The Target novelizations, generally targeted for a juvenile readership, are usually quick reads. An adult could easily finish them in one long evening. The audio releases make for good trips in the car.