After months and months of rumor and speculation it was confirmed by the BBC last night that 11 tapes containing nine previously lost episodes of Doctor Who were found in Nigeria in the largest single recovery of lost tapes in three decades. The BBC's habit of wiping tapes of television shows that ran in the '60s to save space did irreparable damage to the legacy of The Doctor, costing fans many of the adventures of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, though every story survives at least in audio form.
Phillip Morris, director of a company called Television International Enterprises Archive, was the man responsible for the find. Though BBC wiped its tapes, many film copies were made to be sent to foreign markets. These far-flung locales are the primary source of recovered episodes. In this case two serials were recovered, both from the woefully incomplete time of the Second Doctor.
The first is a complete collection of all six episodes of "Enemy of the World," a strange tale where Troughton doubles as both The Doctor and a would-be dictator named Salamander on a late 21st century version of Earth. Before recovery only the third episode of the six total was held in the archives.
The second find was five episodes of "The Web of Fear," the second serial to feature the robotic yetis and their master, The Great Intelligence. With the exception of the third episode, which was not among the other tapes, this means that every appearance of The Great Intelligence is now available. The adventure is also notable as the first appearance of Nicholas Courtney as Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, later The Doctor's staunchest ally and head of UNIT, The Brigadier.
Both serials are being immediately made available for download on iTunes, with a reconstruction of Episode 3 of "Web of Fear" from stills and audio recordings. DVD versions featuring extras are scheduled to be on sale November 22. With the recovery of these tapes the number of lost episodes finally dips below the 100 mark, with 97 still left un-accounted for.
Though the chance to view these episodes, for many Whovians for the first time, is wonderful news the low number of tapes found is a slight disappointment. Rumors from usually reliable sources hinted at a much greater treasure trove, everything from a few complete stories to perhaps the entire run of William Hartnell. The availability of these Troughton outings is a wonderful 50th Anniversary present, but hopefully out there are yet more canisters waiting to be discovered. Click onto the next page to see the serials we most hope eventually are found hidden away and forgotten.
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Marco Polo: Of all the missing adventures none is more puzzling than "Marco Polo." No other serial was as widely distributed in prints across the global, and yet not a single episode has ever turned up anywhere. Not only that, it is one of only three serials from which there is no footage known to exist. Whenever missing tapes are recovered it is always "Marco Polo" that shows up in the rumor mills and is ultimately found to be not among the find, and this time was no exception.
The First Doctor did many purely historical adventures more aimed at education than action, and of those "Marco Polo" is highly regarded as one of the best. The Doctor, Susan, Barbara, and Ian accompany the famed explorer as he journeys to the court of Kublai Kahn, and along the way thwart an assassination attempt on the Emperor's life. It would be nice to see a few more of these kinds of adventures, honestly.
The Celestial Toymaker: In compiling a list of enemies that I was hoping would return I realized that there are a lot of forgettable bad guys and alien races from Hartnell's run. One that continues to stand out is the godlike Celestial Toymaker, played by Michael Gough.
Only the final episode of the four-parter is in the archives. The Doctor, Steven, and Dodo are forced to participate in a series of games staged by the almost omnipotent Toymaker. It was one of the first villains The Doctor ever faced possessing cosmic power, and aspects of Gough's performance can still be seen in the modern series from characters like The Dream Lord.
The Power of the Daleks: "The Tenth Planet" usually gets all the attention... first appearance of the Cybermen, first appearance of the Second Doctor, and the first regeneration. It's the wholly missing "Power of the Daleks" that is the more important work, though, and is definitely one of the most sought after of lost episodes.
It's arguably the most influential classic serial of all time, with episodes such as "Victory of the Daleks" basically lifting the entire plot whole to remake. It also plays up the idea of companions branching between incarnations of the Doctor and not fully trusting the latest, shows off the ability of The Doctor to manipulate others by pretending to be a part of the establishment, and gives cunning and guile to The Daleks that makes them deadly even when unarmed.
The Macra Terror: Though they got a small appearance in "Gridlock" modern audiences have never really seen the full power of the terrible Macra. The crablike aliens live on poisonous gas, and enslave humanity by using vast propaganda networks to keep them ignorant of their true masters.
Even in book and audio form "The Macra Terror" is an incredible story that pokes deep into the dangers of a society too afraid to question what's going on below the surface. The Doctor, Jamie, and Polly are forced to deal with the brainwashing of Ben, who willingly joins in the ultra-happy utopia and resists his friends efforts to get to the bottom of the mystery. It's such a shame that Ian Stuart Black wrote only three adventures. He was one of the best.
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The Faceless Ones: Two episodes of the four exist in the archives, making "The Faceless Ones" the most complete story on this list. It's always to be hoped that the final two turn up somewhere because there is likely no story more relevant to a post-9/11 world than this one.
Planes leave Gatwick airport, and their passengers disappear only to be replaced with exact duplicates that retain no memories of their former lives. The culprits are a brutal alien race losing their faces in a fatal disease, and wish to remake themselves in human form. It's the last trip for Ben and Polly before they leave The Doctor and Jamie to travel alone, and a frightening look at the nature of paranoia and identity.
There's always the chance that any number of these stories could eventually be recovered. In the meantime, we at least have two newly restored adventures in space and time for us to enjoy.