Following months of speculation BBC Worldwide has confirmed a find of nine lost episodes of Doctor Who at a press screening in London today. The episodes are from Patrick Troughton’s time as the Doctor, The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear.
The Enemy of the World now has all of the episodes and The Web of Fear has just episode three missing. They are available now on iTunes (at least in the UK).
There were a total of 106 missing episodes featuring the first two actors to play the Doctor, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. This find means that the number of missing episodes of Doctor Who has dropped to 97.
Mark Gatiss, actor and writer Doctor Who and Sherlock, said “It’s thrilling”. And went on to say “Every single avenue seemed to have been exhausted, every now and then something turns up – but to have two virtually complete stories out of the blue is absolutely incredible.”
The find was made by Phillip Morris, director of a company called Television International Enterprises Archive. Eleven Doctor Who episodes were discovered, nine of which were missing, in the Nigerian city of Jos.
Phillip said: “The tapes had been left gathering dust in a storeroom at a television relay station in Nigeria. I remember wiping the dust off the masking tape on the canisters and my heart missed a beat as I saw the words, Doctor Who. When I read the story code I realised I’d found something pretty special.”
He said it had been a “lucky” find given the high temperatures in the African country. “Fortunately they had been kept in the optimum condition.”
Only episode three of The Enemy of the World already existed in the BBC archive. The discovery of episodes one, two, four, five and six complete the story.
Episode one of better remembered The Web of Fear already existed. Now episodes two, four, five and six have been recovered. However episode three is still missing, but has been reconstructed from stills to enable restored versions of both stories to be made available for sale via download on Friday.
The BBC was in a habit of reusing transmission tapes in the 1960s and 1970s. It regarded television programme much like theatre plays. Something for the night but not necessarily something that is kept. For sales BBC Enterprises (now called BBC Worldwide) put a camera in front of a monitor and filmed them!
Copies of the film would then be sent to various foreign television stations abroad that purchased the programmes. Once the screening window had been completed they where meant to either return or destroy the copies. Thankfully this did not always happen!
Back in the mid 1970’s I found myself at BBC Enterprises office. I was there to secure something for the Doctor Who Appreciation Society to show at one of the early Doctor Who conventions. Jan Vincent-Rudzki and I had found that little was held in official BBC library but that enterprises had all of the black and while film copies.
When I got there, in their basement, I discovered that they where making space by throwing some of the master films copies out. They believed if anything was worth keeping the BBC library would have copies. They therefore had not even communicated with the main BBC library!
I was told as I was so interested I could have the Doctor Who Hartnell episodes they where ditching. They had been left in the corridor. Unfortunately the had already been collected for disposal…
I left feeling that if only I had been there days earlier… However Jan’s and my efforts did change the system. The BBC archive library under Sue Malden took a bigger interest in keeping old programmes and BBC Enterprises were now aware that they might just have the only remain copy of a programme.
Spin forward to today. Many uses have been found for there programmes both in reshowing and for sale. Firstly as VHS tapes, then DVD’s and now also digital downloads.
The press conference took place around lunch time with a couple of Troughton Doctor’s companions in attendance. Now we are past midnight we know what has actually been returned and restored for digital download!
The Enemy of the World will be released on BBC DVD on Monday 25 November 2013, and The Web of Fear DVD will be released in early 2014.
This article was updated with the details after UK midnight to fit in with the hold back requested by BBC Worldwide.