106 Reasons To Love Classic Who

So there’s been a little bit of a kerfuffle over the past few days, one that might be puzzling folks who are unfamiliar with the history of the old Doctor Who show, and unaware of how much of that history is lost. It started when The Daily Mirror announced that all 106 missing episodes of Doctor Who had been recovered recently. I think you could hear the eyerolling all the way here in North America. Then the Radio Times said that *two* episodes had in fact been recovered, and were going to be put on iTunes this Wednesday. The RT is not an arm of the BBC, but even so this began to seem more plausible. The the RT corrected itself to say it was, in fact, two *stories*, not episodes…


I’m not going to get into the history of the BBC junking their 60s and 70s TV shows here. Suffice it to say that at the time videotape was scarce and there was absolutely nobody thinking of how valuable they’d be for future generations. These programs were not meant to be rewatched. But around 1978, the Corporation began to realize that perhaps they might want to stop this, and since then, we’ve had a painstaking search to find what was once lost forever.

My first exposure to the missing episode phenomenon was in 1991, when The Tomb of the Cybermen was found, complete, in Hong Kong. This was big news. It was also the last story that would be found complete. As time went on, it became apparent that any missing episodes that remained out in the wild would be one-shots, each to be cherished but never quite completing the picture. Episode 1 of The Crusade was found in 1999, and Episode 2 of The Daleks’ Master Plan in 2004. For a while, that looked like it. Then in 2011, we got two more: Episode 3 of Galaxy Four (a biggie, as NONE of this story had been in the archive), and Episode 2 of The Underwater Menace.

It might seem odd that these episodes are so important to fandom, given they’re missing. But they’re only missing as TV episodes. Because Who fandom is what it is, we have far more. We have audio recordings of every single episode. We have ‘telesnaps’, where a camera took pictures of the TV screen every few seconds, for many of the series. And we have the Target novelisations, which for years were the only way most fans saw *any* Doctor Who, much less stories that were missing. This can sometimes be problematic – finding out that The Tomb of the Cybermen was somewhat racist and not as good as its reputation devastated folks for some time. But while the prints are missing, the episodes live on…. in our hearts. (Sorry, had to do it.)

Now we have this new story. The BBC are holding a presser this Friday, so clearly SOMETHING is happening. The current rumors that have everyone excited are that we have all of The Web of Fear except episode 3, all of The Enemy of the World (see telesnap above), the missing episodes to complete The Ice Warriors and The Crusade, and some Marco Polo. Naturally, I raise an eyebrow at this. First of all, it’s *always* The Web of Fear. Every time a rumor goes around that turns out to be nothing, it’s that The Web of Fear, an iconic Who story with the Yeti, has been found. It’s never The Myth Makers. It’s always The Web of Fear. Moreover, some stories said these Troughton stories were recovered from Ethiopia… which didn’t have Troughton stories sold to them in the 1960s.

That said, the inference from the presser is they’ve found more than 1 or 2 episodes here. Honestly, if this is true, I applaud the BBC for not letting it leak out (rumors early this year to the contrary.) And if the rumors are true… wow. One of the most iconic stories, almost complete. The Enemy of the World, which is not only the story that has gotten critical attention lately (once regarded as “the dull one” amidst the monster stories, it’s now beloved for being something different) but also has Patrick Troughton playing The Doctor’s evil doppelganger. The Ice Warriors introduces the titular monsters. The Crusade is a brilliant Shakespearean pastiche. And Marco Polo cries out for visuals, a real first series epic. One reason I am writing this now rather than after we know for sure what has been recovered is that the potentiality is always more interesting than the fixed point. It could be ANYTHING.

I want to see ALLLLLL of these. And I want more, of course. I want to see The Massacre, one of the bleakest Hartnells ever. I want to see The Highlanders, the last historical. I want to see The Power of the Daleks and The Evil of the Daleks. Heck, I even want to see The Daleks’ Master Plan 7, the least likely episode to ever be recovered. I want the Doctor to look into the camera and wish me a Merry Christmas. Because I am a Doctor Who fan, and I am greedy.

But honestly? I’ll take anything. Even if this whole rumor is a lot of nothing, and the BBC only have one episode, I want it. Because I’ve read the script, and read the novelization, and listened to the audio, and seen the reconstruction, and watched the animated episodes, and it’s NOT ENOUGH. The Doctor Who fan’s appetite can never be completely sated… but it’s usually satisfied with a few crumbs.

But man, a banquet would be lovely.

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  1. James Moar says

    “I want to see ALLLLLL of these.”

    Even The Smugglers?

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