To some, this may seem like small beer compared to the rumours of untold riches that had been doing the rounds – all 106 missing episodes returned! But to any fan of Doctor Who, and to fans of the Troughton era, in particular, it is a moment to savour.
Yesterday, at a press conference convened in London’s Soho, plenty of the great and good of the worlds of Doctor Who had come to do just that: Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling, Mark Gatiss, Matthew Sweet, Tom Spilsbury, Dick Fiddy, Benjamin Cook…
The elephant in the room was never quite addressed – is this haul the tip of the iceberg and to what extent has there been an element of hostage negotiation in the episodes’ recovery? But there were seemingly loaded statements nonetheless.
A video interview with Philip Morris, the executive director of Television International Enterprise Archive and the man who discovered the episodes revealed yesterday, saw him assert, ‘I have the Doctor Who fans’ best interests at heart, believe me.’
Meanwhile Dan Phelan, Head of Communications at BBC Worldwide, directly addressed the rumours: ‘There has been lots of speculation – some of it better informed than others’. When Phelan presented the episodes to the press, he spoke of them as ‘the missing episodes we’re announcing today’ – a phrase which, it seems to us, can be taken one of two ways.
None of this will do anything to dispel the speculation that will continue to linger in the corners of the internet, and in the tangible atmosphere at the press conference of elation tinged with wariness, lovers of conspiracy theories will have found much to mull over.
But it seems to us that the story as we already know it is remarkable enough without the addition of the ‘known unknowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns’ that are not yet in the public domain.
Nine missing episodes of Doctor Who have been recovered, in a relay station in Jos in Nigeria – a last holding post for episodes which had previously done the bicycle run of episodes from country to country and which, prior to Nigeria, had come from Hong Kong. Despite the high temperatures in Nigeria, and the age of the prints, they had, according to Morris, ‘been kept in optimum condition’.
This find takes the number of complete Patrick Troughton stories up to seven, and the number of Troughton stories which have over half their episodes in the archive up to three.
Deborah Watling spoke for many when she described her amazement at the find: ‘When I heard, I couldn’t quite believe it. There have been hoaxes before – let’s face it. After a few days it was confirmed-ish… And then I got from a higher authority and thought, ‘My God!’… I’m thrilled. That’s all I can say. I’m thrilled.’
Mark Gatiss – speaking after a screening of ‘The Web of Fear’ Episode 2 and ‘The Enemy of the World’ Episode 1 – concurred: ‘I’m overwhelmed really. I never thought I’d live to see the day.’
‘The Web of Fear’ holds a special place in Gatiss’ affections, having terrorised him as a child, and is still a story which influences his writing: ‘The first episode of Sherlock [Series 3] is explicitly about the London underground for exactly that reason, because I love ‘The Web of Fear’.’
For Watling, the screening of Episode 2 of ‘The Web of Fear ‘was a chance to see again two father figures onscreen, Troughton and her own father, Jack Watling, who appears as Professor Travers. ‘I saw my dad again on the screen,’ she marvelled. ‘That’s brilliant. Lovely.’ About Patrick Troughton she said, ‘Pat was always to me like another dad or an uncle. We had a chemistry and I think it showed today.’
CultBox reviews the two rediscovered episodes screened yesterday elsewhere on this site, but it is worth mentioning here that the sound quality is excellent and the picture quality, particularly of studio sequences, uniformly good. The opening location footage of ‘The Enemy of the World’ suffered a little from being blown up on a big screen; but this notwithstanding, the picture quality of the episodes is very good and the restoration excellent.
This time last week, we understood that there were 106 episodes of Doctor Who missing. With yesterday’s announcement, that total comes down to 97. For those of us who believed that the trail of missing episodes had almost certainly dried up, it is an astonishing sentence to write and one which holds the hope that there may be other lost episodes in existence.
When single episodes of Doctor Who have been rediscovered in the past, they have been met with jubilation. It would be a great shame if the conspiracy theories that fuel the internet were to deny us the great joy in being able to see again nine new-old episodes of a Doctor and a programme at the very height of their powers.
All the newly-found episodes will be available to download exclusively from iTunes on Friday 11 October. ‘The Enemy of the World’ will be released on DVD on Friday 22 November, while ‘The Web of Fear’ will be released on DVD early next year.
Watch a clip from ‘The Web of Fear’…
Are you looking forward to seeing these episodes? Do you remember seeing them on their original broadcast? Let us know below…