It’s become so prevalent in fandom that it’s become known as “The Ominrumour,” but this weekend at Gallifrey One’s now-compulsory missing episodes panel, it was intimated that the likelihood of there being more of the currently-missing episodes of the 50-year-old sci-fi program is quite high. Not that all of the 97 episodes were found, nor even most, just that it is extremely likely, given the evidence at hand, that SOME of these episodes probably aren’t missing anymore.
To fill people in with a bit of backstory – for years there has been a search through the corners of the globe and the markets where the BBC distributed copies of its programs for episodes of Doctor Who and other programs to be returned to the archive. Last year, it was announced that a man named Philip Morris, who had been spearheading this search in African nations, had recovered a huge stockpile of film canisters, and it was believed that Doctor Who was among them. In October, the news was released that some episodes had been found in this stockpile, and a couple of days later it was announced that nine episodes were recovered, comprising all five missing episodes of the story “The Enemy of the World” and four out of the five missing episodes of “The Web of Fear,” consecutive stories featuring Patrick Troughton.
Since then, the rumor mill has been churning extra hard, and many forums fumed that Morris had more episodes but was holding on to them (some claim he’s holding them hostage) and others that the BBC and the Restoration Team know of or are even working on these episodes but aren’t announcing them. At the panel on Saturday, a founding member of the Restoration Team, Steve Roberts, read out a list of these rumors and put them to rest by pretty much categorically saying they are false, quoting his grandmother by calling them “a pile of old bollocks.” He also read a letter written by the notoriously mercurial Morris stating essentially that they’re still in the process of looking through things but ended by saying, “Expect the unexpected.”
What exactly Morris has is unclear; however, the likelihood of their being at least some of the episodes remains quite high. Roberts said in this panel, as well as on a panel about the 1960s that I myself was on, that the most likely candidate for having been found is the 1964 story “Marco Polo,” the fourth serial and currently the only story missing from the show’s first season. The reasons for this probability is that ten copies were struck for international use, meaning many more chances for it to have made its way to Nigeria in the shipment found by Morris. Roberts also said that when the film of found Troughton episodes were put through the cleaning process, it was clear that Morris had done nothing to them, not watched them or handled them in any way.
To reiterate, neither Morris in his letter, Roberts on any panel, nor anyone else with first hand knowledge is saying that anything has in fact been found, but it seems, if anything has, it’s probably “Marco Polo” and that it’s very likely. Whether that’s all six of that story’s missing episodes or a couple or just one, we’ll have to wait and see. Keep watching this space for more as this develops, but as Morris himself stated, “expect the unexpected.”
While the panel itself wasn’t recorded, many of the players including Roberts were interviewed by Radio Free Skaro if you’d like to hear more from the horse’s mouth.
As for the other two stories, both are available on iTunes now, and “The Web of Fear,” with the third episode reconstructed using telesnaps and off-air audio, will be on DVD (in a vanilla but cleaned up release) April 22nd, 2014.