Doctor Who - Raider of the Lost Archive

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The numbers 2, 17, 19, 89 and 90 have all been slung around as if they were jackpot numbers on a galactic lottery. It is a jackpot of sorts though for Doctor Who fans this week – 9 being the magic number in this case.

There were (up until midnight) 106 episodes of Doctor Who missing from the archives. These episodes span William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton stories taking in key moments such as the first regeneration, the epic 12 episode ‘Dalek Masterplan’ and historical adventures such as ‘Marco Polo’ and ‘The Massacre’.

I can vividly remember my first experience that Doctor Who episodes were missing. The younger incarnation of me was crushed to learn that no, 'Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen' wasn't available to order from WH Smith's giant directory of VHS tapes (who else remembers that book of sheer power? – if the tape wasn’t in it, it didn’t exist!). Neither was 'The Wheel in Space', ‘Evil of the Daleks’ or dozens of other stories I'd seen tantalising pictures of.

Over the years, the return of missing episodes has always been a hot topic amongst Doctor Who fans. Frankly, it’s been the only talking point the last couple of weeks when practically anyone had "sources" connected to rumours of a recent discovery. A recent convention was buzzing with news - especially when it was revealed that the British Film Institute's Dick Fiddy, a well-known figure in missing television circles, was in attendance. Compounded with the news breaking over the last weekend that “106 episodes” had been found in Ethopia, it was likely that many fans would be celebrating sooner rather than later.

However, the silence has fallen and after yesterday's press conference we're all delighted to hear that ‘The Enemy of the World’, a near-future political thriller that sees Patrick Troughton's Doctor facing off against an evil dictator who just so happens to look exactly like the Doctor and ‘The Web of Fear’, a classic story featuring the Yeti on the Underground are back and available to download from iTunes right now (barring Episode 3 of Web, which is still currently missing and has been reconstructed using off-air photos). This is thanks the actions of Philip Morris, Director of Television International Enterprises who has been tracking down potential leads based on the movement of tapes.

Picking up the story, Philip comments: "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."

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A dull Sunday afternoon in 2011 was certainly livened up with the news that two missing episodes of Doctor Who had been recovered and were about to be shown at that years Missing Believed Wiped event. Frenzied speculation swamped Twitter, forums and Facebook. But when said episodes turned out to be Air Lock, the third episode of William Hartnell story Galaxy 4, and Episode 2 of Patrick Troughton's The Underwater Menace, some fans were disappointed they weren’t from some of the more sought after stories.

But this is new Doctor Who! Some fans no doubt will be disappointed that these returns aren't their favourite. But moments unseen on our reconstructions and audios have already come to light from these episodes: The Doctor stripping to his long johns and whooping in the sea and later going on to thump a Yeti. These moments had been thought lost forever, mere vague memories to those lucky enough to have seen them on original transmission. No doubt the episodes will be re-evaluated by even die-hard fans with an encyclopedic knowledge of the episodes in question.

Telos Publishing’s book, Wiped!, gives a fascinating account of how episodes were stored and distributed in the 60's and 70's and accounts for the whereabouts of the majority of prints. It is such a thorough investigation that you’d have been forgiven for thinking that there was nothing else to find. But it’s been proved wrong – twice. Rumours persist of further stories out there to find, and with Philip Morris continuing his search will the raider of the lost archive bring home more Who? Time will tell, but for now, what a 50th anniversary present for us to enjoy.

The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear are available to purchase now from iTunes, and will be released on DVD in November and February respectively.

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Last updated: 06/08/2018 21:11:26

Doctor Who

The long-running BBC TV science fiction series that started in 1963 and recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary. 2017 saw Peter Capaldi regenerate into the show's first female Doctor played by Jodie Whittaker. The Thirteenth Doctor's first season debuts in 2018, with Chris Chibnall replacing Steven Moffat as the current showrunner.

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