After days of speculation, the BBC has revealed details of the return of nine Doctor Who episodes from the 1960s, previously missing from their archives.
The black-and-white episodes are from two six-part stories – The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear – which starred Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor.
In total, 11 episodes were returned from Nigeria, in Africa, although two of them already resided with the BBC.
All six episodes of The Enemy of the World (although the BBC already possessed episode 3) were recovered. For The Web of Fear, episodes 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 were returned. The BBC already had a copy of episode 1 but, unfortunately, not episode 3, which still remains missing.
The announcement, together with a special screening, was made at a press conference yesterday, although, originally, it had been reported to be taking place on Tuesday.
Speaking at the event, the Doctor Who writer and actor, Mark Gatiss, said, “It’s thrilling. 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 nine episodes were tracked down by Philip Morris, who is the director of Television International Enterprises Archive.
Speaking to BBC News, Morris 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.”
Both stories formed part of Doctor Who ’s fifth season, which was Troughton’s second as the Doctor, the actor having taken over from William Hartnell (First Doctor) on Saturday, 29 October 1966.
The Enemy of the World was the fourth story of the 1967–8 season, originally broadcast between Saturday, 23 December 1967 and Saturday, 27 January 1968. It saw Troughton in a dual role: as the Doctor and his adversary, Salamander. The Web of Fear followed on, as the fifth story, and was broadcast between Saturday, 3 February and Saturday, 9 March 1968. It saw the return of the robotic Yeti and the Great Intelligence, who made their debuts in the Troughton story, "The Abominable Snowmen" (1967).
The Web of Fear was set on the London Underground and marks the first appearance of Colonel (later Brigadier) Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart. Known as the Brigadier, and played by the late Nicholas Courtney, the character went on to appear in dozens of Doctor Who episodes over several decades.
DVD and downloadAccording to Digital Spy, BBC Worldwide has remastered all nine episodes, and have made them available for download, exclusively from iTunes.
Both stories will also shortly be available to buy on DVD: The Enemy of the World is due for release later next month, on 25 November, two days after the show’s 50th anniversary. Meanwhile, The Web of Fear will is scheduled for release in early 2014. The Web of Fear episode 3 has been reconstructed using available images and the original audio.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the BBC wiped many of its programmes, including much from the first six years of Doctor Who – 253 episodes being made between 1963 and 1969. Since the 1980s, and largely thanks to the efforts of Doctor Who fans, many of the missing episodes have been recovered from other countries (from where copies were originally sold to for broadcast).
As of the end of 2011, there were 106 individual Doctor Who episodes and 27 incomplete stories in the BBC archives. Now, with the latest recovery of episodes, those numbers have been reduced to 26 incomplete stories and 97 missing episodes.
Doctor Who – which began on Saturday, 23 November 1963 – is the longest-running science-fiction television series in the world. It will celebrate its 50th anniversary, on Saturday, 23 November, with a special 75-minute episode, The Day of the Doctor, and is due to be broadcast simultaneously in many countries throughout the world.