Lost Doctor Who Classics Found? [Update 11]

doctor-who-lost-episodesIn what is hopefully more than a cheap headline grab and regurgitation of past rumours, The Mirror are claiming that “at least 100” Doctor Who episodes, originally wiped from BBC archives and thought lost forever, have been recovered.

Their article states:

A group of dedicated Doctor Who fans tracked down at least 100 long-lost episodes of the show gathering dust more than 3,000 miles away in Ethiopia.

It was feared the BBC ­programmes from the 1960s – featuring the first two doctors William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton – had vanished for all time after the Beeb flogged off a load of old footage. But after months of ­detective work the tapes have been unearthed at the Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency.

If the tapes are returned in time the BBC hopes to announce the news during ­celebrations to mark Doctor Who’s 50th ­anniversary next month.

The recovered episodes from the 60s include much-loved scenes from The Crusade, The Enemy of the World and The Ice Warriors series.

After each airing only once between 1964 and 1969, copies were sold to the Ethiopian Agency and the BBC then lost or wiped the originals.

Doctor Who expert Stuart Kelly revealed news of the discovery at the Wigtown Book Festival in Scotland last week.

When contacted by the Sunday People he said: “I was told by a friend that the ­episodes have been found in Ethiopia. The BBC is ­negotiating to get them back right now. I really can’t say any more than that.”

Rumours emerged of the lost shows earlier this year when tapes and 16in films of 90 episodes were thought to have been handed to a TV historian after turning up in a container loaded on a ship from Zambia.

It is best to treat this one with a lot of caution especially given the source and lack of BBC confirmation, but the prospect is tantalising.


As expected, there have been conflicting reactions to this story throughout Sunday, with no official statement from BBC at the time of writing. Certain sources closely connected to the show have been vocal on Twitter though.

Doctor Who’s brand manager Edward Russell said: “It’s Sunday. The weather’s gray and the papers are full of rubbish…” Asked if he was referring to the above story, he replied, “What do you think?!”

Paul Vanezis from the Doctor Who Restoration Team wrote on his Twitter: “I would love it to be true. But it isn’t.”

Tom Spilsbury, editor of Doctor Who Magazine, said: “It’s nonsense, I’m afraid.”

However, Doctor Who Online claimed: “There is definitely some misinformation with the #DoctorWho Missing Episode rumours in todays @DailyMirror. We will finally break our silence on subject by saying missing episodes HAVE been found and some official news will be released within the next month. Can’t say anything further, but it seems various outlets are reporting this now. As far as we’ve been told, it’s not as many as 100.”

Our original thought remains and we’ll wait until official BBC confirmation before celebrating. Some sources claim an announcement could be coming as soon as mid-week, but again this is presently unverified. As ever, we’ll have to wait and see.

UPDATE 2: From the Radio Times:

Missing episodes of Doctor Who will be made available for sale to the public this week.

BBC Worldwide will put the previously lost episodes from different stories – both believed to be from the Patrick Troughton era – for sale on digital platforms such as iTunes from Wednesday, RadioTimes.com understands.

They are believed to originate from a haul discovered in Africa and have been digitally remastered for sale, although exact details remain sketchy.

A BBC Worldwide spokesman refused to officially confirm the discovery or the “speculation” around further missing episodes.

It is understood that other episodes have also been found, although it is not yet known whether these will be made available.

UPDATE 3: From The Mirror:

BBC Worldwide has now called a press conference and screening on Tuesday in a London hotel.

The invitation sent out had he event details written inside the screen of a old-fashioned sixties style television set, complete with a dial to tune in the channels, seeming to hint at the type of news to come.

Journalists will be told exactly which old footage has been recovered, with some of it then broadcast on screen to watch.

A senior BBC source said: “There will be big news this Tuesday regarding lost Doctor Who episodes.

“It is great that in the show’s 50th year, fans will now be able to look back with classic episodes as well as looking to the future with the new film-length episode in November.

“For some fans watching their lost episodes will be like going back in time.”

A BBC spokesman played down the reports that more than 100 of the old episodes had been found.

However, when asked if there were some episodes to announce this week, he admitted: “There is a connection.”

Asked for a further official comment, he said he could not say anything more before Tuesday’s press screening.

UPDATE 4: From The Mirror:

BBC worldwide were hoping to announce details of the exact lost episodes that have been found to the press tomorrow with a view to them being available to watch on Wednesday.

But a BBC spokesman admitted today they were “not quite ready” and the press conference has now been rescheduled for the end of the week.

A BBC insider added: “With all the excitement in the last few days about the lost episodes we are really keen to get the information out, but there are a few delays.

“We want everything to be ready and for this announcement to excite fans so they will have to wait a few days longer.

“They have been waiting nearly 50 years for this, so a couple of days shouldn’t make any difference.”

The BBC has asked the Mirror not to reveal the new details of the London press conference, but fans should find out which episodes have been discovered by the end of the week.

UPDATE 5: From The Guardian:

BBC Worldwide, the corporation’s commercial arm, will hold a press conference on Thursday when an announcement about the lost episodes is expected. The BBC declined to provide more details, although it is understood it will make some of episodes available for fans to purchase.

UPDATE 6: From BBC News:

A number of early episodes of Doctor Who, which were believed to have been permanently lost, have been returned to the BBC.

BBC Worldwide is expected to confirm the find at a press conference in London later this week.

It follows weeks of speculation that some lost episodes had been located.

Details of how fans will be able to watch the recovered episodes are also expected to be revealed later this week.

UPDATE 7: From Deborahwatling.net

Deborah, along with Frazer Hines, will be helping the BBC to launch the newly found Dr.Who episodes this Thurs (10/10/13), between 3.30pm and 7.00pm approx.

UPDATE 8: The Telegraph states that details from the conference are embargoed until “a few hours” after (other sources claim it will be a midnight announcement, so technically Friday):

We won’t be able to tweet from the #missingepisodes Doctor Who conference. News will come on Friday.

Asked if the outcome of the press conference is embargoed, they replied:

Yes but only for a few hours.

UPDATE 9: The Telegraph confirms embargo lifts at midnight.

The Doctor Who missing episodes embargo will lift at midnight tonight!

Backed up by SFX writer, Ian Berriman:

I am a very happy #DoctorWho fan right now. More at midnight.

UPDATE 10: From author Lance Parkin:

Well, I didn’t sign anything, so: let joy be unbounded, the BBC have just held a press conference to announce that the missing five Enemy of the Worlds and four episodes of Web of Fear have been discovered. And there may be more on the way.

UPDATE 11: From The Northern Echo:

FOUR decades ago, Dr Who’s encounter with the mythical Yeti left a generation of children terrified and enthralled. The six part serial Web of Fear became one of the best-loved serials of the Patrick Troughton era. Sadly, in the 1970s the well-travelled time lord faced an enemy far deadlier than the Daleks – BBC beancounters.

In an effort to save money, tapes of classic shows were wiped and recorded over. In a matter of months some of the Doctor’s greatest adventures were lost… seemingly forever. The Web of Fear is one of the most missed serials, along with another Troughton era adventure, The Power of the Daleks. But now all six missing episodes have been found – in a dusty storeroom in Nigeria.

The previously lost nine shows were among 11 traced to a television relay station and the find brings back to life an entire six-episode story, while another is almost complete. The newly found programmes – which introduce the character of Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, better known to audiences as The Brigadier – will be available on iTunes from today and will later come out on DVD.

Phillip Morris, the director of Television International Enterprises Archive, unearthed the programmes by looking up the records of overseas shipments of tapes made by the BBC.

The stories, The Enemy Of The World (1967) and The Web Of Fear (1968) and both starring Patrick Troughton as the second Doctor, have now been remastered by BBC Worldwide, the corporation’s commercial arm.

Mr Morris said: ‘‘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.’’

Only one episode of The Enemy Of The World – which featured Deborah Watling as companion Victoria and Frazer Hines, later to find fame in Emmerdale as Jamie – had remained in the archives, so the addition of programmes one, two, four, five and six have completed the story.

Fiona Eastwood, director of consumer products, BBC Worldwide, said: ‘‘We are thrilled with the recent discovery of The Web Of Fear and The Enemy Of The World and we’re very happy to be launching re-mastered versions of these treasured episodes to fans as we celebrate the 50th year of Doctor Who.’’

The BBC still had the first edition in the Web Of Fear story, and the new finds mean only number three is missing. The tale introduced Nicholas Courtney as Lethbridge-Stewart, who began with the rank of Colonel but later became Brigadier.

The missing episode has been recreated using 37 still images which were available and the original audio which survived.