Nine episodes starring Patrick Troughton as the second Doctor are back at the BBC. I can hardly believe I’ve typed that! This is the stuff of wild fantasy for Doctor Who fans – the first major haul of long-lost 1960s episodes in living memory.
Rumours had been rife in fandom for nearly two years about potential discoveries, many of the details were reported and I’d known some of the details for a while, but the lid popped right off last weekend when BBC Worldwide sent out a less-than-cryptic invitation to the press for a special “Classic Doctor Who” screening at a central London hotel.
Now we know that two (almost) complete Patrick Troughton six-part serials, The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear, from 1967/68 can be downloaded and savoured via www.iTunes.com/DoctorWho . Soon they’ll be on DVD.
At the press launch, the man who found them, Phillip Morris, appeared only in a specially shot video. He said: “Christmas seems to have come early for Doctor Who fans in the 50th anniversary of the show,” and he joked, “Other people normally describe me as the Indiana Jones of the film world.” How apt. What a hero!
Director of the Television International Enterprises Archive, Morris has been scouring the world for missing TV programmes. He revealed that the BBC originally sold these Doctor Who film prints to Hong Kong, and they were later dispatched to Africa.
He stumbled upon them in a relay station in Jos, a city in Nigeria “just sitting on a shelf”. Given the climate in that part of the world, he said, “We were quite lucky, considering the temperature, which can be the upper 30 degrees – fortunately they’d been kept in the optimum condition.”
He concluded: “These are things that people thought were gone for ever… No, they’re not. They’re back and you can enjoy them now. So get watching.”
So what is so great about them..?
The Enemy of the World
(Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 are newly recovered. Episode 3 was already in the BBC archive)
OK, first up, I must admit The Enemy of the World was far from the top of my list of longed-for recoveries. In his memoirs, even Barry Letts (who directed the serial) described it as “a right old mish-mash of good and bad” – but I’m already gawping at lots of wonderful little touches.
Episode 1, which was screened at the press launch, is as fabulous as I’d hoped. Barry Letts virtually rewrote the script. For its day, it boasts an unusual amount of action filmed on location (as opposed to taped in a studio). And that action involves a hovercraft and helicopter. There’s also the bizarre sight of the Doctor paddling in the sea in thermal underwear, supposedly on a beach in Australia (in reality, Climping in West Sussex).