BBC Worldwide North America has just confirmed long-held rumors that a stash of BBC master tapes from the 1960s have been recovered in Nigeria, Africa, providing access to several long-thought-lost episodes of “Doctor Who.” The BBC has re-mastered the tapes, and is making two stories, “The Enemy of the World” and “The Web of Fear,” now available exclusively on iTunes.
Eleven Doctor Who episodes were discovered (nine of which have not been seen for 46 years) by Philip Morris, director of Television International Enterprises Archive, by tracking records of tape shipments made by the BBC to Africa for transmission.
“The tapes had been left gathering dust in a store room at a television relay station in Nigeria,” says Morris. “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 realized I’d found something pretty special.”
The first recovered story, “The Enemy of the World,” is a six-episode tale which first aired on the BBC in December 1967. The story features Patrick Troughton as both the Second Doctor and his antagonist (Ramon Salamander), alongside companions Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling). Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 had previously been missing from the BBC Archives, and were returned by Morris.
Also recovered is the 1968 six-episode story, “The Web of Fear.” Also starring Patrick Troughton alongside Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling the story introduces Nicholas Courtney for the first time as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart (who later returns as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart). Episodes 2-6 were feared lost, but now episodes 2, 4, 5, and 6 have been recovered. With episode 3 still missing, the restoration team has reconstructed this part of the story using a selection of the 37 images that were still available from the episode along with the original audio, which has been restored.
Beth Clearfield, SVP, Digital Distribution & Business Development says, “For many, this will be their first chance to watch these long-lost Doctor Who stories. We’re thrilled to partner with iTunes in bringing these missing gems back to new and long-time fans after all these years.”
On November 23, 2013, “Doctor Who” celebrates 50 years since the very first episode, “An Unearthly Child,” aired on BBC television. A number of episodes from the first series of “Doctor Who” were lost as a result of BBC Archive space-saving measures and there are still 27 Doctor Who stories that are missing or have incomplete episodes.