Between 1967 and 1978, the BBC routinely deleted archive programmes. As a result of the cull, 97 of 253 episodes of Doctor Who’s first six years are currently missing, primarily from seasons 3 to 5, leaving 26 serials incomplete.
In an interview with Jason Clifford of Time and Space Visualiser, Phillip Morris, who has previously found missing episodes at television stations around the world, confidently stated that there are more missing episodes of Doctor Who waiting to be discovered.
“I have a lot of friends who are collectors and I will tell you quite straight away now that at least six episodes, missing episodes exist, to my knowledge, in the hands of private collectors. I won’t name them. I’ve said to them, ‘Why don’t you get it back to the BBC?’ and they’re not very certain of how they will be treated.”
Earlier in the interview Morris described how an official at a Nigerian television station removed one or two cans of film containing Episode 3 from The Web of Fear from a total of twelve cans slated to be shipped by Morris to the UK. When Morris asked the official to explain his actions and what happened to the cans the official oddly said, “I don’t know anything about missing episodes,” without previously being told by Morris anything about the contents of the cans. Morris concluded that, “…we’ve been infiltrated. Somebody’s obviously got word of something.” Morris then declared:
“…we do have an idea where that episode is and we hope that the person who has it will return it for the fans so that The Web of Fear can be completed and we can see the Brigadier’s first appearance in the programme.”
Morris was also confident that some missing episodes are currently in Australia.
“I believe there are probably some episodes in Australia in private collectors hands and the best thing to do is not create a fuss around that. Let it work its way out. There are some wonderful people who I’ve met who are looking for episodes who live and work in Australia and if anything comes to light I think everyone else will get to see it.”
If there are any upcoming plans to secure the return of missing episodes, Morris stated that we are not likely to know of them until the episodes are fully restored and ready for release.
“I do devote a lot of my time. I am passionate about it. I want to see things back in the archives. I want them out there for the fans, but at the same time, I want them to be a surprise.”
If the recovery of these allegedly existing episodes is at the volition of private collectors whom Morris for obvious reasons is reluctant to name, criticise or divulge motives (such as profit), it’s difficult to be as confident as he is in their eventual return.