Nine previously missing episodes of Doctor Who starring Patrick Troughton as the Doctor have been returned to the BBC archives.
The find comprises all five previously missing episodes of 1967's "The Enemy Of The World" (episodes one, two, four, five and six) and four of the five missing episodes of 1968's "The Web Of Fear" (episodes two, four, five and six). Episode three of "The Web Of Fear" remains missing, but a reconstruction using stills and the soundtrack has been created to plug the gap.
All nine episodes have been remastered using the VidFIRE process , with missing frames painstakingly repaired, and are available to download immediately via iTunes - visit www.itunes.com/doctorwho - for £1.89 per episode or £9.99 per story.
Should you prefer to wait for physical media, a vanilla DVD release of "The Enemy Of The World" (no extras) is scheduled for 25 November (you can preorder it now ), with "The Web Of Fear" set to follow in "early 2014" ( Amazon has it listed for 24 February ).
The episodes were discovered at a TV station in central Nigeria by "episode hunter" Philip Morris, executive director of TIEA (Television International Enterprises Archive), a company that helps overseas stations store and migrate their archive materials. It was previously known that both stories were sold to Nigeria in 1974, and aired on Nigerian television in 1975.
“These episodes were discovered on a project we were working on in Nigeria," Morris explains. “They were found at a TV station in Jos, just sitting on the shelf. I can remember now seeing a piece of masking tape that said ‘ Doctor Who ’ on it, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is interesting’. Pulled the cans down, I read the story codes, instantly of course recognised what the stories were… and realised they were missing from the BBC’s archive, and a lot of Doctor Who fans around the world were gonna be very happy. So it was a very pleasing discovery, really.”
“These episodes had come from Hong Kong, and had been on what’s called the bicycle system. So they’d travelled from this country to the next country to the next country, and they came to be in Nigeria through this bicycle system. Not at the station in Nigeria they were actually sold to – they were at a relay station.”
Luckily, despite having sat on a shelf for the best part of forty years, the materials were in good condition.
“We were quite lucky considering the temperatures,” says Morris, “Which can be the upper thirty degrees. Fortunately, in this case, they had been kept in the optimum condition.”
Obviously inflated rumours about as many as 90 missing episodes being found in Ethiopia have circulated in Doctor Who fandom over the last few months. Nine episodes is still a remarkable find, though. In fact, it’s the largest batch of episodes to be returned since 19 were given back to the BBC by the BFI way back in 1977. The discovery brings the number of missing Doctor Who episodes down to 97.
The news was officially confirmed to a gathering of around 90 journalists in London on Thursday afternoon. The announcement preceded a screening of "The Enemy Of The World" episode one and "The Web Of Fear" episode two. That was followed by a Q&A with former companions Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon) and Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield), who were joined by new series writer and lifelong Who fan Mark Gatiss.
SFX was fortunate enough to be present at the screening, and is delighted to say that both the episodes shown are hugely enjoyable!
Click on Next to read interview quotes from Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling and Mark Gatiss , along with the SFX verdict on the two episodes screened on Thursday afternoon.
At Thursday afternoon's screening, the real revelation was the quality of the first episode of "The Enemy Of The World", a near-future tale in which the Doctor is forced to impersonate a would-be dictator who’s his spitting image. Previously a rather overlooked story, it now looks likely to receive a major critical reassessment.
Directed by Barry Letts (later the producer of the Jon Pertwee years) and featuring extensive location work, this episode surprises because of both its hectic pacing and the amount of expensive hardware involved – well, expensive for '60s Doctor Who , anyway! Commencing with the TARDIS landing on a beach, it sees the Doctor and his companions chased and shot at by the crew of a hovercraft, before being rescued by helicopter. It feels very much like a modern-day thriller – well, a modern-day thriller with groovy ‘60s touches like op-art wallpaper and thigh-high leather boots, anyhow!
But the chief delight is the charm of Patrick Troughton's performance – particularly the opening sequence, where the Doctor excitedly runs down the beach, skipping as he goes, before stripping down to his long johns and diving headlong into the waves! Quite simply, it's one of the second Doctor's finest moments.
Deborah Watling recalls the location filming (which took place on Climping Beach in Littlehampton, West Sussex) very well.
“I remember that beach – it was blummin’ freezing! And how Pat rushed into that sea, I’ve no idea. I remember the take, actually. He said, ‘I’m not going to enjoy this!’, but he did it. But oh dear, it was freezing!"
“I think it was his idea, wasn't it, to strip down to the long johns?” Frazer Hines adds. “It was cold and windy - you could see the wind was blowing our kilts and hair and everything. For those days it was big budget, with helicopters and those floating things… hovercraft! And of course, being the BBC, we couldn't rehearse, so it was just done. ‘Right, you jump in the helicopter and you fly off’, and that's it - no rehearsals for that.”
Though forty-six years have passed, the script still remains quite fresh in Deborah Watling’s mind.
“The music started, there was Pat’s face, we went into the scene and I knew it. Extraordinary after all these years. At one point when Victoria was talking I knew the next line she was going to say. That is eerie!”
“You didn't know it on the set, did you?” jokes Frazer Hines. “It took you 45 years to do the bloody line!”
Another highlight of the episode is a moment when Troughton’s Doctor is surprisingly flirtatious with the occupant of those thigh-high leather boots – Mary Peach’s helicopter pilot, Astrid.
“On the page it would just say, ‘The Doctor looks at her’,” Frazer Hines explains, “But Patrick would add that sort of thing.”
For Mark Gatiss, it’s little moments like this that encapsulate what is so exciting about the recovered episodes.
“I think it’s worth saying how much you miss…” Gatiss notes. “From reconstructions and stills and soundtrack, you think you’ve got the whole story. Then you see it on the screen and realise that what matters for Patrick, particularly, is the tiny nuances of his performance… It’s amazing to see it all come together.”
The second episode to be screened for the assembled press was part two of "The Web Of Fear". This 1968 story features the second appearance of the robotic Yeti and the first appearance of Colonel (later Brigadier) Lethbridge-Stewart, and is widely considered a classic. It's also a favourite of Mark Gatiss, and has influenced his writing for another series...
“The first episode of Sherlock [series three] is explicitly about the London Underground for exactly that reason, because I love ‘The Web Of Fear’. I'm obsessed with the Tube, and I think it all comes from that story, when I was a kid.”
Episode two (helmed by Douglas Camfield, considered by many to be the classic series' best director) only features the Doctor in the reprise (Troughton was written out so he could go on holiday). However, it still showcases many of the story's strengths - including some remarkably convincing sets.
“Dougie Camfield did ask London Transport permission to film," explains Frazer Hines. "He said, 'Well, the line gets closed between two o’clock and five o’clock in the morning, we can film then', and they said no. So our set boys designed that set. The first episode went out and London Transport rang the BBC and said, ‘Our lawyers are getting in touch with you - we’re suing you because you've obviously broken into Covent Garden tube station!’ The BBC had to take them to the set…”
“It was so lifelike... in fact they were so real that when I had to jump off the platform, you’d jump and you’d think, ‘Are those lines live?’ You really did... You didn't have to act. You had to walk between those lines because you thought, ‘Christ, these could be live!’”
The recovery of episodes of "The Web Of Fear” holds special significance for Deborah Watling, since they also feature her late father, Jack Watling who guest starred as Yeti expert Professor Travers: “Saw my dad again on the screen… that's brilliant. Lovely.”
Two cracking episodes, then – and that's just the tip of the iceberg, with another seven to enjoy. Both episodes look absolutely pristine in their newly restored state, too. (Indeed, Frazer Hines might wish they were a little fuzzier, since you can clearly spot a zit on Jamie's chin during "The Web Of Fear"!)
Could there be more stories still out there, waiting to be discovered? Well... you never know. This latest discovery has left both Frazer Hines and Mark Gatiss feeling renewed optimism.
“This now gives me hope that more stories of Patrick’s will come out of the woodwork, so to speak", says Hines.
“Every single avenue seemed to have been absolutely exhausted,” muses Gatiss, “And then every now and then something turns up. To have two virtually complete stories out of the blue is absolutely incredible. As Frazer says, it gives you hope that somewhere out there… “
Fingers crossed. In the meantime, get yourself to iTunes , sharpish.
Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman
Click on Next to see the packshots for the forthcoming DVD releases of “The Enemy Of The World” and “The Web Of Fear”.
Read our Doctor Who: The Doctor - His Lives And Times review .
Read our Doctor Who DVD reviews .