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Thirteenth episode of Fawlty Towers?

The existence (or otherwise) of a thirteenth episode of Fawlty Towers is a mystery which is right up there with whether Man really strolled on the Moon or whether Princess Diana was bumped off by dark forces within the British Establishment.

A few sources claim the existence of a 13th or "missing" episode, and some lucky people even go so far as to claim actually having viewed this illusive lost episode of Fawlty Towers in a complete scripted, filmed and ready for broadcast format.

So, were there really just twelve episodes of Fawlty Towers? Or, does the legendary lost episode exist somewhere locked in a dusty vault underneath one of the many BBC buildings dotted across England? There was no Fawlty Towers movie (see below), no Christmas Specials which were a popular format to extend the magic of many a BBC comedy series in those days.

One possible reason why some people claim to have watched more (than 12) episodes is that they are mistaking one or more of the American remakes for the original British Fawlty Towers.

Let’s begin the quest for the Holy Grail which is the thirteenth episode of Fawlty Towers by looking at some of the plots suggested as being the basis for the missing episode.

I’m not going to comment on how much credence I think you should give to any of these possible episodes, after all I could be in on the conspiracy ;-) The official BBC book Fawlty Towers Fully Booked boldly states in its very first paragraph that claims of a 13th episode are nonsense.

The Blackout

Several online pages mention "persistent rumours" of this episode idea which existed in a "rough cut" form. Like most rumours, the origins of this one seem impossible to trace.

The Robbers

Lars Holger Holm, writer of Fawlty Towers: A Worshipper’s Companion, dedicates a whole chapter of this invaluable book to tell his story of how he was fortunate enough to watch a finished thirteenth episode called "The Robbers". Apparently, a former BBC employee allowed Lars to view the complete episode at his flat [an apartment] one night in London. After viewing the whole episode (said to be 45 minutes long), once everyone was crashed out in a drunken stupor, the resourceful Lars ran the entire script through the copy facility on a fax machine and reproduces the script in his book! The episode was scheduled to be broadcast on January 9, 1980 but never made it on air.

No Ill Feeling / Doctor At Large

If anyone has mistaken an episode of Doctor At Large called No Ill Feeling for being an episode of Fawlty Towers then it is a genuine mistake. John Cleese did write this episode with his experiences at The Gleneagles fresh in his mind so this episode did very much resemble Fawlty Towers which followed a few years later.

The Film Idea

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The BBC were naturally keen to keep Fawlty Towers going so John Cleese did put together a plot for it. The idea was to take the format out of the hotel and utilise the characters in a broader, more ambitious landscape. Basil was flying to Spain after a very lengthy delay at Heathrow. When he eventually does get on the plane, a terrorist pulls out a gun in an attempted hijack. Basil is riled enough to overpower the hijacker and orders the pilot to continue to Spain instead of returning to Heathrow. Once Basil arrives in Spain he is arrested and held in a Spanish prison. Another rough idea was for Basil to go to Spain and discover he was staying in a hotel owned by someone even ruder than himself. The Fawlty Towers film never happened.