In mid-2007, a security guard working at a film storage facility in Pennsylvania came across two nearly complete sets of “Strange Paradise” episodes, one set on 2” quad videotapes and the other on 1” tapes. The 2” tapes appeared to be dubs made by City TV in Toronto, and the 1” tapes were dubs made for Centaur Distribution, the company which released just over half of the “Strange Paradise” episodes on VHS in the early 1990’s. Although neither set contained every episode, it appeared from the notations on the tape cases that each set included a copy of the elusive episode 171. The warehouse was set to close down soon, and all tapes stored there would eventually be destroyed if not claimed.

As such, the current owners of “Strange Paradise” were contacted and told of the discovery, in hopes that they would be interested in recovering the copies of episode 171. During conversations with the owners, it was determined that they were not aware there was an episode missing from their collection, but upon further research it was confirmed that they did not possess a copy of episode 171. Further, it was learned that the owners had all of their copies of “Strange Paradise” on 1” tape, the format successor to 2” tape, and that these copies were the ones that the airings on the Drive-In Classics channel came from.While not a certainty, it is likely that the 1” tapes in possession of the “Strange Paradise” owners are not dubs of the original master tapes, but rather 1” dubs made from 2” syndication dubs sometime in the mid-1970’s. It is also possible, given the incidence of video dropout and other faults present on the transmitted episodes, that these 1” tapes currently being used as syndication masters are, in fact, dubs that are several generations removed from the original master recordings. While the fate of the original master tapes is currently unknown, it was thought that recovery of early 2” dubs would be beneficial in terms of creating new, digital masters of higher quality than what currently existed.

Although the owners initially expressed interest in recovering these tapes, ultimately they failed to do so, and in mid-2008 the storage facility finally closed. It was thought that this was an unfortunate end to the saga of episode 171, and a case of “so close, yet so far” for fans of “Strange Paradise,” but in late 2008 it was revealed that the same person who discovered the existence of episode 171 had managed to save both the 2” and the 1” copies from destruction before the storage facility was completely closed down.

While this was certainly excellent news, work would still have to be done to have the episode converted to a modern format. Additionally, notes on the tape case of the 2” tape indicated an audio problem, which would have to be examined. Specifically, the note stated that the audio was “unusable”, so the question arose as to whether the audio was completely distorted or whether it was simply not suitable for broadcast.  If it was the latter, then this might offer a possible explanation as to why episode 171 had not been seen in syndication for so many years. To obtain a digital copy from the earliest generational source and to examine the audio issues, the 2” tape was chosen for conversion.. arranged to take possession of the tape and have it converted to DVD, a process which began in mid-December of 2008. The tape itself contained two episodes, 171 and 179, and appeared to be in good condition, although it was clear from the tape case that it had seen some use, bearing shipping labels from companies in New York, Toronto and Ottawa.  From the tape label, it appeared that the tape itself was dubbed on 10/30/76 by CITY TV (Channel 79) in Toronto. CITY TV was, and is, the largest independent television station in Canada. It began broadcasting in 1972, and has several affiliate stations in Canada.

What source this tape was dubbed from was unknown, although it is possible that this tape was a dub of a syndication master created as part of a new Canadian round of syndication for Strange Paradise, which began in the Fall of 1976 and lasted through 1977. This syndication also occurred in the United States and saw the show airing in numerous markets, usually coupled with its American counterpart “Dark Shadows.”

Regardless of its origin, the tape notes clearly indicated “audio unusable for cut 1“, and the exact nature of the problem could only be determined by having the tape converted. Thus, it was sent off and carefully transferred to a digital format. During the conversion, it appeared that the tape was slightly damaged, having some wear and warping along one edge, which caused the audio level to rise and fall in a rhythmic pattern for the first 14 minutes of the episode. The good news was that the audio was fully present and was understandable despite the tape damage.

The discovery of damage to the tape helped explain the comments about the audio being unusable. It appears that the damage occurred due to a fault in the dubbing process and not due to the use of a damaged tape to dub from. As mentioned earlier, what source was used to create this particular dub is unknown, but, given the fact that episode 171 has been missing from syndication since at least the mid-1980’s, and the fact that at least two of the shipping labels on the tape are from tape distribution facilities, it could be speculated that the set of 2” masters of which this tape was a part was used to broadcast later runs of “Strange Paradise” and that episode 171 was simply skipped due to the audio issues indicated on the tape.

While this might explain episode 171’s absence from syndication, it does not explain why the current owners of “Strange Paradise” as not in possession of a copy. Could it be that they actually do own a copy of episode 171 but are not aware of it? Is it possible that the current set of 1” “master” tapes held by the owners are actually dubs made from this 1976 set, complete with audio fault, which has kept episode 171 from being broadcast? And what happened to the real masters, the ones made in 1969 and 1970? These are questions that cannot currently be answered. However, the fact remains that, whether episode 171 was ever truly “missing” or not, it certainly has not been aired in over two decades.

However, thanks to this chance warehouse recovery, “Strange Paradise” fans can finally be assured that a complete set of episodes does exist.**


Upon further investigation, it appears that, although the missing episode 2" master tape contains a slate at the beginning of the program (made at time of taping) that clearly indicates that it is episode 171, this episode is actually not missing and has been broadcast on the Drive-In Calssics channel. However, according to the episode count, this episode would be Episode 170 and not Episode 171.

More investigation is needed, but it is possible that somewhere along the line the original episode numbering was changed or transposed. When and how this occurred is currently unknown. Whatever the story, is working on finding out more information and on tracking down this elusive part of Strange Paradise history.






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